ROCHESTER — In 1926, radium was considered a miracle cure until the girls who painted with it began to fall ill with a mysterious disease.
“Radium Girls” is a drama based on the true story of female laborers who were poisoned and killed by their factory’s radium-based paint. It traces the efforts of Grace Fryer, a luminous watch dial painter, as she fights for her day in court.
As the case goes on, Grace finds herself battling not just with the U.S. Radium Corporation, but with her own family and friends, who fear that her campaign for justice will backfire.
As a result of the Radium Girls efforts, industrial safety standards were demonstrably enhanced for many decades.
Called a “powerful” and “engrossing” drama by critics, “Radium Girls” offers a wry, unflinching look at the American obsessions with health, wealth, and the commercialization of science.
ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – It’s back — the Rochester Rep Theatre is making its return in its own building.
About three years ago, the theatre purchased its spot on 7th Street NE, but when COVID shut down the world, so did The Rep. Taking advantage the audience’s absence, the theatre remodeled, revamping its front of house, box office and auditorium.
After performing a few shows at the Rochester Civic Theatre while construction wrapped up, The Rep is officially back home and gearing up for its first show in its new space: A Christmas Carol.
“It’s wonderful,” Director Bill Schnell said. “We are grateful for the time we had at the Civic, but mostly we are grateful to get this open again after waves and waves of COVID, to fill the seats again.”
While A Christmas Carol is a familiar show to many theatre goers, Schnell says The Rep’s version is unique, as there are only five actors during the entire show.
“It takes five really talented people, and so we had to choose a good cast,” Schnell said. “….There’s Scrooge played by one actor, and the other four actors play all 20, 30 other characters.”
The show will debut The Rep’s makeover — and welcome guests back after months and months of waiting on Black Friday, Nov. 26.
“I want people to leave and say, gosh, it’s good to be back. That feeling,” Schnell said. “And of course, smiling. That’s what A Christmas Carol is all about, redemption, and to have fun. There’s comedy, music, there’s singing in it. I want them to have the total experience…Plus, this is a show about redemption and celebration. What better show to have when you’re first starting back up where COVID was, and the newness of the theatre.”
A Christmas Carol opens Nov. 26 and runs for three weeks. Show times are Nov. 26, 27, Dec. 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 5 and 12 at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets, click here.
Audience member will be required to wear a mask, vaccinated or not.
It was only after I had tried every sport with a youth league in Rochester that my parents decided to enroll me in a theater camp. I was only 6 or 7, but after forcing my parents and five older siblings to attend my makeshift puppet shows in our living room, they thought it would be nice if I could burn off some creative steam with other similarly dramatic children.
Unbeknownst to my parents or even myself at the time, theater would become a lifelong community.
In a classroom of other energetic kids, I felt strangely at home. I quickly grew accustomed to working with others in creating scenes and performing in a large group. It didn’t take long to realize that theater was something I truly enjoyed. Camp after camp, I slowly became more and more drawn to the art.
My “big break” came soon after. When I was 10 years old, a camp director asked if I would be interested in being a lead in a show at the Rochester Repertory Theatre. Me? A lead? Up to that point, I had only done camps with other kids, and now a director had chosen me to perform in an actual theatrical setting. With my parents’ support, I agreed and soon started rehearsals that summer.
I was thrilled. I’d never done anything remotely similar to real, onstage performing with real props and costumes, let alone with adults. And while only in elementary school, I had ended up performing the titular role in “Oliver!” for over a dozen shows over the course of a month.
Unfortunately, my 10-year-old voice was gone for closing night. Despite this small setback, from the experience of that show alone I had determined that theater was something I wanted to continue doing.
With small ensemble roles here and there in a variety of community shows, my parents diligently drove me to hours-long rehearsals in the Minnesota winters. Show after show, performance after performance, I felt at home among local performers on stage.
I continued theater throughout middle school, performing in front of my peers in “Guys and Dolls” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” My parents were enthusiastic about seeing me perform and happily sat through every single one of my performances, camera snapping and all. However, my siblings were known to make monetary deals and pay each other to sit through yet another performance of “Oklahoma!”
Now, as a high schooler, you can still find me on stage singing and acting. More than ever, drama is second nature for me. Theater has become so much more than a hobby; it’s a community.
My best friends and greatest mentors have been made through theater. Acting techniques and learning how to memorize lines aren’t necessarily the most valuable lessons; instead it is teamwork, collaboration, empathy, vulnerability, and compassion. Through theater, I developed my voice and learned who I am. On the stage and under the lights, I’ve found my home.
I’ve been asked plenty of times, “Are you pursuing theater after high school?” Good question. Because theater has shaped me so much, I can’t see myself not doing theater in the future. I realize that I don’t want to perform as a career, but more as a lifelong activity.
For me and so many others, we’ve found our belonging. As live performances return and audiences fill the seats again, support for the arts is needed now more than ever. By supporting local theater communities such as those in Rochester and area schools, you are supporting this sense of belonging that I have been so lucky to find.
–Will Laudon, Post-Bulletin, October 26, 2021 (Will Laudon is a junior at Mayo High School)
Rochester Repertory Theatre’s production of “Evil Dead the Musical” will finally hit the stage Oct. 8 at the Civic Theatre main stage. Two scheduled runs of the comedic horror were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It looks like we’re really doing it this time,” said director Annie Landkammer.
The show has a new cast and makes use of the Civic’s larger theater space than the Rep’s home which is under renovation. Cliché horror tropes are given a send-up as five teens find themselves facing an ancient evil in an empty cabin in the woods. The actors straddle the line between parody and believability.
“The goal is to have the actors, as their characters, not believe they’re being silly,” Landkammer said.
Based off of the movie series, the stage musical version features the same camp humor, over-the-top horror tropes and self-referential Easter eggs as Ash battles demons, zombies (and his own hand) in the secluded woods. The new cast brings youthful energy to the show, Landkammer added.
“Every single one of them — even though they’re new to the Rochester theater scene — has a lot of experience and education,” she said. “It makes my job easier.”
Cast members add a bit of their own humor and twists into their roles and find ways they can push a joke a bit further for extra laughs, Landkammer said.
“The cast really gets into it and adds their own stuff,” she said. “Or we’ll all come up with an idea and they make it work.”
If you’re looking for something creepy and frightening, this show might not be what you need. This production also tones down on the gore the script calls for.
“The show actually calls for a ‘splatter zone,’” Landkammer said. “We’re not doing that — liquids and COVID don’t mix.”
Humor is at the forefront of the show. However, sound and lighting techs have their hands full.
“They’re the ones that bring (the evil) to life,” Landkammer said.
Rochester Repertory Theatre presents a play adapted from a 19th-century horror novel.
Daria Koon was excited to portray the long character arc of the governess in Rochester Repertory Theatre’s “Turn of the Screw.”
“There’s so much to dive into with this character,” she said.
As events unfold in the stage adaptation of Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw,” the audience sees a young governess changed by the events she witnesses.
“In the span of two seconds, I play three characters,” he said.
Each role makes an opposite demand of its actor in the two-person show. Koon and Kuisle said they found their respective challenges equally enticing. After seeing a notice for auditions, Koon read the play script, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, then she read the original 19th-century novel. A recent graduate with a BFA in musical theater from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., Koon said she was excited for the role.
“There’s so much in this story as a young woman in this time period, and how she deals with all the challenges presented to her and how they affect her,” she said.
Kuisle has focused on making distinct characters clear to the audience without making them into caricatures.
“I think and I hope I have been successful in creating believable characters,” he said. “These guys can attest that I would slide in and out of accents and characters in rehearsal at the beginning.”
Director Kami Sim said Kuisle has been successful, but agreed it took time and practice.
“A lot of times at the beginning, I’d say, ‘That was hilarious, don’t do that,’ ” Sim said.
The show follows a young governess who, caring for two children at a remote estate, begins to see apparitions and becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted. The audience, unsure of whether the ghosts are real, is pulled into the suspense, Sim said.
“Two pages into the script, you just want to know what happens next,” she said.
The show is set for performances in the blackbox theater at the Rochester Civic Theatre. The sparse set includes one antique chair and a platform.
“It allows for the audience to fill in those details in their own minds,” Sim said.
Anne Black-Sinak and Larry Sinak read their lines at the first in-person rehearsal for Rochester Repertory Theatre’s “Love Letters” on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the black-box theater at Rochester Civic Theater.
Anyone who’s acted in live theater knows the scenario: You’re about to go onstage, everyone is waiting for you, and you don’t know your lines.
It’s a classic actor nightmare.
Two experienced actors are preparing for a show that will make that anxiety dream a reality.
Rochester Repertory Theatre is resuming live performances with “Love Letters,” featuring veteran stage actors Anne Black-Sinak and Larry Sinak. The show opens Friday, June 11, and neither actor is expected to have the script memorized. And neither is a bit worried about it.
They’ll have “scripts” in front of them — the letters their characters exchange over decades of friendship and, later, more than friendship.
The play’s author, A.R. Gurney, specifically instructs directors not to have the actors memorize their lines. The “lines” are letters that begin as a series of thank-you notes after a birthday party where the characters met. Later, they exchange summer camp postcards, and then continue the correspondence through school into adulthood.
Because the actors are married, they aren’t required to maintain a distance under COVID-19 safety protocols, which helped make the show a contender for director Mary Pyfferoen. However, she said her choice was motivated by more than logistics. Pyfferoen wants people to consider their relationships after a year of distancing, she said.
“Part of what drew me to this show was how a relationship can keep going and growing no matter the distance, the time, or isolation,” she said. “I think as we’re coming out of all this isolation, it’s important to start thinking about our own connections and realize that it’s not too late to reach out.”
Pyfferoen said not memorizing the lines can evoke a more honest emotional response to the letters’ contents.
“You want to get to the feeling without going over the top or trying to force it,” she said.
The show will be performed at the Rochester Civic Theater Black Box space. The Repertory Theatre’s building is still under renovations, and its theater space doesn’t have the room to accommodate COVID distancing guidelines.
The show includes no blocking or stage directions. Subtle lighting changes help enhance or reflect the mood of the letters. With the show opening Friday, the director, stage manager and lighting technician met Tuesday for the first in-person rehearsal.
Pyfferoen said she isn’t worried. “I trust (Sinak and Black-Sinak) implicitly,” she said.
When we first see Mark Rothko, played by Larry Sinak, in silhouette staring at one of his paintings at the beginning of the show, the audience can only guess how the impressionist artist is regarding his work.
Sinak plays the temperamental artist in Rochester Repertory Theatre’s production of “Red,” which opened Thursday to a standing ovation at the theater’s black box. Through Rothko’s assistant, Ken, played by Lucas Simonson, we learn Rothko’s proclaimed assessments of his work are layered and not as unflinchingly honest as he’d like Ken and himself to believe. Brief moments of hesitation give the onstage relationship between the two enough air so as not to suffocate the audience with Rothko’s overbearing attitude.
Sinak almost appears to pull his acting punches. He approaches scorn for his younger foil (and the new generation of artists Ken represents), but never embraces a convincing outright dismissal or disdain. Sinak gets louder, yes, but he doesn’t portray a convincing antipathy toward his assistant. Maybe Sinak softens to make Rothko appear more sympathetic. Or, Sinak sees Rothko as, deep down, implicitly supporting the new pop artists he vocally scorns. (A theory that gets some weight when Rothko eventually dismisses Ken as an employee.)
Whatever the reason, Sinak isn’t pulling punches for Simonson’s sake. The younger performer holds his own opposite Sinak’s intensity. We watch Ken go from pushover to pushing back, though the transition isn’t as clear as it could be.
Early on, when Rothko hurls names of artists and philosophers he believes Ken should know, he doesn’t appear entirely cowed. He does a more effective job when he holds his own against Rothko after having read Nietzsche’s “Birth of Tragedy.” Ken offers his own take on Rothko’s Apollonian and Dionysian motivations, which lets Sinak play Rothko slightly more off balance.
While Simonson’s emboldened Ken is more convincing than the meek version, Sinak showing vulnerability and uncertainty elevates the second half of the show.
On the cusp of selling his murals to the newly opened Four Seasons restaurant (which he bitterly describes as “a temple of consumption”), we see his face as he gazes at his work. Sinak, staring at the imaginary fourth wall of his New York studio between the audience and the stage, shows vulnerability as Rothko contemplates doing that to his creations.
“Will they forgive him?” he wonders out loud.
It’s Simonson’s turn to be dismissive, as Ken says the works are only paintings. Their verbal sparring is fun to watch, but the choreography between Sinak and Simonson, priming a canvas in burgundy red, is as smooth as the fresh layer of paint they end up with.
Crew for the show have a massive mess to clean after each performance and hours of setup prior. The reproduction canvases, set against a cluttered and drab art studio, radiate in the Civic Theatre’s black box. Doug Sween, who designed the set, said crew members used “layer after layer” of paint to recreate Rothko’s murals. These efforts, combined with Sinak and Simonson’s excellent performances, make “Red” a work of art. Just don’t try to define what that means to Mark Rothko.
“Red” returns Rochester Repertory closer to its primary goal: the stage.
Expressionist artist Mark Rothko was known as much for his intensity as his art. Larry Sinak, who plays Rothko in Rochester Repertory’s production of “Red,” will have to channel that in a familiar space.
Sinak will be performing in roughly the same spot where he carried Absolute Theatre’s “An Iliad” in 2018. The two-person show opens Friday for the Rep’s first live show since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Lucas Simonson plays Ken, opposite of Sinak.
Based on true events, the Tony-winning show by John Logan presents a challenge for actors, but also an opportunity for a theater company under pandemic restrictions.
In March, the pandemic cut short the Rep’s run of “Strange Snow.” “Red” was originally scheduled to be directed by Philip Muehe and performed earlier this year. “We thought this would be a small-cast show we could use to dip our toe in the water with COVID,” said director Merritt Olsen, who took over direction of the show because Muehe was no longer available.
The Rochester Civic Theatre’s black box accommodates a larger audience than the Rep’s main stage — especially under state health department guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Households will be seated at least 6 feet apart, and audience members will be at least 6 feet away from the actors.
“That’s not something we could do (at the Rep),” Olsen said.
–John Molseed, Post-Bulletin, October 7, 2020
If you go
What: Rochester Repertory Theatre’s production of “Red”
Drive-in theater is making a comeback in the age of COVID, and stage theater is getting in on the act.
Dubbed “Getting Our Act Together … Together,” Rochester Repertory Theatre is leading the drive-in experience. It will feature multiple acts, music and performances in collaboration with seven other theater groups Aug. 13-16 in the Rochester Community and Technical College parking lot.
The idea came from the Rep’s reluctance to let go of their summer musical — “Evil Dead The Musical.” A short-lived plan to perform it as a drive-in was abandoned due to logistical hurdles.
“But we just couldn’t let go of the idea of doing a drive-in,” said Sue Schnell, managing director of the Rochester Rep.
Instead of the musical, actors, singers, musicians and performers from eight area theater companies will participate in a showcase variety performance. Greg Miller, Jerry Casper and Nick Mezacapa will emcee the event.
“They’re a team of guys that are great fun to watch,” Schnell said.
Joining the Rep are: Absolute Theatre; Calliope Theatre Company; Immersion Youth Repertory; In Heart Theatre; Rochester Civic Theatre Company; That Theatre Company; Theater du Jour. Upstage Theatre and Z-Theatre will provide support volunteers for the performance.
Pandemic Pictures will provide the stage and, as usual, dedicated volunteers will bring the production to life with lights, sound and props.
Rep actors from “Evil Dead The Musical” will perform scenes from the show, and the company plans to perform it for audiences next year. The play publisher is allowing the group to present the scenes this year for free as a preview to next year’s production, Schnell said.
“We’re reevaluating the next two seasons,” she said.
The Rep will present “Red,” which was scheduled for this spring, in October in the black-box space at the Rochester Civic. That space allows for a bigger audience under mandated distancing guidelines than the Rep could offer in its smaller space.
It’s also intact at the moment. Rep leaders decided to move forward with renovations of their bathrooms while they were shuttered during the pandemic. The Civic agreed to share its space to give them a temporary home while the work is completed, and about four times the size audience they could have fit in their theater. “Red” is tentatively scheduled to open Oct. 8.
The drive-in performances are Aug. 13-15 at 6 p.m., with matinees Aug. 15 and 16 at 2 p.m.
Four years before the movie “Platoon” was released, “Strange Snow” hit stages depicting two Vietnam veterans coping with life after service.
Before then, Vietnam soldiers and veterans were absent in popular culture, said Jim Crawley, a U.S. Marine Vietnam veteran.
Steve Metcalfe’s “Strange Snow,” which is currently in production by the Rochester Repertory Theatre, shows how two veterans cope with their experiences. It’s a depiction Crawley and other veterans who attended a preview performance Thursday night say is an accurate portrayal.
“Everybody coped differently,” said Chad Stowers, a U.S. Army veteran who was deployed in Iraq in 2004.
In the show, David, played by David Derby, and Megs, played by Alex Wilkins, are coping in opposing ways with their trauma and loss from their experiences in Vietnam. They’re headed for a confrontation, and when it comes, it’s explosive and intense.
Director Jeanne Skattum cast two actors who each have different approaches to their roles. Derby, leaning toward the method, is present and reacting in every scene. Wilkins plays Megs with rhythm — memorizing the cadence and flow of his lines and building character reactions around his proficiency with the script.
In a small cast, mixing those approaches can create an awkward performance. For this production, the two actors with different approaches to their roles is one of the show’s biggest strengths.
Wilkins, as Megs, is talkative to the point of babbling. Derby plays David more reserved and brooding — until he’s pushed too far.
Those acting approaches mirror the differences in the characters’ personalities and set the viewer up for the eventual confrontation in subtle ways.
When the two do hash things out, they’re at the same level of intensity and rage in a believable and satisfying scene. Derby’s in-the-moment acting ends up being the more believable of the two for most of the show. However, Wilkins adeptly brings more humanity to post-confrontation Megs.
Beth Regener, as David’s sister Martha, does not have as intense scenes, but portrays a woman walking a fine line of impatience and empathy with a balanced sincerity.
Some of the most effective moments are when nothing is being said on stage. Silence can be frightening for actors.
Following the intense confrontation between Megs and David, their restraint and ability to let nothing be said allows the impact of the emotional moments to settle on the audience with its full weight. That the cast has the discipline to hold those moments in silence for the right amount of time serves the audience well.
The set is nicely detailed, but space limitations on the small stage make it unclear in some scenes whether characters in different parts of the home can hear each other. When David delivers some damning assessments of Megs, whether those wounding words land on the man who’s keeping a friendly facade carry implications in later scenes. Some clarity via the set would have helped.
Since “Strange Snow” was written, a plethora of Vietnam pop-culture depictions have followed. In that light, “Strange Snow” might seem like it follows some familiar tropes. However, it was one of the first non-politicized works to give voice to a generation of veterans that still face struggles.
Repertory’s production honors that intention well.