Changing spaces, getting places and yawning faces

by Joshua Humphrey • Feb. 11

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Do not adjust your RSS feed - Joshua Humphrey is now in control of the Minnesota Playlist blog.

Thanks very much to Alan Berks and Ira Brooker, who have given me this opportunity to dive back into theatre after a semi-vacation. Semi-vacation means that I'm seeing theatre and producing the Twin Cities Theater Connection podcast, just not at I Love Lucy speeds.

We begin, dear friends and readers, with the local scene.

The Star Tribune reports that the Gremlin Theatre will be vacating its space on St. Paul's University Avenue when their lease is up come July. Between now and then, Gremlin Theatre is staging two more shows (Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author and one as yet unnamed show).

Fanboys of Gremlin Theatre will recall that this isn't their first space: they used to be housed at another location, the Loading Dock Theater, also in St. Paul. I am only familiar with their current location, home of not only Gremlin Theatre, but the stamping ground of Theatre Pro Rata, Six Elements Theatre, Teatro del Pueblo, a cavalcade of Minnesota Fringe productions, and the sounds of the connected Aikido studio. Gremlin Theatre has served not only as a company themselves but as a community space, and that will be absent for the foreseeable future. Gremlin will have a new home, but where remains unknown.

Favorite Gremlin Theatre Production: The production in 2010 of Pinter's The Homecoming.

Favorite Non-Gremlin Show at Gremlin Theatre: I cannot get over how much I loved the Fringe production Jurassic Bark. And Squawk. And Pro Rata's Taming of the Shrew. And any number of other great shows.

I will miss that space. What were your favorite productions?

"Audiences are created so that future theater may be created. Audiences are studied so that future theater may be studied. Audiences are humanized so that theater—past, present, and future—may be humanized."

HowlRound had an article up this past week by theater educator at California State University Craig Fleming, centered on the increasing difficulty of engaging the general student body as audience members of the campus' theater events. He lays out a plan for what academic theater must do to alleviate the problem, since these students are very much the audiences of the future. "If the audience vanishes, theater vanishes."

It's been a while since I've been a student, so those out there who are currently engaged in higher learning, how has the theater department on your campus engaged the student body at large?

The Guardian asks, with accompanying stock photo of people yawning and looking bored: “Why is so much theatre so dull?"

My answer: you might not be seeing something you would enjoy in the first place. I've put a lot of time and effort into learning about the shows I like and want to see – Twin Cities Theater Connection has been an extended exercise in learning about the Twin Cities theater community, and in that process, I've gained a more intimate knowledge of my tastes and where to go both to satisfy and challenge them. But how do you cultivate that knowledge in an audience, particularly those that may not see theater very often?

The Guardian post led me to The Observer and their “article on director Marianne Elliott, which had this great quote from her: "Theatre is incredibly demanding and you work all the hours – and I'm a mum with a little girl at home – so why bother putting everything into it if you are not producing something that is really worth doing? Something that pushes you and pushes everyone else involved? If it is just another run-of-the-mill show, then what is the point?"

I like the cut of that jib, and I think many Twin Cities directors, if they haven't vocalized it, know it instinctively.

It Blogged From The Past!
Last year at this time, Levi Weinhagen linked in his weekly blog post to this article (at least, I think it was – the link in the original blog post is broken), in which existed a little blurb about the beginning of the discussion on how to use $200,000 from an NEA "Our Town" grant meant for revamping Hennepin Avenue.

The Minneapolis City Council approved a plan for a cultural corridor on Friday that includes a visitors' hub, more green spaces, and connects the many arts centers to one another, making them more convenient locations not only for we Twin Citians, but also for tourists who might be looking to experience Minneapolis' cultural offering. I am 100% for tourists taking the light rail right from the airport to downtown, going right into a visitors' hub, and buying rush theater tickets. But will I be able to purchase tickets for smaller theaters or one of our many nomad companies?

Greater details of the plan, along with a rendering, can be found here.

The Twittersphere
Actor Sam Landman has been tweeting snarky, hilarious, and fake auditions notices for the last couple weeks. Example:

Seeking actor look-alike for upcoming #mnfringe show. Must see every show during run. And look like @joshuahumphrey.#AuditionNotice— Sam Landman (@DroningEnnui) February 1, 2013

You may have to dig through his feed to find them (clicking on the #AuditionNotice above doesn't bring me to a full list), but it's well worth a little hunting.

You Read Through That? Here's Your Treat
"Dig down. Dig down. Raise your shovels high!"

I'm not the biggest fan of Les Miserables, but I've seen the recent film (Anne Hathaway haters beware! I am her staunch defender) and know the score well enough from many teenage hours spent listening to the soundtrack over, and over, and over again. Okay, so maybe I'm a fan, and this 13-minute version of Les Miserables called Les Militaribles done by the South Korean air force was just what I needed to inspire me to pay those kids who came by and shoveled my sidewalk.

Enjoy! See you next week!