InsomniActs 3



A Scene from InsomniActs 3. photo by Jennifer Mariano


It’s been too long since we did our first InsomniActs five years ago. A few attempts to do it a third time fizzled out. I got busy and distracted. But finally Aaron Peterson picked up the torch and produced the event, allowing me for the first time to just enjoy the 24-hour theatre ride as an actor.

It was the largest InsomniActs so far, with six shows and something like 25 actors. For those who don’t know the 24-hour theatre genre– it goes like this: Though the format can vary by event, ours is like many, which begins Friday night with a drawing of prompts for the writers. A character, an object, and a location to include, along with the first line and the last line, all drawn from a hat. The cast size is also given, based on the number of actors signed up. Then the writers take their prompts and have 12 hours two write a 10-minute play. Saturday morning the directors draw the names of a freshly written script, draw their actors out of a hat, and the next 12 hours are filled with memorization and rehearsal. Saturday night is show time.

24 hour theatre is a theatrical creativity binge. It’s a lot of fun, and all the stress is over in a day. It also opened the doors to new talent and new opportunity; probably 25% or so of the cast was relatively new to the stage.

Looking forward to the next one!

A Christian and an Atheist Walk Into a Bar

Uncommon Loons Theatre Company

13418753_625309517627551_3136932056967622599_nA Christian and an atheist walk into a bar… they order a pitcher of beer, rehearse a play, and enjoy some live jazz thereafter.

One of the great things about a small, two-man show? You can do just that. Rehearse anywhere at anytime, provided both actor/directors are available.

The beauty of the situation was amplified by the stage directions in the script that require eating and drinking. The popcorn and IPA before the actors served well.

And thus begins the rehearsing of ‘Pistachios’ which will premier early August at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Whether you’re Christian, atheist, or just a lover of theatre, it’s a show anyone can empathize and everyone can enjoy!

View original post

Keep your boat afloat.

December 15, 2015, marked the end of a 60-year performing arts legacy in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. As with many other Northern MN artists, the organization had a large influence on my stage experiences; it began with my debut on its stage at the age of 10 and concluded with my leadership participation in events during this summer past that would turn out to be its last. I’m sad to see her go; yet with the rest of its final board of directors, we were the one who euthanized her.

Read the full article: Keep your boat afloat.

The Making of a Moose

moose stilts

Concept of moose stilts and costume

The show ‘Ziibi’ we are creating with Grand Rapids Showboat, Inc. is going to be a spectacular performance celebrating life on the river with a lot of treats for the eyes and the ears. Among other elements, we’ll be exploring with stilt walking and puppetry. One element will be crossing the two. Here’s a peek at a life-size moose we plan to build for a performer to wear/manipulate. It seems to work on paper. We’ll see how it stands the test of a physical reality.

Moose Stilts

Stilt schematics

Thankfully cosplayers who like to dress up as werewolves, satyrs, and other creatures have figured out how to turn human legs into animal legs. With a few adaptations and the addition of crutch-like forelegs this still seems feasible on paper.

Antler sketch

Antler sketch

The moose head will be suspended out beyond the actual head of the actor and so the puppet head and antlers will need to be light weight. I’m looking at a 1/2″ or 3/4″ PVC skeleton and fabric with stiff interfacing for the mass of the antlers. The head will likely be a similar construction. In the end it must be light so that the actor can easily move the moose head by moving his own head.



Loons in Residence

Uncommon Loons Theatre Company

Old Central SchoolWell it’s official! The Uncommon Loons will be artists in residence at Old Central School on the third floor for the next three months!

What will we be working on, you ask? Great question! We will be working on Ziibi!

What is Ziibi, you ask? Another great question! First off, the easy answer: ziibi is the Anishinaabe/Ojibwe word for river. It’s the ‘ssippi’ in ‘Mississippi’. Ziibi means river.

What is Ziibi in our context? Ziibi is an upcoming spectacular theatrical production that celebrates life on the river. This is idea we’ve paddling around for some time… since last winter/spring, actually. We were looking at doing Ziibi for summer 2014, but we already had a Shakespeare in the Park project in the wings; with the scope of this adventure we wanted plenty of time to pull it all together. Ziibi is a show that we are creating as…

View original post 200 more words

Successful Premiere of Picturing Grace


The premiering performances of Picturing Grace were met with mixtures of laughter and tears. A follow-up article published in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review:

The Grand Rapids Players’ fall production, “Picturing Grace,” continues its performances at the Myles Reif Center this weekend. Written and directed by John Schroeder, “Picturing Grace” tells the story of the two men made famous around the world because of the picture “Grace”; the man who posed for it and the man who photographed it.

Eric Enstrom, a Swedish immigrant photographer, is disheartened by the pessimistic views in his community. In his search to capture the photograph that will make people conscious of the things they have rather than the things they have to do without, the international renown picture “Grace” emerged after a chance meeting with a Swedish immigrant peddler, Charles Wilden. The play tells the backstory behind the famous picture, sharing local history in a dramatic presentation that is humorous, heartwarming, and even heart-wrenching at times. Audiences for the show’s opening weekend left the theater with rave reviews.

Performances are on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 and 18, at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Oct. 19, at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale at Reed Drug, the Reif Center, and online at

A few reviews from audience members were published in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review:

Picturing Grace was Spectacular

“PICTURING GRACE” – what a remarkable production going on at the Reif. Written by local artist, John Schroeder, who was inspired by the picture GRACE taken by Eric Enstrom in 1918 in Bovey. If you want a great Sunday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. or Friday, Saturday, Oct. 17,18 at 7:30 p.m. this play is a must. The acting is so excellent that I was drawn into the production with emotions ranging from high laughter to sadness and for some even tears.

Those in charge of the lighting and technical aspects create several dramatic scenes simply by just flipping a light on or adding musicians in the background. I haven’t witnessed a production so heart-warming as this in years. The play also delves into the history of the Enstroms, their studio fire, the town being nearly wiped out by the flu epidemic, and of course the ethnic issues created by the “melting pot” of people working in the mines. If I was to rate this production, it is spectacular. Congratulations to the Grand Rapids Players and I hope those of you reading this will venture out for a feature production you will not forget. Pictures tell stories…and this one will make you thankful.

-Brian Carlson, Grand Rapids

Thank you to all involved in heart-felt production

Kudos to the Grand Rapids Players for a very moving and incredibly good rendition of the story behind the picture of “Grace” in their production of “Picturing Grace.”

This performance which my husband and I attended on opening night, Saturday, Oct. 11, held us captivated with the choreography, background music, acting and the history behind this famous photograph.

The special effects with the silhouettes behind which, in black and white, we could see Maggie Anderson and Olivia Skaja, members of the Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program, play their instruments beautifully, interspersed with early scenes of Bovey at the time of the photo “Grace,” was taken by Eric Enstrom, a man, who espied to the theory that we need only the basics to make us happy, the exact feelings he captured and what made “Grace,” what it is today.

If you haven’t already seen this inspiring performance, go to the Reif this coming weekend and see for yourselves, the image of “Grace.” Thank you to all involved in this very heart-felt Production.

-Juliet Jones, Grand Rapids

Amazing ‘Grace’

A special thanks to the Grand Rapids Players and John Schroder for their wonderful play, ‘Grace.’

As a local historian and a theatre buff, we were thrilled to watch the story unfold. If you get a change to go, don’t miss it. This critic found nothing to criticize.

-Stan and Laurie Watson, Grand Rapids