Holding On

Holding On

Unexpected Stories of World War II


In partnership with Episcopal Homes, MacPhail Center for Music, and St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists.
Conceived and Directed by Joey Clark

Recollections of WWII brought to life again through song, dance, and storytelling, Holding On: Unexpected Stories of WWII takes a look back at the lives of local veterans in a search for wisdom, perspective, and personal truths. Crafted from interviews taken by Hero Now Theatre, Holding On shines a light on the untold and surprising personal stories of the heroes and heroines who lived next door. Performed by a multi-generational cast, ages 9-92 at Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music, July 12 & 13, 2019.

From audience members

“It was a moving show that had me crying in moments. War is so complicated . . . but you were able to distill it into a collection of very real . . . relatable stories. . . . Your show revealed that behind the complications and grandeur of the history there are simple people like you and me, each with their own story to tell. And it was so beautiful to see people in that latter stage of life on a stage, given a voice.”

“Such a beautiful show. . . . The stories are incredible. It is also incredible that you heard them and gave them a voice. What a gift to all of us. I was sitting next to GI Jill . . . and had the privilege of hearing her commentary (‘I remember that too,’ and, ‘She is quoting me’). . . . I appreciated the different points of view. . . . It is easy to forget that old people used to be young and had many of the same dilemmas as young people today. . . My dad (83) and his cronies would love this show. I think you could sell a lot of tickets in Fergus Falls. It needs to happen again.”

Reactions from Vets

We donated 30 tickets to VetTix, an organization that gives tickets to veterans and their families. Read the reactions of some of those who requested tickets by selecting the following photo. (This will open in a separate tab or window.)

Link to VetTix feedback page for "Holding On"

And more reactions here. (Opens in a separate tab or window.)


Friday, July 12, 2019, 7 p.m. SOLD OUT!
Saturday, July 13, 2010, 2 p.m. SOLD OUT!
Saturday, July 13, 2019, 7 p.m. SOLD OUT!


General admission: $20
Senior (65+) / Student: $15
Veteran: Free

All performances at Antonello Hall, MacPhail School of Music, 501 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401. [Google map.]


November 2018

November 2018

Why would a soldier hospitalized for shell shock choose to return to the carnage of the trenches?

To mark the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice, Hero Now Theatre presents Not About Heroes, by Stephen MacDonald. It is a play about war, truth, and two artists’ evolving self-awareness.

Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were officers in the British army and have been called the best British poets of the “Great War.” The play, based on letters and memoirs, imagines their meeting in a psychiatric hospital–where one was admitted for shell shock, the other for speaking out against the war. As the older Sassoon nurtures Owen in his nascent poetic career, their relationship deepens. Eventually, though, Owen decides he must return to combat. What makes him go back?

Directed by Kristin Halsey. With Andy Schnabel and Mitch Ross.

Andy Schnabel

Mitch Ross

Dates & Times

  • November 8, 9, & 10, 2018 @ 7 p.m.
  • November 11, 2018 @ 2 p.m.
  • November 15, 16, & 17, 2018 @ 7 p.m.


Off-Leash Area Art Box, 4200 East 54th Street, Minneapolis MN 55417 (MAP)

Additional Programming

The play quotes from several of Sassoon’s and Owen’s poems. Come early to familiarize yourself with them so you can get more out of the play.

After each performance, you will be invited to stay for organized discussions with current U.S. military veterans who have turned to writing or other forms of art to deal with their experiences as service members. These veterans will also help lead discussions about the play.

Also, on display in the theater will be masks from the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance’s Unmasking Project, a program that has helped veterans deal with traumatic experiences. Representatives of the Alliance will be on hand to talk about the masks.

Please consider bringing a donation of clothes, which will be given to Every Third Saturday, an organization that helps homeless veterans achieve stability.


This play is funded in part with money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that was created with the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.




There are 20 spots available in Off-Leash Area’s parking lot, plus on-street parking. More information is available at their website.

May 2017

May 2017

Are the ghosts real, or are they the imaginings of the young governess sent alone to Bly Mansion to tend two “spirited” children?


Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of this Henry James classic highlights the psychological suspense by calling for just two actors: one to play the governess, the other to play multiple characters whose stories swirl alternative facts inside the novice governess’s head. She is warned, she doubts herself. Can we trust ourselves? Come and share in one character’s search for truth.

Six performances at the Victorian-style Historic Wesley Center, with start times to enhance the Gothic chill. (But see below for additional programming.)

Directed by Kristin Halsey. With Kayla Dvorak Feld and Edwin Strout.

Kayla Dvorak Feld

Edwin Strout

Buy tickets for “The Turn of the Screw”


May 4, 5, 6 & 11, 12, 13, 2017


Notice the different starting times:
Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m.
Saturdays, 9 p.m.


Historic Wesley Center, 101 E. Grant Street, Minneapolis MN 55403 (MAP)

Additional Programming

This play is based on a famous novella by Henry James, and we’ve got just the thing for you to add to your evening at the theatre. Come half an hour before performance time and hear Dr. Ed Griffin, professor of English (emeritus) at the U of Minnesota, give a 15-minute introduction that will

  • alert you to things to look for;
  • highlight differences between the original and this adaptation;
  • NOT give away the end!

That’s half an hour before performance time to get a heads up on this most interesting of stories.

$5 Parking (Cash Only)

Vouchers available from Wesley Center staff let you park in the Loring Parking Ramp (1330 Nicollet Mall) for just $5.

After you’ve parked in the ramp and found your way to the Wesley Center, look for the staff person selling vouchers in the box office and concessions area. Then, after the play, simply pay the ramp with your voucher. Easy!

Here’s a map.

Actor’s Perspective: The Oresteia

By Emily Gustafson

emilygustafson-grayscale-cropped-smallerI don’t remember a time I didn’t love stories about Greek gods and the humans they meddled with. It wasn’t the sort of knowledge I broadcasted. Most people don’t want a child telling them stories from a civilization that peaked 2500 years ago, and it certainly wouldn’t have made me friends on the playground.

In college and “the real world,” my enthusiasm for Greek mythology got sidelined. I still loved the stories, but that’s all they were. They weren’t relevant to the issues I cared about, were separated by thousands of years from 21st-century struggles for equal rights and justice. Why spend time on something irrelevant, so distant from the reality I lived in?

Enter Hero Now Theatre and The Oresteia. From the beginning, Kristin pressed the importance and timeliness of this ancient play. The venue made this paradox visible: the sculpture garden’s ancient boulders surrounded by modern northeast Minneapolis; the roar of planes while torches cast shadows in our makeshift amphitheater; the trial pitting Orestes against the Furies contrasted with today’s justice system.

Greek theater has a bad rep: it’s out of touch, cold, ceremonial. Hero Now’s Oresteia blew those assumptions apart. Cast members breathed life into each character. The script is taut and lyrical and something 21st-century Americans can understand. And Zoran’s sculpture garden made everything magical. I forgot we were performing outside in the middle of a city. It was a physically intense process, no doubt—we found new bruises every day (and the mosquitos and rain!), but our theater of stones existed outside of time, Argos and Minneapolis coexisting for the duration of our performance.

I am still astonished by how well The Oresteia mirrors our own society. The flaws and favoritism of the Greek’s justice system and the cycle of blood and retribution particularly stuck me as relevant to movements like Black Lives Matter. I mentioned it to my father, and he agreed. “It’s like Aeschylus predicted the future,” he said. “He was a Seer, almost. He saw that these things would still be relevant years after he wrote it.”

Those Greek stories I thought were so irrelevant have been passed down for a reason. As ancient as The Oresteia is, it wrestles with justice, family ties, the importance and flaws of the state, sexism, religion, and any number of issues that challenge us today. And that was really the whole point—the old and new combining to make something that was timeless and critically relevant to our moment of political and societal upheaval.

Actor’s Perspective: Terra Nova

By Vincent Hannam

Vincent-Hannam-web-finalLike the men of Captain Scott’s real-life expedition, when I heard the call for adventure I knew I had to take it.

Terra Nova was absolutely, 100% like nothing I had ever worked on before. The play itself is a riveting adventure drama, but the chance to perform the play outdoors, in January no less, was what really sold me on the idea.

I’m an actor and travel to unfamiliar locations for a living, but always within the (relative) safety of my own imagination. What a rare treat then to be able to bring life to a story set in Antarctica, in probably the closest conditions short of the real deal!

So what was it like doing a play outside in January, in Minnesota? Freakin’ cold!  What do you think? The temperature that weekend was anywhere between 0 and 10, and there was one night where my toes were really being put to the test. As a whole, to be able to feel just a fraction of what my real-life counterpart felt imbued the show with a sense of real poignancy.

It was a smart and bold decision on Hero Now Theatre’s part to take advantage of such an opportunity. The cast, crew and audiences were all in the same boat and that sense of solidarity really contributed to the success of the show. Right from the start, Hero Now Theatre established a reputation for smart, bold, and powerful theatre.

January 2016

January 2016

A Winter Theatre Experience

Hero Now Theatre’s second play was Ted Tally’s Terra Nova, the story of the first British team to reach the South Pole (and who then failed to return). We performed the play in a tent pitched on a bone-cold snowy field in January 2016. We built it, and audiences came!


We also built a 12′ X 12′ raked stage for the performance. See photos on Facebook!


Hero Now Theatre received a good amount of publicity for a company just out of the gate.


“Hero Now Theatre . . . continued to impress with their second production, “Terra Nova.” . . . Hero Now’s performance was barebones, yet immersive. . . . The setting did a lot to add to the atmosphere, and the performances were very strong. It will be interesting to see what Hero Now Theatre comes up with next.” –Northeaster, “Items of Note” (Jan 27, 2016)

Some Facebook Reviews

“Amazing production of Terra Nova. Intense, compelling storytelling that probes the depths of humanity and the power of hope. Wear your snow boots, snow pants, and parka, and prepare for an exceptional night of theatre. This weekend only.”

“‘I’m going to this on Thursday,’ wrote my friend Christina on Facebook. The accompanying picture caught my eye, some extreme weather-garbed Victorian-looking dudes pulling a freight sled on skis in a white-out? That’s a Minnesota activity option that I’ve always been attracted to, especially since following the inspiring Steger expedition of my formative years. How could that be put on stage? After clicking on a ticket reservation, I thought, “well, I’m going,” and then, “oh dear, what have I gotten myself into…?” 

Special Events

Barb Horlbeck, Executive Director of Will Steger’s International Arctic Project, was part of our talkback panel on Saturday night, January 16.


Peter Aitchison—Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Anna Olson—Kathleen Scott
Pete Colburn—Roald Amundsen
Brian Coffin—Oates
Corey DiNardo—Bill Wilson
Vincent Hannam—Birdy (read his comments)
Aaron Ruder—Evans
September 2016

September 2016

Hero Now Theatre began its second season with a one-play adaptation of Aeschylus’s trilogy The Oresteia. Rob Hardy, Minnesota poet and classicist (and Northfield’s first poet laureate) adapted and translated this ancient Greek drama for modern audiences. This was the first professional production of Hardy’s script.

The Oresteia tells of Orestes’s return from exile to revenge the murder of his father, Agamemnon the king, by his mother’s hand. It is a tale of murder and revenge, but also about how ancient Athenians began to find their way toward a society based on law and justice.

Performed outside in the sculpture gallery of Zoran Mojsilov, this production forged a bond between audiences and the Athenians who struggled with the questions raised by the play: Is murder ever justified? Who decides whether murder is punished? How is moral order restored?

Audience Voting

We had the audience vote on the very issue at the center of the second act: Is Orestes to be convicted because he killed his mother? Or is he to be acquitted because the mother he killed murdered her own husband, the king of Argos, the head of state? At the beginning of the second act each audience member received two stones, one to use if they voted to acquit, the other to use if they voted to convict. We collected the votes and announced the results after each show.

The voting provided an interesting subject to discuss during talk-backs, which followed each performance.

CLE Discussion

Following one of the performances Professor Eric Janus, Dean Emeritus of William Mitchell College of Law, led a panel discussion on the subject of the ancient Greeks’ contributions to Western legal institutions. Sitting on the panel were the Honorable Kevin Ross, Professor Duchess Harris of Macalester College, and Professor Clara Shaw Hardy of Carleton College. Lawyers from around Minnesota were invited to attend, and their attendance earned them a credit for Continuing Legal Education.

Classics Nights

On Friday, September 16, and Sunday, September 18, Professor Clara Shaw Hardy and her husband, Rob Hardy, who prepared the script, led a discussion on the history of the play and on adapting and translating Aeschylus. Students from Macalester, Carleton, Hamline, and the University of St. Thomas attended on these nights.

Outdoor Venue

Zoran Mojsilov’s sculpture gallery, located on the parking lot just west of the former Grain Belt warehouse, at 77 13th Avenue NE in Minneapolis, was the perfect venue for this play and was another example of how Hero Now Theatre uses non-traditional venues to great theatrical effect. See pictures on Facebook.


Peter Quinn—Agamemnon
Katherine Kupiecki—Clytemnestra
Vincent Hannam—Orestes
Annie Colling—Elektra
McKinnley Aitchison—Chorus A
Ashley Hovell—Chorus B
Lindy Jackson—Chorus C
Emily Gustafson—Chorus (read her comments)
Hanna Kuduk—Chorus
Danielle Krivinchuk—Athena
Kip Dooley—Apollo
Corey DiNardo—Watchman
Madeline Achen—Cassandra
Matt Englund—Aegisthus
Michael Turner—Messenger
Hero Now Hobnob

Hero Now Hobnob

Come One, Come All

Join Hero Now Theatre for a pint and a preview of our 2016-17 season!

The party gets started at 7 p.m. on August 21. $20 gets you in, a complimentary beverage, AND some excellent company. We’ll be converting Fulton Brewery Taproom into our theatre for the evening as we perform scenes from our upcoming season, including our first show, The Oresteia by Aeschylus.

Buy tickets!

Stuff to Win!

For $5, you can enter our raffle to win one of four 2016-17 season tickets (a $100 value!). Boost it up to $20 and you’ll get 5 chances to win.

Additionally, we’ll have a number of one-of-a-kind silent-auction items you can bid on that only Hero Now could conjure up. Items include:

  • A “Pie of the Month” club: get a tasty pie delivered monthly to you for a year.
  • A Hero Now Dinner: Let the Hero Now team prepare a savory meal for you and join you for an evening of fun and good company.
  • An overnight retreat at the Orchard House at Buttermilk Falls Folk School & Retreat Center.
  • Interior/exterior painting services from our own Peter Aitchison.
  • A handmade cajon drum.
  • A “Soup of the Month” club: We’ll deliver a 2-quart serving of a new soup every month to your doorstep.
  • Up to 10 hours of web development or maintenance services.
  • And many more items to be announced over the next month!

Buy tickets!

As always, thank you for your support of our up-and-coming theatre company! We’re beyond excited about our second season and can’t wait to give you a taste of what we have in store.