By Mary Boyle
The reason live theatre is so important is that it demands empathy. Without even being aware of it, the audience members go on a journey with the characters on the stage in a way that film can never quite acheive. Like Atticus Finch said in To Kill A Mockingbird,
If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view; until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
Live theatre gives us the ability to climb inside another's skin; to experience their story almost first-hand, and truly begin to understand them. This is empathy, and a strong dose of empathy is what the world needs right now. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater understands this, and it's why they created The Neighbor Series: three plays about community that invite conversation about what it means to be a neighbor. The first of these plays is One House Over, which is making its World Premiere at The Rep.
The play is set in Chicago in 2010; President Obama was recently elected, and Joanne Vancura (Elaine Rivkin) is a divorced, progressive, middle-class violin teacher struggling to care for her aging father, Milos (Mark Jacoby). She hires Camila Hernandez (Zoë Sophia Garcia) to be a live-in caretaker, and gives her and her husband, Rafael (Justin Huen), an apartment in the basement of her home. When Joanne finds out that Camila and Rafael are undocumented, she assures them it isn't a problem for her, and that nobody cared about that anymore.
At first Milos, an immigrant himself who escaped Hitler when his parents put him on a train from the Czech Republic, resents his new caregiver and gives both Camila and Joanne a lot of trouble, but Camila gradually wins him over—so well that Joanne feels jealous of their relationship. When Joanne has health problems, Rafael, who is in need of a new job after losing his position as a chef at a local restaurant, offers his services, and he and Joanne's close relationship makes Camila jealous. In the meantime, Joanne's neighbor, Patty (Jeanne Paulsen) isn't thrilled that Joanne has "renters" in her house, which has nothing to do with the ethnicity of said renters, mind you. As personal and professional boundaries become blurrier and blurrier, what seemed at first like an ideal solution threatens to become a giant mess.
Written by Catherine Trieschman, an award-winning new playwright, and directed by The Rep's Artistic Director, Mark Clements, this story could not have come at a better time. As poignant and thought-provoking as it is funny and shocking, One House Over is powerful in its familiarity: these people could be us, or the people around us, just one house over.
One House Over runs through March 25th 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.
Talks and Events
Rep-in-Depth: a pre-show conversation with Justin Huen. Rep-in-Depth occurs approximately 45 minutes before curtain for every performance.
TalkBacks: a discussion with members of the cast and artistic team following the 2 pm performance on the following Sundays: March 11, March 18, and March 25.
"Stories of Immigration: Creating Communities" - Wednesday, March 7, following the performance. Milwaukee's immigrant heritage is present throughout the city--in our dining, shopping, festivals, and more. Join leaders from across Milwaukee to learn how immigrants have helped shape our city and to hear more about the unique vitality of immigrant communities today.
"Building Fences & Walls: Immigration Policy & Sanctuary Cities" Wednesday, March
14, following the performance. Current political policies on immigration are a point of contentious discussion and the idea of sanctuary cities is fraught on the local and national level. This discussion approaches the conversation on a personal and interpersonal level, presenting the real-life stories of those who are at the heart of the debate.
"The Future of Elder Care" Wednesday, March 21, following the performance. As America's elderly population increases, we discuss how the growing need for eldercare affects our city and how local individuals and organizations are supporting and enriching our community through unique senior programs and centers.
The Neighbor Series
This spring, The Rep is launching a community engagement series around One House Over, Until The Flood, and Our Town, that invites the community into a conversation about what it means to be a neighbor. The Rep is responding with a concentrated engagement initiative to connect the stories on stage to the stories of Milwaukee. The Rep will host over 80 Neighbor Series engagement events, from March to May 2018, created from a variety of opportunities for our audiences--and our neighbors—to add their voices, tell their stories, and participate in Milwaukee Rep's initiative to ignite positive change in our community. For more information on these events please visit: https://www.milwaukeerep.com/MKENeighbors
About The Rep
In its 64th Season, Milwaukee Repertory Theater is dedicated to providing the highest level of professional theater to Milwaukee and Wisconsin, in addition to offering a wide range of educational and community programs. 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.