New St. Anthony theater company emerges, Central Park freezes over

It's not often that a soccer field becomes a set for Antarctica, but that's exactly the intention of a new local theater company that chose St. Anthony Village's Central Park to stage its upcoming performance of Ted Tally's play "Terra Nova," which takes place on the frozen continent.

The idea of Hero Now Theatre, a start-up theater production company founded and based in St. Anthony, had been rolling around in the heads of three St. Anthony residents for a couple years, but has only recently become more than an idea.

The three residents set the wheels in motion this past summer, and put on "a little test play" for friends and family in a residential back yard on a cool September day.

The shows go on

More than 70 people showed up for the one-act play, "A Thing of Beauty," and that got the group thinking that it was time for more.

"There seemed to be some enthusiasm for our idea," David Severtson says. "So we went ahead with making plans for this second show."

According to Severtson, president of the board and executive director of Hero Now Theatre, the company will focus on plays about "ordinary people facing extraordinary choices."

That way the characters are relatable, says Severtson, who founded the theater group with St. Anthony husband and wife Peter Aitchison and Kristin Halsey Aitchison. All three have worked in community theater productions for years.

Hero Now Theatre is hoping its productions will have more to chew on, so to speak, than typical community theater fare.

While the company has no plans to produce something on the scale of a dinner theater, it does intend to put on plays of "substance," Severtson says.

"Between the three of us, there's been a swelling desire to produce plays that are a little more serious in nature; a little more substantive in topic," Severtson says. "Community theater needs to appeal to a larger segment of the population, including children, which is great," he adds. "It's a wonderful kind of theater to do, but I think all three of us wanted to dive into some material that was a little more thought-provoking and challenging to actors, as well as to audiences."

Play specifics

The production of "Terra Nova," a historical record of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his British team's 1912 expedition to the South Pole, will be staged inside a performance tent set up on a soccer field at Central Park in St. Anthony.

The company's plan is to warm the tent to a comfortable but cool temperature, so the audience will feel a little of the chill the real-life characters felt on their adventure.

The play explores the disappointments and failures Scott's team faced on its return north. It also focuses on the personal and cultural motives that led Scott to drive his men 800 miles to the South Pole in an attempt to stake the British flag before a Norwegian team could get theirs planted.

"For our audience members, this play starts when they get out of their cars," says Kristin Halsey Aitchison, director of the production as well as artistic director of Hero Now Theatre.

Halsey Aitchison says it'll be a new kind of immersive performance that lets the venue itself evoke what the British explorers encountered on their journey to "the bottom of the earth."

Halsey Aitchison and her husband, Peter, took part in "Terra Nova" in college and say they've wanted to try their hand at it for a long time.

As his wife is directing, Peter will take the lead role, alongside six other actors, which Hero Now Theatre cast through the website MinnesotaPlayList.com.

Hero Now in the future?

Severtson met Halsey Aitchison through high school theater at St. Anthony High School.

"My younger daughter wanted to be in high school plays and Kristin was and still is directing the plays there," Severtson says. "I handled some of the publicity for those plays and got to know each other over the years, and we thought we could work together."

The work on Hero Now Theatre right now is a side job for all three founding members, as each has other full-time work. But according to Severtson, someday he hopes it's his full-time gig.

"We're hoping to make a go of it and pay ourselves some salaries some day, but that is a long-term goal," Severtson says. "Right now, this is just a labor of love."

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.


Enjoy an Antarctic play performed in a tent in St. Anthony

Performances of "Terra Nova" -- a play about an expedition to the South Pole -- are scheduled for Jan. 14, 15, and 16, at 7 p.m., and Jan. 17 at 4 p.m. at Central Park, 3400 Silver Lake Road in St. Anthony Village. Tickets are for general-admission seating are $25. They are available online at Hero Now Theatre's website: heronowtheatre.org.

 

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