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Volume 1, Number 9
LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
WITH A SONG IN ITS HEART: OPERA FOR THE YOUNG AT AGE 51
OVERTURE'S SEASON KICKS OFF WITH MARIACHI HERENCIA DE MÉXICO PERFORMANCE
By Mike Dries
By Shari Gasper
TEACH YOUR PARENTS WELL
SAVE THE ARTS | The Power of Protocols
By Mike Fischer
By Amanda Finn
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE to ArtsScene Magazine
STAFF Steve Marcus Greg Widener ART DIRECTOR Nicolette Bealhen VENUE RELATIONS/EDITOR Cathy Jakicic
Karin Marcus Will M. McAuliffe ADVERTISING SALES // WISCONSIN Barbara Kluth ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Allyson Imig
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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.
www.footlights.com | www.marcuspromotions.com 4 | artssceneCOVER PHOTO: OVERTURE SEASON KICK OFF MARIACHI HERENCIA DE MÉXICO PERFORMANCE
THE BROADWAY MAGIC IS BACK AT
Sept 9 - Oct 24, 2021
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Including the unforgettable classics “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door,” the musical story of JOSEPH and his brothers has entertained millions of people around the world.
Based on the film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, HOLIDAY INN is a year-round classic with a parade of Irving Berlin hits including “Blue Skies,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “White Christmas.”
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Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” - JFK So, “teach your children well…” Art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Arts encourage self-expression and creativity. Art builds confidence and selfInstagram Social Icon identity. Shall I go on? I need not as within these digital pages, there’s many voices about the value of arts for our children. So, I shall let them speak to you… Instagram Social Icon
Use #footlight Use #footlights on In
The arts are good for the mind and the soul…young and old. We all benefit. We all enjoy. And we’re ready to go back…as students, as artists, as audiences. We’re ready to go back into the theater which may look a little strange, smell a little different, and may even make us a tad more uncomfortable at first. But, one thing noticeably new in theatersshare’n thisis care’n fall is that there will not be any @mrkylemac Footlights programs in audience’s hands. Will it be noticeable? Will anyone care? After all, it’s they’re just ink on paper, right? Right. But Footlights was more…It was a performing arts resource and voice for the arts since 1988. share’n is care’n @mrkylemac With event listings, a restaurant guide, and several editorial pieces, Footlights taught the theater patrons about the stories behind the scenes. Footlights taught the Broadway audiences that there were other theaters in town and there were other shows worth seeing featuring talented local artist that have Social Icon local followers like groupies to a band. Footlights put the little companies on the same “page” as the 800-lb. gorilla (yes, one large local venue referred to themselves as such).
Use #footlights on Instagram
This non-confrontational fellow once called in to the Charlie Sykes show on WTMJ when he was talking about the new Milwaukee Theater opening and was asking the question: “does Milwaukee need another theater?” Well, I got on the air and suggested that if the Milwaukee Theater can bring a new audience into Milwaukee to see a show, it will expose them to other events downtown and they will be more likely to come back and see something else in another venue. Surprisingly, he just said: “well, I hope you’re right.” If someone is at one theater and reads in the program about what’s going on at another, it exposes them to a whole new world that they may not have been aware of. The Managing Artistic Director of Next Act Theatre says: “if we can just get them into our seats once, they’ll be hooked.” Footlights has been a great conduit to theater cross-pollination over the years.
A former Managing Director of the Milwaukee Rep once told me that: “theaters are like grapes; they grow best in clusters.” She took this so seriously that she sat on boards of other theaters to help foster their growth and ensure their future. I believe Footlights helped to foster and maintain that comradery. With the loss of revenue and staff over the past year, as well as uncertainties in the market, we at Footlights found it too difficult to move forward into a new season with confidence and determination. We have enjoyed serving the arts and making your experience, as patrons, a little more enjoyable AND, Instagram Social Icon hopefully, educational. As to the future of ArtsScene—well, that currently hangs in the balance.
Use #footlights on In
Till then, the show must go on! Steve 6 | artsscene
share’n is care’n
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September2021 | 7
With a Song in its Heart: Opera for the Young at Age 51 By Mike Dries
A SCREENSHOT FROM HANSEL AND GRETEL THE INTERACTIVE FILM (FILM BY MILES HOFSCHULZ) 2021
When asked what it takes to be successful in his field, internationally renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli was succinct and unequivocal: “To sing opera, one needs two things: the voice and the passion – and above all, the passion.” Bocelli might have had Opera for the Young (OFTY) in mind when he underscored passion. To be sure, the Madison, Wis.-based organization defines what passion for opera entails – and what it takes to share that passion with others.
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OFTY was founded in 1970 by six musicians with a love of opera and a vision to take professional performances into schools. Since then, it has reached more than 2.5 million kids. From the outset, OFTY’s target audience has been children from kindergarten through fifth grade. Today, OFTY reaches more than 75,000 elementary school children per year, igniting an enthusiasm for opera they might not have felt otherwise. “We are very sincere in what we do. We treat the children as our audience,” says OFTY Artistic Director Diane Garton Edie. “We’ve honed this to a very sharp edge.” September2021 | 9
CHORUS OF NOBLES FROM CINDERELLA (MILTON, WI) 2014*
OFTY performs two operas per year, one in the fall and one in the spring. The cast comprises four professional opera singers, a pianist, and 16 students. The students appear onstage in chorus and cameo roles. Productions are fully staged, sung in English and adapted for kids. Performances last 45 minutes. Every year, OFTY performs at 180 to 200 schools throughout the Midwest, almost all of them within a 300400 mile radius of Madison. The company puts on seven to 10 shows per week. “We pride ourselves on our relationships with schools and teachers,” says Managing Director Saira Frank. “There are very few programs like ours, particularly programs that involve students.” Adds Ms. Edie: “I don’t believe there’s anyone doing what we do on the scale we’re doing it.” OFTY’s productions are aimed at and adapted for young people. Its repertoire includes favorites such as “The Magic Flute,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Cinderella,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Importantly, the themes of these and the other operas the company stages raise issues such as prejudice and diversity that the company and teachers agree are important for children to understand. 10 | artsscene
S OF PIRA
“Opera is just musical storytelling and the stories we tell are very accessible to the kids,” Ms. Frank says. Working with OFTY attracts professional singers and musicians from around the country. Chicago, Ms. Edie says, is “our mecca.” Those hired perform on a rotating basis, giving singers time to rest their voices. “We provide solid work opportunities for our singers,” Ms. Frank says, adding that the performing opportunities “are very important for students, as well.”
To fund its work, OFTY undertakes an in-depth marketing campaign every year, reaching out to hundreds of schools. Importantly, sixty percent of the revenue the company raises comes from private sources, Ms. Frank said. SO
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In the end, OFTY underscores Bocelli’s wisdom: opera is above all about the passion it both requires and attracts.
SH, WI) 2020
“I care very deeply about opera,” Ms. Frank says. “I care deeply about its future.” More information about Opera for the Young is available online at: https://operafortheyoung.org.
September2021 | 11
Overture’s season kicks off with Mariachi Herencia de México performance By Shari Gasper
12 | artsscene
The Overture Presents 2021/22 season officially kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 2 with Mariachi Herencia de México, performing songs from their latest album titled “Esencia,” a tribute to the golden age of Mexican music. Mariachi Herencia de México is a four-year-old ensemble that started in Chicago Public Schools and, to this day, is composed of mostly Mexican-American musicians between the ages of 14-18. The group’s debut album of traditional Mexican music, “Nuestra Herencia” (Our Heritage), released in May 2017, was nominated for a Grammy award, giving the group prominence across the nation. Mariachi Herencia de México now tours across the U.S. and Mexico and released its fourth album in June 2020.
September2021 | 13
“Performing around the country creates life changing and transformative moments for these young musicians from Chicago,” said César Maldonado, president of the Mariachi Heritage Foundation. “These experiences inspire them to push further and strive to be the best in the world.” The group performed for the first time at Overture Center in October 2019. “Overture’s staff is so welcoming and helpful, true partners in making the best performance possible,” said Maldonado. “Overture is a beautiful venue, one of the best we’ve performed at.” Mariachi Herencia musicians love performing for school groups and got to do so as part of the 2019/20 OnStage student field trip program. The group’s mission is to preserve traditional Mexican music for future generations, and school-age shows are a valuable opportunity to share the music with young audiences. Overture provides resource guides to schools in advance, and thanks to sponsors and donors, subsidies are available for qualifying school groups to partially cover expenses for tickets and transportation. 14 | artsscene
“Last time at Overture, we held a Meet & Greet with patrons, took pictures and signed autographs,” said Maldonado, describing Mariachi Herencia’s appearance at the Latino Art Fair. “We use events like this as a platform to educate audiences about the style, history and evolution of our genre and to share the traditions and culture of mariachi. It’s a chance to interact on a more intimate level so people walk away with a fuller appreciation for our music.” Seeing Mariachi Herencia de Mexico at Overture Center is an opportunity to see what youth are doing not too far away in Chicago and what they offer as a talented group of young musicians. Maldonado describes a mariachi performance as a unique opportunity to learn about mariachi, and for those of Latino heritage, it’s a chance to reconnect with the music of their culture, to go back in time to Mexico.
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“We have been blessed to perform in many different venues across the country and in other countries, and Overture stands apart— not only as a beautiful venue with great production value and an amazing, helpful team, but because Madison is such a welcoming community. To be able to connect with the community through our show is an amazing opportunity,” said Maldonado. Tickets are available at overture.org. Arrive early to check out related art exhibits in the Rotunda Lobby and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and stay after the show for Meet the Artist, a Q&A session with the artists.
16 | artsscene
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Teach Your P By Mike Fischer
“As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass.” – Willa Cather, My Ántonia 18 | artsscene
BATR photo | Taken by Ross Zentner. | Pictured, L to R, Grace DeWolff, Casey Hoekstra, Ibraheem Farmer, Chantae Miller, Justin Lee, April Paul.
“As children we build ourselves a platform between the branches which could not be seen from below. When we were sitting up there, when we pulled up the ladder and cut ourselves off completely from the ground, then we felt perfectly happy. Our own room is prefigured here, the free life that is coming. – Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope September2021 | 19
The battle lines get drawn early in Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s Spring Awakening, the intense 2006 musical that shook Broadway with its edgy, hard-rock chronicle of bourgeois convention and blasted youth. Adding a scene not included in the 1891 Frank Wedekind play they were adapting, Sater and Sheik take us into a schoolroom, where a sadistic Latin teacher is drilling a room of bored and sex-crazed boys on the finer points of Virgil’s Aeneid. One of them, Melchior, steps forward and takes the rap for his friend, Moritz. Literally: Melchior’s teacher rewards him with a beating. Within minutes, the boys have stepped into a surrealistic dreamscape, singing a defiant but despairing anthem channeling their lonely sexual frustration. The scene allows us “to see the repressive 19th-century school system in operation,” Sater later wrote in Purple Summer, his book on the musical’s lyrics. It’s a dystopian world, Sater continued, involving teachers “forcefeeding young minds ‘a proper education,’ while quelling all the life in them.” It’s a world, as Melchior later writes in his journal, “where teachers – like parents – view us as merely so much raw material for an obedient and productive society.” Underscoring this concept of a monological and monolithic adult world, Sater and Sheik assign all the adult roles in Spring Awakening to just one man and one woman; the show’s rebellious teens view all parents and teachers as well as doctors and preachers as indistinguishable. Rather than engaging that world through dialogue or debate, the teens escape into song; rock music best expresses the churning and confused state of mind of speakers giving voice to what they can’t say aloud. “The scenes set out the world of 19th-century repression,” wrote Sater, “while the songs afford our young characters a momentary release into contemporary pop idiom.” That release is physical as well as vocal; of the three Milwaukee productions of Spring Awakening I’ve seen, this messy and chaotic quality of teen rebellion was best captured by Dale Gutzman’s riveting 2015 production at Off the Wall Theatre.
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Under Gutzman’s direction, the Off the Wall cast captured the raw, intensely physical quality of these teens’ sometimes inchoate efforts to dream a new language better reflecting what they feel; grammatically precise Latin lessons morphed into a writhing, prelinguistic mass of bodies, seeking release for wordless impulses. It felt great; whatever one’s age, Spring Awakening invariably does, as it rouses one’s own dormant rage against the machine. Sater and Sheik’s musical, wrote New York Times critic Charles Isherwood in his review of the Broadway production, “restores the mystery, the thrill to that shattering transformation that stirs in all our souls, some time around the age of thirteen.” But much as I love Spring Awakening, it can also be both sentimental and indulgent (Gutzman’s production did more than any I’ve seen, including the original, to fight against such simplification). Dressed up for Broadway, Wedekind’s great play risks becoming a feel-good hymn of teen rebellion, sung through stylized anthems that shortchange the very kids it claims to understand. Spring 2021-22 Season Furlan Auditorium Productions
RUN FOR YOUR WIFE – September 9–26, 2021 WAIT UNTIL DARK – October 21–November 7, 2021 SHE LOVES ME – December 2–19, 2021 4 WEDDINGS AND AN ELVIS – January 20–February 6, 2022 BAREFOOT IN THE PARK – March 3–20, 2022 SOMETHING ROTTEN – April 21–May 8, 2022 AN INSPECTOR CALLS – June 2–19, 2022 NEWSIES – July 14 – August 7, 2022
Musical MainStage Concert Series
THE BEAT GOES ON: ROCK CLASSICS – October 25–26, 2021 SIMON & GARFUNKEL – December 13–14, 2021 SURF’S UP! – January 24–25, 2022 GET READY! – March 7–8, 2022 IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND: ACOUSTIC SUPERSTARS – April 25–26, 2022 ABBA & FRIENDS – June 13–14, 2022
2021-22 Season SideNotes Cabaret Series 2021-F 22 Su easr onlan Auditorium Productions Furlan Auditorium Productions
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER: CHICK SINGERS – September 30–October 3, 2021 ELLA MEETS MEL – December 8–12, 2021 BOYGIRLBOYGIRL – February 10–13, 2022 YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND: CAROLE KING & JAMES TAYLOR – March 17–20, 2022 BEAUTY AND THE BEAT: PEGGY LEE – April 28–May 1, 2022 BROADWAY SINGALONG – June 8–12, 2022
RUN FOR YOUR WIFE – September 9–26, 2021 WAIT UNTIL DARK – October 21–November 7, 2021 Spec2021 ial Events SHE LOVES ME – December 2–19, DAVID SEEBACH: ILLUSIONS IN THE NIGHT – October 15–17, 2021 JAYNE TAYLOR CHRISTMAS SHOW – November 27, 2021 4 WEDDINGS AND AN ELVIS – January 20–February 6, 2022 ROCKIN’ IN A WINTER WONDERLAND – December 7, 2021 Musical MainStage Concert Series FUNNY GIRL: BOMBSHELL THEATER CO. – January 7–16, 2022 BAREFOOT IN 25–26, THE2021PARK – MONOLOGUES: March AFTER 3–20, THE BEAT GOES ON: ROCK CLASSICS – October THE VAGINA SUNSET 2022 STUDIO SERIES – March 24–27, 2022 SIMON & GARFUNKEL – December 13–14, 2021 SUNDAYS AT SUNSET – June 26–August 21, 2022 SURF’S UP! – January 24–25, 2022 FOUR GUYZ IN DINNER JACKETS8, – August 25–September 4, 2022 SOMETHING ROTTEN – April 21–May 2022 GET READY! – March 7–8, 2022 IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND: ACOUSTIC SUPERSTARS – April 25–26, 2022 b u g i n a R u g C h i l d r e n ’ s T AN INSPECTOR CALLS – June 2–19, 2022 heater ABBA & FRIENDS – June 13–14, 2022 TESSA’S TIP-TAPPING TOES – February 16–19, 2022 HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE – May 11–14, 2022 SideNoNEWSIES tes Cabaret Series – July 14 – August 7, 2022 RUN FOR YOUR WIFE – September 9–26, 2021 WAIT UNTIL DARK – October 21–November 7, 2021 SHE LOVES ME – December 2–19, 2021 4 WEDDINGS AND AN ELVIS – January 20–February 6, 2022 BAREFOOT IN THE PARK – March 3–20, 2022 SOMETHING ROTTEN – April 21–May 8, 2022 AN INSPECTOR CALLS – June 2–19, 2022 NEWSIES – July 14 – August 7, 2022
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER: CHICK SINGERS – September 30–October 3, 2021 ELLA MEETS MEL – December 8–12, 2021 BOYGIRLBOYGIRL – February 10–13, 2022 YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND: CAROLE KING & JAMES TAYLOR – March 17–20, 2022 BEAUTY AND THE BEAT: PEGGY LEE – April 28–May 1, 2022 BROADWAY SINGALONG – June 8–12, 2022
Entertainment begins at Sunset!
Musical MainStage Concert Series
THE BEAT GOES ON: ROCK CLASSICS – October 25–26, 2021 Special Events DAVID SEEBACH: ILLUSIONS IN THE NIGHT – October 15–17, 2021 SIMON & GARFUNKEL – December 13–14, 2021September2021 JAYNE TAYLOR CHRISTMAS SHOW – November 27, 2021
Awakening presents a world of saints against sinners, in which every kid seems destined for the barricades, while every adult is ultimately intent on mowing them down. Mean Kids If Spring Awakening risks reducing every teen to a rebel, a host of other school-related plays give us the obverse side of the same coin by suggesting that every kid is a conformist, straight from central casting for Lord of the Flies. Among the most famous – and still, for my money, one of the best – of this lot is Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour (1934). It’s not staged nearly often enough, in part because of its cast size and in part because it hits a bit too close to home, in an America slouching toward fascism (under Raeleen McMillion’s direction, UW-Milwaukee offered a solid production of Hellman’s play in May 2019). The Childrens Hour
Set in a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts, The Children’s Hour makes clear how quickly good people can be taken down when those around them morph into a mob. The mob leader in The Children’s Hour is Mary Tilford, a 14-year-old malcontent who falsely accuses the two 20-something women running this school of enjoying nightly sexual romps with each other. Having made her wild allegations, Mary bullies fellow students into silence or complicity, with predictable consequences for the teachers she hates. But we’re provided with little sense of what makes her tick; neither she nor the girls around her are given texture or depth. 22 | artsscene
In large part, the same is true of a recent variation on this theme: Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; or The African Mean Girls Play, a tragicomic riff on Tina Fey that’s set in a 1980s girls’ school in Ghana. The Mary Tilford of School Girls is Paulina; the defining issue in Bioh’s play is color – and, specifically, how each of the Ghanaian school girls we meet is defined and delimited by Western, white standards of beauty. Much like Toni Morrison in The Bluest Eye, Bioh tallies the cost for girls caught in a racist world they never made and confined by aesthetic codes that leave them feeling inadequate and insecure. But Bioh’s satire is too broad and declamatory to go more than skindeep, in a play that’s less about the content of these girls’ character than the color of their skin.
Teen conformity involving sexual orientation rather than skin color goes under the microscope in another school play: Tarell Alvin McCraney’s lyrical Choir Boy. In McCraney’s play, gifted and gay vocalist Pharus Young tries to square who he is as a person with where he is as a student: at the religious and conservative Charles R. Drew Prep School for young Black men.
radiomilwaukee.org • Apple Podcasts • Spotify • Spreaker September2021 | 23
Can a gay Black artist find a home within Black American culture, and might he claim its traditions as his own, wresting them from an overly simplified and conformist hagiography that often leaves little room for people like him? That’s the question McCraney poses in most of his plays, through outsiders who see the truth slant and often pay a hefty price for their gimlet-eyed vision. True to form, McCraney’s Pharus is a glorious, textured meditation on what it means to be such an outsider. Also true to form, all too many of the characters surrounding this outsider are one-note stereotypes. As with The Children’s Hour and School Girls – and as with Spring Awakening – too many of the students in Choir Boy march to a single beat. That approach may sharpen the (melo)drama. But it’s also frequently false to the complex, conflicted, and competing emotions that exist within every adolescent – and which distinguish them from one another, as individuals giving voice to their own unique and uneven songs rather than singing harmony in an angelic choir. The History Boys For all their innocence, there’s nothing angelic about the octet of students in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, which Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones has rightly named “one of the best plays ever written about education.” Set in a northern England day school where the boys are preparing for their college entrance exams, Bennett’s play features two teachers who offer diametrically opposed views of education. The old-fashioned Hector stands for truth, in which learning and language are intrinsically important, regardless of whether they’ll help one ace a test or get ahead. For the younger Irwin, both education and history itself “is not a matter of conviction. It’s a performance. It’s entertainment.” Hector and Irwin join battle in fighting for the hearts and minds of the play’s eight students, who collectively suggest the range of possible responses to a debate that’s been made newly topical by the current assault in our own country on decency and truth, in our schools and in our lives. “Truth is no more at issue in an examination than thirst at a winetasting or fashion at a striptease,” Irwin insists. 24 | artsscene
“I count examinations, even for Oxford and Cambridge, as the enemy of education,” Hector later tells Irwin. “Which is not to say that I don’t regard education as the enemy of education, too.” In a world where the liberal arts are under attack, education is viewed in utilitarian terms, ever fewer people read books, and we communicate through terse tweets in which style trumps substance, the battle between Hector and Irwin can feel old-fashioned: Irwin has clearly won. We’re teaching the young to be clever rather than compassionate and glib rather than good. By the end of Bennett’s play, Hector is dead; Irwin is a government consultant hatching a plan to reduce democracy. Bennett’s play may be set in Thatcher’s Britain. But it’s right at home in Trump’s America. Fight the Power Can we do and be better? Might the young people being educated today create a brighter tomorrow? One of the many reasons I love Dominque Morisseau’s Blood at the Root is because it dares to think so. I worked as dramaturg
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September2021 | 25
on Next Act Theatre’s 2019 production of Morisseau’s play, directed by Marti Gobel and featuring an outstanding cast which, collectively, embodied the possibility of a new world without ever underestimating the problems afflicting this one. Morisseau’s play is based on events in 2006 Jena, Louisiana, where Black high school students were charged with attempted murder after beating a white student; that white student had been suspected of being among those who’d hung three nooses from a schoolyard tree. Blood at the Root profiles six students involved in or responding to what happened. Three are white and three are Black; four are women and two are men. They include a star football player who is gay; a Black newspaper editor who refuses to side with his fellow Black students; and a Black protestor forced to confront her own homophobia. Each of Morisseau’s characters is deeply flawed, making all of them fully human. Each of them are given solos – more conflicted and honest and therefore more powerful than any of the sung monologues in Spring
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Awakening – challenging their and our easy assumptions and stereotypes about who they are and what they should stand for. They have difficult conversations with each other about whether friendship across racial lines is possible; the relation between racism and homophobia; the toxicity of white privilege and its twin, savior complex; when and why racially or sexually inflected “jokes” are wrong; how women are unfairly defined by their bodies; and, most important, whether the past must be relived or might be transcended. “Somebody’s been plantin’ these awful feelins in the soil somewhere,” muses one of the characters, reflecting on the deeprooted history of racism. “Long before we came along and started pulling up crops,” he continues. “We been digestin’ this same stuff, grown in this same soil, and ain’t even know it . . . is we ever gonna plant somethin’ new?” Blood at the Root is much too honest a play to definitively answer this question; even as the play’s final speaker invokes the promise of tomorrow, she acknowledges the lowering clouds of today. But one can see a glimmer on the distant horizon, particularly in the movement sequences that explain why Morisseau, taking her cue from Ntozake Shange, refers to her play as a “choreopoem.” As devised by Gobel and choreographer Alicia Rice in collaboration with the Next Act cast, these moments in Blood moved beyond the play’s deep-rooted entanglement in the past, suggesting the prospect that we somehow, someday, could learn to dance a different song together. “Yesterday gone,” we’re told at play’s end. “Today is here. Tomorrow is coming.” If we recognize how much the young can teach us about all tomorrow might still yet be, who would dare gainsay all we could achieve, once that new day finally arrives? A Milwaukee-based writer and dramaturg, Mike Fischer wrote theater and book reviews for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for fifteen years, serving as chief theater critic from 2009-18. A member of the Advisory Company of Artists for Forward Theater Company in Madison, he also co-hosts Theater Forward, a bimonthly podcast. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Save the Arts: The Power of Protocols By: Amanda Finn
After a year and a half of staying home, watching everything there is to watch on Netflix and eating way too much takeout, people are anxious to get back to doing the things they love. That feeling is all the more true for those who make a living in the performing arts which has effectively been down and out since the pandemic began. Ghost lights Am a nd around the country have been a Fin n working overtime while many artists haven’t been able to work in their crafts at all—at least, not in the traditional way. According to a study released in January 2021 by the National Endowment for the Arts, unemployment for 2020 was sizable. Employment data from the Artist Labor Force for quarter III (JulySeptember) between 2019 and 2020, unsurprisingly, showed a huge dip in artist employment. Unemployment skyrocketed to 52% of actors, nearly 55% of dancers and choreographers and 27% of musicians. For a lot of these, and other, unemployed performing artists getting back into venues is pivotal to continuing their careers on or behind the stage. That can only happen if theaters take precautions to keep them as well as their patrons safe.
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Venues all over the country are coming together to ensure that protocols are safe as well as sufficient to keep the community at a lesser risk. Last week the League of Chicago Theatres, for example, announced recommended guidelines for shows opening this fall. Starting September 1, more than 65 Chicagoland theaters will require patrons to provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test taken in the last 3 days to enter. Deb Clapp, executive director of the League, said in a statement, “The arts and cultural community is embedded in the fabric of Chicago. Not all of the League’s more than 200 member theatres will be able to open this fall. We are pleased that many members of our vibrant performing arts community that will be opening have come together to craft a unified response to this crisis so audiences can once again experience the joy of live performance without future disruption.” This protocol is similar to others nationwide including one by The Broadway League in New York City which oversees 41 member theaters. Their protocol requires all audience members, performers, crew and staff to be vaccinated through at least October 2021 with masks required inside the theaters. While artists all over the world have made impressive digital features during the pandemic, there is something unforgettably beautiful about gathering in a physical space together to enjoy a show. The tittering of laughter, collective deep breaths, and (heck) even the rustling of legs in a silent space is something I dearly miss.
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The last thing these organizations need is an anti-protocol tirade that will not only endanger the artists and staff of the theaters, but our fellow patrons as well. Opting out of vaccinating or testing is absolutely a choice, though all choices have consequences. Just as public spaces have no shoes, no shirt, no service policies for public health, theaters have to be able to do the same. Over the course of the last 18 months we have collectively learned a lot about choices. Those choices can sometimes be made easily while others are hard fought. Theaters that are going above and beyond the mandated protocols necessary to hold performances should be applauded, not booed into subservience. As a theater critic I am inclined to follow my friend and colleague Cameron Kelsall’s lead in supporting these organizations that are actively looking out for their communities.
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The performing arts is an intrinsically human gift. One that has been brought to its knees during the Covid-19 crisis. Introducing safety protocols is the only way to get our artists and staffers back to work without risking everything for our entertainment. When it comes to raising the curtains, we should do so with a plan in place that will mitigate the risk that we will have to lower them so quasipermanently again. Our artists deserve nothing less. Amanda Finn is an award winning arts, travel and lifestyle journalist based in Chicago. She is a proud member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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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!
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Events marked with
☀ are outdoors.
☀MUSIC ON THE LAKE
☀LAKESIDE AT MAM
☀MUSIC ON MAIN
☀ANIMAL SUPER POWERS MADE
East Side Club Madison, WI Through September Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy the casual, backyard setting. The lineup features national touring acts paired with some of Madison’s best local bands.
Milwaukee Art Museum Milwaukee, WI Through September 5 Come to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s east lawn for Lakeside at MAM! Grab a seat, find a table, or bring your own picnic blanket— and relax with family and friends outdoors throughout the summer.
Old Settlers Park WITH LEGO BRICKS West Bend, WI Through September 2 Milwaukee County Zoo Weekly, free, live music summer street festival Milwaukee, WI in beautiful downtown West Bend. Through September 6 The larger-than-life sculptures and exhibits in Animal Super Powers invite visitors to FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE explore the evolutionary, biological, and Downtown Waukesha environmental reasons for these adaptations Waukesha, WI and asks Zoo visitors to imagine themselves Through September 3 with the same abilities. Friday Night Live outdoor music event takes place every summer Friday night in BRISTOL RENAISSANCE FAIRE downtown Waukesha. I-94 State Line Kenosha, WI RODGERS & Through September 6 HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Enjoy 16th Century merriment, music, Fireside Dinner Theatre food and games. Voted the number one Fort Atkinson, WI Renaissance Faire in the nation! Through September 5 Fresh from the success of OKLAHOMA, SOUTH SUMMER CRAFTERNOONS PACIFIC, and THE KING AND I, Broadway’s West Allis Downtown greatest composing team wrote an original West Allis, WI musical comedy – the first of its kind – to be Through September 11 performed live on TV in 1957. Arts and Crafts lovers, rejoice! Every second Saturday this Summer, West Allis Downtown will be hosting our Summer Crafternoons, a series of art and craft fairs on the side streets.
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☀WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIVE
Wisconsin State Fair Park West Allis, WI Through September 22 Wednesday Night Live is a unique, FREE, weekly summer concert series held exclusively at the Bud Pavilion.
CAREY WATTERS: TINY CUTS
☀MADISON NIGHT MARKET
Madison’s Central BID Madison, WI Through December 16 Madison Night Market is a celebration of Madison’s unique and inspiring creative culture. Vendors showcase handmade products, local art, artisan gifts, prepackaged foods and fresh produce. The event includes live music, artists, special visiting food carts and pop-up restaurant experiences.
Museum of Wisconsin Art West Bend, WI Through October 17 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Carey Watter’s painstakingly and delicately cuts cast-off printed materials into thousands Voices Found Repertory of tiny pieces that begin a new life as part of West Allis, WI September 2 – 12 her paper reliefs. When Hermia’s father forbids her from marrying her love, Lysander, they run to the forest to make their escape. Demetrius, the man Hermia’s father has arranged for her to marry, and Helena, a woman desperately to win9:48 theAMaffection of Demetruis, Footlights Subscription Ad R3.pdf 1 trying 5/31/21 follow the pair into the forest.
Welcome Back To Live Music Theatre!
Nov 19, 2021 – Jan 2, 2022
Sept 24 – Oct 17, 2021
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Feb 11 – 27, 2022
May 20 – June 12, 2022
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$ $ STARTING AT FOR 3 SHOWS! FOR 5 SHOWS! Call (414) 291-7800 • Visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org September2021 | 33
E VE N T L I ST I NGS
Henry Maier Festival Park Milwaukee, WI September 2 – 18 Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance has evolved into what is now recognized as “The World’s Largest Music Festival” and Milwaukee’s cornerstone summer celebration.
☀TASTE OF MADISON
Capitol Square Madison, WI September 4 -5 Held each year on Sat/Sun of Labor Day weekend on the Capitol Square. The event showcases local restaurants, music stages, and admission is FREE!
☀THIRD WARD ART FESTIVAL
Third Ward Milwaukee, WI September 4 – 5 Third Ward Art Festival is a premier art fair in the region related to art industry.
Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Janesville, WI September 4 – 12 Since its inception in 2011, Art Infusion has continued to evolve and bring positive attention to the community, its attractions and especially the downtown area.
RUN FOR YOUR WIFE Sunset Playhouse Elm Grove, WI September 9 – 26 John Smith, a happy London taxi driver with an irregular working schedule, has one little problem. He is married. TWICE!
MOM, HOW DID YOU MEET THE BEATLES? Forward Theater Madison, WI September 9 – 26 It’s the Swinging ‘60s in London, and American playwright Adrienne Kennedy finds herself among the rich and ultra-famous when she’s hired to write a stage version of John Lennon’s new book.
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Fireside Dinner Theatre Fort Atkinson, WI September 9 – October 24 From the creators of EVITA and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR comes one of the most popular musicals of the last 50 years.
MISS HOLMES Waukesha Civic Theatre Waukesha, WI September 10 – 26 When an anonymous note sends a newlywed wife looking for help, Miss Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Dorothy Watson work together to uncover the secrets surrounding a corrupt police inspector whose wives have a habit of turning up dead.
☀TRIMBORN FARM HARVEST OF ARTS & CRAFTS
Trimborn Farm Greendale, WI September 11 -12 This annual event is a fundraiser for Trimborn Farm. We have more than 110 artists display and sell their work in our lovely historic setting. We have music, food and kids activities.
☀ANTIQUE AND ART SHOW
Watertown Historical Society Watertown, WI September 11 Outdoor Antique, Artisan and Art Show with a presentation (tbd) during the show. 34 | artsscene
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HOT AND DIRTY BRASS BAND
Oconomowoc Arts Center Oconomowoc, WI September 11 Named after the haunting Bob Dylan song, “Farewell Angelina,” this all-female country group offers a stellar blend of heart-stopping harmonies over blazing violins and guitars.
Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts Fond du Lac, WI September 16 Nominated for 2019 Horn/Big Band Artist and 2018 New Artist of the Year, it’s the Hot & Dirty Brass Band! When the house lights go down and the stage lights come up… it’s time to get Hot & Dirty!
STARVING ARTISTS' SHOW Mount Mary University Milwaukee, WI September 12 The Starving Artists’ Show is back on Sunday, September 12! This annual outdoor art show is held on the grounds of Mount Mary University. It features original art for $100 or less, including pottery, paintings, glassworks, and sculptures.
MICHAEL PERRY Schauer Arts Center Hartford, WI September 18 Perry began writing songs in the early 1990s during long nights when he was struggling to survive on prose (he is the author of numerous books including: Population 485, Truck, The Scavengers, and the New York Times bestseller Visiting Tom).
OCTOBER 22 NOVEMBER 14
By Bekah Brunstetter
www.r-t-w.com September2021 | 35
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☀HOLY HILL ART & FARM MARKET
I AM HE SAID
Oconomowoc Arts Center Holy Hill Art Farm Oconomowoc, WI Hubertus, WI September 24 September 18 – 19 Enjoy a dazzling display of treasures filling the Neil Diamond has produced musical hits spanning nearly six decades, selling over 130 farm, barns and gardens. million records worldwide. This celebration of the iconic superstar’s rich musical legacy HOLY HILL has touched the hearts of sold out audiences ARTS AND CRAFTS FAIR across the country! Holy Hill Hubertus, WI ART FAIR ON THE SQUARE September 18 230 artists & craftsmen displaying their works Capitol Square in a natural setting. Food & entertainment are Madison, WI September 25 – 26 available. One of the Midwest’s most popular and highly regarded outdoor celebrations of the KENOSHA ART MARKET arts is a mix of music, entertainment, and Union Park outdoor dining. Kenosha, WI September 19 RICKY NELSON REMEMBERED Featuring original art, artists, live music, Cedarburg PAC and art demonstrations! Visit the Kenosha Cedarburg, WI ArtMarket in the Union Park Arts District. September 25 Ricky Nelson Remembered is a musical ANNUAL .05K FUN RUN celebration of America’s first Teen Idol and Outskirts Theatre Co. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ricky Nelson. Waukesha, WI September 19 DALLAS STRING QUARTET “The Run for People Who Hate Running – Only Schauer Arts Center 164 Feet!” Hartford, WI September 25 GOLD CITY DSQ Electric is an international music Fireside Dinner Theatre sensation. A fusion of classical and Fort Atkinson, WI contemporary music on both traditional and September 21 electric strings. Their name is synonymous with setting the standard for male quartets since their CLASSIC JEWELS – HONORING inception in 1980. Many have tried to pattern THE MEMORY OF DON TAYLOR their style and sound, but there’s only one Wisconsin Philharmonic Gold City. Oconomowoc, WI September 26 THE 39 STEPS The Wisconsin Philharmonic honors Don Lake Country Playhouse Taylor and his steadfast devotion to the Hartland, WI symphony with stirring masterworks from September 24 – October 10 three of his favorite composers; Dvorak, Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy Tchaikovsky, and Sibelius, while introducing novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you Ilya Yakushev, a brilliant new piano soloist. have The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre!
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☀FALL ART & ARTISAN FAIR
Bayshore Mall Glendale, WI September 26 More than 80 juried artists from across the country will be showcasing their work in a variety of different mediums at BAYSHORE!
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER: CHICK SINGERS OF THE 70S Sunset Playhouse Elm Grove, WI September 30 – October 3 Party on with music director, KERRY HART BIENEMAN and singers HANNAH ESCH, KASSANDRA NOVELL, and ASHLEY PATIN and their band as they travel back to the 1970s when feisty females were filling the charts with solid gold hits.
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Oconomowoc Arts Center Oconomowoc, WI September 30 A live performance by the legendary Randy Otto as Winston Churchill. Focusing on strong leadership and core principles during the “Digital Iron Curtain” Age.
THE TEXAS TENORS Cedarburg PAC Cedarburg, WI October 8 The Texas Tenors are the most successful musical group and third highest selling artists in the history of NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
September2021 | 37
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