Wednesday, November 30, 2011
JSOnline's Time is running out to attend acclaimed theater productions
Postscript: Performing Art's Three Golden Performances Shine in MCT's Heroes
Inside Milwaukee's "Heroes" and "Sylvia" Two very un-Christmas stories
Third Coast Digest's MCT''s Heroes: Humor on the terrace from old soldiers
JSOnline's Chamber Theatre's 'Heroes': A quiet look from 3 scared veterans
Inside Milwaukee's The Friday Five for Novemebr 25th "MCT's HEROES production ranked #1"
Shepherd Express' Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's Experienced Heroes
Shepherd Express' Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's Charming Heroes
Waukesha Freeman's Chamber 'Heroes' a moving tribute to veterans
***Be sure to check out MCT's facebook albums or Flickr account for AMAZING pics***
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Robert returns to MCT where he previously appeared in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, BROOKLYN BOY and A WALK IN THE WOODS. His Broadway credits include BYE BYE BIRDIE (original Broadway cast), ENTER LAUGHING, VIA GALACTICA and SEXTET. Off Broadway he was in THE FANTASTICKS, SING MUSE and THE MANHATTAN ARRANGEMENT. He has worked at many regional theatres throughout the country, including 12 seasons at American Players Theatre. Local audiences may have seen him at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Next Act Theatre, Skylight Opera Theatre, Milwaukee Shakespeare and First Stage.
To gain further insights about Robert, we asked him a few questions about himself and his upcoming performance as Henri:
1. What have been some of your most memorable moments working in theatre?
There are so many to choose from in the 56 years I've been treading the boards and directing productions, but being cast in my first Broadway show, the original company of BYE BYE BIRDIE in 1960, was certainly momentous.
Being hired at The Washington Theatre Club as a resident actor from 1966-1970, my first foray into regional theatre, where I played everything from 6-year-old boys to 60-year-old men. It was at this point that I was given the opportunity to really begin to develop as an actor and break the 'Broadway Baby' song and dance man syndrome.
Falling off the stage in a production of SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM is somewhat memorable. In the show there were a series of musical numbers that we dubbed the "silly song" section, in which we tossed a straw boater hat to one another and then we'd sing our "silly song." One night Gail Oscar tossed the hat to me and it sailed high above my head. I leapt into the air and remembered thinking, "Look how high I'm jumping." I caught the hat, turned around in mid-air and landed...off the stage. I broke the fall by bracing myself on the edge of the stage and fractured my clavicle. Ever the trooper, I crawled back onto the stage, mangled straw hat in hand, and sang my "silly song." Ignominious flight!
2. You've lived and worked in Chicago, New York and many other cities. You're now based in Milwaukee, in your opinion, what is unique about Milwaukee theatre?
That's true, I have worked at many theatre companies in cities throughout the country including a stint at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, as a core company member for 12 years. At the end of each season we would tour one of our productions throughout the state and ended the tour at The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. It was during these visits that I started to take in some of the local shows. I was blown away by the excellent quality of the productions and the high level of acting talent. Not to mention, the loyal, supportive audiences. During the off season from APT some Milwaukee companies started offering me work and I was amazed at how warmly I was welcomed by this extraordinary theatre community...and that is, indeed, unique. I love it here.
3. Tell us about your first reaction to the HEROES script.
I laughed. I got teary eyed. I smiled a lot.
4. What is your favorite Henri quote?
Henri doesn't indulge in pontificating. He is more reactive in nature. So a favorite quote is hard to come up with, however, there is a delightful passage that I particularly enjoy playing. It's when Philippe and Gustave are trying to convince Henri to join them on their questionable quest.
Philippe says: “What's to stop us Henri? All right, for some unknown reason you don't understand poplars, that's one thing, but what's to stop us going up there?”
Henri replies: “Nothing...nothing except you've got a piece of shrapnel in your skull, and Gustave is clearly deranged-sorry, old boy, I'm just giving you the broad strokes, all right?-apart from that, nothing, these are the only minor obstacles I can see to your little outing.”
5. What message do you hope the audience takes from this play?
I hope the audience leaves the theatre with a renewed sense of hope. After all, if these three old codgers, despite their physical, mental and emotional challenges can hope for a better life with one of adventure and the unknown. Well… there just might be hope for us all.
...And "that," as they say, "is that."
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
To gain further insights about Dan, we asked him a few questions about himself and his upcoming performance as Philippe.
- What have been some of your most memorable moments working in theatre?
- You’re from
Milwaukee, but you’ve also worked at theatres across the country, in your opinion, what is unique about theatre in ? Milwaukee
- Tell us about your first reaction to the HEROES script?
- What is your favorite Philippe quote?
- What message do you hope the audience takes from this play?
Thursday, November 10, 2011
"One of the attractions of translating HEROES is that it's not the kind of play that I write. It's much more a truthful comedy than a play of dazzling wit." -Tom Stoppard (interviewed by Alex Sierz, The Telegraph, 2005)
Though the list of recognizable, crowd-pleasing plays by Tom Stoppard is considerable, ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, first produced at the Edinburgh Festival in 1966 and a year later by the National Theatre, earned him fame and fortune. Beyond creating compelling original work, Stoppard has also entered the arena of translation.
To quote the astute summation of his work by one journalist, "Stoppard is always written about as if he were an intellectual acrobat. But behind the intellectual high jinx there lurks an often passionate humanist whose writing betrays an increasing concern both with the abuse of freedom and the nature of love."
With two such literary notables collaborating, you might imagine that crafting an English translation of this touching and hilarious play for a West End opening would be as breezy as, dare I say, a wind in the poplars. But a 2005 interview with Stoppard and Sibleyras revealed otherwise. The main concern was about a literal translation of the title. Stoppard revealed, "There was a certain amount of anxiety about that because of 'The Wind in the Willows.' That seemed to threaten some kind of confusion."
Even well into the process, minor confusions remained. Stoppard admitted, "After months of translating, I thought I knew what every word meant-and I've just discovered I was wrong." Assuming that the French word 'niche' meant a recess, the playwright intervened good-naturedly. "Gerald has just politely pointed out that it means kennel; as there's a stone dog on stage that makes perfect sense."
Overall, Sibleyras expressed enormous gratitude for his process with Stoppard. "The first version of the play was too long," Sibleyras conceded. "(Stoppard) asked me every time he wanted to change a line, and slowly, but surely the play improved."
In the past, Stoppard admits that much of his work might be correctly called an adaptation, "I once did a play which Ferenc Molnar set in a castle in Hungary, and which I set on an ocean liner going to New York. (ROUGH CROSSING-directed by C. Michael Wright for Next Act in 2002) That's what I call an adaptation."
Stoppard definitely approached HEROES as a translation, which meant he adhered to self-prescribed rules about the process. "The starting point is to be utterly faithful to the original. But if you abide by that completely you are doing the author a disservice." Stoppard also insists, "You should not translate for more than two hours at a time. After that, you lose your edge. The language becomes clumsy, rigid."
Luckily for all of us, with Sibleyras' faith and Stoppard's careful guidelines, HEROES emerges as a compact, compassionate and witty reminder of how true friendship is an exquisite collaboration as well.
***He is the play's director too!***
Often while I'm playing host in the lobby before a show, patrons will come up to me with thoughts about plays for future production. I always try to listen politely and take in their ideas, even when some suggestions are quite beyond our means. But every so often, someone comes forward with a recommendation that is a little piece of gold. Such is the case with HEROES.
A few years ago (I can't recall exactly how many), long-time MCT theatergoer Pam Seccombe approached me before a performance to tell me about a new Tom Stoppard play she had just seen in London. I remember her saying, "It was very funny and very moving and just perfect for Chamber. It only requires three actors." Needless to say, my ears perked up! Pam generously offered to lend me a copy of the script she had purchased. A week later I received it in the mail, read it in one sitting and became immediately hooked. Stoppard's adaptation of Gerald Sibleyras' LE VENT DES PEUPLIERS ("The Wind in the Poplars") was everything Pam had told me - and then some.
The icing on the cake is that this play is a vehicle for three older actors. As many Milwaukeeans know, we are extremely fortunate to have an incredible pool of strong, seasoned theatre artists residing here. I was tickled pink to bring together the estimable trio of Richard Halverson, Daniel Mooney and Robert Spencer for this project. And apparently, the enthusiasm is contagious! These three were so gung-ho to get started that they even insisted we meet over the summer to read through the script at Dan Mooney's home - four months before rehearsals were even scheduled to begin! In addition, Richard became so taken with Dan's terrace and backyard that we decided to return in October for a special photo shoot.
And we have Pam Seccombe to thank for all of this!
I have a funny feeling that very soon all of Milwaukee will be thanking Pam, for helping to bring this wonderful play to our stage!
(HEROES will be playing through November 23 to December 18, 2011)
Thursday, November 3, 2011
On April 1, 1851, Monet refused to go into the family grocery store business, so instead he entered the Le Havre secondary school of the arts. Monet also undertook his first drawing lessons from talented artist-Jacques-François Ochard.
Beginning in the 1880s and 1890s through the end of his life in 1926, Monet worked on "series" of paintings, in which a subject was depicted in varying light and weather conditions.
Poplars Session: Key inspirations for MCT'S HEROES:
His first series exhibited as such was of Haystacks, painted from different points of view and at different times of the day. He later produced several series of paintings including: Rouen Cathedral, Poplars, the Parliament, Mornings on the Seine, and the Water Lilies that were painted on his property at Giverny.
December 5, 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
HEROES Plot Summary:
It's 1959, Henri, Gustave and Philippe are a trio of cantankerous World War I veterans, who spend their last summer days on the terrace of a remote French hospital exchanging barbs. Although their bodies might not be cooperating fully, they become rejuvenated by dreaming up an escape plan to the poplars beckoning in the distance. As Stoppard is the master of scintillating language and magnificent wit, his adaptation of Sibleyras’s play is at once funny and poignant, clever and whimsical.
Directed by C. Michael Wright
Featuring Richard Halverson(Gustave), Dan Mooney(Philippe) & Robert Spencer (Henri)
Estimated Length: 1 hour, 45 min. Includes a 15min. intermission
When: November 23, 2011 to December 18, 2011
Where: Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre, 158 N. Broadway
How: 414.291.7800 www.milwaukeechambertheatre.com
Winner of the 2006 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy
Sponsored by John E. Holland & Konrad Kuchenbach
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
Michael Torrey makes his MCT debut in DRIVING MISS DAISY as Hoke Coleburn. Past Milwaukee appearances include “MASTER HAROLD” …and the boys at Next Act Theatre and A MIDNIGHT CRY, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE and THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE at First Stage Children’s Theater. A Chicago resident, Michael has performed with numerous Chicago companies and other regional theatres.
To gain further insights about Michael, we asked him a few questions about himself and his upcoming performance as Hoke.
Please tell us how or why you first got involved in theatre?
I had done a play in high school and a friend's mother was the leading acting coach in town and she offered to work with me after seeing the play. A few years later I took her up on her offer and the rest they say is history.
Tell us about your first time reading or seeing DRIVING MISS DAISY.
I don't really remember the first time I read or saw "Driving Miss Daisy" but I have had the experience of playing the role of Hoke before. I remember reading the story in preparation and being moved by a truly well written and poignant story.
From your perspective, how would you describe your character, Hoke?
A man of quiet grace, dignity and gentleness.
Was it difficult for you to learn a southern accent?
Not really. The play is written to help you with Hoke's speech pattern and it didn't hurt that I grew up in the south.
Do you have a favorite Hoke quote?
Many times during the play people inquire into Hoke's personal business (i.e. finances) and he always, politely refutes it with “Dat for me and him to know."
Lastly, what message do you hope the audience takes from this play?
Through it all we are all really the same and you never know when certain people enter into your life the profound effect that they will have on you. Stay open to the possibilities.
Thank you Michael! We're looking forward to the show!
Monday, September 26, 2011
When MCT co-founder Ruth Schudson takes the stage in DRIVING MISS DAISY this fall it will mark her 65th production with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre! This occasion is a great opportunity to tell you more about our remarkable co-founder.
Ruth Schudson, the daughter of Russian immigrants, was born and raised in Wisconsin. Her father was an actor and director in Russia, which helped inspire her own theatrical aspirations. After graduating from Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama in 1947, she worked at regional theatres and helped found companies in Illinois and Oregon before realizing all she desired artistically was right here in Milwaukee.
In the 1950s, Ruth performed with groups including the Milwaukee Players and Alverno College, where she also taught. During this time she married Armand Schudson and had two children, Nia and David.
As her theatre career continued, she performed regularly at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, which is where she met fellow actor and director Montgomery Davis in the early 1970s. After seeing Ruth as Mrs. Gibbs in The Rep’s OUR TOWN, Monty asked Ruth to be in a production of Shaw's DON JUAN IN HELL, which they performed at Vogel Hall in June 1975. Monty and Ruth followed the success of that show with DEAR LIAR and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre was born!
At MCT, Ruth Schudson has played not only a wife and mother, but also a teenager, Ethel Rosenberg, a princess, Gertrude Stein, a serpent and even a rabbi!
Some of Ruth's favorite roles include:
Title Role - MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION
Mrs. Higgins - PYGMALION
Helene Hanff - 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD
Grace -THE FAITH HEALER
Mrs. Dowey -THE OLD LADY SHOWS HER MEDALS
Mrs. Alving -GHOSTS
Carrie Watts -THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL
Some of her other 65 appearances include WELL, ANGELS IN AMERICA: PERESTROIKA, THE ROAD TO MECCA, LOST IN YONKERS, TALKING HEADS, MISALLIANCE, KIMBERLY AKIMBO, HAY FEVER, JOE EGG, ANDROCLES AND THE LION and THE IMMIGRANT.
Ruth has also performed with Next Act Theatre, Skylight Opera Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre and Princeton’s McCarter Theatre among others. Her film credits include The Hindenburg and a featured role in Baraboo.
Few actors have had as great an impact on the Milwaukee theatre community as Ruth Schudson. Throughout her career, she has served as a mentor, role model, and friend to countless aspiring and established actors. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre has chosen to honor this occasion by creating “The Ruth Schudson Leading Lady Fund.”
This donor designated fund will celebrate Ruth’s career and legacy by supporting the work of one MCT actress each season. The Ruth Schudson Leading Lady Fund not only pays tribute to this icon of Milwaukee theatre, but allows MCT to establish a more self-sustaining focus for the future. MCT will host a celebratory “Tribute to Ruth Schudson” on Monday, October 24 at the Broadway Theatre Center as a fundraiser for the Leading Lady Fund.
*** The Tribute will feature performances by Gladys Chmiel, Flora Coker, Laura Gordon, Carrie Hitchcock, Marti Gobel, Laura Gray, Mary MacDonald Kerr, Michelle Lopez-Rios, Raeleen McMillion, Dan Mooney, Norman Moses, Sheri Williams Pannell, April Paul, Molly Rhode, Betsy Skowbo, Chase Stoeger, Susan Sweeney, James Tasse, Jacque Troy, Jenny Wanasek and Sara Zientek.***
To make a contribution to the Fund or make a reservation for the Tribute, call MCT at 414.276.8842.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
It is Sunday, April 10, and we just finished our final run-through of our 10 out of 12 TECH and the weekend has sparked even greater excitement and anticipation to hear the response from a live audience! The costumes are beautiful and the set’s vastness and depth creates a phenomenal stage picture in the Cabot Theatre. Today started with hair and make-up and we continued to run light and sound cues. Judy’s organization as stage manager and Michael’s remarkable vision made the collaboration with the costume, lighting and scenic designers run smoothly!
After we finished a cue-to-cue, we took a dinner break and Tim Braun (who is understudying Geoffrey and Philip along with serving as MCT’s marketing intern) and Kelsey Lauren (who is understudying Alais and previously served as MCT's marketing intern) went to Milwaukee Public Market and reviewed notes for a Nutrition exam and Theology class.
Following the dinner break, we got in costume again and did a run-through of the show. The run went well and we stopped for any safety concerns regarding entrances and exits that needed glow tape, costume adjustments, and any light/sound cue issues. Following the run, Michael gave us notes and Judy confirmed our schedule for Tuesday.
Throughout the rehearsal process and our TECH this weekend, I have been amazed by the level of professionalism the MCT staff and technicians of the Broadway Theatre Center bring to all that they do! I would not trade any moment of this process and no words can express my gratitude to all involved! I am excited for opening and to hear the laughter of a live audience to the story of a witty, dysfunctional, but loving family!
That’s all for now, I will try to write again soon! Good night! :)
Saturday, February 12, 2011
The process of unfolding, discovering and crafting this piece has been equal parts challenge and fun, and I wish I could’ve shared more with you over these weeks, but (with apologies to Las Vegas) what happens in rehearsal, stays in rehearsal. I can share that a few of our biggest challenges has been figuring out which characters know what at what point in the story, what makes each character tick and what the timeline of the story is. But directing a crackerjack cast like this makes it a lot easier. Working with this group of actors has been illuminating and wonderful: Sara Zientek soaks everything up like a sponge, Jonathan Wainwright is unbelievably incisive, Betsy Skowbo always brings in something new every day, and Drew Brhel and C. Michael Wright, being directors in their own right, bring an added perspective to their performances.
But today we head into tech, adding all the design elements. The set is installed in the space, the lights are hung, costumes are at the ready, more new props arrive every day, and sound will be added to the mix. In short, this is when everything begins to come together. All the work we’ve done in the rehearsal room finally mixes with the visual aspects of the piece. And, for myself, this is my favorite time in the process. As a director, the image or idea you have of the show finally begins to resolve itself into three dimensions and you begin to see all the collaboration of the many past months pay off. Concept meets rehearsal meets drawing board and we begin to put it all up today in expectation of an audience on Thursday night. It’s generally a slow process: actors are working hard to adjust to the new environment, designers are working as quickly as they can to get the look and sound of the play just right, and our technical staff (who are amazing!) are working to make sure everything runs smoothly and as designed. Working as fast as we can in four and a half days to move from rehearsal to finished world on stage can be an arduous process. Yet, the world of the play and the audience experience begin to form itself in front of our eyes and it is truly a magnificent experience.
See you at the theatre!
Monday, January 31, 2011
OH boy, what a week!HI, my name is Sara Zientek and I will be playing Jackie in MAURITIUS. I am in my last semester at UW-Milwaukee and will be juggling 16 credits while rehearsing 6 days a week for this brilliant show. I thought I would give myself an easy semester with a lot of dance classes, yoga, and one discussion course. Sadly, I was mistaken and realized that I am completely exhausted by the time I get into my car and head on over to rehearsal. LUCKILY, there is PLENTY of coffee to go around and the energy that Andrew and the rest of the actors bring quickly lifts my spirits and I am ready to act the night away!
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I'm Andrew Volkoff, director for Chamber Theatre's upcoming production of Mauritius. I currently live in New York City, but I can't tell you how excited I am to be back in my hometown, directing at MCT. Blogging's a little new to me, but I thought I'd share a New York story with you about meeting Theresa Rebeck, playwright of Mauritius. It really shows that New York is really just a large small town....
I was at Drama Bookshop in New York City last year looking for a few scripts and they're winding up this wine and cheese shindig in the store. I'm poking around on a lower bookshelf and I hear someone say (regarding a woman standing near the wine), "Well, yeah, that's Theresa Rebeck". I chalk it up as insider humor, but I do stand up and poke my nose over the bookshelf to look at who they're referring to. The man at the counter repeats it to the disbelieving woman holding a script: "No, seriously, that IS Theresa Rebeck". I'm bowled over at my luck! I walk over to her and say, "You're REALLY Theresa Rebeck?" She laughs and says, "Yes", and I say "Holy cow! I'm directing a production of MAURITIUS at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in February!"
The long and the short of it is: she couldn't have been nicer, and when I said I had some questions about the play (Me: "about Mary.." She: "yeah, she's the one everyone has questions about...there are two ways you can play her."), she graciously gave me her email address. I've corresponded with her a few times and it's been great to get some clarification about character and motivation straight from the playwright's mouth, as it were.
After briefly speaking with her, I quickly ran to the Theresa Rebeck section of the store, bought an additional copy of Mauritius and had her sign it, donating it to last year's MCT gala. What she wrote was very cute: she signed it "To You. Theresa Rebeck. May 2010." She even let me take a picture with her... :)
I'm not generally superstitious, but I certainly consider that an auspicious beginning!
Looking forward to beginning rehearsal today,