I’ve Seen the Future and it’s Miranda Shaughnessy. Starring in Minnesota Dance Collaborative Production HoliDaydream at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.

Miranda Shaughnessy Photo by Dan Norman

Minnesota Dance Collaborative’s presentation of HoliDaydream is in residence at The Southern Theater in Seven Corners area of Minneapolis. I spent close to a dozen hours at the Southern this fall at the Twin Cities Horror Festival. It’s a very atmospheric theater perfect for horror plays and, as it turns out, Christmas dance fantasy’s as well. The performance space is broad and deep allowing the dancers plenty of room, and this company makes excellent use of it. I’ve written before about the joy of exploring new forms of theatrics, out of my comfort zone, such as Opera and Dance. HoliDaydream is primarily a dance piece but it has dialogue and some singing as well. It’s something of a special show. When I was told about it, I immediately thought of the great Richard Linklater film Boyhood. This is the sixth year that they have done a variation on this show. The main character Marie has been played all six years my Miranda Shaughnessy. She first played the role when she was age 10 and is now 16. Every year the show follows her through another Christmas, her character another year older. Referencing previous years, just enough to hint at the continuity for the repeat audiences but not so much to make you feel like you came too late to the show if you are a newcomer like me. I love this idea, and I do grieve the fact that I cannot attend the previous five years performances.

The story begins as I suspect each year has with Marie writing a letter to Santa. This year at 16 she is thinking less about all the “things” she wants and more about what is really important, like Bernie in the White House. Then she suddenly has a vision of herself in the future and she is down and depressed and it seems like she has ruined Christmas for everyone. The rest of the show Marie and her friends search the past for clues as to how or why she has ruined Christmas. This is where they reference the previous years adventures and based on those hints, there have been some really interesting themes explored in past years. The story elements lend themselves to dance sequences, first off they are dancers, so they go to a dance studio. But there are also dreams and conversations with people inside Marie’s head, which flow smoothly into dances. The show is filled with dancing, more on that below, but it’s also populated with a wonderful assortment of characters including the Dance studio headmistress and Marie’s Mom, both played with gusto and humor by the Writer and Artistic Director Shelli Manzoline, who created this idea of revisiting Marie every year.

The dancing. I cannot do justice to the beauty of the dancing with the words at my disposal. I don’t want to turn anyone off with all the dance talk. It doesn’t matter who you are, you will be amazed and entertained by this dancing. This is not boring or inaccessible at all. It’s incredibly entertaining and engaging. Minnesota Dance Collaborative doesn’t focus on merely one style of dance, they do everything from ballet to hip-hop. Like previous dance performance I’ve seen, I was amazed at the synchronization and sheer athleticism involved. The first dance number “Back in Time” showcased the precision of the entire company, 14 dancers all moving together quickly and flawlessly. “The Nutcracker Battle Compilation” telling a story solely in movement, expressing not only actions but also emotions with their entire bodies. I even got a few callbacks to earlier in this first season of reviewing shows. The first was a number called “Christmas Calamity” and it’s a parody of “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago, which I reviewed the Theater Latte Da production of. This is one of the few songs in which the dancers actually sing and they all did nice vocal work as well. Second was “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Show, which was done at Park Square this fall. There was even a mention of not saying the “M” word in a theater, referencing of course MacBeth which I saw the Wayward Theatre Company mount as well this fall. Heck, they even mention Fargo ND which is where I grew up! So while Marie was having her trip down memory lane it felt like I was as well. It’s hard to single any of the dancers out as the program does not have picture and bios, but they are all very talented. One Dancer I spoke with briefly after the show was Grace Sjolander who plays Marie’s sister Lucy. Sjolander has been dancing in competition throughout her life and it shows in the precision she brings to here dancing. There are only two male dancers Lawson Sharrer and Cade Kaiser, both of them in the 14 to 16 year old age range I’d guess, both had the dance steps down, both did some fun line readings. Lawson sharrer has that little extra that could develop into something special, he had that little added bit of grace in his dancing and the ability to sell everything with his face.

Speaking of Something extra, earlier this year I reviewed a show at the Minnsky Theatre. In that review I singled out one dancer. In fact, I was so taken with her dancing and performance that I tracked someone from the cast down after the show to get her name so I could mention her specifically. Her Name is Miranda Shaughnessy and she’s a smasher! There is a line from the film Sunset Boulevard, where a retired film star talks about her days in silent films. Norma Desmond says “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”. Shaughnessy has the face and the gift of a great silent film actress. Do not mistake me, she can act with dialogue and I’m not referencing the inaccurate cliche of the overacting silent performer. She has the gift of conveying so much with her face that dialogue is superfluous. Equally effective with drama and comedy. She has the same talent in her dancing, watching her move you are never at a loss to know what her character is feeling. Watching her dance is to understand the beauty of movement. Watching her face is to understand the joy of dancing. One of the joys of seeing as much theater as I do is running across talents like this. I have a small list of local performers that I will make it a point to see everything they are in. Miranda Shaughnessy is now on that list. At sixteen years old she is six years into playing the lead in an annual Holiday production. Of the 13 dance numbers in the show she either choreographed or co-choreographed five of them. There will come a time when this talent will head to New York or LA, but she told me after the show she would want to come back at this time of year to continue her journey as Marie. I hope she’s able to do that. Not many actors get the opportunity to own a role like this, to revisit a character yearly, in a new show with the character aging with them. That’s a rare thing in the world, and it’s something I think she should continue as long as she can. I’m not sure once she goes out into the larger world how long that will be, because she’s going to be big.

HoliDaydream runs at the Southern Theater through December 22nd for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.southerntheater.org/

Plan ahead for Halloween Fun at the 8th season of the Twin Cities Horror Festival

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In my household everyone knows there is no such thing as the month of October. When listing months it goes August, September, Monster Month November, December. So being the theater fan I am and having an affection for celebrating bumpities and spookables during the month which must not be named, I was intrigued to discover the Twin Cities Horror Festival (TCHF). The TCHF is Eleven days of onstage horror and more. It’s eighth season runs from October 24th thru November 3rd at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. The festival consists of 12 stage shows, The Horror Show Hot Dog Short Film Festival, and a Lobby sensory experience called Living Embalming Sessions that will send you home with a death certificate.

With basically 14 different shows to experience how can you possibly see everything? Well it’s even trickier than that because The Horror Show Hot Dog Short Film Festival shows a different selection of short films at each screening, of which there are 5. The good news is each of the shows runs just under an hour, so there are multiple shows on any given day, and you can easily catch 4 to 5 on a weeknight, don’t worry about getting too sleepy, remember these are horror shows. Up to 8 shows can be taken in on a weekend. Appointment’s to be embalmed can be made in the lobby, in case that is a service you need. With all but one show having 5 performances throughout the 11 days of the festival, there are many opportunities to see as many as you’d like. Be Warned as you make your schedule there is one show, Sara’s FUNeral: An Open Casket Cabaret that has a single performance on Saturday Nov.2nd at 11:30 AM, so if you are a completest plan accordingly.

The complete schedule and descriptions of each show can be found at www.tchorrorfestival.com. For families looking for some good clean scares read the full descriptions on the website Click on SHOWS –> LINEUP AND TICKETS scroll down to the individual show descriptions, when you click on More you will get a fuller description, scroll to the bottom of the page and each show has a rating, here is an example from Frankenstein

Ratings (1-5)
Language – 4
Violence – 5
Blood – 5

​Suggested Age 16+

Tickets can be purchased for individual shows or you can buy multi-show passes. There is the Four Horsemen Pass which gets you 4 tickets at a discount which you can use to see 4 different shows or to take a group of 4 to 1 show, you can purchase as many of those as you want. They also the Skeleton Key, which is basically unlimited access to all the shows. This is the route to go if you intend to see everything at least once and multiple sessions of The Horror Show Hot Dog Short Film Festival. I plan to take in as many as my schedule allows for. I would like to point out that the TCHF officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit this year. This ensures that they are able to pass on all money raised from individual tickets sales to the artists behind the shows.

I promise to post reviews of the shows I get to, the day of whenever possible. So if you are on the fence on which shows to check out, check back throughout the Festival I’ll post them as I see them. I’ll end with a selection of Photos from previous shows