In The News


2009/10/15 - Comunity theater potluck builds friendships in St. Paula>
2009/06/05 - Lavender Arts & Entertainment
2009/06/03 - Lex-Ham revives death camp drama from '43
2008/06/18 - Lex-Ham Theater reaches back to 1946 for election year morality tale
2007/Spring - Intermission: Hands On, Theater isn't just for the professionals
2004/11/25 - St. Paul Pioneer-Press: Metro People Heidi Medlicott
2004/11/19 - Workday Minnesota: Review: You'll enjoy 'Working' -- and then some
2004/11/11 - St. Paul Union Advocate: Working on "Working"
2004/07/28 - Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder: Black actresses challenged by mostly White plays
2003/04/08 - St. Paul Pioneer-Press: Community theater actors earn honors

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Last updated: 10/17/2009


2009/10/15 Comunity theater potluck builds friendships in St. Paul

By Jennifer Thomsen, TC Daily Planet, October 15, 2009

Urban Landreman, Mary and Dick Davis

The lights were warm, especially compared to the falling temperatures outside, and the only camera was mine, but there was plenty of action during the Friday night reading of "The Subject Was Roses." The Frank D. Gilroy play, winner of the 1965 Pulitzer Prize, was honored again, as the Lex-Ham Community Theater chose it for their prize winning reading series.

Actors and enthusiasts are welcomed once a month to the St. Paul home of coordinator Urban Landreman for a potluck dinner and night of theater. The reading events began seven years ago with the plays of William Shakespeare, which now alternate with Pulitzer prize-winning plays.

"This is a treasure," explained semi-retired optometrist Dick Davis, who regularly attends with his wife Mary. The reading nights provide an option for area residents to get engaged with the Lex-Ham Community Theater without the commitment of acting classes or full scale productions.

Next Shakespeare Event: November 13 - "Pericles"
Next Pulitzer Prize Event: December 4 - 2009 Winner "Ruined"

Teresa Anderson said she was a little concerned the first time she and husband Joel attended two years ago, fearing that everyone would be great or serious actors. They're Shakespeare fans and were hoping for something free, fun and social. What she found was people of all abilities. The Andersons knew some of the people from the Lex-Ham Community Band, but more often they met new people and got to know them over time.

No registration is needed to attend, though people are asked to bring a copy of the play and a dish to share for a 6:30 p.m. casual dinner. A half hour later, everyone takes a seat on Landreman's comfortable selection of chairs and couches for a quick discussion of the play's general topic. Friday night we talked about friends and family who have returned from military service.

Landreman assigns the roles that attendees will read, but pays no attention to whether they are male or female. The roles are re-assigned at the beginning of each new scene to give participants a chance to become a variety of characters, some major, some supporting.
"If your character sings, you have to sing," Landreman explained, "there are few hard and fast rules, but that's one."

The other, it turns out, was that if I didn't have lines in a particular scene I was welcome to refill my spiced cider from the stove or grab another slice of the lemon cake Mitzi Addis brought to share.

The evening was filled with welcoming people, laughter, and an award-winning story. However, I might wait until December to return because when it comes to Shakespeare, I agree with Dick Davis, "I can't understand half the words."

Copyright: ©2009 Jennifer Thomsen

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2009/06/05 Lavender Arts & Entertainment

An atypical view of the Holocaust emerges in the world premiere of The Last Cyclist, by Naomi Patz, based on the 1943 original by Karel Svenk. A play-within-a-play approach that spoofs the arbitrary scapegoating of cyclist heightens the savage irrationality in blaming innocent Jews for sundry socioeconomic ills.

Although Auschwitz looms as perhaps the most maniac of the death camps, the Terezin concentration camp near Prague was a ghetto for thousands of Jews, a prison stop before their departation to camps higher on the horror scale.

Patz shares, "The audience at Terezin that attended open rehearsal of The Last Cyclist, before the play was banned, laughed. And I hope that the audience for our performances here will laugh, too. But our laughter is uncomfortable laughter: first, because the situation in the play, despite its humor, is a protest against totalitarianism; and second, because we know the fate of the cast and its audience.

Director Adam Arnold sums it up well, in referring to Jews, gays, and the disabled targeted by Hitler, noting the peril when "other groups are deemed to be 'lesser than.' These groups were seen as inferior, and thus were stripped of many of their rights."

The Last Cyclist is a unique joint effort by Lex-Ham Community Arts, Czech and Slovak Cultural Center, St. Paul Jewish Community Center, Slovak Sokol Minnesota, and Blank Slate Theater.

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—John Townsend

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2009/06/03 Villager - Lex-Ham revives death camp drama from '43

Adam Dielschneider and Shira Levenson
Borivoj Abeles (Adam Dielschneider) shows the bike to Manicka (Shira Levenson)

Photo by Brad Stauffer

There was an old joke among the Jews living in Europe between the two world wars about a conversation among three men:

First man: The Jews and the cyclist are responsible for all of the problems of the world.
Second man: Why the cyclists?
Third man: Why the Jews?

Karel Svenk, a Czech Jew who was being held captive in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, expanded on that joke in 1943 when he wrote the play, The Last Cyclist. Theresienstadt's inmates rehearsed the satirical comedy under the direction of Svenk, but it never made it tot he stage in Theresienstadt. Because the play portrayed the Nazis as morons, the Council of Jewish Elders in Theresienstadt shut it down for fear of reprisals.

The play has since been resurrected from the memory of a Theresienstadt actress who worked on the project, and on June 5 it will open a three-weekend run in St. Paul.

"This will be the first time The Last Cyclist has been staged in America," said Urban Landreman, the play's producer and the director of the Lex-Ham Community Theatre. "It's funny and it makes you laugh, but then you realize, 'oh, that's right, these people are in a concentration camp.'"

The production is a collaboration among the Lex-Ham Theatre, the Blank Slate Theatre, the Jewish Community Center of Saint Paul, the Czech and Slovak Cultural Center of Saint Paul, and Good Samaritan United Methodist Church of Edina.

"This is a community-building effort, uniting groups who usually don't talk to each other," Landreman said. "We each come to the play from a slightly different angle. The Czech groups are intrigued by it because it's written by a Czech playwright. The Jewish community in interested because it involves their history. We picked it because it's a damn good play."

Scene from The Last Cyclist
Rat (Richard Daly) tries to calm Ma'am (Kristine Holmgren) down while Celery (Eli Newell) is aghast at what he hears.

Photo by Brad Stauffer

Theresienstadt, or Terizen as the Czechs call it, was an old walled city about 40 miles from Prague. During World War II, the Nazis forced the 6,000 local residents out and moved the Jews in. At one point, more than 60,000 Jews were living in the compound. Though they didn't know it, they were awaiting transfer to one of the Nazi death camps.

About 140,000 Jews in all passed through the Theresienstadt ghetto. Half of them were Czech, and many of them were painters, writers, musicians and other artists. Only 20,000 survived the war. Svenk was not among them; he died at Auschwitz.

The Last Cyclist tells of the inmates on an insane asylum who take over the world. Their dictatorial leader, Ma'am, one had a psychiatrist who stuck needles in her arms. This psychiatrist rode a bicycle, so the former inmates figure that if they can only get rid of all the cyclists in the world, their troubles will be over. The protagonist is a persecuted grocery store owner by the name of Borivoj Abeles, a Charlie Chaplin-like character who stumbles through situations that expose the absurdity of Nazi laws regarding race.

 

Lisa Peschel, a doctoral candidate in theater at the University of Minnesota and a Grand Avenue resident, brought The Last Cyclist to the attention of the Lex-Ham Theater. She discovered the play while researching her dissertation on the cultural life of Theresienstadt.

"The key to understanding this work is to realize that the actors at Theresienstadt were not trivializing their situation," Peschel said. "The inmates were in a dire situation that they could not control, and theater was a way to overcome their fear of not knowing what was going to happen to them from one day to the next. Though their comedy was ironic and allegorical in form, it allowed Svenk and his actors to feel, if only for a few hours, in control of their situation and to make the Nazis look ridiculous."

Shira Levenson, Sherry Allen, and Jerry Harrison
Mr. Opportunist (Jerry Harrison) gives a gift to Manicka (Shira Levenson), but her mother (Sherry Allen) disapproves.

Photo by Brad Stauffer

The Last Cyclist has only been performed for the public once before. It had a short run in Prague in 1961 as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Czech Communist Party. The play was rewritten from the memory of actress Jana Sedova, who at the time was the only surviving member of the original Theresienstadt cast.

New York playwright Naomi Patz adapted the script for the Lex-Ham Theater. The current version is a play within a play, according to Adam Arnold, who directs the 14-member cast.

The Last Cyclist will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 5 and 6, and at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, June 7, at the Czech and Slovak Cultural Center, 383 Michigan St.; at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 11, and 2:00 p.m. Sunday, June 14 at the Jewish Community Cneter, 1375 St. Paul Ave.; at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, June 12 and 13, at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, 5730 Grove St. in Edina; and at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20, at the Blank Salte Theatre, located in the basement of the First Baptist church at 499 Wacouta St.

 

Peschel and Patz will discuss "The Cultural Life of the Theresienstadt Ghetto" in a free program at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, June 4 at the St. Paul JCC.

Tickets for the play ar $18, $12 for students and seniors. Call 651-222-7333.

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—Bob Gilbert

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2008/06/18 Villager - Lex-Ham Theater reaches back to 1946 for election year morality tale

Stuart Alger, current chair of the St. Paul DFL Party, has been practicing to be a Republican. And, no, it has nothing to do with the GOP's upcoming national convention. Alger is starring in Lex-Ham Community Theater's production of State of the Union, which opens June 20 on the Wellstone Center stage. He plays Grant Matthews, an industrialist and political newcomer who is drafted by the Republicans to run for president following the death of Franklin Delano Roosevent, the Democratic president who defeated his Republican opponents in 1932, '36, '40, and '44.

State of the Union cast
Photo by Brad Stauffer

State of the Union won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946, but it is perhaps best known for Frank Capra's silver-screen adaptation of 1948 starring Spencer Tracy, Kathryn Hepburn and Angela Lansbury.

"There's a certain irony in the head of the St. Paul DFL playing a Republican," Alger said. "But I think my involvement in politics informs the character and gives me a perspective about what's boiling inside of Grant Matthews. The story is about a man with high ideals confronting the realities of running for office. It's a modern theme."

"The thing I like about this show is that though it's set in the 1940s, a lot of the issues are still relevant," said Urban Landreman, artistic director of the Lex-Ham Community Theater. Its themes of campaign financiing and the problem of how to engage in civic affairs without falling into pandering are as true now as they were then."

The comedy is also driven by a love triangle among Matthews, his wife Mary (played by Sasha Walloch) and Kay Thorndyke (played by Lynne Vannelli), an ambitious newspaper publisher who wants Matthews elected.

Mary and Grant Matthews
Photo by Brad Stauffer

To help his cast of 22 actors find their characters' voices, director John Townsend has asked them not to view the movie. Instead, he has been steeping them in the zeitgeist of the postwar era, when labor unrest was commonplace and the national unity that helped carry the U.S. through WW II was unraveling.

"In 2008 we're not as naive about political scandals and political corruption as people were in the 1940s." Townsend said. "While Watergate, Iran-Contra and the Monica Lewinsky scandals have hardened us as a nation, they've also made us more cognizant about how corrupt politics can be."

However, even in the 1940s, politicians on the national stage derided opponents for the special interests they harbored. One of the political surprises for Grant Matthews comes when his advisors encourage him to focus on wedge issues that will drive apart various constituencies and win him votes. "It's Karl Rove personified," Alger said, "and it's part of the struggle of the play. Matthews knows that if he goes that route he may win, but in the end he'll be governing a country that's even more divided and more angry and more split than it was when he started."

Alger, 45, who lives in the Lexington-Hamline neighborhood, was born in Fargo. He earned an undergraduate degree at Concordia College in Moorhead, a master's degree at Columbia University in New York and a law degree at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. In 2003 he ran for the St. Paul City Council as a DFLer from Ward 1, finishing fourth in a primary field of eight candidates. In 2005 he was elected chair of the St. Paul DFL and will be stepping down from that position at the end of June.

Alger gets his acting genes from his parents, who met as theater students at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. Married and the father of one, he works as a real estate litigator in the Minneapolis law firm of Leonard, Street & Deinard when he is not before the footlights.

Townsend and Alger have worked together before. Alger was a student in several acting classes that Townsend taught through the St. Paul Public Schools' Community Education program. Alger also starred as a traumatized soldier in Rise and Shine, a short play written by Landreman and directed by Townsend.

"Stuart is a wonderful actor," Townsend said. "He has a great presence, a great speaking voice and a lot of charisma. But he also knows how to relate on a very conversational level with other people...like all good politicians."

State of the Union will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, June 20-28, and at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at the Wellstone Center, 179 E. Robie St. It is being produced in collaboration with Sweet Charities Theatre Company, and proceeds will benefit the Minnesota Chapter of the National Organization for Women. Tickets are $17, $15 for students and seniors. For reservations, call 651-808-3600 or visit lexhamarts.org.

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—Bob Gilbert

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Spring 2007 Intermission - Hands On, Theater isn't just for the professionals

In my only stage role, I played the minstrel in a high school spoof production of The Princess and the Pea. For some inexplicable reason, the nostalgia of prancing around in tights with a lute compels me to ponder a return to the stage.
And I'll bet I'm not the only closet thespian considering a comeback. Or the only stitch-master yearning to sew elaborate costumes. Or the only one who wants to play with power tools and build stage sets. But what theater company would actually open its doors to inexperienced amateurs? Dust off your monologues, needles and thread, or trusty cordless drill, because there are many.
"There's plenty of work to go around for volunteers," says Julianna Skluzacek, president of the Minnesota Association of Community Theatres (MACT). "Techies, for example are in great demand. Theaters always need technical people to help."
So if you have a knack for set design or handling complicated electrical devices, it's likely that a production in your area needs you.
With the heavy concentration of community theaters in the Twin Cities, there's no shortage of options for those who aim to get involved. Finding out where to volunteer can be tricky; however, the MACT website (www.mact.net) can help. You can peruse their volunteer listings for volunteering options.
While MACT is a good place to start, the best way to get to know your local theater company is to drop by, Skluzacek explains.
"Sometimes just walking through the door and asking to volunteer is the best way to get involved," she says.
Some theaters may post open auditions and other opportunities on their buildings or in the Star Tribune as well. Even MACT itself needs volunteers to help in a variety of ways, including publicity, membership services, and funding.
The Lex-Ham Community Theater, located in the Lexington-Hamline neighborhood of St. Paul, regularly enlists the help of locals for its projects. They are constantly looking for a variety of volunteers including set builders, costume makers, makeup artists, prop people, light and sound enthusiasts, house managers, grant-writers and administrative helpers.
"Basically every position is voluntary, from board member to ticket-taker," says John Townsend, one of Lex-Ham's current board members. "It gets you involved with new people, and you can commit as much as you want."
With the exception of compensation for theater directors, most community theaters operate this way, he adds.
The Lex-Ham Community Theater, which started as a program of the Lexington-Hamline Community Council in 1995, has made community involvement its priority. Some of their productions have aimed to speak to those in the neighborhood of Irish and Czech descent. Labor unions and quilting—to coincide with a quilting convention that took place at the same time—are other topics they've tackled recently.
"For us, it's about building bonds with the community," Townsend says. "And we try to remember that people fall into many more niches than just gender or ethnicity."
Being a part of community arts doesn't have to be a major sacrifice, however. The flexibility of opportunities in community theaters allows volunteers to control their own commitments.
"It can be as involved as working on a show every night or as easy as just coming in to paint a set for a couple hours on the weekend," Skluzacek says.
Along with volunteering as MACT president, she runs a small advertising firm, is a freelance director, and is the artistic director of the Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota.
"Whatever your interests are, you can pretty much call all the shots," Townsend adds. "And we're happy to do it that way. We wouldn't exist without volunteers."
So whether you're willing to take the stage, or just want to be part of the backstage magic, scout out your neighborhood theater companies. Getting involved with the local arts community and joining the community dialogue about local performances are only a few of the benefits of volunteering. Townsend believes "there's a real need in people to express something creative or be part of a creative process," and volunteering in community theater is one of the best ways to fulfill that need. What better way to play a proud role in contributing to the thriving theater scene in the Twin Cities?

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—Brian Liesinger

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2004/11/25 - St. Paul Pioneer-Press: Metro People Heidi Medlicott

Heidi Medlicott is a 15-year-old sophomore at Park High School in Cottage Grove who splits her time as stage manager for the Lex-Ham community theater company's production of "Working," a musical based on the book of the same name by Studs Turkle.

What she does: As stage manager, Medlicott runs the lighting cues, handles props and manages sets for the musical production "Working," which runs the next two weekends in the Weyerhaeuser Auditorium at the Landmark Center.

What she wants to do: "I want to be an actress and I want to write screenplays," she said. Medlicott said she now is working on a few screenplays, but hasn't finished them and hasn't even thought about college.

Why she loves Tim Burton movies: "I always thought I was weird growing up," she said. "I started watching his movies, and it made me feel like I wasn't alone. The whole reason I got into this is because I look up to him so much."

Why she does community theater: "I don't want to partake in school (theater) stuff," she said. "(Student actors) are so full of themselves. They take the fun out of theater."

Play she likes: "Phantom of the Opera." "My parents had this tape of the songs off of it, and I fell in love with them. Then when I was 8, I went to see it and just loved it."

What she thinks of "Working": "For people my age, it shows that work is not going to be all happy joy. It's going to be hard work, and you can't slack off. And I think adults will identify with it."

What others say: Producer Urban Landreman said, "She really has so much energy and drive. That youthful energy has been a real plus," he said. "I hope she stays with (Lex-Ham)."

What she says: "Thanks to my family for their support and my best friend Emily (Knapp, 15) for always being there when I needed her."

Family: Mother Patty, father Jerry,brothers Paul, 22, and Adam 19.

"Working" runs for nine performances Nov. 12-27 at the Weyerhaeuser Auditorium in the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul.

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— Derek J. Olson

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2004/11/19 - WorkdayMinnesota: Review: You'll enjoy 'Working' -- and then some

by Michael Kuchta

ST. PAUL — Some do it because they have no choice. Others do it because it’s exactly what they want to do.

Those two extremes, and everything in between, is what "Working" is all about. The musical adaptation of Studs Terkel’s legendary book is surprisingly and subtlety effective in telling the stories of people telling, in their own words, what they do for a living and why they do it.

In theory, the Lex-Ham Community Theater’s staging of "Working"– running through Nov. 28 at the Landmark Center downtown – is an amateur production.

The seven actors all are volunteers, but you wouldn’t know it from the results.

Almost without exception, they display genuine respect for the real people they portray. It pays off in their performances, as they throw themselves into their characters both physically and emotionally.

"Working" is being performed at the Weyerhaeuser Auditorium, Landmark Center, 75 W. 5th St., Saint Paul, on Nov. 19, 20 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 21 and 27 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $11 for children, students and seniors age 65 or older; $14 for others. Group discounts are available. For information, call 651-644-3366.

The actors take on multiple roles with few glitches. Becky Lowe as "just a housewife" and Erin McCawley-Richeson as "just a waitress" are among highlights, but each cast member has at least one stellar performance – Brian Farrey as a firefighter, Ann Griffith as a teacher, Nathan Metcalf as a parking valet, Roseanne Tripi as a cleaning woman, Paul Whittemore as a tradesman who follows his father’s footsteps, but hopes his son doesn’t follow his.

The staging is simple and effective – a few multipurpose wooden crates and symbolic props. Plain navy slacks and blue mechanic shirts are essentially it for costumes (with the added touch of the actor’s name in an oval patch over the left pocket). Then there’s the clock – always there, surrounding everything.

Accents, choreography and choral singing are not always up to Guthrie standards, but the ensemble is consistently solid and entertaining.

Director Suzanna Winter seamlessly adds references to technological, workplace and political "developments" that couldn’t have existed in Terkel’s 30-year-old book – email, work cubicles, "paper or plastic" at the grocery store. But most of the stories are timeless, and it’s refreshing – in an era when the stock market is portrayed as our future and our salvation – that normal, everyday work is celebrated in this way.

The stage version of "Working" doesn’t offer the breadth of Terkel’s collection of oral histories (and, frankly, what could?). It also refuses to act as a grand working-class manifesto. But it does bring out at least a few of Terkel’s underlying themes, even if there is no plot to follow.

The lyricists, led by Broadway veteran Stephen Schwartz, are amazingly successful in transforming real stories into an evening of comedy, amusement and emotion. The characters and the songs capture the regrets, the joys, the compromises, the sacrifices, the monotony and the creativity that we all deal with one way or another on our jobs – to say nothing of the rules we break, the legacy we hope we leave, the dreams we never quite forget.

The musical shines a light on our basic yearning to be recognized and respected for the contributions we do make, no matter how small or monumental. It erases the gap between the artificial status accorded some jobs and the scorn saddled upon others. It demonstrates that any job well done can be an art in itself, even if the people doing it are essentially invisible, even when you come face to face with them.

The simple truths, the tiny secrets, the harsh realities – they all seep through in songs that will have you slightly nodding your head as you recognize, yeah, that’s the way it really is.

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2004/11/11 - St. Paul Union Advocate: "Working on Working"

by Michael Kuchta

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"Working," a musical adaptation of the ground-breaking book by Studs Terkel, will run Nov. 12-27 at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.

St. Paul's Lex-Ham Community Theater is staging the production, built around the powerful, sometimes funny buy always honest stories of workers telling, in their own words, what they do and how they feel about doing it.

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"Working" was a best-selling book when it was published 30 years ago by Terkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist known for his innovative aproach to oral history. The musical's 26 roles are filled by seven Twin Cities actors: Brian Farrey, Ann Griffith, Becky Lowe, Erin McCawley-Richeson, nathan Metcalf, Ro Tripi, and Paul Whittemore. Suzanna Winter directs the Lex-Ham Community Theater production.

Composer Stephen Schwartz created the stage adaptation, which includes original music by him, James Taylor and others. Schwartz' credits include the Broadway shows, "Godspell" and "Pippin," and musical scores for the Disney movie "Pochahantas."

Photos courtesy of the Saint Paul Union Advocate, Michael Kuchta, photographer

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2004/07/28 - Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder: Black actresses challenged by mostly White plays

by Nneka Onyilofor

The first production of the Lex-Ham Community Theater took place in 1996 and was initiated by the Lexington-Hamline Community Council (LHCC). The goal of the Lex-Ham Theater is to produce local theatrical productions that display lesser-known works by noted playwrights. Some of these works include Soul Gone Home by Langston Hughes and The Vegetable by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The company strives to create quality theatrical experiences for the residents of the Lexington-Hamline and surrounding neighborhoods in St. Paul.

Although most of the Lex-Ham productions do not have many actors and actress (sic) of color, the production that took place recently, The Solid Gold Cadillac, featured two talented African American actresses. The play was about the power that corporate stockholders have in American (sic). However, by the end of the show, one woman was able to conquer this corporate power.

The production ran for eight days with about 30 people attending on an average night. However, the audience was predominately White and so was the cast.

Karla Nweje, who played Amelia Shotgraven, is an experienced dancer from New York. This is not her first Lex-Ham production. She also was one of the few African Americans to play in James and the Giant Peach as the narrator last November. She is an instructor and literary artist who will be releasing a collection of poems next month titled The Whispers of a Timeless Groove. Her book will be offered through her company called IZORA Innovations, Inc.

Although Karla is a dancer and has worked with many choreographers, acting is her passion as well. Being a part of The Solid Gold Cadillac production allowed her the opportunity to reunite with this passion. As a result, she has recently moved to Minnesota to focus more on her acting career.

Christiana Clark, who played Kate Gillie, has had acting training in Hollywood at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She has played Ruth Younger in A Raisin In The Sun and Mother Superior in Agnes of God. She is currently a full-time actress and is involved with CLIMB Theatre in Minnesota, where she tours as an actress/educator. Recently, she has been acting with The Mystery Café. Soon, Christiana can been (sic) seen in Women! Live On Stage at Theatre Unbound's Fringe Festival production.

When asked how staring (sic) in a predominantly White versus Black production differed, both actresses had similar opinions. "Every role is going to have a huge element of yourself, but with this production and others which require more Americanized or traditional roles, you have to take away a big part of you," said Clark.

Similarly, Nweje believes that the difference lies in the way one is able to express their emotions. "When you do African American plays, you're not encouraged to hold back or restrain yourself," said Nweje.

She added that when you do predominantly White plays, you have to be conscious that everyone doesn't express their emotions in the same way. "There are certain expressions that you wouldn't see, certain hand gestures, and certain dialects that you might want to use, that wouldn't use. So those are the things that you have to be conscious of, because they are so much a part of your everyday living and it wouldn't necessarily feed the character properly. So that, for me, is the challenge, but I like it because if you just do what you're comfortable with, you don't grow", said Nweje.

Nweje and Clark both enjoyed being a part of The Solid Gold Cadillac, and in my opinion did an excellent job in this production. Although they both had their fears and concerns about being in a mostly White production, there were no barriers preventing them from growing their acting careers.

Clark said that the Lex-Ham Community Theater has a willingness to work with a more integrated cast. Often, when she calls various productions to inquire about auditions, she makes a point to mention that she is an African American actress and asks if she will be wasting her time by showing up. She said that she has received both positive and negative responses to this question. "The Twin Cities area and the acting community is slowly becoming more integrated...but of course there is still a lot of room to grow," said Clark.

For more information about Karla, go to www.izora.netfirms.com; she can be reached at izorainnovations@hotmail.com. Christiana can be reached at cclark70@sprintpcs.com.

For more information on Lex-Ham Community Theater, visit www.LexHamArts.org/theater, or call 651-644-3366.

Nneka Onyilofor wlecoms reader responses to poetree2100@yahoo.com.

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2003/04/08 - St. Paul Pioneer-Press: Community theater actors earn honors

Six performers were honored for outstanding achievement in acting this month at the Minnesota Association of Community Theatres' 2003 Play Fest in Crookston, Minn. The honorees were Shad Cooper, "The Trojan Women," Lex-Ham Community Theater; Joanne Voves, "The American Dream," Corcoran Park Players, Minneapolis; Phyllis Morgan, "Rose," Hole in the Day Players, Little Falls; Ellie Martin, "Dearly Departed," Duluth Playhouse; Jason Page, "Dearly Departed," Duluth Playhouse; and Dennis Whipple, "Hedwig and the Angry Itch," Great River Educational Arts Theatre, St. Cloud

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