Rollicking Farce Tickles the Funny Bone


The author of It Runs in the Family, Ray Cooney, has been referred to as the British Neil Simon. Cooney also acts, produces, and directs in London’s West End. He is famous for his fast-paced farces filled with plenty of slapstick action like the Playhouse’s season opener, Cooney’s own It Runs in the Family.

Continue reading


The Cast of ‘It Runs in the Family’ is…


Yes, it’s official. We are announcing the cast of It Runs in the Family, which will be the first show of our 2016-2017 season. This comedic farce is sure to tickle funny bones and delight audiences, especially with a cast of this talent.

Read on to see who will be entertaining you this fall to kick off the new season!

Continue reading

REVIEW: Love means having to visit the nurse’s office

When we first meet Doug (Robert Lee) and Kayleen (Sarah Lueck), they are in the nurse’s office at a parochial school. He has injured himself emulating his hero, Evel Knievel, while she says she has a stomach ache. As the years go by, we see that Doug is more than just accident-prone and that Kayleen has been hurting herself in less dramatic ways.


The narrative proceeds in two timelines. Projections on the rear wall tells us the age of the two characters and display photographs of Lee and Lueck, presumably at those same ages.

Continue reading

Don’t let the title scare you: Gruesome Playground Injuries

With Opening Night only two days away, we at the Playhouse and Underground find ourselves talking to people about Gruesome Playground Injuries, and we get the same reaction every time: “Oh…that sounds…good?” *insert quizzical look here*

It isn’t until we explain the story, the characters, and why the title is what it is, that people go, “Ahhhh, that does sound awesome.” *insert big smiles and nodding of heads here*


Trust us, once you see the show, the title makes total and complete sense. This show is not gory; it’s not scary. Yes, there are several F-bombs dropped, and other adult language and subject matters brought up we wouldn’t recommend bringing your 10-year-old to see. At it’s core, Gruesome Playground Injuries is the touching love story of two people, Kayleen and Doug, and how their scars keep bringing them together.

We ran across an article in The Hollywood Reporter that explains the premise of the show quite well. Give it a read, and then come check out the show. Bonus: It’s only 70-minutes long, so you won’t be out too late on a school night.

Continue reading

Meet Robert of ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’

robertleeQ: What made you want to be a part of Gruesome Playground Injuries?
A: As soon as I read the script I wanted to be a part of the project. The characters are so well and fully crafted. And the story is told in a creative and fun way. As an actor I am only ever really interested in roles that will challenge me and that scare me at some level. Playing a character from age 8 to age 38 in the course of a one-act play seemed like an incredible opportunity for a challenge. Also being in full view of the audience for the entire show is quite the work out for an actor – constantly exposed and vulnerable. And finally the relationship between the two characters provides for such a range of experiences that need to be explored that I just couldn’t pass on this chance. It has been such a blast creating this show.

Continue reading

[REVIEW] Trampled by Turtles has soundtrack for fun adventure

It turns out that you need neither to be a kid nor have a kid in tow to see Behind the Shining Star, the Trampled by Turtles fairy tale that opened at the Underground on Saturday (June 6). However, this creative and engaging show, written by director Robert Lee and Crystal Pelkey, was developed specifically for the Pre-K age group and not for TBT fans impatient for next month’s concert at Bayfront Festival Park.

The next show in the TYA Summer Series premiered on Saturday, June 6, 2015.  From L to R:  Silver the Monkey (Jonathan Manchester), Timmy the Turtle (Jody Kujawa), and Sally Gold (Cheyl Skafte) having a dance party on their adventure. (Photo by Todd Higgins Photography)

The next show in the TYA Summer Series premiered on Saturday, June 6, 2015. From L to R: Silver the Monkey (Jonathan Manchester), Timmy the Turtle (Jody Kujawa), and Sally Gold (Cheyl Skafte) having a dance party on their adventure. (Photo by Todd Higgins Photography)

Continue reading

Take It With You Episode 1



Take It With You: Episode #1 – “Things To Look Forward To”


Written by Blake Thomas

There were a few years there when I used to do a fair amount of touring as a singer/songwriter. 120-150 dates a year. Nothing to shake a stick at (unless you just really enjoy stick shaking, in which case, by all means, shake). Sometimes I’d be on my own. Sometimes with a band. Often with my friend Josh Harty. And it was during these long car trips around the country that I started getting into old time radio shows: Gunsmoke, Escape, Have Gun Will Travel, The Shadow. And of course things like “The War of The Worlds.” Also Groucho Marx did some just beautiful stuff on the radio. But my favorite was a show called “I Was A Communist For The FBI.” Part of the reason I liked it so much was because it was so very bizarre. So obviously made during the red scare it ought to be laughable in the 2008. But it wasn’t. It was actually a really well made show, despite the fact that it had these incredibly overt, probably socially damaging, anti-communist messages woven into the fabric of every show. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much… It’s just a strange little part of history.

Skip ahead 60 odd years and the media landscape has changed rather dramatically. Sure, radio still exists as radio: sounds being disseminated on waves. But when I use the word radio, I’m referring to more than what is actually broadcast. I often listen to modern radio programs like “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” or “This American Life,” but I’m not necessarily tuning in to NPR to do it. I listen to it as a podcast. And I listen to it when I want and completely by my own choice. And although the convenience of this technology may not offer the same kind of romance that I associate with the golden age of radio, it does provide opportunity for a show such as “Welcome to Night Vale” to find an audience.

Enter Take It With You: Live Radio Theatre From Duluth, MN My wife, Mary Fox, and I have been together for 4 years now, although we’ve known each other since pre-school (because we are just that adorable). We’re also fairly new to town, having moved up from the cities last October. I think she would describe herself as an actor/director, and I a musician. But these two worlds have become increasingly intertwined. To a certain extent Take It With You is an extension of the musical Stay Tuned, an original work that premiered in April 2013 at Yellow Tree Theatre, written by Mary, myself & our friend Andy Frye. That show was centered around a fictitious radio program called “The Emerald Coffee Radio Hour” and the age old struggle that many artists go through of how to honor the past while still moving into the future. And I suppose, in a nutshell, that’s our goal with Take It With You.

I’ll be the first to tell you that what we’re doing here, although unique, is far from revolutionary. Radio theatre is nearly a century old and it’s roots in vaudeville can be traced back even farther. We’re very much working within a well established tradition. But one of the things that I’ve been missing in fictional radio today is the feeling that I’ve made a connection to a set of characters that I can spend some time with. As much as I love A Prairie Home Companion, a character like Guy Noir doesn’t really grow or change from show to show. It’s a great vehicle for comedy, but I wonder if it’s possible to create a modern radio program that’s almost closer to a sitcom, like Cheers. Taking some of those Prairie Home elements but grounding them more thoroughly in a world our listeners can live in as well. In fact, I think the best way to describe our show is that it’s “CHEERS meets A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION meets MISTER ROGERS meets AUSTIN CITY LIMITS.” It’s set in a tavern/music venue. I play the owner/bartender. I also jump on stage and sing to the patrons from time to time. I’m joined by Andy & Mary as well as this larger cast of extraordinary, multi-talented, Duluthians: Robert Lee (whom I met from working on “Peter Pan” at the Playhouse. He directed, I wrote the original score). Andy Bennett & Katy Helbacka (the heart and soul of Renegade Theatre). Zach Stofer (most recently in “All New People” & “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson“). And Ryan Nelson (also awesome, although twin ports residents may not know him yet as he’ll be commuting from Minneapolis).

A big part of our mission with the show is to promote Duluth as a whole, and specifically the incredible arts scene that’s up here. Don Ness will have a cameo on every episode, and on this first one we’ll also be talking with Brian Schanzenbach, head brewer of Blacklist Brewing.

If you’ve made it all the way to the end of these various ramblings I hope you’ll attend our first show on April 15th at 7:30pm (Doors @ 7pm) in The Underground. And stick around afterwards for our launch party.

See you on the 15th!

-blake thomas (04.09.14)