Tuesday, July 7, 2009


You wouldn't know it if you read the journal, but MILWAUKEE THEATRE IS BLOWING UP!! HOLY SHIT!

I'm gonna have to eat light, cuz i'm about to drop almost 1/4 of my monthly budget on seeing the gianormous slew of new and exciting theatre happening in this town this month, and i'm very happy about it. It's amazing! Check out my schedule of upcoming activities, google anything you're not familiar with, or just email me asking for details, and i'll send em your way. If you go on the same day as me, you get a special offer: the opportunity to say "hi" or spit at me (if you're one of those people).

Don't waste your summer with nothing but lazy afternoons and bbq! THEATRE!!! SUMMER! DO IT!

1. TONIGHT: Kick Balls resevoir park 6:30 we like it to win. (also, every tuesday hereafter) Followed by Public Enemies at the oriental at 10:10, gonna see Kish get blown away in the first scene!

2. FRIDAY: Krapp's Last Tape at Rooms Gallery in Chicago. Preceeded by dinner and followed by To Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind at the Neo-Futurists (also in Chicago)

3. SATURDAY 11th- David's Red Haired Death. Youngblood Theatre. NEW! AMBITIOUS! EXCITING!

4. SUNDAY 12th- Pain in the Park (ultimate frisbee) Riverside park, 11am. Followed by Someone to Watch Over Me, cuz i'd like to pay money to see Pink Banana botch up political theatre out of spite. SPITE! at the BTC

5. THURDSAY 16th- Sexual Perversity in Chicago at The Alchemist. Kick ASS.

6. FRIDAY 17th- Beauty's Daughter at the BTC. UPROOTED! ALSO NEW! ALSO EXCITING! Not quite as ambitious. Youngblood is opening 3 shows in one month. That's kind of unmatchable ambition, sorry.

7. MONDAY 20th- Savage in Limbo at The Landfill. YOUNGBLOOD

8. FRIDAY 31st- God Bridge at kennilworth YOUNGBLOOD

9. SAT Aug 1st- Dead Man's Carnival at Stonefly (we're performing butoh! You wanna butoh too? TELL ME!!)

10. SAT Aug 8th Sweeny Todd at Off the Wall - Hope to get a group discount or something, cuz $25 is TOO MUCH.


Ben Turk said...

Hey! Wonder of wonders, Jaques posted something that i didn't know about to his blog!

High school aged kids from First Stage are doing some free shows this weekend. Good stuff too.

Irwin Shaw's "Bury the Dead" will be staged at 7 p.m. Thursday and Saturday. The 1936 play is an expressionist drama about a group of soldiers killed in battle who refuse to be buried.

"The Lark," by Jean Anouilh, will be mounted at 7 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The drama, written in 1952 is about the trial and execution of Joan of Arc.

Both shows will be presented in Youth Arts Hall at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St. More information can be obtained by calling (414) 267-2973.

Ben Turk said...

Another thing i missed:

MUTES is performing their special brand of silent movie action on live stage at the Brew City Bombshells show at Stonefly July 18th.

I can't make it, but you should check that out too!

Ben Turk said...


1. Played kickball with some awesome neighborhood kids, yelled at some less-than-awesome neighborhood kids (who were throwing stones at us).

2. Public Enemies, sorry Kish, but i'm not a fan.

3. The First stage childrens production of Bury the Dead was quite good. Obviously they're kids, with 2 weeks of rehearsal so it was often rough, and slow, but the great script shone through and there were a handful of kids who REALLY kicked ass. This show has more balls than most of what the adult professional groups in town are doing. Go see it tomorrow at 7. Also The Lark tonight at 7 and tomorrow at 3:30. DO!

4. Arts advocacy breakfast is a hurns. Dominated by Skylight artists who are shocked by all the problems any thinking person would expect from working under a board like theirs (30 some rich fuckers, most of whom don't know each other or care about art enough to even subscribe to the season). There is no need for the broader community to get invovled, and no impression that Skylight artists will ever advocate for any other part of the community. Also, romantic, meaningless, un-actionable, childlike idealism "we need to convince funders that art has intrinsic value" abounds. Also, disdain for media sources smaller than the journal in spite of the fact that the journal is about to shrink it's arts coverage to smaller than everything else. These people live in a shrinking world and think they're too good to look outside of it. Let em die.

Ben Turk said...

Next on the list: RED HAIRED DEATH.

Youngblood delivers! The play they chose to deliver isn't exactly my bag, but they deliver it very well, and you know my bag is much more exclusionary than most, so you'll all probably love it. A play about the emotional consequences attending an explicable family loss is way too fucking emo for me, but this one handled by these artists actually did work. The script being written in the early 90's makes it pre-emo actually, which also makes it dated. The quirky 90's tone wasn't hit quite right by a cast too young to have lived in the early 90's, but that's fine, cuz quirky 90's tone is pretty lame and not really worthy of accurate depiction anyway. I would've been less distracted if the music (like the costumes) matched the time period, or if the director had trusted the cast enough to not include music at all.

What the script does very nicely is use form to express the content, the hesitation and refusal to encounter and deal with past experiences. Such a script presents challenges to the actors: complex emotions, awkward encounters, abrupt transitions, audience interaction. These actors rise to the challenges, bring energy and chemistry to their roles and remain true to the characters without getting sentimental self-indulgent (as actors, that is. The characters are sometimes self indulgent, but they're supposed to be).

The staging is appropriately minimal and effective, making interesting use of the space and technicians to make graceful transitions. Some of the blocking was a little awkward, or maybe it only seemed that way cuz they were playing to sides of the house that were empty, which brings me to this demand: go out and see this show! Fill that house! Support these ambitious new artists. I know it's summer and you wanna cook out, see blockbuster movies, or laze around the house, but this is quality entertainment that also supports the community. See it!

Ben Turk said...

LAST WEEKEND Three shows in a row on Saturday.

First we saw the First Stage kids do The Lark. Again, totally impressed with what these kids can do in two weeks. Even more good performances in this show. The directing also really impressed me, Jim Fletcher did a great job. It's remarkable how using kids forces certain things to happen, which actually make the show more interesting. The gender and age blind casting, super simple costumes, and minimal sets give the show a "poor theatre" feel that most theatre companies in Milwaukee are probably afraid they'll lose funding over (if endgame at the rep is any indication). It's kind of sad that only in children's theatre is the actor allowed to be the focus of the play. Another interesting thing the limitations of working with children produced was the sharing of Joan of Arc's role. Seeing the girl who played the whining obnoxious queen transform into Joan was exciting, and later the switch happened on stage with the simple passing of a costume element and created a moment when we weren't watching a play anymore, we were watching two kids share something precious. Which was really cool.

Then we drove to Chicago to see Krapp's Last Tape at Rooms Gallery, which was intense and strange and nigh perfect, like everything at Rooms. Some of the best weird Beckett acting I've seen, strange, artificial, bleak, and then suddenly devastatingly human. The ability to walk around the space during the show and be 3 feet away from the actor, separated by only a thin sheet of plastic surrounding the scene made it even more effective.

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. If you don't know what this is, google it, and then go see it. This is genious, it's like sketch comedy without the bullshit, political theatre without the bullshit, brechtian theatre without the bullshit, solo shows without the bullshit, and formal experimentation without the bullshit. Bullshit free theatre!

Got home at about 3. Then, on Sunday, we slept in, ate breakfast, rehearsed, looked into a new home (1998 volvo station wagon) had dinner with Monika's family, and hurnsed on seeing the pink banana show. We'll have to fit that in somewhere else... not sure where. Hmmm...

Ben Turk said...

Beauty's Daughter, by Uprooted Theatre. This was an excellent show. Like David's Red Haired Death, it was made in the nineties and you can tell. (For some reason probably having to do with me being in high school in the 90's, shows from the nineties unsettle me a bit.) This complex one-woman show is not just nineties-esque because of the poetry slam aesthetics, but because it deals with race in a nineties kind of way.

In the nineties the ghetto was this horrible place that we wanted to lift the bright chosen few out of as swiftly as possible. Beauty's Daughter tells the story of one such ascent from the perspective of both the chosen one, and the family and friends she's leaving behind.

I'm guessing this story, based on Uprooted's chosen name and the fact of them performing at the BTC with a mostly white audience, seems to be intimately familiar to the actor and director, who tell it honestly, beautifully and energetically.

It's not a happy story. There's mixed feelings, hard-heartedness, confused loyalty, disappointment, bitterness and hope. But, that hope is only that some of the side characters will make a similar ascent and somehow not end up as hardened and bitter as Diane.

It reminds me of the story of Baby College, a revolutionary program in Harlem that aims to lift every kid out of the ghetto by starting with educating their parents in their first months. I need to check in on that program, to see if this post-nineties approach to the ghetto has gained any ground.

Ben Turk said...

Sexual Perversity in Chicago, at the Alchemist.

Not much to say about this one, it was very well done, well performed, funny and entertaining. There were technical problems with the video interludes the night i saw it, which slowed things down a bit, but the actors played through well.

The play as a whole didn't quite work for me. So much of the script is dependent upon the language and the characterization, which rely heavily on shock value. What was shocking in the 70s seems either ridiculous and cartoonish, or stale and trite now.

Ben Turk said...

Savage in Limbo

Another very well acted, exciting piece of theatre from Youngblood. I can't imagine seeing this play without being in the bar atmosphere itself. Shallow characters struggling with the meaninglessness of modern existence under the ruling power of Das Kapital (though they aren't self-aware enough to get to that radical understanding of the source of their ennui). The script gets a little long winded and self-indulgent (each character getting a turn in the spotlight) but it is fucking brilliantly performed by the talented young cast.

I've seen most of these people on stage in UWM productions before, and i don't want to insult that institution (okay, maybe i do want to insult that institution a little) seeing them carrying their own weight in this show blows away their previous work. This show makes me wanna say: Fuck a BFA, just do it!

Another part of me of course must acknowledge that the BFA program is where these people developed their formidable skills. But those skills aren't worth shit if they're being used in touring productions of Annie or tired Shakespeare festivals. So... fuck a 501c3, just do it!

I'm looking forward to God Bridge, and to keeping an eye on Youngblood's future. If these guys ever need anything from a dirty, transient, belligerent, Brecht-loving, poor theatre motherfucker like me, they've got it.

Ben Turk said...

Looks like it's time for my first really negative review in all this action. I was hoping to make it through July with every show meeting or exceeding my enthusiasm, but, APT really hurnsed up Pinter pretty bad.

I'll try to be straightforward, cuz i'm sure everyone thinks i'm just biased against the big professional company. So, i'll give direct, precise impersonal reasons why this show bored the pants off me.

First, the actors were doing this weird forced stylized thing that flattened the show out completely. They played the "intense menacing" mood constantly. When every moment is at that level the show gets boring, quick. There's nothing to engage with. If character A never lets down his guard, then character B's casual reference that conceals a devastating threat, or seemingly random word choice with dire consequences is stripped of it's power completely.

Second, they made no choices. In fact, based on the talk back, they intentionally concealed their interpretations from each other and from the audience. It's like the director read somewhere how Pinter likes audiences to come to their own interpretation and took that as a reason to remove any grounding, interpretation or meaning from the lines and character archs. So a play about how memory is constructed and how relationships are composed of these constructed memories, became an evening of disconnected words said in professional actor voices interspersed with long intense stares.

Finally, it was the least interesting Pinter script I've encountered. I suppose my favorites like Hothouse, One For the Road, or Mountain Language are a bit much for APT, who felt the need to apologize extensively for Pinter's obtuseness in the play description and directors note. This is another case of a established company trying something a little edgy to attract new audiences, but doing it very carefully to avoid alienating old audiences. As always, they fail in both objectives.