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.