PSA: Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS at First Stage!

YES -> That Bob Marley and as First Stage is saying: Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS brings Jamaican good vibes to First Stage this spring! So what else do we know?

-Join Ziggy as he overcomes his fears and enjoys the adventures of life-  

Infectious reggae music, colorful costumes and sets bring the culture of Jamaica to life in the Todd Wehr Theater with First Stage’s production of Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS. This delightful play is based on the children’s book by Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s daughter, and includes music and lyrics by Bob Marley and is adapted for the stage by Michael J. Bobbitt. Arrangements, orchestrations and additional music and lyrics are by John L. Cornelius, II. Ziggy is afraid to leave his house. He is too busy worrying about tropical storms, evil spirits and the sneaky, hair-grabbing trickster, Duppy. With the help of his feathered friends, Ziggy will learn that “every little thing is gonna be all right!” With music from the legendary reggae artist, audience members young and old will enjoy jammin’ with this timeless tale of peace and love.  

Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS runs April 21 – May 21, 2023 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets start at $18 and can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at Performance runtime is approximately 70 minutes, which includes a brief intermission. 

From Director Samantha D. Montgomery: “Ziggy is fearful about what might happen to him and this restricts him from living and enjoying the adventures of life. This play, Bob Marley’s  

THREE LITTLE BIRDS, adapted for the stage by Michael J. Bobbitt, encourages us to enjoy the adventures of life by not allowing our fears to stifle us. Instead, we must rebuild ourselves and overcome our fears by finding the strength within ourselves to make bravery our only choice.” 

Cedella Marley (Author) is the first born of Bob and Rita Marley and a descendant of reggae royalty. She is an accomplished singer, an inspiring author, an adventurous fashion designer and visionary entrepreneur. The world first met Cedella as a singing and dancing teenager with The Melody Makers, the Marley sibling group featuring her younger brothers Ziggy and Stephen. The group toured the world establishing a new generation of Marley musical mystique, as they sold millions of albums and won three Grammy Awards. In 1993, Cedella was appointed as C.E.O. of Tuff Gong International, the group of companies now includes a renowned state of the art recording studio in Kingston, Jamaica, which is utilized by the island’s top reggae artists and producers, Marley’s sons and an array of international artists. Cedella is also an accomplished children’s book author, having written The Boy from Nine Miles (The Early Life of Bob Marley), Three Little BirdsOne Love and Every Little Thing. Published by Chronicle Books in 2012 is Cedella’s Every Little Thingis adapted from the lyrics to her father’s beloved song Three Little Birds. Debuting in an Off-Broadway children’s play adaptation in 2014 this children’s book is a follow up to Chronicle’s widely successful earlier release of One Love. Adapted from one of Bob Marley’s most beloved songs, One Love brings the joyful spirit and unforgettable lyrics of his music to life for a new generation. This heartwarming picture book offers an upbeat testament to the amazing things that can happen when we all get together with one love in our hearts. To learn more about her creative and philanthropic work, visit: 

Bob Marley (Music and Lyrics), born Robert Nesta Marley (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981), was a Jamaican singer, musician and songwriter. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by fusing elements of reggae, ska and rocksteady as well as his distinctive vocal and songwriting style. Marley’s contributions to music increased the visibility of Jamaica worldwide and made him a global figure in popular culture to this day. Over the course of his career, Marley became known as a Rastafari icon, and he infused his music with a sense of spirituality. He is also considered a global symbol of Jamaican music and culture and identity and was controversial in his outspoken support for democratic social reforms. Bob Marley 

Michael J. Bobbitt (Playwright) is an award-winning theater director, choreographer and playwright who has dedicated his professional career to arts leadership. He began his tenure as Executive Director of Mass Cultural Council in February 2021 and is the highest-ranking cultural official in Massachusetts. Bobbitt serves on the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) Board of Directors, the National Assembly of State Arts Agency’s (NASAA) Board of Directors and was selected for artEquity’s BIPOC Leadership Circle. He is the former Artistic Director of the New Repertory Theater in Watertown, Massachusetts and the Adventure Theater in Maryland. Bobbitt gained extensive experience in nonprofit arts management by training at Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management, The National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program and Cornell University’s Diversity and Inclusion Certification Program. As a director and choreographer, he has worked nationally and internationally. As a writer his plays have been published by Concord Theatricals, Broadway Publishing and Plays for Young Audiences. Bobbitt is the recipient of the Excel Leadership Award (Center for Nonprofit Advancement), the Emerging Leader Award (County Executive’s Excellence in the Arts and Humanities) and Person of the Year Award (Maryland Theatre Guide), along with eight Helen Hayes Awards. 

Samantha D. Montgomery (Director/Director ofArtistic Inclusion and Community Engagement) is a performance artist who is committed to the process of learning. She has worked in both traditional and non-traditional educational settings. Teaching is her passion, connectivity is her goal and working collaboratively in unity to nurture trust, acceptance, inclusion and community is her commitment. She has enjoyed working at First Stage as a Teaching Artist and is grateful for the opportunity to work as the Artistic Inclusion and Community Engagement Director. Samantha is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. She holds a BA from Alverno College in Professional Communication, a MS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Administrative Leadership and Supervision in Adult Education and a MA from Alverno College in Education.  

Sonya Thompson (Choreographer) was born and raised in Jamaica. She has been dancing since she was 4 years old. Embedded in her soul are the traditional culturalisms of African people throughout the Caribbean Diaspora. She has an Associate’s Degree from MATC in Administrative Professional Applied Science and plans to pursue her Bachelor’s degree from University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in Criminal Justice. 

About: Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS
Based on a story by Cedella Marley; Music and Lyrics by Bob Marley
Adapted for the stage by Michael J. Bobbitt
Arrangements, Orchestrations, Additional Music & Lyrics by John L. Cornelius, II 

Directed by Samantha D. Montgomery
Choreographed by Sonya Thompson of Ko-Thi Dance Company 

Location: Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water Street, Milwaukee 

Live Performances: April 21 – May 21, 2023 

Description: Ziggy’s afraid to leave the house. He’s too busy worrying about tropical storms, evil spirits and the sneaky, hair-grabbing trickster, Duppy. With the help of his feathered friends, Ziggy will learn that “every little thing is gonna be all right!” With music from the legendary reggae artist, get jammin’ with this timeless tale of peace and love. Performance runtime is approximately 70 minutes, which includes a brief intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 3+. 

Visit here for additional details, ticket information, and special performance info (pay what you can, ASL interpretation, cast info, and such).

First Stage’s Carmela Full Of Wishes

One of the remarkable things for me in 2022 was getting acquainted with First Stage. I learned about children’s characters that I had only heard of before that. I learned a lot about children and family dynamics and social culture. And I saw a lot of great theater that I didn’t know was out there…put on by and put on for young people. And I was continually amazed by the effect that theater had on young people when the characters and stories were tailored to their interests. As a child of the Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo eras, that shouldn’t have been a surprise, but I forget.

And so the story continues in 2023, with Carmela Full of Wishes!

The play is adapted by Alvaro Saar Rios from the book by Matt de la Pena. And our story revolves around Carmela, who just this day is celebrating her seventh birthday, and her family and her community. We meet Mami who presents Carmela with pancakes with chocolate chips and a candle…but the chocolate chips were supposed to be a surprise…until Big Brother blurted out the secret. And then a gift of bangles and bracelets that make a distinctive and joyous clatter when Carmela shakes her wrists. I can’t imagine a seven year old who wouldn’t love those! But one unique gift is Carmela is now old enough to accompany her brother on errands for Mami…and here the adventure begins!

Isabella Dixon-Ruiz and Steven Cuevas Ruiz in CARMELA FULL OF WISHES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And here we have to credit scenic designer Reginia Garcia for an exquistically colorful set that works overtime as Carmela’s house, a local bodega, neighbor’s homes, and city and community locales! And director Michelle Lopez-Rios makes sure Carmela and Big Brother get their steps in for the day as they traverse and circle the stage to complete their errands. But you give up the sense of dizzy and soon realize that they have been given a fair amount of responsibility and agency throughout the neighborhood!

Karen Estrada, Thomas Bastardo, and Isabel Scardino in CARMELA FULL OF WISHES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And we get to know a lot more about the environment of a seven year old…both the physical one she is sharing with Big Brother and the one that she is working out in her mind and emotions. And Big Brother reacts just like a big brother most of the time. A bit domineering and not wanting to show affection for little sister. A very real life sibling dynamic.

Isabella Dixon-Ruiz and Parker Muñoz in CARMELA FULL OF WISHES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

But this is really about Carmela and the wishes…and some discoveries about her life, happiness, sorrows, and all. I won’t give away too much, but those wishes are the real journey and she shares them with the audience as she tries them out in her imagination, sometimes in asides and sometimes in direct presentations…clearly aloud because Big Brother warns her to quit talking to herself. But only Carmela is aware of the world outside of the stage.

Isabel Scardino in CARMELA FULL OF WISHES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

In her journey, she learns about wishes and birthday candles and then the precious dandelion she protects and matter of factly bounces her ideas for wishes off of. And we see a young person who is hopeful, curious, aware, and highly imaginative…and a bit aware of the magic all around her and inside of her!

Isabella Dixon-Ruiz in CARMELA FULL OF WISHES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

As always, First Stage has two casts for the younger actors in their presentations. I have included photos from each cast that were provided by First Stage.

Carmela Full of Wishes runs until February 12, 2023 at The Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center. Most of the times are weekend matinees at 1 PM and 3:30 PM and run time is 70 minutes plus a short intermission. Recommended for an audience of 3 and up and I can attest that younger children loved this show.

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets

Extra Credit Reading. the Playbill! and the Enrichment Guide!

Parker Muñoz and Isabel Scardino in CARMELA FULL OF WISHES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

PSA: Enrollment For First Stage’s Summer Theater Academy Is Open NOW!

and classes start on Monday June 13, 2022!! Details that I received from First Stage follow below:

First Stage Theater Academy, the nation’s leading high-impact theater training program for young people, is offering its Summer Academy programs in-person this summer with classes beginning Monday, June 13, 2022. One of Milwaukee’s longest-running summer theater training programs, First Stage’s Summer Academy will celebrate its 30th year of offering theater classes to Milwaukee area youth. Classes will run June 13 – August 5, 2022 at the newly-renovated Milwaukee Youth Art Center and will follow First Stage’s curriculum in Acting, Musical Theater, Improvisation and more, fostering life skills through stage skills. The classes will be led by First Stage Academy staff as well as by professional theater artists  including Milwaukee dancer and choreographer Christopher Gilbert (Director of Step Kids), actor Brandite Reed (Co-Director of THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM) and Chris Flieller (UW-Oshkosh Theatre Department/former Artistic Director for In Tandem Theatre), among many others.  

Classes are available for students entering grades K4 – 12 this fall. One week or multi-week sessions are available at Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. Classes for students entering grades K4 – 5 will also be held at Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield July 5 – 15, 2022.   

New this summer, from July 25 – August 5, 2022 classes will be held at UW – Parkside in Kenosha, offering weeklong classes for students entering grades 5 – 12, spending each day rotating through classes in Musical Theater, Acting, Clowning and Shakespeare, building a foundation of theatrical performance skills through a variety of lessons led by theater professionals. 

Summer Academy classes for young people on the autism spectrum – part of First Stage’s Next Steps program – will be held August 8 – 12, 2022 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. 

Locations: Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 West Walnut Street, Milwaukee, WI  53212; Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, 3270 Mitchell Park Drive, Brookfield, WI  53045 (July 5 – 15, 2022 only) and UW – Parkside, 900 Wood Road, Kenosha, WI 53144 (July 25 – August 5, 2022 only) 

Cost: $150 – $635 depending upon the length of classes. Payment plans are available. Families that enroll in multiple classes for one student or enroll siblings will receive $10 off per class. Financial assistance is also available. Many classes are already full, so advance registration is recommended.  

That gives you the background and some of the details on the program and what to expect and where it will be held. Here is information on enrolling and the course catalog:

Website: To view the list of summer classes and to register, please visit: 

Course Catalog: To view the full Theater Academy Course Catalog, please visit: 

And although many activities are returning to more normal levels of participation, COVID is still something that we all need to be aware of:

COVID Protocols: In accordance with the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center guidelines and the CDC recommended guidelines, masks are now optional within all Academy classes. As First Stage Summer Academy moves ahead, it will be equally supportive and respectful of those who are ready to remove masks, and those who prefer to continue to wear them. First Stage Theater Academy will continue to follow the CDC recommendations and adjust when necessary. First Stage COVID safety protocols and updates can be viewed here: – performances 

And for those of you unfamiliar with First Stage or the First Stage Theater Academy:

First Stage Theater Academy is the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people. The region’s finest professional theater artists share their expertise, skills and passion for their art with over 2,000 young people this summer. Students will develop skills in musical theater, scene study, Shakespeare, improvisation and much more, while simultaneously building life skills, such as confidence, focus and teamwork. Young people are encouraged to take risks and conquer their fears, and First Stage is proud to be building the next generation of artists and leaders. 

And finally, my two cents worth: Everyone from First Stage that I have interacted with this past season have been excited about and dedicated to these youth programs. And the plays that I attended were exciting and professional and broad in scope. AND the kids on stage and in the audience all had a great time. If your child is interested in theater in any way, this would be a great summer learning and ‘play’ opportunity!