On a cold first day of school after the holiday break, a bunch of teens huddle at the entrance to the Red Eye Theater in downtown Minneapolis. Their teacher for the next two weeks is Jon Ferguson, and their school is this theater. The immersive theater experience starts when the five hundred plus students from the Saint Paul Conservatory of Performing Artists fan out to local arts venues during J- Term. Organized by the school with professional artists around the city, J-Term is, according to the school, designed to replicate “the professional experience and engages the students in the artistic energy of a rehearsal/performance process.”
They require the successful completion of J-Term as part of graduation. Students had to audition for a spot in one of the 15 – later one was added, so 16 shows. (Actually there are 25 pieces altogether counting the nine individual pieces in the two dance shows). Students can choose from three musicals – either as a singer/actor/ dancer or in the orchestra (The Boys From Syracuse, Fiddler on the Roof and Hairspray), two reworked classical pieces (Antigone by Jean Anouilh and Dido and Aeneas chamber opera by Purcell), Shakespeare two ways (Twelfth Night – all female cast and the 2004 Peter Mills musical Illyria), an American classic (The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder), A New Music Stew with Zeitgeist Music Ensemble, Vocal Jazz with Eric Hagemann, a Madrigal Dinner (What a Tangled Web by Lee G. Barrow), two contemporary pieces (Hot Comb by Kimberly Morgan and Good N’ Plenty by Jeffrey Hatcher) and two evenings of dance which include the styles Flamenco, Contemporary Ballet, Modern, West African, post-modern and hip hop, and of course Jazz and Classical Ballet…and finally 30 plays in 60 Minutes written by the students.
What more could you want? It is a scheduling nightmare for some, but an exhilarating chance to see the Twin City’s blossoming talent. If you want tickets, the easiest way to sort out and organize a schedule is go to the brown paper tickets website and search “spcpa”. Good luck and enjoy!
Check out my blog for more information about some of the individual productions. In particular, the process of creating a devised work of theater in the bouffon clown tradition using Les Miserables as the piece to deconstruct and destroy.