PSA: The Milwaukee Repertory Theater Announces Their Movable Feast…I Mean Their 2024/2025 season!

Here’s the link to their webpage outlining the new season (although I am including snippets below) and here is the link to order subscription tickets!!! There are a number of subscription options so read carefully.

Join us for 12 world-class productions, three of which will take will take place off-site while the new Associated Bank Theater Center is under construction. 

For our 2024/25 Season we are excited to offer 12 productions that are sure to entertain and inspire. Discover remarkable performances, soul-shaking rhythms, fresh takes on classics and bold world premieres. This season includes:

  • * A World Premiere musical based off the Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony-nominated play by Craig Lucas, Prelude to a Kiss: The Musical.
  • * Two World Premiere musicals created by Artistic Director Mark Clements in the Stackner Cabaret – Women of Rock and The Craic.
  • * A Studio Season with the regional premiere of The Coast Starlight direct from Lincoln Center and a bilingual play, Espejos: Clean.
  • * The acclaimed London West End production of The Woman in Black with its stellar British cast
Don’t miss Milwaukee’s favorite holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol celebrating its 49th Anniversary in the historic Pabst Theater with Rep favorite Matt Daniels returning as Ebenezer Scrooge.

and extra credit reading: information on the rebuilding of the Rep spaces and their capital campaign can be found here.

article © 2024 The New World Digs

What the Constitution Means to Me @MKERep

We are all aware of the Milwaukee Repertory’s strength on their main stage with big cast dramas and popular musicals. But I tend to look forward to their offerings in the black box Stiemke Studio hidden away under the grand staircase. The Stiemke brings us edgy dramas, divine comedies, serious contemporary content, and alternative forms of presentation. The Rep’s current Stiemke offering, What the Constitution Means to Me, lives at the nexus of all of those strengths.

Jessie Fisher photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Our protagonist, Heidi, steps out front and introduces herself and starts to present us with the backstory of the play. As a teenager she was driven to excel at speaking at American Legion Halls on the US Constitution as part of their oratorical contest in order to win college scholarships. This is a bit autobiographical and the original role was played by Heidi Schreck in many early productions of the play.

Here in Milwaukee, Heidi is played by Jessie Fisher who owns the role and this viewer is completely convinced that Fisher is Heidi and actually lived these experiences. And Fisher moves smoothly from the fifteen year old Heidi to the adult Heidi and brings out all of the questioning and doubts that life presents and how our society and the Constitution have helped or hindered Americans over the centuries.

Jessie Fisher and Will Mobley (center stage) photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

In opposition to Heidi early on is a strict and seemingly no-nonsense legionnaire played by Will Mobley. The legionnaire is responsible for timing the contestants and keeping them on track and laying out the ground rules for the contestants and the audience. As the story continues, Heidi again breaks theater tradition and introduces the legionnaire as her long time friend Danny who she has recruited to play the part since she trusts him.

Late in the play, the scene shifts from play and exposition to a debate on wither the United States should retain or replace the US Constitution. This requires Danny to reprise his role as timekeeper and rule keeper for the debate. And it also requires a third character, the debater. This role is filled in rotation by three actors from First Stage’s training programs: Maria (Rose) Campbell, Hazel Dye, and Maya O’Day-Biddle. The evening performance I attended was graced with an amazing performance by Rose Campbell.

Will Mobley and Maria (Rose) Campbell (center stage) photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Director Laura Braza scores some gold stars here for making this play run so incredibly smoothly and incredibly realistically…it is hard to tell that we aren’t listening to a friend or neighbor relate their life experience.

So, besides the drama and humor surrounding the events in the play, there is a fair amount of history and discussion on culture and politics. And you will learn about any number of prominent Americans and hear snippets of their own speeches and commentary, and you will get some in-depth analysis of the 9th, 13th, and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

The play runs without intermission and the Rep says about an hour and forty minutes. The night I was there, I think it was closer to two hours. It continues at the Stiemke through March 17, 2024 and you can find ticket information and more details here.

Extra credit reading: Program and Play Guide and the US Constitution

Jessie Fisher and Will Mobley photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

article © 2024 The New World Digs

Milwaukee Rep: Parental Advisory: a breakbeat play

Different Tribe, Different Vibe. I think that’s right, I forgot my notebook Sunday night. Although it was also presented as Different Vibe, Different Tribe, I believe as we fell under the spell of Timeless and The MC. So is that a rhyming couplet? It has the rhyme and matching meter…but is it long enough? Does it have enough syllables? Is it truly a couplet? This is important because there will be a quiz later!

So the Milwaukee Repertory Theater has finally opened their 2023/24 season in the Stiemke Studio with their World Premiere of Idris Goodwin’s Parental Advisory, a breakbeat play. And to put us off our game right up front, we enter the Stiemke by wandering around the back and entering the theater from the west (stage left) rather than the more direct east access from the lobby…and we come into a cozy recording studio/rehearsal space with all of the required electronics plus the requisite Persian carpets and sample posters/LP covers along the wall space and Timeless working his beats machine and turntables.

Marvid Quijada as Timelss, Photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

And as The MC enters the scene it would seem at first that we are going to be regaled with a musical driven by rap and hip hop music, but as you will see, we will be happily wrong! First it seems we will be privy to a song development recording session, but as the conversation starts to turn to previously completed but unreleased material, the whole scene fluidly evolves into a concert…which Timeless re-imagines as a ‘salon’…to a couple confrontation…and reconciliation…to some personal histories…to music history…to cultural history…to some fun and wordplay in the studio…to that quiz as the conversation now includes the audience (the fourth wall has really taken a beating in Wisconsin theaters in 2023). So is this about Rap and Hip Hop? Well, yes and no, we do celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Hip Hop but through the lens of lived experience of black male America and the reaction and over reaction of many others in the nation. So there is some pretty intense and biting commentary here and some of it is very pertinent to our contemporary circumstances.

Marvin Quijada and Amir Abdullah, Photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

One key topic is censorship. And I bet you can guess from the play’s title, what we are initially talking about. The movement in the latter part of the 20th Century to label offensive music with the Parental Advisory label. Often unfairly and from someone who lived during the era and had been in the music business just before that period, very, very arbitrarily. And of course that Parental Advisory label which was a advisory label for parents became an imprimatur of sorts for the young audience who needed to be protected.

Which brings us around to directly focus on Timeless and The MC. They are adults now and The MC is a father of young children which leads to a pretty angst filled conversation about personal censorship…when is a child old enough to partake of edgy media content. This gets pretty interesting and I don’t think we ever come to a final decision.

Now, there are some very very funny bits in here too and if you are only somewhat aware of the history and contributions of Hip Hop to music and culture, this will provide a valuable starting point. And you will find out who put the Wu in the Wu-Tang Clan!

Marvin Quijada and Amir Abdullah, Photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Now, The MC is Amir Abdullah and his partner in rhyme (yeah I stole that) is the DJ, Timeless, played by Marvin Quijada. You are immediately at ease with these gentlemen and although you know that this is a play and that they are actors, you totally accept them as a DJ and The MC, as a successful rap team: wholly and without restrictions. And thankfully Scenic Designer Sidney Lynne’s cozy recording studio makes full use of the width of the Stiemke stage space and leaves plenty of room for Abdullah to flow across the room as he raps and as he expounds. And the console that Timeless works, gives Quijada an anchor and a foil to help with his inflections when talking with MC, while also providing musical underpinnings and examples of the topic at hand. Their timing is spot on. Director Kyle Haden got the feel and interplay between the characters, the actors, and the text precisely right!

All three Rep stages are now lit…but if only have time to catch one play this month, this is the one you should see.

Parental Advisory runs through October 29, 2023 and more info and ticket ordering can be found here.

Extra Credit Reading: PROGRAM and PLAYGUIDE.

Marvin Quijada and Amir Abdullah, Photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater