Monday, July 27, 2015

From Page to Stage: Reflecting on My Young Playwrights Festival Experience

After the release of this year's Young Playwrights festival Top Ten, I took it upon myself to reflect on my own experience as a recent YPF Finalist. 

The Young Playwrights Festival enabled me to share a part of myself with an audience in an empowering and rewarding experience.  Targeted towards people under 18, YPF gives teenagers the opportunity to try their hand at writing an original one act play with the support and guidance of MCT Education, spearheaded by Marcella Kearns (Education and Literary Manager). Submitted plays have the opportunity to be one of three selected to be produced in the biennial YPF Showcase. My play, STORAGE SPACE, was chosen for the 2014-2015 season.
STORAGE SPACE follows three siblings in the wake of their mother’s death as they unpack her storage space, draw up memories, and deal with the estrangement between the two sisters. The very fact that I finished the play remains something about which I’m very proud. Originally assigned as a project for my high school theatre class, I had no idea that I would produce something that I would enjoy writing, let alone see it on the stage. I wrote a story that felt important and reflected myself. I wrote what made me sad and conflicted, and what made me laugh.
Because Rufus King participates in the YPF Residency, I had the chance to work with both Marcy Kearns, who runs the program, and with peers who were also endeavoring to produce their own works. While I’ve been writing recreationally since a young age, playwriting was a new genre to me and Marcy’s guidance helped immensely. She not only taught us the proper format, but also emphasized defining elements of the genre of one act plays. We focused in on realistic dialogue, a progressive, character driven story, and feasibility of production.
After STORAGE SPACE was selected, I read the feedback from the panel who reviewed the scripts. I found several very different opinions, which gave me a sample of the many thoughts and interpretations that would come with putting my work on display for an audience much larger than my theatre class. Theatre is highly dependent on how theatre makers such as the director and actors interpret the script, so I had to consider how others might understand the context and meanings of my dialogue. The gates of director, designers, and actors between myself and the audience was daunting. I worried that my meaning might get lost in translation to the stage, but I had faith in my interpreters.

I sat in on auditions where I met my director, Mallory Metoxen, and had my first introduction to those who would put real faces and voices to my characters. I remember being flattered that so many people wanted to share in this experience with me, that so many talented actors read my words. They gave me a small glimpse of what STORAGE SPACE could be.
I entrusted Mallory, the actors, and designers with my play, knowing that the version in my mind would never be a perfect reality, but excited to see what they made of it. Mallory and I corresponded with questions about the script and from her and the cast, which comforted me. It was good to know they cared about what I meant and checked with me before making changes.
In the end, I was awestruck by how well interpreted the performance was. I felt that the actors captured the essence of the characters and found something I hadn’t known was there. Perhaps the most impressive idea was the rotating set that switched from living room to cluttered storage space. I never imagined spinning the location away, but found it innovative and exciting to see the set change interpreted in such a creative way.
Sitting in the full Studio Theatre with acquaintances and strangers alike felt surreal. Though I had never seen the production like the rest of the audience, I felt like I knew secrets, I had an eye for moments to anticipate and excitement for how challenges were handled. Having 90 people in a room focused on the story you have to tell, empathizing with the characters you created, laughing at the jokes you wrote (and the ones you didn’t plan), and making people feel is one of my proudest moments.
STORAGE SPACE is a standing example of an idea that became something larger. I highly encourage people to write simply to have the accomplishment of doing it if nothing else. Even if your play is not selected, you accomplish a great feat by writing something complete. Write what you want to write about, what you feel deserves to be written, and you will learn as a writer and perhaps as a person.



Friday, April 10, 2015

An interview with Ruby

Anna Cline makes her MCT debut in JEEVES TAKES A BOW as the kooky chorus girl Ruby LeRoy-

Tell us a bit about your character, Ruby.


Ruby is nothing if not a fun, little spitfire. She is a starlet in the making, and isn't afraid to take matters into her own hands (sometimes literally) to get herself to the big time!

Briefly list the three best things about JEEVES TAKES A BOW:


1. The end of the Prohibition era in New York serves as a fabulous backdrop to the crazy scenarios these characters get mixed up in.

2. The combination of high British and gritty New York accents creates a kind of cacophony that is actually quite delightful.

3. The laughs! You'll get plenty of 'em...

Anything else you’d like to share with readers about the show, rehearsals, etc.?


Prepare yourself for an incredibly entertaining show. With music, action, and fun, there is a little something for everyone.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that make you who you are today?


I think in the theatre you can befriend not only truly talented artists, but some of the most warmhearted, humble, and generous people you could ever meet. This cast and crew are no exception.


Thanks Anna! See you April 16 - May 3 in JEEVES TAKES A BOW!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

An interview with Bertie



Chris Klopatek returns to the character of Bertie Wooster after performing the role in the first play in the trilogy, JEEVES INTERVENES (2010). We asked Chris a few questions about his experience playing Bertie this time around.

You played Bertie Wooster in JEEVES INTERVENES. Tell us a bit about Bertie. What is it like revisiting a character you’ve previously played?

Bertie is a very rich English gentleman who enjoys a life of luxury and the pleasantries of being a carefree bachelor - all of which is usually thrown askew to his dismay by his family and friends.


Revisiting a character is something I don't always get a chance to do in theater, and when the opportunity arises I will always be pleasantly surprised. Having spent the years in between the two JEEVES shows doing many other types of acting, including receiving my MFA in Acting from UC-Irvine, I find I approach any role now with more maturity and experience. Even if the character of Bertie has very little of those. I basically hope to bring a more nuanced and complex version of Bertie Wooster to the stage this time around. 


Briefly list the three best things about JEEVES TAKES A BOW.

1. It will be fun and laughs the whole way through.


2. There will be silly stage fights! Chase Stoeger chasing people and people chasing Chase! Musical Numbers and more!


3. Matt Daniel's Jeeves always has a cocktail ready just when my nerves are at their breaking point.

L-R: Rick Pendzich, Chris Klopatek and Allison Mary Forbes in
JEEVES INTERVENES (2010)


Anything else you’d like to share with readers about the show, rehearsals, etc.?

We have the best rehearsal snack table in the biz.



What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that make you who you are today?


Acting in theater makes you into a more genuine, attentive and adaptable person.


Thanks Chris! We can't wait for JEEVES TAKES A BOW, April 16 - May 3.
 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An interview with Jeeves

Matt Daniels returns to the character of Jeeves at MCT for the third and final play in Margaret Raether's trilogy, JEEVES TAKES A BOW! We asked him a few questions about his experience playing Jeeves.

This is the third time you’re returning to the role of Jeeves. Tell us about the process of revisiting a character you've previously played? 

It’s a little like slipping into a pair of old comfortable shoes. It just feels right. Often, (on stage, at least) when an actor revisits a character, it’s in the same play — it’s much rarer to have the opportunity to explore a role over a series of stories like the Jeeves trilogy. This brings with it some challenges, but also makes some things easier. The challenge is in finding ways to surprise yourself, and not get complacent. But that coin has two sides, because the ease comes in allowing yourself to rest on the work you've done, in order to go deeper in detail.

L-R: Matt Daniels as Jeeves, Chase Stoeger as
Bertie Wooster, and Matt Koester as Gussie Fink-Nottle
in the second play in the trilogy, JEEVES IN BLOOM (2013)
Specifically, I can trust the character work I've already done, and know that my instincts regarding Jeeves are probably right — so much of the nitty gritty work of these plays for me has been figuring out how Jeeves navigates his life around the sheer amount of stage business required in being Bertie’s valet. I’m able to think of activities, and see stage patterns more clearly this time now than last time, itself clearer than the time before.


Which of Jeeves’ traits do you most identify with? 
His sense of order, certainly, and his adherence to the way things ought to be. I’m also a fan of Shakespeare, as he is, but I’m not as big on Tennyson.

Briefly list the three best things about JEEVES TAKES A BOW:
 
1. The cast.
2. The story is the cleanest and funniest of the three, I think.
3. It’s always great to see an Englishman in New York.


L-R: Chris Klopatek as Bertie Wooster and Matt Daniels as
Jeeves in first play of the trilogy, JEEVES INTERVENES (2010)
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about the show, rehearsals, etc.? 
It’s an incredibly fun and congenial rehearsal room. This sort of thing spills over into performance. There is no scientific way for the show to not be a blast.

Thanks Matt! We're looking forward to JEEVES TAKES A BOW, April 16 - May 3.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Getting To Know Our Young Artists


Milwaukee Chamber Theatre celebrates young writers with its seventh Young Playwrights Festival Showcase, March 19-22, 2015. The Showcase features three one-act plays from the winners of our high school playwriting competition and is directed, designed, and performed by up-and-coming local professionals.

Artist Bios: 3
by Hasani Kidd, Rufus King International School
Three prisoners of a totalitarian regime unlock one another's secrets as they are forced to choose which of them will be executed.
Directed by Thomas J. Novak Featuring local actors Marques D. Causey, Anna Figlesthaler, Ryan H. Nelson, Nate Press, Sherrick Robinson, Roqushaun Settlers, and Andrew Stachurski.

Hasani Kidd (Playwright)


Hasani graduated from Rufus King IB High School and was a participant in MCT’s Young Playwrights Festival Playwriting Residency 2013.



Thomas J. Novak (Director)


Thomas is an actor, director, and teaching artist in Milwaukee. He has worked at Milwaukee Rep, First Stage, Utah Shakespeare Festival, The Marcus Center, and Metropolis. He recently directed First Stage’s Young Company production of SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. Other directing projects are W;T, BILOXI BLUES, and SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE. 



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March 19, 20, and 21 at 7:30pm, March 22 at 2:00pm – Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre. All three plays will be featured each evening. There will be a talkback following each performance.

Young Playwrights Festival Showcase 2014-2015 tickets are $18 for adults; $12 for students, seniors and MCT subscribers. Tickets are available at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office, 158 N. Broadway, by phone at (414) 291-7800, or online at milwaukeechambertheatre.com,a