Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Dorothy Coming to Bigfork

 “The Wiz” is a new, more soulful musical visit to the timeless classic in which the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion help Dorothy return home.  It is all at the Edge Center in Bigfork in July. “The Wiz” will be turning the Edge stage into a magical musical land when the Hopkins-based Stages Theatre Company and their young performers bring its lively 1970s music north. Come and see if Dorothy safely returns home in this new sound and modern look at her adventures.  “The Wiz” will be on stage Friday through Sunday July 18 through 20. Performances are on Friday and Saturday 7PM and Sunday 2PM. Prices $10 for adults and $5 for children.

“The Wiz” is based on the original Tony award-winning Broadway musical of the same name.  It is the familiar story of Dorothy's tornado-driven adventure in Oz and the wonderful characters who befriend and protect her. This is a Theatre for Young Audiences Version of the 7 Tony award-winning Broadway musical. The Tonys include Best Musical, and include the songs “Ease on Down the Road,” and “Everybody Rejoice.” If you would like to get a “behind the scenes” look at the show in rehearsals check out this clip:

Sandy Boren-Barrett (above), the Artistic Director for Stages Theatre Company, explained the production by saying, “One of the things I love most about ‘The Wiz’ is the fact that it carries with it, some of the storytelling MAGIC of the Wizard of Oz, but deviates just enough to make it more relevant in some ways for young audiences.  The show follows the adventures of Dorothy as she travels through a more modern time and space to seek an audience with the mysterious Wiz…sounds familiar right?  But The Wiz tells this through an urbanized musical version of the L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of OZ.”

The magical slippers are still in the story, but they are silver as they are in Baum’s book. In fact, “The Wiz” is a closer adaptation to the book than is the movie. The red slippers were an addition to help the impact in the movie version to take full advantage of the new color sensation in movies back then. And, the tornado is still how Dorothy gets to Oz.  Sandy adds “The messages are pretty much the same …Value your connection to TRUTH. Trust what you know. Be brave. Having brains is no more or less important than have HEART and home is a really important part of who we are, and who we become.” Bigfork audiences can have its own “adventure” comparing the two approaches of the movie and this musical. Then maybe people can read Baum’s book to see for themselves how they BOTH compare to it.

The Bigfork Stage will turn into this new “Oz”.  The Stages Company is bringing a BIG truck full of Oz magic for the show.  To set the magic, it will a full day to unload and set up the show. This will take from 8AM to after dark. I wonder what they are bringing?

There are 17 youth performers, all are teens, and 2 adult actors. Several of the cast were in last year’s “Aladdin.”  The Genie from “Aladdin” is the Scarecrow. The actor that played Aladdin last summer is playing the Cowardly Lion. The Stages Company will perform “The Wiz” 42 times including the Bigfork performances. They will also do excerpts from the show at The Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Mall of America.

Why do they like coming to Bigfork?  Sandy says, “Every year the actors ask ‘Is the summer show going to Bigfork?’  It is a chance for them to experience performing in a different venue, and have a fun, rural experience as a community of actors. They grow as actors, as people, and as an ensemble.  Much is learned from it, and a lot of fun is had by all. I am so proud of THIS theatre company, and this cast, crew, and design team. They have been brave and innovative and smart and full of heart…and more. Thank you for trusting us to make this story come to life for you and your young people.  It is a great way to end our 30th Anniversary Season. And thank you Greater Bigfork for having us, and for all the volunteer hours that go into such a project.”

Artistic Director, Sandy Boren-Barrett, has been with Stages Theatre Company (STC) since 1990, allowing her to pursue a dual passion for theatre production and arts education. For 15 years, she led a team of artists and educators in an award-winning education and outreach department at STC. She has directed more than 30 productions at (STC).  She has served on an advisory panel with the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Design Team for the Minneapolis Public Schools initiative Arts for Academic Achievement. She is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA).

Stages Theatre Company (STC) was founded in 1984 and since then has grown to become one of the largest professional theatres for young audiences in the country. STC engages young artists with themes relevant to their lives and involves them in creating magical works featuring young people in meaningful roles. It annually serves more than 130,000 young people and their families.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation and an appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage fund.

So what are you doing that weekend?  Maybe you can make “The Wiz” part of your fun.  The whole family is sure to enjoy it. Come to Bigfork and enjoy the show.  “The Wiz” will be on stage Friday through Sunday July 18 through 20. Performances are on Friday and Saturday 7PM and Sunday 2PM. Prices $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Another High Energy Visit by “The Divas” to the Edge in Bigfork

If you made it to “The Divas” concert last year, calling it high energy is a good description. Their signature is Close Harmony with Lots of Fun. "The Divas" will do it again this month with a “Summer Fun” show. New songs, lots of laughs and fun will be included. The Divas’ music is sung in close harmony by three talented women using an amazing array of instruments that will make audiences appreciate every song and the talent needed to play them. By mixing the sounds of several decades, their shows keep audiences appreciating and amazed at what is happening on stage. The instruments are varied, but the fun is constant.  “Fun” is the key to this show brings. The Edge Center in Bigfork, Wednesday June 25th at 7PM.  Price $10 adults. Children $5.

The instruments at a Divias concert could include keyboard, ukulele, guitar, and lots of rhythm instruments including congas, “rain stick,” “egg,” tambourine, and Cabasa (made from and African gourd).  You will be surprised what they play and the music that comes from center stage.

“The Divas” are made up of Rosie Gams, Sharon Rowbottom and Shannon Lee Gunderson. Rosie and Sharon are from Minnesota, and Shannon Lee is from Wyoming. They bring a versatile assortment musical tastes, particularly enjoy playing "their” arrangements.

“The spectrum” of music played by the Virginia, MN based Divas, comes from 15 years of experience playing together.  Their specialty is the close harmonies from past music.  This nostalgic style has been adapted to the large variety of music in their program. This show will have a summer theme designed to fit the fun and relaxed mood of the season, “The Divas” laughter and high energy will be a special experience. Their venues are mostly in Northern Minnesota and neighboring states.  Summer finds them on the beautiful lakes in Northern Minnesota, nightspots on the Iron Range, and now on stage at the Edge Center in Bigfork.

After a quiet winter, to which the weather certainly contributed, things are getting busy again. They have been asked back for a repeat performance for the SAMBOREE-Sam's Good Will Organization, and will be traveling to Hastings Nebraska in early June. Shannon Lee, the pianist will be traveling to Estes Park, Colorado the 2nd weekend of June, as a guest soloist at an outdoor jazz festival. Percussionist and guitarist; Sharon plays every Tuesday up on Lake Vermilion, for a very popular jam session.  The Divas also perform at Olcott Park in Virginia, Minnesota for the Land of the Loon, which is the 37th year for this arts and crafts ethnic festival.  Other venues include Fortune Bay Casino, on Lake Vermilion, The Voyagaire on Crane Lake, and, of course, Bigfork this month.

With the years of singing together, “The Divas” blend popular, country, western, pop, folk, blues and jazz, which pretty much covered the bases in familiar music. About the Bigfork “Summer Fun” show, Shannon Gunderson says, “A lot of our music will be totally different from our last show. We LOVE our audiences to enjoy the warmth of our close knit harmonies, and to see how music can bring so many people together.  We love to laugh, enjoy what we are doing and SHARE it with our awesome audiences! Besides our vocal work, and musicality...we like to include some great old fashioned humor!  We know our audiences will love what we are bringing!”.

Shannon Lee Gunderson, above, was born and raised in Rawlins, Wyoming.  She began piano lessons at age four, and was performing in talent shows and other venues throughout grade school.  Musical theatre was a great love, and she was active all through high school and college.  She received a scholarship and attended Hastings College, in Nebraska.  As well as performing as a soloist and with other groups (WHATT, Seattle, Shannon and Friends), Shannon played with a show band, The Bijou Revue, from Lincoln, Nebraska, for over 8 years.  That group toured all over the United States and on a USO tour in the Mediterranean. She has lived in Virginia for almost 32 years.

Rosie Gams, above, is originally from Embarrass, Minnesota where she began singing in grade school and entertaining at local PTA meetings.  In high school, she was active in the local musicals. In 1975, she started singing with Nostalgia, a 50's and 60's rock and roll band and later with Rendezvous, Cornerstone, and currently with The Divas.Rosie sings lead in the group, plays ukulele, and rhythm instruments, among the more unusual ones are the "rain stick", the "egg”, and the cabasa (made from an African gourd). She is always keeping the sound interesting and alive!

Sharon Rowbottom, above, is a native of Virginia, Minnesota. As the youngest of four children, her three teenage siblings exposed her at an early age to different musical styles, among which were the Beatles and Latin dance music.  She sang from age 10 in various choirs and received a vocal scholarship to attend Mesabi Community College in Virginia.  A trio, LIVE BAIT, formed through friendships there still performs.   Some of her bands include: The Schwartz Brothers Band, Slim Pickens, The Electric Loons, and The Dog Soldiers. Along with The Divas she performs as a duo with her husband, Dan. Sharon sings lead vocal and harmony.  She plays the congas, guitar, and ukulele.

Make sure to put "The Divas" on your calendar for a mix of several decades of lively music dedicated to the nice weather this time of year. Come and hear "The Divas" perform their "Summer Fun" show. It is tailored to lift your spirits and make the Edge Center full of wild and beautiful sounds. It is going to be great to have them back, and find our what new material they bring with them. The Edge Center in Bigfork, Wednesday June 25th at 7PM.  Price $10 adults. Children $5.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

“Love Letters” Provide a Unique Love Story in Bigfork

The play “Love Letters”, on stage at the Edge Center in Bigfork, June 11th and 12th is “surprisingly different” for both actors and audiences.  First of all, it is done in an epistolary, or written letters, form.  It has two actors reading the letters, mostly at the characters’ desks.  No other settings required. “Love Letters” has been around since 1989, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1990. Being very successful, it has been performed by some of the most notable actors in the industry. And finally, it is a love story that really works in this setting. Written by A. R. Gurney, “Love Letters” may make you laugh, chuckle, make you feel sad or even cry, but it will leave a lasting impression. Wednesday and Thursday June 11th and 12th at 7PM. Price $12 adults. Children $5.

“A unique and imaginative theatre piece which, in the words of the author, ‘needs no theatre, no lengthy rehearsal, no special set, no memorization of lines, and no commitment from its two actors beyond the night of performance.’ The piece is comprised of letters exchanged over a lifetime between two people who grew up together, went their separate ways, but continued to share confidences. As the actors read the letters aloud, what is created is an evocative, touching, frequently funny but always telling pair of character studies in which what is implied is as revealing and meaningful as what is actually written down.” From

The two actors playing the parts in Bigfork are long-time EdgeWild players, Jeremy Cable and Patricia Feld. Patricia says, “Audiences are surprised by this play because of its form, and theatre companies and actors find it appealing because of its ease of production. It has attracted the talents of many famous performers and a multitude of community theatres have produced it.  It’s funny and it’s touching. I’m impressed how the two personalities of the characters really come through in the letters. And what a good evening of theatre it is! Come and see Jeremy and me try our hands at making you smile, laugh, and get involved in these two lives.”

“Love Letters” opened in 1989 as an off-Broadway production, and later that same year, moved to Broadway. The list of famous performers who have played these roles is amazing.  Melissa has been played by notables including Elizabeth Taylor, Carol Burnett, Sissy Spacek, Jill Saint-John.  Andrew has been played by Mel Gibson, Brian Dennehy, James Earl Jones, and Larry Hagman, to name just a few.

Photo by Monica Simmons

American playwright and novelist, A. R. Gurney was born November 1, 1930. His works not only include plays but several novels and a musical.  A graduate of St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, he then attended the Yale School of Drama, and began teaching Humanities at MIT. One of his plays, “The Dining Room,” was a huge success and allowed him to write full-time. That play was produced in Bigfork in 2004.  Some Edge-goers may remember one of his comedies “Sylvia.” Jeremy Cable starred in that cast.  Gurney’s credits include “The Cocktail Hour,” “Scenes From American Life,” and, his newest, “The Grand Manner.” In 2006, he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Reference:

Here is a chance to see a wonderfully unusual play format. It is just the second time the Edge Center has presented such a format.  Come and see what is going on at the Edge.  And while you are there you can see the newest exhibit in the Edge Center Galley.  Native American artist Steven Premo has his first solo exhibit in the gallery now. Play times Wednesday and Thursday June 11th and 12th at 7PM. Price $12 adults. Children $5.