Lyric Arts Honors Military Families in Anoka and Across Minnesota - A Swinney Story

Lyric Arts Honors Military Families in Anoka and Across Minnesota - A Swinney Story

We met Emily and Monica Swinney after a performance of Wait Until Dark and we were struck by their story as a military family.  They had planned as a family to attend Christmas in the Airwaves t Lyric Arts in December 2015 ut were left with one empty seat when Adam was unexpectedly called away to serve. 

This year, they had hoped he would be home to see Christmas Story, ut unfortunately, he is currently serving in Iraq. Emily and Monica plan to attend the show on closing weekend. So, we wanted to take a moment to tell their story in recognition of all that military families do in service of our country. Here is their story.   

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Director's Take: A Christmas Story - Opening Nov. 18

Director's Take: A Christmas Story - Opening Nov. 18

Humorist Jean Shepherd's memoir of growing up in the Midwest in the 1940s follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker in his quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun under the tree for Christmas. Ralphie pleads his case before his mother, his teacher, and even Santa Claus himself, at Higbee's Department Store. The consistent response: "You'll shoot your eye out!"

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"Young Frankenstein" Audience Review - Roxy Orcutt

I was thrilled to be in audience of Lyric Art’s production of Young Frankenstein this opening weekend for a number of reasons. One: Lyric Arts is awesome, Two: Young Frankenstein is awesome, and Three: I was sharing the evening with my 13-year-old stepson Quinn, who has yet to experience the mad genius of Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder OR Lyric Arts, for that matter (outside of a workshop or two) and I was looking forward to watching his reaction to the show. Young Frankenstein may be the perfect show to bring young person with a great sense of humor to. While the jokes were crammed full of innuendo, of course, it was so fun to not only get a kick out them myself, but watch Quinn laugh along too. It’s a testament to the writing of Gene Wilder holding up all these years (Young Frankenstein was originally produced in 1974!) that a glued-to-his-Smartphone teenager could laugh at Roll is Ze Hay, among others, but it’s also a testament to Lyric Arts creative and technical team as well. There wasn’t a dull moment. From the opening scene of the villagers merrily dancing in front of Victor Frankenstein’s castle in Transylvania to the absolutely show-stopping Puttin’ on the Ritz number, Lyric Arts truly knocked it out of the spooky graveyard with this production.

Having just seen the majority of the cast in Rent this summer at Lyric Arts, it was truly impressive to see these actors totally disappear into their roles in Young Frankenstein. I didn’t see an ounce of Mark from Rent from Kyler Chase as he portrayed Fredrick Frankenstein, and his eyebrows may have well leapt off his face and become characters of their own. In fact, as I was watching the show, I heard an audience member behind me whisper “he even sounds like Gene Wilder.” High praise, indeed. Nykeigh Larson as Inga and Brendan Veerman as Igor (who I adored in Barefoot in the Park) were also highlights for me. But, the show was completely stolen when our Monster came to life in the form of Tom Goerger-who was not only amazing and hilarious, but also a dead ringer for Peter Boyle.

In nearly every review I write for Lyric Arts, I can’t help but praise the set design. And, again, the Young Frankenstein set was spectacular. The castle and hidden passageways, the cottage the set must be for a brief, hysterical scene, among other transitions-the grace and technical skill it takes to make these set changes so flawlessly and clever are beyond reproach.

Recalling Young Frankenstein as I am writing this, I am seeing the show in black and white. Trust me, it was full color when I saw it, and my vision is just fine, but I find it interesting that black and white, like the original film, is how I am seeing Lyric Arts production in my mind’s eye. It may be a trick of my subconscious, but I think it is further proof that the stage production is on par with the classic movie it is based on. Not that the Lyric Arts production of Young Frankenstein is a scene-for-scene re-enactment of the film, it truly is its own wonderful entity unto itself, but if you are going to be compared to a movie, let it be a Mel Brooks movie.

The audience couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween-season show from Lyric Arts, and I was so pleased to share the experience with Quinn, and help foster a new generation Young Frankenstein (and theater, and satire) fans.

Roxy Orcutt
Roxy Orcutt

Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, "History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital," explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the "Halloween Capital of the World." It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.

"The Glass Menagerie": Our Cast Members Match!

Glass Menagerie actors Ty Hudson and Randy Niles apparently decided this week was a week for matching clothes. Accidentally. Twice.

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Double Batman! Batmen? Batmans? ...?

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Blue shirts, grey shorts. We promise rehearsals don't have dress codes or theme days!

Fun fact: these two handsome actors have been buddies since they met in their college theater program at the University of South Dakota! We're glad they both found their way to the Twin Cities.

Photo credit: Samantha Haeli

"The Glass Menagerie" Rehearsal Update: Week One is All About Blocking!

Emily Picardi
Emily Picardi

I realize we've just finished our second week of rehearsals for Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and I'm only posting an update on the first week now. Just… Pretend you didn't notice the posting date.

On that note, proceeding cheerily onward as though this post weren't late at all….

We've got the entire show blocked! Director Scott Ford is a master at fast blocking; at the beginning of week one he told the cast that he wanted to block the show quickly in order to get to the "real stuff"—the acting and exploration—sooner. With that goal, Scott and the actors got right to work, and the entire show was blocked in just three rehearsals- pretty amazing, for a process that can take weeks!

What is "blocking" you might ask? Blocking is planning the movements of the actors onstage. It can be accomplished in a variety of ways; some directors give actors very specific directions ("Now you're going to move three steps downstage and raise your right arm six inches"), and some directors are very hands off ("Ok, my lovely blueberry muffins, do what feels right!"). Scott's directorial approach is to plan crosses (an actor walking across the stage) and level changes (i.e. when an actor sits down), and let the actors have input on the smaller movement, or, as he likes to say, "Discover it as we go."

Blocking is the most boring part of the process for many actors and directors. It's where many actors feel most like "meat puppets," just parading around the set saying lines. Blocking happens before any questions of "WHY would my character move here?" and is all about creating interesting stage pictures. Not only is Scott very fast at blocking the show, he's also very good at creating interesting pictures that make sense. The very little directing experience I've had has taught me that blocking is difficult. How does one visualize interesting pictures without actually seeing them? How does one take each character's motivation, relationships with others in the scene, and the power dynamics of the scene into account without actors in front of them? It's a lot of advanced thinking, and having that skill is one of the things that makes Scott a good director.

Once the whole play was blocked we spent the rest of week one reviewing the blocking scene by scene. Scott was still adamant about not expecting great acting during these rehearsals. It's still very early in the process and the actors need time to play. It's hard to take things slowly, though, when your actors are so enthusiastic; actors Ty and Patti are already almost memorized, and all four actors are chomping at the bit to talk about their characters. Tennessee Williams creates such beautiful, complex characters that it's hard not to dive into their psychology. Everyone has had to show a lot of restraint in these blocking and blocking review rehearsals!

Week two has exciting rehearsals in store, as blocking is mostly communicated, learned and reviewed, so we'll be diving into the "Acting schmacting" that Scott is so obviously fond of. Stay tuned for an update on the rehearsals of week two, plus posts about the production design and the play's esteemed author.