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A Whale of a Tale: 'Ishmael' sets sail Oct. 25

Jack Weston plays "Ishmael" in the production set to hit the stage Oct. 25 in the Chalberg Theatre at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Photo by William Clark Photography

Following its critical and box office success at the Jungle Theater earlier this year, "Ishmael" will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College.

The performance at CLC, presented by the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center, is one of seven venues presenting this play throughout Greater Minnesota. The tour began earlier this fall.

Drawn from Herman Melville's classic novel, "Moby Dick," "Ishmael" tells the tale of a country schoolteacher who signs on to a whaling trip with a captain he's never met. A shape-shifting actor and a multifaceted musician conjure a funny, thoughtful and harrowing play about Ishmael's drive to see the world and Captain Ahab's insatiable quest for the great white whale, Moby Dick, a news release stated.

Originating at the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival, "Ishmael" was selected for presentation by the Big Sky Conservatory and developed into a full-length theater piece. It premiered at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in March of 2017. The production opened the 2018 season for Minneapolis' acclaimed Jungle Theater and played to sold-out capacity for its entire run.

Presenter Patrick Spradlin calls "Ishmael" one of the most moving pieces of theater he's seen in quite some time.

"I was fortunate to see the play at the Jungle last spring," Spradlin stated in a news release. "It was an amazing experience, given the size and scope of the story, and the presentation of only one actor on stage. It is truly enthralling."

In discussing his approach to crafting this famous story into a 90-minute theater piece, "Ishmael" playwright Leo Getter stated, "We tell this tale in such a way that it's like closing your eyes and having the book come alive for the audience."

Guthrie Theater actor Michelle O'Neill has reshaped the piece for touring, integrating members of the original cast and crew, including Jack Weston as Ishmael and musician Jim Parker, providing a seamless soundscape that sets an evocative tone for the work.

O'Neill started her career in New York City, where she studied at the Juilliard School and worked as a professional actor, appearing on Broadway, television, films and theaters across the country. O'Neill moved to the Twin Cities in the early 2000s and has since acted in over 26 productions at the Guthrie Theater, where she also directs, teaches and creates programs enriching young people's understanding of theater. As a director, her favorite projects have been "Uncle Vanya," "A Month in the Country," "Twelfth Night" and "The Diviners." Since 2004, O'Neill has held the position of an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, where she directs and teaches students.

Author Leo Geter, the writer of the play, started off in the world of acting, appearing in over 30 film and television series as well as many theater productions. He has directed plays in New York, Los Angeles, Colorado and Minnesota. For the past eight years he has written many teleplays for TNT's "The Closer" and "Major Crimes," where he also worked as executive producer and director. He holds a master's degree in film from New York University.

As the only actor in the production, Weston is a Twin-Cities based actor/singer/songwriter. Weston has performed professionally since he was 16 years old. His theatrical roles include Jesse James in "The Story of Jesse James," Jesus in "Jesus Christ Superstar," Joseph in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and Frederick in "The Pirates of Penzance." In addition to acting, Jack has released three CDs of jazz standards and original compositions, written commercial jingles, and performed voice-overs for radio. He has performed both as a solo artist and with his band at clubs and small concert venues throughout the Midwest. Jack originated the role of Ishmael in the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival production of "White Whale."

Parker is no stranger to Ishmael's wanderlust. Jim has played for hundreds of community folk dances and performed and taught workshops at festival and venues around the stage, throughout the Midwest, and internationally. Jim danced with the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers for 10 years, and has been delving into the music and dance of central and Eastern Europe for many years through his involvement with the Ethnic Dance Theatre Folk Orchestra and several international folk music ensembles. As a composer, music director, and performer for puppet theater, Jim has scored works for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, Public Domain Productions, Magic Lantern Puppet Theatre and Little Coyote Puppet Theatre.

Tickets for "Ishmael" are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office at 218-855-8199 or online at www.clcperformingarts.com

The show is sponsored by the LaVonne Danzl Family and Prairie Bay Grill and Catering. The entire season is made possible in part by an operating grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board, as part of the Legacy Amendment.

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