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Children’s Theatre, Park Square reveal 2019-20 seasons

ALSO: “Falsettos” at the Ordway; Regina Carter Quartet at the Dakota; author Meg Medina at Rondo Community Library; and more.

For the holidays, Nov. 3-Jan. 5, 2020, CTC’s shamelessly hilarious “Cinderella” will make its sparkly return, with new acting company member Rajané Katurah in the title role.
Photo by Dan Norman

With Children’s Theatre Company’s highly anticipated world premiere production of “The Hobbit” around the corner, it’s hard to look beyond that to what’s ahead. But Bob Marley, Spam, and “Snow White” as a two-hander? Announced Monday, CTC’s 2019-20 season will take us around the world, from Ethiopia to Jamaica to Austin, Minnesota, and bring puppets here from Nova Scotia.

The season will begin Sept. 17-Oct. 20 with the first of two international presentations, the Minneapolis debut of “Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams.” Co-created by brothers and jugglers Bibi and Bichu Tesfamarian, it sets juggling, clowning, contortion, gravity-defying feats and death-defying tricks to the beats of modern East African song. Here’s a trailer. From Sept. 29-Dec. 8, Joy Dolo and Dean Holt will take on all 14 roles in playwright Greg Banks’ CTC-commissioned reimagining of “Snow White.” That’s all seven dwarfs plus Snow White, the Prince, the wicked Queen and more. (We’re picturing Dean Holt as the magic mirror on the wall.) Banks also penned “The Hobbit.” For the holidays, Nov. 3-Jan. 5, 2020, CTC’s shamelessly hilarious “Cinderella” will make its sparkly return, with new acting company member Rajané Katurah in the title role. (CTC remains one of the few theaters in the nation with a full-time professional acting company.)

From Jan. 19-March 1, “Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds” will fill the big theater with reggae beats. Based on the book by Marley’s daughter, Cedella, featuring Marley’s music, it’s the story of young Ziggy, who’s so afraid of storms, evil spirits and a bully named Duppy that he won’t leave the house. Then feathered friends help him see that “every little thing gonna be alright.” From Feb. 16-April 5, “Spamtown, USA,” a CTC-commissioned world premiere, will revisit the 1985 Hormel strike in Austin, Minnesota, through the eyes of children who were pulled into their parents’ conflicts and whose lives and dreams were interrupted by a bitter divide. Playwright Philip Dawkins, who wrote “Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches The Musical,” based his latest on interviews with people who were children during the strike.

Spring will bring Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s’ “The Rainbow Fish” from March 10-April 5, a stage adaptation of Marcus Pfister’s colorful stories using black-light puppetry. And the 2019-20 season will end on a high note with a stage-filling production of “Annie.” Theater Latté Da’s Peter Rothstein will direct the evergreen musical about tough times, low spirits, a world in need of hope and a spirited little girl who changes lives. “Tomorrow” will happen April 19-June 21.

Full season subscription renewals are available now. New season subscriptions will go on sale March 1, single tickets in July. FMI; 612-874-0400.

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Park Square’s 2019-20 season emphasizes community, openness

On the one hand, you could envy Flordelino Lagundino for following Richard Cook as Park Square’s artistic director. When Cook retired on Sept. 1, 2018, after 38 years in that role – and another five leading up to it – he left behind a highly esteemed, famously inclusive and community-minded theater and an audience with great expectations. On the other, Cook is a tough act to follow. He programmed 2018-19; “Antigone,” now on the Boss stage, and Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” on the Proscenium were Cook’s choices, as is everything else through the end of August. The 2019-20 season is Lagundino’s first. Let’s take a look.

It will be longer by two productions than 2018-19. (Remember, the Park Square has two stages, the larger proscenium and the smaller Boss thrust on the Hamm Building’s lower level.) There will be one world premiere, several area and regional premieres, three musicals and a Jane Austen adaptation for the holidays. (So far, the Guthrie, the Jungle and now Park Square haven’t staged simultaneous Jane Austen adaptations, but it’s probably just a matter of time.) Subjects will range from Kim Jong Un to hip-hop, undocumented immigrants, our own Hmong community and the French Revolution. Sherlock Holmes will return … or will he? Five directors – four are women – will make their Park Square debuts.

Ilana Ransom Toeplitz
Ilana Ransom Toeplitz
Sept. 20-Aug. 20 on the Boss: Lagundino will direct the area premiere of Julia Cho’s “Aubergine,” about a Korean-American son who cooks a meal for his dying father. Sept. 27-Nov. 2 on the Proscenium: “The Rocky Horror Show,” directed by Park Square first-timer Ilana Ransom Toeplitz. Oct. 25-27 on the Boss (one weekend only): Paige Hernandez’ “Paige in Full,” a “visual mix tape” that chronicles a multicultural girl’s journey through hip-hop to self-discovery. Dec. 6-8 on the Boss (one weekend only): general audience performances of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin the Sun,” with other performances in the month-long run reserved for student matinees.

Nov. 15-Dec. 22 on the Proscenium: Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Hamill wrote the “Sense and Sensibility” we saw at the Guthrie in 2016. Lisa Channer (Theatre Novi Most) will direct, her first time at the Park Square. Jan. 17-March 1, 2020, on the Proscenium: a new take on the Broadway musical “Evita,” directed by Mark Valdez in his Park Square debut, with musical direction by Denise Prosek and choreography by Joe Chvala. (In a statement, Lagundino said, “Mark is blowing the dust off this classic. He is taking on how populism meets politics.”) Valdez often directs at Mixed Blood Theatre.

Feb. 7-March 1 on the Boss: Lagundino will direct the world premiere of “UN (the completely true story of Kim Jong Un),” written by John Kim; he and Lagundino have known each other for 20 years. March 5-15 on the Boss: “Face to Face: Our Hmong Community.” A partnership between Park Square and New York’s Ping Chong + Company will create an interview-based theater piece about St. Paul’s Hmong community. April 17-May 17 on the Proscenium: the Midwest premiere of “Miss You Like Hell” by Tony and Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegria Hudes and singer/songwriter Erin McKeown. This in-the-moment play about an undocumented immigrant on a road trip through America will be Marcela Lorca’s (Ten Thousand Things) first Park Square directing assignment.

Madeline Sayet
Photo by Bret Hartman
Madeline Sayet
June 12-July 26 on the Proscenium: Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Holmes and Watson,” with director Michael Evan Haney making his Park Square debut. Park Square audiences love their Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe mysteries. And finally on the Boss, June 19-July 19, to close the season: the regional premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s “The Revolutionists,” set during the French Revolution and focusing on four women who lose their heads: playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle and Marie Antoinette. Gunderson is one of the most-produced playwrights in America. Madeline Sayet, making her Park Square debut (did we get all five?), will direct.

Along with its public programming, Park Square will also present nearly 130 daytime matinees for students in grades 7-12, many of whom will have their first real theater experiences there.

Season tickets are on sale now. Individual tickets will go on sale later. P.S. Park Square suffered major water damage during the polar vortex. Pipes burst and water flooded their scene shop, technical office, dressing rooms and green room. And then the sewer lines backed up. Here’s how to help, if you’re so inclined.

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The picks

Opens tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 19) at the Ordway: “Falsettos.” Set in the ’80s, William Finn and James Lapine’s musical turns on the life of Marvin, who leaves his wife and son to live with another man. Add a psychiatrist and the lesbians next door and it’s an unconventional tribe, with the AIDS crisis looming. This show about diversity, family and love opened on Broadway in 1992 and won a pair of Tonys. A new production opened in 2016 and earned five Tony nominations. This is the national touring company, with Broadway stars Nick Adams, Eden Espinosa and Max von Essen. FMI and tickets (start at $48, subject to change). Ends Feb. 24.

Wednesday at Rondo Community Library: Newbery Medal-winning author Meg Medina. Minnesota, land of 10,000 Newbery winners. A slight exaggeration, but we’re not doing too badly: Kate DiCamillo in 2004 for “The Tale of Despereaux” and again in 2014 for “Flora & Ulysses,” Neil Gaiman in 2009 for “The Graveyard Book,” Kelly Barnhill in 2017 for “The Girl Who Drank the Moon,” and now Meg Medina for “Merci Suárez Changes Gears.” Medina will read from a previous book, “Burn Baby Burn,” the 2019 Read Brave Saint Paul primary book selection. A Q&A session and signing will follow. 6–7:30 p.m. Free.

Regina Carter
Photo by Christopher Drukker
Regina Carter
Wednesday at the Dakota: Regina Carter Quartet. A MacArthur fellow and the first black nonclassical musician to play Niccolo Paganini’s Guarneri violin (in Italy, under armed guard), Carter is a jazz violinist who thinks deeply and digs deeply into projects: blending traditional African music with contemporary jazz and Afropop; the songs of Ella Fitzgerald; the music of the Deep South; the sounds of Detroit. She’s not on tour with anything new at the moment, so she could go anywhere in her extensive book. 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20-40). P.S. That’s her husband, Alvester Garnett, on drums.

Wednesday at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center: Book launch for Melvin Whitfield Carter Jr.’s “Diesel Heart: An Autobiography.” Carter is the father of St. Paul Mayor Melvin W. Carter III, and he has many of his own stories to tell: about growing up in Rondo in the 1950s and ’60s, witnessing the destruction of his neighborhood by the I-94 freeway, getting in trouble, joining the Navy, becoming an affirmative action hire in the St. Paul Police Department and serving for 28 years. Doors at 6:30 p.m., program at 7, signing at 8. The Hallie Q. Brown Community Center is where Penumbra Theatre is. UPDATE: This event has been cancelled due to weather.