As usual, two days before opening night will find me seating in dark at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse watching a rough rehearsalâ€”only rough because it would probably be the first time on the stage. Watching the tech crew assemble the set, I wondered what was in store for this production for it does not look familiar. The set is scaffolding, pipes, ladders, flat platforms and what appear to be rags hanging from the ceiling. And it all works because the set is punk/rock, costumes are everyday clothes ranging from smart casual to Bemidji casual and Bemidji plays a prominent role in the story. I sat back and immersed myself in ancient Athens where the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta was being planned and in entered Ari Hoptman so then I knew this would be a comic interpretation to end all comic interpretations. This made sense because comic character actor Craig Johnson adapted Shakespeareâ€™s comedy to the stage and members of the cast added their own modifications. Even though the production is done in Shakespearean English, pay close attention to that lovely poetry and also to catch the additional quips and pratfalls.
Ten actors play all the parts with Zach Curtis sharing directorship with Randall Funk. A suitable Bottom was not cast so Curtis stepped into the part. Curtis steps, he falls, he dances, he acts like a â€œjackassâ€ and gave it his allâ€”I loved it! The only other actor to play only one part is Jessie Ladig as Puck, yes, a female puck! Ladig uses her body to accent and emphasize the action by sliding down poles, â€œflyingâ€ from one platform to another and generally causing havoc. As an aside, she did choreograph the one dance scene in Act II, brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed.
Not wanting to give away all the fun, but holding out a carrot to those not quite sold as of now; the Mechanicals (amateur actors) are all Bemidji â€œlocalsâ€ and led by Ari Hoptman as Quince. Three new faces grace the stage in this production: Sigrid Sutter as Hippolyta and Titiana (queen of the fairies), Sarah Nargang as Helena/Starveling/Moth and Erik Hoover as Lysander/Snout/Cobweb. Hooverâ€™s stint as movement coach brings new and inventive staging to this production.
The rest of the actors are: Katherine Tieben as Hermia/Snug and fairy Peaseblossom who sings a sweet lullaby to Titiana. Ryan Parker Knox, fresh off the run from â€œForever Plaid,â€ is Lysander/Snout/Cobweb and Jaimee Lusby as Philostrate/First Fairy rounds out the cast.
Itâ€™s a first rate production of a much loved classic, perhaps a bit irreverent but the basic story stays intact. Take your middle to high schooler, thereâ€™s a matinee this Sunday at 2 p.m. The show runs from June 22 until July 2 with a matinee on June 26. If the rain continues like this, all shows should sell out!
Before I forget once again, thanks to Pat Shough and her artist/painter friends; the lobby looks great and the painting that hang for enjoyment and for purchase are first rate. Now we have a new art gallery in town, the lobby of the Historic Chief theater.
A new musical duo, Sara Pajunen and Jonathan Rundman joined their musical talents and formed the Nordic-folk duo â€œKaivama.â€ Minnesota based, the Finnish-Americans are on a national tour to promote their self-titled CD. The instruments they play include the violin, guitar, banjo, harmonium and piano and the tunes explore a variety of sonic textures. They will be appearing at 8 p.m., Friday, June 24 at Brigidâ€™s Cross Irish Pub and Restaurant in downtown Bemidji. Please note, the restaurant stops serving a 9 p.m. Click here to access Kaivama website and click here to see them perform on YouTube. No admission charge.
Last weekâ€™s book festival was a dizzying array of authors and poets, ranging from pre-school picture books to personal memoirs. All of the authors were candid and spoke of their personal journeys in writing, starting new ventures, surviving life threatening illnesses and how to tell if the ram did his job the night before. A personal favorite was Todd Boss, a poet from the cities, who is bound to be a poet laureate sometime in the future. I am looking forward to next yearâ€™s authors with the hope that Kevin McColley is among them.