Guest Actors: A Vital Part of the Professional Resident Theatre Company

An Integral Part of Professional Resident Theatre Companies

For our production of The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl opening Saturday, June 30, it has been necessary for us to search outside of the Commonweal professional resident company for the purposes of filling three female roles in the production. These guest actors, or seasonal actors as we refer to them, are quite valuable and provide an integral part of the success of the plays they are involved with. Without them, a majority of the productions you have seen on the Commonweal stage would not have made it there. Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to the seasonal actresses appearing in The Clean House. The first is a familiar face in that she made her Commonweal debut in last season’s Steel Magnolias and is also currently playing the role of Rona Lisa Peretti in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Betti Battocletti.

Commonweal Theatre Companiy Guest Actress Betti BattoclettiiDescribe yourself in a sentence.

-I am a true Virgo with a twist; quirky and free-spirited but still very organized and pragmatic.

Where is your hometown?

– Milwaukee, WI

Where are you living now?

-Minneapolis, MN

What is the best part about that place?

-The city lakes and all of the great bike trails.

From your time at the Commonweal, what have you learned about the company?

– I have learned that the Commonweal is comprised of a small group of incredibly dedicated artists who, as a team, run all aspects of this amazing professional theatre company and make it work in such a surprising place as Lanesboro, MN.

As a child, did you have dreams of what you wanted to be when you grew up? What were those dreams?

-As a kid watching movie musicals on TV, being taken to live theatre by my parents and seeing my oldest sister in her high school production of Guys and Dolls, I knew that I wanted to be a dancer/singer/actress.

Guest Actress Betti Battocletti with Commonweal Theatre director Alan Bailey

   Betti with The 25th Annual Putnam County                    Spelling Bee director Alan Bailey

Why did you choose to take this role at the Commonweal?

-I enjoy working at the Commonweal, love Lanesboro, and thought that the parts that I was offered were challenging and would be fun to tackle.

Do you recall the moment or set of circumstances that led you to the stage?

I guess the same thing that I said above about childhood dreams. Started with little grade school shows, ballet classes, high School musicals and acting class. I had a great high School theatre teacher!

Tell us something about you that might be surprising.

-I spent a year bumming around the world by myself. Lived in Australia for 6 months. Ran out of money and had to work to get back to the States.

You love the live theatre. Why?

I love pretending to be someone else. As an introvert, I like the ability to touch people but still have the safety net of the space between the stage and audience. I like to move people as much as I like to be moved.

Catching one of Betti’s fine performances this summer at the Commonweal is just one of the great things to do in Lanesboro. Another great idea comes to us from Commonweal Board President Chuck Aug. Chuck says that the perfect evening includes dinner at The Old Village Hall, taking in a play at the Commonweal and then grabbing a nightcap at The High Court Pub or Lanesboro’s American Legion post. 
The Clean House previews June 29 and officially opens with a gala celebration on Saturday, June 30. Both performances begin at 7:30. 
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee returns Monday, July 2 and plays through September 24. 
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre. — Jeremy

Repertory Theatre Actor: A Day in the Life

The Treats of Being a Repertory Actor

by Eric Lee

Eric is currently in his third year in the resident ensemble at the Commonweal. For this post, he offers his insight and perspectives on being a “repertory actor.” If you’re not aware of just what that means…read on.

Commonweal Professional Resident Ensemble Member Eric Lee

I am now entering the final weeks of my rep schedule of performing in both Silent Sky and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Now what, you may ask, is the rep? Rep is short for repertory. Merriam-Webster gives two definitions that are useful here:

  • a company that presents several different plays, operas, or pieces usually alternately in the course of a season at one theater
  • the production and presentation of plays by a repertory company acting in repertory


The Commonweal Theatre Company is a repertory theatre company, and for a large portion of our season, an audience member can come and see the company perform two different productions in the same weekend. One of the possible treats this affords is the opportunity to perform two characters in two different plays at the same time, or “in repertory.”

Currently, Abbie Cathcart, Elizabeth Dunn and I are enjoying the opportunity of doing the rep between Silent Sky and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I imagine I was given the distinction of writing about my experience as I have the most extreme transformation between the characters in the two plays.

Commonweal professional resident ensemble member Eric Lee in the role of Peter Shaw in Silent Sky

As Peter Shaw

In Silent Sky, I portray Peter Shaw, a Junior Fellow in Astronomical Research in the Harvard Observatory, circa the early 20th Century. I get to wear a three-piece suit, and the costume certainly informs some of how my character inhabits his world. I’m also the only man in that cast, and so I take advantage of a fairly luxurious preparation for the show. On the other hand, in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I play Mitch Mahoney, the reluctant Comfort Counselor, performing his community service. My appearance is, well, a bit less put together for Mitch. And that preparation affects me in an altogether different way.

Commonweal professional resident ensemble member Eric Lee as Mitch Mahoney in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

As Mitch Mahoney

The first question I generally get is a variation on, “Do you ever forget which play you’re in?” It’s actually pretty hard to get confused onstage, and definitely in this rep. The plays and characters are so very different, as are the circumstances the characters find themselves in. Plus, one is a musical, and the other is not, so that’s certainly helpful.

The memories that are built up in rehearsal are so deeply ingrained within the worlds of the different plays, and our physical observations, that it would be very difficult to suddenly find the other jumping into mind, or even worse, out of my mouth. The one time that it can be difficult is simply in getting to the dressing room, and remembering which play to get ready for. But one quick glance at the calendar and even that is remedied fairly easily.

One of the wonderful things the Commonweal affords us as actors is the opportunity to exercise our craft, and to stretch ourselves in new ways. And it is certainly tremendous fun to get to share the very different things we can do with the family that is our great and loyal theatre-goers. I am so grateful for all the support we receive for the work that we get to do here.

Witnessing Eric’s amazing transformation on the Commonweal stage is just one of the many great things to do in Lanesboro, MN. Need another idea? Commonweal board of directors member Joan Ruen suggests a tour of the Minnesota Amish countryside with Bluffscape Amish Tours. And Joan should know, it’s her company!
Our spring rep is currently running through June 23rd and features two outstanding productions. GET TICKETS —> RIGHT HERE.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy

Our New Apprentice Actor

Your Putnam County Spelling Bee Returning Champ

He’s the 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Champ and he’s played by our newest apprentice class member Brandon Cayetano. You’ll have plenty of chances to meet Brandon in person over the course of his theatre apprenticeship this year but for now, here he is to introduce you to his character in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—Chip Tolentino.

Hello Commonweal patrons! My name is Brandon Cayetano, and I’m a member of this year’s Commonweal Apprentice Class. I’m looking forward to spending a year both at the theatre and in the wonderful town of Lanesboro. I’m kicking off my season here with a role in the second show of the 30th Season, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Chip Tolentino! I’ve been a fan of the show for a long time, and Chip has been a dream role of mine, so it’s been surreal bringing this character to life. I was always drawn to Chip’s character because of his drive to win. He won last year’s Spelling Bee, and he’s back to reclaim the title of Spelling Champ! Once I knew I was going to play Chip, I delved into his backstory to find out what motivates and drives him. Here is a little bit of what I discovered.

Brandon Cayetano in rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Chip Tolentino

Brandon in rehearsal to create Chip Tolentino

During rehearsals, the director (Alan Bailey) and I found that the action of the play is sort of a redemption story for Chip. As last year’s winner, he’s already been to Nationals in Washington D.C, but he didn’t do as well as he would’ve liked. Chip has worked really hard to be where he is today and takes the Bee seriously, so when other kids seem to be able to get away with not working as hard, or don’t take things as seriously as him, you can see his blood boil. He’s the type of person who does things he knows he’s good at, so not doing well at Nationals really drove him to make his way back to D.C. this year. He’s athletic, he works hard at school, and you can just tell he wants to make it to a good college, so he has a lot riding on this competition. Not only is it his second chance to do well at the National Spelling Bee, but if he does well at Nationals, that’s his ticket to that good college! Chip exudes confidence in the Bee, but some may interpret it as cockiness. Chip is kind of like a poker player in that he doesn’t want the other kids in the bee to know what he’s thinking but his head is always in the game.

Will Chip win for the second year in a row and reclaim the championship? I guess you’ll have to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee live onstage at the Commonweal to find out!

A ticket to one of the professional, live theatre offerings at the Commonweal is only one of the many great things to do Lanesboro, MN. What’s another? How about biking or hiking along some, or all, of the 60-mile Root River State Bike Trail. The paved trail veers directly through downtown Lanesboro and is a great way to spend the day before heading to the theatre for the evening.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens this Saturday, May 12 with a gala celebration with the entire cast and Commonweal company following the performance. You can make a reservation and purchase your ticket right here on this website by visiting the full season performance calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre! — Jeremy