PSA: Milwaukee Repertory Theater Announces Free Workshops for Young People

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in partnership with Milwaukee Recreation, Milwaukee Rep’s Education and Engagement Department is excited to announce a new series of free workshops for young people hosted around the Milwaukee area!

Saturday Youth Theater Lab is open to students aged 9+ and will develop social-emotional learning and literacy skills, theater and storytelling tools, and offer opportunities to engage with fellow students. Theater Lab will take place every Saturday from 10:30-11:30 am starting October 22 through December 17 (no class November 26 Thanksgiving Week) at TBEY Arts Center

Click Here To Register!

Additionally, Milwaukee Rep is also offering two new workshop series for teens that will focus on developing a monologue in preparation for the Next Narrative™ Monologue Competition taking place at Milwaukee Repertory Theater on January 3, 2023. These workshops are open to ALL high school students. Participants are invited, but NOT required, to participate in the competition. 

Monday Night NNMC Workshops
 will take place at Milwaukee Repertory Theater every Monday night at 5:00-6:30pm from October 17 to December 19 (no class on 11/21 to observe Thanksgiving week).

Saturday Afternoon NNMC Workshops will take place at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MYAC) every Saturday from 1:30-3:00pm from October 15 to December 17 (no class on 11/26 to observe Thanksgiving week).

Don’t miss these unique opportunities to learn, activate, and celebrate with Milwaukee Rep! Slots are limited for these classes and registration will be honored on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students may participate in ONE workshop series at a time. Register today to secure your spot!

Info on the Next Narrative Monologue Competition, Click Here!

To sign up for the Monologue & Performance Workshops, CLICK HERE!

American Players Theatre: Hamlet

To be or not to be…almost became not to be when I waited until the very last day to stream the American Players Theatre Hamlet. And that would have been a silent tragedy as this is the most engaging and relatable version of Hamlet that I remember seeing.

Nick Burger as Hamlet with Yorick, photo courtesy of APT

As always, the focal point of this play is the character of Hamlet. And the play will be made or broken on how the actor perceives the personage of Hamlet, his relationships in the play, and how he decides to employ Hamlet’s apparent madness. Nate Burger was an incredible casting choice and here he is at the peak of his powers and as I said above…delivers a very real and very relatable Hamlet. This was just an incredible experience for me and now I am sorry that I didn’t make a second trek to Spring Green to see and hear this in person. Sometimes Hamlet as played is a bit too distant but here we feel an incredible empathy for and understanding of the character. Burger has always been an engaging actor, but this was simply his most outstanding performance!

Jamal James as Laertes, Chike’ Johnson as Polonius, photo courtesy of APT

Chike’ Johnson is the consummate Polonius. A bit haughty, a bit officious, but clearly a man in charge and a man in control of his destiny. Johnson has him down, precisely. I hope to see him in future APT productions…and sometime in the future, I’d like to see him play Claudius!

Triney Sandoval as Claudius, Colleen Madden as Getrude, photo courtesy of APT

And what a satisfying and regal couple we have in Colleen Madden as Gertrude and Triney Sandoval as Claudius. No doubts at all about the situation they find themselves in. No concerns in the world other than what the heck is wrong with Hamlet! Madden and Sandoval play the preening detached pair just the way you expect these two characters to act. And Sandoval’s reaction to the play within the play is priceless.

Laertes is played by Jamal James. And he easily takes on some of the characteristics explored by Johnson as Polonius…so he presents a striking and obvious son to the elder statesman. But he also, within propriety, exhibits the excitement of youth and that eagerness to strike out on his own in France…despite the obvious ties to his father’s purse strings. And in his own grief he is readily willing to conspire with Claudius to kill Hamlet.

Chike’ Johnson as Polonius, Alys Dickerson as Ophelia, photo courtesy of APT

And Alys Dickerson gives us the equally dutiful daughter, Ophelia, willing to listen to her father even though it goes against her heart. Dickerson gives a great reading of the doubtful young woman who is trying to balance social mores against her young persons instincts. She truly makes us feel the tragedy that befalls her character.

And the ghost of Hamlet’s father is played with sufficient regal bearing and foreboding by David Daniel to make us feel and fear his presence. Although I did feel that some of his spoken lines were overwrought…but his presence was quite intimidating on itself.

And this performance was perfectly understandable. No attempts to go deep into Elizabethan accents or pronunciations and as a result the dialogues gave us the complete story and the full beauty of Shakespeare’s poetry.

cast of Hamlet, photo courtesy of APT

And the costuming here was amazing. Of no discernible era, it enhanced the depiction of the characters in very transparent fashion. Daniele Tyler Mathews really outdid most costuming conventions for Shakespeare plays. Neither dependent on Elizabethan stylings nor outrageously usurping modern dress, Mathews combined styles across the centuries to complement the character’s traits and exemplify their actions in the play. So an Elizabethan vest here, an exaggerated 1930’s wide lapel man’s suit there, 1950’s clothing, an early 1960’s woman’s office casual jacket and slacks, to any number of costumes that bore a regal look without an identifiable period. And of course the costume for Hamlet’s father that helped install that ominous regal mien that David Daniel brought to bear here.

SO: this was directed by Jame DeVita. Bravo!! In past seasons the watch has always been, what is DeVita playing this season. Going forward we must all add to that, what is DeVita directing this season.

And to my readers, I am sorry. Because I procrastinated to long this has closed on stage as well as the streaming version. Hopefully the streamed version will be available again sometime in the future.

First Stage World Premiere: Arthur And Friends Make A Musical!

I am at a disadvantage right away because I am not familiar with the Arthur character or his story line…but I am just going to go ahead and describe what I experienced at First Stage’s World Premiere performance of Arthur and Friends Make A Musical at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. So if I write something that makes you go, DUH! Well just say DUH and give me the benefit of the doubt!

As many of you know, First Stage always uses two casts during the run of their plays. So you may see either the Lakewood or the Elwood cast when you attend. The photos that I have included here were provided by First Stage and are from scenes with either cast.

So initially, we meet Arthur and his sister D.W.. They set up the theme for the action to follow and introduce us to the sibling dynamic: a rather cautious and reserved Arthur and a very competitive and self-aware D.W. But as we soon find out, Arthur is about to be thrown into the spotlight and we are all going to enjoy it.

Sanaiah Hibbler (center) and Niamh Mayne, Lucia Santana, Brandite Reed, Zach Thomas Woods, Jaloni Brown, and Alex Radtke (from left to right) in ARTHUR™ & FRIENDS MAKE A MUSICAL! First Stage, 2022. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And there are two dynamic groups at work! Arthur’s family; mom and dad and D.W. of course, who are all represented in the play and baby Kate and dog Pal. Kate and Pal are referred to several times throughout but never appear on stage…and Pal becomes something of a focus in our story!

And the other group is of course Arthur’s Third Grade Class led by Mr. Ratburn and includes four other students who all seem to like Arthur and rally round him! But of course the students represent typical third graders…although maybe a bit precocious. One young lady is socially conscious, another enamored of fashion and style, and of course we have the class brain!

Charlie Cornell, Silver Anderson, Vivian Madson, Ryon Davis, and Alice Rivera in ARTHUR™ & FRIENDS MAKE A MUSICAL! First Stage, 2022. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

One of the things that seemed to be of particular interest to the children in the audience and actually left them in awe a bit, was the set. Because we essentially have just two locations, a clever turntable spins center stage to provide the backdrop and setting for either the classroom or the family kitchen. I heard more than a few wows or questions about how do they do that, as the stage rotated several times as the story progressed. And actually, I kinda wonder, how DO they do that?

 Sanaiah Hibbler in ARTHUR™ & FRIENDS MAKE A MUSICAL! First Stage, 2022. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

But, now, on to the story! Mr. Ratburn sets up the ‘conflict’ of the story when he announces that the class will present a show for the entire town of Elwood. Each student is to prepare a speech or song or story to explain how Elwood ROCKS! And of course this causes Arthur to worry and overthink the assignment. And with song, dance, and dialogue we watch Arthur work through his thought process and interact with this fellow students and family..and he watches how they handle the task and support his efforts. And everyone supports Arthur’s efforts.

There are some very serious topics here on family and friends and culture and society. But the stories are told as a very delightful musical. But sometimes the songs and stories verge toward the silly but are absolutely as cute as can be. And we get to watch Arthur resolve is personal doubts and issues and present a very honest and personal narrative as part of the show.

But this is a play for youngsters! So there is a very rewarding number of humorous points that the kids just loved where they laughed out loud. And there a few that maybe only the parents got. But my favorite was during the song that Francine sings as part of the grand show. It’s about a woman spy that she discovered and researched from the American Revolution…and she suggests that we all sing about this brave woman instead of our founding fathers like, you know, Alexander Hamilton! LOL! I loved that part.

James Carrington (center) and Jaloni Brown, Lucia Santana, Alex Radtke, Sanaiah HIbbler, and Niamh Mayne (from left to right) in ARTHUR™ & FRIENDS MAKE A MUSICAL! First Stage, 2022. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

AND THEN, we have the big musical climax, when Elwood Rocks and Lakewood School Rocks!

This is an original piece by John Maclay who wrote the text and lyrics, and Brett Ryback (who also is the musical director) who wrote the music and lyrics. So this is a local effort. And Khalia Davis did a marvelous job at bringing together a talented and energetic cast and getting them through a fairly complicated and lengthy play. What an outstanding job and what an amazing start to the First Stage 2022/23 season.

Zach Thomas Woods (center), Alice Rivera and James Carrington (background) in ARTHUR™ & FRIENDS MAKE A MUSICAL! First Stage, 2022. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

This is certainly a good play for anyone but of course the main content is aimed at children five and up. But everyone who attends will have a wonderful time.

So, Arthur and Friends Make A Musical! runs at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center until November 6, 2022. Tickets can be ordered HERE! And there are family packages available.

Extra Credit Reading? The Playbill is HERE! Cast and Crew listing HERE! And of most interest, info on the young performers is HERE!

P.S. Kudos to the person who decorated the guitars in the grand finale. Clearly modeled after namesake Gibson guitars! LOL!