Today we welcome some sheep to the blog. Or, more accurately, the people—the creators, the driving force—behind Sheep Theater. (We’ve reviewed several of their fabulously funny shows before on the No Filter portion of our blog.) Here, Iris, Joey, and Michael answer some questions about Sheep, running a company, and their upcoming holiday show.
Where did Sheep Theater begin/come from?
Before we gave it a name, the regular cast of people were all performing and producing shows together since 2010, or if you want to get even more specific, since the old High School days. Michael and Joey met in High School in math class and Iris met them both during College. College-time was also where people like Robb Goetzke, Jacob Mobley, Emily Wrolson, Madeline Rowe, Tara Lucchino, and Michael Rogers showed up, and we all did theater together in different capacities. Sheep Theater as a name was started by Joey Hamburger, Iris Rose Page, and Michael Torsch in 2015. Since then we’ve been creating original plays together!
Why “Sheep” theater? Where did the name come from?
According to Michael Torsch: “I was thinking of words that had some assonance with the word theater and that didn’t sound like any other companies in the Twin Cities, and the word sheep came to me. There are no other companies in the cities with an animal name, and not only did the phrase Sheep Theater sit nice on the tongue, but it also sounded like Cheap theater—and we have a mission to keep our ticket prices low and our production costs minimal. It was all in the sound of the phrase. When I shared this with Joey, he tried to name it after his paintings, but as history will tell you, we settled with the name we grew to love.”
According to Joey Hamburger: Joey once painted a picture of a piece of toast riding on a sheep. He refused to let us name the company after anything that would stray from this theme because he has artistic integrity and will not be trifled with. Michael and Iris refused to accept the name “Piece of Toast on a Sheep and the Sheep is Embarrassed Theater Company” so we just went with Sheep Theater. It was a pretty challenging time for us as a company but we came together in the end. True story.
Iris Rose Page is still pretty lukewarm about the name.
What are the challenges of being a young theater company?
When you are at the start of building anything there are so many unknowns and questions you didn’t even realize you’d have to face until you’re knee deep in them. It’s all equally exciting as it is chaotic. Money is little. We’re all balancing thousands of things in our lives. The fact we only perform scripts that we write doubles this, but it also makes it all the more exhilarating!
Also, I think when you’re a (young) theater company that is just starting out it can be easy to equate ambition with progress. That’s not to say that ambition doesn’t bring growth, but it can be easy to lose sight of intention or your appreciation of what it is you’re doing. I think our promise for this new year is to put less emphasis on how much we’re doing and more on how we’re doing things. Which is just a good mindset to practice in life.
What’s the story on Christmas Storiessz V?
Christmas Storiessz I was written by Joey Hamburger and Michael Rogers in 2013. The story was a story within a story within a story performed by Catholic St. Solomon’s Catholic Middle Catholic Private School’s Christmas Pageant. Catholic St. Solomon’s and Frosty the Snowman are the only thing that stuck when it was rewritten in 2014 to become Christmas Storiessz II: Murder on the Polar Express. The cast has always been a group of friends that eventually became Sheep Theater. Each year we write a new Christmas Storiessz play right around Thanksgiving, and then rehearse it up to December 23rd (although we added a second performance night on the 22nd of December this year).
It’s our special way to share in the holidays and celebrate with our loved ones as well as kick off our excitement for all the new plays we’re about to put out this next year. It’s just a silly holiday show, but it’s also transformed and brought in so many new and old friends and has stood as a constant as we grow over the years. The play reminds us to be grateful for all that we have and excited for all the things to come.