Jill Schafer

Jill Schafer


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LAST 30 DAYS

BWW Review: Wayward Theatre Company and Mission Theatre Company Bring a Fun and Thrilling GHOST TRAIN to the Minnesota Transportation MuseumBWW Review: Wayward Theatre Company and Mission Theatre Company Bring a Fun and Thrilling GHOST TRAIN to the Minnesota Transportation Museum
Posted: Apr. 4, 2017


BWW Review: Jungle Theater's Hilarious and Heart-breaking LONE STAR SPIRITS Smartly Examines Small Town Life, Regrets, and FamilyBWW Review: Jungle Theater's Hilarious and Heart-breaking LONE STAR SPIRITS Smartly Examines Small Town Life, Regrets, and Family
Posted: Apr. 12, 2017


BWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre's In-Your-Face New Play VIETGONE Beautifully Captures the Refugee Experience and Challenges the Audience's Perception of the Vietnam WarBWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre's In-Your-Face New Play VIETGONE Beautifully Captures the Refugee Experience and Challenges the Audience's Perception of the Vietnam War
Posted: Apr. 21, 2017


LAST 365 DAYS

BWW Review: Ten Thousand Things' Signature Bare-Bones Staging Brings New Urgency and Clarity to the Classic FIDDLER ON THE ROOFBWW Review: Ten Thousand Things Brings Urgency & Clarity to FIDDLER
Posted: Feb. 27, 2017


BWW Review: The Guthrie Theater's Production of the New Play WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT is Funny, Innovative, Relevant, and ShockingBWW Review: The Guthrie Theater's WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT
Posted: Feb. 28, 2017


BWW Review: Open Eye Figure Theatre Re-Imagines Hans Christian Andersen's THE RED SHOES as a 20th Century Noir ThrillerOpen Eye Figure Theatre Re-Imagines Hans Christian Andersen's THE RED SHOES
Posted: Mar. 7, 2017


BWW Review: Theatre In the Round's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a Well-Directed, -Acted, and -Designed Production of a Classic American TragedyBWW Review: TRP's Excellent A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Posted: Jan. 17, 2017


BWW Interview: Playwright/Lyricist Laurie Flanigan-Hegge Discusses SWEET LAND THE MUSICAL, Based on the Minnesota-Made Movie, Opening at History Theatre this WeekendBWW Interview: Playwright/Lyricist Laurie Flanigan-Hegge Discusses SWEET LAND THE MUSICAL, Based on the Minnesota-Made Movie, Opening at History Theatre this Weekend
April 28, 2017

A (mostly) local team has been in the process of adapting the 2005 Minnesota-made movieSWEET LAND into a musical for years, and their hard work is finally coming to fruition whenSWEET LAND, THE MUSICALopens at the History Theatre this weekend. I've seen several readings of the work in progress, and I've been so pleased how the creators have held true to the beautiful heart of the movie while adding music that feels organic to the story and only serves to enhance the storytelling. One of the creators, Twin Cities theater artistLaurie Flanigan-Hegge, answered a few of my questions aboutSWEET LAND, THE MUSICAL, the development process of a new work, and the importance of supporting women playwrights and composers.

BWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre's In-Your-Face New Play VIETGONE Beautifully Captures the Refugee Experience and Challenges the Audience's Perception of the Vietnam WarBWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre's In-Your-Face New Play VIETGONE Beautifully Captures the Refugee Experience and Challenges the Audience's Perception of the Vietnam War
April 21, 2017

Another smart and funny new play fresh from a successful Off-Broadway run has landed in Minneapolis. In addition to Josh Tobiessen's hilarious and heart-breakingLONE STAR SPIRITSat the Jungle Theater, we also have Qui Nguyen's ambitious and genre-blendingVIETGONEat Mixed Blood Theatre. The playwright tells the story of his parents meeting a Vietnamese refugee camp in 1975 Arkansas in an inventive and totally unique style.VIETGONEis part rap musical, part romantic comedy, part bawdy sex comedy, part war story, and all engrossing. It's in-your-face and squirm-inducing, but is utterly effective in communicating the refugee experience and making at least this audience member rethink their views on the Vietnam War and American involvement.

BWW Review: Jungle Theater's Hilarious and Heart-breaking LONE STAR SPIRITS Smartly Examines Small Town Life, Regrets, and FamilyBWW Review: Jungle Theater's Hilarious and Heart-breaking LONE STAR SPIRITS Smartly Examines Small Town Life, Regrets, and Family
April 12, 2017

Y'all, Jungle Theater'sLONE STAR SPIRITSgot me feeling all the feels! Hilarious and heart-breaking, it's one of the best plays I've seen this year. Brought to us by wife/husband director/playwright team Sarah Rasmussen and Josh Tobiessen, it features crisply drawn characters beautifully brought to life by a brilliant five-person cast, an incredibly detailed and realistic set, family drama, a poignant exploration of small town life, ghosts, country music, and accidental gunshots. I was laughing throughout the show and wiping away tears at the end, which is pretty much my favorite kind of play. Friends, you'd be wise toget on down to the Jungle between now and May 7to experience this practically perfect 90 minutes of theater.

BWW Review: Wayward Theatre Company and Mission Theatre Company Bring a Fun and Thrilling GHOST TRAIN to the Minnesota Transportation MuseumBWW Review: Wayward Theatre Company and Mission Theatre Company Bring a Fun and Thrilling GHOST TRAIN to the Minnesota Transportation Museum
April 4, 2017

Wayward Theatre Company, the company that recently brought us an 'innovatively imagined and well executed' TARTUFFE at the James J. Hill House, is now partnering with Mission Theatre Company to bring us the deliciously fun and spooky GHOST TRAIN in another one of 19th century railroad millionaire James J. Hill's buildings. The Jackson Street Roundhouse was once a maintenance facility for the Great Northern Railway, and now houses the Minnesota Transportation Museum. Filled with old trains and displays about the long ago era of train travel, it's perhaps the coolest space in which I've ever experienced theater. Or maybe that's just my inner Sheldon Cooper talking. But there's no doubt that surrounded by all of this historic equipment and memorabilia, it's quite easy to be transported back to the 1920s by this comedy/melodrama/thriller play and its terrific cast and detailed design.

BWW Review: Open Eye Figure Theatre Re-Imagines Hans Christian Andersen's THE RED SHOES as a 20th Century Noir ThrillerBWW Review: Open Eye Figure Theatre Re-Imagines Hans Christian Andersen's THE RED SHOES as a 20th Century Noir Thriller
March 7, 2017

You may be familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen storyTHE RED SHOES, in which a vain little girl with pretty red shoes is cursed so that her shoes will never stop dancing. But you may not recognize what the ingenious minds of Joel Sass and Kimberly Richardson have turned it into. Yes there are a few (hilarious) runaway dancing scenes, but their 80-minute show at Open Eye Figure Theatre is more 20 Century creepy noir thriller than 19th Century fairy tale. I'll let director Joel Sass describe it to you: 'Equally humorous and hair-raising, our adaptation ofTHE RED SHOESdraws inspiration and influences from the vintage detective novels ofRaymond ChandlerandDashiell Hammett, case studies of amnesia and multiple personality, and black and white film noir movies of the 1940s. Like that cinematic genre,THE RED SHOESevokes a highly stylized landscape of convoluted mystery, subconscious manacle, fever dreams, and existential crisis.' My immediate thought at the end of the show was, 'how do people think of such things?'THE RED SHOESis something so curious and unique, odd and chilling, inventive and charming, it's thoroughly captivating from start to finish.

BWW Review: The Guthrie Theater's Production of the New Play WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT is Funny, Innovative, Relevant, and ShockingBWW Review: The Guthrie Theater's Production of the New Play WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT is Funny, Innovative, Relevant, and Shocking
February 28, 2017

The ending ofWE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT,now playing in the Guthrie's Dowling Studio,is unlike anything I've ever seen in theater. It left me shocked, confused, and a little traumatized, but mostly it left me incredibly moved. It's such a powerful and important piece, forcing us to look at the long-lasting effects of colonialism around the world, its parallels with slavery in America, and how difficult it is to talk about racism. But even though the show leaves on a heavy and intense note, it's also really funny and innovative and theater-y too. It fools you into thinking it's a fun look at actors in rehearsal and then sneaks in some serious issues that soon become almost more than one can bear. Fortunately the Guthrie'sLevel Nine initiativeincludes what they call Community Engagement Activities, which often means a post-show discussion with the cast or creative team or experts on the subject. Take advantage of this - it's a wonderful opportunity to decompress and process what you've just seen, and begin a conversation.

BWW Review: Ten Thousand Things' Signature Bare-Bones Staging Brings New Urgency and Clarity to the Classic FIDDLER ON THE ROOFBWW Review: Ten Thousand Things' Signature Bare-Bones Staging Brings New Urgency and Clarity to the Classic FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
February 27, 2017

It never fails. Whenever I go to see a Ten Thousand Things show, the storytelling is so clear it's as if I'm truly seeing it for the first time, even if it's a piece I've seen one or many times before. In their signature bare bones theater style, they've cut out all the fluff from the beloved musical FIDDLER ON THE ROOF to get right to the heart of the story. Even though I've seen the show twice in recent years, I've never been so caught up in and felt so deeply the story of one man's struggle with holding to his traditions, while still loving his family as they begin to change and grow out of those traditions. The brilliant Steve Epp makes Tevye so real and human, and along with the other eight members of this terrific ensemble playing multiple characters, makes the world of Anatevka palpably real and somehow modern, despite still being anchored in time and space. Because 50 years after it was written, this story about a family of refugees fleeing persecution and violence in their beloved homeland to find safety in America is as timely as ever.

BWW Review: Jomama Jones Brings Hope in a Troubled Time with BLACK LIGHT: A SOULFUL EMBRACE OF LOVE AND LIGHT, at Penumbra Theatre through This Weekend Only!BWW Review: Jomama Jones Brings Hope in a Troubled Time with BLACK LIGHT: A SOULFUL EMBRACE OF LOVE AND LIGHT, at Penumbra Theatre through This Weekend Only!
February 9, 2017

In the darkness of the theater, a soothing voice was heard saying 'what if I told you: we're going to be all right.' I exhaled deeply, as if I'd been holding my breath for the last two weeks. Because in my 43 years on this planet, there's never been a time when I've been less sure that 'we're going to be all right.' Jomama Jones in BLACK LIGHT: A SOULFUL EMBRACE OF LIFE AND LOVEwas exactly the balm I needed at this moment in time. Telling stories, singing, and performing, she made me laugh, she brought tears to my eyes, she made me believe, at least for a little while, that there is a light at the end of this tunnel we've found ourselves in (or perhaps, put ourselves in). This BLACK LIGHTis shining through at St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre for a short time only, so don't miss your chance to experience what truly is 'a soulful embrace of life and love.'

BWW Review: 7th House Theater's Pop-Up Production of RHINOCEROS is Wholly Entertaining, Eerily Relevant, and Exactly the Kind of Art We NeedBWW Review: 7th House Theater's Pop-Up Production of RHINOCEROS is Wholly Entertaining, Eerily Relevant, and Exactly the Kind of Art We Need
January 26, 2017

There have been various responses to the new presidency and the current political climate, including Facebook groups, letter writing and calling campaigns, petitions, and a nation-wide women's march. But what do artists do in response to injustice? They make art. Last weekend 7th House Theater opened a short run of what they call a 'pop up production' of the 1959 play RHINOCEROS, written by Eugene Ionesco as a response to the rise in Fascism in pre-WWII Europe. As company member David Darrow explained before the show, their new original musicals take about a year to plan, write, create, and produce, which makes it challenging to stay current. But with this piece, 7th House is presenting 'a specific work at a specific time in history.' After just ten days of rehearsal, they very intentionally opened on the night of the inauguration, a work presented in what David called 'a mostly sort of way.' While the staging is minimal and actors have scripts in their hands, Rhinoceros is a work that is wholly entertaining, eerily relevant, and exactly what we need right now.

BWW Review: Theatre In the Round's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a Well-Directed, -Acted, and -Designed Production of a Classic American TragedyBWW Review: Theatre In the Round's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a Well-Directed, -Acted, and -Designed Production of a Classic American Tragedy
January 17, 2017

If you're a fan of American theater classics, get yourself toTheatre in the Round in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis. Their excellent production of Arthur Miller'sA View From the Bridgefeatures strong performances from the whole cast (particularly the leads), a really cool set with vintage props, and great staging in their intimate in-the-round setting. This completely engrossing and tragic story of flawed and very real characters navigating hard times and tricky family relations in 1950s working class Brooklyn will get under your skin. It's one of those experiences that makes you feel like you've been on a journey with these characters, one that's hard to shake when you leave the theater. It's probably the second best play I've seen at TRP. Don't let this one fly under your radar.

BWW Review: Theatre Coup d'Etat's THE CRUCIBLE is a Well Executed Site-Specific, Intimate, Sobering Production of a Classic That's Never Felt More Relevant and NecessaryBWW Review: Theatre Coup d'Etat's THE CRUCIBLE is a Well Executed Site-Specific, Intimate, Sobering Production of a Classic That's Never Felt More Relevant and Necessary
December 12, 2016

I first saw Arthur Miller's 1953 playTHE CRUCIBLElast spring at the Guthrie, and was wowed at how this story aboutthe infamous Salem witch trialsof the late 17th Century, during which twenty people were put to death for the crime of witchcraft, speaks to the issues of the day. Things have changed a lot in the last year and a half, making the play's themes of religious fanaticism, mob mentality, and persecution of people who are different even more scarily relevant. How terrifying to live in a world where one person's false accusation can incite mass hysteria and result in the persecution of innocent people, a world that sadly isn't too far from the current reality. I'm not saying that our president elect is Abigail Williams, but I, and this excellent and intimate production byTheatre Coup d'Etat, am suggesting that we need to take a breath and look at the facts before we rush to condemn someone based on a spiteful rant.THE CRUCIBLEdramatizes one of the greatest failings of the American, or rather pre-American, judicial system, and 60 years after it was written still remains a cautionary tale.

BWW Review: 7th House Theater's New Original Musical THE PASSAGE, OR WHAT COMES OF SEARCHING IN THE DARK is Funny, Poignant, and ModernBWW Review: 7th House Theater's New Original Musical THE PASSAGE, OR WHAT COMES OF SEARCHING IN THE DARK is Funny, Poignant, and Modern
November 22, 2016

Musical theater is my favorite art form, and new original musicals are my favorite things in the world. I love seeing how music and theater can combine to tell a story in interesting forward-thinking ways. After re-imagining a couple of classic musicals (and one play), newish theater company 7th House Theater has turned to producing new original musicals. THE PASSAGE, OR WHAT COMES OF SEARCHING IN THE DARK, is the third such creation to be presented in the Guthrie Theater Studio. I've loved all of their work, but this one feels more personal and more modern and forward-thinking than what they've done before. THE PASSAGE feels like it's continuing along the trajectory of modern musicals like NEXT TO NORMAL and FUN HOME - an intimate family story told with a small cast and modern inventive staging. And the result is truly something special.

BWW Review: Park Square Theatre's Powerful A RAISIN IN THE SUN Closes this Weekend but Continues for Students through DecemberBWW Review: Park Square Theatre's Powerful A RAISIN IN THE SUN Closes this Weekend but Continues for Students through December
November 17, 2016

Langston Hughes' poemDREAM DEFFERREDis the source of the title of short-lived but influential playwright Lorraine Hansberry's classic playA RAISIN IN THE SUN. She died at the age of 34 just six years after the play opened on Broadway in 1959, but her work still resonates today. The story of a black family's struggle in 1950s Chicago to accomplish their dreams in a world that didn't want to let them can be palpably felt in the context of today's world. It's a great choice, then, forPark Square Theatre's 2016-2017 season and for theirstudent matinee program, which serves over 30,000 students every year. And it's an incredibly moving production that brings out all the richness of Hansberry's writing. The fantastic local cast and the intimacy of the Andy Boss thrust stage making you feel as if you're in the Younger living room with them, experiencing thisdevastating, life-changing, and hope-inspiring event.

BWW Review: Take a Chance on an Unfamiliar Musical and You Might Just Fall in Love with THE BAKER'S WIFE at ArtistryBWW Review: Take a Chance on an Unfamiliar Musical and You Might Just Fall in Love with THE BAKER'S WIFE at Artistry
November 3, 2016

I had a rare experience at the theater recently - I went to see a musical I knew nothing about and was absolutely charmed by it. Stephen Schwartz's WICKED may be the 10th longest-running show on Broadway and one of the most 'popular' musicals of recent years, but his 1976 musical THE BAKER'SWIFEnever made it to Broadway and is rarely produced. I'm grateful that Artistry's resident Music Director Anita Ruth was finally able to do her 'dream show,' and what a dream it is! The absolutely lovely score, the touching story about love and forgiveness, and the cast, led by everyone's favorite Bradley Greenwald and soon-to-be everyone's favorite Jill Iverson, make this a dream show indeed. Head to Bloomington before November 12 and take a chance on an unfamiliar musical, you just might fall in love.

BWW Review: For Just $9 in the Guthrie Theater's Level 9 Dowling Studio, You Can See the Relevant and Moving One-Man Show HOLD THESE TRUTHSBWW Review: For Just $9 in the Guthrie Theater's Level 9 Dowling Studio, You Can See the Relevant and Moving One-Man Show HOLD THESE TRUTHS
October 20, 2016

'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.' I remember learning this quote in history class. And I remember my teacher saying that what the authors of the Declaration of Independance really meant was, firstly, men and not women, and secondly, the implied qualifiers of white, land-owning, and age 21 or older. In the last 200+ years, we have worked to expand that definition, but the road towards that expansion has not been easy and it hasn't been linear; it's more of a two steps forward one step back kind of thing. And one huge step back was the internment of Japanese people during World War II. It's unthinkable that the president ordered this and our government allowed it, yet at the same time, it's scarily similar to what's going on today in terms of fear of immigrants and 'others.' The one-man play HOLD THESE TRUTHS, now playing in the Guthrie's Dowling Studio, tells the specific story of one man who defied these orders in a way that makes the injustice feel real and personal, and reminds us that we must never let it happen again.

BWW Review: Park Square Theatre Brings Will Eno's Funny, Weird, and Moving Play THE REALISTIC JONESES to Life with a Fantastic Four-Person CastBWW Review: Park Square Theatre Brings Will Eno's Funny, Weird, and Moving Play THE REALISTIC JONESES to Life with a Fantastic Four-Person Cast
October 7, 2016

THE REALISTIC JONESESis an odd little play. But I shouldn't be surprised; the other Will Eno play I've seen (THOM PAIN (BASED ON NOTHING) by Loudmouth Collective) is exceedingly odd. But odd in the best way. THEJONESESis a little more, well, realistic, than the one-man show THOM PAIN, with an actual plot and characters in conversation with each other. But I still don't understand everything that happened, and sometimes characters say things that don't make sense, and there's no resolution to the problems the characters are facing. But that's OK. I like theater that doesn't tie things up in a neat bow in the end, that's a little unexpected and even jarring. I'm happy to spend 90 minutes or so in this odd and sometimes uncomfortable world populated by odd and sometimes unlikeable people, beautifully brought to life by this fantastic four-person cast.

BWW Review: Playwright Michael Elyanow Reimagines MEDEA in the Uncategorizable THE CHILDREN at Pillsbury House TheatreBWW Review: Playwright Michael Elyanow Reimagines MEDEA in the Uncategorizable THE CHILDREN at Pillsbury House Theatre
October 4, 2016

Medea. Even if, like me, you've never seen or read the play, we all know the story of the mother who kills her children. Worst mother ever, right? But maybe, as they say on CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, the situation is a bit more nuanced than that. Maybe there's more to the story, maybe other people in the story see it differently. Playwright Michael Elyanow (see also the beautiful play with music LULLABY) wanted to explore the story from the children's viewpoint. He writes in the playbill, 'I started writing THE CHILDRENas a response play where somebody does take action to defend those kids. In the writing, the piece revealed itself to be a fever dream, a time-traveling mystery, a fish-out-of-water comedy, a theatrical event with a perception shift in every scene until we get at what the play is ultimately, singularly about: trauma survival.' That's about as good of a description as I could imagine. THE CHILDRENis not an easy play to categorize, but it is a wonderful one to experience for 80 minutes. It'll challenge your perception of Medea, as well as your perception of time and space.

BWW Review: Loudmouth Collective WAITING FOR WAITING FOR GODOT is a Clever, Funny, and Silly Companion Play to the Beckett ClassicBWW Review: Loudmouth Collective WAITING FOR WAITING FOR GODOT is a Clever, Funny, and Silly Companion Play to the Beckett Classic
September 28, 2016

WAITING FOR WAITING FOR GODOT is definitely the lightest and funniest show Loudmouth Collective has done in their five seasons. And friends, it's really funny. Playwright Dave Hanson has written a clever, smart, and silly companion play to Beckett's classic absurdist play WAITING FOR GODOT, in which two understudies are waiting backstage for their moment in the spotlight. Much like the original, WAITING FOR WAITING FOR GODOT is kind of just two idiots blathering about nothing. But in doing so the play touches on the nature of acting and waiting and being. It's another great choice for Loudmouth. As much as I love their dark and intense side, what a treat it is to watch them be fun and playful, while still putting on a sharp and all-around high-quality production with a dream team of cast and creative. In short - go see it!

BWW Review: Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre and St. Paul's Ordway Center Bring Us a Reinvigorated PAINT YOUR WAGON About the Diverse Cultures that Built the American WestBWW Review: Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre and St. Paul's Ordway Center Bring Us a Reinvigorated PAINT YOUR WAGON About the Diverse Cultures that Built the American West
August 19, 2016

I had never even heard of the 1951 Lerner and Loewe musical PAINT YOUR WAGON when the Ordway announced it as part of their season. I guess that's not too surprising; it ran for less than a year on Broadway and has never been revived. The story was significantly rewritten for the 1969 movie adaptation starring Clint Eastwood, which also included a few new songs. Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre scrapped both the original and revised book (they're a little bit racist, and sexist) to write a new story set in the Gold Rush era of California, making it more reflective of the many diverse cultures that came together to build the great American West. This production has moved to the Ordway for two weeks, with a few local additions to the cast. This thrilling story of the beginnings of the American West with a beautifully diverse cast has rescued this gorgeous Western and Mexican influenced score from the place where problematic old musicals go to die.

BWW Review: A Few Suggestions at the Halfway Point of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, or, Time to Get Your Fringe On!BWW Review: A Few Suggestions at the Halfway Point of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, or, Time to Get Your Fringe On!
August 10, 2016

It's the halfway point of the 11-day, 168-show Minnesota Fringe Festival. I've seen 29 shows in the last 6 days, with 20+ more scheduled for the final 5 days of the fest. The new system of daily wristbands that get you into any and all shows that day seems to be working great. The handy Fringe website has all the information you'll need about schedule, venues, cast and creative team, and reviews from people who have already seen the show. The Fringe continues through Sunday August 14, so there's still time to get your Fringe on!



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