Frank Theatre Announces its 30th Season of Feisty Theatre

Posted by Amy Danielson

Frank Theatre marks its 30th anniversary with its upcoming season. Founded in 1989 by Artistic Director Wendy Knox, Frank is known for its feisty spirit and ambitious productions of challenging works that expand audience’s perceptions of our world. This anniversary season features THE VISIT by Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, Sept. 28 – Oct. 21 at the Minnesota Museum of Transportation in St. Paul and THE CRADLE WILL ROCK by Marc Blitzstein, March 15 – April 7, 2019 at Gremlin Theatre in St. Paul.

An enduring staple in the Twin Cities theatre community, Frank Theatre is recognized as a local authority in interpreting the works of Bertolt Brecht, and has also introduced the work of Suzan-Lori Parks to Twin Cities’ audiences. Frank’s work has been recognized with several Ivey awards, regular appearances on the annual “Best Of” lists in the local press, and a strong base of individual support. Among its many distinctions is the theatre’s willingness to stage work in non-traditional settings. It inhabited the former Sears building on Lake Street in Minneapolis just before it was developed as the Midtown Global Market, the former “A” Mill of the Pillsbury Mill on the Mississippi River, and most recently a vacant Rainbow Foods store on Lake Street. This season, THE VISIT, will be staged at the Minnesota Transportation Museum, with vintage locomotives and a roundhouse that will serve as a backdrop for the play.

Wendy Knox, Artistic Director of Frank Theatre, is the company’s founder and has directed more than 60 productions since 1989 and launched the company’s school residency program. Knox may be best known as a relentless director who is not a fan of complacency. Her subversive, provocative, politically and artistically edgy style has created a cult following of Frank fans. Her thoughtful, collaborative style as a director makes her refreshing to work with as an actor. She was named “Director of the Decade” by Lavender magazine, as well as several “Best Director” mentions in City Pages’ Best of the Twin Cities. She received an MRAC/McKnight Next Step grant to attend the LaMama International Directing Symposium in Italy, as well as two McKnight Theatre Artist Fellowships, recognizing outstanding work by professional theatre artists. She has been the recipient of two Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Fellowships, two Jerome Travel and Study Grants and two Diverse Visions grants from Intermedia Arts. She was a Fulbright Fellow in Finland where she worked as an assistant to the Artistic Director of Helsinki City Theatre, and she received a specialist research grant from the Finnish Ministry of Education to research new theatrical forms in Finland. She holds an M.F.A. in Directing from the University of Washington (Seattle), and a B.A. from Grinnell College.

“It’s hard to believe that we are still shaking the cage 30 years from when we first began,” says Artistic Director Wendy Knox. “With a company that has produced the adventurous, eclectic and challenging plays that we have, and has moved around to as many venues—established as well as deserted—as we have, it’s incredible that we are still kicking. I am most proud of the loyal following of artists that have stuck with Frank over the years, and the many supporters (board, volunteers, donors, funders, and audience members) that have kept us going! We wrestled with what plays we should present this year that best represent our three decades of work. THE VISIT continues to present questions that confront us on a daily basis, and THE CRADLE WILL ROCK—which many people have clamored for again—is the kind of piece we need now more than ever. We’re thrilled and eager to embark on this anniversary year!”

THE VISIT, by Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, is the most well-known play by one of the most important playwrights since the second World War. Set in a small town that is in a deep economic depression, the townspeople await the visit of Claire Zachanassian, who was driven out of town as a young girl years ago because she was pregnant. Now the wealthiest person in the world who has just married her 8th husband, she returns to a town that desperately hopes her millions will save them. She, however, has a different agenda, returning with the mission to buy justice: she will offer the town her fortune in exchange for the life of the man who not only spurned her but rigged the public trial against her.

“In the fractious culture we find ourselves in today, the line between justice and revenge can get more and more thin. THE VISIT provides a chance to consider the complexities of that distinction, and does so in a very compelling and entertaining manner in this dark comedy,” says Artistic Director Wendy Knox.

THE VISIT will feature Katherine Ferrand in the role of Claire, and will be directed by Frank Artistic Director Wendy Knox with set designer Joe Stanley, costume designer Kathy Kohl, lighting designer Mike Wangen, and sound designer Dan Dukich. THE VISIT runs Sept. 28 – Oct. 21 at the Minnesota Museum of Transportation, 193 Pennsylvania Ave E, St. Paul, MN, 55130. Tickets are $25 ($22 for students and seniors). GET TICKETS

ABOUT THE VENUE for THE VISIT: The Minnesota Transportation Museum is housed in the Jackson Street Roundhouse in St. Paul, a fully functional railroad roundhouse, one of the last of its kind in the country. During winter months, the Roundhouse is a functioning work area for Museum rolling stock, often with the volunteer workforce welding, grinding and sending sparks flying. Visitors taking the escorted shop tours are often amazed at the work being performed, commenting to docents and staff that they have “…never seen anything like it.” The building was erected by the Great Northern Railway in 1907, replacing another older roundhouse. The site has been used for rail transportation since the first railroad came to Minnesota (1860s). The Roundhouse and surrounding grounds are a near complete display of American Industrial history from the 19th century through the mid-20th century. The roundhouse is also home to the famous Northern Pacific Railway steam engine No. 2156, best known to many Twin Cities children from the 1960s and 1970s as Casey Jones’ steam engine, from the popular children’s program.

A “play in music” written in 1937, THE CRADLE WILL ROCK by Marc Blitzstein is set in Steeltown, USA. Mr. Mister, the corporate magnate, has bought up (or paid off) every sector of the community—the church, the press, the university, the artists. A prostitute arrives in Steeltown, and is immediately picked up for soliciting. Hauled into night court, she is befriended by a derelict pharmacist, who explains that all the others (who have been hauled in mistakenly) are as guilty of selling themselves as she is. Through flashback and song, the piece illustrates how each of the civic leaders sold out to Mr. Mister, with the exception of Larry Foreman, a union organizer who is attempting to get the whole town to organize.

One of the first pro-union musicals written in this country, THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, directed by Orson Welles, was premiered by the Federal Theatre Project. This first production was legendary (the context for the original production is explored brilliantly in Tim Robbins’ film of the same name). Just before opening night, the company received word that budget cuts would prevent the show from opening and the artists were padlocked out of the building. In a historic display of “the show must go on,” the company and audience marched 20 blocks to a theatre that the company had secured, along with a rented piano, and the show did go on.

Directed by Wendy Knox with musical direction by Sonja Thompson, THE CRADLE WILL ROCK will be staged at Gremlin Theatre, 550 Vandalia, in St. Paul. Tickets are $30 ($25 for students and seniors). GET TICKETS

Frank Theatre is a professional theatre company committed to producing unique work which stretches the skills of the artists who create the work while simultaneously challenging the everyday perceptions of the audience through the exploration of ideas and issues of social, political and/or cultural concern. The Twin Cities’ based company was founded in 1989 by Artistic Director Wendy Knox. Now in its 30th season, Frank Theatre has staged more than 60 productions including George Brant’s GROUNDED, Claudia Rankine’s CITIZEN, Alice Birch’s REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN., Bertolt Brecht’s THE GOOD PERSON OF SETZUAN, Enda Walsh’s THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM, the sold out production of THE THREEPENNY OPERA, an acclaimed production of CABARET, an original adaptation of Kafka’s METAMORPHOSIS, Marina Carr’s BY THE BOG OF CATS at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio, and a 2007 Ivey-award winning production of THE PILLOWMAN; Frank has also staged Brecht’s MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN, Suzan-Lori Parks’ VENUS, Carson Kreitzer’s THE LOVE SONG OF J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER and others.

For further information, contact info@franktheatre.org, or call (612) 724-3760.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund; and by a grant from the national Endowment for the Arts.