If Duluth feels like home,
it's because it could be.

#befromDuluth

Dennis O'Hara

Purpose

Our purpose is to foster a connected, vibrant, and growing city.

Mission

Our mission is to curate and create content that inspires, educates,
and connects people to Duluth, showcasing its unique quality of place.

Vision

Our Vision is to see people filled with a deep sense of belonging and identity with Duluth.

Values

Intentional. Positive. Genuine. We believe that our purposeful action opens doors, positive attitude invites others to step through, and authentic relationships give the grounding to repeat this process.

Discover Historical Treasures at Karpeles Museum

Celebrating 30 years, Karpeles Museum has fresh exhibits

Karpeles Museum is located across from St Lukes Hospital at 902 E 1st St in Duluth. Photo submitted.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is “dedicated to inspiring curiosity and encouraging learning for all.”  At their five locations around the United States and in their vaults, they hold a collection of more than a million historical documents in the categories of literature, science, religion, political history, exploration, music, and art.

Their collection includes important historical manuscripts, such as several pages from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the draft of the lyrics for “America the Beautiful” in an original poem by Katherine Lee Bates, the Ten Commandments from the Gutenberg Bible, the document of the unconditional surrender of the German Third Reich, and a handwritten letter from Christopher Columbus describing his last voyage to the New World.

Located at 902 East 1st Street (across from St. Luke’s Hospital), the Duluth building, opened in 1994, is a former First Church of Christ Scientist. The architecture, beautiful windows and lighting, and ambiance of the building make it a perfect setting for the Museum.

Exhibit space is bathed in natural light through the beautiful windows. Photo submitted.

Museum Founder Dr. David Karpeles

Dr. David Karpeles was a mathematician and philanthropist. Born in 1936 in Santa Barbara, CA, he moved to Duluth, with his family in 1942.

Graduating in mathematics and physics from the University of Minnesota, he completed his Master’s in mathematics at San Diego State University,

In 1963, he moved back to Santa Barbara to work as a research analyst for General Electric where he proposed the use of the first optical character recognition system for handwriting.

Dr. Karpeles worked toward a PhD in Religion at the University of California and a PhD in History from Atlantic International University. In 2012, he received an Honorary Doctoral degree in Humane Letters from SUNY.

He began investing in real estate and became known for offering tenants financing options to become first-time homeowners. In 1981, then-Governor Jerry Brown recognized Dr. Karpeles with an affordable housing award.

Dr. Karpeles began collecting historical manuscripts and documents, and in 1983, with his wife Marsha Karpeles, he founded Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums.

Encouraging Visitors

Matt Sjellin, Director of the Duluth Karpeles Museum for the past five years, is excited about his job every day as he prepares to rotate in new exhibits, greet the museum’s visitors, and give people a tour if they would like one.

Duluth Karpeles Museum Director Matthew Sjelin standing in front of the stage. Photo submitted.

“One of the main things I try to do is get more people in the door,” Sjelin said. He loves it when people tell him they have driven by the Museum many times before finally deciding to come in.

“It is very typical once people visit the first time to come back again when new exhibits arrive every three months,” he added.

One of the museum's model ships, the Titanic, is always very popular with visitors. Photo submitted.

He also mentioned an association with St. Luke’s. “We have had information cards about the Museum on the window sills in the hospital rooms overlooking the Museum,” Sjelin noted.

One man told Sjelin that he had been in the hospital for a few weeks and had decided to visit the museum when he got out. Nurses often refer family members of patients to take a break and visit the museum.

Exhibits and Collections

Sjelin explained the rotation scheduling and how the new exhibit takes center stage. “Whenever we finish putting out a main exhibit, we count the remaining available cases and build an auxiliary exhibit out of the replicas archive we have on site. Often, they are of a completely different subject, because the variety attracts different potential visitors. Everything around the rotating exhibit in the center stage is either permanent or a side project we are working on.”

Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” manuscript is on display. Photo submitted.

He added, “We only receive the manuscripts themselves for the rotating main exhibits. The other items in the museum are purchased on an individual basis, such as our statue of Abraham Lincoln, various statuettes, the Egyptian displays, and the model ships.”

“There is also a display of old radio and telephone equipment, a set of old medical instruments, and we have a few other things that have been donated to us over time,” he said. “We are also currently hosting the 1984-2011 collection of Duluth Central High School yearbooks that were rescued from the old school's auction by Gary Glass.”

Young Museum visitor Nora Cohen-Morse checks out part of the Napoleon exhibit. Photo submitted.

The current main exhibit on Napoleon Bonaparte will be replaced by one on Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. It will launch on July 2nd and run through September. The exhibit after that will be on Sigmund Freud, running from October 1st through the end of the year.

“Different exhibits bring different visitors and their passions. When we moved from our Biblical History exhibit (which was quite popular) over to Star Trek, just when we were reopening from the pandemic closures, I was astonished at how many people came out for that,” Sjelin stated.

Other Museum Events

Artist's receptions are always wonderful because there is an intersection of visitors that are here to both support the artist and the museum. Once people come for a reception, they tend to come back to the Museum later,” noted Sjelin.

They have held receptions for photographers and the Duluth Superior Camera Club. They have also hosted a fundraiser for some of Duluth East High School’s students who qualified to present for National History Day.

The main floor exhibit hall’s high ceilings provide excellent acoustics, making the space exceptionally well-suited for concerts and other performances. The original organ still sits in the rotunda.

The Florence Nightingale exhibit is up next at the Museum. Photo submitted.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum invites people to host their special events such as weddings, corporate events, or other celebrations. Contact Director Matthew Sjelin at DuluthKarpeles@gmail.com or call (218) 728-0630.

‘I have a lifelong love of learning, so it's hard for me to pin down my own favorite exhibits,” said Sjelin. “Growing up, I absolutely loved visiting the Depot and the Maritime Museums here in Duluth. The two locations really helped cement the importance of a shipping city like ours, and I have loved living in a port town. Once shipping is in full swing, you never know what country your next visitor is going to come from!”

He added, “We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Duluth Museum this year. It is a perfect time for people to come here!”

For more information, people can go to the Karpeles Facebook page or the website at karpeles.com

Hours of Operation:
Tue-Fri 10:00am to 4:00pm
Sat-Sun 11:00am to 4:00pm
Closed Mondays and Holidays
Entry is free.

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Duluth Flower Farm Offering Finish Line Flowers

Bring a Piece of Duluth Home with You With a Gorgeous Peony Bouquet – Locally-Grown by Duluth Flower Farm

Ahhhh, it’s finally summer here in Duluth. That equates to a few of our favorite things: warmer temps, Grandma’s Marathon, and plenty of fragrant flowers in bloom - including the heavenly-scented peony.

This year, for the first time ever, an exciting Duluth-centric, Grandma’s-related collaboration will occur. Duluth Flower Farm will be selling gorgeous bouquets of their locally-grown peonies – before, during, and after the marathon.

Details can be found here: destinationduluth.co/GrandmasFinishLineFlowers

Customers can either lock in and guarantee their bouquet by pre-ordering or pick one up at the finish line while supplies last. While specific colors aren’t guaranteed, what is guaranteed is the absolute freshest flowers, direct from the farm.

If you’re looking for an option for the runner in your life to take home an authentic—and fragrant—piece of Duluth, these bouquets are a stellar choice.

Family Farm

Duluth Flower Farm is a locally owned Duluth business owned by the humble, hard-working Hoffbauer family. The family consists of family patriarch “Farmer Doug” and his wife, Lois; their son Derek and his wife, Brook; and grandchildren Donna, Deegan, Dane, and Dottie.

The Hoffbauer family’s businesses are multi-generational. Shown (L-R): Farmer Doug Hoffbauer, Donna Hoffbauer (Doug and Lois’ 18-year-old granddaughter), Lois Hoffbauer. Photo submitted.

Together, the Hoffbauers operate several farming businesses, including Farmer Doug’s and Duluth Flower Farm. The plants are grown and harvested at Farmer Doug’s and then assembled and marketed by Duluth Flower Farm. Duluth Flower Farm has a garden center located at 821 Hammond Avenue in Superior, Wisconsin, which is open year-round.

More information on the history of the businesses can be found here:

BalsamWreath.com & Duluth Flower Farm offer locally-grown decorations - Destination Duluth

Peonies

Most of Farmer Doug’s peonies are grown outside in a field. However, some are grown indoors, inside the Hoffbauers’ high tunnel. These interior-grown peonies are ready for harvest a bit earlier in the season. Photo submitted.

It is currently peony season on the farm. Farmer Doug and his family have already picked over 2,000 of these gorgeous flowers, and expect to harvest another 5,000 more.

The idea for a collaboration with Grandma’s came from 18-year-old Donna Hoffbauer, who is already quite the entrepreneur. She is also the founder/owner of Superior Sourdough.

“Donna is the one who suggested us reaching out to Grandma’s,” her mother, Brook, explained. “She is of the generation who values the importance of buying local.”

The team at Grandma’s was immediately on board. “When we approached the folks at Grandma’s, they were super excited about it,” Brook noted. “They want the local community involved, and want to promote local products.”

Details

Peony bouquets can be pre-ordered online now through race day using this link: destinationduluth.co/GrandmasFinishLineFlowers.

Pre-ordered bouquets are guaranteed to be in stock. They can be picked up at the Grandma’s Expo on:

  • Thursday, June 20th from 4-8
  • Friday, June 21st from 10-8, or
  • At the race finish line on Saturday, June 22nd, from 7-4

10-year-old Dottie Hoffbauer harvests and prepares dozens of beautiful peonies. Photo submitted.

Bouquets can also be purchased on-site at the finish line - near the beer tents. Customers can pay using cash, check, or credit card. However, they will only be sold “while supplies last,” meaning that if you wait, they may be out of stock.

This year, Grandma’s will include 20,000 runners. Roughly 50,000 people are expected to descend on Duluth for the race and other festivities. With this being their first year selling bouquets, the Hoffbauers have no idea what sort of demand they’ll encounter.

“The push is for people to pre-order so we can be prepared,” Brook said. “We’re a small farm; a small family. We really want this to be a success. With that said, our whole family has been ‘on deck’ to help get the bouquets ready – aunts, uncles, other extended family, and friends.”

Each bouquet is $24.95, with the option to purchase a Mason jar with water for an additional $4.99.

Tour and Tasting

Another option to view and purchase some of Duluth Flower Farm’s wonderful foliage is to visit Farmer Doug’s (at 3361 Lindahl Road; just outside Proctor) on Sunday, June 23rd  from 11 am – 3 pm, for a tour and tasting.

For a $10 entry fee, visitors can tour the fields and greenhouse, learn about how the flowers are grown, and even enjoy a complimentary wine tasting. Over 2,000 plants will be available for purchase, in addition to other homemade goodies like maple syrup, jams, and jellies. The event will happen rain or shine.

Duluth Pride

For the Hoffbauer family, it is a matter of deep pride to sell their locally-grown flowers right here, in their hometown. “We’re excited to be on this regional stage, and show the quality and quantity that local farmers can produce for this event,” Doug said.

“Between the peonies, Grandma’s Marathon, and the summer solstice – the longest day of the year – I like to say this is like the trifecta coming together,” Lois added with a grin.

Bring Home a Piece of Duluth

Duluth-grown peonies are a great way for visitors, tourists, and guests to take a piece of Duluth home with them. “Any time you can offer a locally-grown bouquet, you’re offering something really special,” Brook said.

“These flowers are all hand-picked by a local small business, and we are excited to celebrate such a large event in our community. This is a good reminder of the kinds of things farmers can offer.”

destinationduluth.co/GrandmasFinishLineFlowers

Andrea Busche is a Duluth + regional freelance writer and small business owner. She is credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications, and has been a frequent contributor to Destination Duluth since 2017.

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Lyric Opera of the North (LOON) Celebrates La Vie Bohème

DD THEATRE REVIEW – Lyric Opera of the North (LOON) Celebrates La Vie Bohème

Lyric Opera of the North’s dazzling production of Puccini’s “La Bohème” wowed their full-house audience on Friday night at UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center. Soaring and breathtaking arias, solos, and ensemble songs portray both the blissful happiness and the devastating heartache of love.

From Puccini’s beloved original iconic opera “La Boheme” in 1896 to Jonathan Larson’s modern adaptation “Rent” in 1996, and the award-winning movie “Moulin Rouge” in 2001 and stage musical in 2018, the view into the “carefree” Bohemian lifestyle has long enraptured audiences.

The opera’s little “family” of aspiring artists, the poet/dramatist Rodolfo(Gennard Lombardozzi), the artist Marcello (Bill McMurray), the philosopher Colline (Jeremiah Sanders), and the musician Schaunard (Robert Riordan) enthusiastically portrayed the “hearty fellows well met” who have a shared love of wine, women, and song. Their scenes and songs together evoke the essence of La Vie Boheme, with each having a masterful voice to help tell the story.

Tenor Lombardozzi, as Rodolfo, “victim” of love at first sight, tenderly professed his love for Mimi (soprano Lacy Sauter), in the sweeping “Che gelida manina,’” “What a frozen little hand.” Later, the two blend gorgeously in their duet, “O soave fanciulla" ("O gentle maiden”).

As the pitiful and consumptive heroine, Sauter has heartbreaking songs and scenes throughout. Mimi’s illness causes her to break down, and she eventually returns to the garret one last time to be with Rodolfo.

The standout performance of the evening was from Vicki Fingalson, playing the self-centered and ever-flirtatious, Musetta. Her “Quando m'en vo” or 'Musetta's Waltz” has the most recognizable melody in the opera. With her flaming red hair, her elegant costumes, and her total command of the stage, Fingalson steals the show from her first appearance.

Trying to keep warm in their garret apartment, the struggling artists burn Rodolfo’s manuscript. Production photo

A marvelous 26-piece orchestra, under the direction of conductor Dirk Meyer, provided wonderful accompaniment for the singers and underscore for the events, whether they be romantic or tragic moments. Meyer, in view from the pit, is always a commanding presence with his lyrical conducting style bringing out the best in the musicians.

Under Michael Fuchs's chorus direction, the powerful ensemble, seen in the street and cafe scenes, brought the stage to life with their strong voices and creative characterizations.

An adorable children’s chorus bombards the beleaguered toy-seller Parpignol (Brian Kapp) for their Christmas gifts, bringing moments of joy and excitement to the stage as they enjoy a holiday parade. Their voices, blending in with the adult ensemble, add even more shades and dimension to the score.

Ann Gumpper’s masterful sets, from the colorful Latin Quarter garret to the streets of Paris on Christmas Eve, created the perfect ambiance for the doomed love story to take place. And with the addition of evocative lighting from designer Alex Flinner, the dramatic and beautiful stage pictures were an important element to the show’s overall look and style.

Colorful period costumes, designed by Ora Jewel-Busche, swept the audience away to another place and time. The costumes worn by Musetta and Colin were particularly colorful, helping to establish their characters.

Musetta’s aged suitor helps her remove her shoe. Production photo.

The sheer number of costume pieces from Jewel-Busche, working with Laura Piotrowski (costume construction) was impressive, including everything from ragged paint-covered paints to gorgeous gowns and scores of accessories.

Rodolfo cares for the dying Mimi. Production photo

Director Rose Freeman describes their directing style as the “belief in communal storytelling,” which they do with sure-handed effectiveness in La Bohème. Their overview of “the joyful celebration of each other” shines through in every moment of this production.
By encouraging opera and theatre companies with whom they work to “Live truthfully in imaginary circumstance,” Freeman was able to create both truthful and imaginary worlds at the same time.

Bravo to Sarah Lawrence and Cal Metts, LOON’s co-artistic directors, and their team for bringing over 90 people together to present “La Boheme” to appreciative opera patrons, some long-time and some new audience members, who cheered wildly and stood up for a standing ovation. LOON deserves to build its audience base even more and make more people aware of this true gem of Northland culture.

LOON Presents La Bohème
Composed by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
LOON's first production of Puccini's classic, featuring passionate lovers, struggling artists, and gorgeous singing. One of the best and most popular operas of all time.
Friday, June 14 at 7:00 pm
Sunday, June 16 at 3:00 pm

Tickets at loonooera.org.Fonr ticket assistance, call 218-464-0922.
Marshall Performing Arts Center (MPAC) at UMD

Up next for LOON is their “Summer Sparkler” concert fundraiser on Tuesday, August 6 at the Historic Scott House. Tickets at loonopera.org or 218-464-0922.

Loon Opera revealed their 20th anniversary season for 2024-25 :“The Impres Ario” & “Circe on Superior” in November; “The Radio Hour” in January; and “Die Fledermaus”  in June o f2025. Season tickets are now available at loonopera.org

They will also present works for their Little Loon 24-25 season by visiting area schools, opera karaoke in September, their annual February fundraiser, and a summer concert at the Historic Scott House in August of 2025.

_____

About Sheryl Jensen - Arts & Entertainment Editor

A retired educator with the Duluth Public Schools, Sheryl Jensen has been a theater director of over 60 school and community productions. Her production of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew at East High School won the National High School Theater award from the BRAVO television network.

Having written theater, music, dance, and opera reviews for the Duluth News Tribune for many years, she now is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for Destination Duluth.

 

 

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Brian Matuszak, Rubber Chicken’s Comic Wizard Lives for Laughs

DD ARTIST PROFILE SERIES – Brian Matuszak, Executive Producer of  Rubber Chicken Theater. 

“Doing theater and comedy makes me happy. There is joy in connecting with audiences in emotional ways. Laughs, gasps, sobs, it all makes us human. As an art form, live theater can’t be beat. Every performance only happens once. It can’t be repeated . . . Those connections between live audience and live actor are magical,” said Brian Matuszak, Executive Producer of “Rubber Chicken Theater.”

Matuszak’s own theatrical journey didn’t really didn’t happen until he went to UW-Superior for college. While he did speech competitions while attending AlBrook High School in Saginaw, the school did not do much theater.

“My speech category for four years was Humorous and I quickly learned the intoxicating power of standing in front of an audience and making them laugh,” he said.

He added, “In 1984, I was cast in my very first Duluth Playhouse production ‘Fools’ by Neil Simon. One of my cast mates was going to UW-Superior and told me about their theater program, so I traveled across the bridge to check it out. It was a perfect fit.”

He also met Sue, now his wife of 37 years, at UWS. After graduating with a Theatre degree in 1987, Brian went back to get his Master's in Communicating Arts.

Brian and Sue looking through some driftwood on a hike at Wisconsin Point. Photo submitted.

It was also at UWS that Matuszak met John D. Munsell. “Without question, the late, great John D. Munsell was my biggest mentor. John was the head of the theater department at UWS when I started there. It was through his teachings that I found my way into theater. He instilled the importance of the art form but paired it with a sense of fun. ‘It’s called a play for a reason’ was one of his favorite quotes.”

It was acting and directing a few student shows at UWS that really clicked for Matuszak. “Their program was so hands-on for students . . . it was just a wonderful, productive time to be a theater student.”

Jobs, Theater and Communications Intersect

Matuszak’s resume includes a number of jobs that led to some of his interest in writing, performing and eventually teaching and directing.

Working at KBJR as part of the floor crew for newscasts, he later moved into Creative Services, writing and producing news promotions and advertisements.

After being an overnight announcer at KQDS, he went into Continuity at KDAL/96 Lite for many years, again, writing and producing commercials.

“In 1999, I applied to direct a theater production at Lake Superior College, and they also asked me to teach some of their theater classes in acting and directing. That led to me to teaching theater full-time back at my alma mater, UWS,” he noted.

“I did that for eight years before moving across the bridge to UMD, where I currently work in the Communication department, teaching classes in Public Speaking and Interpersonal Communication.”

Winding Road Leading to Rubber Chicken

At UWS, Matuszak met Jack Starr, who told him about Duluth’s sketch comedy troupe, “Colder by the Lake,” which needed actors.

“I jumped at the chance to work with legendary local comic artists such as Margi Preus, Julie Ahasay, Andy Nelson, Donn Hanson, Bruce Ojard, Susan van Druten, Buddy Backen, and so many more.” Matuszak noted. “I soaked in as much as I could about sketch comedy from those geniuses, but I also got a chance to jump right in and learn on the fly.”

In a production of “Assassins," Matuszak plays Samuel Byck, a would-be assassin of President Nixon. Photo credit Sue Matuszak

After Brian had worked with “Colder” for several years, the group decided they wanted to do different types of theater and less sketch comedy. Donn Hanson and Matuszak asked a few friends to join them, and they changed their name to “Renegade Comedy Theater.” Their first show, “The Christmas Enquirer, or, I Saw Mommy Kissing Elvis’ Alien Love Child,” debuted in December of 1991.

Musical Guests Dance Attic, Suzi Ludwig, Jimi Cooper, play a polka while Nicole Armstrong looks confused and Chris Nollet sings and dances along, from last year’s Chicken Hat Plays. Photo by Brian Matuszak

“The show went well, and so we all decided to keep the name ‘Renegade’ and we began staging all the different kinds of shows we had never had a chance to do,” said Matuszak.

For the next 17 years, “Renegade” staged scripted plays, original sketch comedy, outdoor family melodramas, radio shows, Tugboat Children’s Theatre, The Out of the Hat Plays, and lots more.

In 2008, Matuszak and “Renegade” parted ways, but Brian wanted to keep on doing a wide variety of theatrical activities, so he and Sue started up “Rubber Chicken Theater,” which is still going strong today.

“At “Rubber Chicken,” we are devoted to producing funny, original, local theater, created entirely by funny, original, local theater artists. From scripted plays to original sketch comedy revues to live-read shows, Rubber Chicken Theater does it all!” according to their website.

John Pokrzywinski and Ben Chadwick build a lift bridge in a play from last year’s Chicken Hat Plays. Photo by Brian Matuszak

“it makes my heart explode with pride now that my daughter Kaylee is a part of our Rubber Chicken Theater sketch comedy revues. She is such a strong comedic performer . . . It’s amazing to share a stage with her,” Brian added.

Teaching, Coaching, Directing, and More Acting

Over the years, Matuszak has taught theater classes at UWS and Lake Superior College, He also taught a Theater History class at Mesabi Community College in Virginia.

He was an assistant speech coach at Hermantown High School for two years and coached his daughter Kaylee’s “Destination Imagination”  teams for six years.

Outside of his various directing and writing gigs for comedy sketches, etc., he has also directed for the Duluth Playhouse and Children’s Theater productions for Mesabi Community College in Virginia.

Some of his favorite acting roles have been in “Macbeth,’” “American Buffalo,” “Comedy of Errors,” “Assassins,” and “Fool for Love.”

Lady Macbeth (Michelle Juntunen) consoles a blood-soaked Macbeth (Brian Matuszak) after the murder of King Duncan. Photo by Rob Larson

When he is not working on his theatrical pursuits or his teaching, Brian enjoys traveling with his wife Sue and their grown daughter Kaylee. His hobbies include geocaching, hiking, and listening to Kaylee when she performs around town as a singer/songwriter.

Sue, Brian, and Kaylee at the Archway in Kearney, Nebraska, about to start a tour. Photo submitted.

“The Chicken Hat Plays” Cluck for One Night Only

“We premiered the concept of the “‘Out of the Hat Plays” at Renegade in May 2003. Rubber Chicken did their version of them in 2008, renaming them ‘The Chicken Hat Plays,’ and we’ve been doing them ever since,” noted Matuszak.

Duluth Mayor Roger Reinert (before he was Duluth Mayor) was an actor in the Chicken Hat Plays, playing an intense football coach. Photo by Brian Matuszak

The interesting premise is that they first gather prompts (Who, What, Where) on social media from anyone who wants to submit them. On Friday night before the shows, the eight writers and all the actors gather at Harbor City School’s theater. The writers each draw three prompts, one from each hat, and then randomly draw their cast names out of another hat.

They then have until 8 o’clock the next morning to write up a ten-minute play that incorporates those prompts and cast. Saturday morning, everyone shows up and eight directors randomly draw their scripts out of a hat.

With scripts and casts in hand, everyone goes to work, finding props and costumes, learning lines, and working on their play.

Nathan Payne as a French Taunter and Former Duluth Mayor Don Ness as a frustrated writer in this play from the Chicken Hat Plays. Photo by Brian Matuszak

Each director has 45 minutes onstage during the day to figure out their blocking and tech needs. At 5 pm, Matuszak  has the show order figured out, and they do a final dress rehearsal of all eight shows. At 7:30 pm, they perform them in front of an audience.

Matuszak said, “I’m always most proud of the success stories at the end of the night. When actors are nervous and don’t think they can pull it off, and then they hear those cheers from an appreciative audience, my heart soars!”

“I’m always most excited to see how the format allows for so many unique opportunities for collaborations,” he added. “A UMD Theatre student might get a chance to be directed by a UWS Theatre professor. A high school actor might get a chance to work alongside a professional actor from the Twin Cities. Anyone might be acting in a play written by the mayor of Duluth. The Chicken Hat Plays are the only time most of these artists will have an opportunity to work together, and it’s golden.”

Information on The Chicken Hat Plays
One Performance Only: Saturday, June 15 at 7:30 pm
Harbor City International School Theater. 332 W Michigan St, Duluth,
$20 per person, Cash or Venmo only
General seating—call-ahead reservations are encouraged
(218) 213-2780
Info: Brian@RubberChickenTheater.com

COMMON CAMEO: (Will appear in all 8 shows)
Hailey Eidenschink
Host of PBS North's "Minnesota Historia"

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“Trailer Park” Rocks in a Raucous and Raunchy Romp

 

“Trailer Park” Rocks in a Raucous and Raunchy Romp

The opening night audience at “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” was instantly immersed into the grimy world of Armadillo Acres before the show even began.

Curtis Phillips and Jeff Brown’s outstanding scenic design of a run-down trailer park in a little Florida town provided the perfect ambiance for the seven actors to portray the wackiest of characters.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical set designed by Curtis Phillips and Jeff Brown. Photo submitted.

With a perfect replica of a travel Florida sign above, two realistic-looking trailers on each side of the stage, and ridiculous set decoration, complete with a toilet as a flower “pot,” the set is a character in and of itself.

Sasha’s Howell’s trashy costume design also clearly, from the first, established time, place, and characters’ personalities, with the actors rocking their ragged cut-offs, tank tops, t-shirts, glitz, and bright colors. Jamie Snyder’s makeup and hair design also hit the mark with colorful makeup and the intentional use of the rattiest of wigs.

Director Michael Kraklio shepherded his cast well through all the show’s sledgehammer comedy in a mash-up of a Jerry Springer show, “Hee-Haw,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” a "Saturday Night Live” skit, and a country music concert, “Trailer Park” is a raucous parody that is unashamedly raunchy, much to the audience’s delight.

Playing a Greek chorus who knows all and tells all, the trio of TJ Mayrand (Betty), Erin Blazevic (Lin), and Amber Burns (Pickles), were hysterical, having great fun singing of their own tales of woe and giving a dirty running commentary of the crazy goings on at Armadillo Acres.

Amber Burns, who also choreographed the show, filled in to play Pickle, just over a week before opening due to actress Rylee Kubera’s illnesss. Burns didn’t miss a beat showing her dancing chops and bringing her sassy character to life with her always adorable and identifiable voice.

The cast of The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Photo submitted.

As Jeannie, the agoraphobic wife, who hasn’t left her trailer in twenty years, Sara Marie Sorenson had some of the the evening's best vocals in “Owner of My Hear” and “That’s Why I Love My Man.” Sorenson’s portrayal is the most honest and sincere, playing a sweet and sympathetic character who can, however, show her fiery ire when her man does her wrong.

Bryan Burns as Jeanne’s husband Norbert, the beleaguered toll booth collector,

Is at the center of a love triangle, with his wife and a colorful newcomer to the park. Burns brings an earnestness to the role that is a touchstone for the events and intrigues that he manages to get himself embroiled in, without his taking time to realize the full impact off his actions.

Always using her powerful voice to blow the audience’s hair back, audience favorite Christina Stroup was eminently believable as Pippi, the stripper, and newest resident of Armadillo Acres, who gives the other residents plenty to gossip about. Stroup is at her best when playing these bigger-than-life roles, giving her ample chances to command every scene in which she appears.

Eric Elefson does comic double duty, donning a ridiculous flamingo costume, hilariously taking care of scene changes, and as the show’s villain, Duke, who makes his “dramatic” entry on a “motorcycle” in the aptly named song “Road Kill.” Elefson is convincing as a crazed lunatic, stalking his ex-girlfriend, who at an unexpected turn of events, helps the story end happily.

Is “Trailer Park” a masterpiece in the musical theatre genre? Decidedly no. Its humor is often over-the-top filfthy, its songs are pretty forgettable, and its irreverent satire of trailer park life is filled with stereotypical jabs at those who live on the wrong side of the tracks. Rather than the use of pre-recorded tracks, a small live band, dressed as “trailer trash,” would have made the show’s music tighter and more fun.

And yet, the audience came ready to be entertained and chortled heartily during the entire show. Some audience members were literally doubled over with laughter, even slapping their knees and throwing their heads back at some of the most audacious lines.

Two of the marks of a successful production are did the audience enjoy themselves and were they buying into the story and the characters, no matter how preposterous? “Trailer Park’s” appreciative opening night audience laughed uproariously, clapped loudly throughout, and rose to their feet at show’s end.

Mission accomplished.

Boat Club Production’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”
Presented at the Spirit of the North Theater at Fitger’s. 600 East Superior St.
June 7-16, 2024

SHOWTIMES
June 7-8 7:30 pm | June 9 2:00 pm
June 13-15 7:30 pm | June 16 2:00 pm
Tickets available at boatclubproductions.com
For more information, call 218- 623-7065

*Content Warning: Due to the mature nature of this production, it is not suitable for children.

Up next for Boat Club Productions, the thriller “Wait Until Dark,” running October 4-13.

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Ora Jewell-Busche Tells Stories Through Her Costumes, Makeup, and Wig Designs

DD ARTIST PROFILE SERIES - Ora Jewell-Busche, Costume Designer. 

Meet the costume designer for the upcoming LOON production of La Bohème
Friday, June 14 at 7:00 pm & Sunday, June 16 at 3:00 pm

Marshall Performing Arts Center on the UMD Campus

 “Ora Jewell-Busche is a creative force. The combination of imagination and skill that she brings to each project has been a huge part of LOON's growth over the past decade. Her work is an essential part of our storytelling, delighting our audience while also making each singing actor feel confident when they take the stage.”  Sarah Lawrence, General Artistic Director for Lyric Opera of the North

Duluth native Ora Jewell-Busche grew up fashioning costumes for herself, her sister, and for their dolls. She explained that she felt lucky to have a mother and grandmother who sewed and taught her how to sew as well.

At Duluth Central High School, one of Ora’s mentors, theatre director Liz Larson, gave her the job of costume designing for the school’s theater productions. Ora loved doing costumes, and the seed was planted for what she wanted to do for a career.

Ora was inspired to go on to DePaul University where she earned her BFA in Costume Design with specialization in Wigs and Makeup.

“My interest in wig and makeup didn’t start until I was in college. As costume design students, we were required to take a theatrical makeup class as part of our degree,” she said.

Ora added, “As a teenager who had little to no interest in makeup, the class was a revelation. ‘You can use makeup to become an old man? a fairy? a tree? a dragon?’ I had a great teacher, Nan Zabriskie, who taught me all that, and who I then assisted through the rest of college.”

Jewell-Busche enjoyed creating costumes for Little Loon’s touring production of “Hansel and Gretel.” (LOON 2022) (Photographer Michelle Sangster)

After college, Ora was based in Chicago where she worked at a number of places including the Chicago Shakespeare Theater as a wig designer, with Lookingglass Theater as a wig prosthetic and hair piece designer, and with Drury Lane Oakbrook as a wig designer.

She also worked as a Makeup Instructor for the First School of Makeup Artistry in Chicago. “I have tried to teach and mentor anyone who comes into my orbit and wants to learn.”

Other places she has worked include the Hawaii Opera Theater, Apple Tree Theater, Jungle Theater, Pacific Symphony, among many other sites.

She was a costumer on the major motion picture “Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Deciding to move back to Duluth, in 2012, she began working with LOON as a Wig and Makeup Designer on many productions and Costume Designer for several operas as well.

“I love the scale of opera, grand stories, fantastic locations, tons of people. The magic of LOON is that we get to create those big, fantastic worlds for the Northland community,” Ora said. “There are so many people who love opera here, and each show, we recruit more people who had no idea they loved opera.”

For Don Giovanni” (LOON 2016), Jewell-Busche created beautiful period designs. (Photographer Michelle Sangster)

Life in Duluth

After living and working in Chicago for 13 years and then using L.A. as a home base for five years, Ora came back to live in Duluth in 2017.

“I knew that I always wanted to move back to Duluth. I adore the lake and the city, and missed having a full change of seasons, as well as being close to my parents and extended family. I was also at the point in my career where I was traveling a lot for work and could easily travel out of Duluth,” she said.

Ora lives in Duluth with her partner and his daughter, and their two dogs. She enjoys baking sourdough bread with her mom for local farmers’ markets, and she is planning a big vegetable garden. She also loves to camp and cabin as many times during the summer as possible.”

For “Rigoletto” (LOON 2017), Ora’s Costume Design showed her wonderful attention to detail. (Photographer Henry Roberts)

“In Duluth, I have mostly worked with Lyric Opera of the North, while also doing a show at UMD theater and recently, “Dinner for One” at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis.”

“I am also very involved in the emerging film scene here in northern Minnesota,” she said. Ora has worked as costumer designer, key hair, makeup, and costumes for several films, including “Rescuing Christmas,” filmed in Duluth.

She added, “I think we are so lucky with our arts community here in the Twin Ports. We have a long history of working artists. I grew up around ceramics created by local artists, poetry by local poets Louis Jenkins and Barton Sutter, and when I returned as an adult, an even richer scene full of musicians, painters, and many other disciplines.”

“Les Uncomfortables” (LOON 2016) Costume, Wig, and Makeup Designer Ora Jewell-Busche had fun with the designs for this spoof of “Les Misérables.” Photo by Todd Higgins ToddHPhoto.com

Rewarding Work and Collaboration

Ora noted, “I work best with people to bounce ideas off, and other people’s thoughts and ideas always spark more in me. I truly believe that a good collaborative vision is always richer and fuller than a world created by one person.”

“I am someone who has constant creative thoughts and project ideas. Theater and opera give me an outlet for those things,” she added. “I love making something out of seemingly nothing, and this medium gives me the opportunity to create for other people. Being able to do it for my job, getting to do it on a daily basis, is very fulfilling.”

“Barber of Seville” (LOON 2015) ranks as one of Ora’ s favorite operas, working as Costume, Wig, and Makeup designer. (Photographer Todd Higgins)

“La Bohème” Design Inspirations

“La Bohème” can be tricky because it has so many people in it, and often past productions have focused on the poverty and desperation of the main characters,” said Ora.

“As the costume designer, I am very lucky to be working with our director Rose Freeman,” she noted. “We are focusing on how artists can pull beauty and wonder from the tiniest scraps of cloth and paper and friendship. That really, at the center of this story, is a little family of artists who make such beauty together.”

“When I started thinking about this show, I focused on the artists who lived in Paris during the last part of the 19th century and the start of the 20th. They created very interesting textures in the work, but also in the clothing,” she noted.

“Gustav Klimt” was a major inspiration, as was the designer Emilie Louise Flöge who actually created many of the clothes that you see in Klimt paintings. I was also given the starting point of bizarre Victorian Christmas cards by Rose, and have taken a bit of that oddness into how the artists dress themselves,” she said.

Ora concluded, “This story is a classic, and has been the inspiration for other stories as well. It will be a classic, big, beautiful stage opera, full of a ton of incredible voices.”

La Bohème Information
Friday, June 14 at 7:00 pm & Sunday, June 16 at 3:00 pm
Marshall Performing Arts Center on the UMD Campus
Composed by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.
LOON’s first production of Puccini’s classic, featuring passionate lovers, struggling artists, and soaring singing.
Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including one intermission.
Reserved Seating $39/$49/$59 • Students $12 in any section with valid Student ID
Tickets: Online at loonopera.org  Or call, 218-464-0922 for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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With remarkable reach and engagements Destination Duluth surpasses 200,000 Followers on Facebook.

Destination Duluth has been inspiring people to #befromDuluth for eleven years. 

Destination Duluth (DD), a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit launched in 2013, bears some comparisons to the 1930 classic children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could.” DD is also small, yet mighty, and ultimately triumphs, despite plenty of obstacles in its path.

Through its robust online presence, published on platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and its own website, Destination Duluth proudly showcases the people, places, and events that make Duluth such an amazing place to be.

The Phillip R. Clarke enters the Duluth Port on a sunny summer day. Photo by Dennis O'Hara northernimages.com

It encourages people to visit and relocate to Duluth, using its proprietary hashtags: #befromduluth, #lifeupnorth, and #yourdestinationforlife.

Today, that little Destination Duluth engine is celebrating a giant milestone: 200,000 Facebook followers. This landmark occasion is even more remarkable considering that DD has limited resources. It operates on a shoestring budget and has no employees. The organization operates with a handful of independent contractors, including Managing Director Jerry Thoreson.

Thoreson has some theories about why DD has struck such a chord with viewers. “The environments of Duluth and the North Shore are second to none,” he said. “We live on the greatest of the Great Lakes and have state parks in our region that are awe-inspiring. We also have 160+ miles of designated trails INSIDE Duluth's city limits”

“Our mission is to inspire, educate, and connect people to Duluth,” he added. “Destination Duluth really tries to highlight our unique quality of place.”

A freighter enters the Duluth port at daybreak as charter fishing boats leave. Photo by Dennis O'Hara northernimages.com

History

DD was founded in 2013 by local residents Branden Robinson, Chris Swanson, and Tom Livingston. Thoreson has also been a key player since day one. Today, he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization, including what content is published on its platforms.

Additionally, over their 11-year history, there have been over 350 contributing content creators (photographers, videographers, and writers) who work hard behind the scenes to capture compelling photos and write intriguing stories.

The Blue Angels depart Duluth after the 2023 Duluth Airshow. Photo by Adam Bjornberg. bjornbergphotography.com

DD is governed by a Board of Directors. Current Board members include David Schauer, Branden Robinson, and Beau Walsh, with Thoreson acting as a non-voting member.

Impactful Content

The biggest draw for Destination Duluth viewers is undoubtedly Duluth-centric photos. Within that niche, Thoreson has a particular strategy for what is ultimately posted on the DD platforms.

“First and foremost, our content has to have emotional impact,” Thoreson said. “'A photo is worth 1,000 words' if it has emotional impact. I also like to say 'a photo is worth 1,000 people.' People see a photo of a ship, and it transports them, emotionally and psychologically, back to when they saw that ship themselves.”

Destination Duluth’s talented contributing photographers work hard to provide this deep emotional Duluth connection. “The photographers are out in force every day, no matter the weather,” Thoreson said. “All because they love where they live.”

With that said, some images receive more views than others. “Our most popular posts are videos and photos of fierce Lake Superior Storms which happen several times a year. One a day-to-day basis, the most popular images are ships with the Aerial Lift Bridge, sunrises, and Split Rock Lighthouse, in that order.”

This video montage of the November 18, 2016 storm has 1.2 million views. By Dawn LaPointe, radiantspiritgallery.com

Captivating stories on their website about people from all walks of life also draws people to Destination Duluth.

Thoreson shared that engaged viewers and readers are the key to DD’s past and continued success. “The secret sauce to all this is that people engage with our content. The more people like, comment, and share, our Facebook and Instagram posts, the more our posts are seen.” Recently, Thoreson took an engagement snapshot of their last 20 Facebook posts. The 20 posts had 21,000 Likes, Comments, and Shares, which resulted in 1.2 million views of those posts. Last month, Destination Duluth's Facebook, Instagram, and website content had 6.1 million impressions "because of 300,000 engagements," Thoreson emphasized.

Sunrise on the newly restored Duluth Lakewalk.

By the Numbers

Destination Duluth’s impact can be quantified by a few statistics. For instance, a 2018 survey of 1,058 Facebook followers found:

Because of DD’s influence:

• 258 (24%) had considered moving to Duluth, because of Destination Duluth's influence.

• 20 were in the process of moving here, because of Destination Duluth's influence.

• 29 have moved to Duluth, because of Destination Duluth's influence.

With air temperatures below zero over the warmer waters over Lake Superior it creates what locals call "sea smoke." Photo by David Schauer

In Destination Duluth's 11-year history, Meta's analytics report they have:

• 30,000+ published posts (photos, videos, and stories)

• 45 million clicks of engagement (likes, comments, shares), which caused

• 650 million impressions

2022 was a record year with:

• 100 million views of DD content

• 275,000 impressions daily average.

Ranked 3rd in the country for engagements in the Tourism Category

In September 2021, Destination Duluth was informed by Sharablee.com that they were ranked in the top ten tourism social media platforms based on engagements. Shareablee, founded in 2013, monitors the social media of over 1 million global companies and categorizes and ranks them, publishing a top-ten ranking monthly for each sector. In July 2021 Shareablee added Top Tourism Boards on Social. In August, September and October, Destination Duluth ranked 3rd among 1,000s ranked. In November they ranked 4th. Sadly, Shareablee.com was sold in December of 2021, so further rankings are not available.

New Initiatives and Looking Ahead

While Destination Duluth already has much to be proud of, there is more to come. Looking ahead, Thoreson expects a new branding and website to be rolled out in the 3rd quarter of 2024.

He is also excited to share the continued growth of two new initiatives, which were introduced in 2023: an Arts and Entertainment segment celebrating local performing art and artists, through written reviews and profile stories, and Eat & Drink Duluth, a series reviewing Duluth’s restaurants and breweries.

Destination Duluth's new Arts & Entertainment initiative is led by editor Sheryl Jensen at destinationduluth.org

All DD’s content will continue to be shared through the lens of positivity. “Social media can be a dark and ugly place,” Thoreson noted. “But at Destination Duluth, we’re in social media to act as a beacon of light and life.”

“I truly believe people can have a better life here in Duluth, and we’re helping encourage them to make that decision. DD is sharing the qualities of this light- and life-giving place. In fact, I feel like I’m as much in ministry today as I was 40 years ago,” Thoreson, a former minister, added.

Check out Destination Duluth on Facebook, Instagram, or its website, destinationduluth.org.

________________________________________________________________

Andrea Busche is a Duluth + regional freelance writer and small business owner. She is credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications and has been a frequent contributor to Destination Duluth since 2017.

 

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Tami LaPole Edmunds Creates An Art Fair Every Day

Art in the Alley is a unique Duluth shopping experience

Tami LaPole Edmunds is a “passionate artist and a creative entrepreneur” who describes her “Art in the Alley” store as a place where she “sells happiness and inspiration to women every day,” in the form of fabulous one-of-a-kind jewelry and unique repurposed and new clothing.

Tami surrounds herself with color wherever she goes. Photo submitted.

Growing up in Virginia, Minnesota, where she also graduated from high school, she went on to St. Cloud State and earned a double major in Graphic Design and Communications.

After college, the jobs she held gave her what she describes as a “retail university education” and prepared her to start her own business later.

LaPole started as a marketing director for 50 Below, a company that does a variety of web applications for corporations.

Later, working for Maurices Corporate Office, she loved the creativity of doing store design. She also enjoyed the travel involved with the job and would go to Europe to check out the new fashion styles.

LaPole had the job of Ad Executive for “Woman Today” magazine providing story ideas, magazine design, and art work, and was active in advertising sales.

For four years, Tami served as the Sales and Marketing Director for Minnesuing Conference Center.

Over the years, while she held other jobs, she had also done some repurposing of clothing and jewelry making, selling at art fairs and other places. “I would always wear my own jewelry designs and people would say, ‘I love your necklace.’ I would take it off and give it to them.”

Word of mouth quickly spread and, in 2008, Tami and her husband Dan Edmunds, who is also an artist, decided to open a store in Superior called “Art in the Alley,” selling Tami’s jewelry and clothing and Dan’s pottery.

From there, they later moved to their corner downtown Duluth store and had a separate home store in the NorShor Building. When the downtown Duluth store’s business was severely impacted by Covid and the Superior Street construction, Tami and Dan decided to move to the Miller Hill Mall location.

Along the way they also did a few popup stores in West Duluth and Deming, New Mexico, and a separate Mall pop up across from their main Mall store.

“Our permanent Mall location is definitely our forever home. It has year-round traffic, and it has easy parking. Some people come to the Mall just to go to ‘Art in the Alley.’ Some tourists coming to Duluth every year always make a stop at our store,” Tami said.

New Mexico Art Camp

Even while running the busy Mall store, Tami and Dan make an annual winter pilgrimage to New Mexico which Tami calls “Art Camp.”

“I only create jewelry when I am in New Mexico,” she said. She also works on her signature repurposed jean jackets, decorated flannels with fun sayings and graphics, and on other clothing designs while at “camp,”

Tami and Dan love their annual working vacations to New Mexico. Photo submitted.

She added, “New Mexico is called ‘The Land of Enchantment’ for a reason. It is the perfect environment for artists. There is a different energy there. The colors are vibrant, and the skies are different from anywhere else. I am always inspired there.”

In New Mexico, Tami and Dan live in a small house on the same property as Dan’s parents. Dan has a kiln in their courtyard, and Tami often enjoys working outside on her projects for the store.

The art camp courtyard where some of Tami’s creations come to life. Photo submitted.

Another aspect that Tami loves about New Mexico is the huge bead sale every year and “Rock Hound Roundups,” where she finds healing stones for jewelry that she sends and brings back to the store.

Tami appreciates her wonderful staff who run the store while she and Dan are in New Mexico. “Everybody steps up and takes care of things. I couldn’t do this without them,” she noted.

Devoted Mom and Grandma-To-Be

Tami has one daughter, Gwen, who, over the years, has often worked with her at art shows and in her stores. Gwen and her husband, Ross Mancuso, are expecting a baby girl in August.

“I am thrilled with the prospect of being a grandma. I will be doing daycare a few days a week, and I can’t wait!”

Celebrating Art in the Alley’s 16th Anniversary

This is” Art in the Alley’s” 16th year collectively in their locations. It is the 10th Anniversary of the Mall store.

LaPole said, “The store is all about fun. It is a kaleidoscope of color. People come in to shop, have fun, and leave happy, often wearing what they have bought.”

“We carry clothing for real bodies and women of all ages,” noted Tami.

Being wowed by color is part of the “Art in the Alley” experience. Photo submitted.

One popular core brand are their Elietian body shaping pieces, including leggings, tanks, tops and tunics in a variety of colors.

For accessories, they carry art scarves and gloves, purses, and a vast selection of Tami’s jewelry designs in colors to go with any outfit.

Shoppers love their colorful and easy-to-wear fashions that can be for business, travel, everyday, or special occasions, like Mother of the Bride outfits.

Shoppers can find the perfect jewelry to accessorize any outfit. Photo submitted.

More Than Just a Shopkeeper

Tami remains an eternal optimist and a visionary entrepreneur who sees the world through a prism of vibrant colors. She is always looking for better ways to improve her store and to make the community a better place.

As a cancer survivor, she says, “I am proud of my ability to remain positive through my cancer diagnoses and treatment. I have also worked through many challenges and stressful circumstances with my business, including the Mall roof collapse.”

She is a tireless advocate and a vocal cheerleader for local small businesses, encouraging people to “shop local.” She notes that as a local business owner, she enjoys meeting the people who come into the store and talking to them as the artist who created much of what is for sale there.

“I hear so many times about their lives, their issues, and then I see how me talking and listening to them, helping to pick out things perfect for them, and then seeing them leave the store with a smile on their faces, have changed their day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Grownup Prequel to “Peter Pan” Tells a Creative and Imaginative Tale

DD THEATRE REVIEW - PETER AND THE STARCATCHER

Hope Nordquist plays Molly Aster with Jake Mathey in the lead role of Peter.  Photo by Terry Cartie Norton

The Duluth Playhouse’s ”Peter and the Starcatcher” is a wild adventure ride telling the “origin story” of Peter Pan and what happened before the boy who “wouldn’t grow up” flew into the Darlings’ nursery one fateful night.

Bravo to Phillip Fazio who had to be not only the director, but also a circus ringleader of sorts, keeping all the balls in the air, the actors “spinning,” and the plot driving forward. It is a choreographic whirlwind of a show, not for dance, but for keeping all the constantly role and costume changing actors in the right place at the right time.

Fazio also establishes the right mix of sweetness, silliness, playfulness, and even, at times, pathos to tackle this challenging piece of theater. He and his cast take the audience into a world of make-believe and inventive storytelling

Writer Rick Elice (based on a novel by humorist Dave Barry) turned the beloved tale upside down in this 2012 Tony award-winning play. While keeping elements of the charm and magic of J.M Barrie’s beloved 1911 story, there is little that is “Disneyesque” or even remotely reminiscent of the Mary Martin original Broadway musical of decades ago.

This version is filled with fast and furious dialogue delivered with sometimes thick, intentionally unrecognizable accents, requiring the audience’s full attention. Sly and often witty allusions to everyone from Shakespeare to Michael Jackson also require the audience to be attentive to catch them all.

One of the first “stars” of the show is Jeff Brown’s magnificent set, an attic with nooks, crannies, platforms, stairs, and even a hatch door, giving the perfect “playground” for the 12 actors to perform 100 characters.

Brown’s masterful lighting provides shadows and sunshine, starlight and the dark of night, and much more, to create imaginative and captivating stage pictures.

Kudos to prop designer April Ellingsen who uses the cluttered attic to plant the needed “bells and whistles,” trunks, fabrics, musical instruments and other ephemera as creative props for the actors to tell the story.

Peg Ferguson’s wonderfully colorful and eclectic costumes intentionally look as if they are mostly made up of cast-off pieces that might have been pulled from the attic’s trunks by children playing dress-up.

While providing necessary exposition and set up of the complicated plot, Act I got a bit bogged down at an hour-and-a-half. After intermission, however, the show shifts to a higher gear, and the audience came alive.

Opening Act II. a hilarious mermaids’ “chorus line” of the entire cast, costumed in ratty sequins and wigs of every color of the rainbow, delivers a preposterous song and dance. Then, all the puzzle pieces of the plot start quickly falling into place, leading to an emotional and heartfelt ending.

The show requires its actors to be onstage prop masters, musicians, stage crew, and singers, and to change roles at the literal drop of the hat. An ensemble cast, onstage for almost the entire show is filled with talented performers.

Standout ensemble members include Alyson Enderle, who, with a nod to the ever so prim and proper nanny Mary Poppins, turns from a governess into a lascivious wench by the show’s end. Enderle also takes on other roles with fast costume changes on the fly, playing a variety of musical instruments, and even broadly conducting the “chorus” in the company’s biggest vocal number.

Playing two beleaguered Lost Boys, Greyson Holste and SJ Olson evoke both laughter and sympathy as they try to keep up with the ever-changing twists and turns of events.

Justin Peck’s Smee is a delightful “right-hand man” and devoted sycophant for the Pirate Captain. At one point, Peck gives a hysterical turn as a singing mermaid “siren,” unsuccessfully trying to lure men to the rocks.

Plucky, courageous, and decidedly not a girl to leave the dangerous “stuff” to the boys, the character of Molly Aster (Hope Nordquist), at first, seems to be the Wendy of Barrie’s tale. It is not until the very end of the show, however, that her true identity is revealed.

Nordquist is entirely convincing, charming, and funny as the courageous, fearless, adorable, and bossy leader of the story’s mission, determined to set things right.

Playing the title role of Peter, Jake Mathey tugs at the heartstrings as, at first, the nameless Lost Boy, who so desperately wants an identity, home, family, and ultimately love. Mathey hits all the right notes of the earnest, sweet, and conflicted boy, who needs to make the ultimate decision to come into Molly’s world and grow up or to stay on an island to play forever.

Despite the title, Evan Kelly is decidedly the star of the show, “swashing and buckling” with the best of them in his role of Black Stache, the “avatar” of Captain Hook. Kelly’s commanding presence, his magnificently tailored red coat, his impossibly coiffed and lush mustache, and his endless stream of double entendres, modern references, and smarmy dialogue make him the show’s black heart.

Kelly revels in every nuance of being the villain, playing it to the hilt and shamelessly stealing every scene when he is on onstage, much to the audience’s raucous approval.

The conundrum of “Peter and the Star Catcher” to consider: “Is it a children’s show?” Despite it being based on a favorite children’s story, its length of 2 1/2 hours (with intermission) may be tough for the wee ones in the audience. A few sleepy faces at intermission in the lobby were sipping blue mermaid drinks.

Much of the dialogue and complicated plot would be lost to all but the most precocious children. Yet, the action, color, and broad comedy, could hold many kiddos. Parents’ discretion is the best rule here.

The Playhouse and Fazio are commended for choosing a demanding play (not a musical in the traditional sense), and finding the cast and artistic team to bring all the elements of the creative staging to enchanting life.

See “Peter and the Star Catcher” to remember what you have always loved about the “Peter Pan” characters. Then enjoy following the trail of the “basket of Easter Eggs,” discovering the hidden surprises and clues of the prequel to the story.

You’ll find Peter, the Lost Boys, Neverland, the crocodile, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, and the scurvy pirates, all there in new and whimsical ways you have never seen before.

Jake Mathey and Cast in Peter and the Stormcatcher. Photo by Terry Cartie Norton

Peter and the Starcatcher
Written by Rick Elice
Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Music by Warne Barker

At the Duluth Playhouse at the NorShor Theatre
211 E. Superior St., Duluth

Performances:
May 24 - June 2, 2024
Thursdays – Saturdays @ 7:30pm
Saturday Matinee on May 25 at 2pm
Sunday Matinee on June 2 at 2pm
Audio Description: May 25 @ 2pm (Carol Cheslak)
ASL Interpretation: May 31 @ 7:30pm (Interpreters: Rebecca Rick & Emily Engel)

For tickets,visit the box office at the NorShor Theatre, call 218-733-7555, or visit: https://www.duluthplayhouse.org/shows/peter-the-starcatcher

The Playhouse recommends patrons be ages 8 and up for this production. Everyone must have a ticket. Children under 3 are not admitted. Call the Box Office if you have any questions.

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Dr. Ross Perko is a Husband, Dad, Doctor – In that Order

Dr. Ross Perko is a Husband, Dad, Doctor – In that Order

Dr. Ross Perko has been a pediatric oncologist at Essentia since 2013. Here, he treats young patients with all types of cancer.

During his career, Perko has had the distinct privilege of caring for many young patients. He has also guided children and their families as their disease progressed, helping them achieve a dignified death.

While his career is deeply meaningful and important to him, he has his priorities in the right order. Living in Duluth helps him achieve that.

“My goals are to be a good husband, dad, and doctor – in that order,” Perko said. “Every morning before work, I can go for a run with my wife, and take my kids to school. That wouldn’t be possible if we lived in most other places.

Rachel, Ross, Nora, Riley, and Lucas Perko enjoy some family time. Photo by JaneCane Photography /

“My commute is only 15 minutes. And then after work, I can also coach my kids’ basketball. These are all opportunities for me because we live in Duluth.”

Inspiration

Perko and his sister, Margaret, were born and raised in Eveleth. Their mother, Maxine, was a teacher, and their father, William, worked for a fuel oil company. Young Ross was athletic and enjoyed playing basketball.

He was inspired to pursue medicine – in part - after watching his parents survive several serious medical events. “I like to say our parents were patients, not doctors,” Perko explained.

“My dad had quadruple bypass surgery at age 39. And my mom had ovarian cancer when I was a senior in high school. She later developed breast cancer. Both of my parents are healthy today. I like to say that my parents are grandparents due to medicine.”

Another inspiration for the field of pediatric oncology was watching a young friend of the family battle liver cancer. “I would visit him in the hospital, and learned that he really loved Batman,” Perko said. “So, I arranged for Batman to visit the hospital to see him. He has since passed away, but I still have a photo of him on my desk.”

Interestingly, both Ross and Margaret were drawn to medicine. While Ross is a pediatric oncologist, Margaret practices family medicine – and both are at Essentia Health Duluth.

“Margaret and I saw the positive side of medicine very early on,” Perko noted. “We saw a lot of great people who helped our parents, and I think that drew us both towards an interest in medicine. And I firmly believe medicine is a calling.”

Education

After graduating from Eveleth-Gilbert High School in 1998, Perko attended Mesabi Range Community College for two years. Later, he transferred to the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD), where he ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree in cell biology.

Choosing Duluth was a clear choice for Perko. “Coming to Duluth was like coming to the big city,” he noted with a chuckle. “And, my mom got her degree at UMD. Ultimately, I’m a local kid from northern Minnesota, and I liked the idea of being close to my family and my wife’s family.”

During college, he worked part-time retail jobs – at Foot Locker and Best Buy. “I still wear Air Jordans to work every day,” he said, explaining his unique choice of professional footwear.

Medical school would follow. Perko attended UMD for two years and the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities for the next two. After that, he did a residency at the Twin Cities campus and a fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

He was hired at Essentia in 2013 and was thrilled to return to Duluth.

Career

As noted, Perko is a cancer doctor. In this role, he deals with life, death, and everything in between. It is a deeply rewarding profession for him.

“The most rewarding thing is when I see someone who has just gotten word that their child is sick, and I can come in and give them clarity,” he noted. “I always tell them we’ll get through it together.

“We have a massive team of people, including social workers, nurses, pharmacists, child life specialists, physical therapists, and so many more, here to help. And as the doctor, you get to be the quarterback of the team.”

Obviously, cancer is a very scary diagnosis to receive. But the odds are much better than they used to be – especially for kids.

“At this point, 80% or more of patients with childhood cancers survive,” Perko said. “Just this year, I’ve helped high schoolers cover their port sites or adjust their chemo schedules so they can go to prom. It’s cool to see kids I treated - who are now adults - play hockey, get married, or have children of their own.

“Taking care of children who die is also one of the most important things we do,” he added. “We surround the family with support, and try to make every day the best day possible.”

Experiencing the full circle of life has had a deep impact on Perko in every way. “Being in this role has definitely helped make me a better husband, dad, and son.”

In addition to his busy professional life, Perko serves on the Board of Directors for the Northern Lights Foundation. He is also a coach for youth basketball at Duluth East.

Personal

Perko and his wife Rachel (insert your clever “Ross and Rachel” jokes here) met while they were both working at a Children’s Hospital in the Twin Cities. She had a career as a pediatric nurse until the couple began having children.

Rachel and Ross Perko love their life in Duluth. Photo by JaneCane Photography

For now, she stays at home with the kids: Lucas (10), Nora (8), and Riley (4). The family also has a Goldendoodle puppy named Teddy.

Riley, Lucas, and Nora Perko enjoy time with the family dog – a Goldendoodle named Teddy. Photo submitted.

Ross and Rachel enjoy running and attending their kids’ school and sporting activities in their spare time. They live in the Woodland neighborhood, just outside Hartley Park.

Ross Perko and son Lucas celebrate a victory following a basketball tournament in 2023. Photo submitted.

“When we moved to Duluth, I said I either wanted to see the lake from our house, or be able to put on my running shoes and hit the trail right out our front door,” Perko said.

Smashing Goals

Perko is doing an extraordinary job achieving his goals of being a good husband, dad, and doctor. He remains deeply committed to all three roles but definitely has his priorities in order.

Looking ahead, he plans to continue striving to do his best in all areas. And he remains proud of all the hard work and dedication he’s put in to get where he is.

“I love sharing what I do with others,” he said. “And I just want to continue being present with my kids and building up the people around me. But, at this point, every dream I’ve ever dreamt, I’ve achieved.”

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Andrea Busche is a Duluth + regional freelance writer and small business owner. She is credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications, and has been a frequent contributor to Destination Duluth since 2017.

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