Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Links to Heroes' Reviews

Here is a collection of links to reviews on MCT's production of HEROES:

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

Interview with Robert Spencer

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 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

An Interview with Daniel Mooney

A Milwaukee native, Daniel returns to MCT where he has been seen in MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS, TAKE ME OUT, MISALLIANCE, HAY FEVER, HOMEBODY/KABUL, HOTEL ON MARVIN GARDENS, MEDEA, LOVE LETTERS, MAJOR BARBARA and WAITING FOR GODOT. In addition to 20-some years with Milwaukee Repertory Theater, he has worked with Next Act Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, First Stage, Skylight Opera Theatre and Theatre Gigante. In a career of over 40 years, he has worked at theatres across the country and has appeared in over 200 productions. He has been seen on television in Law & Order and The Untouchables (1993-94).

To gain further insights about Dan, we asked him a few questions about himself and his upcoming performance as Philippe.

  1. What have been some of your most memorable moments working in theatre?
For more than 40 years I have been lucky enough to work with many wonderful people in many wonderful productions so I have many wonderful memories. My favorite was in 1980, I was the narrator in A CHRISTMAS CAROL at The Rep. On opening night my three-year-old son was sitting on his mother’s lap in the fourth row. The house lights went down, the curtain went up, the light came up on me, I took a deep breath and before I could speak the first line: “Marley was dead.” A small voice, which filled the Pabst, yelled, “THAT’S MY DADDY!”

  1. You’re from Milwaukee, but you’ve also worked at theatres across the country, in your opinion, what is unique about theatre in Milwaukee?
Milwaukee is a great theater town because many talented young people choose to stay and work here. We have so many outlets – Renaissance, Next Act, Milwaukee Chamber, First Stage, In Tandem, Boulevard and The Rep.
As a result you will see some of the best, newest most exciting work in the country.

  1. Tell us about your first reaction to the HEROES script?
The first time I read it I thought it was very sad. The second time, I thought it was very funny. It is Tom Stoppard after all. I hope the audiences see both.

  1. What is your favorite Philippe quote?
The favorite line from Philippe is: “It’s a bugger.”

My favorite line from the play is when Gustave perfectly describes the months of the year: “Don’t talk to me about autumn. September and October are living death. November is a funeral… December is the stupidest month of the lot- Christmas! January and February you think are never going to end… March and April can’t make up their minds… Then- God help us- here come May, June, July…”

  1. What message do you hope the audience takes from this play?
There used to be an expression: “If you have a message call Western Union.” Now it would be: “If you have a message post it on Facebook.” I just want the audience to sit down, turn off their cell phone and enjoy what we’re giving them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Translating HEROES: A Lesson in Adapting

by Jacque Troy, Education Director/Literary Manager

"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.

Tom Stoppard
Tom Stoppard is a British playwright, knighted in 1997. He has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage. He co-wrote the screenplays for "Brazil" and "Shakespeare in Love." His achievements include one Academy Award and four Tony Awards.

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."

Gerald Sibleyras
Considerably less is known about Gerald Sibleyras whose play LE VENT DES PEUPLIERS (The Wind in the Poplars) inspired Stoppard's translated work, now titled HEROES. Scant internet information confirms that Sibleyras was born in 1961 in Paris and that his latest play is titled LE BANC (The Bench). LE VENT DES PEUPLIERS has been translated and produced in countries worldwide including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Uruguay. The play premiered at the Theatre Montparnasse and received four Moliere nominations including Best Author.

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.

A Message from Michael - November 2011

Thursday, November 03, 2011-MCT's Producing Artistic Director, C. Michael Wirght, comments on HEROES:
***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.

L-R: Richard Halverson, Robert Spencer, Daniel Mooney

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

MCT's HEROES set design inspired by Claude Monet's 1890-91 Poplar Series: Who is Monet?

Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris.
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.

On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt (1868)
In 1871, he returned to France. Monet lived from December 1871 to 1878 at Argenteuil, a village on the right bank of the Seine river near Paris, and a popular Sunday-outing destination for Parisians, where he painted some of his best known works.

In 1872, he painted Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) depicting a Le Havre port landscape. It hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and is now displayed in the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris.

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:
Four Trees (1891)

Poplars on the Epte (1891)

 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

Producing Artistic Director, C. Michael Wright, talks about MCT'S production of HEROES by Tom Stoppard


MCT 2011-2012 season continues with the Milwaukee premiere of Tom Stoppard's English adaptation of HEROES. This play was originally titled, "Le Vent des Peupliers" (direct translation: The Wind in the Poplars) and written by French playwright Gerald Sibleyras.

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

***Important Notes***
Winner of the 2006 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy
Sponsored by John E. Holland & Konrad Kuchenbach