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Don’t let summer keep you away from the theater

Christine Weber is Mercedes and Jason Rojas is Fernand Mondego in "The Count of Monte Cristo," this summer's offering by the Minnesota Centennial Showboat.
Photo by Justin Christy
Christine Weber is Mercedes and Jason Rojas is Fernand Mondego in “The Count of Monte Cristo,” this summer’s offering by the Minnesota Centennial Showboat.

Now that summer has grudgingly arrived on the scene, many Minnesotans turn their attention away from the indoor activities that have dominated the last eight months of their lives. While the theater scene may slow down in the first part of summer, it certainly doesn’t go away. Here are a few events of note to help fill out the long warm evenings.

For the last half-century, the Minnesota Centennial Showboat has entertained audiences and provided important training and experience for University of Minnesota performers. This summer, the offering is an adaptation of Dumas’ classic “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

Though veteran director Peter Moore leads the show (coming right off his splendid work with “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” at Park Square Theater), the cast and crew are made up of University of Minnesota students, who spend their summer on the showboat (based at Harriet Island in St. Paul) working on every aspect of the day-to-day production. Not only does it provide great experience for these young actors and technicians, but it also provides a gig that pays much better than your average summer job.


The audience, in turn, gets a rip-roaring show, full of over-the-top excitement and melodrama. As a special treat for Minnesota’s sesquicentennial, the popular “Minnesota Olio” (directed by another area veteran, Vern Sutton) returns this year. The Minnesota Centennial Showboat runs through Aug. 23. (Also, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the showboat, a reunion will be held July 12.)

What: The University of Minnesota Showboat Players, “The Count of Monte Cristo”
When: Through Aug. 23
Where: Minnesota Centennial Showboat, Harriet Island Regional Park, St. Paul
Tickets: $15-$25
Contact: 651-227-1100

Other productions

Skewed Visions presents “Jasper Johns” through Saturday at the Ritz Theatre in Minneapolis. The evening uses varied media — including theater, movement and film — to explore the art of one of the signature painters in 20th century American art. Creators Charles Campbell, Gülgün Kayim and Sean Kelley-Pegg will tackle Johns’ work in several pieces that draw from his creations or are inspired by his approach. Over the years, Skewed Visions has developed a reputation for crafting challenging experimental works – and it sounds as if “Jasper Johns” will be no different.
What: Skewed Visions, “Jasper Johns”
When: June 18-21, 2008
Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
Tickets: $18 ($15 with MN Fringe button/student/senior)
Contact: 612-573-4897

The Urban Spectrum Theatre Company looks at a different 20th-century figure with a return engagement of “The Black Orchid: Josephine Baker.” The show played to sold-out audiences in 2005 and toured the Midwest in 2006. Writer/director Judy Cooper Lyle takes a close look at Baker, who rose to fame as an African-American singer in France in the 1930s (where she became a French citizen) and later was part of the American civil rights movement. Madeline Howe plays the title role. It runs June 19-22 and 26-29 at the Parkway Theater.
What: “The Black Orchid: Josephine Baker”
When: June 19-22 and June 26-29
Where: Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis,
Tickets: $10-$30
Contact: 612-821-2385

The Lowery Lab in St. Paul plays host to “Someone Who’ll Watch over Me” this weekend and next. The show, written by Frank McGuinness, looks at the plight of three foreign hostages held in captivity in Lebanon during the early 1990s. In that time, nearly 100 foreigners were captured and held captive in the country. The production is part of the Theater Space Project and the first show from a new area company, Triumvirate Theater.
What: “Someone Who’ll Watch over Me”
When: June 20-22, 27-28
Where: Lowry Lab Theater, 350 St. Peter St., St. Paul
Tickets: $12
Contact: 612-423-9901

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