The Only Thing that Stays the Same…

The Only Thing that Stays the Same…

… is change.

This is what my mom always said. Or was it Heraclitus? Whether it was wisdom spun from a California stock administrator, or a Greek philosopher, I think we can all agree with the sentiment. Just look at the past few blog posts. People moving on, ready to start something new.

This was certainly the case for my fiancé Cody and I when we got into the third year of the pandemic in Chicago, picked up our cats, and headed for Bluff Country. Something about these past few years shifted the air (literally) as we put on masks and realized we needed a fresh breath of it. For a lot of my friends, that meant leaving the big city and going to the country, or vice versa. 

Merry and Duke Orsino

So here we are. Hi! I’m Laurie Roberts and that’s Cody Beyer. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area and he’s from Nashville. We met in a production of Macbeth that rehearsed over the span of a year, a part of Shakespeare 400 Chicago, a year-long festival celebrating the bard’s work four centuries after his death in 1616. We lived to tell the tale, adopted a kitten (Meriadoc Brandybuck,) fell in love in a bathtub on stage, got engaged, and now we both have matching Minnesota drivers’ licenses. So cute! And so much change. 

Thank you all for your generous and warm welcomes, we are thrilled to be here and we’ll see you at the theater!

Stories of the Body: Lina by Andras Visky, photos by Devron Enarson

It’s Not Goodbye

It’s Not Goodbye!

Longtime company members Brandt Roberts and Elizabeth Dunn will be moving to the Twin Cities in July. In their own words they each reflect on their time here:

Elizabeth Dunn:

It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. You can’t say goodbye to a place like this. As one of the most beautiful towns in bluff country, Lanesboro has a premier professional theatre company, a rails-to-trails track offering over 60 miles of biking, an arts center that supports both emerging and established artists, with the scenic Root River winding through the driftless region, and . . . . So. Much. More. When I came to the Commonweal in 2015, I was simply hoping for a place to be stationary for a while. (The life of an actor can be nomadic.) I never dreamt that not only would I meet my fiancé, Brandt, but that I would enter such a loving, creative, and supportive community. The experiences I’ve had at the Commonweal are immeasurable, and the people I’ve met will hopefully be friends for life. Yeah, you don’t leave a place like this, you carry it with you. So, “see you later.”

Abbie Cathcart, Brandt, and Elizabeth in "Charley's Aunt."
Brandt Roberts: 

Similar to Elizabeth, I’ve started saying “auf wiedersehen” instead of “goodbye.” It feels less final…and more German. The Commonweal and Lanesboro have been my home for eight years. When I first saw Karl Unnasch’s art installation throughout the theatre lobby, I knew I belonged. I am beyond blessed to have lived and worked with such an incredible company and community. You are my extended family. There are too many memories to recount and people to thank. My emotions are mixed: excitement for what lies ahead and sorrow for what I leave behind. When I came here, I longed for an artistic home, and I found one. Until we meet again. Much love to you all.  

Below are photos from some of the wonderful shows they’ve been in together:

You don’t leave a place like this, you carry it with you.”

 —Elizabeth Dunn

“A Christmas Carol” director’s notes

“A Christmas Carol” director’s notes

“A Christmas Carol” director’s notes

by Craig Johnson

Our brand-new adaptation of A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 19 through Dec. 19. Director Craig Johnson share his notes on this production.

In 1843, Charles Dickens dashed off his short novel, “A Christmas Carol,” to make a quick buck—well, pound—for the holidays. It sold out in a week, and 13 more editions came out within a year. And it’s been making money for theaters, filmmakers, and booksellers ever since. Oh the irony, for a story about a miser!

We used two watchwords to guide this production: faithful and fresh. We wanted to remain true to all the plot points in Dickens’ story, we wanted to warmly embrace the themes of generosity and kindness, and whenever possible we wanted to retain his astonishing original language—comic, dramatic, and bracingly relevant. But we also wanted to broaden the story and try something new. So this year we follow Scrooge’s ghostly journey as a woman.

Woah! Would a woman even be able to achieve that level of wealth and power in the Victorian era? Astonishingly, nearly 30% of all businesses in England in the second half of the 19th century were owned by women! And not just small companies such as dressmakers and milliners, but a number of larger, industrial concerns. However, a successful businesswoman would still have been something of an anomaly, an outsider—and outsiders in any society have always had the deck stacked against them.

Madam Scrooge couldn’t quite be the grotesque, slovenly comic ogre in Dickens original or popular movie versions. She’d never get a foot in the door of the stock exchange. But the description: “Hard and sharp as flint, and solitary as an oyster,” captured our imagination. What if Scrooge was better dressed than anyone around her? More perfect, always, correct, endlessly exacting; keeping everyone—competitor or friend—from ever getting close. And never, ever exposing herself to any vulnerability.         

That felt like a character we knew, and understood. And even if her behavior towards others was callous, harsh, and acid-tongued, we might be able to sympathize why she protected herself with such rigor. And maybe, just maybe, her transformation might be all the sweeter. Let us know how we did!

One last thought: early on, our music director Stela Burdt commented, “There is so much Christmas music created at this time, maybe people should always be singing and humming.” So you may hear snatches of hymns and carols threading throughout the show, plus a few raucous pub songs and music hall tunes to bring a little added cheer to the proceedings. Merry Christmas!

For more info and tickets: visit here.
A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 26 – Dec. 19. Previews begin on Nov. 19.