By Mary Boyle
Nearly every high school student in the US is required to read Animal Farm, the allegorical novella by George Orwell, published in 1945, that tells the cautionary tale of the 1917 Russian Revolution, played out in an English barnyard. Since our recent Presidential election, sales of Orwell's other well-known book, 1984, have skyrocketed; between "alternative facts" and the constant accusations of Russian involvement in our government, there's never been a better time to reacquaint yourself with this iconic tale, and the high school-aged cast of Young Company, First Stage's advanced, college-level actor training program, most certainly does it justice.
Adapted from Orwell's book by Ian Woolridge, and directed by Matt Daniels, Young Company's Animal Farm is powerful, shocking, and beautifully modern, yet wonderfully traditional, thanks to the brilliant costume designs of Kristina Sneshkoff and the scenic design of Madelyn Yee.
Old Major (Claire Zempel), Manor Farm's prize-winning boar, gathers the animals together to tell them something important: man is their enemy. If ever animals are to be free of the tyranny of men, they must revolt, and never adopt the habits of men. Shortly after Old Major dies, three younger pigs, Snowball (Jake Badovski), Napoleon (Mary Jensik), and Squealer (Sydney Salter), consolidate Old Major's words into a philosophy called Animalism. With the help of their fellow animal comrades, they take the farm from Mr. Jones, change "Manor Farm" to "Animal Farm," and seem to be well on their way to freedom and harmony.
Perhaps nobody is more zealous a believer in their leader than Boxer (Elliott Brotherhood), a strong draft horse who knows that if he just keeps working harder, everything will work out in the end; however, his helpmate, Clover (Alex Salter), and Benjamin the Donkey (Abby Barbeau), aren't as certain. As the animals work harder, their rations get smaller, and the rules seem to keep changing; they look to the raven, Moses (Matthias Wong), who promises they will all go to live on Sugarcandy Mountain when they die, and place what hope, if any, they have left with him.
Elliott Brotherhood is a homeschooled Junior from Mequon, and while he has been in multiple productions with First Stage, Animal Farm is his Young Company debut.
"Being in Animal Farm reminded me not to take my freedom for granted...it’s scary to think that the Bolshevik Revolution, and the various political movements in Eastern Europe after World War II that serve as the model for the Animal Farm story, all took place in the 20th Century -- not that long ago."
Both Elliott and Grace Reasoner, a sophomore at Cedarburg High School who plays a pig, are grateful for their experience with Young Company.
"First Stage provided a safe environment to learn about things that were sometimes difficult, or to have a window into someone else’s life or situation," said Elliott. "They helped me to realize that everyone comes from a different place, but that we all have value. They have helped to teach me responsibility, showed me how to problem solve, taught me how to work with others as a team and, most importantly, helped me to gain a strong work ethic. First Stage has been a huge part of my life."
Grace feels that her time with Young Company will help her towards a career in acting. "Animal Farm has been an amazing experience -- probably one of my favorite shows I've ever been in. Our director, Matt Daniels, is a genius, and helped us work out the kinks in all of our different animal movement and sounds. I wouldn't have wanted to do this show with any other director. I am truly proud of the work we have done and the show we are now able to present."
There are two more performances of Animal Farm this Saturay, May 20th, at 3:30 and 7 p.m. at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in Milwaukee. Tickets are $14 and are available online at www.FirstStage.org or through the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961. This production is recommended for ages 12 and up.
About First Stage
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in the 2016-2017 season, First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young audiences and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs use theater to promote active learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students throughout southeastern Wisconsin each year. In 2012, First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. First Stage is the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award in 2013 and 2015, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts. First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).
After a successful first run under new management last year, the Port Washington Pirate Festival will return this first weekend in June to Port's lakefront, with some reliable favorites, as well as some new additions.
The free Festival kicks off on Friday, June 2nd, at 5 p.m. with the Buccaneer Bash in the beer tent, where there will be live music from the Celtic rock band, Hearthfire, from 7-11 p.m. Happy Hour is from 7-9 p.m. Meet and greet pirates, get something to eat at the Gruel Galley from 5-11 p.m., and do some early shopping at the Thieves Marketplace from 5-10 p.m., with a variety of vendors, including: Andrea Jones - author of the Hook & Jill saga, DaSue Dragon, Sea Ratt Pirate Booty, Aurora's Apothecary, and Captain Kut's Pirate Ware, as well as some modern vendors, such as LuLaRoe, Tastefully Simple, and L'Bri.
On Saturday, June 3rd, you can start the day off early with the ever-popular Breakfast with the Pirates at Newport Shores from 8-11:30 a.m. Reservations are suggested, and can be made by calling (262) 284-6838, but walk-ins will be seated as available. Newport Shores and the PW Pirate Festival cannot be responsible for the manners of the pirates, and it is strongly recommended that you do not touch their plates.
The Festival, itself, opens at 10 a.m., with favorite acts such as Cutlass Cooking, Knotty Bits, River Valley Colonial Fife & Drum Corps, Stellamani Caravan, and Pyrates of Portabello. There will be roaming pirates, and a bounce house for the kids, as well as a children's and adult's Costume Contest. The Tall Ship Denis Sullivan will be in the harbor for deck tours and sails, as well.
New to the Festival this year, but not new to Port, is the Cardboard Boat Regatta, which will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday. This popular event, which was once a part of Port's Maritime Heritage Festival, takes place in the harbor and features boats made from corrugated cardboard, sailing in both youth and adult divisions, with prizes for best design and construction, best theme and costumes, most spectacular sinking, and a people's choice award. Should Saturday get rained out, the Regatta will happen on Sunday.
On Sunday, the Festival opens for the final time at 10 a.m., with a Pirate Invasion on Scoundrel's Mound at 10:30, and a Parade at noon.
The Port Washington Pirate Festival is a fun, family-friendly event. Costumes are encouraged, and there is plenty to see and do for all ages, so swab the decks of your galleon, put on your eye patch, and be prepared to sail the seven seas in the city of seven hills!
By Marjie Tomter
It is finally spring and planning is in full force for this year’s Treasures of Oz event. This year it is all about Ozaukee waters and how they come together in “The Watershed.” We will be looking at smart planning tools to protect our waters, what’s swimming around, what allows water to return to the aquifer, and how we can interact in ways that keep our waters healthy. By the end of the tour, visitors will know what their watershed is all about, which one they live in, how they can improve their watershed, and actually have an idea of how the waters come together throughout the entire county.
One of the most spectacular watershed features in Ozaukee is the Cedarburg Bog, and this year you can walk into the Bog on the UW Field Station Boardwalk. This was developed for science education and research and is rarely open to the public, but on June 17th it will be, and you can explore it with naturalists, like Kate Redmond, who really know and love the Bog and are excited to share it with you.
Lake Michigan is part of the tour, this time at Harrington Beach State Park. Park staff will show you some of the recent changes to the park. You can learn about water safety with the staff from the Kettle Moraine Feith Family YMCA, and Wisconsin Coastal Management will get you in on some of the wonderful work they are doing to protect the waters of our lake.
Ozaukee Planning and Parks staff will be your hosts at the west side of Tendick Park, where they will focus on the new prairie that was planted thanks to the generosity of Pheasants Forever. Don’t you wonder how prairie plants fit into the watershed and why Pheasants Forever is “into” prairies? Think “soils” and “aquifer” and “habitat.” Docents will show you the new Kestral and Bluebird nesting boxes. Perhaps you would like to help out by monitoring those nests?
The Treasures of Oz 2017 Eco-Tour is pleased to introduce an exciting watershed-based planning tool developed by the Mequon Partners in Preservation for the City of Mequon, which can become a model for other communities. That will be at Spirit Lake Nature Preserve, OWLT’s newest Ozaukee preserve located just off Bonniwell Road between the river and Green Bay Road.
Treasures would not be complete with a Critters component. Yes, there will be birding components: there will be dragonfly walks at Forest Beach, and we will showcase the latest in smart gardens - Bug Hotels - to support pollinators and other 6-legged garden helpers. Jeanne Lord will present one of her engaging talks at 10:30 am at Forest Beach with her Raptors of Pine View. Randy Hetzel will be there all day with his diverse crew of critters - the kind you rarely see in your neighborhoods. Our Ozaukee County game warden will be out at Ehlers park, along with experts from the Ozaukee Fish Passage Program. Fish? They will be there as well.
The Celebration at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve not only offers lots of great exhibits and presentations, but also some good food (this year with the Blue Cow Creperie) and music (old-time rock & roll/bluegrass from Steve and Friends), as well as a fun silent auction; it is also the place to trade passport stamps for raffle tickets.
Treasures 2017 is a cross between an eco-tour and a science expo. You can go just for the joy of experiencing 6 beautiful and diverse natural areas, or go to learn about the workings of the watershed through up close, real-life experience and interaction with top science docents. Go for both! This event is always a great opportunity for birding, photography, finding new recreational opportunities, and simply enjoying some of the best natural treasures in Oz.
For more information and passports, visit http://treasuresofoz.org
By Mary Boyle
Charlotte Brontë is widely regarded as one of the first feminist writers. She published her famous novel, Jane Eyre, in 1847 under the name Currer Bell, so that she might be judged fairly as a writer in a time when women had very little career choices. Her story, which is somewhat autobiographical, was an instant hit in literary London, and quite controversial, both because nobody seemed to know who Currer Bell was, and because the heroine of the story dared to suggest that women had every bit as much heart and spirit as men, and further dared to question the fairness of their lot. Feminism alone, though, is arguably not what has made Brontë 's story remain so popular; great storytelling, and the variety of angles the story can take, has taken it from page to screen to stage, and back to page, time and time again. Now, the Milwaukee Rep will take their turn at it, with Polly Teale's adaptation of Jane Eyre.
For many, the appeal of Jane Eyre is the irresistibly romantic relationship between the wealthy and lonely Mr. Rochester and the poor, but intelligent, governess he has hired to care for his ward, Adele. These fans would likely consider the novel a romance; however, there is every bit as much mystery and drama in the story, as well as Jane's struggle to be true to herself, and it is this aspect that Teale focuses on, by emphasizing the similarities between Bertha, Mr. Rochester's secret wife, and Jane.
"It is significant that Bertha is a foreigner. She comes from the land of Brontë's imagination; from a land of hot rain and hurricanes. She is both dangerous and exciting. She is passionate and sexual. She is angry and violent. She is the embodiment of everything that Jane, a Victorian woman, must never be."
While the actors are dressed in period attire, the set design is almost shockingly modern and sparse. In the novel, Jane (Margaret Ivey) is our narrator; on stage, we don't just hear her story as she tells it, but we experience it with her, speeding through her wretched childhood until she unknowingly meets her employer, Mr. Rochester (Michael Sharon), on her way into town on an icy winter evening. In this tale, Bertha (Rin Allen) is not just Mr. Rochester's secret wife, she is Jane's alter ego; the part of Jane that must be locked away, as Jane once was, in the awful red room as a child.
A handful of actors play multiple characters: Andy Paterson is John Reed (Jane's evil cousin) and Richard Mason (Bertha's brother), while Christine Toy Johnson plays Bessie, Blanche Ingram, Grace Poole, and Diane Rivers. Tina Stafford is both Mrs. Reed, Jane's aunt, and Mrs. Fairfax, Mr. Rochester's housekeeper, and Rebecca Hirota plays Jane's childhood friend, Helen Burns, and Mr. Rochester's boisterous French ward, Adele, as well as Mary Rivers. Damian Beldet plays Mr. Brocklehurst, the head of Lowood School, and also Lord Ingram and Saint John Rivers.
Directed by KJ Sanchez, The Rep's Jane Eyre remains a powerful tale of perseverance, integrity, and love. Michael Sharon is a practically perfect Mr. Rochester, and audiences will adore the witty banter between Mr. Rochester and Jane, as well as the obnoxiously pompous demeanor of Damian Baldet's Saint John. Fans of the romance of Jane Eyre will be satisfied, while fans of the drama of Jane Eyre will be well rewarded with this intriguing and artistic adaptation of Brontë 's greatest work.
Jane Eyre runs through May 21 in the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, located at 108 E Wells Street in Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com, by phone at 414-224-9490, or at the Ticket Office at 108 E Wells Street, Milwaukee.
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Milwaukee Rep is a nationally-recognized company that presents compelling dramas, powerful classics, award-winning contemporary works and full-scale musicals housed in its three unique performance venues – the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio and Stackner Cabaret. The Rep also produces an annual production of A Christmas Carol, which featured a World Premiere of a new adaptation in 2016, at the historic Pabst Theater. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Managing Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity.