Commonweal is going on tour – and hoping you’ll return the favor down the line.
On Wednesday night, the theater company will perform in Rochester, at the Geffen Auditorium. The show is part of a regional engagement tour that started in Austin and will finish in Winona in October.
Sixty percent of the theater company’s audience comes from within an hour’s drive of Lanesboro, Hal Cropp, executive director of the Commonweal, says.
“I think anybody who’s interested in theater finds the Commonweal to be of a quality that makes it worthwhile to make the 60-minute drive to get here,” he says. “More and more, we’re a regional theater company serving southeastern Minnesota.
The tour is part of a board-initiated effort to get major SE MN cities to become more aware of the Commonweal, Cropp says.
Each of the performances will be bookended by presentations on the company itself and its guiding principles, in order to “broaden and deepen” understanding of the Lanesboro company.
“We thought the best way to do that was to take a piece on the road,” Cropp says.
“Stones In His Pockets,” written by Marie Jones, tells the story of a rural Irish village which is upended by the arrival of a U.S. film crew working on a movie. Cropp (Commonweal fans last saw him as Holmes #2 in “Holmes and Watson”) and Josiah Laubenstein (you may have seen him in “Peter and the Starcatcher” or “Boeing Boeing” recently) will tell the story of two Irish “extras” on the set, who bounce off of the American crew, actors, and their family members.
The entire play is a two-actor production. One of the men will play five roles, and the other seven, Cropp says.
That’s a strategic choice for a couple of reasons.
“That really showcases the kind of company that Commonweal is,” he says. “You know, we talk about actor-based storytelling, and many times, members of the cast play more than one role to celebrate the theatricality of the art of acting. That’s why this piece was chosen.”
The set is also streamlined – “two crates, a coat rack, a rolling rack, and shoes – roughly eight to 10 pairs of shoes.”
The play is a comedy, Cropp says, but a dark one. The name “Stones In His Pockets” refers to the method of suicide one man from the village chooses when he can’t get a job on the film set. Much of the second act of the play unravels the town’s reaction to the tragedy.
Mayo Clinic will hold a panel discussion after the performance to discuss suicide, Cropp says.
The performances won’t benefit Commonweal financially at all, Cropp says. Instead, they’re hoping to win over a few new regular viewers who’ll make the trek to their mainstage shows.
“Hopefully we’ll find a couple of people who are interested in the work that we do and are able to support the theater strongly,” Cropp says. “That’s how we’re hoping to recoup on this.”