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Jill Schafer - Page 3

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: Theater Mu and Mixed Blood's Successful First Collaboration on the Hilarious New Play TWO MILE HOLLOW Provides Smart Commentary on Race and Class in America
February 22, 2018

My 280-character (or less) review of Theater Mu and Mixed Blood Theatre's first ever collaboration: 'Friends, run don't walk to see #twomilehollow (co-production from @theatermu and @mixed_blood). I can't decide whom I love most in this cast of comic geniuses! But behind all the wackiness and humor is some seriously smart commentary on race and class in America.' If you don't have time to continue reading this post, that pretty much tells you what you need to know. Or stick with me as I expand on this tweet by a few hundred more words. Either way, if you like your theater smart, funny, relevant, and painfully true, TWO MILE HOLLOW is not to be missed.

BWW Review: Illusion Theater's Funny and Sobering New Play DANCING WITH GIANTS Explores the Intersection of Sports and Politics Through Pre-WWII Boxing
February 15, 2018

I'll admit it. Before I was a theater geek, I was a TV geek. I grew up watching TV, and my best friends were characters on TV shows. I'm still a TV geek, and I still consider TV characters* my friends. So when I heard that an actor from two of my favorite current shows was doing a play in Minneapolis, I didn't even care what or where the play was. I was going to see Rebecca Bunch's mother / Deanna (who's Deanna?) no matter what. As it turns out, Tovah Feldshuh has some ties to the #TCTheater community, having studied and worked at the University of Minnesota and the Guthrie back in the day. Her brother, playwright/director David Feldshuh, has an even deeper connection, specifically with Illusion Theater, which is premiering his new play DANCING WITH GIANTS. I'm happy to report that not only is Tovah a delight live on stage, but this is also an entertaining, educational, funny, and sobering play. It's obviously a labor of love for the Feldshuh family, and Minneapolis/St. Paul theater-goers are lucky to be able to experience it first.

BWW Review: In the Heart of the Beast's MAKE BELIEVE NEIGHBORHOOD Pays Homage to the Beloved Mister Rogers, as Well as the Heroes of Its Own Neighborhood
February 13, 2018

I, like millions of children in America and across the world, grew up watching MISTER ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD, which aired on PBS from 1968 through 2001. But I don't think I realized at the time what an exceptionally good and kind human Fred Rogers was, a strong advocate for children's education and development, and for kindness towards all. All I knew as a kid is that MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD was a comforting place to spend a half hour, and I especially loved the Neighborhood of Make Believe (where I first experienced opera). In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, located in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis, is premiering an original multi-media play called MAKE BELIEVE NEIGHBORHOOD that pays homage to the work of Fred Rogers, as well as to the good work being done in their own neighborhood. I spent much of the two hours with tears behind my eyes, so moved by the kindness of my childhood favorite, and by the inspirational people working to create and strengthen community in Phillips. In a world of increasing violence, negativity, and divisiveness, spending a little time in this MAKE BELIEVE NEIGHBORHOOD, and learning how one neighborhood is making Mister Rogers' vision a reality, is a balm to the soul.

BWW Review: Penumbra Theatre and Children's Theatre Company's First Collaboration is a Hit - the Fabulous and Inspirational THE WIZ
January 30, 2018

'Combining CTC's critical literacy work and Penumbra's racial justice work allows us to forge something together that neither could do alone.' These words in the playbill of THE WIZ, the first collaboration between these two acclaimed #TCTheater companies, brought tears to my eyes before the show even started. Especially after wading through a sea of children of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds. In an increasingly divided world, Penumbra (one of the longest-running and most acclaimed African American theater companies in the nation) and Children's Theatre (ditto for children's theater) give me hope, as individual companies and especially in this collaboration in which an all-black cast tells a story of a young black woman who discovers her own power through the help of friends. They give me hope that maybe we can overcome our seemingly insurmountable differences and join together in song and awesome dance to solve our problems. It's possible, right? Can't you feel a brand new day? Indeed I can.

BWW Review: The Intense Two-Hander A STEADY RAIN is a Brilliantly Written Play that's Impeccably Executed by the Team at Gremlin Theatre
January 20, 2018

For their second show in their new space, Gremlin Theatre is presenting the intense two-hander A STEADY RAIN. Buckle up, friends, this is a tough one. But so beautifully done. In what's basically a treatise on toxic masculinity and the damage it can do, playwright Keith Huff has created two complex characters in a brilliantly written play that's impeccably executed by the team at Gremlin. Two incredible acting performances, tight and clear direction, simple yet powerful design that heightens the storytelling, all in an intimate space that makes it feel all too real. This is the kind of show that's tough to shake. The rest of the day, and even into the next, I found myself back in that room inside that brutal story. It may only be mid-January, but no doubt A STEADY RAIN will be one of the most memorable plays of the year.

BWW Review: The Ordway's Swell Production of ANNIE Will Leave You Feeling Optimistic About Our Female Future
December 14, 2017

'The future is female.' If the main stage at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is any judge of it, this statement is true, and gives one hope for the future. The story of one 11-year-old girl who changes hearts and minds with optimism and determination is an inspiring one, as is the boundless energy and talent of the young females on stage who bring this story to life. Watching ANNIE last weekend, I couldn't help but feel nostalgic for the Great Depression, when at least the president cared about the people and developed (with Annie's help of course) a New Deal that would help lift the country out of poverty. A stark contrast to today's reality, when the current resident of the White House seems to care only for the rich, and those in need get served newly crappy deals nearly every day. Maybe we need to send Annie to the Washington to get Democrats and Republicans singing together about the hopeful future of America! In the meantime, head to the Ordway to see this swell production of an American musical theater classic and get your dose of optimism about our female future.

BWW Review: The Guthrie Theater's BLITHE SPIRIT is Pure and Pleasant Escapist Entertainment, an Exquisitely Written and Executed Comedy
December 9, 2017

If you're looking for a fun, light-hearted, escapist night at the theater (and really, who isn't in need of that?!), look no further than the Guthrie's sublimely entertaining production of No l Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT. Featuring Guthrie favorites and newcomers in this perfect concoction of a cast, breath-takingly gorgeous design, and the witty words of one of 20th Century England's favorite writers of comedy, BLITHE SPIRIT will keep you warm with laughter on a cold winter's night, and make you forget about the seemingly endless despair happening outside of the theater walls (this is why I prefer to say in the theater as much as possible). BLITHE SPIRIT continues through January 18 and is a hilarious duet partner to that other ghost story across the hall.

BWW Review: The Jungle Theater's Charming New Production of MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY is a Delight for Any Season
November 30, 2017

Writing a sequel to one of the most beloved novels in English literature is a daunting and risky task. Audiences have such attachment to the original, and it could go wrong in so many ways. But playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon have gotten it so, so right in their theatrical sequel to Jane Austen's novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. In a sparkling new production at Jungle Theater, MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY is very reminiscent of Jane Austen, but also fresh and modern and new. It's a witty, smart, utterly charming new play that celebrates not just literal sisterhood, but women working together and supporting each other, both onstage and behind the scenes. I can think of nothing we need more at this moment in time.

BWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre's Production of the Broadway Hit THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME is Smaller in Scale but No Smaller in Impact
November 16, 2017

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME racked up awards in both London and NYC, including winning the Tony Award for best play in 2015. Just last year the Broadway tour stopped in Minneapolis, which I saw and was impressed by the clever and inventive storytelling. Now available for regional productions, Mixed Blood Theatre is bringing us their take on the play. The West End/Broadway production was very tech-heavy, and I was curious what this story with a smaller-scale production and in a smaller house would look like. It turns out I like it even better. The 15-person Broadway cast has been reduced to just 9, with very smart casting and direction. There are still some pretty impressive tech effects, but also some great low-tech effects that all serve this story of a 15-year-old boy with an unspecified autism-like condition who goes on an epic journey in search of the truth.

BWW Review: New #TCTheater Company SOS Theater Impresses with Funny and Poignant New Play ROLLER DERBY QUEEN
November 14, 2017

A new #TCTheater company is debuting a new play by a first time playwright in a new St. Paul theater space that just opened this summer. What's more exciting than that?! The good news is that ROLLER DERBY QUEEN is a great play - smart, funny, and well-written, with quirky but real characters played by a dreamy cast, clearly directed in this intimate space. I'm not entirely sure what SOS Theater is about yet, but based on the first offering of this 'new production company dedicated to producing evocative works that present fresh and entertaining perspectives of this ludicrous thing called life,' I'm intrigued, and hope to see more.

BWW Review: Twin Cities Theater Provides Many Great Options for the Halloween Season
October 27, 2017

Happy Halloween, my #TCTheater friends! If you're looking for a theatrical way to celebrate the spooky holiday, I have a few suggestions for you. All of the below have performances on this Halloweekend, and many on Halloween itself and even continuing into early November. Keep reading to find details, recommendations, and contact info, and then make plans to experience some wonderfully theatrical spooky stories.

BWW Review: Penumbra Theatre's WEDDING BAND is a Beautiful and Tragic Love Story that Speaks to Race, Racism, and Privilege
October 26, 2017

I love a good tragic love story, and it doesn't get much more tragic than an interracial couple in 1918 South Carolina. But Penumbra's gorgeous production of the 1966 play WEDDING BAND by Alice Childress (whose TROUBLE IN MIND was seen at the Guthrie last year) is not just a beautiful, complicated, and ultimately tragic love story. It's also (not unlike TROUBLE IN MIND) a still timely work that speaks to the issues of race, racism, and privilege in ways that feel entirely relevant. With a super talented cast directed by Penumbra's founder Lou Bellamy (who recently passed the Artistic Director baton to his daughter Sarah) and gorgeous design, WEDDING BAND is a show not to be missed, and my favorite of my five-show weekend.

BWW Review: Frank Theatre Makes a Powerful Statement in REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN.
October 10, 2017

Potatoes and bluebells and watermelon, oh my! Just before Frank Theatre's production of Alice Birch's new play REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN, I posted on Instagram: 'I'm not sure what I'm in for but I'm pretty sure it's gonna to be awesome. And 70 minutes no intermission.' I was right on all counts. I'm still not entirely sure what happened, but it definitely was awesome, and short. Short, intense, and powerful. A six-person cast, a half dozen or so scenes, and a descent into organized chaos. All around the concept of feminism, and deconstructing our assumptions and language around it. Brave and outrageous and impactful and yeah, pretty awesome.

BWW Review: Pillsbury House Theatre's Odd and Oddly Titled [ALMOST EQUAL TO] is a Uniquely Entertaining and Starkly Relevant Look at Capitalism
September 27, 2017

Swedish playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri's* work makes its area debut with Pillsbury House Theatre's excellent production of the odd and oddly titled ALMOST EQUAL TO . But odd in a good way, odd in that it's uniquely structured and covers many topics and doesn't always entirely make sense. In fact pre- and mid-show announcements break the fourth wall a bit and tell us what to expect (or not). According to the program, the play 'is a commentary on the constraints and effects of living within a capitalist economic system.' A mix of economics, sociology, and family drama, ALMOST EQUAL TO will leave you questioning the very meaning of money. In a world with vast inequalities of wealth, that's a worthy thing to think about in a play that's also engaging and entertaining.

BWW Review: Yellow Tree Theatre Opens 10th Season with Remount of the Original Play that Started it All - the Charming, Funny, and Quirky Rom-Com STRING
September 24, 2017

Seven years ago, just a few months after I started this #TCTheater blogging adventure I call Cherry and Spoon, a friend told me about this little theater in a strip mall in Osseo. Since at the time I worked just a few miles away, I organized a group of coworkers to go see a play after work one day. That play was STRING, and the theater was Yellow Tree Theatre. Now, to celebrate their 10th season, they're bringing back STRING, written by Yellow Tree co-founder Jessica Lind Peterson and co-starring her and her husband and co-founder Jason Peterson, their first time on stage together in years. If you're a Yellow Tree fan, it's a wonderful opportunity to celebrate this full circle moment with them, and if you've never been to Yellow Tree, it's time to make the (not that long) drive to the Northwest suburbs to see this charming, funny, quirky, sweet little play that started it all, a play that is 'as Yellow Tree as plays get.'

BWW Review: A New Original Musical about Hockey THE ABOMINABLES Debuts at Children's Theatre Company with Plenty of Minnesota Charm
September 20, 2017

A musical about youth hockey with an abominable snowman, er... yeti? It's gotta be Minnesota, and it's gotta be the Children's Theatre Company. It's no surprise that this new original musical is a surefire hit, the only surprise is that it took them so long to come up with the idea. THE ABOMINABLES was developed by The Civilians, a NYC-based theater company, and researched and workshopped right here in Minnesota. This feels like authentic portrayal, if a bit extreme and fantastical. I attended a backstage tour at the Children's Theatre a few weeks ago, which was hugely exciting as things were starting to come together. It's such a thrill to see the final product this opening weekend and to report to you that this is not only a super fun and entertaining new original musical for kids and adults alike, but also one that celebrates the good (and gently mocks the less than good) of our beloved state of Minnesota while telling a heart-warming story about teamwork, friendship, community, and family that, yes, brought tears to my eyes.

BWW Review: Theatre Unbound Presents a Timely Piece on Immigration in the Dark Yet Charming ALIENS WITH EXTRAORDINARY SKILLS
September 14, 2017

Immigration has been a hot topic in the news for many months now, most recently with the current administration's announcement to end DACA. Unfortunate for the people adversely affected by the decision, but perfect timing for Theatre Unbound to open their 18th season of presenting the work of women artists and telling women's stories with ALIENS WITH EXTRAORDINARY SKILLS. Staviana Stanescu, herself an immigrant from Romania, has written a sweet story about undocumented immigrant clowns who just want to do their work, make a living, and make people laugh. The winning cast brings the dark but charming story to life, showing just how difficult immigrant life is, even for clowns.

BWW Review: Don't miss the MINNESOTA FRINGE FESTIVAL, Continuing through This Weekend!
August 9, 2017

We're halfway through the 11-day, 15-venue, 167-show Minnesota Fringe Festival. I've seen 25 shows, with another 20-some on the schedule for the next five days. Here are a few of my favorites so far. I haven't seen everything on my must-see list yet, so be sure to check that out for more recommendations and tips for Fringe newbies. And you can read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here. There are five days left of Fringe - so get out there and see some shows! Full schedule, venue, and ticketing information can be found on the Fringe's handy dandy website.

BWW Review: The New Play NATIVE GARDENS is a Comedy with a Conscience - Funny and Topical
July 31, 2017

'I think comedy is disarming. I mean literally. You let down your armor so you can laugh. And if you laugh, you're taking things in. I want people who disagree to watch this play and be able to laugh at themselves.' Mission accomplished. The new play NATIVE GARDENS by Karen Zacarias (from whom this quote comes), now playing on the Guthrie proscenium stage, accomplishes this and more. Through the lens of neighbors disagreeing about a fence, she exposes our many prejudices, fears, and defenses. Everyone in the audience can recognize themselves and the prejudices they harbor, or the ones they've faced, and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. The two couples in the play are on opposite sides of many issues, but through this dispute they eventually come to realize that despite their differences they both want the same thing - a nice yard to live in and friendly neighbors.

BWW Review: The Ordway's Fan-Freakin-Tastic JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Closes this Weekend - Don't Miss It!
July 28, 2017

The Ordway's recent string of excellent locally produced Broadway sized musicals continues with the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and it's fan-freakin-tastic. Unlike the Ordway's last original, WEST SIDE STORY, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is not one of my favorites; I've only seen it once before and never really listened to it. So I went into the show with mostly fresh eyes. I still think the piece is a bit weird, but there's something kinda fabulous about it. And the number one reason to see the show at the Ordway is this mostly local cast that is absolutely spectacular. The show is completely sung through, most of it at full volume, and everyone in the lead and featured roles just knocks it out of the park. And every member of the 30+ person ensemble (including several sweet-singing children) completely gives it their all. Notably, this cast is racially diverse (including an African American Jesus), a beautiful example of color-conscious casting by the Ordway.

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