An already unstable post-winter has bled right through a full season of COVD. A pandemic mixes with calls for long overdue equality and a complete re-thinking of the way the police are allowed to operate. Welcome to July of 2020.
Digital Bardery in the Age of COVID
The local small stage continues to pause as one of the largest multiplex chains in the state opens some of its doors for the summer. Local shows that had been previously announced continue to recede into the future. Optimist Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park program recently announced the postponement of its production of Romeo & Juliet to the summer of 2021. Nevertheless, the Optimist has got a host of things planned for the near future including a mysterious project that they’re calling “No Holds Bard.” Not to be outdone by Optimist’s wordplay, Voices Found Repertory has been posting a series of behind-the-scenes videos that it’s calling the “Build-A-Bard Workshop.” (...sigh...) Don’t let the name fool you, though...this has actually been a really fun series that’s looked at the nature of producing a small-stage show. Every Monday, Voices Found’s cleverly charming Education and Hospitality Director Hannah Kubiak and the Skull of Yorick introduce an in-depth look at a different aspect of production. (Kubiak and the skull evidently had yesterday off.) The first episode had Company Manager Sarah Zapiain discussing the first considerations when beginning work on a production. The second episode had set designer Michael Cienfuegos Baca talking about scenic design. The series continues every Monday on Voices Found’s YouTube Site. Part 4 goes live on July 6th.
ALSO local rehearsal-free theatre company Boozy Bard continues its online shows this month with Shakespeare Raw(ish?):Much Ado About Nothing. The show goes very, very live at 7:00 pm on July First. The group had departed a bit from its standard unrehearsed format last month with a videoconference-style broadcast of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Musical Danger with Milwaukee Opera Theatre
With an impressive cast moving through a fun, pulpy action story, Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s Doc. Danger and the Danger Squad is one of the more enjoyable bits of online fare to come out of local theatre groups online since the pandemic first came into town. The impressive cast includes Briana Rose Lipor, Carrie Gray, Stephanie Staszak, Becky Cofta and more. The series is updated weekly every Thursday. As of this post, the first two episodes are available.
Milwaukee Chamber In A Rectangle
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre collaborated with Chicago’s Three Crows Theatre this past month for Zoom-based reading of Milwaukee playwright Liz Shipe’s A Lady In Waiting. The Robin Hood comedy that focussed on Maid Marian as action hero made a surprisingly well-produced transfer to Zoom. Directed by Jennifer Vosters the reading included the talents of Anna Cline as Maid Marian, Jonathan Wainwright as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Josh Krause as Robin Hood. Once a gain, Kelly Doherty shows a great deal of depth and comic poise in a role that she debuted with Theater RED back in 2014.
Visit The Mesopotamian Underworld Live Via Facebook
This month, Milwaukee Chamber presents an online reading of Eric Schabla’s Reign/Fall. Set in the legends of ancient Mesopotamia, the reading features Allie Babich as the war and love goddess Ishtar journeying into the underworld to visit her sister. Her absence from the realm of the living causes upheaval in a reading which also features Cassandra Bissell as Ereshkigal--queen of the underworld and Elyse Edelman.
Cassandra Bissell as the ruler of the underworld? (So cool.) She’s been memorably impressive in a couple productions in recent memory. I loved her as a highly influential astrophysicist for Next Act and charismatically heroic Sherlock Holmes in Door County. She's a perfect fit for the role of a goddess.
Like Lady in Waiting, Milwaukee Chamber's online reading of Reign/Fall will be presented on Facebook. The show starts at 7pm on July 8th.
COVID-19 continues to keep theatre seats empty as the dormant Milwaukee Theatre community enters June. One of the classiest, coziest little small stages in Milwaukee has become a victim of the pandemic as Matt Kemple announced earlier today that the Underground Collaborative is no more. The has been a flood of condolences appearing n Kemple's Facebook page. The UC will be missed.
Outdoor summer theatre is usually quite vibrant in and around Wisconsin. This is typically Shakespeare’s time of year with quite a lot going on in some of the most enduring comedies and dramas in the history of the stage brought to life beneath no earthly roof. Unfortunately, American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Door Shakespeare in Door County and Optimist Theatre here in Milwaukee are all in various states of postponement and cancellation. This is particularly disappointing as outdoor theatre might have been the one potential for live, in-person performance this coming summer what with indoor gatherings still being a reckless proposition.
For the time being, local theatre groups continue to provide work, live and otherwise, online. Here’s a look at a few things debuting this coming month of June, 2002.
Troilus? & Cressida?
Boozy Bard Productions has been hosting a series of fun evenings of breezy Shakespeare online. Actors’ roles are generated at random from a hat and all read from an abbreviated version of the script from the comfort of their own homes. No telling who is going to end up as what until the evening of the performance.
Boozy Bard’s Andrea Roedel-Schroeder was working on an adaptation for next week’s online staging of Troilus and Cressida when she realized that she didn’t like the title characters. She consulted with collaborator Jeremy Einehcner and well...they’ve decided to throw-out the main characters entirely. So it’s a play about the background...a drama about the Trojan War drawn from Shakespeare’s drama.
Troilus and Cressida (without Troilus and Cressida) will go live online June 3 from 7 pm -10 pm on Boozy Bard’s Facebook page. (Boozy Bard posted a very cool, little video of Roedel-Schroeder talking to Nicole Allee about the bits of the script that have been left out...pseudo-kinda-sorta Drunk History-style. It’s really, really fun hour.)
Waukesha Civic Theatre will be presenting a program featuring some impressive musical theatre talent. The program has talented singers performing works that they never would have been cast in. Directed by Ami Majeskihe free virtual cabaret will feature such talents as Mark Neufang, Becky Cofta, Ben Tajnai and more.
MisCast: A Virtual Cabaret takes place June 6 from 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm on WCT’s Facebook page.
53212 Presents is hosting a series of interactive dance sessions on Zoom and Twitch. People can join in the party on Zoom or watch via Twitch. Interior spaces are reclaimed in a virtual place featuring live music by Colorado-based electronic musician The Red Side. Denceteria runs from 12 - 1 pm (CST) on June 6 ,13 , 20 and 27 this month. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.
Monday Morning Workshops
It’s been fun seeing local theatre talent get the kind of spotlight that it might not normally be allowed in a full production. (Back in April Outskirts Theater Company had a couple of videos featuring hair and make-up artist Gemma-Louise Fitzsimmons working on a very classy head of hair known as Ingrid. It’s a really fascinating couple of videos...even for a bald theatre critic with no inherent interest in hair design.)
Voices Found Repertory has recently announced that it will be posting a series of workshops to its YouTube channel. Every Monday morning VFR will post a new video on its YouTube channel. Given the level of talent connected with VFR, this should be an edifying look at various ends of theatre from the people who make it happen.
Big Fish Live Stream
This might be the first local multi-performance show to be scheduled since Safer at Home was announced. Waukesha Civic Theatre will be live-streaming two performances of the musical adaptation BIG FISH. The fully-staged show had to be shut down due to the outbreak. Cast and crew return to the theatre for a pair of live performances June 27th and 28th. More information will be posted to the Waukesha Civic website as it becomes available.
Doc Danger: Radio Edition
Jason Powell’s pulpy, weirdly cool Gilbert & Sullivanesque sci-fi adventure is brought to audio in a special “radio edition,” which is being produced by Milwaukee Opera Theatre. With characters inspired by various heroes from the golden age of pulp adventure, Powell’s adventure lends itself remarkably well to radio theatre format. The first episode of the new series is being brought to the internet. The series will consist of four weekly episodes that will “air” between June and July. Exact dates have yet to be announced. For more information on the project, visit its fundraising page on Mightycause.