3 news items you should know

by Alan M. Berks • Sep. 8

News and notes | Social Service | Tradition | Vision

First of all, Phil Kilbourne, a great local actor, is dealing with metastatic melanoma right now, and his friends in the theater community, including Dennis Spears, Jevetta Steele, Regina Williams, and more, are throwing him a benefit at the Illusion Theater this Monday, September 12 from 6-9. You can find out more info on this page or donate directly.

Most recently, you might have seen Phil as the agent in Penumbra Theatre's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and somehow he was able to play the ghost of Hamlet's father in the current Jungle production for some performances.

I only know him in passing as Stephen Hawking in Tom Poole's Thirst play What the F*ck? which was an incredible acting challenge on three levels. 1) He played Stephen freakin' Hawking! 2) It was performed in a bar, on the floor, with the audience sitting right next to him--while he was Stephen freakin' Hawking! and 3) It was all supposed to be wickedly, darkly, politically incorrectly funny. And it was. O, and 4) Thirst plays only had two rehearsals.

In other words, even just in passing, I know the guy is a brilliant Twin Cities actor, and he needs our help. Here's to a successful benefit.

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I don't know whether we're supposed to have this information but somehow I got this information, and I'm too excited by it to keep it to myself.

Park Square has recruited a quartet of Artistic Associates to new three year positions. They are Brian Balcom, Aditi Kapil, Carson Kreitzer, and James Williams who all together happen to be four such awesome people that I'm afraid the rehearsal room will explode of awesomeness when they gather together for their meetings.

Ok, a lot of theaters have talented Artistic Associates, what's the big deal? Well, there's a bunch of reasons to see this is as big deal but, basically, it is another in a long string of recent moves by Park Square to invest in the local community in very serious artistic ways, in ways that seem to elevate artists in the regional theater rather than take them for granted. These positions come with an honorarium, a regular schedule of meetings with the Artistic Director (rather than some informal, maybe-we'll-consult-you-sometime relationship), and also a promise to produce at least one project with each artist.

Of course, the devil is in the details, but, for now, I want to applaud Park Square for being bold and trying to seriously expand who's "at the table" when artistic decisions are made at their theater--expanding both in terms of real talent and real diversity.

Congratulations to Brian, Aditi, Carson, and JW; I can't wait to see what you do.

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Finally, read this story and this interview about a performance of The Lion King on Broadway that is designed for children on the autism spectrum. The lights will be lower. The sounds will too. There will be three places for children to go if they're feeling overwhelmed.

Besides the fact that it is a wonderful thing to do, that I have seen children with autism come alive in the theater in ways they simply cannot do in everyday life, it is a also a great example of how, unlike other forms of entertainment, live theater can actually be directly flexible to the needs of its audience.

It happens in New York on October 2. Here's to hoping it also is successful.

Can we see something like this in Minneapolis soon too?