By Mary Boyle
While Shakespeare wrote a number of histories, there has been a bit of a revival of the eight plays concerned with the War of the Roses (the battles between the House of York and the House of Lancaster for the throne of England), in large part because of the BBC Television Film Series, The Hollow Crown, which was released in 2012 and featured a number of famed British actors, such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Dame Judi Dench, and Jeremy Irons. Earlier this season, the Bard & Bourbon Theatre Company took on Shakespeare's Henry V, the final play in Shakespeare's second tetralogy (series of four plays), which was preceeded by Richard II and Henry IV Part I and Part II. Now, they're on to Richard III which, although was written as the final play of the first tetralogy (after Henry VI, Parts I-III), actually comes later in chronological history. Is this all too confusing? Don't worry - just have a drink and enjoy B&B's telling of this monumental history.
While it may seem confusing to jump three plays in a series, it actually works very well. Henry V dies at the end of his play, leaving his son, Henry VI, too young to properly run the Kingdom. The land his father won in France is quickly reclaimed by the French armies, led by Joan of Arc, and the throne of England is being disputed over by two men: the Duke of York and the Duke of Somerset. The nobles take sides and wear the colors of their champions: white roses for York and red for Somerset; thus, the War of the Roses. Meanwhile, King Henry VI marries princess Margaret of France, and Somerset and his supporters align with the king, who is of the House of Lancaster, and the feud is now between the York and Lancaster Houses and their supporters.
To make the long story of Henry VI Parts I-III short, York's sons, Edward and Richard, take up the cause against the Lancasters. Richard kills Somerset in battle, and Henry VI, wanting to keep his seat, promises the throne will pass to the Yorks after his death. His wife, Queen Margaret doesn't like that plan and attacks the house of York, killing the eldest York and his youngest son. Edward and Richard's brother, George, joins the fight, and Edward is pronounced King at the battle of Towton, while Richard is named the Duke of Gloucester and George the Duke of Clarence. Edward marries Lady Elizabeth Grey and, within a couple of battles, Henry VI is imprisoned in the Tower of London, the three York brothers kill Henry and Margaret's son, the Prince, and Richard kills Henry VI. Edward's throne, at last, seems secure, but Richard has bigger plans than just helping his brother succeed.
Richard, the Duke of Glouscester (Ian Tully) is the lame, hunchbacked brother of the newly crowned Edward (Dylan Sladky); a cripple who has already been the cause of a number of royal deaths, but who nobody really takes seriously as a threat — a mistake that the remaining houses of York and Lancaster will come to regret. As it turns out, Richard has a vicious, remorseless, and cunning mind inside his broken body, and he uses it to get rid of everyone who stands in the way of his path to the throne, beginning with his brother, George, the Duke of Clarence (Bryant Mason). The widowed Queen Margaret (Maura Atwood) tries to warn them all about Richard but, as a Lancaster, she is ignored. Eventually, Richard can trust no one; even his closest confidants, Lord Buckingham (Sean Duncan), Lord Hastings (Bryant Mason) and Lord Catesby (Amber Regan). Even those who once supported him are hoping his evil reign will be defeated by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (Maggie Arndt).
Richard III is the second longest play in Shakespeare's works, after Hamlet, but the text and the characters are pared down as far as they can be in this production while still keeping the heart of the story. Although the premise of the play is dark, there is always humor to be found where the Bard is concerned, and even more so when Bard & Bourbon gets a hold of it (I watched Bryant Mason drink over 16 shots of bourbon through the course of the play, which was good fun, though — to his credit — it didn't seem to affect him much). Ian Tully, who was also seen in B&B's Henry V, was delightfully twisted, but strong, as Richard, and the only actor to play just one character. Watch for Sean Duncan's smaller part as "Murderer 1" — he's simply brilliant. Dylan Sladky, who directed B&B's Twelfth Night (drunk) at the beginning of the season, demonstrates that he can act as well as he can direct, playing four different characters (one being a woman). Both Maggie Arndt and Maura Atwood make an impressive B&B debut as the valiant Earl of Richmond and the bitter Queen Margaret, respectively, among others, while Samantha Martinson and Amber Regan return to the B&B stage after both appearing in The Merry Wives of Windsor (drunk).
If you're new to, or intimidated by, Shakespeare, the Bard & Bourbon Theatre Co. is a good place to get acquainted, but even hardcore fans will enjoy these productions. The alcohol adds a fun unpredictability-factor to each performance, but the actors have to know their play well in order to accomodate that, and it's clear that they do. Besides, Shakespeare, didn't take himself too seriously — why should we? It's Shakespeare, it's history, and I promise it's a really good time!
Richard III runs through June 2 at the Tenth Street Theatre, located at 628 N. 10th St. in Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased online at www.bardandbourbon.com.
Back for the third year under new management, the Port Washington Pirate Festival returns to downtown Port Washington this June 1-3 with a new attitude, and a new name to reflect it: Pirate Family Daze.
Tracy Ripple, one of the event organizers, said that there was concern that the event was not really for families, and the new name would hopefully reflect their commitment to education and fun for the whole family. "There were some who felt that it was more of an adult event, to dress up and drink, but there are bouncy houses, educational opportunities, and all kinds of other activities for kids.
The event opens on Friday, June 1st, at 5 p.m. The Thieves Marketplace will have both modern and themed vendors to shop, and the Gruel Galley features a number of food trucks and concessions. This year, there will be a variety of live music opportunities. On Friday evening, the Kenny James Duo opens the Island Bar, 16 Paces is at the Buccaneer Bar, and Mumblemouth is at the Barnacle Stage and Mini-Bar. At 7 p.m., Vinyl Groove takes the stage at the Island Bar, and Hearthfire takes over at the Buccaneer Bar. Live music continues through the weekend, with Block Party at 1 p.m. at the Buccaneer Stage and Hey! Captain Knight at 1 p.m. on the Island Stage. Saturday evening, Left on Sunset takes the Buccaneer Stage at 7 p.m., and The Pillage People are at the Island Stage at 7 p.m. On Sunday, Riding Shotgun is at 2 p.m. at the Buccaneer Bar, and Shut the Front Door plays the Island Stage at 2 p.m. Besides music on the event grounds, everyone's favorite a capella sea shanty group, Bounding Main, will be performing at 3, 5 and 7 p.m. at the Smith Bros. Coffee House on Saturday.
There will be both an Adult and Children's Costume Contest again, this year; the Children's Contest happens on Saturday and Sunday at noon at the Dockside Stage, while the Adult Contest happens at 6 p.m. at the Buccaneer Stage on Saturday night. As in past years, there will be a Parade at 1 p.m. on Sunday on Washington Street, which runs east and west past the north slip and to the Marina parking lot.
The Tall Ship Denis Sullivan will be in the harbor for sails and deck tours throughout the weekend. Sail tickets can be purchased through the Port Exploreum, an interactive historical museum that tells the story of Port Washington and Lake Michigan, located in Port Washington's historic downtown. The Port Exploreum's newest exhibit, Not A World Apart: How We Lived, tells the stories of 8 individuals who lived in the local poorhouse or were buried in nearby Potter's Field at the turn of the century. Port Washington's 1860's Lighthouse and Light Station Museum and the Historic Judge Eghart House will also be open for tours.
Besides bouncy houses and hamster balls, there will be a lot of fun entertainment around the grounds — some of it with a Rennaisance theme, such as the Courtesan and the Cabin Boy, a music and comedy duo; Gryphon Poursuivant, a reenactment group that portrays a seige encampment in the 16th Century; and, GSM Bristol, which is another 16th Century military reenactment group. Those familiar with the festival may remember the bellydancing Stellamani Caravan, the entertaining antics of Knotty Bits and Cutlass Cooking, the River Valley Fife & Drum Corps, Thee Bluebeard, and Alice Wilson the Living Statue. New this year is the magician Shandini, who hails from Central Wisconsin and has performed at many area festivals and events.
Volunteers are needed to help work the Children's Activities and more. If you are interested, contact Tracy Ripple at (262) 323-6612. For more information, visit the Pirate Family Days website, www.piratefamilydaze.org, or the Facebook Page.
By Mary Boyle
Judy Moody is an unusual girl: she has a cat named Mouse, a brother named Stink, and one of her hobbies is collecting scabs. Nonetheless, this eccentric third grader has been a favorite character in the world of children's books ever since author Megan McDonald and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds brought her to life eighteen years ago. Now, through a collaboration of seven children's theatres throughout the country, Judy and her family have been brought to life on the stage, and they're making their World Premiere here in Milwaukee at First Stage in Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt.
Adapted to the stage by Allison Gregory, who has written several plays based on books for young children, the play is actually a combination of both the book McDonald wrote that shares the name of the play, as well as her first book in the series, Judy Moody. Beginning this past October, and going through February of 2019, the seven collaborating theatres will each take a turn unveiling their production; First Stage is 5th in the series. Perhaps nobody is more excited about it than the author, herself.
“I’m thrilled readers will get to see my books make the leap from page to stage,” McDonald, creator of the Judy Moody & Stink series, said. “Judy Moody has been to Antarctica, the Freedom Trail, Artichoke Island and college. She has gone around the world in eight (and a half) days. But never before has she been on stage!”
Driected by Jeff Frank, the Artistic Director of First Stage, the play features several adult actors who are very familiar to First Stage and Milwaukee theatre audiences: Todd Denning and Kay Allmand play Judy and Stink's parents, and Bo Johnson is delightful as Scurvy Sam. Justin Lee, who is this season's Artistic Fellow at First Stage, was recently in Antarctica, WI and The Cat in the Hat, and returns to the stage to play Mr. Todd, Judy's third grade teacher.
The youth performers are double cast:
In the Porcupine Cast, Eloise Field from Oconomowoc, who played Annie in Annie at Skylight Music Theatre this past season, plays Judy, and Thatcher Jacobs of Fox Point plays Stink. They are accompanied by Abby Schaufler (as Smart Girl) from Milwaukee, Liam Jeninga (as Tall Boy) from Delavan, and Benny Skwierawski (as Rocky) from Shorewood, along with Rachel Young from Greendale, Zephaniah Ponder from Brookfield, Zaire Key from Milwaukee, Evie Patrick from Whitefish Bay, Gianna Zampino from Milwaukee, Henry Dizard from Wauwatosa, Yan Luis Lebron from Milwaukee, Katie Buettner from Whitefish Bay, Lauren Edwards from Greenfield, and Bethany Martin from River Hills rounding out the ensemble.
In the Turtle Cast, Judy is played by Hope Stiverson of Nashota, while Stink is played by Abram Nelson of Whitefish Bay, along with Abby Hanna (as Smart Girl) from Franklin, Saul Ramirez (as Tall Boy) from Milwaukee, and Trygve Gundersen (as Rocky) from Madison. The rest of the ensemble is Hannah Fedor from New Berlin, Ezekiel (Zeke) Harris from Milwaukee, Elena Harms from Whitefish Bay, Lina Singh from Bayside, Sarai Santiago from Milwaukee, Ryan Vanselow from New Berlin, Oliver Kelley from Germantown, Phoebe Mann from Wauwatosa, Ellora Rangel from Germantown, and Sanaiah Hibbler from Oak Creek.
Being a fan of the books isn't necessary to enjoy this production; Judy, Stink, and their parents are fun and quirky, but still very relatable characters who exhibit typical sibling and parent-child behaviors that anyone can empathize with. Judy's entry into third grade, and her worries about new things and not fitting in, is something familiar to most children. Judy's frustration with her parents, teacher, and little brother sometimes makes her roar, but we all need to roar, sometimes. Most importantly, Judy's love for her family, and theirs for her, is what makes everything turn out right, and that's a message we can all stand to hear.
Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt runs through June 3rd at the Todd Wehr Theater, located behind the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased at www.firststage.org, in person at the Marcus Center box office, or by phone at (414) 273-7206 or toll free at (888) 612-3500. The number for TDD (for deaf and hard of hearing patrons) is (414) 273-3080.
Group Sales – Groups of 10 or more receive 15% off main floor, regular single ticket prices on most First Stage performances at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. Call (414) 267-2964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Pay What You Choose performance: Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
Pay What You Choose tickets are available on a first come, first served basis, with a minimum suggested donation of $5 per person. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. on the day of the performance. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early.
ASL Interpreted Performance: Sunday, June 3 at 3:30 p.m.
This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive listening devices are also available at the Todd Wehr Theater.
About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences 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 promote literacy, character building, and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts for its Next Steps program for students with autism (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).