Seen & Heard: Hassler Theater has been 'like a family'

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Mixed feelings accompany the opening of "Don't Hug Me, We're Married" at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview, says playwright Phil Olson.

It will be the final production before the Hassler Theater closes for good.

"I love the theater and am really sad that this is going to be the last production there," said Olson, a Minnesota native who grew up in Edina. "All of the previous 'Don't Hug Me' shows have played at the Jon Hassler Theater, and they've been kind of like a family to me. Every time I go there, I end up staying at (theater owners) Sally and Dean Harrington's home, and they've gotten to know the cast so well, so it's an honor that we are the final production, but it's going to be emotional."

Olson lives in Los Angeles. He teamed up with his brother, Paul, a nephrologist in Chaska, to write the fifth production in the "Don't Hug Me" series of musical comedies.

"Paul writes all the music and composed the orchestrations, and I write the book and the lyrics," Phil Olson said. "It's the fifth one that we have done together, which is pretty amazing. You don't usually have musical collaborations that go for more than one or two musicals, but we really get along well together, and it works out just perfectly for us."


The show opened earlier in Los Angeles. "We've had six really good reviews out of six critics here in Los Angeles so far, which is pretty good," Olson said "We've gotten a great response out here, which really bodes well for Plainview."

The "Don't Hug Me" series has been produced more than 200 times across the U.S. and Canada.

"After Plainview, the show will continue on to a few cities in Wisconsin," Olson said. "Then we are bringing the 'Don't Hug Me Christmas Carol' back to Minneapolis, from Nov. 28 to Jan. 4, and that will be our eighth year in a row doing that show in downtown Minneapolis. It's becoming a tradition now for some families."

In addition to "Don't Hug Me," Olson did a comedy, "Mom's Gift," that premiered in L.A. and went nationwide.

"I wrote that about my mother, actually," Olson said. "It's the story about a woman who dies and then comes back as a ghost with a mission to accomplish in order to get her wings and go to heaven — kind of like Clarence in 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

"It's a comedy with some very heartfelt moments in it, and I wanted to do something for my mother, so i took time off to write that," he said. "I'm very happy with how that one turned out."

Even though this "Don't Hug Me" show premiered a few weeks ago, Olson already is looking ahead to the next installment.

"The next one will be called 'Don't Hug Me, its KOLD' — there's a little radio station I'm going to put in the bar, KOLD," he said.


But for now, "Don't Hug Me, We're Married" will be playing from Oct. 23 to Nov. 23 at the Hassler Theater. For information, go to .

Famous friends

Austin native Sena Ehrhardt has something in common with Prince and Jonny Lang — working with Grammy-winning producer David Z on the release of her third album, "Live My Life," in September.

"David Z. is someone I've wanted to work with for many years," Ehrhardt said. "It was just an awesome opportunity to get the chance."

In her eight years performing, Ehrhardt has worked with Greg Allman, ZZ Top and BB King, to name a few.

Of King, she said, "I've been so blessed to work with him with my band four times — an absolute dream-come-true to get to do that, and all these other amazing acts. It's been kind of a whirlwind getting to play my original music with my band in front of crowds that are really into excellent music and songwriting."

Her new album is a mix of rock, soul, funk, and, of course, blues.

"Blue is a feeling I've always identified and connected with," she said, "and in recent years, there have been some pretty notable young artists that have brought the spotlight to the music, so I'm certainly privileged to be playing during a time when there are a lot of exciting things happening."


Ehrhardt and her band have been on a nationwide tour, but they perform tonight in Rochester, at Wicked Moose, before leaving for Germany to continue their tour internationally.

"That's very exciting," she said. "Fifteen shows in 16 days with some TV appearances and lots of radio interviews … then we will head back to Europe for a four-country tour early next year."


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