Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mitchell Evans is a BFA Musical Theatre student in his Junior year at MSU and playing Aeneas in the Production of The Aeneid.  Evans has been in rehearsal with this cast since the second day of this semester.  Here are some of his thoughts about the production.  

How is this character like you? Different?

Aeneas and I are similar in the fact that we both feel so deeply and care so much about the people we’re surrounded by, we definitely wear our hearts on our sleeve. We’re different in the simple nature of having two completely different stories making him not to be able to relate to parts of me and vise versa.

Is it easier to play this character or to be yourself on stage?

I mean it would naturally be easier to play myself on stage, but if I were playing myself I wouldn’t be acting. Not to say that I don’t have my personal attributes or habituals in the character, however, I enjoy relishing in the character more than playing myself.

What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

Trying to work the script with the care and honesty it deserves, but also to bring verisimilitude to someone's story that I can’t relate to because I’ve never had to experience that he had.

Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite line of dialogue?

“The ink in your fountain pen is worth more than the blood in my veins!” Is a line that Sam Fairchild has within the show that just gets me every time because it's one of those gut punches of truth, which this show is full of.

If you could play any other character in this show, who would it be?

Honestly any role! In this show everyone has their moment to shine and their moments to sit in the shadows, even Aeneas. It would be so fun to be anyone in this show.

What makes a good scene partner?

Listening and chemistry is what I’ve learned makes a great scene partner, and being able to try new things with a scene and your partner just adjusting and taking it to another step with you. I’ve been so grateful to have experienced several times in this process.

(From time period 1993-2018)
By Olivier Kemeid; translated by Maureen Labonté; based on the epic poem by Virgil
Oct. 12-15 & 18-22, 2017
Tickets: $16 regular, $14 discounted (over 65, under 16 and groups of 15 or more) and $11 for current Minnesota State Mankato students.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dance Spotlight: Mio Yoshizaki

This week’s Student Spotlight is on one of our sophomore dancers Mio! Mio is a dance major all the way from Japan! She has found her love for dance when she was young, and is continuing to grow that love as she is 6,175 miles away from home. Mio is fascinated by contemporary dance and the artistry it brings to the stage. Come watch Mio as she performs in the upcoming Dance Concerts on December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd

This week’s Student Spotlight is on one of our sophomore dancers Mio! Mio is a dance major all the way from Japan! She has found her love for dance when she was young, and is continuing to grow that love as she is 6,175 miles away from home. Mio is fascinated by contemporary dance and the artistry it brings to the stage. Come watch Mio as she performs in the upcoming Dance Concerts on December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd

How did you start in dance?
When I was 4 years old, my mom wanted me to take dance classes because my sister already started and she really enjoyed it. However, dancing in front of people was too embarrassing for me. My mom changed her strategy and asked me to choose between dancing or playing sports with boys. So I made myself go to first dance class with my sister. Moving my body with the rhythm of music, I found out, was much more fun than I had imagined! Since then, I've been dance all the time and eventually tried different genres: jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary; even singing and acting too.  

What inspires you to be a dancer? 
When I was in high school, I saw contemporary dance for the first time and was fascinated. Previously, I thought of contemporary dance as mysterious and incomprehensible movement. That is still true to me, but now I understand  its artistry. It's really hard to explain with my limited vocabulary; however, I'll try. The way a body makes creative movements, not only isolated dancers, but the use of the space around them, and how that forms moment is interesting to me.  Also, how the different dynamics of each dancer creates a specific atmosphere.  I enjoy how energy going through movements can captivate an audience.  These new facets of contemporary dance have given me brand new options for my future as a dancer.  Each learned aspect has made me sure that contemporary dance is my passion and a way of life. This is what I want to do. This is the most creative art human being constructs. 

Favorite MSU Dance memory?
I love all the concerts and dance classes I've taken here. Every day I've spent here is my favorite memory. I like how each dancer contributes individual effort to every class. Observing other dancers always inspires me and gives me new ideas. I am so happy to have come here; even 6175 miles away from home, to work with these amazing dancers. I also participated in the American College Dance Association (ACDA) last spring, which is definitely counted as one of my favorite MSU dance memory. It opened my eyes to new style of dance, and built a connection between dancers to share experience. This great opportunity motivated me a lot. 

What are your future plans after you graduate? 
I'm still seeking out what I would like to do with a degree in dance after graduation. I realized just recently there are more jobs relating to dance besides performing and teaching. I'm planning to figure out here.  So far, I'm interested in performing on the stage rather than teaching. I have a desire to stay in the United States for a while and challenge myself to cultivate performing experience. Eventually, I would like to develop dance back in my home country. 

Any advise for aspiring performers? 

I would say, try everything and appreciate every opportunity provided. Last year, I came here from the other side of the earth. The environment was completely different and I didn't know what people were talking about. However, I participated in every audition opportunity and joined choreography projects whenever asked. Friends and teachers always helped me catch up in rehearsals. Because of these involvements, my life was full of excitement, even from my first semester. I didn't expect this big progress in my life before attending auditions and I really appreciate MSU for providing these opportunities. So my advice is to take a chance and always be excited about what is going to happen next in your life!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Only two days until the opening night of the Main Stage Production of Little Women.  Emily Kimball, a Graduate student has  been pouring all her time into her Thesis Project of designing and building the beautiful costumes.  

What is the most interesting bit of new information you've discovered working on this production?  I’ve really enjoyed learning more about Louisa May Alcott and her life before she wrote the novel.  It has brought out some interesting connections between her own parent’s relationship, their practical romance and partnership, and what type of woman the character Jo is.  As a little girl I was definitely annoyed that Jo and Laurie don’t end up together (Spoilers!). Knowing more about Louisa and the examples of relationships she had and what kind of things a woman could be back in the 1860s and 70s has made me understand what makes Bhaer a good match for her.  

What is your favorite part about working on a period piece?  Research for sure. I really like starting with the time period and identifying what trends or characteristics of that era to focus on.  It could be the fabrics, or the silhouettes and seamlines, or hairstyles.
Then I’ll usually figure out the color palette and move forward from there.  Color informs a lot of my decisions.  

Where do you go for inspiration?  It depends on the era.  Finding old photographs and images is usually the best sort of inspiration since it was real people.  I’ll sometimes just try and immerse my whole brain into a specific era or look…watch movies or TV set in that time period, listen to popular music, find advertisements or catalogues from then.  Other times inspiration might start with a much broader concept.  For this show I was getting a lot of ideas after seeing the house of the Alcott’s in Concord, MA.  I had the chance to visit it this summer and just getting an idea of the family and the space they inhabited was very helpful.  

What is the most difficult costume you've ever designed?  I can’t say it was the most difficult but I recently made a 1912 suit that had about 40 covered buttons on it.  That was pretty fun.  This summer I put an actor in a t-shirt with a cat and pizza on it.  There is never a dull moment working on costumes!  I love coming across something that perfectly fits into the show you’re working on and saying, “That’s it. That’s in the show!”

What has been one of your favorite pieces in this show to create?  In my initial research I came across a specific type of shawl that was very popular.  I found many photographs of women of all ages wearing this very practical knitted shawl that kept your top half warm and fastened in the back while keeping your hands free.  After some more digging I found a pattern for a “sontag”, also called a “bosom friend” from a Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1860.  I’ve been knitting since I was 12 and when I began costume designing shows I’ve tried my best to use a piece that I’ve knit in every show.  After a few swatch tests and some pattern adjusting to fit the actor I finished it.  It’s a shawl that the character Beth wears throughout the show and I really love it.

How have you approached this project differently being your Thesis project?  This project has been different definitely with just the scale of research.  Time period, the life and writing style of the author and how she fits into the world of not only literature but American female writers has been fascinating to learn about.

Little Women: Music by Jason Howland; lyrics by Mindi Dickstein; book by Allan Knee; based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Dates: Sept. 28-30 & Oct. 5-8, 2017 
Tickets: $22 regular, $19 discounted (over 65, under 16 and groups of 15 or more) and $15 for current Minnesota State Mankato students.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Only a few weeks into the Fall 2017 Semester, Graduate Director Donald Hart is preparing to open the Studio Season's first show, Why torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang in the Andreas Theatre. 

What about the Minnesota State University Department of Theatre and Dance convinced you to pursue your Masters in Directing? One of the biggest reasons I looked at Minnesota State for a Directing MFA is because I was taught by three professors who attended this program years ago. From there I learned that this was a well-respected and accomplished department. There are not many programs in the Midwest (or the country) that offer everything MSU has to offer.

How did you get involved in this production?I chose the show, because of current events in this country. Xenophobia, Islamophobia and Arabophobia have had a strong presence in America since 9/11. More recently though, extreme conservative groups such as Nationalists and White Supremacists have felt revitalized. National News Networks have shown in the last year crowds of people demanding that Muslims, Arabs, Mexicans, etc. be deported. This play is a commentary on these irrational fears that some Americans have.

What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?  The most challenging part of this script might be its style. Christopher Durang wrote this in his typical improvisational way and created a play that has elements of satire, dark comedy, absurdism and comedy of menace all mixed together. It is both fun and challenging. 

Is there a character in the show that you feel you can personally relate to?  Felicity is the character that I relate to the most and the one that I would hope most people relate to. She is the rational one who tries to understand why people do the crazy and horrible things they do.

What type of person will love this show?  I would like to hope that everyone would love this show! Though people who would enjoy this the most would likely be those who enjoy satires like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, South Park and American Dad.

Show Dates & Times: Sept. 13 - 16 @ 7:30pm
Tickets: $10 regular, $9 discounted (over 65, under 16 and groups of 15 or more) and $8 for current Minnesota Stage Mankato Students. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spotlight On: Abby Okoneski

This week's Student Spotlight features one of our dancers! Abby Okoneski has been dancing with the Minnesota State University, Mankato Dance Department since she got here three years ago. Most recently, you may have seen her onstage as an Exotic Dancer and Nubian ensemble member in AIDA. She'll be dancing in the Spring Dance Concert this weekend on Friday, April 28th at 7:30 PM, and Saturday, April 29th at 2:00. Let's get to know her!

Name: Abby Okoneski
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota
Year/Major: Junior/BFA Dance
Current Role: Dancing in the Spring Dance Concert

How did you get your start in dance? I started dancing when I was three years old at a local studio called, Monique School of Dance. My mom signed me up for dance class with one of her friend’s daughters and I haven’t stopped since. I don’t remember much from being the little three year old that I was, but I do remember loving every minute of dance class. Many kids in my class would cry or mess around, but I remember always being very happy and focused during class. I never fought with my mom about going to class because I was the one always asking when it was time to go to dance.

What's your favorite thing about dance? This question is hard to answer, because I have so many favorite things about dance. To begin, I love performing on stage. The vulnerability that comes with performing is something I love for. It sounds crazy, but the idea of putting myself out there for others to think about and look at what I am doing is so intriguing to me. I find it so interesting that I can tell an audience a story through the movement of my body and get a reaction out of them. Performing as a whole is where I can give it my all and really commit to a moment, which is something I love. Since I can’t pick one favorite thing about dance, I also really enjoy the rehearsal and class process as a dancer. I like being able to push past my own boundaries and figure out what I can do and what I need to work on. I find it very humbling that there is something I can always get better at. The discipline that comes with dance has taught me so many things and I am truly thankful for that.

Favorite MSU Dance memory? I have so many MSU dance memories, but if I had to choose one it would be the duet that I did with Ian Lah. Rachel Dreist choreographed a duet for the both of us called, Stage Four. This dance had many chapters and always kept evolving. This dance allowed me to really connect with myself as a performer. I was pushed past my comfort zone in so many ways, and I found that so enjoyable. The final product of this dance was performed in the Fall Dance Concert, as well as at ACDA. It was very rewarding to be able to perform this dance so many times, but I also really enjoyed the process we took to get there. Getting to know Ian Lah throughout this process was something else. We would always goof off in rehearsals and we became closer that way, which I think showed in our performance. I will forever be very thankful to both Ian and Rachel for this dance, and I will never forget it.

Abby Okoneski and Ian Lah in Stage Four

Tell us about your involvement in AIDA. Was that your first experience in a musical? This is actually my first official theatre show that I have ever done. Back in high school we had a variety show through our theatre department called, ENCORE and I was involved in the show for three years. I never acted or sang in the show, but I danced and really enjoyed it. I remember I would always tell myself to audition for one of the musicals, but the whole singing thing really threw me for a loop so I never auditioned. Since Aida is my first musical ever, I am very proud of myself. I overcame a fear of singing in front of people and I am very glad I did. I have had a great experience with the show and I love the different dynamic a musical brings versus a dance concert.

Abby Okoneski and the cast of AIDA

What are your plans for after graduation? You know, this question always frustrates me because I really don’t know the answer. I know I will be going to grad school to complete my other major, but I do plan on performing either right after I graduate from Mankato, or after grad school. I really want to visit New York or LA and audition for a few dance roles there, but I am not really sure what will happen. I know that I am looking forward to graduating and being out in the real world, as well as seeing what happens in the future.

Any advice for aspiring performers? Advice can be hard because I believe everyone succeeds in their own way, but I would say that anyone aspiring to become a performer should keep trying. It sounds cliché I know, but it is the truth. Spend as much time as you can in the studio trying new things and perfecting old things, the stronger background and technique that you have will really help in the long run. One last piece of advice that I have for performers is to always be humble no matter what. There are times where things do not go your way, or you feel unchallenged in certain areas, but you always have to tell yourself that you can always be better. Being humble can get you so far in life, and it is something that many people forget to do. Keeping a positive mind and energy is all you can do, and trust me it makes a difference.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Library Opens Tonight!

We're nearing the final weeks of the school year, but we still have a couple more shows for you! Scott Z. Burns' The Library opens tonight at 7:30 in the Andreas Theatre! The play tells the story of Caitlin Gabriel, a young woman who survives a deadly shooting at her high school. She struggles to tell her story to her parents, the authorities, and anyone who will listen, but there are other narratives that draw attention in the media and paint her in a different light. 

The cast features Isabella Barberena, Jaclyn Britz, Riley LinDell, Martha Caceres, Maureen O'Malley, Derek Tomlinson, Braden Hanafee-Major and Alexandra Blesi. 

Riley LinDell (Nolan Gabriel), Isabella Barberena (Caitlin Gabriel)

The show is being directed by Second Year MFA Acting Candidate, Doni Marinos. This is the second show he's directed this year at MSU. Last semester he directed the Kiddie Tour. This time he's going in a different direction. "I chose the play because it focuses on a story that our world tends to forget and ignore. Rather than focusing on the tragedy itself, it focuses on the aftermath and how the people involved with it attempt to continue their lives. Also, because it makes a big comment on the role that media has in our lives and how it has the power to change them."

Isabella Barberena (Caitlin Gabriel)

Doni has been busy, but his talented cast and production team have made the whole process worth it. "The process has been great! The cast members and designers have been working around the clock to create a dynamic show. Myself and everyone involved are very excited for people to come and see it. We're ready to share a story that needs to be told and get the audience to consider the world we all live in and their roles in it."

Martha Caceres (Dawn Sheridan), Isabella Barberena (Caitlin Gabriel)

The Library is playing tonight through Saturday, April 22nd at 7:30 in the Andreas Theatre! Don't miss our final studio show of the year! Get your tickets a or call the box office at 507-389-6661 anytime between 4-6 PM Monday through Friday. We'll see you at the theatre!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Spotlight On: Michaela Shapiro

Meet Michaela Shapiro! She's a senior BFA in Musical Theatre this year and we know you will recognize her from some of the roles she's played in her four years at MSU. It's quite the list, but here are just a few: Sue Snell in Carrie: The Musical,  Nina in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical: The Musical, Madeleine Astor in Titanic: The Musical and JC in Comic Potential. Let's get to know her!

Name: Michaela Shapiro
Hometown: St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Year/Major: Senior/Musical Theatre
Current Role: Ensemble in AIDA

How did you get your start in theatre? I began by taking ballet classes with a local company and that eventually led me to Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts in Minneapolis. The people there really nurtured my love for musical theatre.

What's your favorite thing about theatre? I love how it promotes compassion. I also adore the community!

Michaela Shapiro as Nina in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

What's your favorite MSU Theatre memory? Show-wise, my favorite memories here are probably being a part of Titanic: The Musical, Seussical & Carrie: The Musical. The music in Titanic is magical; I played one of my dream roles in Seussical and I sang songs with my best friends in Carrie. Pretty much everything about those three experiences was phenomenal.

Michaela Shapiro (Sue) and Daniel Lane (Tommy) in Carrie: The Musical

Mikhayla Clauson (Margaret), Michaela Shapiro (Sue) and Amanda Mai (Carrie) in Carrie: The Musical

Any advice for aspiring performers? You are always capable of more than you believe yourself to be.

Plans after graduation? I'll be in three of the shows here for Highland Summer Theatre and then leaving on a tour with National Theatre for Children in the fall with one of my very best friends, Daniel Lane!!! After that (and in between all of it), I'm going to continue auditioning and see where it takes me. Hopefully there will be lots of travel involved. And ice cream.

Michaela Shapiro (Gertrude) and Amanda Mai (Mayzie LaBird) in Seussical

Thanks for letting us get to know you Michaela! We wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors! We will miss you here, but we know you will do amazing things wherever you go!