Cookies and bars and tequila strawberry cheesecake, oh my!

oatmeal chip cookiesRalph Waldo Emerson said that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. So, the only logical conclusion is that our upcoming bake sale is going to be fantastic because we’re all so excited about it! We just wanted to give you a quick update about the goodies you’ll find when you come to see The Red Velvet Cake War – opening night is less than two weeks away. Of course, you can’t have a bake sale without cookies or cupcakes, and we wouldn't be able to call ourselves a Minnesota theater if we weren't going to have bars. You can also expect to find cake and pie, and Education Director Cassandra is planning a tequila strawberry cheesecake which she says is crazy-popular at parties.pumpkin bread

Bailey, our marketing associate, will bring in pumpkin bread made from her grandmother’s recipe. She says, “The recipe has been passed all around the family, and we all keep making it for each other as a holiday gift. It’s really become a joke at this point, but it’s so delicious that nobody is complaining!”crazy brownies

Our Technical Director Karen has promised to bring Crazy Brownies, which she described as “chocolate chip cookie dough as a base, layered with Oreo cookies and topped with brownie mix.” She says the recipe wasn't learned from her family, but we’re pretty sure it sounds like an instant family favorite. All in all, you can consider your diet ruined, folks.

There is still time to sign up if you'd like to lend your baking talents to the cause. Contact Sharon at 763-233-0802 or sharon@lyricarts.org for more information.

The bake sale will begin opening night of The Red Velvet Cake War, and will be open during intermission and after the show until we run out of goods. If you don’t have opening weekend tickets, get them now and you’ll be entered to win a cake from local café Truffles and Tortes!

It's the Red Velvet Bake Sale!

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Now that it's finally May and spring has sprung (sort of...), we're excited to announce that we'll be holding a bake sale in conjunction with our upcoming show, The Red Velvet Cake War, opening May 30th. 

You'll surely have red velvet cake on the mind after watching the hilarious Verdeen family bake-off, and we have just the solution. Visit concessions during intermission and after the show–we'll have red velvet cupcakes from Truffles and Tortes, as well as plenty of other scrumptious selections to satisfy any craving (and plenty for you to take home too!). 

Contact Sharon Broscha at 763-233-0802 if you'd like to lend your baking talents to the cause. 100% of proceeds from the bake sale will come directly to Lyric Arts.

In addition to selling scrumptious baked goods, we'll also be raffling off a delicious cake each night of opening weekend from our friends at Truffles and Tortes Dessert Cafe. Come to an opening weekend show and you'll automatically be entered to win! 

Get your tickets now to enjoy an evening of southern-fried comedy and dysfunctional family hilarity with us at Lyric Arts.

Cabaret, Cabaret, Cabaret: Meet the Emcees!

There's always a lot going on at Lyric Arts, but now that spring has officially (we hope!) sprung, our planning for the 15th Annual Cabaret Fundraiser is in full swing! Emcee Nick Menzhuber

As song choices and performers are being finalized, we don't want to give away too much, but we can confirm the rumors that this year's show will be emceed by none other than the amazing Tony Johnson and the fantastic Nick Menzhuber! These two will keep up the banter throughout the evening and have everyone in the audience rolling on the floor with laughter all night.

Emcee Tony Johnson

Audiences will recognize these two from past productions; Tony has emceed the Cabaret Fundraiser in the past, as well as performing in Picnic, DoubtMr. A's Amazing Maze Plays, and more at Lyric Arts. Nick is currently acting in The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), and has been involved in five other plays at Lyric Arts, including The Laramie Project, Noises Off, and Little Shop of Horrors.

We're also still looking for donations to make this event the very best it can be - our goal is to raise at least 200 bottles of wine for our fun wine game - and we only have a month to make it happen! Check out our donation page to see all the different ways that you can get involved.Stay tuned for more cast announcements and song hints as we get closer to the wonderful day, and don't forget to reserve your tickets - table seating is still available!

Dig Deeper - Godspell's Experimental Roots

Godspell began in 1970 as a master’s thesis project at Carnegie Mellon University.  At around the same time, Jerzy Grotowski (1934-1999), founder and head of the Polish Laboratory Theater, was on his way to become one of the most important and influential theatrical innovators of his time.  Grotowski visited New York in 1969 and a year later published his seminal book, ''Towards a Poor Theater.''  Grotowski became famous for proposing the idea that theater, as an art form, can do without lights, music, scenery, it could even do without a theater. What it needed was one actor and one member of the audience. 1720pGrotowski 2 img325

For Grotowski, theater, through the actor's technique, provides an opportunity to reveal real substance. “This opportunity must be treated in a disciplined manner, with a full awareness of the responsibilities it involves. Here we can see the theatre's therapeutic function for people in our present day civilization.”  The interaction between the actor and the audience is at the heart of this revelation.  “It is true that the actor accomplishes this act, but he can only do so through an encounter with the spectator…”

In a 1969 interview, Grotowski acknowledged that this emphasis on the relationship between actor and audience was inspired by Julius Osterwa, a Polish actor and director, who ''treated acting as a human experience that exists not for the public, but vis-a-vis the public.''  The idea, he said, was to ''enlarge on images deeply rooted in the collective unconscious.'' His theater was spiritual, ritualistic and nonliterary -- and extraordinarily challenging for the actor and for the audience.  This theoretical foundation lies beneath much of the playful, improvisational, and visual style of Godpsell.

Sources:  The New York Times and “Towards a Poor Theatre” by Grotowski

What Parents Should Know About "Godspell"

We've recently received many questions from parents wondering if Godspell will be an appropriate, enjoyable show for their children to attend. In general, Godspell is a family-friendly show full of hilarity and music that children will enjoy. The play is recommended for ages 6 and up, but we do recommend that parents and guardians familiarize themselves with the story and judge whether children will be comfortable through the show. If you decide that this is a show you and your child would enjoy, we're offering a Saturday matinee special: buy one adult or senior ticket, and get a children's ticket 1/2 off for the 2:00 pm shows on February 22nd, March 1st, 8th, and 15th. Get the discount by calling the box office at 763.422.1838.

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What Parents Should Know from Education Director Cassandra Proball

Godspell is a musical made up of improvised scenes based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and music based on traditional Episcopal hymns. The show centers on a group of followers who are called to gather together to create a community following a very loving and knowledgeable teacher. There are only two named characters: Jesus, the leader and one of the followers, a character called John the Baptist/Judas. The rest of the acting ensemble are called by their own names.

Kids will enjoy the way that the acting ensemble brings a range of stories, also known as parables, to life using a host of theatrical devices including vaudeville, storytheater, improvisational games, and a variety of musical styles. Kids will also enjoy the high-energy, playful style of performance; the tight harmonies and powerful choral singing; bold, exciting lights that often move and change colors; and the lively dancing.

Also to know: the ensemble does invite the entire audience to the stage during intermission for “wine”, but it’s really light grape juice. There are adult themes mentioned as part of some of the parables – adultery, murder, arrogance, greed, etc. – but most situations are treated comically.

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Younger children may find parts of the second act a little disturbing, depending on their familiarity with story of the last days of Christ as told in the Gospel of St. Matthew. There are some scary moments: when the mob turns against Jesus and calls for his crucifixion and Jesus’s death on the cross. The mood and tone of the lights gets darker and the performance style becomes very realistic and serious. However, there is very little violence and all of it is theatricalized – for example – a red ribbon is used to represent blood. However, musical ends with an upbeat, hopeful note as Jesus is carried away with a peaceful song and the ensemble re-enters to close the evening with a joyful song and dance number.

 

Parents can also read more about the show and the cast on the Godspell webpage, and see clips of rehearsal and performances on our YouTube channel.

 

"Godspell" Audience Review - Virginia Louden

by Virginia Louden

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I had the pleasure of attending Godspell at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage in Anoka on Saturday night. I have attended quite a few plays at Lyric Arts over the years and I can honestly say that they have yet to disappoint me. For a small town theater, they truly know how to deliver the goods just as well as any of their big city rivals. While we all waited in anticipation, I heard someone behind me mention how small the cast was while they perused their program. Size truly didn't matter. The lights went dim, the ten person cast came out and during their opening number I felt goosebumps appear all over my arms. I knew right then that I was in for a treat.

Godspell, originally written in 1970 but recently adapted with a much more modern twist and feel, is a light and lively string of parables straight out of the Bible. Whether you are a religious person or not, watching this play, you won't be able to help but leave feeling energized and uplifted. Colin Hutchins, who plays Jesus, does a wonderful job delivering the stories and lessons graciously. I never felt like I was being preached to and I was kept on a wonderful roller coaster ride of giggles, chills and laugh out loud fun.

Director Robert Neu chose a fabulous cast of characters and they did a truly amazing job. Watching them was like watching VBS hopped up on a case of Redbull. Seriously. The energy coming from the stage was contagious. The live band was spot on and flowed through all of the songs and genres so smoothly. During the ensembles' group dances, there wasn't a toe out of line. And even more exciting were their harmonies. Oh, the harmonies! You truly have to experience them for yourself. The actors were all great singers individually, but the harmonies they created together were most inspiring.

I would like to spotlight a couple actors that stand out in my mind. Joshua Paul Smith surprised me with his control and power as a vocalist. I enjoyed his performance very much. Nicholas Kaspari was very fun to watch. His dance moves were superb and when combined with his comedic timing, it's sure to keep you rolling on the floor. And if you haven't seen Zach Marleau yet, you really should. I couldn't believe it when I read that he is only a junior in high school. He was absolutely hilarious and I cannot wait to see him in other productions. All in all, it was a fantastic show and I hope you get a chance to enjoy it, too.

--

Virginia Louden is a local Anoka blogger and a full-time mom who has attended multiple Lyric Arts productions.

"Godspell" Audience Review - Gary Davis

Prepare the Way...Indeed

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by Gary Davis

‘Prepare ye the way,’ the Baptist tells us after the prologue in Lyric Arts’ current production of Godspell.

I must admit I was not prepared.  However, I was impressed.  Enough so that I plan on visiting this show again later in the run to see how it changes, as all good shows do over time.

I WAS prepared for yet another production of a show that dots the seasons of high school theatres across the country and perhaps around the world.  I WAS prepared for young actors and lots of energy (which was delivered).  I WAS prepared for the standard school playground set (which was not).

What I wasn’t prepared for was a veritable 3 ring circus of humor, magic, vaudeville, choral mastery, and an OUTSTANDING ensemble of 10 actors and actresses that took this show, and its audience, by the throat and never let go from the opening modern-day Tower of Babble society attached to cellular devices to the dirge-filled removal of Jesus’ body after his crucifixion.

For those not familiar with Godspell, it is a musical born of the 1960’s counter-culture and a subsequent re-examining of the Christian religions that brought both Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar to the stage in 1971.  Godspell started out as creator John Michael Tebelak’s master’s thesis, but found its present form after Steven Schwartz rewrote the score.

When Godspell opened in 1971, it pre-dated the opening of Jesus Christ Superstar by several months and played to mixed reviews.  Where Superstar was a BIG musical, Godspell was a simple show, based on parables mostly taken from the Book of Matthew.

Clive Barnes of the New York Times found the show “naïve and platitudinous”, while Tony Mastroianni in the Cleveland Press had this to say:  “It is a very loving show and while it sometimes exhibits evangelist fervor it is never in anger. This is not a message of anger, but of love.”

Many will look at Godspell and agree with Mr. Barnes, asking why should we produce this musical now? Others, including director Robert Neu and composer Steven Schwartz, place the message of Godspell right here and right now. Schwartz put it this way: “there seems to be an increasing inability to come to any national consensus about anything. Godspell, at its heart, is about the formation of a community out of disparate people” through observance of some simple rules embodied in Biblical parables as seen through a very interesting lens…

While the individuals in the show are all given moments to shine, it is the ensemble that drives this production to excellence. Only one number, “Beautiful City” is a true solo, sung simply, effectively, and with minimal staging by Colin Hutchins (Jesus).

I don’t want to describe the show in a blow-by-blow manner, but rather give you a taste of what you would miss if you don’t see it. The fact is, this show is all about the team. I hope the cast will forgive me, but I feel to single out any of them would be to slight an excellent performance by each of the others. Believe, me there are no weak links to the chain here. Kudos, by the way, to Scenic Designer Kirby Moore, for not having that chain link fence.

First, it is obvious from the beginning that this cast loves working together. The interactions are honest and they play to each other and the audience with apparent ease.

Second, the staging is entertaining. Director Neu has found all of the humor he could to bring the parables to life and added some entertaining touches, such as in the baptism of the disciples. I was also pleasantly surprised by the use of footlights (yes, footlights), in “All for the Best”, a vaudeville number, led by Colin and Charles Goitia (John/Judas).

The other numbers, while having featured soloists, all are made much more effective by the ensemble, both physically and musically. Musical Director Mary Cay Stone and her assistant Ben Schrade have delivered a feast for the ears full of intricate harmonies and playful syncopations.

Choreographer Penelope Freeh and assistant Molly Jo Hall have sculpted a combination of production number dances and organic movement that complement the music seamlessly. A couple of numbers that stand out are the use of unexpected props in “We Beseech Thee” and the use of set pieces in “Bless the Lord”.

Which brings us to the set. When I entered the theatre, I was taken aback by the concrete-ness of the set. As admonished by director Neu in his program notes, I kept an open mind and was rewarded for doing so, as the set turned out to be extremely flexible and utilitarian in supporting the music and action. It helped make the technical elements of this show as seamlessly joined as the actors and musicians performing it.

So, is there a place for a 40 year old, counter culture musical telling a story more than 2,000 years old in today’s theatre? When it is done this well, the answer is a resounding yes.

--

Gary Davis is a local actor/director who is a big fan of theater.

Dig Deeper - A Really, Really Brand New Day!

One of the most interesting characteristics of Godspell is the fact that it was deliberately written with a great amount of flexibility in interpretation and production.  Naturally, every production of any script is unique to an individual time and place - selected by a specific theater, focused through the lens of the director, interpreted through the actors and production team, and viewed by a particular audience.  However, as Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist for Godspell, describes -- Every time Godspell is done, it is basically created anew, because it grows out of the improvisations of the cast and the directorial concept. So it’s always interesting and exciting to see what each group doing the show comes up with.

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In Schwartz's notes to directors and actors, he talks a bit about how the original production was created and how he hopes that every production of Godspell retains a sense of that original playful improvisation.  I dropped by a rehearsal the other day and the room was full to bursting with laughter, lively play, and joyous spirit.

If you've heard Godspell associated with words like "clown" or "circus" or "game", those descriptions can be both illuminating and a bit misleading.  Here's a brief excerpt from Schwartz's 1999 notes to help put the light-hearted, playful nature of the show into context...

We used to tell cast members in the original production to imagine that the audience was composed of half adults and half children... The parables had to be made clear and entertaining to each of these groups. Thus the use of both sophisticated verbal humor and broad physical comedy, to appeal to all the age groups, and the reliance on acting out the stories visually...

Next week, I'll share more about how the playful nature of the show also came about due to the influence of Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski's groundbreaking book, Towards a Poor Theatre (1968).  See you next week!

Cassandra Proball, Education Director

Meet the Godspell Cast

Since many of the Godspell cast members are new or recent additions to the Lyric Arts family, we thought you'd like to get to know them before the show. To get more behind the scenes peeks at the show, check out our cast interviews and rehearsal preview videos here.

Tickets are still available for Godspell performances online or by calling the box office at 763.422.1838

 

"Godspell" Rehearsal Sneak Peek

We were able to sneak into an early rehearsal of "Godspell," coming to the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage Feb. 14 - March 16. Though they're not costumed and they don't have props yet, this cast sounds AMAZING together! Get your tickets now and spread the word - "Godspell" is coming and you won't want to miss it!

Buy tickets at www.lyricarts.org or call the Box Office at 763-422-1838.

Cast: Colin Hutchins as Jesus Charles Goitia as John/Judas Tolu Ekisola Lisa Hanson Nicholas Kaspari Jessica Ktytor Zach Marleau Quinn Shadko Joshua Smith Sadie Wunder