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PIONEER PRESS ‘A Pickle’: Sally Wingert stars in a play about disqualified State Fair pickles

May 22, 2021

It seems we were in something of a pickle.

Longtime favorite Twin Cities actor Sally Wingert is in a one-woman outdoor show from Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. After a year of pandemic shutdowns, audiences are so hungry for live theater that 11 performances sold out in days. Four more were added and, at the time we published this, seats remained for only two of the additional shows.

Sally Wingert is Doris in Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s one-woman show, “A Pickle.” (Courtesy of Sarah Whiting)

“A Pickle” is based on real events. Wingert plays Doris Rubenstein, whose kosher pickles were disqualified when she entered them in competition at the Minnesota State Fair – two years in a row. Apparently the judges found the cloudy pickle brine unacceptable, Wingert says. The story of Rubenstein’s fight for kosher pickle pride and prize was performed in the 2017 Minnesota Fringe.

But what to say about Wingert that hasn’t already been said? She’s been in more than 100 shows at the Guthrie, as well as other shows for MJTC and Twin Cities productions from Theater Latte Da, Ten Thousand Things and more. She’s performed on Broadway and on London’s West End.

We did not relish this situation.

Why not talk to Wingert about the topic at hand? Pickles.

Here, then, is an in-depth, fully fermented conversation with Wingert about pickles.

Q. Do you have a favorite kind of pickle (dill, bread and butter, kosher, sweet)?

A. I wish I could say I was bigger fan. I like pickles. I don’t not eat pickles, but I don’t go out of my way to eat pickles. I suppose it would be those little baby dill cornichons. I have a friend who makes bread-and-butter pickles that are so good I can stand by the fridge and eat them out of the jar. And my niece makes good pickled jalepenos.

If we were talking about mayonnaise, I’d have a whole lot more to say.

Q. Slices, whole, spears, relish?

A. I do like a good pickle relish on a hotdog with raw onion. Or a spear on certain kind of hotdogs.

Q. My grandpa was a big fan of pickled pigs feet. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten pickled?

A. I don’t know. I’m sure I’ve had a lot of things pickled – especially in Asian food – that would surprise me. I’m not squeamish about trying food.

Q. Have you ever eaten a pickled egg from a big jar behind the bar in a small-town tavern?

A. No, but I don’t drink beer and I imagine a salty, briny egg would be good with beer.

Q. Do you make pickles?

A. I don’t make pickles, but I’ve pickled things like red onion to use in recipes.

Q. Have you ever entered a food or craft in the State Fair or other competition?

A. I have not, but I love seeing all of the entries in the Creative Activities and Horticulture Building at the State Fair. My sister-in-law Kitty enters a white layer cake in the baking competition and took fifth place one year. White layer cakes are very tricky. I always have to check to see how she did.

I do cook and bake, but have never entered anything.

Q. When does a cucumber become a pickle?

A. It’s like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Whoever is eating it can decide.

Q. Have you ever been “in a pickle” – a story you can share in a family newspaper?

A. Of course. Which one should I share? How about a theater story.

Sally Wingert plays a woman whose kosher pickles were rejected in State Fair competitions. (Courtesy of Sarah Whiting)

I was a nursing mother with a 2 1/2-year-old and a 4-5 month old at home, appearing in the History Plays (three Shakespeare plays) at the Guthrie in 1990 and I was so tired I almost blacked out throughout that run. In “Henry IV,” I had a looong amount of time between entrances, so I told my dresser I was going to lie down on the floor of my dressing room and asked her to wake me after a few minutes. I woke to hearing my cue on the monitor in the dressing room. One second I was in deep sleep, the next second I was running. The scene starts with my character retching and I heard another actor making my retching sounds as I ran onto the stage.

Boy, was I in a pickle.

Q. Watermelon pickles, yes or no?

A. I’ve never had them. They’re bright green, though, right? I do love the neon green pickle relish on a Chicago Dog.

Q. Dill pickle flavored potato chips, yes or no?

A. I’ll eat them or salt and vinegar chips and would probably pick them over barbecue flavor. But I like a good, plain salted kettle chip.

Q. Any tips for opening a particularly stubborn pickle jar?

A. I usually give it a good whack on the counter. If that doesn’t work, run it under some hot water.

While “A Pickle” is about its namesake edible, the play is really about Rubenstein seeing an injustice and deciding to change it, Wingert says. “She was kind of indominable. It’s insight into a really particular person.”

‘A Pickle’

  • What: A one-woman play by Deborah Yarchun, starring Sally Wingert, presented by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company

  • When: May 27-June 19

  • Where: Various outdoor locations throughout the Twin Cities.

  • Tickets: As of presstime, 13 of the 15 dates were sold out. Tickets are $35.

  • Info:

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