What is Art?
April2021 | 1
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Volume 1, Number 4
LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
THE SECOND ACT: Arts Are Alive in Senior Living Communities
MILWAUKEE | You Made This?!? From What?!? Behind the Seams Look at Costume Design for Salomé
MILWAUKEE | Let your Imagination Soar: A Conversation with Sculptor Bruce Niemi
By Ryan Albrechtson
By Dawn Molly Dewane
By Ryan Albrechtson
ALL THE WORLD'S ABLAZE By Mike Fischer
ABOUT THE COVER | Scrap Metal Mermaid Sculpture By Trove Arts
ARTS WISCONSIN | Keep Wisconsin Creative: Creative Wisconsin Month, April 2021
MADISON | New World. New Ways. New Works. Discovering What’s Next with Music Theatre of Madison
By Anne Katz, Director, Arts Wisconsin
By Ryan Albrechtson
NATIONAL | Help Your Local Theaters By Going Green By Amanda Finn
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE to ArtsScene Magazine
STAFF Steve Marcus Matt Thiele DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Greg Widener ART DIRECTOR Nicolette Bealhen VENUE RELATIONS/EDITOR Ryan Albrechtson
Karin Marcus Will M. McAuliffe ADVERTISING SALES // WISCONSIN Barbara Kluth ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Allyson Imig
PRESIDENT + PUBLISHER
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ArtsScene is published by Marcus Promotions, Inc. The content of any article in this publication is based solely on the opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Marcus Promotions, Inc., or its staff.
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www.footlights.com | www.marcuspromotions.com COVER PHOTO: SCRAP METAL MERMAID SCULPTURE By Trove Arts
April2021 | 5
WHAT IS ART? When attending school in Madison in the early 80’s, there was a t-shirt design that was circulating the campus area that said on the front: “WHAT IS ART?” And on the back, it said: “ART IS A WINDOW WASHER” with an illustration of a popular homeless man named Art that walked up and down State Street washing storefront windows for donations at that time. What does this mean and why share this story? Well, on a topical level, it’s cute and a play on words. With more insightful thought, Art is anything you want it to be. Look at “The Calling” AKA the orange sunburst sculpture on the east end of Wisconsin Ave in Milwaukee created by New York-based artist Mark di Suvero back in 1982. There’s plenty of controversy behind that thing. Love it or hate it, it’s Art. I just wish I thought of welding some I-beams together, painting it orange and getting paid $150,000 back in 1982!! Genius…pure genius. Shouldn’t that be considered recycled art since it was built with I-beams that were meant for other purposes? Sure. Why not?!
After you’ve pondered the question above, now ask yourself: What is EARTH without ART?… it’s just EH. Whether you are protecting the planet by recycling, making art, or reading a digital arts magazine… you’re keeping it green!
Art the window washer. Photo credit: Wisconsin Historical Society
I hope you enjoy our edition of RECYCLED ART and you continue to hunger for more art in your lives.
The Calling. Photo credit: Mel Buchanan
From The Publisher
Art has been a part of our history as humans since cavemen drew pictures on rock walls. Since then, man has created, criticized, and appreciated Art of all kinds. Some say Art is food for the soul and we need it to survive. What kind of Art do you hunger for? With this pandemic, a year in the making, a lot of us probably hunger to be together and share in the experience of Art on stage…in the form of a musical, a play, or a concert. I know I do. In a positive light, this pandemic has also allowed many of those artists to rethink their craft and put it onto a new canvas in order to be able to continue to express themselves. I say Bravo! We, at Footlights, are no different - ArtsScene would not exist today as a form of Art appreciation if it weren’t for the pandemic. How are we doing?
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www.thelutheranhome.org April2021 | 7
The Second Act:
Arts Are Alive in Senior Living Communities By Ryan Albrechtson “I feel like the arts during the pandemic are what got people through,” said Erin Burke, Director of Life Streams at Saint John’s on the Lake. There is so much to consider when choosing a senior living community. “We build our programming around eight dimensions of wellness,” said Burke. “What we have found is that this helps people live longer and live a better life. We take our art programming and socialization programming very seriously. People want to live here.” The arts play a huge role in the lives of residents at a variety of different senior living communities. Many of these communities have their own unique programming – whether that be through painting, crafts, music, performing, and more. “Art Therapy, I think, is different for every population,” said Shari Brzinski, an Art Therapist for Lutheran Home Senior Living. “At the Lutheran Home, we have goals of offering a creative outlet for our residents to express themselves and connect with each other.
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Intergenerational artwork at the Lutheran Home
The Lutheran Home Courtyard painted by residents of the Lutheran Home We build on their strengths and we’re giving them an opportunity to share a part of themselves through the art making. It’s really a platform for residents to give an extension of themselves that ends up being this tangible object… a legacy for them and their families.” These crafts can take many forms. For Brzinski, materials often include watercolor, acrylic paints, clay, and other types of craft supplies. “There is no type of art that we won’t try,” said Brzinski. “We’re really playful.” The communities can clearly see the benefits these programs have for their residents. “The arts are very critical,” said Jeanne Morton, Executive Director of Five Star Senior Living Community. “It helps with memory retention. It helps decrease anxiety… if you have less anxiety, you won’t need as many medications. Your overall sense of health and wellness will be better. Social programming and creative work are where the joy starts.” Brzinski’s programming at Lutheran Home has pivoted in the wake of the pandemic. While much of their classes and intergenerational programming (Lutheran Home is known for its effort to pair kids and grandfriends for a variety of projects and activities) has had to halt, the creativity is still flowing. Now, you can find Brzinski traveling between residents’ rooms with her craft cart, making art one on one and sharing it with other residents. The same can be said for Saint John’s and Five Star as well. Residents at Five Star have begun to take virtual museum gallery tours with the help of Zoom. “This year has opened up a whole new world of exploring art for our community in that respect,” said Morton. “It’s been kind of a joy to know that there are those things out there.” Saint John’s has taken technology in their community to a whole new level, investing in an app for residents and their own television station: Our Wellness and Lifestyle (OWL) Network. Programming has included April2021 | 9
Memories in the Making® artwork at the Lutheran Home
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collaborations with local performing arts groups such as Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Renaissance Theaterworks, Early Music Now, and more. “We also have the Saint John’s Players who put on shows,” said Burke. “Performer/Director Marti Gobel comes in and directs shows with the residents. Marti has been priceless for us during this pandemic. She’s got such a big heart and so many great ideas.” Gobel’s work with the residents includes play analysis workshops, directing plays, and more. “Seeing local actors, even through Zoom, is comforting and a source of connection,” said Burke. “It helps our residents feel at home.” It’s up to each resident how much or little they want to get involved in the programming their community offers. “Some residents dip their toes in because they like to be social,” said Brzinski. “You’ll see them start to finger through some of the supplies and materials and playing with them. They will try one small thing and the next thing you know they are immersed in the art making experience and they are the last ones to leave.” “We are life long learners,” said Morton. “You can have folks from very different walks of life who can still recognize something beautiful. A lot of individuals feel like they aren’t artistic or creative, and a lot of people when they get the chance to explore are surprised to find how creative they really are. Music and art are the universal comfort. We could all use a little bit more of that right now.”
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Family Art Night at the Lutheran Home
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M I LWAUKEE
You Made This?!? From What?!? Behind the Seams Look at Costume Design for Salomé By Dawn Molly Dewane
Theater companies tend to accumulate costume inventory. Well-meaning patrons donate old clothing; costumes are made for shows. Period costuming presents challenges for a small theater company because fabric and trim are expensive. Volunteers who sew are not common – as are volunteers who are able to design costumes. For Salomé, the costume budget was zero because, to be blunt, the pandemic has hit Village Playhouse hard; there simply was no budget. What does a small theater do? It gets creative. The design concept for Salomé is the seven deadly sins. Herod, Herodias and Salomé’s costumes were created in this color palette using fabrics with texture and sheen:
The play’s other characters’ costumes were made of cotton and cotton blend fabrics in more muted colors and textures. Most of these were pulled from existing costume stock. Getting creative meant “cannibalizing” garments in costume stock unlikely to ever be used or in poor condition plus repurposing curtains, tablecloths and sheets. This 1980s blazer was made of a metallic fabric with a peacock motif. Dawn Molly Dewane and Rebecca Reyes, our costume team, turned it into trim and two belts. Dewane said, “A blazer like this is unlikely to be used so why waste good fabric? We also found a blue velvet 1980s prom dress that was falling apart on the hanger, so we used that, too.” 14 | artsscene
Left to right: 1) Fabric from jacket used to trim robe 2) Both Salomé and Herodias wear a belt made from the jacket fabric 3) Close-up of fabric 4) View of fabric used as trim and belt
Dewane said, laughing, “Curtains, sheets and tablecloths are great sources of fabric. I can’t think of a show I’ve designed for community theater where I had an actual budget to buy fabric from a store.” Curtains were used to create soldier cloaks, toga, and tunic. Herod’s tunic and toga are made from curtains as are the soldiers’ cloaks. Dewane continued, “Two costume businesses closed its doors over the years and donated inventory to Village Playhouse. Of course, there were costume pieces but there were also hundreds of yards of sequin trim in multiple colors. We used that to trim the veils for the “Dance of Seven Veils” plus Herodias’ and Salomé’s costumes. The narrow sequin trim had to be sewn by hand. It took forever!” Rehearsals for Salomé started January 5. The show was filmed February 8. In four and a half weeks, Dewane and Reyes made full costumes for Herod, Herodias, and Salomé, including crowns for each. They also made three cloaks, two tunics, three turbans and two long vests. April2021 | 15
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Left to right: Herod’s garland of roses, Salomé’s crown, Herodias’ miter Herod’s garland of roses was made from leftover craft supplies and silk flowers. Salomé’s crown was hand beaded using beads from a Christmas ornament and a broken bracelet. Herodias’ miter was made from leftover craft supplies; lace overlay fabric from a damaged dress and cardboard. The result is a visually appealing show that looks expensive. Theater magic was made by using existing materials and repurposing others. In community theater, “reduce/reuse/recycle” is an important mantra!
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Bravo! The Burish Group supports the arts Whether it be in person or virtual, the arts help economies thrive, communities flourish and individuals connect with each other while educating and enriching societies. We are proud to support ArtsScene and look forward to enjoying the arts together in person again soon. The Burish Group UBS Financial Services Inc. Madison 8020 Excelsior Drive, Suite 400 Madison, WI 53717 608-831-4282
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M I LWAUKEE
Let Your Imagination Soar: A Conversation with Sculptor Bruce Niemi By Ryan Albrechtson “In 1960, my dad was an ornamental iron artist,” said sculptor Bruce Niemi. “He started doing abstract sculptures when I was five years old. I was taken to art shows… I grew up at art shows. At 12, my dad taught me how to weld and I made my first sculpture. I still have it.” Bruce Niemi, who graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1981 with a BFA in Sculpting, has been creating sculptures for over 50 years. To date, he has 56 permanent public sculptures across the United States and Europe. Niemi’s art work is all one of a kind. “The sculptures I create are characterized by their uplifting positive dynamic,” said Niemi. “My faith in God, the power and beauty of nature, and the energy and balance of dance are all driving forces behind my art. My purpose is to stimulate the mind of the viewer as well as creating a sculpture that complements and has harmony with the environment that it shares. Let your imagination soar.” Closeup of “Lifted Up”| Bronze
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Genesis series| Bronze, patina
While he works with a variety of materials, many of which are recycled, stainless steel and bronze are his primary metals of choice. “I do all of my own fabrication, and I love the process from start to finish,” said Niemi. Niemi’s studio is right on his own property. When searching for a home, he and his wife looked for a place with a pole barn for his studio, and a good size of land to display his work. Their property sits on 15 acres, which he describes as a “playground for his sculptures.”
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His work, which often features recycled materials, has taken many forms. At first, Niemi experimented with recycled augers to create his sculptures (a spiral shaped piece of metal used to drill holes). He would cut them at different angles and put them together. He also incorporates stone, ball bearings, and other recycled pieces. One of the most unique recycled materials he uses is bronze slag, which is the overflow of bronze after being poured at a foundry. “When it overflows it creates a beautiful pile of excess stuff,” said Niemi. “I take that excess and incorporate it into segments of my sculptures.” While Niemi’s work can be found all over the country, some of his pieces can be found as locally as the Historic Third Ward. Niemi’s work is featured at the Lily Pad West Gallery, where it was the first piece sold when the gallery opened. “I’m inspired by Earth,” said Niemi. “I see so many things most people wouldn’t see. I look down at a beach and I see driftwood, these beautiful entwined things. I see nature, and it inspires some of my most important stuff.” You can see some of Niemi’s art, and the work many other great artists, at the Lily Pad West Gallery. Click here to check it out! Learn more about Bruce Niemi and his sculptures in our video interview! Pictured: Genesis series | stainless steel, bronze, patina
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Oregon Wildfire, 2017
By the time my plane landed in Medford, 15 miles north of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, the bright sun and clear skies that had followed me from Milwaukee to Portland were gone. A thick haze had reduced the sun to a pinprick; although it was only early afternoon on a lazy summer day, it felt like dusk. And that’s before I left the plane and smelled the smoke. It was late August, 2017, and Oregon was on fire. During my ensuing five days in Ashland, I grew used to seeing people masked – not because of a pandemic still three years away, but rather because of the smoke. While trying to focus on Julius Caesar and Henry IV, I wondered whether additional shows I’d planned on seeing would be cancelled. My last scheduled performance – showcasing Mary Zimmerman’s legendary adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey – was. The smoke was so bad that Oregon Shakespeare feared for the safety of actors and audience alike. Ironically, Homer’s great poem is, in part, the story of the gods’ revenge against men too busy trying to subdue and destroy the natural world to respect and love it. During my years as a critic, I’d experienced cancellations because of rain and snow. Fog and heat. Building emergencies and medical emergencies, including Stacy Keach having a heart attack on stage while I watched, aghast (thankfully, he survived). But I’d never seen a show literally go up in smoke.
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The following summer, fire would force Oregon Shakespeare to reschedule 19 shows and cancel seven; by 2019, it had moved the shows in its magnificent outdoor theater to a dreary high school auditorium. In 2018 alone, Oregon Shakespeare took a $2 million hit because of firerelated cancellations. Oregon Shakespeare’s experience is not unique. Mike Ryan, Artistic Director of the Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival, admitted in a recent San Francisco Chronicle interview that “in a very bizarre way, COVID actually saved our bacon this year,” given the catastrophic losses Santa Cruz would have experienced had it been staging shows during the recent California wildfires. From Oregon to Wisconsin Climate change has also come calling in Wisconsin, where shifts in weather have meant increasingly wet summers. On the day I left for Oregon in August 2017, Northern Sky Theater Managing Director Dave Maier reported from Door County that Northern Sky’s two-month season had been severely affected by rain. By the time Northern Sky’s season ended several days later – the very same day, as it happens, that I was smoked out at Oregon Shakespeare – 22 of 84 scheduled performances on Northern Sky’s Peninsula State Park stage had either been rained out or were heavily impacted by rain, resulting in a 15 percent decline in attendance. During the 2017-19 period, Northern Sky’s weather-related events were up and its attendance was down (there was no 2020 season because of the pandemic). “This trend,” Maier made clear in a recent email to me, “was a primary motivation in the desire to secure our own indoor venue.” Companies like Northern Sky and Door Shakespeare in Door County, SummerStage of Delafield and Optimist Theatre in southeastern Wisconsin, and American Players Theatre west of Madison all perform outside; that’s part of their appeal. Increased rainfall won’t just dampen these experiences for audiences. It will compromise such companies’ ability to continue sharing such experiences at all. Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit how fully my own experience in Oregon mirrored that of Odysseus sailing across the Aegean in The 24 | artsscene
Odyssey: focused on what I wanted, I cast the natural world as my enemy – a malevolent force standing in the way of my narrowly conceived desires and needs. Never mind the trees. Never mind that satisfying my perceived needs – and leaving a carbon footprint big enough to reach an isolated theater that’s hundreds of miles from any city and thousands of miles from Milwaukee – might be part of the problem. The trees burning in Oregon didn’t set themselves on fire. We lit the match a long time ago, and we continue to pour gasoline on the blaze. Getting Off the Couch When theater consistently delivers what playwright Caridad Svich calls a “couch play” – a navel-gazing, drawing-room exercise in which humans prove incapable of writing or watching anything that doesn’t place them at the center of the story – we’re going to miss this bigger picture.
Northern Sky Theater, Door County
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“There is a story we are forgetting how to tell,” Richard Powers said in a 2019 interview about The Overstory, his magnificent novel about the forests we’re destroying in places like Oregon. “So much of who we are is wrapped into the belief that humans are independent and the rest of the world is there to serve us. We bestow a sanctity on humanity that we don’t bestow on other living creations.” There’s a living and breathing world unfolding, beyond those theatrical black boxes into which we seek to disappear for our two hours of escapist entertainment. Why aren’t theater companies paying more attention to its looks and sounds, tastes and smells and touch? And
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Oregon Shakespeare Festival
if we continue to ignore the larger stage that is our world, aren’t we condemning every stage on which we perform – and all the performers – to extinction? Roughly 1 million of Earth’s remaining 8 million species of plants and animals are currently threatened with extinction. Roughly 9 million people die each year from pollution; a disproportionate number of them live in BIPOC communities. More than 3 billion people are affected by land degradation; only 15 percent of the world’s wetlands remain intact. The numbers are on the wall. Are we going to read them and act, before it’s too late?
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Performance Ecology Less than two months after returning from Oregon, I reviewed a performance in Milwaukee that gently and movingly called attention to this question. Written by Jeff Grygny and directed by Quasimondo Physical Theatre’s Brian Rott, Cooperative Performance’s season-opening show took place outside, in the modest nature preserve abutting Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center. Rehearsals for Grygny’s Performance Ecology Project involved six performers – Sarah Best, JJ Gatesman, Kavon Jones, Hesper Juhnke, Jessi Miller, and Ben Yela – spending five Sundays at the Urban Ecology Center. Having first engaged in somatic exercises involving yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, dance, and theater games, they went into the woods, immersing themselves in nature by “interviewing” – 28 | artsscene
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Grygny’s word – something living there. They then each journaled about what they’d experienced. Grygny and Rott next shaped this material into a one-hour piece for audience members like me, who were led through a condensed version of what the performers themselves had experienced. That meant trying to hold yoga poses during which I buzzed like a mosquito, crouched like a squirrel, and snarled like a bear. I cop to having felt self-conscious and silly, until suddenly I didn’t. Or as Grygny would later write of this project, it wasn’t “quite as flaky as it sounds.” By the time I’d “warmed up” with these exercises and taken my place around a campfire on a mellow October afternoon, I was ready to watch and learn from this cast as it impersonated various living creatures, while channeling Italo Calvino to chronicle the history of the universe and
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Stephan Harding to urge that we learn to better love the earth. With musician Jahmes Finlayson adding numerous twangling instruments, I truly felt what my review would later describe as the “enchantment of this magical island in the heart of urban Milwaukee.” And while being enchanted, audience members like me were subtly being challenged to think differently, not just about the world but also about how our staged stories might make us see it in fresh ways, and with way more love. “The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind,” says a character in The Overstory. “The only thing that can do that is a good story.” “Environmentalists make poor progress when they just talk about how bad humans are,” wrote Grygny, reflecting later on the Performance Ecology Project. “Performance ecology tries a different tack: if we learn to care a bit more about even one little life form, we might care more about the impact our actions are having on the whole planet.”
MEET THE FUTURE OF INNOVATION
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Greenturgy Even before the 2017 fires, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival had been among those theater companies trying to both change how it uses resources and the way we think about them. A Green Task Force was formed in 2007; by 2020, solar power supplied more than half of the electrical needs of OSF’s multistory scenic and costume facility. The company has purchased an electric rideshare vehicle. It distills its own water. It has reduced shipping costs. Most important, it has been a leader in promoting greenturgy: folding environmentally conscious practices into our thinking about plays themselves, through “green” dramaturgy that underscores the relationship between every play and its environment. Brainchild of Alison Carey (who leads OSF’s project to commission new plays about moments of change in American history) and Amrita Ramanan (OSF’s Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy), greenturgy draws attention to the broader environment in which a play unfolds, environmental consequences of characters’ choices, and connections between the natural worlds of play and audience. How, for example, might Shakespeare’s transformative forests in plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It make us think differently about our own green space? “Where would characters go,” Carey rhetorically asked in a recent interview, “if there were no Forest of Arden” in As You Like It? How might Titania’s plaintive monologue in Midsummer about mixed-up seasons (each dressed in another’s costume) read differently in an era of climate change and extreme temperature fluctuations? “Theater can be an agent for change and for motivation,” Ramanan recently noted. “We thought that identifying the environments, and analyzing them, could be an exercise that creates motivation.” New Plays for a New Era So much for seeing old plays anew. Meanwhile, organizations like Climate Change Theatre Action are trying to harness such motivation to create entirely new and environmentally conscious plays. Based on a predetermined prompt involving an aspect of climate change, CCTA commissions a series of five-minute plays from around the world every two years; the plays are then made available for free readings and performances. April2021 | 31
In 2017, the prompt was: “How can we inspire people and turn the challenges of climate change into opportunities?” In 2019, the prompt was “Give center stage to the unsung climate warriors and climate heroes who are lighting the way toward a just and sustainable future.” Anthologies of plays from both 2017 and 2019 have been published. Running from September 15 to December 21, CCTA’s 2019 biennial involved 200 presenting collaborators and 3,000 artists in 28 countries; the 150-plus events in the United States reached all 50 states. Performances took place in theaters and schools, parks and community centers, churches and public squares and even kayaks. Where these plays didn’t happen, excepting a lone evening during which four of them were read at Appleton’s Lawrence University in October 2019? Wisconsin. If theater companies are truly intent on building back better, how can they afford to ignore such materials, which not only highlight our climate change crisis but also shed light on the intersection between climate change and environmental racism? CCTA plays might be offered as an amuse-bouche before a main production. Or, as was the case at Lawrence in 2019, several of the plays might be grouped together for an evening of readings. Perhaps they could be performed by high school, college, or community theater makers, thereby furthering every professional theater’s current focus on reaching out to the surrounding community. 32 | artsscene
Or, perhaps, Wisconsin theater companies might actually consider full productions of one or more of the growing body of distinguished plays about climate change that theater companies here have largely ignored. It’s frankly astounding to me that so many excellent recent plays about the world’s greatest existential crisis – including Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone (2016), Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children (2016) and Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs (2011), to choose just three of the more glaring omissions – remain either entirely unproduced or under produced by Wisconsin’s professional theaters. Not surprisingly, the problem extends beyond Wisconsin. A survey of 2019-20 world premieres among the 75 member companies comprising the League of Resident Theatres and the 32 core member companies of the National New Play Network concluded that not a single one of those premieres focused on the environment or climate change. We’re fiddling, while the oceans rise and the forests burn. “Your forests have gone,” says an old woman speaking to her long-dead spouse, at the conclusion of Lungs. “I don’t watch the news anymore, it all just gets worse and worse. Everything’s covered in ash.” I’m not suggesting that every play we see should be about deforestation or species extinction. But consistent with the American theater community’s long overdue focus on systemic racism, I am proposing that we pay better, much closer attention to the world around us. When all the world’s ablaze, we must make all the world our stage. “The real value of climate change,” writes playwright and environmental activist Chantal Bilodeau,” is not in helping us figure out whether to recycle more or eat less meat. The real value lies in [the] potential to dig deep and reshape the very foundation of who we are.” While there’s still time. While we still can. A Milwaukee-based writer and dramaturg, Mike Fischer is a member of the Advisory Company of Artists for Forward Theater Company in Madison and Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay. On behalf of Forward, he co-hosts a Want more arts stories like these? bimonthly podcast and writes a weekly visual arts guide. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. TO SUBSCRIBE for FREE
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KEEP WISCONSIN CREATIVE: CREATIVE WISCONSIN MONTH, APRIL 2021 By Anne Katz, Director, Arts Wisconsin There’s so much to celebrate when it comes to the arts, culture and creativity throughout Wisconsin, we’re taking a whole month to do it. April 2021 is Creative Wisconsin Month, presented by Arts Wisconsin, the state’s community cultural development organization, in partnership with people, organizations, and businesses throughout the state. Creative Wisconsin Month celebrates the diversity and variety of Wisconsin’s creative people and businesses, demonstrates the ways in which creativity revitalizes communities across the state, and shares stories locally and beyond. This moment in time calls for creativity and resilience as a means for human expression, processing, and communication. The intangible impact of the arts is profound. People and places grow and are transformed by involvement in creative endeavors. The arts make us human and make community. In addition, numbers and statistics back up the stories of transformation and show that the creative sector has been a fundamental part of our local and national economies. According to research released in March 2020 by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Endowment for the Arts, Wisconsin’s creative industry packed an economic impact of over $10 billion and has a workforce of over 96,000 people. That’s more workers than in the state’s beer, biotech and papermaking industries. Nationally, the economic impact was $877 billion. These are real businesses and real people, with real impact. As the pandemic has gone on, creative businesses and workers have been devastated by the pandemic and economic fallout, while at the same time continuing to move forward with creativity and resilience. According to ongoing research, 63% of creative workers became unemployed because of COVID (10 times the national rate) and 99% of creative businesses have cancelled events, resulting in nearly 490 million lost admissions. According to the Brookings Institution, the creative sector has lost over $150 billion, and research from Johns Hopkins University indicates the arts sector has been hit harder than any other sector by the pandemic. And, as our nation confronts real, painful issues of racism, division, and senseless violence, we need to come together for community, kindness and justice. The arts and creativity are a powerful force, inspiring, uniting, and soothing individually and collectively. 38 | artsscene
The Historic Temple Theatre in Viroqua
Creative Wisconsin Month will feature a series of sessions discussing the past year and looking to the future, including: • Kickoff on Thursday, April 1, with Wisconsin Poet Laureate Dasha Kelly Hamilton • Sign on to Arts Wisconsin’s Legislative Action Center for advocacy actions throughout the month. • All sorts of trainings, panel discussions, workshops, roundtable meetings (and we keep adding more, so check the schedule to see updates), including: • Advocacy 101, 102, and beyond – how the budget process works and how to be a successful advocate • Young arts leaders – making a life and a career in the arts • Downtowns as arts destinations, presented in partnership with Wisconsin Downtown Action Council April2021 | 39
ARTS WI SCONSI N • Artists as creative and community advocates, presented in partnership with Wisconsin Visual Artists • State of Arts Funding in Wisconsin, one year later, presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Philanthropy Network
• Your community can do it too – civic, creative planning for the 21st century.
There are other exciting creative and community events happening throughout April, including: • April 1 and 16: Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism (WIGCOT) – virtual • April 5-9: Americans for the Arts’ 2021 National Arts Action Summit. Over these five days, advocates will gain a depth of knowledge from policy experts at Americans for the Arts and many organizational Partners in an all-virtual setting. Registration is free! Thanks to Creative Wisconsin Month sponsors, who make this celebration possible. For more info on Creative Wisconsin Month and the arts, culture and creativity in Wisconsin, contact Arts Wisconsin, 608-255-8316 | email@example.com.
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madison symphony.org/21-22 April2021 | 41
New World. New Ways. New Works. Discovering What’s Next with Music Theatre of Madison By Ryan Albrechtson “I started it by accident,” said Music Theatre of Madison’s Executive Director Meghan Randolph. “I wanted to do a production and I needed a company to do it.” When Randolph started company in 2006, she noticed that there weren’t many paid opportunities for performing artists in the Madison area. At only 23, she decided to do something about it. “Musicals are definitely entertaining, but they have more to offer,” said Randolph. “There are educational opportunities and all kinds of ways to represent different people and different ideas. That’s what I wanted to tap into.” Fifteen years later, MTM has become a staple of professional theatre in the Madison area, focusing on developing new works and producing lesser known pieces. “The market for well-known theatre was covered,” said Randolph. “And so we found what came to be a real niche for us. People know when they come to an MTM show they aren’t really sure what they are going to get.”
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One of the things MTM is most known for now is their Wisconsin Musical Cycle, started in 2017. Through this endeavor, new works are given the opportunity to grow and develop with a reading of the musical, a workshop of the show, and then a full production. In doing so, the cycle gives audiences a chance to have a stake in the process. They have the chance to see renderings and research, give feedback, and see how the musical develops at different stages. Most recently, MTM had been working on a new show called Ten Days in a Mad House. Slated for a workshop production in 2020 and a full production in 2021, things shifted in light of the pandemic. Instead of abandoning the piece, MTM developed a podcast around the musical and presented the piece that way, with much help from new Associate Artistic Director Adam Qutaishat. Qutaishat first auditioned for Randolph in 2019, responding to a casting call for Music Theatre of Madison. At the time, Qutaishat was serving as the Director of New Works Development for Milwaukeebased theatre company All-In Productions. “I saw the casting call, and I was interested because new works are what I do,” shared Qutaishat. “What I liked about the call was that Meghan didn’t just ask performers to sing, but to ‘prepare two songs that showcase how you can tell a story.’ And that was in my wheelhouse.” From his audition, Qutaishat was cast in two productions that season. From that, they developed a strong working relationship that continued past the season. “We share a passion for new musicals,” said Qutaishat. Together, the team has planned a 2021 season for Music Theatre of Madison that showcases their skills, their mission, and all that MTM has
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to offer in these new times. “The world as we know it is totally different,” said Randolph. “For our fifteenth anniversary, we’re getting back to the heart of our mission: New musicals, paid local artists, and demonstrating ways that musicals can inspire and ignite our empathy and passions.”
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Music Theatre of Madison’s 2021 Season An American Mythology: A concept album Myths are traditional stories explaining histories, beliefs, or lessons. Myth is also a fallacy. In America, who are the mythological characters? The characters we so often hear of as good or evil? The people who set our sometimes false belief systems? BBIPOC composers from all over Wisconsin explore this idea through stories from their own cultures and points of view. As is true with all myths, there is more than meets the eye. Tentative Release Date: May 15, 2021 The Yellow Wallpaper A New Horror Musical In the late 1800s, a woman is brought by her husband to a country home to recover from an unspecified mental illness. Confined to a room with hideous yellow wallpaper, and repeatedly told she is not well enough to leave, the woman descends into madness and finds a disturbing secret beneath the paper’s seams. Based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s terrifying novella, The Yellow Wallpaper is a trifecta of horror, madness, and feminism, performed by one woman. Streaming in August, 2021
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MAD I S ON
Micro: A reading of a new musical for the Wisconsin New Musicals Cycle A microbiology graduate student, at wit’s end due to the constant pressures and abuses she faces working in academia, turns to music as her refuge. This unexpectedly leads to an incredible scientific discovery about microaggressions. After forging a bond with a music student, the two face infuriating biases that stall any attempts they make at progress. Can they overcome a system designed to hold them back and create something that will change the world? December, 2021 The Children’s Book Project: A musical children’s book In MTM’s biggest project to date, the company will create a musical children’s book, aimed at grades two through four, featuring songs that move the narrative forward, as in a musical. The theme? Loving who you are, accepting differences, and believing in yourself. Extensive participation activities, numerous accessibility options, and a unique arts experience that illustrates the power of music and imagination to help kids celebrate everyone’s unique identity. Released in fall, 2021 in print, e-book, and video read-aloud formats.
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MAD I S ON Watch our video interview to learn more about Music Theatre of Madison, Meghan, Adam, and the future of performing arts in Madison!
April2021 | 47
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Help Your Local Theaters By Going Green By: Amanda Finn If your pocket book lately isn’t so green, or even if it is, there are some simple ways you can help your local theater companies and the environment at the same time. Theaters are usually in need of something besides funding that you can help them out with, but do reach out to them first before making any physical donations. Also be sure to keep an eye out on their social media to see if there are any more immediate needs, especially now that shows are largely still not in person and staff are (generally) a little more available. Don’t forget to ask for a receipt for your taxes if your local theater is a 501c3 non-profit! Paint This might be a surprise to some, but theaters are often in need of paint of any color. Even if it’s a bizarre shade of auburn, theaters can always make what’s referred to as “garbage paint” to cover the floor or any other surface that will need to be covered over. Primary colors are especially useful as they can be mixed to more specific shades later on. A company may be able to make use of wood stain too, but again, be sure to call before dropping off a bunch of any painting or modifying materials.
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Old appliances Particularly if an appliance is in good shape but doesn’t work, save it from the scrap heap or a dump by calling around to area theaters. Kitchens are not uncommon spaces for a play to take place and that old Fridgedaire might come in handy. Other items that might be thought less of as an appliance would be an old television set, record player or desktop computer. Many kinds of appliances cost money to have someone come and recycle them for you when your nearby playhouse could take it off your hands for free. Uniforms If you’re clearing out your closet and find an old cheerleading uniform or you inherit military uniforms you don’t know what to do with, chances are a theater could use them. These kinds of specific uniforms would otherwise likely have to be made if the costume crew can’t find one second hand or rented. April2021 | 49
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Fabric Is there a pile of fabric in the corner from an abandoned quarantine sewing/quilting hobby? Fabric is an amazing donation item for theaters because it can be made into anything and everything. Even sheets in good condition can be repurposed as fabric, so keep those in mind when you’re spring cleaning.
Wigs Whether or not you have a Moira Rose kind of wig collection, wigs can be a real commodity for a theater. If your Halloween costume collection has gotten out of hand, consider donating the wigs to have a new life on the stage. They can always be recut, fashioned and styled to another character, so let the theater staff decide if they’re acceptable or not.
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Kitchen items Have your kitchen cabinets become a cluttered mess? That tableware overstock could become the next Kowalsky dining room table ensemble or a living room tea set to serve Lady Bracknell her finger sandwiches in “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Just because some things no longer hold a place in your kitchen doesn’t mean they can’t have a spotlight elsewhere.
Furniture This category is huge, particularly if you have furniture that clearly belongs to a certain time period. Victorian chaise lounge? Gold. Velvet farmhouse chic couches? Brilliant. Overstuffed papasan chair? It’ll do. Furniture is the cornerstone of dressing a set and can eat up a lot of budget, especially period specific pieces. Share a photo with your local thespians and see if your beloved chair can be a treasure.
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Jewelry Costume jewelry has that name for a reason. Huge jewelry pieces can be pivotal costume pieces for performers. They’re large enough to be seen offstage easily, they say something about their character and there is plenty of costume jewelry out there to go around. Chunky, affordable jewelry was popular throughout many of the last few decades and when they go out of style they take up space at the local thrift. Send them somewhere they can be appreciated.
Tchotchkes Even knickknacks have a place on the stage. After all, Laura’s glass animals in “The Glass Menagerie” have to come from somewhere. There are often bookshelves or tables or other areas of a set that need to be filled with bric a brac. Save the props team a lot of trips to the store and finally give up that wooden duck collection.
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E VE N T L I ST I NGS Check out some of Southern Wisconsin's best upcoming virtual and in-person arts offerings! Want to see your event in an upcoming issue? Click here!
See an event you like?
All events are clickable, click to get more information! VIRTUAL DRAG QUEEN BINGO Delta Beer Lab Virtual Event Through April 9 The very fabulous Kendra Banxs and Bianca Lynn Breeze will be calling numbers for our first Virtual Drag Queen Bingo!
RAM 12TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL PEEPS ART COMPETITION
CANCIONES DEL ALMA: CELEBRATING THE LATINX VOICE THROUGH MUSIC & SONG Latino Arts, Inc. Virtual Concert Experience Through April 11 Virtual Concert Experience highlighting female Latinx artists! We are kicking off Women's History Month with an exclusive concert experience.
NEAT Racine Art Museum Racine, WI Renaissance Theaterworks Through April 10 Virtual Event This popular, untraditional exhibition Through April 11 showcases fluffy, sugar-coated With her enormous love, Neat teaches marshmallow PEEPS® created by hundreds Charlayne to cherish life through the of artists from around the country. turbulent 1960s and 1970s.
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PAINTING ORIGINAL WATERCOLORS WITH ALICE STRUCK Cedarburg Cultural Center Cedarburg, WI Through April 17 A variety of subjects in this series, including urban landscapes, natural landscapes, interiors, figures and faces and close-ups as well as depth and distance composition.
PATRICK MARTINEZ: SIGNS OF THE TIMES Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Window Display Through April 23 Using materials commonly found in cities, Patrick Martinez subverts their purpose to interrogate the realities of urban life.
DEAR RUTH BY THE EVERYDAY FEMINIST Saint Kate Arts Hotel Milwaukee, WI Through May 9 To celebrate the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Everyday Feminist invites you to join our community, near and far, in writing letters to archive our thoughts, feelings, and memories of our dearly departed Notorious RBG.
REAR VIEW MEMORIES EXHIBIT Ubuntu Art Space Fon du Lac, WI Through May 28 "My body of artwork is made up of a wide array of materials I have been salvaging and collecting since I was a child.”
UPCYCLING EXHIBIT "REMNANTS: LEWISTON | CLARKSTON WISCONSIN MUSEUM OF QUILTS Forward Theater AND FIBER ARTS Virtual Event Cedarburg, WI Through April 25 Exploring innovative ways artists give new life to recycled materials by creating stunning fiber-based works of art.
RAFAEL FRANCISCO SALAS: IN FLOWERED FIELDS
April 8 - 25 In Lewiston, Alice is an aging descendant of Meriwether Lewis, who sits at her roadside stand selling cheap fireworks while developers swallow the land around her. In Clarkston, Jake is a young descendant of William Clark, who has made the journey out west from his home in Connecticut, anxious to find meaning in his own history.
Saint Kate Arts Hotel Milwaukee, WI Through May 2 BLIND DATING AT HAPPY HOUR In Flowered Fields pairs Salas’ recent work with rarely seen art from MOWA’s permanent Memories Dinner Theatre collection, initiating a visual dialogue Port Washington, WI with the tradition of Wisconsin landscape April 9-18 painting. The action of the show takes place in Wes and Rosie’s Tavern, a local establishment WARHOL AND THE PORTFOLIO with an interesting collection of clientele.
OF FAME: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF DOUGLAS EDMUNDS
Museum of Wisconsin Art West Bend, WI Through May 2 Douglas Edmunds spent six years captured photos of some of America’s most famous faces: Andy Warhol, Hank Aaron, Ella Fitzgerald, Aaron Copeland, and more.
REBA MCENTIRE TRIBUTE Fireside Dinner Theatre Fort Atkinson, WI April 10 – 11 Corrie Sachs is the #1 Reba McEntire tribute artist in Las Vegas, and stars in the award-winning production show “Country Superstars Tribute Show” at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. April2021 | 55
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WISCONSIN SOUND: MR. CHAIR
THE MAGIC OF MANILOW
Fireside Dinner Theatre Fort Atkinson, WI Memorial Union April 17 – 18 Madison, WI THE MAGIC OF MANILOW features Terry April 11 Mr. Chair looks like a jazz combo, enchants Davies paying homage to the music of one of the biggest selling artists of our like a string quartet, and electrifies like a time, Barry Manilow. rock band, all while delighting listeners with their fresh and authentic sound.
BRENTANO QUARTET Wisconsin Union Theater Madison, WI April 15 Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim.
VULNERABLE BODIES: A POP-UP EXHIBITION Garver Feed Mill Madison, WI April 15 – July 24 Vulnerable Bodies features six artists — Erica Hess, Masako Onodera, Yevgeniya Kaganovich, Demitra Copoulos, J. Myska Lewis, and Valaria Tatera — whose work speaks to the paradox of fragility and resilience.
WINTER CHAMBER SERIES IV Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Virtual Event April 16 – 19 While full orchestras remain sidelined, the WCO is excited to present the Winter Chamber Series. This new series will feature chamber works for multiple ensembles ranging from trios to octets, showcasing the versatility and caliber of the WCO’s 34 world-class musicians.
SPRING GALLERY NIGHT & DAY Gallery Night MKE Various Locations April 17 – 18 It's the ultimate art weekend—galleries to discover, museums to explore, and shops to browse! This spring show will be a combination of virtual and limited inperson events. 56 | artsscene
Festival City Symphony Brookfield, WI April 21 In person or via live stream, join the musicians of Milwaukee’s Festival City Symphony and Music Director Carter Simmons as the orchestra returns to the Harris Theater of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.
OTHER PEOPLE'S HAPPINESS: A STAGED READING Lake Country Playhouse Hartland, WI April 23-25 John and Sara have a typically unhappy marriage. One summer weekend John takes Sara up to the family cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin to rekindle those old flames.
CHICKEN WIRE EMPIRE
Schauer Arts Center Hartford, WI April 24 Contemporary tones blend with traditional roots in Milwaukee’s unparalleled Chicken Wire Empire. Since their formation in 2014, the Chicken Wire Empire has wasted little time establishing themselves as one of the hottest up-andcoming bands in the local and regional music scene.
EARTH DAY CHALLENGE City of Madison, Local Parks Madison, WI April 24 Celebrate Earth Day with your neighbors and friends by volunteering to clean up your local park! Join this community-wide volunteer effort to make a difference.
E VE N T L I ST I NGS
CELEBRATE THE EARTH!
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center Milwaukee, WI April 24 Spend a day celebrating the Earth by participating in educational activities around Schlitz Audubon.
Next Act Theatre Virtual Event April 26 – May 16 Honorably discharged but later accused of a war crime in Iraq, American soldier Daniel Reeves must navigate an onslaught of commanding officers, public defenders, lawyers, preachers and psychiatrists who seek answers, excuses or culpability.
Milwaukee Riverkeeper Milwaukee, WI ELLA FITZGERALD: April 24 This spring, join together in a community- FIRST LADY OF SONG wide effort across Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Milwaukee Rep, Quadracci Powerhouse Washington and Waukesha counties to Milwaukee, WI remove over 100,000 pounds of trash from April 27-May 23 our river system during the 26th Annual Award-winning actress Alexis J Roston Milwaukee Riverkeeper Spring Cleanup! salutes America’s favorite jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald.
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MARK TRAMMELL QUARTET
KERRY SINGS CARLY& KAREN: FAVORITES FROM CARLY SIMON & KAREN CARPENTER
Fireside Dinner Theatre Fort Atkinson, WI April 27 Sunset Playhouse For over 40 years Mark Trammell has been Elm Grove, WI blessed to sing Gospel Music and he is May 22 considered by many to be one of the Sunset veteran Kerry Hart Bieneman pays greatest baritone singers of all time. tribute to two of her favorite artists of all time, Carly Simon and Karen Carpenter.
SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD
WATERTOWN ART WALK
Waukesha Civic Theatre Waukesha, WI April 30-May 15 Composer Jason Robert Brown describes Songs for a New World as being, “about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back.”
Watertown, WI May 25 Historic downtown Watertown is the site for the 10th annual Art Walk.
ART OF CHEESE FESTIVAL Madison, WI April 30-May 2 Are you ready for the first-ever Art of Cheese Festival? Featuring an array of cheese-focused experiences, it's the perfect weekend for the ultimate cheese lover!
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SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2021 AND BEYOND
OCONOMOWOC ARTS CENTER
The OAC is the place to go in Lake Country and features a variety of shows for all ages, offering music and dance concerts, theatrical performances, comedy, special events, visual arts, community forums, and more. The OAC features comfortable unobstructed seating for over 750, state of the art acoustics, a convenient location, and free parking. Check our website for current event listings.
641 E. Forest St. Oconomowoc, WI 53066
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Join us for our final Winter Chamber Series of 2021. On-demand for 72 hours, this digital concert will feature chamber works for multiple ensembles, showcasing the versatility and caliber of the WCO’s 34 world-class musicians.
FINAL 2021 EVENT WEEKEND April 16 - 19
Visit overture.org/events to purchase your ticket.
WISCONSIN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA | WCOCONCERTS.ORG
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Hard work. Determination. Sacrifices. At American Family Insurance, we know what it takes to make your dreams a reality. That’s why we work so hard to protect them. From behind the scenes to center stage, we’ll surround you with support every step of the way. Learn more at amfam.com
American Family Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. 6000 American Parkway, Madison, WI 53783 © 2021 017611 – 1/12 62 | artsscene