An Exciting Challenge for Pillsbury House

by Shannon Gibney
from the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota/
Volume I. Nov-Dec 2011

Pillsbury House Theatre is well-known in the Twin Cities for presenting difficult, dangerous, groundbreaking plays. Their shows, which have recently included Nilaja Sun’s “No Child”, and David Harrower’s “Blackbird,” often push audience members out of their comfort zones and into uncharted territory. Now, by joining the LARK Consortium, the tables are turned, and it Is Pillsbury House that finds itself in new territory. “I have always loved the humor, the lushness, and the magical-realism of this play,” says Faye Price, Co-Artistic Producing Director, Pillsbury House Theatre, referring to Marcus Gardley’s “The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry.” The play is the second in Gardley’s trilogy on Black Seminoles, and the current focus of the LARK Consortium.

“It seemed almost impossible to do this play on stage, which instantly made me want to do it,” Price continues, laughing. “Then a year and a half later, LARK approached us and couple of other theaters in town about doing the consortium with ‘The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry.’” Price and Pillsbury House joined the project, in part, because of the fascinating prospect of seeing the play premier in three very different cities and three very different theaters. “Watching the play have a rolling premier is always exciting,” says Price. “I’m a fan of new plays, especially since what playwrights want is to get their plays produced. I think what’s exciting is that we can learn from each other and the work we do on the play. This community engagement piece gives us a year in advance, and all of the work surrounding that to give the play community ownership — I’m looking forward to that. This is kind of a work-in-progress of the experiential element of audiences.”

During Pillsbury House’s first community engagement event, held in mid-October, local actors read “The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry,” to an audience of community leaders and cultural workers – many from Native communities. Since then, these various stakeholders have been in dialog with Price and with each other about the many issues the play tackles.

In this way, says Pillsbury House Communications Director Alan Berks, audiences and the local community can become deeply engaged in the process of producing new work, in a way they may not otherwise. “What is so interesting about the consortium, from an artistic and audience perspective are the ideas of collective of impact and of tipping points. There are a limited number of people in Minnesota who can see the play, but they are hopefully the very particular people with a certain kind of perspective that we need to hear. So there are little ripples that can happen within ripples, and you never know how those are going to seed out. The consortium idea is a very interesting one, in terms of audience development.”

The second Pillsbury House community event will be a conversation about “The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry,” featuring some excerpts read by Gardley. It is scheduled for Thursday, November 17, at 7 pm, and will be held at the theatre. Refreshments will be served. Please email Faye Price if you are interested in attending.

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