The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards

Sunset Playhouse‘s Annual Volunteer Choice Awards were last night and everything about them made me feel so proud, so utterly delighted, to be connected with such a fabulous network of people. But before I begin delivering my run-down of the evening’s events I must first share my amazing new culinary discovery from the reception for those of you who can’t abide reading more than a paragraph or two of blogs: Tim Gensler’s much discussed and highly sought after…

Jell-o Powder Covered Grapes

grapesAccording to Gensler, one of Sunset’s resident Jacques-of-All-Trades and chef extraordinaire for the evening’s appetizers, you take the grapes, right? And you get ’em a little wet– not too wet or they get all clumpy– and dust them with Jell-o powder; cherry for the red grapes, lime for the green. Pop ’em in the fridge or the freezer for about an hour to get them to firm up a little, and voilà: A tasty summertime snack guaranteed to get a hundred+ people asking “what those little grape looking things are” and then coming back for seconds, and thirds, of “whatever the heck they are.”

“Let’s go out to the lobby…”

Sunset’s special night officially began at 6pm with a wine/ beer/ soda bar in the lobby, catering to some of the choicest mingling this actress is likely to experience until next year’s awards show. Everywhere you turned was a person, a conversation, a memory which served as a brilliant reminder of why this room was filled with all these people in the first place: We love creating theatre together.

What a place!

(And thank you thank you thank you to Jean J. and Chuck U. for the wonderful conversation and the extremely kind words. You warmed my heart more than you can possibly know!)

The Awards Ceremony…

…got rolling at 7pm with a song from Vasiliki Fafalios, an area high school student participating in Sunset’s “Rising Stars” program. It sounded like no one in the audience realized she was so young until we were told as much after her delightful rendition of “You’re the Top,” at which time the audience was filled with whispers of “She’s in high school?!” I’m fairly certain it’s a good sign when you leave an entire audience shocked by your age in the wake of your obvious talent.

Next on the stage was MC Ken Smith, presumably given the honor because he has the best beard on the Board of Directors. Hey: When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. He introduced Inge Adams who was to present the award for Best Supporting Actor. It went to David Kaye for his performance as Tim Allgood in Noises Off, but unfortunately dude wasn’t there to receive it. I made sure to give him what for on Facebook as soon as I got home, though, so that’s all taken care of.

Cindy Zauner then floated onto the stage in a lovely… in a colorful… in… in– well in just a joltingly godawful mess of a bridesmaid’s dress to sing “Always A Bridesmaid” from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! As though I didn’t have enough reasons for being terribly disappointed in myself for not seeing that show, I can now add this little number to my list of reasons to kick myself for missing it. Cindy was too stinkin’ funny. The audience ate her up.

The only award one can give when dressed in something so, so, so terribly unattractive is, naturally, the award for Best Costume Design, which went to Sue Fromm for her work on Escanaba in da Moonlight. Rock on, Sue! Besides being one of the sweetest people on Sunset’s volunteer roster, she’s also quite the talented hand at dressin’ folks it would seem. She certainly got my vote.

Social Security: S. Loveridge, B. Krah

Social Security: S. Loveridge, B. Krah

Bryce Lord, director of this Spring’s Social Security, had the opportunity to present the award for Best Supporting Actress to one of his own: Bonnie Krah. I could fill an entire blog entry with praise for Bonnie, but I would no doubt lose the few of you still reading due to the length of it, so I’ll leave it at this: Bonnie Krah was hands down the best choice for this award. She gave a fantastic performance and the voting could not possibly have gone any other way. Bonnie was also not in attendance, much to my dismay, so I shall have to rib her good naturedly for it the next time I see her before proceeding with my usual Bonnie Accolades.

Another musical number to keep things hoppin’? Don’t mind if I do! Kyle Breitzman performed “Luck Be A Lady” because he figured, as Ken Smith shared with us, “It’s short, easy, and relevant.” Smart fellow, that Breitzman. Smart indeed.

Brenda Gravelle, last year’s recipient of the Unsung Hero Award, presented this year’s to Sue Fromm, who you may remember from such awards as Best Costume Design. Way to rake ’em in, Sue. There’s a lot of heart and a lot of drive in that woman. An asset to any company and dearly appreciated by Sunset.

Best Lighting Design went to Marty Wallner for Escanaba, presented via a flip tablet by Erika Navin, winner of the Ruth Arnell’s Annual Best Glasses Award. Marty really pulled off some pretty neat effects in this one that were hopefully as much fun for him to put together as they were for us in the audience to watch.

Escanaba: R. Zimmerman, A. Lien, J. Bloomingdale, M. Patten, G. Villa

Escanaba in da Moonlight: R. Zimmerman, A. Lien, J. Bloomingdale, M. Patten, G. Villa

Mark Salentine’s remarks on the importance of sound design in theatre, a fun little giggle-inducer to remind us all how much we truly depend on ringing phones and Jan Pritzl, was delightfully punctuated by Matthew Patten, the presenter of the Old-Timer Award to Inge Tiberius Adams. Wait- scratch that. Make that the Newcomer Award to Andy Lien. Lien swears up and down he hasn’t acted since high school, but his spot on comic timing and delivery in Escanaba sure do make a body wonder. Terrific actor, friendly guy, can grow a decent beard; Lien’s a gem and Sunset’s all the better for having found him.

More music? Bring it on! The fourth song of the evening was from next season’s Mid-life! The Crisis Musical, with Mark Salentine and Doug Jarecki as Mary DeBattista’s hapless, helpless would-be lovers. There’s something so charming about a woman who can maintain artistic composure and powerful breath support while straddling a park bench…

Jacquelyn Ranallo and Lena Tomaszek went home with the No Small Parts Award from Anne Gorski for their contributions in I Love You… It was kind of a cute award to see given as the adorable Tomaszek had been the one actually handing out all of the evening’s awards. It was nice seeing her finally get to hang on to one!

Doug Jarecki and Jason Powell were up next with a little improv game (the Alphabet Game, for the curious among you) to entertain the troops, who were duly entertained. Incidentally, JASON POWELL’S HILARIOUS ORIGINAL MUSICAL COMEDY INVADER? I HARDLY KNOW HER! OPENS AT THE ALCHEMIST THEATER ON SEPTEMBER 10, 2009, which is cool.

Same Time...: C. Gamino, S. Hughes

Same Time…: C. Gamino, S. Hughes

Doug was also there to present this year’s Best Actress Award to a very talented young woman, Sarah Laak Hughes, for her performance in Same Time Next Year. This was another show I did not get to see, but having seen Sarah’s work elsewhere I can only agree wholeheartedly with the vote on this one as I’m sure she was teriffic in the role. Not to mention the mad props you’re almost duty-bound to give to any actor who survives a two person show with their sanity so graciously intact.

The Best Actor Award, presented by Mary DeBattista, went to Matthew Patten for his performance in Escanaba and I figure there’d’ve been a bona fide mutiny had he not won for his work in that show. You want a brilliant character actor? This guy’s the real deal, and he works flatullance-joke-loving audiences like a charm. And no, they did not let him keep the red long underwear.

An Awards Night tradition I was glad to see continue was that of Mark Salentine delivering a review of the season as a whole to the tune of a well known song from a musical. This year’s review, to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, allowed us to reminisce together about the joys of Sarah Laak Hughes, and the pain of patrons who are shocked at the idea that infidelity might make its way into a plot. Ah theatre.

A Sunset original, the Rudy Award, is presented every year by Rudy Miskowitch to a volunteer who goes above and beyond the call of duty to bring the season’s productions to a whole new level of quality through their hard work and dedication. This year’s recipient was Marty Wallner, a man who embodies the phrase “to know ‘im is to love ‘im.” Congratulations Marty!

Escanaba: J. Bloomingdale, A. Lien, M. Patten, R. Zimmerman

Escanaba in da Moonlight: J. Bloomingdale, A. Lien, M. Patten, R. Zimmerman

The biggest award of the night, Best Show, was presented by Sunset’s new Managing Director Jonathan West, he of bow-ties-and-blogging fame. The top three nominees were Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner, Escanaba in da Moonlight, and Noises Off. And the award goes to: ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT!

I couldn’t see this award going anywhere else. If Sunset could remount one production to present year after year with the same direction, actors, and set, it would have to be this one. Featuring an absolute dream cast under the delightful direction of Mark Salentine (and my God do you see the costumes and the set in these pictures?! Gorgeous!), this was far and away my favorite show of the year and a true testament to the professional quality theatre one finds at Sunset Playhouse.

Another “Rising Star” at Sunset, high school student Allie Babich, brought the awards ceremony to a close with a performance of “Stars and Moon” which I heard one audience member say brought tears to his eyes. When people tell this young lady “You’ll go places, kid!” I sure hope she knows they aren’t just whistlin’ Dixie. Beautiful voice, lovely presentation. Thank you Allie.


Tosa Jazz, directed by Donna Kummer, serenaded the audience into the studio theatre for a swingin’ reception. One thing for which you can always count on Sunset Playhouse is a delicious, buffet style spread at every event they host. Last night’s was no exception, and yes I went back for thirds. Oh and happy anniversary to Jim and Susan Loveridge! Y’all were so cute out there on the dance floor.

Music, dancing, food, wine, art, friends, laughter. We who had the opportunity to enjoy such things together on a warm, summer night should be thanking our lucky stars. And for those still looking for such a place of their own, well it’s real easy…

You take 94 West from Milwaukee and get off at the Mooreland Rd. North exit over by Brookfield Square Mall. Hang a right on Bluemound, a left on Elm Grove Rd., and a right on Wall St. Sunset Playhouse will be on your right. Shouldn’t miss it. ;)

Sunset Playhouse: Mid-season Musical Auditions

Looking for some good comedic singers/actors for next week’s auditions.  Please pass on the message!

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

A hilarious musical revue by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts
January 16-18, 22-25, 29-February 1, 2009

This musical comedy pays tribute to those who have loved and lost, who have fallen on their faces at the portal of romance, and those who have dared to ask, “Say, what are you doing Saturday night?” Act I explores the journey from dating and waiting to love and marriage, while Act II reveals the agonies and triumphs of in-laws and newborns, family car trips and pick-up techniques of the geriatric set.

SUNSET PLAYHOUSE announces auditions for their mid-season musical, I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE. Auditions will take place Monday, November 3, from 7-10 pm and the following Monday, November 10, from 7-10 pm at the Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road. Callbacks will be held on Tuesday, November 11. Roles are available for two men and two women looking in their 30s-40s. Bring 32 bars of sheet music in your key; an accompanist will be provided. Be ready for some movement and be prepared for readings from the script. The show will be directed by Mark Salentine, with musical direction by Donna Kummer. Rehearsals begin December 15-January 15, usually 7-10 PM, Monday through Friday, with some weekend times. Show dates are January 16, 2008, through February 1, 2009, Thursdays through Sundays. For more information call (262) 782-4431, ext. 302, or visit

(The original audition notice was not in the media, so please forward this message to other interested parties.)


I’ve seen this show done before and it really is pretty funny. :) And Mark and Donna are great to work with! So if you live in the Milwaukee area and are looking for something to audition for where you get to do a li’l singin’ and dancin’, you should totally check out this audition.

Godspell and Carrie: The first sin was intercourse.

“I know not, sir, whether Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare, but if he did not it seems to me that he missed the opportunity of his life.”
James M. Barrie

From “The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 17.2 percent of Americans ages 25 or older had completed a bachelor’s degree as of 2005. About 30 percent had graduated from high school.”

I hope that if I ever have kids I am able to decide on a name sooner than when the kid is three weeks old. :S


I just finished watching Godspell and when it first started up there was so much in the imagery that I just did. not. understand.

“Jesus is a crying clown,” for example.

A lot of really sweet moments, though. And GREAT staging and use of “found” items. I mean really really visually engaging. The costumes, the hair, the dancing, the songs– oh God, the songs are as great and memorable as ever!- it was truly a delight. An occasionally weird but always entertaining delight…

…which missed the point entirely.

Even from a non-religious standpoint, even just as an oft-retold cultural myth, the point of the story- the point of the whole book– is that Jesus. Comes. Back!

And in the movie you come to love him, you love the love his “followers” have for him; it’s beautiful, it’s touching, he’s betrayed, he dies, they carry him away singing… and then the credits roll!

I was sitting here near tears (believe me: I was as surprised as you that this hippie Bible story got me so good), on the edge of my seat about what cool way the director and the writers would work the resurrection into a retelling of the Jesus story that involves roller skates on rooftops, when they delivered a disappointment that far outweighed the plot points that had made it so enjoyable up until that point: Jesus didn’t come back.

So why’d they do it this way? I’m not seeing their read on it. I don’t understand why they’d tell this story- which comes with a built-in awesome ending (the ultimate good guy wins the ultimate battle!)- and then undercut the whole thing by leaving him dead. What’s up with that?



Now I’m watching Carrie and… Did ANYONE’s high school locker room resemble this one? I mean– who even had time to take a shower at the end of gym class? Let alone have time to feel themselves up porno style out in the open where all the other girls can see you?

And how is it possible that every girl in Carrie’s class- without exception- is that susceptible to mob mentality that they’d attack a screaming, crying, naked girl, wailing for help, and clearly confused beyond reason about getting her period?

Anyone read the original story? How does King play this out in the book?

And were *any* of the actresses who played the main girls *anywhere* near 18? And is the ugly one the secretary from “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off”?

Also: That gym teacher is totally kicking ass right now. I would gladly go back in time, become a gym teacher, and get a girlfriend if it meant I could chew those bitches out like that. Hot diggity!

And now: Back to the crazy.

One singular sensation? *pffft* I’ll believe it when I see it…

I’m watching “A Chorus Line” (the movie version, not a taped version of the stage show) and man I just don’t get it. These songs SUCK!!

And I’m trying my darndest to judge them after taking into account my personal music preferences which include a marked absence of synth-drums spewed from the bowels of hell circa 1983. I’m talking about the songs themselves– they’re… bad. Maybe they get better later on? Right now the black guy is singing that “Surprise” song. But so far? Oh God. Just tripe. Boring tripe. With crappy lyrics. Just awful. And 93% of these people can’t sing their way out of a Ziplock!

Like this “Val” woman in the peach bikini thing? Oh geez. Acting like this makes me want to run away from the theatre forever just in case I might have to see acting like this in person. Actually: *meeting* someone like this in real life is worse than seeing it faked on stage. Oh God, Valeries. All of you: Please please please stay far away from me.

The dancing in this movie, on the other hand, is super cool. I’m very impressed– some people can just *move*, you know? Too bad most of the acting is so far from pedestrian it’s still toddling.

And the costumes (ie. the actors’ “audition clothes”) are fun to see. Don’t like them as much as the clothes in “All That Jazz” (which I watched last night). At least both the 70s and the 80s provided the world with an equal abundance of materials and cuts that are unflattering to the booty. Unless, you know, you like a rear end that looks 47″ high.

Also: all these people are so painfully too-old to be saying they’re the ages they are. Either that or something about being 24 in 1985 made EVERYONE mysteriously gain a minimum of 10 years in the face.

Dude in the blue tank and flesh-toned pants needs to find some slightly larger pants. *shudders* Ain’t nobody in here needs to be looking that far up your colon. And Cassie? In the frizzy hair “Let Me Dance For You” scene? Time to lop that nonsense off.

Come on, Attenborough. You can do better than this garbage. Er… right?

Okay. It’s over. Only song really worth watching: the last one. And the part where they walk up to the mirrors and then walk away with their “reflections” and it just keeps growing? Yeah– that was cool. But uh: just that.

I’m watching one of the extra features now. The guy who wrote the music is talking about the show. He’s cocky. Don’t like him.


History’s 10 Most Horrifying Contraceptives: “… Again, you have to remember that ancient civilizations existed mainly to disgust the future.”

And, courtesy of James’s Stumbling: lookatthisdog on Flickr

“His name, we have learned, is Benny…”

I picked up Rent at the library tonight after work. There are parts of it that I enjoy, but for the most part it just doesn’t read to me. It doesn’t… It doesn’t hit.

I live and work in a world where many fields of the construction industry just suffered a fairly devastating winter. A world where people are now struggling more than usual to feed their families, keep up with rent and mortgages, to keep gas in the car to get to work, to keep money on hand so the kids can buy lunch at the museum on field trip day…

Make your art, live your life, be free, be light. Fine. But someone is paying out gobs of cash on that building you live in. And you want to turn the lights on? Somebody has to pay the electric bill. You want to get mad at the guy who shuts off that power? That’s your choice. But man: There is clearly something you are ignoring if you’re going to peg your freedom to play your drum at the same importance level as a roofer putting in extra hours at work so he can get health insurance for him and his kids ’cause his wife left him and he can’t get a job that pays enough to support their kids.

Like the millions around and before me I’m entertained by watching the struggle to make art in an environment that’s unsupportive toward that type of creation. Sure. Fine. That’s what a plot is. There’s a thing you want. A conflict. A resolution. And I’m drawn to conflicts involving art and creativity because I like art and creativity!

But the message of “Rent,” of stories like it… It’s not “the boiled down essence of what’s important in life” or whatever the heck these things tout themselves to be. It’s the boiled down essence of “You’re missing the point just as much as the Man you’re railing against.”

But with dancing.

Things I’ve really liked so far:

  1. When Collins and Angel are leaving for their Life Support meeting and Angel says “Bye!” and then does this little hop thing. Very cute.
  2. The tango scene with Mark and Joanne. Makes me want to start wearing suspenders and dating guys who went to Hebrew school.
  3. Collins holding Angel in the hospital bed and the final reprise of “I’ll Cover You.”
  4. Pretty much anything Joanne does.

Things that kinda bug me:

  1. How much Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal sound exactly alike. This has bothered me for years.
  2. How unattractive Rosario Dawson is in this. I mean- I’m not a huge Rosario fan anyway. She’s not ugly, but she’s nothing to write home about. But in this? Well… she’s leggy. And that’s good at least, right?
  3. The movie version of the “Santa Fe” opening bit. I prefer the musical’s vocals on it. And Collins is so much goofier physically here than he’s been up to this point in the movie so it seems put-on. We needed to see this side of him sooner to believe it now so late in the movie.
  4. Pretty much everything Maureen says, sings, wears, or does. And where the heck did she get the money to buy all that stuff in her stage show? I know I know– “But Ruth! It’s Idina Menzel!” I don’t care. The “Over the Moon” scene was lame and you know it.
  5. Maureen in general. “Every night who’s in your bed?” The same person that wasn’t trying to convince everyone they ran into all day that they had a chance to be in that bed, too! Marry me or don’t, but if you do: It’s me. It’s just me. And so help you God if you hit on the champagne girl at the ceremony. We are SO done speaking on that day!
  6. The affected self-awareness and the pseudo-hippie nouveau-bourgeois-intellectual pretension of, well, all of it.

Can you tell I’m writing this as I watch it?


I had a weird experience on the way home from the library. I stopped at the Family Dollar by the video store. I like to go there sometimes to buy little $1 packs of hair clips and things. Retail therapy I guess, right? I found a calendar where I’m going to write upcoming shows for next season at different theatres, a bag of bite size Chick-O-Sticks, a bottle of knock-off Clinique Happy, mascara, STP gas tank cleaner, 4 oz. of rubber bands, and liquid eyeliner. $8 bucks. $3 of which went to the perfume. Cheapest therapy session ever.

I’m at the check out counter, and the woman behind it won’t look up. She’s heavy-set, pony-tail, maybe mid to late 20s. Her eyes are moist and she’s fumbling with the things in my basket. I try asking her very quietly if she’s okay. I know it’s sort of a stupid question, but I can’t think of anything else to say and I can’t see someone crying and just say nothing at all.

So then I just stood there. Dumb. Feeling like a cad and an idiot.

She held my receipt in her hand but didn’t hold it out very far; I had to reach in to grab it. So I just– I grabbed on to her hand and held it real tight and I looked up and her face immediately went bright red and she just started bawling right there behind the register.

I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I mean– what do you say?

“Jesus loves you?”

“It’s almost Friday?”

“Don’t worry we get to vote in a new one soon?”

All my available words were stupid so I just held on real tight  until this dad-aged guy came up behind me in line.

I left. Like we all do.

I hope she’s okay.