A Milestone Season of Professional Live Theatre

30th Season Milestones

by David Hennessey

Scott and Stela read Love Letters to start
A notable year. Then others joined hearts
’Neath Salt-Water Moon.
Thereafter, we soon
Met three unsung women who learned to chart

Faraway stars: staring up at the night
We bathed, awestruck, in swirling points of light!
A fun change of pace
Brought the cut-throat chase
Of kids seeking spelling trophies. The sight,

In Clean House, of messes we can’t control—
Including sickness that will not let go—
Taught us gently how
To live in the now.
After years of writing, with heart and soul,

His masterful Dracula, Scotty thrilled
As we staged it with full suspense and chills.
Standing ovations,
Public sensation!
He basked in the glow of visions fulfilled.

When the day finally came he had to leave,
We celebrated him more than we grieved.
We dedicated
Our last show slated
To A Wonderful Life the heavens retrieved.

That Dracula script? It’s now winging high
In our lobby, soaring to Silent Sky.

Click any image below to view the full photo.

And what a season it has been! Your love and support have guided this company to the end of our 30th year producing professional live theatre in Lanesboro. This year, we logged a record number of season pass holders, welcomed well over 1,500 first time patrons, surpassed our fall donation campaign efforts and saw more than 21,000 people walk through the doors and take a seat in the theatre. On that strength and with renewed spirit and energy, we forge ahead to 2019 and our 31st season. Thank you for a fabulous year — if you like us, talk about us and we look forward to sharing more compelling stories with you next year. 

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 

Our Talented Aquatic Cast Member(s)

As we prepare to say farewell to The Clean House this weekend, we think it only fitting to hear from the smallest members of the cast whom we have lovingly named Pink and Floyd. The script necessitates having a “fighting fish” onstage and with the length of the run, it was determined that there should be two fish that would “tag-team” and role share performances. Rigorous auditions were held and the two aquatic thespians chosen have been top-notch all summer. And so, without further ado, a word from Pink and Floyd. 

A Role-Share Like None Other

PINK—As the cast gets ready to close The Clean House, I was asked to talk a little bit about my time here and the process.

Last spring I had no idea what my summer and fall would look like. I assumed that I would be sitting in a shallow bowl of water for a few more weeks until some kid, freshly bored from being out of school, demanded a fish to keep them company. At that point anything goes; maybe I’d live to a ripe old age of 3, maybe things would turn south very quickly. Kids are fickle that way.

FLOYD—When I saw the audition posting saying the Commonweal was looking for ‘Talented Aquatic Acrobats & Strong Swimmers,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have a cousin who was in a circus once, and my late great-grandfather was part of a magic act, so I’ve got a little bit of that show-business blood coursing through my veins. I did my best to showcase what I could do, swimming to the left, then back to the right, then diving down while twirling slightly. To be perfectly honest I hadn’t warmed up completely and the twirl was a little more strained than I would’ve liked, but in the end, I booked the gig!

Rehearsals were grueling. I wasn’t used to six hours of rehearsal a day. Quite frankly my attention span is probably more suited to 10 to 12 seconds of rehearsal. Luckily the role is a role-share with another fish so we were able to help pick each other’s energy up when one of us would begin to lag a little. This also helped ensure that I was able to attend a friend’s wedding over the summer on the North Shore.

PINK—Preparing for a performance was like nothing I had ever done before. My typical performance routine before coming to the Commonweal consisted of swimming an inch to my left, running into the side of a bowl, and then repeating the process by swimming to the right. Something cool about the Commonweal was from day one of rehearsals I had the fishbowl that you see on stage. That might not seem like a big deal, but trust me, when you do community productions of Finding Nemo on a shoestring budget, you’re not always afforded such luxuries. With all that room to swim, I was able to make some performance discoveries that I think really enhance the storytelling.

FLOYD—Before the show I like to swim a few laps, just to get limbered up. I spend a good deal of time up on the platform closer to the hot stage lights, so, as with all actors, staying hydrated is a huge key to my success. Even though I don’t have any “lines”, per-se, I still do a full vocal warm up, partly out of superstition. But once the show starts I try to stay as “in-the-moment” as possible; mostly because, as a fish, I don’t have much in the way of short term memory—for me, it’s all about listening and responding!

One very exciting thing about this process was the stunt work involved! A lot of shows will set up a tank in a spot on stage and simply leave it there, but for those who have seen the show, I’m sure you noticed the moment in act two where the actress who plays Ana carries me down the stairs and sets me down on the center table. Usually, that kind of action sequence is done with CGI, but Megan, our director, was insistent that the audience see the move take place. Every night I get to feel like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible!

PINK & FLOYD—As we wind down I just want to thank the Commonweal for allowing us this opportunity to shine. Not many places would’ve cast a completely unknown in such a central role, but they saw something in us and we’ll be forever grateful.

Your chance to see the fine work of Pink, Floyd and the other talented cast members is running short. As of this entry, The Clean House has just three performances remaining and must close on
Monday, Oct. 22.
GET TICKETS —> Performance Calendar
Thanks for reading (albeit tongue-in-cheek) and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 

All Things Sarah Ruhl

Following a brief hiatus, The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl returns to the Commonweal stage through October 22. You may not know much about Sarah Ruhl, you may have never even heard the name Sarah Ruhl before…Drama Unfolds to the rescue! In this edition, I have included several links to interviews with Sarah, stories about her and, especially, her thoughts and inspirations on the gorgeous play of hers on our stage for the next four weekends. Read all of them now or save some and keep coming back for further reading. And now, all things Sarah Ruhl.

“Putting Things up Against Freud”

—Your dialogue often reads like poetry, filled with poetic lines breaks and metaphors. How did you develop your unique writing style?
I started out as a poet, became a playwright, and kept going. I think playwriting contains all other genres, including poetry, the essay (or argument), story, song… And it’s one thing that draws me to the form again and again — the way it folds all the other genres in. Click here to read the full interview from Proscenium Theatre Journal.

—Sarah Ruhl on Subtext. Click here to watch the full video.

—Sarah Ruhl: “I think our generation has to look at Sigmund Freud and Freud’s impact, and many of us say, Oh, maybe Freud didn’t have it right. Something that he was right about he got from literature: the Oedipal complex, from the Greeks. So maybe we ought to go back to the Greeks instead of back to Freud on the Greeks.” Click here to read the full BOMB Magazine interview.

—Sarah Ruhl and her plays remind us to be ten once more and play, to wonder if stones have thoughts as in Eurydice, if cell phones are portals to the afterlife as in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, and if jokes in other languages were funny enough to kill you as in The Clean House. To be childish, to be childlike — to be ten! Click here to read the full Breaking Character Magazine article.

—I grew up seeing pictures of my mother all over the house flying, in green tights. She played Peter Pan as a girl in Davenport, Iowa. I was also mesmerized by a photo taken by the local paper of my mother as a teenager standing next to Mary Martin (pictured here). My early love of the theatre was formed in the crucible of my mother’s flight, as it existed in memory. A year after writing For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday for my mother, I sat down with her in Evanston, Ill., where she lives, to ask her a little bit about her long life in Chicago theatre. Click here to continue reading an interview by Sarah Ruhl of her mother Kathleen.

The Clean House is now playing on Monday & Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in rep with Dracula: Prince of Blood. This is a limited run of twelve performances.
GET TICKETS —> Performance Calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy.