Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Intern to Intern: MCT's Young Artists Talk the SHERLOCK Experience

by Mariah McGavin

This summer at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, we have three young artists that are part of our production team for SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY: stage management interns Sydney Smith and Krista Kanderski, and costume design assistant Veronica Vickas. All three of them have uniquely awesome career goals, current studies, and future projects, and I was lucky enough to sit down and discuss all of this, plus what their past few weeks at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre have been like!
Mariah McGavin: First of all, what are you currently studying in school, or working on outside of your academics?

Sydney Smith: Right now, I am a theatre major with an emphasis in design and technology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I also have a stage management minor and think often about switching the major and minor. 
Krista Kanderski: In the fall, I will be a senior at Marquette University majoring in Sociology and minoring in Theatre Arts; Biology; and Culture, Health & Illness. At the moment, I work at the library on campus, I’m an overhire stagehand at SLWCA, I freelance stage manage on the side, I’m an intern at the Milwaukee Health Department - STI Unit, and in the fall, I’ll be an intern in Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s Milwaukee office.
Veronica Vickas: I am currently attending Carthage College in Kenosha as a Psychology and Costume Design double major. In the fall I will be starting my senior year, which means the start of applying to a million and one different theatres’ costume shops.

MM: How did you get your start in theatre, and what made you decide to pursue it? Do you have any particular inspirations/turning points?

SS: I decided in 8th grade that acting wasn’t really for me, so I switched to doing crew for The Little Mermaid Jr. and have been doing the backstage stuff since. What actually made me decide to pursue theatre was really a combination of things. It was just something I always enjoyed and poured all of my free time into. I had a teacher in high school that really helped me realize that pursing theatre wasn’t some crazy thing that isn’t realistic and basically said: If you like theatre, do it; the worst thing that will happen is you just stop and do something else later. I think another turning point would be stage managing LES MISERABLES my senior year (of high school). That was a really amazing experience, but once I made it to college I found there were a lot of pieces missing from the stage management position at my high school. We would help with build and take on more of an assistant technical director position and then go on to call the show, as opposed to sitting in on rehearsals. 

KK: The stage has always been a large part of my life: I used to act as a young child, dance with the Milwaukee Ballet School, and play in the orchestra, amongst other things. After 12 years of dancing, I walked away in order to gain some freedom and join various high school clubs. During my freshman year, my orchestra stand partner and longtime friend, mentioned that she had the perfect role in the theatre for me. She told me day in and day out about how I needed to simply give stage management a chance, and by the time the spring musical rolled around - I gave in. At intermission, she snuck me into the sound closet to see our high school’s production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and I got to discover the magic of an entire backstage world that I had never noticed. The next fall, I joined stage crew, and the year after that I became a stage manager. I have been head over heels ever since.

VV: Theatre and performing has always had a special place in my heart but it was not something I thought could be turned into a viable career option. Despite all the analytic logic I had against being a theatre major, I could not deny something that was so fundamental in shaping me as a person. In making that decision to pursue a career in acting is how I found my true love, which is costume design. It was decidedly the most significant turning point of my theatre career.

MM: How did your relationship with MCT start?

SS: My relationship with MCT started with this production!
KK: Growing up in the community, I’ve seen several shows from MCT,and I have also had several friends who were Stage Management Interns. After hearing about how wonderful the team at MCT was to work with from both my friends and Marquette faculty, I applied for the internship, and now here I am.
VV: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY is the start of my relationship with MCT! The people here are so amazing that I hope it is a relationship that lasts a lifetime. I have to give all the credit to Kim Instenes for introducing me to this lovely bunch.

MM: What have these past couple weeks at MCT been like?

SS: These past weeks have been great! I’m learning a lot about how real professional productions run as opposed to ones in an educational setting. My favorite parts so far I think have been watching the actors develop the show and seeing the pieces of the production fall in place as they find things that work for the show. I also like developing what the show will have to look like when it is in the theatre space, thinking about the pieces we will have to move, and starting to develop paperwork that will help everything run smoothly.
KK: The past couple weeks at MCT have been a blast. It is an absolute joy to be in the room with a group of talented, hilarious, and big-hearted actors, directors, stage managers, designers, etc. It is so lovely to be surrounded by genuinely good people.
VV: As assistant costume designer, I unfortunately do not get to spend most of my time at MCT. When I am there, it is bound to be a wonderful, fun-filled day. My favorite experience has been being able to been part of costume fittings and seeing how having their costume helps the actor further develop their character’s physicality.

MM: What are you looking forward to the most during this experience?

SS: I’m looking forward to getting into tech and seeing how that will run and fall together. I also am looking forward to getting into performances!
KK: During this experience, I am looking forward to making connections and building relationships
VV: I look forward to working with professionals. I already see what a difference there is between college theatre and professional theatre.

MM: What do you hope to gain or take away from this experience?

SS: I hope to gain a better understanding of how professional theatres run and operate, and get more experience designing paperwork that gets used in the run of a show.
KK: I am hoping to gain new stage management skills and paperwork experience that I can apply in my future endeavors.
VV: I hope to take away a deeper understanding of what it means to be a costume designer in the professional theatre world. I wish to learn all the nuances of professional theatre that just cannot be taught, despite the best efforts of my professors.

MM: Do you have any current projects you're working on or about to pursue that you're excited about?

SS: Next season at my University I’ll be doing a lot of design work which I am both excited and terrified by. The one that is coming up most quickly is THE LARAMIE PROJECTwhich I am projection designing in the fall. 
KK: As we wrap up this show, I’ll begin stage managing LITTLE WOMEN, directed by Lenny Banovez, and in January, I’ll begin stage managing IMAGE OF AN UNKNOWN YOUNG WOMAN, directed by Debra Krajec, both at Marquette University.
VV: Currently, I am in the process of costume designing my senior thesis, MARIE ANTOINETTE at Carthage.  I am VERY excited about this project. The script offers rich characters, and a fun eccentric period. This show is just about every costume designer’s dream!

MM: What are your hopes for the future in terms of your career?

SS: I just hope to work in theatre, consistently enough to do it full time, and still live comfortably. Perhaps even become a professor to teach theatre later as well.
Become a stage manager.
KK: I hope to one day join Actors’ Equity as a stage manager and be the Production Manager of a theater. Quite honestly though, my only hope at this point is that I’ll be prepared for what comes next - I’ve got a lot of open doors between theatre and public health, so we’ll see where life takes me.
VV: Ideally I would love to continue work as a costume designer, really to keep exploring the field of costumes as a whole. Then after a few years of being in the field I would love to go back to school and get my master’s in costume design.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Why All the Sherlock Adaptations?

by Mariah McGavin

Ask anyone to describe Sherlock Holmes, and you’ll surely get pieces of the iconic look: a deerstalker hat, greatcoat, pipe, and probably a magnifying glass for good measure. Even if you’ve never read an original Sherlock Holmes story, you’ve probably seen a Halloween costume, a movie or television adaption, or maybe even said “No ****, Sherlock!” (Apologies to our esteemed readers for our language!)

There’s something so familiar about Sherlock Holmes and his ability to solve cases using his incredibly astute skills of observation. No wonder. Holmes has dominated film, television, and literature since 1887.

While under the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, Sherlock Holmes appeared in 4 novels and 56 short stories. Mr. Holmes was just as popular back then as he is now; when Conan Doyle attempted to kill off Sherlock in 1893, public outcry was so great he resurrected the detective in 1903.

Since then, more than 25,000 books, stories, and articles have been written about Sherlock Holmes. He has appeared in more than 28 films, several television adaptations, and numerous re-imaginings onstage, portrayed by actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Basil Rathbone, and Jeremy Brett. And there’s no sign of slowing. Up next: a new installment of the Guy Ritchie-directed film series starring Robert Downey, Jr., set to debut in 2020.

So what’s the deal? It seems no matter the time or place, Sherlock Holmes has managed to sneak his way into every era, every possibility, and every medium. How has he managed to survive all these years after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first penned him? And why do we as audiences continue to watch him?

Sherlock Holmes finds his roots in the days of serialized magazine prose, where improved work and leisure laws in England called for magazine stories that could be read during train travel or newfound free time. To appeal to readers, Conan Doyle needed to craft a notable character who could be recognized and independently exist in different stories, freeing readers of having to read stories chronologically or to read all of them.

After his introduction in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four, a barrage of stories in The Strand made Sherlock a hit (of particular note for our production: “A Scandal in Bohemia”). He’s survived long past the days of serialized magazine stories and into the era of film and television – but many think it’s the era of his creation that has ensured his longevity.

Sherlock Holmes appeared in Victorian England, shortly before new technologies changed both the landscape and the attitudes of England itself. Anthony Horowitz, a novelist who wrote The House of Silk, the first Sherlock adventure officially sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate, says that Sherlock Holmes’ appeal and lasting relevance is due to his being the final reminder of a romanticized old England, where cobblestone streets and the strange villains remind us of “the last gasp of English history before technology takes over.” The Victorian Era is widely regarded as one of England’s most prosperous time periods. Along with improvement in schools, workplaces, and transportation, vast amounts of literature and art were produced, and it was a time of relative peace. Perhaps Sherlock serves as a reminder of these times.

But what about the Sherlock Holmes adaptations that take place away from Victorian England? While Holmes certainly originates and draws inspiration from his source era, he has been more than capable of existing outside of it. Certainly one of the main reasons Sherlock Holmes has been able to exist for so long is, quite simply, himself. Mr. Holmes is fascinating. His somewhat arrogant and rude nature is somehow somewhat both endearing and amusing (especially when he is with his friend and foil, Dr. Watson). And beyond that, Sherlock Holmes has been somewhat of what we might today call a superhero or, at the least, a Renaissance man, especially in the detective world, for over a century. He has an unbelievable intellect; he’s athletic, an accomplished boxer, fencer, and singlestick player. He is a musician. His skills are some of his most remarkable traits.

But beyond Sherlock Holmes’ personality, Leslie Klinger, a Sherlock Holmes scholar, has pointed out Sherlock Holmes has proven a model for detectives and detective story formats. Whether or not we realize it, we see Sherlock Holmes in every detective television show, movie, or story. We eagerly await the return of our favorite detective, who will be thrust into a different situation every episode. Then, no matter what, these detectives will eventually get to the bottom of their cases, even when presented with the seemingly most unsolvable case. And in the next episode, they’ll do it again. You can apply these traits to almost any serialized detective show; Columbo, The Rockford Files, Criminal Minds. While credit must be given to Edgar Allen Poe for the most widely regarded early detective fiction, the archetype and structure of the modern day mystery was popularized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and lives on in his most enduring creation.

Even when pulled into the modern era (as in Elementary and Sherlock, above),
Holmes remains a fascinating fictional character.

Sherlock Holmes has set an unreachable bar with his intellect, physical ability, and dogged pursuit of truth. And while we know he will always figure out the case, the journey — his chemistry with Watson, his sharp dialogue, and his explanations regarding the minutest details — is just as satisfying as the ending. As Dr. Watson put it in “The Final Problem” (another source story key to MCT’s production), Sherlock Holmes was the “best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.”

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's production of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY, by Katie Forgette, runs August 10 to 26 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre, at 158 N. Broadway. Tickets can be purchased at 414.291.7800 or by visiting