By Mary Boyle
Perhaps no other man captured the spirit and life of early 20th Century America like Carl Sandburg. A true renaissance man and raconteur, Sandburg was born and raised in Galesville, Illinois and, after graduating eight grade, he went on to try just about every path a man of his time could try: laborer, hobo, soldier, college student, political activist, poet, journalist, biographer, musician, husband, and father. He traveled the country and the world, collecting the folksongs and stories of the people, adding stories and poetry of his own, and became the voice and memory of his generation.
Not everyone knows that Sandburg spent some of his most formative years in Milwaukee. The Cream City is where Sandburg met his wife and lifelong love, Lilian Steichen, when they both worked as organizers for the Wisconsin Social Democratic Party. Sandburg's concern and passion for the American worker formed the underpinnings of the majority of his work; work that has always been a favorite of Milwaukee native and well-known local actor, Jonathan Gillard Daly, who has spent nearly four years working to bring the Sandburg experience to a new generation. How fitting is it that the World Premier of The Eagle In Me: An Evening Of Carl Sandburg took place in Milwaukee, and was conceived, written and performed by a son of Milwaukee, in honor of one of the city's most esteemed residents? Talk about making history...
The show is simply Daly channeling what one of Sandburg's traveling performances likely consisted of around 1920: his poetry interspersed with the folksongs he collected and a smattering of small talk and observations, while simultaneously telling the story of Sandburg's life in chronological order. Though it's clear that Daly isn't an accomplished or confident guitarist, his skills are enough to carry the show at an even pace. Literature fans will likely recognize Sandburg's most popular poems, The Fog and Chicago, while folksong aficionados will most assuredly recognize the pieces Daly selected to share from Sandburg's famous American Songbag, published in 1927, including Hallelujah, I'm a Bum and Lincoln and Liberty.
Gale Childs Daly, who is both Director of the play and wife of its sole actor, said that Sandburg had a profound influence on her life. In high school, a teacher encouraged her to sign up for Forensics because she thought she would be good at interpreting poetry. Of all the poets on the list she was handed to choose from, Sandburg was the only name she recognized, and it was his book of children's poems (the only book of Sandburg's her school library had) that she selected poems from, winning first place in her first tournament. Adding more Sandburg to her repertoire, Daly went on to win many more tournaments, and "Forensics led to drama, drama led to a double major of English and Theatre in college, and that led to a 45 year career in show business." In fact, the Daly's credit Sandburg with their marriage: Jonathan recited one of Sandburg's stories to Gale when they met, and she knew they were fated to be together. "We've come full circle," she said.
Besides the Daly family, the production had a dedicated crew of Milwaukee theatre people who helped get it off the ground, including Michael Wright and Marcella Kearns at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, who hosted and guided the first public reading, and David Cecsarini of Next Act Theater, who guided its second reading. Finally, Chris and Jane Flieller of In Tandem Theatre Company agreed to give the production a home for its World Premiere; I can only imagine that the casual, easy atmosphere of the Tenth Street Theatre is a place that Carl Sandburg would have appreciated.
Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful, lest you let other people spend it for you.
The Eagle In Me: An Evening Of Carl Sandburg runs through October 21st at the Tenth Street Theatre, located at 628 N. 10th St. in Milwaukee. Tickets are available by calling 414-271-1371, or online at http://www.intandemtheatre.org/events/carl-sandburg/
By Mary Boyle
Voices Found Repertory is a relatively new and small theatre company in Milwaukee with a strong and dedicated focus on classical works, particularly by Shakespeare (their inaugural 2016/17 season consisted of no less than five of the Bard's works). Now in their third season, the troupe takes on the Bard's bloodiest, most violent play: Titus Andronicus.
The tale is inspired by one of Ovid's Metamorphoses stories, Procne and Philomel, which is actually referenced in the play. In the Bard's version, Titus Andronicus (Maya Danks) is a soldier and hero of Rome, returning home from war with the Goths. His prisoners are the Queen of the Goths, Tamora (Robin Lewis), and three of her sons. Despite Tamora's pleading, Titus sacrifices her firstborn son, and she and her two remaining sons, Chiron (Donald Kozinski) and Demetrius (Thomas Sebald), vow to get their revenge. As it happens, Rome is in need of a new emperor, and Bassianus (Robert Torres), who is promised to Titus's daughter, Lavinia (Alexis Furseth), loses to Saturninus (Kyle Conner). Saturninus claims Lavinia for his bride and Titus agrees, but Bassianus runs off with Lavinia, so Saturninus chooses Tamora, instead. With the help of her servant and lover, a Moor named Aaron (Brittany Faye Byrnes), and her two sons, Tamora sets about taking her revenge against Titus Andronicus, who goes from a hero to "the woefullest man to ever live in Rome."
Unlike Shakespeare's other tragedies, Titus has almost no humor to balance the non-stop horrors of this intense and bloody tale, and this production does not spare the blood — the tiny, sparse stage at the Underground Collaborative is downright sticky with it by the play's end, and yet they manage to keep it from becoming trite or farcical. Though the play is well-cast and admirably acted, it's not difficult to understand why this particular tale is rarely told; on the other hand, the rare chance to see it performed is a large part of its appeal. The sparse staging works, but they could have gone farther — I would have preferred to see the production look more like their video teaser, with the actors and stage all in black, stark and modern. Still, a worthy telling of an ancient tale.
Directed by Hannah Kubiak, Titus Andronicus runs through October 7th at the Underground Collaborative, located at 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee in the basement of the Grand Avenue Mall. This play contains violence and mature themes, and is not recommended for anyone under the age of 16. Tickets are $12 and available for purchase at https://vfrtitus.brownpapertickets.com/. For more information about Voices Found Repertory, visit their website at www.voicesfoundrep.com.
By Mary Boyle
By now, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a household name, which is an unprecedented happening for someone who writes Broadway musicals. His 2016 Broadway hit, Hamilton, garnered 16 Tony nominations and achieved 11 wins, along with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Grammy for the Best Musical Theater Album, and more. More recently, he contributed music for film blockbusters Moana and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, bolstering his fame even further. But, before all of that, there was his first musical: a tribute to Washington Heights, a largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood in the upper end of Manhattan near where Miranda grew up, and an unabashed ode to America's melting pot. After taking Broadway by storm in 2008, Miranda's first musical earned an impressive 13 Tony nominations and 4 wins, as well as being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, bringing Miranda into the limelight and paving the way for his success to come. Now, In the Heights will take The Rep's stage by storm, and it's the perfect way to celebrate their 65th Anniversary Season.
In the Heights is the story of of Usnavi de la Vega (Ryan Alvarado), the role Miranda originally played. Like Miranda, Usnavi was the child of immigrants, though Usnavi's came from the Dominican Republic to New York, while Miranda's came from Puerto Rico. After his parents passed away, Usnavi was left with their bodega and Abuela Claudia (Yassmin Alers) to care for. Usnavi's younger cousin, Sonny (Nicolas Garza), helps with the bodega in the summer, and is doing his best to set Usnavi up with Vanessa (Stephanie Gomerez), the girl Usnavi has is eye on, but is too shy to ask out. Gossip goes around the neighborhood as fast as Usnavi's coffee, and the community is abuzz with the news that Nina Rosario (Sophia Macias) is home for the summer after her first year at Stanford. Nina's parents, Camila (Karmine Alers) and Kevin (Tony Chiroldes), own the local cab service, and their daughter is the first from the neighborhood to go to college, but Nina comes home with bad news: she couldn't keep her grades up while having to work two jobs to pay for what her scholarship didn't cover, and she lost her scholarship. In their community, success has always meant getting out of the Heights, but as Nina finds love with Benny (David Kaverman), an employee at her parent's shop, and Usnavi finds love with Vanessa, they begin to realize there's no place like home.
Directed by Associate Artistic Director, May Adrales, The Rep pulled out all the stops for this production. Nearly everyone in the cast has been in the production before; in fact, Tony Chiroldes (Kevin Rosario) was an original Broadway cast member and Ryan Alvarado (Usnavi) was a cast member in the National Tour of Hamilton, as well as being in three different productions of In the Heights (furthermore, he is a ringer for Miranda). Yassmin Alers, another In the Heights alumni, is stunning as Abuela Claudia while — fun fact — her sister, Karmine Alers, plays Camila Rosario. The vocal stand-outs of the show, interestingly, are the three who don't have the production on their resume: Stephanie Gomerez (Vanessa), David Kaverman (Benny), and Sophia Macias (Nina), but they are Broadway-quality singers, nonetheless. The scene-stealers of the show are Lillian Castillo and Alyssa V. Gomez, who play Daniela and Carla from the local salon, and Henry Gainza as the "Piragua Guy" (I promise it will be his song that will be stuck in your head when the show ends). The live band, directed by Dan Kazemi, is simply phenomenal, which is essential to this production, as the music is as much a part of Washington Heights as the people are.
Although the neighborhood in the play is in the Heights, it mirrors the immigrant experience all over our country, including in Milwaukee. Beginning in the 1920's, the tanneries around what is now known as the Walker's Point neighborhood actively recruited workers from Mexico, which formed the beginning of Wisconsin's largest Spanish-speaking community. As the community thrived, immigrants from Puerto Rico and Cuba also settled, creating a rich cultural identity united by their shared language and experience. As in Washington Heights, Walkers Point is struggling with gentrification; as property values and the cost of living in the neighborhood increase, many people who had called the neighborhood home are forced out, changing the cultural and economic fabric of the community.
Beyond being a song-writing genius, a large part of Lin-Manuel Miranda's success is representing America's minorities on Broadway, and bringing the stories that are so much a part of the story of our Country into the dialogue, at last, in an incredibly powerful way. Being the child of very successful immigrants, Miranda grew up with one foot in the world of what is normally considered white privilege and one in the immigrant experience, which is what gives him the unique ability to bridge the gap between the two worlds. The Rep's mission is to 'ignite 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;' bringing In the Heights to Milwaukee audiences unquestionably fulfills that mission. A profoundly emotional roller-coaster ride of a musical, In the Heights will give you all the feels.
In the Heights runs through October 28th at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, located within the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex at 108 E. Wells St. in Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 224-9490, in-person at the Box Office, or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com.
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
The Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin, in terms of audiences served, and one of the largest professional theaters in the country. Each year, The Rep welcomes up to 275,000 people at nearly 700 performances of 15 productions, ranging from compelling dramas, powerful classics, new plays, and full-scale musicals in its three unique performance venues: the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio, and Stackner Cabaret. Now in its 65th Season, The Rep has gained a national reputation as an incubator of new work, an agent of community change, and a forward-thinking provider of .vital arts education programs. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Executive 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.
By Mary Boyle
The Tony award-winning musical, Pippin, is about the son of Charlemagne, the 8th Century King of the Franks and Lombards, and the very first Holy Roman Emperor at the beginning of the 9th Century. Though the story is based in history and contains a similar morality message common to the time period, the musical is anything but what might be considered classical theatre; and yet, the musical, itself, has a powerful history of its own. In Broadway history, Pippin is widely considered a game-changer— a revolutionary work that set the tone for every other Broadway production to follow. There is no better place for such a musical history legend to be performed than with Skylight Musical Theatre, who opens their season with Pippin this September 21st through October 27th at the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center in Milwaukee.
Pippin (Lucus Pastrana) has returned home from school to his father, Charlemagne (Todd Denning), and is hoping to find fulfillment and meaning in his life. Led by a magician known as the Leading Player (Krystal Drake), Pippin explores the glory of war, the passion of the flesh, the power of ruling, and even dabbles in the arts and religion, but everything leaves him feeling empty. The rest of his family can't seem to help him: his eccentric Grandmother, Berthe (Elaine Pasons Herro), means well, but his stepmother, Fastrada (Kathryn Hausman), and her "strong and stupid son, Lewis (Alex Campea), would rather get rid of Pippin to clear their own path to power. In his despair, Pippin is found by Catherine (Natalie Ford), a widow with one son, Theo (Ayana Strutz), who hopes to make a husband out of Pippin. Though the bonds begin to grow between them, Pippin still believes that there must be something more extraordinary in his life that he has yet to find that will fulfill him.
Directed by Skylight's Artistic Director, Ray Jivoff, who is completing his final year after 20 years on the Skylight staff in various roles, and with Music Direction by David Bonofiglio, Pippin is best for mature audiences who don't mind a lot of sexual innuendo and an occasional, well-placed swear word. Skylight loves to work with Milwaukee artists, and this production brought on two who made a notable Skylight debut: Todd Denning, who played Charlemagne, is a Milwaukee favorite, for good reason, but this was his first turn on the Skylight stage, while UW Milwaukee graduate, Krystal Drake, makes a spectacular Skylight debut as a sleek, powerful Leading Player. Alex Campea as Lewis, Natalie Ford as Catherine, and Kathryn Hausman as Fastrada return to the Skylight stage as seasoned veterans, as well as Lucas Pastrana, who shone as Pippin. Pay particular attention to Elaine Parsons Herro who plays Berthe. Herro was a regular on the Skylight stage in the 1980's, and makes a triumphant return in this production.
The music and lyrics of Pippin were written by Stephen Schwartz, who, at the young age of 26, had three hits running on Broadway: Godspell, Pippin, and The Magic Show. What made Pippin stand out among them, and influence every show thereafter, was the choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse, which created a dark, sophisticated aura to what would otherwise have been a rather naive production. Schwartz is better known today for the music and lyrics for Wicked, while Fosse is synonymous with the musical Chicago. Pippen likely fell from the limelight largely because the music, in particular, feels very dated to the year it made its debut: 1972. The musical made a Broadway revival in 2013 because the political and religious commentary in it applied so well to the current culture, and that is still true. Moreover, the underlying message of Pippin is timeless: that ordinary life is extraordinary when one has love.
Pippin runs through October 7th at the Cabot Theatre, located within the Broadway Theatre Center, at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (414) 291-7800, Monday – Saturday, noon - 6 p.m. Box Office hours are noon - 6 p.m., and the Box Office window is also open two hours prior to each performance. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.skylightmusictheatre.org.
About Skylight Music Theatre
Skylight Music Theatre’s mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition. Skylight presents productions “Skylight Style” – bringing fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works, creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage but with the audience as well. The beautiful, intimate Cabot Theatre allows audiences to feel close to the powerful emotions on stage.
By Mary Boyle
Residents of, and visitors to, Port Washington's harbor may have noticed a new ship over the course of the summer. Her name is JAKAB, and she's a smaller-scale replica of a 1929 to 1937 America's Cup J-Class racing sloop. Her Captain, Andrew Sadock, is also Captain of the well-known tall ship, Red Witch, but he wasn't always at the helm of a sailing ship; in fact, he took a very unusual path to his current role.
"I attended medical school with the intention to become a pediatric psychiatrist," Sadock said. "I became disillusioned with the primary strategy of prescribing medications -- so I quit med school [and] lived in California, learning holistic medicine at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, with indigenous healers from China, India, Ecuador, Tibet and Brazil. While at Esalen, I met America's first T'ai Chi champion, who invited me to San Francisco to learn Dragon and Tiger Qi Gong (a proactive healing method). While there, I lived aboard a sailboat in Sausalito, as it was affordable, and that's when I learned to sail."
About 17 years ago, Sadock returned to Chicago to care for his parents while he worked on writing books about holistic psychology and bioenergetics. Needing other employment, he was offered a job at Oakton Community College working in financial development, but only lasted an hour in his new "office" — a closet-sized room with no windows. As he drove to North Avenue Beach in Chicago he called his father, who suggested Sadock visit Navy Pier and apply for a job on the big boats. He was offered an $8 per hour job essentially carrying garbage, which he did for two years before becoming captain of the largest architectural tour boat on Lake Michigan, where he piloted 200,000 passengers on 3,500 architectural tours.
In 2011, Sadock bought the Red Witch, a tall ship that was voted Chicago's "Best Tour and Charter Boat" in 2009, 2010, and 2012 (3rd overall) by the prestigious Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine. In 2017, Sadock decided to move Red Witch to Kenosha, where the Tall Ships Challenge will be held in 2019. Meanwhile, Sadock had purchased JAKAB in 2014, and proceeded to spend the next 3 years converting her from a recreational hull to a U.S. Coast Guard-approved commercial tour boat. JAKAB served St. Clair, Michigan in 2017, and then sailed from Port Huron, MI to Port Washington this past June.
The name of the sailboat is in honor of Sadock's father, who passed away while Sadock was rebuilding the vessel, and the rest of his immediate family, with each letter being the first initial of a family member's name. The name is "Jacob" in Hungarian, which is how most people pronounce it, though some go with "Yah-Kub" — either way is fine, as far as Sadock is concerned.
Passengers are often surprised to find that sailing on the JAKAB is a very different experience than on tall ships like Red Witch or the Denis Sullivan. For one thing, JAKAB is much faster — especially in winds under 20 knots (Sadock compared it to a ride in a race car as opposed to a wagon ride), as tall ships are heavy and racing ships are designed to sail fast in light winds. Despite its slim look and speediness, the JAKAB is actually more stable than a tall ship, as it is designed for ocean racing in heavy seas and, despite the openness of the deck, passengers need not worry about getting wet (unless it rains on them — in which case, they can make use of the large, commodious cabin below-deck).
While Sadock continues to write books, it's unlikely he will retire from sailing anytime soon. "I love the serenity of sailing, and bringing people to nature," Sadock explained. Though the sailing season is coming to an end for this year, between the JAKAB in Port and the Red Witch in Kenosha, Sadock should get in plenty of sailing, as well as driving back and forth along Lake Michigan, beginning next June.
The JAKAB can comfortably accommodate 34 passengers, and is available for private and public sails out of Port Washington's harbor. For more information, see www.sailportwashington.com.