By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
MANKATO — Chance conversations are funny things.
Carrie Moore had one -- several weeks ago, actually, at the launch party for the Rural America Contemporary Art online magazine. As she mingled among the writers, painters, sculptors and artists who had congregated in host Brian Frink’s barn, she brushed elbows with Launa Helder.
Helder also happens to have a long history of involvement with Mankato Mosaic, a collection of local talent that produces a handful of short-play and variety-style performances each year. Upon hearing of Moore’s past involvement in community theater, Helder invited her to audition for their upcoming production.
“I said OK -- and then kind of forgot about it,” Moore admitted.
But when she saw a brief about auditions in the newspaper, Moore’s long-dormant performance bug began to awaken.
Several years ago, Moore performed in a community theater in the United Kingdom where she lived for a spell with her husband. Prior to that, she played saxophone in a band that performed three times a day at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wis.
Now, she plays the role of a 2-year-old troublemaker in one of four short plays featured Mankato Mosaic’s “50 Shades of Winter” variety show that debuts today.
“Everybody has been so welcoming,” Moore said. “There’s so much talent. It’s astonishing.”
Mosaic has produced a string of humorous and highly original performances that are often staged in bars, coffee houses and restaurants. Shows often include dance, poetry and music.
For the “50 Shades” performance, Mosaic is including four locally written short plays, a dance by Leslie DuPree-Cady, poetry by Jennifer Brunick and music by String Theory (which recently released a studio album “What’s the Matter with Captain Gravitone?”).
The short plays include:
“50 Shades of Christmas”: Two couples come to the realization that they need to spice up their love life;
“The Christmas Present”: A couple in the 1920s must travel to visit an aunt for Christmas who is totally deaf;
“Walking Track”: Two colleagues try to lose weight at the walking track -- but the pizza buffet calls;
“Christmas Dinner”: A young family tries to eat a holiday dinner at a restaurant before their 2-year-old implodes.
Moore plays the 2-year-old in “Christmas Dinner” and said she’s found plenty of inspiration right under her nose.
“I’ve been taking cues from my 1-year-old son,” she said.
“Christmas Dinner” also features Jen Potocnik in her directorial debut for Mankato Mosaic. She’s acted in several Mosaic productions -- most recently, Eagle Lake playwright Tom Barna’s drama “Do They Serve Coffee in Hell?” -- and felt the time was right to take the next step.
“Directing just seemed like the next feat to take on,” she said.
Due to a last-minute change, Potocnik will also be playing the role of the waitress. She credited her cast -- which includes Greg Abbott in the father’s role and Anika Cristwell as the mother -- as “brilliant” and said the excitement of directing her first piece has almost overcome the anxiety.
“Of course I’m nervous,” Potocnik said. “But I think it’s really coming together.”