One of the aspects of the Resident Ensemble model of theatre operation is that artists come and join the company for a period of time and then move on. As such, we know that you come to know those people on a personal level because of our commitment to the community only to lose touch if and when the time comes for one of those artists to move on. The old saying is truly fitting—you can take the actor from the Commonweal, but you can’t take the Commonweal from the actor.
For this edition of “25 Seasons—25 Stories”, we caught up with two former members of the Commonweal artistic family and asked them to recall what it was that made Lanesboro and the Commonweal such a special place for them.
Lisa Weaver was a member of the Commonweal company from 1996-2007 and Jerome Yorke from 2007-2010.
The Love of Teaching
by Lisa Weaver
For some reason (the C‘weal 25th anniversary?, graduation parties of my friends’ children?, my own son entering middle school?) I have been musing lately about the beginnings of my teaching career. In the summer of 1997, we were performing I Ought to be in Pictures and Bullshot Crummond at the Commonweal and Kristen Underwood asked me if I would be interested in teaching for the High School Conservatory. I was very unsure about it – I had never taught before! What did I really know about theatre? High school kids are intimidating! She asked if I would try team teaching and I agreed so Hal and I taught a Movement Class together. I still remember that class and those students vividly. I was startled to learn it was a lot of fun and the students weren’t scary; in fact they were eager to learn and try new things. Theatre concepts I hadn’t thought about since graduate school were coming back to me!
My teaching career just grew from there. To list some highlights: teaching at Luther College; starting the Theatre Class and directing at Lanesboro High School; starting the Semester-in-Residence program; and eventually becoming Education Director at the Commonweal. I think it was when I was teaching Auditioning and Introduction to Theatre at Luther when I realized: I am good at this! I never imagined this path but oh, how I have loved it! I teach and direct at Anoka-Ramsey Community College now and I still love it. I am so grateful for my time at the Commonweal and for the many teaching mentors I had while there: Kristen, Hal, Jeff Dintaman, Bob Larson, Jeff Boggs, Chris Knutson and Lynn Jacobson to name a few. I am also grateful for all the students I have had over the years – the theatre kids (I am looking at you, Gary Danciu) and also the jocks and Biology majors who needed an elective.
I might never have discovered my love of teaching if not for the Commonweal!
Where The Root River Bent
by Jerome Yorke
Just last month I came across, scribbled hastily upside-down in the top corner of a random notebook page, the name: Hal Krop, his phone number, and “Common Wheel.” Yes, for those faithful to the cause, there are some spelling mistakes. What I had jotted down was information from a phone call with an offer of a role in “Crimes of the Heart.” I had auditioned months earlier for “Ghosts”, didn’t get the part but was willing to do anything to be a part of this ensemble of actors. Without realizing it, I was craving a deeper connection to this art form. Something was missing. As a young actor, I felt as though there was something more to the craft that I could give yet had never had the opportunity.
With the Commonweal, I was able to become a part of an ensemble that lived and breathed together, our offstage lives and relationships undoubtedly strengthening the trust that we all must have to hold each other up. In our work of understanding human connection and recognition of the other as a fellow troubadour, whether these encounters soar or go sour, it is our human experience that connects us. It is at the Commonweal that I first acknowledged that this kind of connection is attainable as an actor interprets human emotion. That beautiful universe gave me the freedom to study and explore what it is that makes us so unique in the whole existence of time. To emote, to form camaraderie, to love, to hate, to teach, to learn.
The confidence that I gained in that artistic home drove me to study the dynamic of ensemble even further. I am about to begin my 3rd, and final, year at Dell ‘Arte International in the Ensemble Based Physical Theatre Masters Degree Program. In that program we are taught that our creation of theatre is a river that flows that flows through all of us. For me, the drama of my life certainly unfolded where the grand Root River bends—and as the stream flows on….Happy Anniversary, “Common Wheel.”