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Jill Schafer

Jill Schafer

A native Minnesotan, Jill is an enthusiastic theater-goer in the Twin Cities area and an advocate for local theater companies small and large. After becoming a Guthrie season subscriber in 2003, she found herself attending more and more theater, so decided to start an independent theater blog called Cherry and Spoon in 2010. With no background or training in theater (other than a few stints in the pit orchestra in high school), Jill writes from an audience perspective. Read more of Jill’s writing on


BWW Review: Dark and Stormy's BLACKBIRD is No Cheerful Holiday Show, It's a Brutal and Powerful Play About a Woman Confronting Her Abuser
December 22, 2018

Don't let the Christmas lights strung across the ceiling fool you, Dark and Stormy's BLACKBIRD is not a feel-good holiday play. Which is why it's a great choice for right now, if you need a break from the sugary sweet holiday fare. Written in 2005, BLACKBIRD is a brutal play about a woman confronting her abuser, 15 years after he raped and kidnapped her at the age of 12 (she may have gone willingly, but she was still a child). Yes, it's a difficult one to watch, but with painfully real performances by the two-person cast, in the intimate environment of Dark and Stormy's Northeast Minneapolis studio space, it's worth the effort.

BWW Review: Inspired by Ingmar Bergman, E/D's ANIMUS Combines Theater, Film, Music, and Movement to Create a Stunningly Beautiful and Chillingly Disturbing Piece of Art
December 19, 2018

ANIMUS is a theater piece that incorporates film (both pre-recorded as well as projected live) better than any I've seen before. In fact everything about the piece is thoughtfully created and exquisitely executed. Produced by a new company (called E/D), but not a new collaboration (Emily Michaels King and Debra Berger), it's inspired by the 1966 Ingmar Bergman film PERSONA and is in fact part of the Swedish filmmaker's jubilee celebration. I've not seen this film, but if it's as hauntingly beautiful and downright trippy as ANIMUS, I now want to. Presented as part of last year's Twin Cities Horror Festival, it's been expanded to 90 fully engrossing minutes. ANIMUS continues through December 22 only and should not be overlooked in this busy season both on and off stage.

BWW Review: Park Square Theatre's Regional Premiere of MARIE AND ROSETTA Brings Two Gospel Legends to Vivid Life
December 8, 2018

For two nights in a row, I experienced rousing gospel music as part of #TCTheater. In other words, was a good week. The night after seeing Penumbra Theatre's annual gospel rendition of the nativity story BLACK NATIVITY, I attended opening night of Park Square Theatre's regional premiere of the new play MARIE AND ROSETTA, the true story of lesser known gospel legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Written by Playwrights' Center affiliated writer George Brant, MARIE AND ROSETTA imagines the night of the first performance of Rosetta and her protege/duet partner Marie Knight. A night in 1946 Mississippi when there was no room at the inn for two black women singers, so they rehearsed and slept in a funeral home with a kindly owner. This play with music paints a beautiful picture of these two very different women, their music, and their relationship, as well as the hardships both faced in their lives and careers, and brings these two musical legends to vivid life. A 'joyful noise' indeed.

BWW Review: There is No Better Place to Experience the Joyful Noise of the Holidays than at Penumbra Theatre's Annual Celebration BLACK NATIVITY
December 7, 2018

There truly is no better place to experience the 'joyful noise' of the holiday* season than at Penumbra Theatre's annual production of BLACK NATIVITY. Despite it being a 30+ year #TCTheater holiday institution, this is only my second time seeing the show. If you've never seen it before, you need to add it to your holiday theater rotation to experience the pure joy radiating from the stage. And if you have seen it before, you know just how heart-warming and life-affirming it is. This 80-minute theater/ music/ dance/ poetry experience continues through December 23, so there's plenty of time to get to St. Paul.

BWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre Brings Us Three Brilliant Plays by 'Prescient Harbingers' - Black Male Playwrights, Voices We Need to Listen To and Hear
November 24, 2018

As usual, Mixed Blood Theatre is doing something pretty remarkable right now. They're presenting three plays in rep, all written by young black men. Under the umbrella 'Prescient Harbingers' (meaning: 'having or showing knowledge of events before they take place;' 'a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another'), these three brilliant plays explore what it means to be a black man in America, directly or indirectly (one is even subtitled BEING BLACK FOR DUMMIES), along with commenting on race relations in America and more generally on modern life in America. Young black men are dying at an alarming rate, and these are voices we need to listen to if we ever hope to understand the problem so that we can stop it from happening. If you are a young black man, I can only imagine how validating it must feel to see these voices and these stories on stage. If you're not, I encourage you to go see one, two, or preferably all three of these plays with an open mind and an open heart. Listen, hear, laugh, cry, be disturbed, get angry, join the movement for justice and equality.

BWW Review: Yellow Tree Theatre Returns to the Play That Started their Tradition of Hilarious, Heart-Warming, Original Minnesota Holiday Shows - MIRACLE ON CHRISTMAS LAKE
November 21, 2018

Gather round, children, this is one of my favorite stories in #TCTheater. Not that long ago, in a land not too far away, a couple moved home to Minnesota from NYC to start a theater company. Shortly after doing so, the rights to the holiday show they were planning were pulled a few weeks before rehearsal was set to begin. Luckily, one of them was a playwright, so she wrote a play. That play was a comedy about a couple that moved to a small town in Minnesota from NYC to run a theater company, when the rights to their holiday play were pulled the night before opening. They say write what you know, and Jessica Lind Peterson did just that, to great success. She mixed her and Yellow Tree Theatre co-founder Jason Peterson's story together with Minnesota humor, soap operas, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, a handful of quirky characters, and a bearded dragon, put it all in a crock pot to simmer, and something delicious was born. Now, ten years later, Yellow Tree's holiday show is a huge hit every year and anchors their season to be able to produce some extraordinary and diverse work year-round. There have been two installments of MIRACLE ON CHRISTMAS LAKE, as well as two stand-alone plays A HUNTING SHACK CHRISTMAS and A GONE FISHIN' CHRISTMAS. For their 11th season they're returning to where it all began, the original MIRACLE ON CHRISTMAS LAKE with most of the original cast. This was my 6th time seeing some iteration of the CHRISTMAS LAKE franchise, and I love the silly, ridiculous, sweet, wonderful mess even more each time I see it. The show continues through the end of December, but as I mentioned it's always hugely popular, so get your tickets soon!

BWW Review: The Moving Company is Back with an Original, Profound, Silly, Thoughtful, Delightful, Sweet, and Surprising New Work THE 4 SEASONS
November 17, 2018

The Moving Company (which grew out of the ashes of the Tony-winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune) is back this fall with a very Moving Company kind of show. Which is to say original, profound, silly, thoughtful, delightful, sweet, surprising, and a little odd. Conceived by co-Artistic Directors Steven Epp, Nathan Keepers, and Dominique Serrand, THE 4 SEASONS was inspired by the idea of the four seasons, including Vivaldi's famous composition FOUR SEASONS and Piazzolla's less famous composition FOUR SEASONS. They also drew inspiration from Chekhov, and this quote from the Russian playwright about his work could also describe MoCo's work, and this piece in particular: 'What happens onstage should be just as complicated and just as simple as things are in real life. People are sitting at a table having dinner, that's all, but at the same time their happiness is being created, or their lives are being torn apart.'

BWW Review: Collide Theatrical Dance Company's Latest Original Broadway-Style Jazz Dance Musical tells the Tragically Beautiful Story of THE GREAT GATSBY
November 16, 2018

In the past five seasons, Collide Theatrical Dance Company has brought us original stories from various historical eras, as well as adaptations of classics like ROMEO AND JULIET. Their new show is an adaptation of the most well-known novel by Minnesota's own F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY. What makes Collide unique is that they tell their stories entirely through movement and music, with few or no words. Their 'original Broadway-style jazz dance musicals' are a collision of music, dance, and theater. In other words, an excuse for this busy theater blogger to watch pretty people dance prettily, while telling a theatrical story. Combining perfectly chosen pop songs performed by a live band and singers with thrilling dances performed by the talented company of dancers, they're able to convey all of the emotion of the story (with plot summary printed in the program if you care about the plot). THE GREAT GATSBY is a great example of this as they tell the story of these beautifully tragic and tragically beautiful people.

BWW Review: The National Tour of the Foul Mouthed and Big Hearted THE BOOK OF MORMON Returns to Minneapolis for its 4th Engagement
November 13, 2018

If theater is my religion, THE BOOK OF MORMON is my most sacred text. Not the actual book of course, rather the wildly irreverent musical written by the creators of SOUTH PARK (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) along with EGOT winner Robert Lopez. It is a nearly perfect musical, and definitely one of most joyous musicals I've ever seen. One of the brilliant things about THE BOOK OF MORMON is that it allows us to laugh at institutionalized religion (and let's face it, there are plenty of ridiculous things to laugh at) while still espousing the value of faith in oneself and one's friends and community, and 'working together to make this our paradise planet!' It truly is a feel-good musical that has the hugest heart, despite its unbelievably foul mouth. Back when it premiered in 2011, THE BOOK OF MORMON was what HAMILTON is today - a smash hit musical that swept the Tonys and was an impossible ticket to get. Fortunately seven years later tickets are a little easier to come by; tickets are still available (including rush and lottery, click here for details). If you're a fan of musical theater (who isn't offended by profanity and poking fun at religion), THE BOOK OF MORMON is definitely a must-see. And since it's still running on Broadway and touring the country, it likely won't be available for regional productions for many years, so this tour may be your only chance to see it for a while. Don't miss it!

BWW Review: Twenty Years After the Hate Crime Murder of Matthew Shepard, Uprising Theatre Company Tells His Story in THE LARAMIE CYCLE
November 7, 2018

Twenty years ago last month in a small college town in Wyoming, a young gay man was brutally beaten and tied to a fence post, left to die. The name Matthew Shepard has become synonymous with gay rights and in particular with the national hate crime legislation that bears his name, passed into law 11 years after his murder. Unfortunately Matthew's story is not unique, but for some reason it capture the nation, and he became a symbol for a larger movement toward equality and justice. Much has changed for the better in the last 20 years, including the hate crime legislation and the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' and the Defense of Marriage Act. But hate crimes still happen, against members of the LGBTQ community, against Jews, against people of color, against immigrants. As demonstrated by this sad fact, along with the current White House resident's threat against the very existence of our transgender citizens, the good work being done in Matthew's name is far from over. This Tuesday offers a great opportunity to continue that work by voting for equality, for compassion, for humanity, for the environment, for justice. Thanks to Uprising Theatre Company for sharing the spirit of Matthew Shepard by presenting THE LARAMIE CYCLE at this moment in time.

BWW Review: Theatre Coup d'Etat Brings Us a Stripped Down, One Act, In-the-Round, Intimate Production of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST
November 5, 2018

Wikipedia tells me that THE TEMPEST is 'now considered to be one of Shakespeare's greatest works,' but I'd never seen it until last week. Theatre Coup d'Etat brings us a stripped down, one act, in-the-round, intimate production in the non-traditional theater space that is SpringHouse Ministry Center, where they've often performed. I found that I like the play, that ends neither with everyone dead nor everyone married, like most Shakespeare plays seem to (although one couple is betrothed). Furthermore, the moral of the story seems to be forgiveness and peace, which is quite a refreshing story to experience these days. In the hands of this wonderful cast 13-person cast, this clear adaptation with great use of space, physicality, and music is the perfect introduction to THE TEMPEST.

BWW Review: Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company Shows us a Funny, Dysfunctional, and Moving Modern Jewish Family in THE LAST SCHWARTZ
October 29, 2018

Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company brings us another modern (well, late '90s) Jewish family trying to maintain their cultural identity while living in the melting pot of America. Four siblings gather at the family home in upstate New York for their father's Jahrzeit (one-year anniversary of death), and disagree about just about everything. At times funny, at times heart-breaking, THE LAST SCHWARTZ is an intense 90 minutes spent with a family that puts the fun in dysfunctional. Or as one character puts it when another laments 'why can't you be a normal family?' - 'this is a normal family.'

BWW Review: Freshwater Theatre's Triptych of Funny, Poignant, Feminist Plays PREFERRED BY DISCREET WOMEN EVERYWHERE Takes Place in a Women's Bathroom
October 25, 2018

This fall, Freshwater Theatre is featuring new work by women artists, and they couldn't have picked a better time. In rep with a short play festival called 'The Feminine Surcharge,' they're presenting a collection of three short plays set in a women's bathroom. A place where many of us spend a considerable amount of time. While my visits to the restroom are usually less dramatic than these, it certainly is a place for drama, for strangers coming together, for friends having intimate conversations, for women hiding from undesirable people or events outside the bathroom door (true confession: I've been known to spend a longer time than necessary in the bathroom when events are awkward or boring or uncomfortable). Ruth Virkus' three plays under the title PREFERRED BY DISCREET WOMEN EVERYWHERE  explore these ideas. The result is funny and real and poignant, and feminist. An all-female cast and creative team shouldn't be as rare and novel as it is, but you can witness it now through October 28 at the Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis.

BWW Review: Trademark Theater's Thoughtful and Thought-Provoking New Play UNDERSTOOD Explores Divisiveness in the Country and in a Marriage
October 10, 2018

'People by and large are idiots.' Wow, does this ever ring true, especially on a day when some of my fellow Minnesotans showed up and cheered for the current White House resident despite all the ugly things he's said and done. How can people do that?! It's completely incomprehensible to me; they are completely incomprehensible to me. This feeling is at the core of the new play UNDERSTOOD by Tyler Mills, which Trademark Theater is intentionally producing running up to next month's midterm election. Director Tyler Michaels notes in the program, 'This play swirls around these two ideas: A broken couple and a broken country.' In this thoughtful and thought-provoking two-hander, a married couple is looking to be understood by each other, the one that is supposed to know and love them best, and also by a stranger whose beliefs are inexplicable to them.

BWW Review: Nomadic #TCTheater Company Frank Theatre Opens their 30th Season with THE VISIT Staged in the Minnesota Transportation Museum
October 9, 2018

To open their 30th season, intrepid nomadic #TCTheater company Frank Theatre is bringing us THE VISIT in the Minnesota Transportation Museum. This is actually the second play I've seen in this unique and super cool venue (see also Wayward and Mission's co-production of GHOST TRAIN). Both plays are set (at least partly) in a train station, so the museum is a perfect location. Filled with vintage train equipment and displays (which you can wander through before the show and at intermission), the museum is fascinating but also kind of dark and creepy and cold, and smells a little like a garage. Which is the perfect atmosphere for Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt's absurd 'tragicomic' play. This is a very Frank play, with a huge and talented cast and great commitment to the highly stylized design and tone of the play.

BWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre's Regional Premiere of the Revenge Fantasy Play IS GOD IS is Filled with Shocking Surprises from Delightful to Horrific
September 27, 2018

Playwright Aleshea Harris' play IS GOD IS, receiving just its second production at Minneapolis' Mixed Blood Theatre, is a revenge play. More than that, it's a revenge fantasy. Filled with the kind of vengeance that we don't resort to in real life because we're civilized people, but it sure is fun to think about. When you hear of a man who does horrible things to his wife and/or children, or even worse, experience it first hand, there's a part of the primal brain that wants to deliver an eye for an eye. This play is the cathartic fulfillment of those desires. It reminds me of the Dixie Chicks' song 'Goodbye Earl,' in which two friends conspire to kill the abusive husband of one of them. Critics cried - you're advocating violence and murder, how horrible! No - it's fiction, art, fantasy, metaphor, seeing an evil someone get what they deserve, if only in our imagination. Such is IS GOD IS, tenfold, in all its horrific yet somehow satisfying violence to avenge great hurts against one's self and loved ones.

BWW Review: Artistry's Beautifully Tragic AWAKE AND SING! will Break Your Heart in the Best Way
September 21, 2018

I love sad plays. I love stories of miserable families who love each other but don't know how to express it in healthy ways. AWAKE AND SING!, now playing at Artistry's black box theater, is one such tragically beautiful and beautifully tragic play, like Tennessee Williams set in the Bronx. Or rather, since Clifford Odets' 1935 play predates Williams' major works, I guess I should say that Tennessee Williams is like Odets set in the South. The multi-generational Berger family has become beaten down by life, with the younger generation trying to break free and make a new life in this new country, if only it will let them. With a strong cast and detailed design in an intimate space, Artistry's production is beautiful and heart-breaking.

BWW Review: Just When We Need it Most, Shoot the Glass Theater Brings Us a Beautifully Staged SPRING AWAKENING with a Fantastic Young Cast
September 21, 2018

I love SPRING AWAKENING so much that after seeing the eight time Tony winner on Broadway (with most of the original cast), I named the next kitten I adopted Moritz Stiefel, after my favorite character. Nine years and three bladder surgeries later, my sweet Moritz is still with me, and so is my love for SPRING AWAKENING. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), the themes of the late 19th Century German play, as seen through a rock musical, are still relevant today. Suicide rates are on the rise, there are some very real threats to abortion rights in this country, exposure and intolerance of sexual abuse and harassment is at an all time high, and 21st Century technology is making it harder to be a teenager than perhaps it's ever been. You think Wendla and Melchi had it rough? At least they never had their most embarrassing moment go viral for the entire world to bully them! For all of these reasons I'm grateful to Shoot the Glass Theater for bringing SPRING AWAKENING to us now, in a beautifully staged production featuring a super talented cast of young and unknown actors. I found myself falling in love with this story and these characters all over again.

BWW Review: The National Tour of HAMILTON, the Quintessential American Story Told through the Quintessential American Art Form, Finally Arrives in Minnesota
September 9, 2018

That's right, #TCTheater friends, music-theater's favorite founding father has finally arrived in Minneapolis, along with all of this friends. Three years after opening on Broadway and becoming the biggest theater sensation in years, maybe even decades, the second national tour is playing at the Opheum Theatre for a six-week run. I'm lucky enough to have seen it four times now, and it's still just as epic and thrilling, if not quite as mind-blowing as the first time. HAMILTON is the rare thing that not only lives up to the hype, it exceeds it. In fact it's not really about the hype at all, the 'all the cool people are seeing HAMILTON so I guess I should see it too.' You shouldn't go see HAMILTON so you can impress your friends and neighbors, you should go see HAMILTON because it's the quintessential American story told through the quintessential American art form - musical theater. It's one of those ground-breaking milestone events in the history of theater that has forever changed it. And it's also three jam-packed hours of music, dance, stories, entertainment, and inspiration. If you don't already have your tickets don't despair. There are tickets still available through the official channels, and you can enter a daily lottery in which 40 lucky people win the chance to buy tickets for $10. I don't think I need to try to convince anyone to go see it, or tell you how incredibly amazing it is. You already know that, the rest is up to you.

BWW Review: With DR. FALSTAFF, Mixed Precipitation Once Again Delivers a Delightful Mash-Up of Classic Opera and Pop Songs, Outdoors while Serving Fresh Local Food
September 8, 2018

Cooler weather, back to school sales, and the Minnesota State Fair may signal the end of summer, but one of #TCTheater's summer highlights is in full swing. This is my 5th year attending Mixed Precipitation's annual picnic operetta (now celebrating their 10th anniversary), and if you haven't seen them yet you're missing out on a unique delight. Mixing classic opera, pop music, and Minnesota's bountiful harvest, they perform a charming show outdoors while feeding the audience throughout the show. What's better than that?! For this year's opera, Artistic Director Scotty Reynolds has adapted German composer Otto Nicolai's 1849 opera DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR (based on Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR), setting it on the Iron Range in the '70s at the time of the foundation of the EPA, adding in songs by Bruce Springsteen. The result is exactly as weird and wonderful as that sounds. It's playful, fun, outdoors, and did I mention they feed you?! Playing in gardens and parks around the state, from Lake County to Winona (including several locations in the Twin Cities area), you're not going to want to miss this unique theatrical and culinary delight.

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