The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Category: Minneapolis Theater


It’s funny how art can mirror life.  

I ended up in a MN Fringe Festival play this year.  It’s called De-Taming the Shrew.  I haven’t been in a play for seven years  – for the last one, I got the choice role of Jane in Fallen Angels, a Noel Coward comedy of manners.  I was the only one who auditioned for my role.

This time, an acquaintance had posted “Looking for a 40 year old woman to help with a play” –(not an exact quote) – – I showed up, and I was in.  Little did I know that I was randomly volunteering for a show that I would relate to so well.

The stories intertwining through this one hour piece are of spiritual beings, middle aged women, and young women just starting out.  The cast is all women, although we have some male characters.  For a couple minutes, I get to play a 20 something douchey guy who takes his wife for granted soon after saying I Do.  I also get to be a middle aged woman struggling with having had a bankruptcy (11 years ago, in my case) and foreclosure (next month, if the short sale falls through – cross your fingers).  I also get to be a spiritual being who sings about how there’s hope, and that you must stand up for your rights and show the world your light.  

I am in awe of the other women on stage – not just the characters, but the actors.  One part of the play, an original song by Kimberly Michaels, made me cry during dress rehearsal last night.  Julie Rappaport, our writer/producer/actor, seems to be a force of nature.  All of the women involved are strong, intelligent and dedicated.  This play is alive with vignettes and interconnected characters and scenes, and there are lots of costume changes and movement.  We wouldn’t be able to do it if every single person wasn’t pulling her weight.  

Now, it’s not that there aren’t any men involved in the production – our wonderful, insightful director, Todd Bruse, is there ushering us through this process, as well as our stage manager, the young, bright Maxwell Mars.  (He wants to be a theater arts teacher.  I definitely see this happening.)  Just as I have tried to articulate pretty much since declaring that my minor in college was Women’s Studies, it’s nothing against men and working with men, but there is something powerful and necessary about women working together and seeing what they can do.  

I think the most powerful message that I have received from Julie and the play is that I have something to contribute.  This is definitely true on stage – I play several different characters and I feel my personal self-confidence rising as they develop.  But I also feel it in my own life.  Through our fundraisers, I have met another woman who is a novelist, a couple of women artists, and a woman who runs her own production company.  It seems like everywhere I turn there are strong, intelligent women doin’ their thing. And that makes me want to do my thing, which right now is acting, but shortly my thing(s) will be running my Kickstarter campaign to publish my novel and going back to work as a high school English teacher.

Just like our main character, Grace, I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me, but I’m going to do my best to experience life fully.  To do that, I will continue to draw strength from the other women in my life, hopefully strengthening them as well.  And that brings me back to art mirroring life, because that’s the show in a nutshell.  Women helping each other to find their own inner strength, and encouraging each other to use our strengths.  

I’m thankful to be in this play, so grateful, I’m ready for it, and I’m loving it.  


Supporting the Arts

What is it about art that makes people talk about supporting it?  One might ask, if it’s so important to us, why do we have to make a concerted effort to support it?  Why doesn’t art just sell itself – and therefore find support without our having to discuss it?

From what I have read, there are a lot of reasons for this here in the good ol’ US of A.  One of the reasons I have read – perhaps it was in Adbusters?  – is that all of the people designing packages and doing ad layout for corporations are artists and would have been making ‘real art’ but they got waylaid by money.  I think that this is probably somewhat true – people with technical skills and a good eye are getting jobs making artsy things for non-artsy causes.

But that can’t be all of it.  So what else is it?  Is it the ease of purchasing mass-made products?  It is true that you can go to Target and get a nice looking wall hanging, already framed, for only about 20 or 30 bucks, and it’s a lot easier than going to an art festival and choosing something more individual that will probably cost you a lot more.

And choosing seems to be the problem.  I notice that in my craft business, my best seller is a stupid item – I saw some cute little Hello Kitty beads at Bobby Bead in Mpls. and purchased two packages of them, and then made bracelets of them combined with some other beads.  I also made a whole lot of jewelry of my own design out of polymer clay.  Guess what’s my best seller?  Hello, kitty.

So.  Why is that?  They’re not higher quality than the rest of my work.  But there’s an identity factor.  People pick up the bracelet and say, oh!  It’s Hello Kitty.  And I say, yep.  I believe that these people buy the bracelets because they identify with HK or they know someone else who does.

This leads me back to the question of supporting the arts.  My work is just the beginning of me starting to feel like a little teeny-tiny bit of an artist – and I have seen already that the people who buy jewelry of my own design are the people who relate to the designs.  One lady bought a Chalchiutlicue pendant and immediately referred to the necklace as “her,” and another said she was interested because she knew that none of her friends would have one, and that she liked it.

People are searching for expressions of who they are.  And if art doesn’t do this for them, they don’t buy it.  Or they don’t go to the exhibit or the play or the standup comedy or the live broadcast of a podcast or whatever you artsy folks are up to today!

You might be thinking that I am about to advocate for art to change and be more of what people identify with – but that is far from my point.  I am thinking that we need some sort of mass shift so that people identify themselves as artists and then support art because they, too, are artists.

I’m not sure how we would accomplish this.  It seems that institutions like the State Arts Board are already working on this  – but it’s going to take more than that – somehow there needs to be an underground swell of people just talking about art and participating in art.  Maybe it’s as simple as getting more people out to participate in art that is already happening – how can we make that bridge?  I’d love to get comments and hear ideas.

Meanwhile, I’m participating by volunteering for Off Leash Area tonight to do a mailing, and I’m going to see the Mustache Rangers on Thursday, I’m blabbing about art on Facebook and with friends, and we’ll see where things go from there.

How to Host a Play in Your Garage

This weekend, Jay and I had the wonderful experience of hosting a play in our garage.  If you have the chance to be a host, I would highly recommend it.  I don’t know how many options there really are out there, but if you live in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, you are lucky enough to be close to a theatre company that has just started doing a “garage tour” this year.

It just so happens to be my absolutely favorite group, “Off Leash Area,” whose website you can check out at  If you have read my blog before, you may have read my review of “Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe” a few years ago.  Same people.

The show that they are performing for this year’s garage tour is “A Gift for Planet BX63,” which they developed a few years ago with playwright Max Sparber, who also wrote Ivan.  It’s a cool show.  It’s just under an hour, there are three actors who present a story which makes you think about the consequences of having ‘stuff,’ as well as our place in the universe and what makes people happy (or not so happy…).  It is spacey and cool, the set and props are interesting, and it is very well acted.

Probably the most important step toward hosting the show was speaking up and volunteering, and then following through with emails to the group.  I don’t think it’s too early to send out an email today if you seriously think you might want to host the show next year.  If you’re like me, if you don’t send an email right away when you are thinking about it, you will find yourself remembering too late later.  If you, however, aren’t a horrible, forgetful procrastinator, then you could probably email them in the spring.  They are touring 8 garages this year, and are hoping to do 12 next year, so I’d say your chances are pretty good.

Once I talked with Jennifer Ilse from OLA and expressed an interest, we arranged a time for them to come out and see my garage.  They measured the space, and we talked about how much area needed to be cleared out.  I had a garage sale to get rid of some things just to be sure that I would have enough room.  It was good motivation to have the sale – I’ve been talking about a garage sale for several years, but only did it the weekend before the show!  That was nice, too, because I was able to hand out fliers to the people who came to the garage sale.

One thing I would recommend as a host is to try to see the show before the weekend that you host.  OLA did have a reception for the last dress rehearsal, which I unfortunately had to miss, and I think it would have made a difference for me in telling people why they should come to my garage to see a play.  (Beside the fact that it’s just a flipping cool idea…)  I didn’t have a great grasp of what the play would be like before I saw it, although I was confident that people would like it.

Another thing that’s important is having a space for the actors to use as a ‘green room.’  That is, a room where they can change and warm up and put on makeup etc.  It worked out well for us because I have an extra room with a vanity, but I didn’t even think about it until the day they were doing the first performance.  I would have arranged it a little better for them, but I think it worked out.

Probably the most important task in hosting is to get the word out.  I contacted the Sun-Post, who put the play into the calendar, which was very nice of them.  There was also an article in the Star Tribune.  I also invited people on Facebook and in person.  OLA provided postcards for advertising, which I brought around to some local businesses.  I wish I had dropped some off at the library, as I had planned, but I completely forgot.  Maybe taking notes is a good idea.  Yeah, I’ll do that next year!  OLA also provided a cool sandwich board for my yard, with a sign saying which nights the show would be and where to call for reservations.

As far as other work, there wasn’t too much.  OLA did all of the set up as far as putting together the set and the risers.  I did set out some treats for people after the show and invited people to stay and meet the cast.  Paul and Jennifer do this when they have a show in their garage, and it’s really nice.  I think people enjoy meeting the cast after a show.

All in all, we had a great experience hosting.  It was fun, the cast and crew couldn’t be nicer people, and it just feels good to provide a space for people to come together as a community and see some world class art!  If you’re thinking about it for next year, I highly recommend it.  If not, at least be sure to go see the show!

This year’s tour is ongoing at ‘press time’ for my blog – check out OLA’s website to see where you can go catch the show!  Maybe Jay and I will see you there! (Yes, twice wasn’t enough for me, we are going to see it at someone else’s garage, too!)

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