FARIBAULT — Waseca native Paul Somers is returning to the southern Minnesota stage Thursday night for a performance of “Triple Espresso: A Highly Caffeinated Comedy” at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault.
As a founding member of local theater company the Merlin Players back in 1995, Somers is no stranger to the venue. T he school was home to the troupe when it was first starting out.
“It was just a happy coincidence for me,” he said, of Thursday’s performance. “[‘Triple Espresso’] has been working on a new, more portable touring model and as a result we’ve done a number of dates around the state.”
While the Waseca High School graduate is now based out of the metro, Somers has been able to travel often since joining the “Triple Espresso” production in 2002. The three-man comedy routine, self-described as a show about a coffee house, a lack of common sense and “the single most embarrassing moment ever broadcast on live national television” was created in and is currently based out of Minneapolis. However, the ensemble frequently goes around the U.S. and abroad doing multi-week and sometimes multi-year stints in a number of cities.
Some of the longest of these have been continuous runs in San Diego and Minneapolis that have spanned over a decade — although Somers noted that a rotating cast will come in to help out during these stretches.
“At one time, I believe we had effectively five groups of people that you could mix and match, because everybody knows the show so well,” he explained, adding that he’s one of the more recent additions to the group almost two decades in. “Certainly for the long run there were times when they would bring somebody else in to give someone some time off.”
Outside of the U.S., the show has been performed in Berlin, London, Dublin and elsewhere — with Somers getting to join in for the Ireland leg. The actor said being able to see other parts of the country and beyond has been one of the best parts of his career, and one he’s even been able to share with his sons.
“They’ve come along to some of the places with me, which is great,” said Somers.
He noted that in total, he’s performed the show well over 2,000 times. Still, when he can, he also acts at other venues — including Park Square Theatre and the Guthrie in the Twin Cities, and of course with the Merlin Players, now based out of the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.
“Occasionally, I have come back and performed shows with them, the most recent of which was ‘Barefoot in the Park,’” said Somers, of a 2018 production. “I will also be participating in their 25th anniversary gala at the Paradise in March.”
Somers said this event would be a chance to sing, act and remember some of the Merlin Players’ highlights both on the stage and off. A quarter-century after the company’s founding, Somers noted that the hope in starting the group was to put on professional-level productions and provide more opportunities for area audiences to take in a show.
Apart from the Merlin Players, Somers has also been in a number of productions at the Little Theatre of Owatonna and now, having traveled to various communities through “Triple Espresso,” he said the community theater in southern Minnesota is one thing that helps make the region unique.
“There’s something about the passion that is brought to it by people for whom, they’re doing it because they love to do it,” said Somers. “For people who have families and careers, to be able to give that time and that emotional investment to a performance, it definitely brings out a good quality in the material.”
For Richard Kettering, chair of the Fesler-Lampert Performing Arts Series at Shattuck-St. Mary’s — of which tomorrow’s show is a part — events hosted by both students and visiting artists are also a way to connect with community members. In addition, the “Triple Espresso” actors will be visiting some of the school’s theater classes and sharing their experience with the next generation of performers.
“When we have a performance series, the important thing about all of these groups is they don’t just show up, go to the stage and leave,” said Kettering. “They all do some type of residency work with our students. The performance aspect, that’s open to the general public.”
He added that he expects Thursday night’s show to be a sell-out, and encouraged those wishing to attend to get tickets ahead of time. Admission is $25 for adults and $15 for students, and can be purchased in advance online at www.s-sm.org/tickets or by calling the box office at 507-333-1620. Any remaining tickets will also be available for purchase at the door.
The performance will take place Thursday, Jan. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the school’s Newhall Auditorium; the Shattuck-St. Mary’s campus is located at 1000 Shumway Ave. in Faribault.