First Stage Provides A Stunning: An Enemy Of The People!

Besides the boisterous and invigorating musicals that they present for children of all ages, by children of all ages, at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, First Stage also features their Young Company, young actors of high school age, in their black box theater in the round at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. The Young Company is ambitious and tackles mature adult plays usually without adult actors involved…and for me…the results are always delicious.

First Stage Young Company Cast in AN ENEMY OF THE
PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And this time they have taken on Henry Miller’s adaptation of the Ibsen classic, An Enemy Of The People. Although set in late 19th Century Norway, the story has resonance today. After being away for a short time, Dr. Thomas Stockmann returns home and becomes the medical officer at the newly created medicinal baths that will bring fame and economic growth to his small town. His brother, Peter Stockmann is the town’s mayor and head of the committee running the baths. Thomas does a bit of research and discovers that a series of mysterious illnesses that have been inflicting visitors to the baths is the result of pollution and bacteria in the water that are coming from a tannery up the mountain. He is convinced that once he shares his discovery with the town, that they will stand firmly behind him and fix the issue. But he’s being incredibly naive here. Instead, Peter takes up the opposition and through a series of partial lies, innuendo, and subterfuge, undermines Thomas and it doesn’t end well for the doctor or his family.

John Eash-Scott (Center), and cast in AN ENEMY OF THE
PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

Dr. Thomas Stockmann is played by John Eash-Scott with an incredible amount of vigor and determination. Totally sure of himself and totally sure of his position, he forges on in his determination to expose the issues around the baths. And as he rounds up support from the local press and small business men, he becomes ever more sure of himself…and Eash-Scott clearly brings that to life on the stage. And even as his brother starts to bring doubt into his mind, he doubles down, and Eash-Scott brings that all to bouncing life.

William Kastner (Left) and John Eash-Scott in AN ENEMY OF THE
PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

There is certainly a small amount of sibling rivalry here and despite his important position in the town, William Kastner as Mayor Peter Stockmann, makes that plain to see. And it also comes into play as he tries to dissuade he brother from publishing his claims of pollution…is it real civic duty or a bit of envy? And when the brutal bits of open conflict begin, Kastner ramps up Peter’s position of power and clearly becomes the pompous ass that the role requires.

And then there is the press that initially support Dr. Stockmann, but go all in against him when the mayor turns on the heat. Chief among them is editor Hovstad, Elena Marking, who presents the enthusiasm of every young editor about to have the big scoop as they prepare to publish Dr. Stockmann’s report…until they are confronted by Mayor Stockmann, and Marking gives us the unflinching portrayal of the wishy washy turncoat with no feeling or compunction about what is being done. And Hovstad’s change in position is one of the most damaging for Dr. Stockmann, both publicly and personally. And similarly situated is Aslaksen, a town small business leader and publisher of Hovstad’s paper. Madison Jones gives us the properly slippery and slimy turncoat too!

Madison Jones in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo
by Paul Ruffolo.

One of the side issues revolves around the doctor’s family…as he pushes on with his quest…he loses sight of how it will affect them all. His wife Catherine is aware of what may happen and voices her fears quite clearly. Maya Thomure plays Catherine and easily moves from the happy and carefree hostess and matriarch, to the concerned and warning helpmate. Her daughter, Petra, is an adult and teacher in the local school and Reiley Fitzsimmons gives us an assured and determined young teacher who is willing to support her father and take up his cause against the town.

John Eash-Scott in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024.
Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

The First Stage Young Company’s An Enemy Of The People runs through April 28, 2024 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. The play runs for two hours plus intermission and is recommended for teens and adults. For more information and to order tickets, click here.

AND, as always, extra credit reading: The Playbill!! and The Enrichment Guide!

This is a Young Company Performance Project — an
actor-driven presentation using elemental production
values. By stripping down to a nearly bare stage, the
connection of actor to audience is enhanced, and
the words of the play come alive in exciting ways,
allowing our award-winning students to showcase
their graduate level skills with full length material,
from Shakespeare to American classics to pieces
commissioned specially for them.

Brinn Hill
Interim Education Director

PSA: UWM’s New Dramaworks: Short Play Festival

I wish I could fit this into my schedule…sigh

Bold, funny, moving, provocative, original and fresh! View the world we’re living in today through the eyes of some of the newest emerging voices in the American Theatre. The premiere of what will be an ongoing feature of the Theatre Department season, this New Dramaworks series celebrates a collection of original, short dramatic work by UWM students and others that stimulates the imagination and prompts deep conversations.

Directed by UWM Theatre Students
Mentored by Ralph Janes
Curated by Alvaro Saar Rios

Festival Lineup

Written by: Lee Hunt
Majors: Conservation & Environmental Science; Theatre Practices

Written by: Joe Klockenkemper
Major: Theatre Education

The Elephant
Written by: Mara Grigg
Major: Theatre Practices

Game Day
Written by: Lia Smith
Majors: Dance; English

Star Stories
Written by: Cat Sadler
Major: Acting

The Greatest Detective
Commissioned play written by: Maria Pretzl ’14
Degrees: BFA, Film: Production; BA: Theatre Studies

The Uncomfortable Truth of Being Known
Written by: Matt Swihart
Major: English-Creative Writing

Until I Join the Earth
Written by: Eugene Strei
Major: Acting: Musical Theatre

April 17–20, 2024 (7:30–9:30 p.m.) April 21, 2024 (2–4 p.m.) at Kenilworth Square East, Kenilworth Five-0-Eight

More INFO and TICKETS!!!

Lake Country Players: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, An Original Musical Faerytale.

You might guess from the subtitle, An Original Musical Faerytale, that the scene isn’t our present day America. No, much of the story is an Ireland of about a century ago…although it does bookend in contemporary times but where better to hear a faerytale than the old sod?

Cory Klein as Abraham Reed. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

So what is our faerytale? An Irish clockmaker, who lost his wife in child birth, loses his daughter as she was approaching young adulthood. In his sadness and depression he fashions a clockwork figure to take the place of his daughter in his life. And once wound up, she becomes animated and cognizant beyond his wildest dreams. But ever fearful for her well-being, he forbids her from leaving their home…but she can see the great and intriguing real world right outside their very window.

So of course, her curiosity overcomes her fealty to her ‘father’, and when he’s away she ventures out of the house into Spindlewood…where she meets the town’s people and finds many friends and many new emotions. And all goes well as no one suspects her origins until one fateful day when…everything goes awry. You will have to experience the play to get the rest of the story.

Jyrajo Petit-Walla as Constance. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

So this IS a musical…the songs and lyrics are truly amazing. They not only move the story forward but they are just beautiful to behold in their own right…and there are a number of very challenging duets and solo pieces within the ensemble pieces that are just amazing. But despite the apparent complexity, Director Sarah Jo Martens’ cast just nails it…and kudos also to Music Director Tracy Garon for bringing these songs to the fore and making every voice a joyous celebration.

And this is a faerytale, but it goes beyond that. It is a story of community, in good and bad times, there is sadness and joy, depression and elation, love and hate, hope and curiosity, a bit of jealousy, family dynamics of different bents, and rash and irrational fears that tear a community apart.

Lexi Ellis (center) as Amelia Glynn. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

But this is also a master class in presenting a full sized musical in a jewel box theater, something the Director Sarah Jo Martens can be particularly proud of. There are twenty two characters here…and at times they are all on stage…a seemingly small stage…my guess about 25 feet wide and 15 feet deep. And for a Clockmaker’s Daughter they had to share a corner of the stage with the raised platform for the band. And the action is constant, and I mean CONSTANT. Not only the action but the setting and resetting of the set pieces and furnishings…all cleverly designed and moved throughout the performance. The set design team is Kimberly Laberge and Adam Harrison. And again my thanks to Music Director Tracy Garon for keeping the voices on cue and on tempo…but also to Choreographer Thom Cauley for creating the ensemble dance pieces and Stage Manager Danny Polaski for keeping it all straight. I never was sure where to look as the actors were again, constantly in motion, but I never suspected a moment of hesitation in the dance or song.

Ben Ardis as Will Riley and Jyrajo Petit-Walla as Constance. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

So, I have rambled and rambled and haven’t mentioned the actors! So let’s start with the clockmaker’s daughter, Constance, as played by Kyrajo Petit-Walla. Petit-Walla does an incredible job of portraying the initially clumsy and awkward clockwork doll and then with her growing cognition and learning, becomes a young lady of Spindlewood. Her ‘father’, the clockmaker Abraham Reed, is played by Cory Klein, who also has to portray the gamut of emotions, from grieving father, to doting father, and finally to worried parent as events transpire in Spindlewood. Ben Ardis plays the love interest for Candace, one Will Riley, a seemingly put upon son of the seamstress Ma’ Riley, with visions and hopes of a great future adult life for himself. Ma’ Rainey is something of an enigma here, a deft artisan, a stern taskmaster in her shop, and a sales lady on demand, and finally a community activist and skilled liar at the end. She is played by Danielle Katers…and oh what a voice as she has a significant song in the first act. One other stand out is Lexi Ellis who plays Amelia Kelly…soon to be Amelia Glynn in a marriage that sets the turning point in the action in the play. Ellis portrays a loving fiancee, true friend, and strong personal presence in the story.

Again, I am amazed that Lake Country Players has taken on such a demanding piece of theater…and again they have excelled in their presentation.

Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

Two Quibbles:

First, with the authors. The constant change in venue from clockmaker’s workshop, to town’s square, to dressmaker’s workshop, to brook, to mayor’s home, and o’er and back seems a disincentive to small companies interested in staging this musical. Martens and team overcame the challenge.

Second, at times the music is too loud. Particularly during some solos…the band obscures the vocals making the lyrics difficult to hear…and of course, the lyrics are critical to the story.

Here is the link to their website with more information. Unfortunately the site indicates that the show is sold out. But click through and plan on seeing their upcoming shows…from my experience, I can’t imagine that the Lake Country Players will disappoint and the drive to Hartland is worth it!

Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography