Theatre continues to develop in and around Milwaukee in the Age of COVID. July is winding down and giving way to an August which shows some promise in and around the edges of local Milwaukee-area outposts on the internet.
Wednesday Milwaukee Chamber Theater stages a live staged reading of a moern verse translation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. The staged reading online allows certain traditions to be casually brushed aside...most notably that of the ages of the leads. The two lead roles feature easoned professionals well-known to the Milwaukee theatre scene. Jonathan Gillard Daly plays Romeo to Flora Coker’s Juliet. It’s a rare opportunity to hear a couple of actors with decades of stage experience casting light into young love.
The staged reading of Hansol Jung’s translation of Romeo & Juliet is directed by Marcella Kearns. The reading takes place on Facebook and YouTube at 7pm on July 29th. For more information, visit Milwaukee Chamber online.
Waukesha’s Fleeing Artists Theatre will be presenting Shakespeare this month as well. The group presents a video presentation of The Winter’s Tale directed and edited by Lyric Simonson. The show runs July 31 - August 2. The show is being presented both via Zoom and Facebook. For more information, visit Fleeing Artists online.
A few years before he published Psycho, horror writer Robert Bloch lived in Milwaukee. As it turns out, he also lived on Brady Street. Late next week, Allison Jornlin’s American Ghost Walks-Milwaukee takes attendees through a tour of haunted Brady Street. A ghost tour is its own kind of live theatrical experience that should be all the more spooky with attendees in masks following a trail of ghost stories. It’s not theatre, but it IS live storytelling. And if it’s going to feature a socially distance audience in face masks it might be the only way it could possibly be responsible while COVID continues to take its toll on Milwaukee.
The Saints and Sinners of Brady Street takes place on August 8th at 7:30 pm. For more information visit the American Ghost Walks online.
Local playwright/actor Deanna Strasse has a play. She’s going to be hosting a staged reading of the play live and online complete with talkback. So it’s just like a regular small stage show...only it’s available wherever you have a glowing rectangle that connects to the internet. Jessica Kennedy and Josh Scheibe play Jo and Gerry: a couple who have been married for six months. Things aren’t perfect between the two of them. Things quickly come to light in Strasse’s comedy Lovers and the Like. The virtual staged reading has two performances: August 14th at 7:30 pm and August 15th at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit the reading’s Facebook page.
Smaller theatre companies have been hit particularly hard by the COVID pandemic. Local small stage company The Village Playhouse looks to keep its cozy, little West Allis foothold this month with its first ever Monologue Competition Fundraiser. 10 members of the Playhouse perform monologues online in prerecorded segments from 6:00 pm last night through 6:00 pm next Monday, July 13.
Admission to the competition is $5. Viewers can then vote for their favorite actor by donating the The Village Playhouse through a link under their video. Each actor has a different personal fundraising goal. The patron who donates the most money will receive a flex ticket which is good for six tickets to any production once the theater opens again.
I was able to watch 8 0f the 10 monologues. (Two weren’t available last night.) A program of monologues is performed in front of a blue curtain for a stationary camera. The rhythm of a program like this can feel a bit like sitting through a session of auditions. The periodic requests for donations to the Village Playhouse make it also feel a bit like a telethon as well.
There ARE moments that dive into something deeper than the format. Amy Wickland performs Walter Ben Hare’s A Leap Year Leap with a jitteriness that is well-suited to an early 20th century woman rehearsing a proposal to a man. Derek Jacobs is a man caught between trying to remember the chaos of a life in the military and trying to remember a woman he once met in Playing Solitaire. On the surface, it’s a simple recollection, but the nature of the monologue and the way Jacobs speaks the lines make for an interesting bit of storytelling when one considers that the character speaking the words may be an unreliable narrator. Thomas Zuelke takes the program into a dark, little corner with a quick bit cold, affectless villain monologue from the CBS TV show Person of Interest. It’s an interesting departure from much of the rest of the program.
My favorite of the eight available monologues had to be Joanna Langworthy’s performance of a piece from her turn as Jennie Malone in The Village Playhouse’s production of Chapter Two by Neil Simon. It’s difficult for any actor to launch straight into a deep and heavy explosion of dramatic tension, but Langworthy has recently spent quite a bit of time with Jennie Malone for The Village Playhouse and she has no difficulty taking a 6-minute walk with the character in the interest of raising money for a struggling theatre company.
The Village Playhouse’s Monologue Competition continues through July 13. For access, visit the Village Playhouse online.