This show runs approximately 100 minutes with no intermission.
The Vikings play at home on October 3 and October 10, so you may need extra time to find parking.
Opening Night Reception: There will not be a reception following opening night due to ongoing health concerns.
The House will open 30 minutes Before curtain for seating. Seating for this show is general admission. The back lobby will open 45 minutes before curtain. There will be no concessions or alcohol sales for this show. The box office and front lobby will be open 90 minutes before curtain.
Post Show Discussion: We will not be having a post-show discussion for this show.
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About the Show
(company members are listed at the bottom, following the interview with the director)
Interview with the Director
JENNIE WARD is new to directing at Theatre in the Round, but is a seasoned director in the Twin Cities Theatre Community. In this interview she shares her thoughts on the play and gives us some insight into the characters and maybe ourselves…
Q: How have you been spending your long quarantine from the stage? What have been your creative/theatrical outlets during this dark time?
A: I was actually lucky enough to work continually over the last 18 months. I directed the first outdoor professional theater in the area after the initial shutdown (July 2020): “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother” with Six Points Theater (formerly Minnesota Jewish Theater Company.) I directed (online) a new play workshop for Playwrights Center. As a member of the Performance Collective, I revived a COVID-stalled arts residency, and ultimately produced a small, safe, in-person presentation of works in process from two solo performing artists. I also joined in on many of the (local and national) performing arts community conversations that are ongoing, working to untangle the knots of equity, inclusion, and sustainability for artists. And was able to enjoy a huge range of online offerings as an audience member: recorded performances, live-streamed productions, and play development readings.
Q: How does it feel to be back directing a live, in-person performance?
A: While I never really stopped working, being able to work in-person again (safely) is . . . . there are no words for the beauty of it. Live performance is not its full self unless it’s in person – it’s pretty much the whole point of it, as far as I’m concerned: sharing space and air while we share stories. Not to say that the online offerings I was able to see this past year didn’t have value – but I suspect (with the glaring exception of new play development, which I think will benefit greatly from online rehearsals and readings) that most folks – audience and artists and staff – found that live performance (music, dance, theater, whatever) fills a very specific need, and that anything online/streamed/recorded just . . . fills different needs.
Q: What’s your history (if any) with this play? What attracts you to this material?
A: I read this play, probably 10 years ago. Soon after it was produced at Playwrights Horizons. Annie Baker had a big couple of years, when she was cranking out this series of plays that take place around her invented town of Shirley, VT. In all of them, I think she’s trying to excavate a northern, semi-rural culture of chronic inaction. All of her characters are wrestling with exquisitely human dissatisfactions and stuck-nesses, and whether it be from fear, or lack of knowledge/information/tools, or culturally-reinforced deference, or culturally-squashed imaginations: no one is initially capable of or interested in taking any action. “I don’t want to put you out.” “I don’t want to draw attention to myself.” “It’s fine, I can deal with it.” “I don’t know what else I would do.” “What else could there even possibly be?” Everyone is just . . . waiting. For someone else to make a move, for the situation to magically change, for time to pass . . . . these folks are pretty great at re-acting. But making choices and taking risks? Not so much. I have great compassion for their fear of even imagining a different future – taking steps to make change is a skill, and many of us are not taught those skills, and earn them through hard lessons.
Q: The title refers to the name of an acting exercise, one of several audiences will witness as most of the action takes place during an amateur acting class meeting at a community center. How has Baker made this story accessible to audience members who are unfamiliar with how (at least some) actors prepare?
A: I actually think enough “acting games” have permeated our larger culture that anyone who has gone on a corporate retreat, or attended a group training, or done any kind of team-building will recognize some of these exercises – or at least the spirit of them. The character of Lauren, who had very specific expectations of what this class would be like, can also serve as a mirror of our own experience: “When are we going to do some real acting?”
Q: The playwright was very intentional about creating her characters as pretty ordinary people as opposed to “glamorous” actors or larger-than life characters. And the script indicates that the set is a mirror-lined dance studio, further suggesting the introspective nature of the show. Care to comment on this approach?
A: Yes, Baker is dedicated to excavating the extraordinary within ordinary lives. It is a pretty classic set-up: strangers thrown together in a new group situation, as they figure out how to navigate something unknown, and everyone is changed. This play is actually a remarkably clean, clear realization of this classic set-up: when you let go of the need for crazy or surprising plot twists, the beauty and sadness and fear and love that define our daily lives all come shining through.
Q: In the course of the 100 minutes we learn quite a bit about each of the characters, who range in age from youth to full-blown middle age, all with layers and hidden selves that Baker coaxes out with sensitivity and compassion. Yet there’s plenty of mystery, that remains, too. What’s a question you have right now about one of these characters? How will you and your cast approach answers to these questions during the rehearsal process?
A: We’re digging deeply into a lot of these questions right now! Most of what is not explicitly answered in the text actually doesn’t much matter for the audience. Sometimes we make specific decisions about this kind of question, so that two characters can be working with the same understanding of an offstage or historical event – but it almost never matters if the audience comes away with a play-by-play understanding of it. There are several moments already where we have said, “I wish I were a fly on the wall of the post-show bar conversations where audience members argue about what just happened!” It’s not a “gotcha!”, there are no objective answers – it’s actually one of the most marvelous things about engaging in story together. We all bring our own lenses and experiences to any story, and our lenses and experiences change the story for us. No one is wrong! So when you plunge into a discussion of nuance and gray area with your friends and family – that’s the good stuff!
Q: The playwright instructs companies to embrace the awkward silences built into the story; which is easier said than done as actors tend to fret about pacing. How are you approaching this challenge to staging?
A: We’re working really specifically on that sense of “waiting for something to happen.” It’s not inactive time. But it’s not a more conventional “figuring out what to do next” time, nor is it “sitting on impulses” time. It’s about noticing what triggers (finally!) action. Also note: in order for these sharply carved silences to have impact, you have to really MOVE everything else. So when it all comes out in the wash, I suspect no one will particularly walk out thinking “this is a play about awkward silence.”
Q: What challenges does our arena space give you in staging this production? (for example, mirrors?) How does our arena serve this show well?
A: Well, for a story about self-reflection, self-awareness, and blindnesses (in how we see other people as well as how we see ourselves) – the arena definitely throws an extra magnifying glass on the thing. There is nowhere for anyone to hide. But it’s also not Sartre’s “No Exit” – no one is trapped, they all chose to be here, and it’s NOT a cruel arena of judgement, or a cold void of examination. So the arena gives us an opportunity to extend the sense of “shared space” from the stage “classroom” into the audience: we are all participating in this story, we are all vulnerable to it and challenged by it. There will be no actual mirrors – the lighting designer would kill us, and without walls it would create a very cold and very hard environment. I’m excited about the clever solution we’ve found – folks will have to wait and see.
Q: Anything you’d like to say about the design elements?
A: I’m excited to watch it all come together, as we build a space that is simultaneously exposed and, in some ways, softened. I know “what will they do about doors” is a perennial question whenever working in (or seeing a play in) an arena. We’re experimenting with various degrees of imaginary door, built of sound and light and actors . . . we’ll see where we end up.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
A: Welcome back, audiences! We’re excited to share stories and (masked/vaccinated) air and space with you!
Schultz: Thomas Buan
Theresa: Marci Lucht
Marty: Julie Phillips
Lauren: Talia Wendlandt
James: Doc Woods
ARTISTIC & PRODUCTION STAFF
Director: Jennie Ward
Set Designer: Dietrich Poppen
Costume Designer: Deb Murphy
Lighting Designer: Mark Kieffer\
Sound Designer: Jennie Ward
Stage Manager: Scott Gilbert