COMMUNITY: Stage Adventures Series and Classes at SECT

582326_10151645071261417_1508844893_n
By Le Bender / Follow @LBenderJr / Image courtesy of Sioux Falls Orpheum Theater Center

Now five seasons in the making, the Stage Adventures series is a scion of the ever-improving Sioux Empire Community Theatre.  It’s no coincidence that this is same length of time in which Patrick Pope has been the Producing Artistic Director for SECT.

I sat down with Pope last week to discuss SECT’s current production of The Giver, enjoy some pizza, and talk about what’s next for youth theatre education in Sioux Falls.

As Pope explained, SECT produces two shows each season (one musical + one straight play) for the purpose of “planting the seeds” of our next generation of actors.  If you’ve never been to one of their Stage Adventure productions, what you’ve been missing is the opportunity to see talented young actors playing the roles of protagonists alongside seasoned adult actors.  Age appropriate casting is critical says Pope.

In addition to these two in-season productions, which Pope sees expanding to three productions in the next five years, the Sioux Empire Community Theatre also provides two musical theatre summer camp intensives.  This summer they will be offering Seussical: The Musical Jr for children grades 1–8, followed by Hairspray for youth grades 6–12.  More information about these summer camps can be found on their website.

And if that wasn’t enough (for Pope it’s most definitely NOT enough), SECT will soon embark on a new educational project aimed at providing more formal training to young actors with its own staff, as well as guest instructors from the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University.

Student actors will have the option to take a class in one of four disciplines: Acting, Movement, Voice, and Technical Theatre.  Within each discipline, SECT will offer up to five levels of study (Acting 1 – 5, and so on).  The only catch, students won’t be able to advance to the third level of a given discipline without taking classes in the other disciplines.  The same goes for the fifth level of each discipline.

Pope explains that this gatekeeper approach is intended to promote a well-rounded experience for the young actor. Classes will be approximately 90 minutes in length, take place on Saturdays, and run year round with each class lasting one season (Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer).

Pope is planning a special bonus for students completing all twenty classes: a secret “Ensemble” designation and access to a new set of classes focusing on the craft of playwriting.   Because SECT will be collaborating with guest instructors from the university, Pope hopes work out a small scholarship opportunity for those students reaching the “Ensemble” level designation.

Stay tuned to the Sioux Empire Community Theatre website for more details of this exciting opportunity.

Advertisements

METRO: Pair a SECT Stage Adventure with A Taste of The Big Apple

By Le Bender – Follow on Twitter @LBenderJr

I recently sat down for lunch with Patrick Pope of the Sioux Empire Community Theatre to discuss their production of The Giver, showing now through March 20, 2016.  If you’re not familiar with the novel or stage adaptation, check out Maxine Houlihan’s synopsis and review here on The Falls Theatre Blog.  The Giver is part of SECT’s Stage Adventure series: theatre that is affordable and accessible for the whole family.

Pope is unapologetically passionate about the future of theatre in South Dakota.  Stay tuned for a feature article about his vision of youth theatre education in Sioux Falls. As the Producing Artistic Director of SECT at The Historic Orpheum Theatre Center, he also has a special interest in the vibrancy of the budding urban landscape that is Downtown Sioux Falls.

We met up at A Taste of the Big Apple in Uptown.  Where is “Uptown” you may ask?  Good question.  I’m still looking for an exact set of boundaries myself.  But from my experience, its the area surrounding Main and Phillips Ave, north of 6th Street toward Falls Park.

In Uptown you will find the Uptown Exchange Lofts and Phillips Ave Lofts.  You know those new gray, cerulean and maroon buildings along the parkway leading to the Falls.  You also have older buildings that have been renovated into residential and commercial spaces, even a church.

Located in the Dakota-Moline Plow Co. & Dempster Mill Mfg building, A Taste of the Big Apple is just off N Main Ave on 4th Street.  If you haven’t spent much time in this part of town lately, I encourage you to go for a stroll and see what’s changed.

CTZF2swVEAANvGlNearby you will find the Museum of Visual Materials and the Icon Lounge.  I enjoy strolling through this part of town on my lunch hour and let me say, there have been some stunning views of the Old Courthouse Museum clock tower during the dead of winter with the low sun in the southern sky.

Entering the Big Apple, you are hit immediately with the smell of fresh pizza dough.  Behind the counter sits a stack of boxes, reminding you that if the weather is too nice, you can always opt to take your pizza to Falls Park for an impromptu picnic.  If you chose to stick around and enjoy the smells, the dining room seats around 50.  There is also a covered patio running the entire length of the south side of the building.

On the menu are thin crust pizzas galore.  In addition to pizza they have calzones, soup and salads, and appetizers.  I’m going to try Grandma’s Knish on a future visit.  Grandmothers have a special way in the kitchen.

Open for lunch and dinner daily, this is a perfect choice if you are taking a group of hungry kids out to eat before or after the show.  Or, as was the case of my meeting with Mr. Pope, it’s a great place to get away for a quiet lunch on a weekday.  FullSizeRender

Not on the menu but available to order at a reasonable price is an individual 7-inch pizza ($7-$8).  On our visit I had the Little Italy’s Garden in this single serving pizza.   It was chock full of roasted tomato, chunky mushrooms, and artichoke: a satisfyingly light lunch option.  At a previous visit my brother, 11-year-old nephew and I split the large (16-inch) New Yorker, a pie that was unctuously cheesy and meaty.

My recommendation:  Get out and see The Giver at the Sioux Empire Community Theatre.  Share the experience with a youngster; and afterward, hoof it over to A Taste of the Big Apple for some delicious pizza.  The kid will thank you for it.

A Taste of the Big Apple
600 North Main Ave
605.339.2400
Hours:
Mon – Sat, 11am-2pm & 5pm-9pm
Sun, 4pm-8pm
Patio Seating: Lots
Vegetarian: Yes
Beer/Wine: Yes & Yes
Parking: Street

METRO: ONCE upon an Irish Pub; Pair a Pavilion Show with Bogtrotters

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.30.04 AM
By Le Bender – Follow @LeBenderJr – Image: Bogtrotters, downtown Sioux Falls

An aspiring Irish singer/songwriter known simply as “Guy” pours out a forlorn love song in a Dublin bar. With a seemingly broken heart, he prepares to abandon his dream of being a musician and resign himself to repairing vacuum cleaners alongside his father.

But before he can leave the bar, a young Czech woman who has been listening approaches. A gifted pianist, “Girl” offers to compensate “Guy” with a song if he will agree to repair her broken down Hoover. A mesmerizing chemistry between “Girl” and “Guy” begins to blossom as they start making music together.

Adapted from the 2007 film of the same name, ONCE debuted on Broadway in 2012 and won 8 Tony Awards® including Best Musical. Now on its second North American Tour, the Washington Pavilion welcomes the musically gifted ensemble cast to Mary V. Sommervold Hall for three performances this weekend: Saturday Feb 27 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m, and Sunday Feb 28 at 2 p.m.

You can read a review of the current tour here.

In a gesture uncharacteristic of traditional theatre, ONCE boldly breaks the fourth wall, drawing you ever closer to the performance by inviting the audience onstage to order a drink from the bar that serves as the backdrop for this tale.

After the show you might want to find your own little Irish pub for a post-show drink. Or maybe you need of a pre-show bite. Whichever it may be, Bogtrotters Irish Pub, Grub & Tap is a worthwhile downtown destination.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.39.19 AMNo matter if you’re in a party of two or twelve, there are plenty of seating arrangements available. The interior of the pub is quite spacious, but the dark stained wood bar, tables, and high backed booths, along with copper colored ceiling tiles and turmeric-hued accent wall, create an inviting and cozy pub atmosphere.

bogtrotters
Image: tripadvisor.com

Behind the bar is a nice selection of draught beer. Of the sixteen taps, only two were from macro breweries. Does that scare you? Ask for some suggestions and your server is likely to offer you a sample. That’s so nice of them, right? The atmosphere at Bogtrotters is definitely relaxed.

Most of the draught beers are either from craft breweries or across the pond. I mean, what Irish bar doesn’t have the St. James’s Gate trio of Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s? They even have an Irish pear cider listed on tap.

If you want your beer bottled, the list is long. They’ve got all the styles you’d see lining the shelves of a specialty beer store: lagers, pilsners, stouts, porters, pale ales, cream ales, brown ales, red ales, scotch ales, IPAs, ESBs, wheat beers, bocks, and Belgian styles. They even have farmhouse ales, lambics and sours.

If you’re want some grub, the menu contains pub classics like fish ‘n’ chips, shepherd’s pie (beef & lamb), and a Rueben sandwich. We went with the fish ‘n’ chips and a couple of appetizers. The two pieces of cod were sizeable enough to share, dipped in tempura batter and fried to a golden brown deliciousness. The chips/fries were uninspired. I’m not sure if we got the end of the bag (our fries were stubby short and a tad under seasoned), but serving them on some newspaper along with a bottle of malt vinegar would have helped.

The highlight of our food was most definitely the appetizers, which seem to fit the pub ‘n’ grub mentality of Bogtrotters just fine. You’re there to kick back with your mates and mind your Pints and Quarts after all. Did I mention the relaxed atmosphere?

The Rueben egg rolls were a piping hot mix of chopped corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese in a crispy wonton wrapper, served with a thousand island dip that was a nice blend of sweet and tangy. Being a guy of Czech heritage myself, I think understand why “Girl” was hanging around that Dublin pub. It’s all about the sauerkraut.

We also had the bourbon molasses “fairy” wings. They were crispy and sticky and sweet (but not too sweet). I could have easily finished a second order. Next time I’ll try the shepherd’s pie, as it came highly recommended by the wait staff.

I can’t wrap this up without getting back to the music. A blend of classic alt rock from the 70s – 90s played overhead, the likes of the Stones to The Velvet Underground to The Cranberries. The music was just loud enough to be enjoyed, without being too loud that shouting was necessary to carry on a conversation. Bogtrottors has the occasional live act, but I suggest checking their Facebook page for who’s playing and when.

Whether you’re headed out this weekend to catch ONCE at the Pavilion, or just looking for a good Irish pub in downtown Sioux Falls for an upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration, drop by Bogtrotters for drinks and some decent pub grub.

Bogtrotters Irish Pub, Grub & Tap

201 E 11th St
605.275.0051
Hours:
Mon-Fri 3pm-2am
Sat-Sun 1pm-2am
Patio Seating: Yes
Vegetarian/Vegan: No
Entrée Range: Appetizers $5-$10, Entrees $10-$13
Parking: Street

METRO: Pair SECT’s Yonkers with The Diner, Sioux Falls

 

jqg_1336763123
Le Bender – follow @LBenderJr – Photo:  The Diner downtown Sioux Falls from www.phillipsavenuediner.com

A night out at the theatre it a great way to feed your brain.  But your stomach needs sating as well. So where in downtown should you eat before heading to the historic Orpheum for Sioux Empire Community Theatre’s latest production of Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers

To put you in the right frame of mind, and ensure a growling stomach won’t embarrass you among your fellow theatergoers, I humbly suggest a visit to the Phillips Avenue Diner.

The Scene

Simon’s Yonkers is set in an apartment above KURNITZ’S KANDY STORE in 1942 Yonkers, New York.  Diners like the one on Phillips Avenue have been a quintessential part of America’s dining landscape, especially in the boroughs of New York during the ‘30s and ‘40s.  Here, denizens of New York could find an affordable meal during the Great Depression and World War II. 

The silver Airstream trailer that is the Diner wasn’t always on the corner of Phillips and 10th.  When it first arrived in town, it was called the Market Diner and you could find out on Louise Ave where Johnny Carino’s is now located.  After a few name changes, it was decided to move the building downtown.  Although it might have been a crazy idea at the time, I’m pretty sure that was the best decision and a downtown landmark was born. 

The ideal dining group size is 2-4 persons, and although there are a few tables that will seat 6, be ready for a wait because they don’t take reservations (according to FourSquare).  The booths are comfy, and overall the place is clean.  What I appreciate about the interior décor is the level of restraint.  Unlike the distgustingly distracting walls of a 1990s TGI Friday’s or Chili’s, which sagged with the weight of a picker’s paradise, the Diner pulls off a minimalist display of era specific advertising and memorabilia.

The Players (menu)

You too can find an affordable pre-show dining experience at the Phillips Avenue Diner.  The entire menu hovers around the $8-$12 price point. That is unless you want to add one of their signature malts or shakes to your meal, and I highly recommend that you do, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.

All the diner classics are here, including: an all-day breakfast option, soups, salads (for those who prefer a clean fork to a greasy spoon), reubens and melts, cold salad sandwiches (chicken, egg & tuna), noodle bowls galore, delicious hot sandwiches, and burgers with an assortment of creative costume changes. 

I suggest the pot roast dip sandwich, served on grilled sourdough and slathered with a creamy horseradish, which has a uniquely tolerable amount of bitterness, not unlike Sonja Niles’ take on Grandma Kurnitz in SECT’s Yonkers.  Add on the grilled onions and mushrooms and you’ve got a nice challenger for the Benjamin Franklin sammy found next door at Pappy’s, whose Pot Roast/Havarti/Caramelized Onion and Truffle Oil Mayo on a soft multi-grain Kaiser is a must try for downtown lunch goers. 

The Diner also has wine and beer to get you sufficiently lubricated for a night at the theatre.  Hint: Actors like a house of patrons who’ve had just enough to drink so as to laugh out loud at the funny parts. 

The Star

I would suggest that a meal at the Diner isn’t complete without a signature shake, old-fashioned malt, or favorite float.  This month’s Valentine special is a Red Velvet Cheesecake shake.  Or try one of their whimsically named mainstays like the “Salty Dog” with caramel, sea salt and beer nuts.  My daughters favorite is the “Chocomint Crunch”, which blends chocolate and mint together with crushed Oreos® to create the right balance of sweat creaminess and grit to match DJ Steckelberg’s portrayal of Uncle Louie in Yonkers

Open to 10pm on Friday and Saturday, you might be able to sneak by the Diner after a show and grab one of their delicious shakes for the ride home.