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BWW Interview: Sarah Rasmussen of RIDE THE CYCLONE at Jungle Theater

BWW Interview: Sarah Rasmussen of RIDE THE CYCLONE at Jungle TheaterA new and rarely performed work is available on Minneapolis' intimate Jungle Theater now through Oct. 20, 2019, that gives audiences a look at a small group of teenagers whose lives are cut tragically short on a theme park ride. Dark? Yes. But while RIDE THE CYCLONE is "part tragedy" it's also billed as part comedy and wholly unexpected. Coming from a Canadian Fringe show and tour originally, it's had a short life off-Broadway and in four other U.S. cities with Minneapolis being one of the first to experience it, thanks to director Sarah Rasmussen, artistic director of the Jungle Theater, and Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Kevin McCollum, who developed and produced the show in the U.S. (and was once the artistic director of the Ordway).

Rasmussen, who called this show her "teenage dream" on opening night, provides some insight into her work on this show in this 6 Questions & a Plug.

Where did you first encounter RIDE THE CYCLONE and how did you go about securing the rights to produce it at the Jungle?

I saw RIDE THE CYCLONE in New York, and thought it would be the perfect show for the Jungle. Since it's not yet published, the rights came through conversations with producer Kevin McCollum. We talked a lot about the show, what I loved about it and what I'd like to do with it as a director.

How did Kevin McCollum work with you in advising the show?

Kevin and I had some terrific conversations about the piece. What we both loved about it, and a few places where we both felt we could explore some directorial choices to pop the story more. He's a great dramaturg, and I valued having him as a sounding board.

What makes this your own original version of the musical -- is it different than the past productions? Were you free to make changes and how different is this version from the others?

When a new director takes on a project, the entire look and flow of it changes. I brought my own visual research to the table, which shapes the design. Jim Lichtscheidl's choreography is a very different style than the version I saw.

I love this show because so much of the storytelling comes through design - the lights, the sound, Trevor (Bowen)'s imaginative costumes. We really let our imaginations run wild, and I'm grateful I have collaborators that can technically pull off this kind of magic.

I am also drawn to the show for its spiritual aspects, what it is saying about trying to notice life while you are living it. I put a lot of thought and heart into how to land that part of the story.

In a nutshell, what would you say this show is about? And, who was Jane Doe? (For those who have not seen it, Jane is a character in the show.)

What is a life well lived? Life is a wild ride, how do we want to go on that ride? What happens when we stop trying to "win" and instead appreciate the ride, and the people around us.

This was a really, really demanding show for the Jungle. At some point one has to give up on total perfection. That can be hard for a director, but thanks to such an amazing team of collaborators there was always this net of support and problem solving. And we kept finding solutions to make magic work. Sometimes it felt like accidental magic. Sometimes that's the best kind of magic.

Jane Doe is a mystery. There are elements of this show that will mean different things to different people. For me? She's a lost soul who finds her way to a new life.

Your cast (seven actors) really brought a lot of talent and heart to this show -- several are in their Jungle debuts. Can you talk a little about what these actors brought to their roles?

These actors are a dream ensemble. Many of them are new to us, and some are early career. They are all super talented, energetic people. I'm also so grateful for veteran actor Jim Lichtshiedl. He's a master class in connecting with an audience, and finding the humanity in the humor and weirdness of this kind of style. Together this cast collectively has a sense of empathy and heart and dedication that you can't fake. Once this show starts, they are dancing and singing and acting their hearts out for 90 minutes without a break. They even pull off a tricky lighting trick with flashlights. They inspire me.

I was really impressed with the technical aspects of this production and what you were able to accomplish in a small, intimate theatre. Can you describe any of the visual "tricks" and how you pulled those off? Also the video was done well - did you have to film all of it?

We did film all of it! Kathy Maxwell is our video designer. She is incredible. Fliming the video was a feat - it has to time out perfectly with the music. Jim Lichtshiedl was really instrumental in that. Becca Hart did some of the visuals (Ricky's cat song.) The Jane Doe video is made up of footage of Becca Hart (who also plays Jane Doe), her mom and grandma. The character pictures are the actual actor's kid photos. We started very early on this one, conceptualizing how we could take on all the film and photo work, and how to get that many screens and monitors into the small Jungle space.

I'd rather not talk about the "tricks" - I want people to be surprised when they seem them! Let's just say Becca Hart is a warrior of a perfomer. And there is a whole team of people behind those curtains quietly and safely making magic.

Fair enough! I would love to see how it was done!

This show marks the start of your fifth season at the Jungle (congrats!) -- are you directing all of the shows this season, and what's in store for audiences?

I'm directing this and a terrific new play next Spring called Mary Jane that will feature Sally Wingert. We have an amazing season - new work that will surprise you, make you laugh and make you think. Next up is our holiday classic Miss Bennett, CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY - it's the perfect comedy for the holiday season, filled with beautiful Jane Austen characters and music.

More Information: Tickets and details at http://www.jungletheater.org. Watch a video. Read Karen Bovard's review: /minneapolis/article/BWW-Review-RIDE-THE-CYCLONE-at-Jungle-20190915.

Photo: Sarah Rasmussen, by William Clark


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From This Author Kristen Hirsch Montag