Theatre in the Round

play in bright rhythm (Dann Peterson) Theatre in the Round is a true community theater, in the sense that it is volunteer. We have 2-1/2 paid staff, and the director of each production is paid, other than that, it is made up of people who love theater, who love performing, who love producing, who love being backstage. It’s also people who appreciate going to the theater and seeing good theater, and the fact that Theatre in the Round has been around for 60 years speaks to the fact that there are a lot of people in this community who love this theater, support this theater, and rank this theater as one of the topnotch theaters in Minneapolis-St. Paul. If it were a person, the term grande dame comes to mind. It has been here, it has sort of sat in this theater community, which is huge and all-inclusive, and it has lasted longer than any of them. And so it kind of looks with pleasure and joy at all of the theater, all of the arts that go on here, and smiles and said, Yes, we’ve done that for 60 years; we love it! (Dann Peterson) The history of Theatre in the Round, started with directors and actors, friends with each other. The first production was done at the YWCA in downtown Minneapolis, and then they moved to an arena stage on Stevens Avenue, where The Convention Center now is, and then when Bimbo’s Pizza Parlor burned down, this property became available, so through a lot of hard work and commitment on the part of people who love doing theater, came in, gutted the place, and with the help of design contributions, were able to build our current building. The people that helped establish this theater, established it out of love, and I think that love still comes forth and as new people come in, and as old people are lost and go around, there still is that real sense of family here. Theatre in the Round is an arena theater. By that, it means that the audience is on all sides of the action. The theater seats about 247 people, and no seat is farther than 25 feet from the center of the stage. It’s how you breathe the same air and how you are constantly engaged with the audience, no matter where you look, no matter where you turn, no matter what you have to say, there’s always somebody right there looking at you, listening to you. A lot of times when you’re up on a proscenium, you’re kind of, the stage lights kind of flood everyone out and you can’t really see anybody. And here, you can see almost the entire audience. Everything you do is under extreme scrutiny, and it really, I feel, it hones your skills as an actor. Every time I direct a murder here, I’m just like, how am I going to kill the guy and make it look real? Because it’s not like you can cheat it. You can’t– no cheating room. (Dann Peterson) One of the things about arena staging is that there are entrances, or we call them vomitorium, or voms for short, that actually come through the audience. (Wendy Resch Novak) You have all these great entrances and exits, but on the same side, there’s constraints within that. This is the only staircase we can use, ups on F. We can only block one of the voms, and that’s tunnel. (Dann Peterson) One of the advantages of being in the round is that it saves money because you have less scenery. (Wendy Resch Novak) It’s always about the floor; it’s about the furniture. (Dann Peterson) On the reverse side of that is that you really have to pay attention to detail, because your audience is so close and on all sides of you. (Wendy Resch Novak) Everything has to be realistic, so like The London Times actually has to be The London Times. (Charles Numrich) Working in the round has some challenges to it. One is that when an actor is onstage in the round, obviously, their back is to some portion of the audience at all times. So that reactions of the actor have to be more than just facial reactions. They have to be something which I always call bacting. It’s pretty easy to make your face say what it is exactly that you want to say. However, the people behind you cannot see your face, so it becomes your shoulders, your hands, your arms, your legs, your torso, everything about you has to say exactly the same thing that your face is saying, because otherwise, 3/4 of the house doesn’t know what your intention is. It’s okay to see the back of somebody’s body, but it’s not okay for that person to block another person onstage. And once you’ve done it a few times it’s easier to do because when you’re upstairs and you’re directing, you just know that it’s a safe spot or they need to come in more, they need to go out more. From a directing standpoint, I would much prefer to direct in the round. You’re so much more intimate with the audience, and the movement overall tends to be, to me, it feels more natural. You don’t have to cheat out one way or the other, you can just let them move. Performing in the round is really representational rather than presentational, because you aren’t just facing one direction, you are really living, like you’re living in a room, or living in a space where you would normally not just face a certain direction just to direct ideas to an audience, you are relating to the other characters, you’re relating to the scenery piece as much as you would if you were existing in a room. And hopefully you can pull the audience, since they are all around you, into that. piano plays in bright rhythm (Charles Numrich) There is something very open and engaging and accepting about this place, and if you’ve just moved to town, you’ve just graduated from college, and you want someplace where you can walk in the door, audition, show your chops and get accepted, this is one of the places that will do it most easily. If you’ve been here 15 times, you can walk in the door and see all kinds of faces that you know and be brought right back into the community. I keep returning to Theatre in the Round, because I have a real fondness for it, and to say that there’s one thing about it that I like, I guess it would be the people, the sense of community that this theater puts forth. I love how the quality is high here, the standards are high. It’s such a wonderful place to be, and they do such great work, and they draw so many amazing directors and designers and actors back to the space, because it’s really unique in Twin Cities theater. And so many people have worked here so many times, that anytime you come back, it just kind of feels like coming home. When you take everything away, it’s still, at its bare bones, it’s a community theater. I mean, 60 years ago, people came together to build this, and to have all these people come together to do something that they love, just for that purpose. And I think to keep the caliber and the quality and the standards as high as they do at Theatre in the Round is really kind of magical, just on its own. establishing a rock beat

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