Heather: On Firsts, On Hopes, On Hives

Heather Stone 160x240First rehearsal is the best. I have paper and a new pen. Snacks are prepared. A change of clothes are folded into a new bag – my rehearsal bag! I have lists – both mental and written down. I have my water bottle. I forgot my socks. I have hopes and ideas for the show and I’m starting to feel butterflies in my stomach. I have nerves, too.

Taking on the role of director for the first time solo for Sandbox has me excited and terrified. But the way we work – as an ensemble – with everyone taking ownership of what we do and how we do it, from the ground up, I am pretty confident that I won’t break out into hives. Pretty sure.

If you know me, and you just read that, you might have rolled your eyes. There is a bit of insecurity – I’m human! I’m used to performing and creating. This time I will be guiding our work and asking a lot from the ensemble. There will be lots of questions and I won’t have or know all of the answers. I’m okay with that.

There will be struggles and triumphs, aha moments, frustrations and backtracking. There will be laughter and confusion and grumpiness. There will be play. There will be moments of bold failure. There will be trust.

We will create this beast together. For these next few months, we will be family. However the show turns out, I hope we move on to our next adventures with respect, love and a renewed passion for each other as human beings and creators, for the work that we built together and the overall awesome satisfaction you get (I get!) from original, new work created as an ensemble. I hope to see you at our show at the Red Eye this November. I’d love to talk with you about it after you’ve seen it.
Onward and upward, all

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Killer Party

Killer Party Poster

Sandbox is throwing a Killer Party in support of our new November original production, Killer Inside. Herschel and the Detainees and Valley Meadows will be rested and ready to rock Hell’s Kitchen. We’ll have Sandbox merchandise, CDs, tees, raffles and a few surprises. All killer – no filler, and all in the name of making new, ensemble-created theatre in Minneapolis. There’s no cover, and it’s all ages. 21+ to drink.

When: Monday, September 15 | 7-10p
Where: Hell’s Kitchen – Mpls | 80 S 9th St

Herschel & The Detainees 2 - Igor Mikhailovich Kovalchuk

Photo by Igor Mikhailovich Kovalchuk

Herschel and the Detainees

 “Herschel is possibly the next big one-named musical talent to come from the Twin Cities.” – StarTribune

“No one can really even peg what Herschel sounds like—not even him. And that’s a thing of beauty in today’s world of synthesized voices and computer-generated beats. It’s also why he can book such clubs as the Dakota Jazz Club and fill it, drawing a wide-ranging audience that includes everyone from 20-something college students to seniors who dig his soulful, bluesy vibe.” – Minnesota Monthly

“When Herschel and the Detainees take the stage in a venue, the whole pulse of the room intensifies. Over time you’ll soon discover that without protest, your heartbeat drifts in tune with the Funkadelic sounds of this ska-Caribbean-hip hop blend of new age music.” – Insight News

“If you like Prince, you’ll like Herschel. If you like Maxwell, you’ll like Herschel. If you like unapologetic R&B with a big dollop of pop charisma, you’ll absolutely love Herschel.” – Twin Cities NewsCastic

Valley Meadows
Valley Meadows

 Valley Meadows in Vita.MN

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Derek: On Cryptids, Kung Fu and La Bete du Gevaudan

la bete statue

It’s a common question for Sandbox: “How did you come up with that idea?” Usually it’s as simple as one of us getting turned on by something and getting passionate about it. Enthusiasm is often contagious, as it was with Derek Lee Miller and La Bête du Gevaudan.

I first heard of the Beast of Gevaudan from the French movie Le Pacte des Loups, which I saw in college when it came to that one tiny theater in Decatur, IL that would play foreign and indie films. It was not exactly the existential drama that I had been led to believe all French films were. In reality, it was a bloated action movie with a confusing plot and for some reason, a Native American man that somehow knew Kung Fu. Oh, and the wolf was actually a hyena wearing armor made of leather, spikes and chains, which looked cool on screen, but was actually a really dumb idea now that I think about it.
Many years (and many confusing action films) later, I was writing an album’s worth of songs about cryptids (animals rumored to exist, but not proven). I didn’t want to write six songs about Bigfoot and Nessie, so I did some research, and, holy crap the internet has seriously empowered all kinds of crazy cryptid hunters. In the flurry of chupacabras, remnant dinosaurs and mothmen, I stumbled upon the Beast of Gevaudan. As it turns out, many people over the centuries have speculated that the wolf was no ordinary wolf. Some people are still seriously suggesting that it’s a hyena, which still sounds really dumb.
From this, though, I learned the tale of Marie-Jeanne Valet, who was completely left out of the Le Pacte des Loups, despite the fact that there is a badass statue of her in France today (see photo above), and not a single statue for Francois Antoine, who is officially credited with killing the wolf. Antoine’s love and awe for Marie-Jeanne formed the basis of the song I wrote, which contained, among other things, a guitar, an accordion and some badly butchered French. I’ve been waiting for this style of music to come back around again, and I think the time has almost come.
A few years after that, Sandbox was doing its Suitcase series, and I turned the story into a 15-minute piece done with only myself and suitcase of flat puppets. In escaping the constraints of a 3-minute song, I was able to explore some of the broader political contexts around this incident in France’s history (which, to be fair, Le Pacte des Loupes attempted as well through the use of punches, flying kicks and guys who always wear leather). It was fun, but I still felt like there were some greater ideas left on the table.
So earlier this year, when Sandbox’s ball was picked in the Fringe, I had a slew of new things to add to flesh out the entire world of Gevaudan. Along with the cast and director, we’ve found all kinds of funny, sad details that make the whole weird state of affairs in 1764 France seem eerily familiar to today’s world. Somehow, what started off as a quirky story from a bad action film mutated into a great and terrible lesson on what happens when a nation goes off hunting the wrong monsters. It’s beautiful and terrible, and I’m so glad that I had help in bringing it to fuller life.
Sadly, this version still does not feature Native American kung fu, leather-clad punches in the rain or a hyena in bondage gear. Maybe next time.

Derek Lee Miller is Sandbox Theatre’s Artistic Director, and the Co-Project Lead on our Fall 2014 production, Killer Inside. Marie-Jeanne Valet, Who Defeated La Bête du Gevaudan opens Friday, August 1st, 2014. Tickets are on sale now.

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