Meet A Burnt Part Boy – Jace LeGarde!

photoWe’ve recently begun rehearsals for the Northland premiere of THE BURNT PART BOYS, opening August 8th (and brought to you in part by the fine folks at Visit Duluth and Kevin O’Brien Realty)!


This fantastic musical is brand-new to the region, and much of our stellar cast is brand-new to Renegade. So, we’ve been spending some blog time in the weeks leading up to the show giving you a chance to meet the cast.


Next up is another local talent making his Renegade Theater debut – Jace LeGarde!


Tell us about yourself:


I am going to be a junior at Hermantown High School next year. Some of my favorite roles include, Ritchie in 13 The Musical (Duluth Playhouse), one of the Patsy Chefs/Gangsters in The Drowsy Chapersone (Hermantown), Laurie in Little Woman (Duluth Playhouse), and Jay in Lost in Yonkers (Hermantown). I couldn’t be more excited to be making my Renegade debut with this amazing show!


What drew you to this show?


I have worked with Peter before in 13 the Musical and Les Miserables, and wanted to expanded my horizons. So, when I heard he was directing this show at Renegade, I decided it would be perfect time to do that! Also, like other people in the cast, I was drawn to its uniqueness, specifically the music. I am looking forward to playing the role of “Dusty,” best friend to Pete.


Anything you’d like our readers to know?

Just because the show isn’t very well known doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an incredible story. I think this show will touch many people, if not every single person that comes to see it. I’ve really enjoyed trying to get into the head of the goofball that is Dusty. I look forward to “digging” a little deeper each day.

Meet A Burnt Part Boy – Bryce Crandall!

photoWe’ve recently begun rehearsals for the Northland premiere of THE BURNT PART BOYS, opening August 8th (and brought to you in part by the fine folks at Visit Duluth and Kevin O’Brien Realty)!


This fantastic musical is brand-new to the region, and much of our stellar cast is brand-new to Renegade. So, we’ve been spending some blog time in the weeks leading up to the show giving you a chance to meet the cast.


Next up is another local talent making his Renegade Theater debut – Bryce Crandall!


How did you get involved in theater?


I have lived in Duluth my whole life.  Recently, I graduated from Duluth East High School. In elementary school, I was first introduced to the theater while watching rehearsals of Pippi Longstocking, a production at the local middle school. Theater became my passion in high school with my first production, Clue the Musical.  It was then that I decided that theater was going to play a principal role in my life.  Some of my favorite roles and productions include, Brett in 13, the Musical and Thenardier in Les Miserables, both at the Duluth Playhouse.  I also enjoyed the challenge of playing Matt in The Fantastics at the Duluth Playground.  However, the most rewarding theatrical experience I have had to date was last summer when I attended Northwestern Theatre Institute as a “Cherub.”  After a seven-week intensive theatrical experience, I knew theater was where I belonged.  I am very excited to attend The University of the Arts in Philadelphia this fall pursuing my BFA degree in Musical Theatre.


What drew you to The Burnt Part Boys?


I was instantly drawn to The Burnt Part Boys because it’s a new contemporary piece of theater. It has a different sound to it. There are not too many Bluegrass musicals out there.  Along with great music, the story and message are simple and heartfelt. The great part about this show is that it is good for any age. It does not just appeal to one type of audience.  I was really excited to be given the opportunity to play the role of Pete, Jake’s brother, because his outlook on life is honest, and like me, he has a lot to learn.  I also love the true relationships he has with his best friend Dusty and his older brother Jake.  This is a key message of this story.


Anything else you’d like our readers to know?


I’m really excited to be in my first show at Renegade Theater.  It’s even better that it just happens to be The Burnt Part Boys! We have such an awesome team to work with. It always amazes me when a small theater space can be transformed time after time!  I’m just glad I can say I’m a part of one of these times! Thank you to all the people that make shows like The Burnt Part Boys and Renegade Theater possible in our community!

Meet A Burnt Part Boy – Jayson Speters!

Jake PhotoWe’ve recently begun rehearsals for the Northland premiere of THE BURNT PART BOYS, opening August 8th (and brought to you in part by the fine folks at Visit Duluth and Kevin O’Brien Realty)!


This fantastic musical is brand-new to the region, and much of our stellar cast is brand-new to Renegade. So, we thought we’d spend some blog time in the weeks leading up to the show giving you a chance to meet the cast.


First up is Jayson Speters!


Tell us a little about you.


I moved to Duluth two years ago from Salt Lake City, Utah where I was born and raised. It was in Utah, at the age of 15 that I was first introduced to the theatre and I haven’t been able to stay away since. Some of my favorite credits from Utah include Danny Zuko in Grease and Corny Collins in a regional production of Hairspray. Since attending UMD I’ve been fortunate to learn through many great roles including Jason in Medea, Father O’Reilly in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, and Danny in Kerrigan and Lowdermilk’s Tales from the Bad Years. It was in UMD’s Tales from the Bad Years that I was given the opportunity to work side by side with the show’s creators; the nationally recognized and award-winning song-writing team of Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. That production and experience affirmed my decision to move to Minnesota and is one I will never forget.


What drew you to this show?


I was drawn to The Burnt Part Boys for the same reasons I was drawn to Tales from the Bad Years. I’m obsessed with newer works of musical theater; that is to say scores written within the last ten to fifteen years. The pop/country/folk-influenced score featured in The Burnt Part Boys is something I’ve been familiar with and have wanted to perform for over a year now. Miller and Tysen, the show’s composer and lyricist, are absolutely genius.


Anything you’d like our readers to know?


I am so grateful that Renegade Theater Company has chosen to produce this fantastic work, one that has received little attention since its conception. I’m also extremely grateful that they have allowed me my Renegade Theater debut in this role and stellar production. Jake is a young, hard working coal miner forced to raise his younger brother Pete after the death of his father in a mining accident leaves their family in ruin. At the age of 18, Jake feels much older and carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. I am thoroughly enjoying studying this character and can only hope that I do him some kind of justice in this production. There is so much to be learned from this and the other characters in this show. I can assure anyone that they will be doing themselves a huge disservice to miss out on this wonderful story told through some of the best music they’ll have heard in a long while.

Another Day, Another TV Station Scared of Vibrators

You know what’s challenging? Promoting a show when local television media won’t let you talk about it, or even say the title. That’s what keeps happening with our production of IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY, opening this Thursday at 8pm. Here’s what Anika Thompson, the show’s director, thinks of this situation:


If it wasn’t so ludicrous, the fact that some of the Duluth media is scared of the word “vibrator” might be funny.


Surprisingly enough for Renegade Theater Company, though we have a reputation of taking on tough subject matter, In the Next Room, (or the Vibrator Play)is probably the first “issue” play we’ve attempted.  Its title does not do it justice.  It’s a gentle – some may even say romantic – drama, where the comedy is provided by the absurdity of truth it’s couched in.  It deals with the very real fact that until the 1950’s “hysteria” was considered an actual illness and was slapped on women for any number of reasons.  Very few people know this history.  Most medical professionals don’t even know that the vibrator was a medical invention created to ‘cure’ this malady and that the first company to sell one in their catalog for home use was Sears.


What was hysteria?  Well, even physicians of the time couldn’t classify it.  It was a catch-all for anything a woman may do that couldn’t be explained.  And no study went into whether there were other causes for these issues – it was just a hysterical woman.  For example:  You’re prone to faintness? Hysteria (never mind you’re laced into a corset to achieve a 14 inch waist). You feel great sadness and a weight that you just can’t shake? Hysteria (never mind you just had or lost a baby and most likely were suffering from what we now recognize as depression).


For patients diagnosed as hysterical, common treatments of rest, relaxation, even horseback riding were prescribed. Hysteria as “illness” went so far that if treatments didn’t work on whatever the malady was, some women were committed to institutions and – in the extreme – hysterectomies. But, if you were white and wealthy, you’d go to a specialist who would stimulate you as a medical procedure, which is the setting for In the Next Room.


In the Next Room, (or the Vibrator Play), yes, has vibrator in the title, but don’t underestimate it. This vibrator play is the instrument Sarah Ruhl uses to discuss the much greater, relevant topics of marriage, love, finding oneself and motherhood.  I’d like to say the historical elements of the play are anecdotal to a time. That the shame and discomfort connected with women expressing their needs and desires, both emotionally and sexually, have past.  But I can’t.


In the highly sexualized culture we live in, why do we still giggle or speak in hushed tones if we’re talking about the female orgasm, even when the male one is a punch line in any number of acceptable entertainment or conversation? When local media outlets refuse to publicize a show simply because it contains that one tiny insignificant word, and ignore the fact that it is about so much more than that, they are tying the corset of repression back in place. They’re establishing a culture that says these topics are dirty, insignificant and not worthy of being discussed.  Censorship like this shines a harsh light on the fact that the equality that women everywhere have fought so hard for has not yet been achieved.  It is exactly this type of repression In the Next Roombrings into the discussion. And that’s why this show is important and is appropriate subject matter for morning shows, art section of newspapers and general discussion and debate.


Too bad the local tv media doesn’t seem to agree.


If you find this upsetting, frustrating and annoying, you can bet we feel the same. And if you’re up for it, you can help us. How? By seeing this show. By telling your friends about this show. By urging them to see it, too.


Renegade has made a habit of pushing the boundaries when it comes to programming. We never thought we’d fight our biggest content battle to date over this sweet, funny and moving play that has performed at basically every major theater in the country (after a run on Broadway, of course), but that seems to be what’s happening. Wanna help us fight?


2014 Season Announcement

It’s that time of year again. Our eyes are bloodshot and our fingers are covered in paper-cuts, and we’ve finally finished narrowing down from dozens and dozens of plays to the 6 we love so much we had to make them part of our 2014 season! And now we’re ready to share our selections with you. We hope to see you at all of these shows in 2014. Shows that you’ll only find at Renegade Theater.

Read on …



Continue reading

Is “Vibrator” A Bad Word?

RTC-ITNR-11x17-SocialRenegade Theater Company’s Northland-premiere production of Sarah Ruhl’s Tony nominated play, IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY opens on Thursday, June 13th at 8pm. And it features a blueberry pancake singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic.




Just checking to see if you were still reading. True, there’s no pancake, blueberry or otherwise. But, we’re really glad to see you were able to read further than the word “Vibrator.” Cause here’s the thing: Renegade has a reputation for tackling shows with tough subject matter, nudity and buckets of blood. But this sweet, romantic, funny and moving comedy about love and marriage has the potential to be our most controversial show yet, all because of that one word in the title.


In fact, a local television station refused to cover the show because of it. That’s a first for us. And a little odd, considering we’ve done shows where people smoke crack, have underage sex, and blow each other’s brains out and nobody has ever batted an eye. So why the fear of the “V” word? Here’s what Sarah Ruhl has to say about it (from an interview with Time Out):


“I feel like sexuality’s been flipped: In the past, they compartmentalized and were so repressed, but today pornography has taken over the language of our sex lives and made it so public that it actually splits our bodies off from our emotions. We have no privacy. Selling jeans is pornography, Sarah Palin’s pornography, everything’s pornographic, so what does that do to our intimate private lives?”


That’s a good question, and maybe that’s why people’s brains may shut down after seeing the title or hearing the play’s about the very true and very real medical practice of doctor’s using vibrators to stimulate women to orgasm in an effort to cure their hysteria. Because they assume it’s going to be infantile and overtly sexual. A blatant attempt to get people to spend money on a play by the enticement of sex. Because they are used to that tactic by now and have come to expect it. And isn’t that a new and very modern form of sexual compartmentalization and repression?


Don’t look at us. We don’t know. We were actually asking.


Here’s what we do know. This play is the furthest thing from exploitative or infantile. There’s a lot more going on here than some mild paroxysms (Look it up. Or read below. Or see the play. You pick!). Saying this play is only about vibrators is like saying Jurassic Park is only about a fat guy who got lost in his jeep.


So, if it’s not about vibrators, what IS it about, then? Well, it’s about love. And intimacy. And electricity.


It’s also about the relationships between men and women in 19th century. How little men cared for a woman’s happiness or pleasure. How much power and control men had over women’s minds, emotions and bodies. And how many of these issues still have relevance today. But Sarah Ruhl does it all with the light touch and deft comic hand that has earned her a MacArthur “Genius” grant and made her a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


And, woven through all these rich, funny and moving themes is a bit of real, true history. Here’s what the show’s director, the fabulous Anika Thompson (director of past Renegade productions like “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and “Bug”) has to say about it:


“One of the most interesting things about In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play is that it dramatizes a little known part of medical history; where your health care provider stimulating you to orgasm (or paroxysms as they are referred to in the play) was considered a clinical treatment.  Any number of maladies, if labeled a symptom of hysteria, warranted this treatment.  And this wasn’t just a pocket in a time of quack science, but originated as far back as the Greeks and the idea of the “wandering womb.” Which, apparently, could cause everything from being too outspoken, independent, or sexually free to disorders like depression, post partum or otherwise, and true mental illness.  Added to all of that, is the humorous bit of trivia that the vibrator was not invented for sexual pleasure or specifically for women, but rather was created by physicians who found the task of manual stimulation too difficult to learn, too unpredictable in how long it might take to achieve, and too tiring for their poor wrist/hands if they treated too many women in a day!  Leaving it to Midwives to do often resulted in less pay, so amazingly enough, an instrument was invented that could replicate “the manual treatment” and the vibrator was born!”


On Thursday, June 13th, our production opens. We hope to see you there. Unless you’re a snickering high school freshman who just wants to giggle every time somebody says “vibrator.” You can stay home. Or come to the 10:30 Improv show. We’ll be more than happy to oblige then!