The words of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns, are sung by many on New Year's Eve: We'll drink a cup o' kindness, yet, for days of Auld Lang Syne. Auld Lang Syne means times long past. It is a song of reminiscence; a perfect sentiment to end the year. We give our regards to the past, and welcome the new, which isn't always easy.
In Port Washington, where I live, we said goodbye to a very dear part of our community this past year: Harry's Restaurant.
When my husband and I moved from Cedarburg to Port Washington in the Spring of 1999, one of the first places we came to know and love was Harry's. The owners, Bertie and Dale, recognized my husband from when he went to daycare with their children, but I suspect we would have been warmly welcomed, even if we had been complete strangers.
Harry's quickly became our weekend Cheers - the place where everybody knew our names. We nicknamed Joe, the cook, Satan, because of his pointy goatee. My husband would nudge me as we waited in line for our table: "Satan's in the kitchen - that means our breakfast will be good." Indeed, it was.
Wendy, our favorite waitress, always made time to chat with us. In fact, when I was in the hospital the day after our first child was born in 2002, my husband stopped into Harry's for breakfast. Wendy sent him to the hospital with a slice of Harry's famous Jewish Coffee Cake, and congrats from the staff. She did it again when my husband and my daughter went in for breakfast one June morning in 2005, when my son was born.
My children grew up at Harry's, with Bertie, Dale and Wendy remarking on how much they'd grown with every visit. First, they sat at the high chair. Then, there were the mouse-ear pancake years. Before we knew it, we were splitting the coffee cake over cups of tea and coffee, and they were ordering off of the grown-up menu. My son would pay at the register, then take a spin on the stools at the counter before we would head out the door. Harry's was an era for my family; as it was, I imagine, for many others.
We weren't in town for the party the community had for Harry's, but I stopped in on their last day - the place was bursting at the seams - to give Dale and Bertie a card, and one for Wendy, too. A card to say thanks. A card to say good-bye.
Some people think that Harry's had to close to make room for the new Port Harbour Lights development that is going up as I type this, but that's not true. Bertie and Dale were ready for a well-deserved rest. Some people hope that someone will bring Harry's back when the new space is built; some people don't want that at all, because it wouldn't be the same - and it won't. Dale, Bertie, Wendy, Joe, and the rest of the staff are what made Harry's what it was.
Good byes are hard. We have our memories, though, and we reminisce. We give our regards to the past; then, we take each other's hands and we look to the future. That is what the new year is for.
Why, as Mr. Rogers said, "They're the people that you meet, as you're walking down the street; they're the people that you meet each day!"
If you've been in downtown Cedarburg at all over the past five years, you've likely met Jimmy "the Popcorn Man" Fortunato. It's pretty hard to miss his antique popcorn wagon, parked just south of the Java House on Washington Avenue. Lately, though, you may have noticed that Jimmy hasn't been in his wagon as much as he usually is. We caught up with him to find out why.
Jimmy's a very well-loved local, as the community demonstrated during a cash mob sponsored by Ozaukee Magazine a year and a half ago, where just over $15,000 was raised in four weeks to help keep Jimmy, who had had some serious health issues over the summer of 2013, in business. The fundraiser was a huge success, allowing Jimmy to catch up financially, and get back to business as usual.
This past summer, Jimmy was able to purchase a small, portable, antique popcorn wagon. Unlike his large wagon, this new purchase has enabled Jimmy to travel to events and parties, both indoor and out. Ironically, the success of the small wagon has been so great that it has kept Jimmy away from the big wagon.
"I can't be here enough and, unfortunately, it doesn't make sense, financially, to hire someone to run [the big wagon]," said Jimmy, who put his large wagon up for sale on Craigslist this past September. "I don't want to sell to just anybody, though. I want the wagon to stay here in Cedarburg; in fact, I'm hoping that one of the local non-profits will take it over and use it as a fundraiser, like they did with the Rivoli. It's a fun place to volunteer in."
In the meantime, Jimmy is manning his big wagon on Washington Avenue as often as he can manage, in between parties and events with his portable wagon, but he has no plans to leave the Cedarburg area anytime soon.
"I love all of the people here - they've been so good to me," Jimmy said. "I really hope someone can help me keep the tradition of the popcorn wagon going - it belongs in Cedarburg."
In Shakespeare's day, females were not allowed to act; their roles were played by young men. First Stage's Young Company will turn that tradition on its head with their all- female cast production of All's Well That Ends Well, December 11-20 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center.
The Young Company is the First Stage Academy's advanced actor training program for high school students. Kicking off their 12th season, the Company recently celebrated its fifth, first place finish at the Utah Shakespeare Festival/Southern Utah University Shakespeare Competition in October. Young Company member, Alison Pogorelc (who plays Helena in this production), won the Larry Lott award for outstanding performance in an ensemble, and placed first in monologues.
Directed by Marcella Kearns, Young Company's All's Well is a condensed version of Shakespeare's play, that keeps the original language and heart of the story intact, while making the length more suitable for modern audiences. The Young Company generally stages two Shakespeare productions each season, and any fan of the Bard would approve; their performances are as good, or better, than any professional company I've seen.
All's Well is the story of Bertram, Count of Rossillion (played brilliantly by Mary Elsa Henrichs), and Helena (Alison Pogorelc). Helena is a commoner, but she heals the King of France (Zoey Knox), and is given her choice of men to wed. She chooses her love, Bertram, but Bertram doesn't appreciate the King telling him what to do, and runs off to fight for Florence to escape his forced marriage. With the help of Bertram's mother, the Countess of Rossillion (Isabelle Abbott), and Diana (Megan Watson), Bertram's love interest, can Helena win her unwilling husband? Keep a sharp eye out for Bertram's flawed friend, Parolles (an outstanding performance by Maddie Penzkover), and the brothers Dumaine (Alex and Sydney Salter), as well as the hysterical Lavatch (Maddy Folstein). The all female cast works beautifully in this production -- I believe the Bard, himself, would be proud.
The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center located at 325 W. Walnut Street, Milwaukee. Tickets are $14. Tickets and more information is available at www.firststage.org or through the First Stage box office at (414) 267-2961.
PERFORMANCE DATES: ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL opens Friday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. Additional performances will be held on Saturday, December 12 at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m.; Sunday, December 13 at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m.; Friday, December 18 at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 19 at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, December 20 at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m.
About Young Company
Young Company is the advanced, college-level actor training program at First Stage Theater Academy. Students take part in course work with Associate Artistic Director and Director of the Young Company John Maclay, professional actors Matt Daniels and Marcy Kearns and others. The curriculum includes work on a variety of theater skills including Acting Theory, Shakespeare, Voice & Speech, and Movement. The Young Company has participated in the Utah Shakespeare Festival/Southern Utah University High School Shakespeare Competition for the past nine years, winning the Essex division overall sweepstakes award for highest total team score. Young Company members also appear in productions throughout the year and are student leaders in the First Stage community.
About First Stage
Since 1987, 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; unparalleled Theater Academy training that fosters life skills through stage skills; and dynamic Theater in Education programs that promote active learning in our schools and community. 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 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).
The well-known English author, Charles Dickens, is probably best known for his instantly successful 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. In fact, the main character's name, "Scrooge," has become a commonplace term, synonymous with greed and meanness, and the story, itself, has shaped the celebration of Christmas for over 170 years.
A Christmas Carol has been performed as a play for nearly as long as it has been in publication, and this year marks the 40th year of the production by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. The historic Pabst Theater, while not quite as old as the story, creates a perfect Victorian setting for the play, which is an annual tradition for many area families and schools.
Dickens often used his writing to comment on the social issues of his day. While we've managed to correct some of the worst problems the poor in Victorian England were subject to, such as child labor and lack of public sanitation, the themes of greed and charity, and forgiveness and redemption, still resonate with today's audiences -- particularly during this season of giving.
If you haven't found your Christmas Spirit yet, look no further than The Rep's production of A Christmas Carol.
In A Christmas Carol, directed by Brent Hazelton (based on Original Direction by Aaron Posner), greed is represented by Ebeneezer Scrooge (Jonathan Smoots), while the poor are represented by Scrooge's employee, Bob Cratchit (Jonathan Wainwright), his wife (Malkia Stampley), and his six children -- including the crippled and sickly Tiny Tim (Amalia Cecsarini), of course. Scrooge is offered a chance at redemption for his wicked ways by the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley (Chike Johnson), and is told that he will be visited by three Spirits: Christmas Past (Deborah Staples), Christmas Present (Bethany Thomas), and Christmas Future (Martin Hanna).
Two characters represent goodness and the Christmas Spirit in the play: Scrooge's nephew, and only son of his beloved sister, Fan (Georgina Pink): Fred (Chris Klopatek); and, Smudge (Jack Trettin), who gets the honor of purchasing the prize goose at the end.
This year's cast is simply brilliant. Keep a sharp eye out for Mr. Topper (Michael Doherty), who will give you tears of laughter, even as the carolers bring you tears of joy (particularly the amazing voice of of Bethany Thomas, as Christmas Present). If you haven't found your Christmas Spirit yet, look no further than The Rep's production of A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol runs through December 24th at The Pabst Theater in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased online at www.MilwaukeeRep.org, by calling the ticket office at (414) 224-9490, or in person at the ticket office (108 E. Wells St.).
The Belgium Area Chamber of Commerce, Village of Belgium, and Luxembourg American Cultural Center will have their 2nd Annual European Christmas, this Saturday, December 5th, from 4:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The event begins with a parade at 4:30, beginning at Beech Street and ending at Peter Thein. Then, head to the Village Square for children's activities, offered by the Belgium Community Club. In the heated tent, visitors will find hot chocolate; food from Bic's Place, The Cedar Beach Inn, and Lake Church Pub and Grill; and, homemade crafts from local vendors.
There will be a Christmas tree lighting and caroling, as well as a bonfire by the Belgium Fire Department. It is also rumored that St. Nick will be in attendance!
Christmas is happening in Port Washington this Saturday, December 6th, and there is something for everyone!
The day starts with the Port Washington Indoor Farmers Market, from 9-1 at the First Congregational Church on Webster Street. In addition to the usual local food and goods, the market will have Christmas Cookies for sale, as well as the beautiful piano music of local wonder, Anthony Deutsch. If you haven't gotten your Christmas tree yet, you can get one right outside the church. If that's not one-stop local Christmas shopping, I don't know what is!
Port Washington's annual Christmas on the Corner begins at 3 p.m. Meet live reindeer, and see a live nativity, or take a carriage ride through beautiful downtown Port Washington. Carolers will sing, and many of the local businesses will have special attractions and sales, including an Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt for kids! Kids can write their letters to Santa at the Blue Heron Artisans, or decorate cookies at Dockside Deli. They can also get their picture taken with Elsa and Anna (of Frozen fame) at Biever Travel, or a photo with Santa at Port Washington State Bank.
Gallery 224 Studios, located in the lower level of the Boerner Building, will be hosting a reception and open house during the event for their latest exhibit, "Family Matters." Visitors can tour the studio and darkroom, and meet the current Artists in Residence.
Visitors who help decorate the tree at the Port Exploreum and make a donation to the Food Pantry will receive a wristband to watch the fireworks from the 2nd floor deck.
The tree lighting kicks-off the parade at 6:15 p.m., followed by Ozaukee's only winter fireworks, right on the lakefront! This is an event you don't want to miss. Learn more at visitportwashington.com, or call (262) 268-1132.