Quote of the Day: Thinking is very hard on the skin. It causes wrinkles! line from Dear World, presented by Ten Thousand Things Theater (TTT) Company. We watched it at the Open Book store and arts center. If I lived in Minneapolis, the Open Book would be my hangout. It has an amazing gift shop of hand made journals, books, cards, writing supplies, and artwork. Plus, it has a coffee shop, and upstairs are meeting rooms, work spaces, and a large room for performances, where Ten Thousand Things Theater Company holds some of its public performances.  TTT is a mobile theater company. They don’t have their own stage. In fact, they perform with “All the Lights On,” meaning that they go into correctional facilities, community, homeless, and women’s shelters, libraries, and other public venues to perform. Michelle Hensley, founder and director of TTT, and author of the book All the Lights On, saw a need to bring the theater experience to people who might not otherwise ever experience live theater and its potential to move them, even change their lives. What I admire about Michelle Hensley and TTT is that she saw a need and tried to fill it. She didn’t let conventional style stop her. She didn’t even let the logistics of taking a show on the road daunt her. They always use minimal and very movable set pieces. In another show I saw by TTT, Measure for Measure, they had a few set pieces welded to represent a judge’s stand, a table, a jail, and more, simply by moving it around, or draping it with cloth. In Dear World, they use a table and chairs, a table cloth, a few accouterments for restaurant scenes, and a quick moving of the few set pieces to turn the floor into a park, or the sewers of Paris. Very clever. I sat next to the mirror/stone, and secret passageway to the depths underneath the sewer. (No, it didn’t smell.) The costuming, too, is kept simple so that the actors who play multiple parts can quickly slip in and out of them and into a new character. Dear World is a musical, so the instruments were set up in one corner. It was the opposite corner from where I sat. (The audience is set in a square around the perimeter of the stage floor.) Peter Vitale is the Music Director and main musician, and some of the actors also stepped in to play a few instruments. The singers were very strong, and needed to be because many of the songs have a very minimal

Countess Aurelia, played by Janet Paone, gazing into the mirror, reflecting on both the past and future, in Dear World, presented by Ten Thousand Things Theater Company

Countess Aurelia, played by Janet Paone, gazing into the mirror, reflecting on both the past and future, in Dear World, presented by Ten Thousand Things Theater Company.

accompaniment, sometimes a plucking of strings, a beat, and sounds made by various percussion instruments. The whole experience was mesmerizing because of the intimate setting, and the fact that all the lights are on and you know the actors can see you, and you can see the other audience members across the stage floor, and sometimes, the performers are right next to you. In fact, I felt like I could reach out and straighten the mirror/stone as the characters descended. I even looked down, as if I could see the stairs that led them under the underbelly of Paris. Countess Aurelia (played marvelously by Janet Paone) sat next to us and told us to help boo at a certain part in the play. The audience is part of the show. 

In both Measure for Measure and Dear World truth and justice are main themes. There are judges and trials and shysters and potential victims. People’s integrity and morals are tested. Some are driven by greed, while others act out of love. In the title song, Dear World, the characters sing about a broken world that needs healing. They sing about how one voice can be heard to make a change, one instrument playing, one drum beating, if we will but follow. TTT performs at shelters, libraries, and jails. I can’t help but think of the other audiences who watch this show. Are they seeing themselves in the characters and story line? Are they feeling the injustice, and rooting for the oppressed? What is it about live performance that gets us thinking, feeling, and wanting to take action? 

Dear World has a few more performances throughout Minnesota at various facilities. Some might be available to you. Check out their schedule, or watch for when they might be near you with their next performance. They always have outstanding actors and unique theater experiences to share with you. Also, check out Michelle Hensley’s book All the Lights On for inspiration on how to bring theater, and other art, to communities, perhaps the under served in your area. I am inspired by her words and work. If you’d like to see a couple clips from this performance, visit the TTT Facebook page. Shawn Vriezen plays Alain, a waiter, who is deaf. Watching him sign during conversations and the songs was fascinating. He’ll teach you a phrase on his video.

Dear World is based on “The Madwoman of Chaillot”, book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee, Music by Jerry Herman, Director Sarah Rasmussen, and producer is Michelle Hensley. Please visit the Ten Thousand Things website for a complete list of cast and crew, showtimes, and upcoming performances.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What is one act of kindness, or words you can spread, that would help to heal the world?