Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Collected thoughts from Sarah Day

Sarah Day returns to MCT as Ruth Steiner in COLLECTED STORIES. Last season, she played Sally Quinn in the world premiere of A THOUSAND WORDS. That production was also a collaboration with Forward Theater Company of Madison. Sarah is a founding member of Forward Theater Co., and serves on its advisory company. She has been a member of the acting company at American Players Theatre in Spring Green since 1986.

How would you describe your character Ruth? What are some of her key characteristics and motivations?
Sarah Day
 I would describe Ruth, as a talented and thoughtful writer, and a tough and demanding teacher. She loves language, and the written word. She loves stories. Reading them, writing them, and helping students become better by getting deeper and more specific with every line they write. You have to love a teacher like that.

Talk about the benefits and challenges of being part of a two-person cast. How has your experience been in COLLECTED STORIES?
 I'm loving working on this play. It's such a pleasure to be reunited with C. Michael Wright. He's a wonderful director and has such a great vision for this play. I'm also having a lot of fun working with Laura Frye. She's a very talented young actress. One of the great things about a two person show is that you never can be lazy. You have to be focused and "in the moment" every single moment. It's wonderful. So, when you go to sleep at night, you feel as though you've really done a good day's work.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?
Sarah Day (left) and Georgina McKee
 I've been a member of the acting company of AmericanPlayers Theatre in Spring Green since 1986, and I think what I have loved the most about being a part of that, is how much I've learned from the audiences there. They are incredible. They listen, they are engaged. But they can only be as engaged as we (the actors, et al) are engaging. They are so supportive. At APT we always talk about raising the bar--to work at getting better, to challenge ourselves. All of that is for the audience. So, it such a pleasure for me to come into Milwaukee, to learn and grow from the audiences here. They are wonderful.

If you were to personally spend a day in Greenwich Village (where COLLECTED STORIES is set), what would you do?
Oh, I guess I'd spend a day in the Village, the way I'd be a tourist any where. Maybe spend some time in the Park, just people watching, then on to a great little restaurant, and then a play in a tiny little theatre. That sounds perfect to me.

Thank you Sarah! We can't wait for COLLECTED STORIES (Nov. 21 - Dec. 16)!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Meet Laura Frye

Laura Frye returns to MCT as Lisa Morrison in COLLECTED STORIES. She made her debut as Babe in CRIMES OF THE HEART last season. She recently relocated to Milwaukee after living in New York City for six years. A native of West Virginia, Laura has worked at theatres in NYC, Italy and across the US.

How would you describe your character Lisa? What are some of her key characteristics and motivations?
Laura Frye
Lisa is smart, caring and tenacious. The play takes place over the course of six years and you really get a chance to see her grow and mature, not only in her writing, but also in her own personal growth. She is motivated by her love of writing and her need to distance herself from her past. I think it's safe to say she has abandonment issues and is searching for the companionship she was missing in her youth. I've fallen in love with her and feel so blessed to get to tell her story.
Talk about the benefits and challenges of being part of a two-person cast. How has your experience been in COLLECTED STORIES?
It's great being able to build a strong relationship with your partner on stage. With only two people it makes this job even easier. I've really been able to dive deep and figure out who Lisa is and who she becomes by the end of the play. Daily we get a chance to keep exploring these two characters and their relationship with each other. It's been such a blessing to have that time - which isn't always the case when working with large cast. It also makes learning lines easier, because the dialogue is so conversational.

It's not without it's challenges. Right now in the rehearsal process, we are starting to run the show. I forgot what a marathon it can be. . .my favorite type of marathon.

This has been an amazing experience. I love being back at Chamber. Also, working with Sarah Day has been incredible. I've learned so much by watching her in the rehearsal process. I'm in awe of her work in this play and I know everyone will love watching her Ruth.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?
Georgina McKee and Laura Frye (right)

I've been so blessed to work with amazing actors, whether they were my peers or more established artists. I am always learning and studying my fellow actors. They've taught me so much and all of them, in some way, have contributed to who I am, as an artist, today.

My favorite moment would have to be when my three-year-old cousin came to see me in THE TEMPEST. After the show she came up to me and said, "Lala, that was the best movie I ever seen." She may not have understood the difference between stage and screen, but Shakespeare had left a huge impact on her that day. I love that.
If you were to personally spend a day in Greenwich Village (where COLLECTED STORIES is set), what would you do?

I lived in NYC for the past six years, so I can definitely tell you my favorite things to do while in Greenwich Village...usually it dealt with food. If it's summer I will definitely be getting a Sno-Ball from Imperial Woodpeckers Sno-Balls and then cross the street for a slice of pizza at Artichoke Pizza. It's always fun to sit and listen to the student musicians in Washington Park. On a cold day I would head to Grey Dog Cafe and then take a walk down University Place to the favorite. The White Horse Tavern and Corner Bistro (located in West Village) hold a special place in my heart for many reasons, but mainly because they remind me of my NYC family and how much I miss their beautiful faces.

Thanks Laura! We are looking forward to seeing you in COLLECTED STORIES, Nov. 21 - Dec. 16! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

BROKEN AND ENTERED news and reviews

We have compiled BROKEN AND ENTERED media & reviews thus far conveniently in this post.  Click the gray links for the full reviews and feel free to comment.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meet Andrew Voss

Happy Fall!  We're excited to open BROKEN AND ENTERED next weekend!  Our cast has been wonderful to us by giving some insight about their journeys in the theatre and in their roles.  We hope you enjoy Andrew's thoughts!

What is it like working on a brand new play? And having access to the playwright, Kurt McGinnis Brown?

Andrew Voss
Doing original work is always a fun challenge.  It's almost like getting a list of ingredients, and when you put them together  you find out it's cherry pie!  (Cherry pie is my favorite! In case any of you are at opening night...I'm just putting it out there!)  It's a unique challenge to take someones story and bring it to life for them. Having Kurt available during rehearsals gives us a wonderful and unexpected reward.  

Much like a father seeing his newborn baby for the first time, I hope that Kurt will feel that pride and relief when he watches BROKEN AND ENTERED.

What are some key characteristics of Wally? Why?

 Wally is a dreamer, he is quick to run in the face of serious emotional conflict, and he is somewhat shallow.  Throughout our story he is on a mission to rebuild himself into a new and better person.

Describe one of your favorite moments in theatre. How has it shaped who you are today?

 In college I was in a play called MILL FIRE by Sally Nemeth.  I (Champ) was dying of horrible burns and had my clothes cut off as my wife (Abby White) helplessly watched. Until that moment I didn't realize the power of live theatre. The heaviness of that moment and the impact it had on me, my fellow cast members and the audience will always be with me.

Andrew Voss and Emily Vitrano in PICNIC (2009)
If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?
Wally would go to the Milwaukee Art Museum and walk around because that is where people who are "better" hang out.  Also he would stop at the Miller Brewery tour, because he loves cheap beer!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Catching up with Marti Gobel

The world premiere of BROKEN AND ENTERED is just days away!  We thought it would be great to get to know Marti a bit more in her role as Jamila. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Entering Jonathan Wainwright's Perspective

We're getting closer to the opening of BROKEN AND ENTERED in the Studio Theatre next Friday night with previews on Wednesday and Thursday.  One "Rebel" we will get to know through this show is Vern, played by Jonathan Wainwright.  Here's a closer look at his perspectives about the show and his character.

What is it like working on a brand new play? And having access to the playwright, Kurt McGinnis Brown?
Jonathan Wainwright
Working on something brand new is different from an established/often produced type piece one in that there is a lot of discussion of basics, like timelines and even what the whole point is. Not that you don't discuss those things in other productions, but sometimes with a new piece those discussions can last, well, until the end of the run sometimes. Having access to the playwright, now, can certainly help simplify the things I just mentioned.  Plot points and character motivations that seem hazy can be quickly clarified so the actor can get to the heart of the matter, so to speak, without worrying that the play is being taken to a place not intended or wanted.
What are some key characteristics of Vern? Why?

Vern is intense, angry, but very thoughtful at the same time. Trying to reign in the thoughts to form a cohesive plan of self improvement leads to bad things and good things, and bad things that can be good things, eventually. There are lots of why's, as there are in any of our own thoughts and actions, some more present and clear than others, some less obvious, and less dark than may be assumed.
Describe one of your favorite moments in theatre. How has it shaped who you are today?

As much as I love being on stage with my wife, Laura Gray, and as little as we have actually had the opportunity for that, I'd say my favorite moment in theatre has yet to happen. But I can't wait.

Jonathan Wainwright and Georgina McKee in CRIMES OF THE HEART (2011)

 If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?

I think Vern would make a large list of the things you are supposedly supposed to do in Milwaukee, but end up having a burger down by the lake, enjoy it immensely, walk to the Summerfest grounds, see if there's nothing going (faulty info), try to find out how to get to the Harley Museum, but then realize the art museum is right there, but it's closed. Then he'd go to Shaker's.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An interview with Playwright Kurt McGinnis Brown

Conducted by MCT Board member Linda C. Loving

Linda Loving: There is great anticipation for this fall's world premiere production of BROKEN AND ENTERED! Trace the history of your connection to Milwaukee Chamber Theatre through Wisconsin Wrights and our Montgomery Davis Play Development Series. 

Kurt McGinnis Brown: Chamber has been berry berry good to me-and my plays. B&E was the second of my plays that MCT selected from among the Wisconsin Wrights finalists for its Montgomery Davis Play Development Series. The reading in March 2010 had the usual electric Chamber audience and went over very well. Everyone involved had a great time.

Linda: Who will be directing BROKEN AND ENTERED? What's it like to sit "in the house" and watch your words come to life under someone else's direction? 

Playwright Kurt McGinnis Brown
Kurt: I love that aspect of theatre-that someone else gets to direct. In writing a play I see so many different ways it could go when staged. I'm glad I don't have to choose. Suzan Fete, of Renaissance Theaterworks, directed the reading here in 2010, and I'm excited she's directing the full production too.

Linda: Our 2012-2013 season bears the title "Rebels." Your characters all seem to be in some form of rebellion against the past, against the rules, against the changing culture. How were you led to these themes and the play's context? 

Kurt: Family. My father's ambition, he told my mother after they married, was to be a hobo. His father moved his family from house to house to keep ahead of creditors and the law as he sold stocks to non-existent gold mines, organized illegal card games, and ran numbers. I'm drawn to writing about lives like these that resist socially acceptable patterns, characters that create their own rules. B&E strikes me as my most autobiographical play-not because anything that happens in the play necessarily happened to me, but because, by pushing my imagination in a certain direction, I can envision that our family might have been like Wally's and Vern's family. 

Linda: Interesting. Those brothers -Vern and Wally - are at the heart of the play, and their dance conveys universal sibling dynamics of loyalty, jealousy, shared history and hope. Talk about who these men are.

Kurt: If Vern and Wally weren't brothers, they would have nothing to do with one another. Family binds them together-even while both are trying to escape the family history. In early drafts of the play, the two weren't brothers. One day in my workroom they became brothers, and that's when the play started to vitally interest me. I just now realized where they might come from … In my extended family, there were two brothers that ended up back in their mother's house after she died. For years, one lived on the second floor and the other in the basement, and once or twice a month they might run into one another in the kitchen. One eventually died in the house and the other did not know about it until someone else found the body. I guess I've been obsessed with such a setup for some time. 

Linda: And another part of the "setup" for this play is the sociological context of a city in transition. A particular city?  

Kurt: I did have a city in mind when writing but deliberately don't say in the play, so I won't say here. People have guessed a number of industrial cities from the northeast to the Midwest, and some have even named particular neighborhoods they know.

Linda: Is it fair to say that the very house in which the brothers grew up becomes a character itself in the play?

Kurt: I think so. Just as productions after this one will have different actors who bring out different aspects of the three characters of Wally, Vern and Jamila, I think theatres will have a lot of fun playing around with the house as a character.

Linda: You mention "three characters;" I'm intrigued by the presence of additional (off stage) characters. We only know Linda through phone conversations; there are frequent references to neighbors watching - what's up with that?

Kurt: In early drafts Linda appeared on stage. She would have been only a secondary character had I allowed her stage time. That would have hurt the play-having to get her on and off, give her enough good lines. She seems more alive this way because the audience has to create her. I also like implicating audiences in playing a role, as here where they are a kind of surrogate for the silent staring neighbors that surround the characters.

Linda: Ohhh, of course! Now, am I projecting my Presbyterian heritage on to Wally when I sense undercurrents of Predestination in his wrestling with religion/ with "something bigger?"

Kurt: Ah, I think you're on to something. Wally is the romantic and struggles with bigger questions. Jamila and Vern are much more pratically inclined in their immediate battles. They want to win. Wally wants the world to be better.

Linda: And both brothers seem intent on some kind of self transformation and erasing the past, yet there is this counterpoint of longing to be a "perfect stranger?"

Kurt: If you succeed in transforming yourself and changing your past, then you will become a stranger to yourself. Vern will have to tell us if that's a good thing to wish for.

Linda: And of course an urban setting can invite estrangement. You have said that at the readings you found the play "rather hopeful in an odd way?" 

Kurt: Yes… Jamila, Vern and Wally are strivers. They're willing to go to dangerous limits to carry out their plans. They're willing to get hurt for a cause. Even Vern's plan, while logical in a kind of mad way, is focused on how to make life fairer. All three strive to break down barriers of race or class. And maybe each manages a kind of escape by the end.

Linda: And the audience? What is your hope for them at the final curtain? What is going on in the viewer's heart?

Kurt: Tough questions. I hope the audience gives the actors and director a well-deserved ovation. I hope the comedy in the play sets up a visceral emotional reaction to the ending. And I hope people forgive the brothers, even if they might have been one of their victims.

Linda: And Kurt, may you too receive a well-deserved ovation! I can't wait for opening night! Thank you for your remarkable talent and for these reflections.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stephan Roselin as Chuckles the Chippermonk!

Hope everyone who came to opening weekend enjoyed the show! A THOUSAND CLOWNS is running through August 26.  We cannot forget about our wonderful Stephan Roselin who plays "Chuckles the Chippermonk" aka Leo Herman on stage. Here is an inside look about Stephan and his hilarious role.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?
Growing up, my parents felt it was important to bring the family to the theater, all 6 of us.  Being in New York City, I was fortunate to see a lot of great shows.  As a kid, I knew that I either wanted to be an actor or a cowboy (looking back, I’m not sure I made the right choice).

Stephan Roselin
I was in a production of BLOOD KNOT by Athol Fugard in grad school.  The play is about two brothers (one black / one white) in the midst of apartheid in South Africa.  It was an extremely powerful theatrical experience that made me “feel” how a society’s prejudices and racial injustice can poison even the most beautiful relationship.  I remember getting physically ill during the rehearsal process because of all of the disturbing fear, hatred and pain of the piece, and I felt like I came out a different person because of my experience. 

In 1996, I had the distinct pleasure of being in Martin Sherman’s play BENT.  Not only was it a great production, it was also the seed that planted the Bialystock & Bloom Theatre Company.   Who knew that the late-night show would pave the way for an eleven-year run that would change Milwaukee Theatre forever??!!   

During the B&B years, I did the title role of THE ELEPHANT MAN (John Merrick).  To have the opportunity to step inside Mr. Merrick’s shoes and see the world through his eyes (if only through make-believe) was such an extraordinary moment in my actor life that shall be with me for a very long time.  It is never right to judge another person by their appearance, for there is much more to a human being than meets the eye.  Mr. Merrick, as I came to found out through research and performance, was an unbelievable man – full of knowledge, spirituality, depth, knowledge, sexual drive, compassion, sincerity, artistic abilities, religious association, wit, and gentleness.   You never know what lies beneath the surface of another unless you are willing to peel the onion and disregard the prejudices and negative pre-conceived notions.  That play taught me about much humanity.

Tell us about your first reactions upon reading A THOUSAND CLOWNS? 
Fu-nny!  I was on an airplane from Milwaukee to New York City and read the play from take-off to landing and couldn’t stop laughing.  Never saw the movie, never saw the play … so I came at it with fresh eyes.  What also drew me to the script when I read it was how poignant the piece is.  This play absolutely stands the test of time.  I especially love all of the animal imagery and references interwoven throughout the play.

From left to right: Thomas Kindler, Stephan Roselin, Tom Klubertanz
Photo by Mark Frohna
What’s it like playing an instrument (ukulele) you’ve never played before in front of an audience?
Well … I was put in the “special” group (of one) and instead of playing a ukulele, I am playing a … (come see the show).  

From your perspective, how would you best describe your character?   
Leo Herman is the “hardest working person in show business”.  He is a man who is full of passion that tends to wear his heart on his sleeve.  Talented, great sense of humor, charming and very good looking.  He’s a guy you’d want to have lunch with at the 2nd Avenue Deli.  He’ll buy!! Leo is a generous man who takes care those who take care of him.  

If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?
Leo Herman’s itinerary in Milwaukee:
7am: Arrive MKE Airport.  Check in at the Pfister Hotel.
8-9am: Breakfast at Benji’s for the Super Hopple Popple (no mushrooms) with Uncle Alvin and Aunt Nancy.
9-10am: Visit WTMJ-TV (local NBC affiliate) and cut promos for the show.  Take pictures with the winner of the “Why I wanna be like Chuckles” contest. 
10:30-11:30am:  Chuckles visits with kids at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.  Check presentation of $5,000 to the hospital.
12-1:30pm:  Lunch at Benji’s for the Reuben and Mish Mosh Soup with Herb Kohl.
2-3p: Visit Woodman’s Food Market for ‘Meet & Greet / Picture Taking’.  Cut commercial with Phil Woodman promoting the new Chuckle Chip’s BBQ Potato Chips.
3:30-4:30: Private Pilates Class with Master Pilates Instructor Carolyn Roselin.
5-7pm: Back to the Pfister Hotel for a Shower and Shave.
7:30 - ?:  Dinner and lots of wine at Sanford’s Restaurant with Carolyn Roselin followed by dancing … and a marriage proposal.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A little bit about Tom Klubertanz

Here's a great look inside Tom's life as a theatre professional and teacher.  Tom's character, Murray Burns, knows how to live his life to the fullest, and we believe Tom does too!  Don't forget to check out Tom and the rest of the cast on stage during A THOUSAND CLOWNS starting today and running through August 26.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Meet Matt Daniels

A THOUSAND CLOWNS starts tomorrow! Today we hear from Matt Daniels who returns to MCT after playing British icons Jeeves in JEEVES INTERVENES and Phileas Fogg in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.  Later this season he will reprise his role as Jeeves in JEEVES IN BLOOM (April 11-28, 2013). Matt is also a budding 'ukulele master' and a member of the Milwaukee Ukulele Club.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?
Matt Daniels
Whew! So many. As an actor, I truly think that every experience goes toward making me who I am, but I'll try to break it down... The first play I remember seeing was a National Tour of THE KING AND I, with Yul Brynner, which come on! Yul Brynner!

I have fond memories of being in all my school plays, especially my fourth grade production of OLIVER!(I played Fagin). Other formative experiences include my first full Shakespeare play, ROMEO AND JULIET, in which I, as the youngest member of the cast, (I was in eighth grade and most of my cast mates were seniors in high school), played the oldest character, Friar Laurence. I played Bottom two years later, in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and I was hooked on Shakespeare.

I trained at The Juilliard School, in New York, where I studied with some masters who were truly fundamental in my growth as an artist: John Stix, Eve Shapiro, and Vanessa Redgrave were acting teachers; Ralph Zito, Elizabeth Smith and Robert Neff Williams for voice & speech, Barry Edelstein for Shakespeare, and amazing directors like Tom Hulce, Michael Kahn and Brian Mertes. Recently I've been teaching Viewpoints for First Stage Academy's Young Company, which never would have happened without my movement training at school: Moni Yakim for physical acting, Carolyn Serota for Alexander Technique, Ellen Lauren for Viewpoints, and Pierre LeFevre for mask.

After graduation I discovered the incredible world of downtown theater in New York City -- tiny, tiny storefront spaces, and great experimental and avant garde work everywhere! I was part of some great work in that downtown theater scene -- environmentally staged productions of the classics in public spaces with Gorilla Rep, and brand new verse plays by dizzying wordsmith Kirk Wood Bromley, among others.

Plus, of course, all the many, many moments that have made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end as an audience member: The Broadway premiere of Tom Stoppard's ARCADIA, Janet McTeer as Nora in A DOLL'S HOUSE, the bone chilling Broadway production of MEDEA starring Fiona Shaw. The Globe productions of CYMBELINE and CORIOLANUS, and David Cromer's revelatory OUR TOWN, and a 24 hour BALD SOPRANO at the first NY Fringe Festival. And many, many more.

Tell us about your first reaction upon reading A THOUSAND CLOWNS.

I loved that it didn't tie up in a pat little bow at the end; that it was layered, funny, poignant. Also, I was particularly pleased to find out I only appear in the first half! I'll get to spend the second act prepping for my next project (Plug alert!): 44 PLAYS FOR 44 PRESIDENTS at Forward Theater in Madison.

What’s it like being an up and coming ukulele master on stage?

Ukulele Master is overdoing it a bit, especially in light of the fact that we have a couple of true uke masters in our midst here in Milwaukee, in the persons of Lil Rev and Jon Prown. I've only been playing for a couple of years, but it has become a real passion of mine, and I have, of late, been trying to find ways to insert the uke into as many productions as possible! And now, here's one where it's actually called for, even if my character would never in a million years play. That said, it has been a blast taking my playing to the next level by arranging some tunes, and ultimately, forming a band with our own Beth Mulkerron!

From your perspective, how would you best describe your character?

Albert Amundson does everything by the book. He describes himself as "not one of the warm people," but that doesn't mean he doesn't care. He's a social worker, and cares very much for the children he's tasked with, and so he plays by the rules to ensure their safety. Sometimes this means that the other people around him get the short end of the stick, I guess, but he tries as hard as he can.

If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?

He'd definitely check out the Art Museum, maybe the War Memorial. City Hall, too. Maybe a night at the Rep (or the BTC). I think he'd try to find out as much about the city as possible - one of those river tours, perhaps, or Old World Milwaukee at the Public Museum.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Meet Thomas Kindler

We're getting closer to opening night! Today we're taking a closer look at Thomas Kindler who is debuting in the role of Nick Burns at MCT. Thomas is finishing up his summer here at MCT and will be a freshman at Brookfield Central High School this fall. This kid does it all - sings, acts, and of course, plays the ukulele! Don't forget to catch him onstage for this show, August 9-26! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Short and Sweet with Beth Mulkeron

Happy Friday to all!  Hope you enjoyed our first interview with Patrick yesterday.  Today we bring you Beth Mulkerron who makes her MCT debut as Sandra Markowitz in A THOUSAND CLOWNS.  Enjoy!
Beth Mulkerron
What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?

I made my theatrical debut as Mrs. Cratchit in A CHRISTMAS CAROL in fourth grade. After that I was hooked. The fact that I have been lucky enough to experience everything from Shakespeare to PACKER FANS FROM OUTER SPACE, has shaped my love for the theatre.
Tell us about your first reaction upon reading A THOUSAND CLOWNS.

I loved this piece from the first read. There is no bad guy in the play. You root for everybody. It also doesn't hurt that it's hysterical. 

What’s it like playing an instrument you’ve never played before in front of an audience?

I play the kazoo in this show and must confess it is not my first performance with a kazoo. At First Stage Children's Theater I played a character by the name of Ms. Toot who LOVED her kazoo.

From your perspective, how would you best describe your character?

Sandra is one giant heart. She wants to take the whole world in her arms and give it the hug it needs. She is vulnerable and silly, passionate and strong. 

If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?

Sandra would probably spend the morning taking in the latest exhibit at the art museum, the afternoon at the children's hospital playing board games with the kids and the evening reading a very good book with a bowl of custard. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meet Patrick Lawlor from A THOUSAND CLOWNS

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is only a week away from opening A THOUSAND CLOWNS in the Cabot Theatre on August 9. We have fabulous people working on the show so we thought we would interview the cast.  Today we will be featuring Patrick Lawlor (Arnold Burns) who was just seen as Virgil Blessing in last season's BUS STOP.  Hope you enjoy his insights into the theatre world and our season opener!

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

Patrick Lawlor
To work in the Theatre is to have countless moments that make you who you are. Just getting to do this for a living opens you up to endless little miracles, wonders, triumphs, tragedies. Taking on a role that you feel is beyond your ability and performing it well, doing free Shakespeare in the Park and getting acting notes from the local homeless guy who collects cans from the park's trash, getting "rained out" at an indoor theatre in Los Angeles when floods short out your electrics,  bringing classical theatre to inner-city kids or folks in depressed Appalachia, even waiting out a thunderstorm with the audience at an outdoor venue, all of these energize us in special and unexpected ways.  It's the odd little things that happen all the time in theatre that make me who I am today.

Other examples that come to mind include: explaining to a fellow member of a four-person touring show how it might be difficult to find fresh sushi in rural West Virginia, watching from the wings at American Players Theatre as a huge bat flew out of the trap door on stage during a performance of HAMLET, performing for children who are seeing their first show ever, and watching Stacy Keach's RICHARD III. All of these things and innumerable others are the stuff that keep me going.  Add to that, getting to learn by watching and performing with the remarkable actors that were around the San Francisco Bay Area as I was getting started in the late 70's through the 80's instilled in me that every person I work with contributes to who I am as an actor. I am grateful to continue my development and education with my talented and extremely generous co-workers in A THOUSAND CLOWNS .

Tell us about your first reaction upon reading A THOUSAND CLOWNS.

I first read it in college years ago and saw it as a silly piece, a warning about conforming and giving up. I was not impressed, though I did learn a monologue to use as an audition piece. Picking it up again for this production, with a little more life behind me and a VERY DIFFERENT experience. 

This time, I read a beautiful examination of life, relationships and responsibility. It had an examination of growing up, and what that does and does not necessarily mean. I no longer see "giving up," but rather "trading up" - letting go of certain aspects of childhood, or childishness in order to experience the benefits and rewards of maturity, responsibility and relationships with others. Murray is confronted with that moment (that we all SHOULD be confronted with at some point), when he realizes that there are some things that are more important to him than himself. How he handles that confrontation... Well, that's the play. It's a beautiful piece of theatre!

What’s it like playing an instrument (ukulele) you’ve never played before in front of an audience?

Patrick Lawlor as Virgil Blessing in BUS STOP
I love it! Playing music rocks and having to do it in front of an audience gives me that extra incentive to learn it! That said, it really doesn't apply to me in this play, but it has in several others.

From your perspective, how would you best describe your character?

Murray and I spend some time describing my character in the play, so you'll just have to see it to find out.

But briefly, Arnold Burns is a good guy with a good job (Murray's agent), a good family, a good life and a crazy, immature, wonderful brother who he loves dearly and worries about constantly

If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?

Arnie would stay at the Pfister.  He'd get up early to find a farmer's market somewhere to grab some fresh fruit. He’d take a bunch of meetings at the local TV affiliates in the morning while Shirley and the kids check out the zoo. He'd try to time it so the Mets were playing the Brewers (or the Braves, if we stay true to the period, though in that case,  he'd probably still follow his beloved Giants, even though they broke his heart by moving to San Francisco) and he'd definitely catch the game that afternoon. He'd hook up with Shirley and the kids for a nice family dinner, maybe at Kopp's. Then a few calls to clients, etc., before ending the day with a relaxing cocktail with Shirley in the Pfister's BLU (or whatever it was called in 1962). 

Thank you so much Patrick for your kind words about your experiences in the theatre and also about A THOUSAND CLOWNS.  We all look forward to seeing your performance next week!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Send in the Clowns

by Linda Loving, MCT Board member

(IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: There are no clowns appearing on stage in A THOUSAND CLOWNS; no red noses, no big shoes, no cotton candy, nothing.)

Fifty years later, it's never too late and not a minute too soon to experience the delightful dialogue and depth of Herb Gardner's 1962 award-winning comedy A THOUSAND CLOWNS. Six quirky yet winsome characters dance in and out of each other's New York City lives for two days, resulting in choices and insights which will last a lifetime.  At the heart (in every way, the heart!) of the play is a precocious 12-year-old  "O.W." (out of wedlock) boy Nick and his eccentric uncle Murray, who take turns being the child and the adult.  Their redefinition of "family" bordered on radical in the 1960s Father-Knows-Best-era; for our time it is a refreshing reminder of the truest possible "family values."

Murray is determined not to live "as if life is one long dental appointment," and he challenges everyone around him to find their truth, claim their freedom, embrace spontaneity.  Murray's character curiously foreshadows the anti-establishment voice which was gaining in volume by the time the play was made into a film in 1965 (Gardner as screenwriter and associate producer). The warmth, wisdom and wit of CLOWNS created a counterpoint to the1950s' anti-communism and to the 1960s' escalating conflict in Vietnam.  Murray is outrageously funny which somehow tempers his in-your-face persona; in 2012 we seem to have excelled at "in-your-face," but perhaps need a recovery of heartfelt humor.

Murray's unemployment/underemployment stress resonates in our time.  As a TV writer Murray's only choice may be to return to writing for the insipid Chuckles the Chipmunk in order to preserve his "family" with Nick and to extend it to include Sandra, the judgmental  Child Welfare social worker whom Murray wins over at "hello."  Or if not at "hello," surely by the time he tells her
"It's just there's all these Sandras, running around who you never met before and it's confusing at first, fantastic, like a Chinese fire drill….but isn't it great to find out how many Sandras there are? Like those little cars in the circus, this tiny red car comes out…suddenly its doors open and out come a thousand clowns, whooping and hollering and raising hell."

(I must admit that when I played the role of Sandra myself - over 30 years ago - I thought Murray's speech conveyed an image for my own feminist self-discovery!)

What is the balance between self-discovery and selfishness? Between creativity and chaos? Between reality and illusion?  Between conformity and confinement?  As many questions as clowns bounce off the walls of Murray's cluttered one-bedroom Manhattan apartment as the characters disarm, delight, dismay each other, themselves and the viewers.

A THOUSAND CLOWNS received a Tony nomination for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics "Best New Playwright" honor. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for writing and won the 1965 Writer's Guild of America award for best written American comedy.  Actors from both the original play and the film received several nominations and awards.  After A THOUSAND CLOWNS, Herb Gardner wrote THIEVES, THE GOODBYE PEOPLE, I'M NOT RAPPAPORT (Tony Award-winner for Best Play) and CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FATHER (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize). Herb Gardner has been one of the most produced playwrights worldwide.

When A THOUSAND CLOWNS began its 428-performance run on Broadway, Gardner was only 27 years old. Howard Taubman of the New York Times found the play "sunny and wistful, sensible and demented, and above all, unfailingly amusing." Fifty years later, expect similar reviews - throw in "intelligent," "moving" and "thought-provoking."

Send in the clowns.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


MCT L1KES is about energizing our facebook community! MCT loves to interact with our theatre community, fans and patrons on facebook and we want even more people be MCT insiders! Now through August 31, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is campaigning for 1,000 new likes on facebook.  Our goal of a thousand (1000) 'likes' is inspired by our 2012-13 season opener A THOUSAND CLOWNS (Aug 9-26).

MCT L1KES will incude prize giveaways for MCT tickets, gear and other goodies! For every 100 new likes on facebook both new and current fans will have a chance to win a pair of tickets to A THOUSAND CLOWNS. We will be picking from ALL of our fans, new and old, so everyone has an opportunity to win! AND upon our 1,000th like, we will be giving away a special surprise gift!

Our goal is ambitious, but with YOUR help we can do it! There are a lot of ways you to help... First of all, go to and LIKE our page. Next, invite friends to like our page! Another easy way to get the word out about MCT on facebook is to SHARE our posts. Everything we post on our facebook page is available to share on to yours so help us spread the word!

So please join us in promoting MCT during our MCT L1KES campaign on facebook! We appreciate all of our fans at MCT and love seeing new faces join our family!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

BUS STOP Q&A with Jacque Troy!

Some great reviews have been coming out about BUS STOP, get your tickets fast! Now, continuing our blog interviews with BUS STOP cast members we have Jacque Troy. Jacque not only plays Grace in BUS STOP, but she is also the Education Director/Literary Manager for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. 

What is it like “going back” to a semi-academic theatre setting with this BUS STOP collaboration?

Jacque Troy
As the Education Director here at MCT, I’ve had several fantastic opportunities to work with young artists; recently during our collaborations with UW-Milwaukee for PICNIC and with Marquette for LION IN WINTER.  I also have the rare joy of producing MCT’s Young Playwrights Festival, which allows me to mentor high school students from all over the city in writing one acts and then employing college students as actors, designers and stage managers.  Michael Wright’s devotion to this part of our mission is a huge part of what attracted me to this company when I joined the staff six years ago. 

Would you like to share any memories of your academic theatre experience?

I chose the University of Iowa as an undergrad very specifically because they have an internationally recognized Playwright’s Festival.  And even though I knew I wanted to be an actor, I also knew that I wanted to work on new plays.  The script itself has always fascinated me as the ultimate tool for creating a character.  I’m also kind of a groupie when it comes to playwrights.  They’re like movie stars to me.  But I can vividly remember my first audition at U of I.  It was for a musical, which is decidedly NOT my niche.  But I was full of youthful optimism and joined the 100 undergraduate and grad students in trying to land a role.  I failed.  You can imagine that my 19 year-old self was devastated and consequently questioned my choice of study.  Luckily, I would later be very successful in landing roles, which is what led me to this place in my life.  I learned so much during my time there and still owe a huge debt of gratitude to my mentors during that time.  Ironically, I was just chatting about one of them with our director, Lisa Kornetsky.  She had asked me to be sure I was vocally balanced with the other actors.  So, she was saying I’m too much of a loud mouth!! I laughed because this is a note I get frequently.  My voice teacher at U of I, Kate Burke, trained me to have a HUGE vocal instrument.  I’m so grateful to her for that, but continue to have to learn to control it. 

What lesson do you hope comes out of this collaboration between UW-Parkside and MCT? Do you feel that you have learned something as well?  

I hope it continues to demonstrate to our audience MCT’s real commitment to nurturing young artists.  It’s a part of our mission that makes us very proud.  And I learn something every time I work on a play.  When it’s with young artists, I am reminded of all the wonder and awe that a good production can generate.  It keeps me excited about this profession and gives me enormous optimism about the amazing work we’re going to see from the next generation of actors and theatre artisans. 

Tell us your first reaction upon reading BUS STOP.

The students were amazing…nearly off book…which made us “old timers” joke that they were making us look bad!!  Also, Lisa Kornetsky allowed me to go “all the way” with the thick rural, Midwestern dialect that I inherited from my maternal relatives.  It’s something I’ve been carefully suppressing my whole life, so it was a blast to “let the beast out”.  Of course, we’ve pulled the dialect way back since that first reading.  We want the audience to be able to understand what Grace is saying.  But it’s still really fun to honor my kin with the hints of that distinctive sound.  I also don’t think I’ve ever laughed--with my fellow artists--so much on the very first day.  I’m thrilled to report that we haven’t stopped laughing and enjoying each other’s company for even a day since.