Ruth Arnell

Talley’s Folly Opens TONIGHT at SummerStage!


It’s finally here! Opening weekend of Talley’s Folly at SummerStage!

As long as I’ve known our director, Dustin Martin, he’s been talking about wanting to direct this show. After years spent hearing him praise the piece, there was part of me that started to feel like it was my dream too – even when I didn’t know a thing about it except how much he loved it.

Then I read the script in college, and that was all it took: I was officially hooked. Fast forward *mumble mumble* years and here we are — opening weekend at last!

Talley's Folly

I’m especially excited to be sharing the stage with Phil Stepanski for the first time. Somehow in our making the rounds through various local theatres we had yet to ever work together. Finding ourselves  now in a two-person show we’ve surely made up for lost time!

Area theatre-goers may remember most recently seeing Phil as Gary in WCT‘s Spring production of Noises Off!, and Soulstice Theatre‘s Follies earlier this Summer. He will be appearing as Max in WCT’s Lend Me A Tenor later this Fall. Congratulations on your continued success this season Phil!

Some things to know before you go:

About the show: “Set in July 1944, TALLEY’s FOLLY is the story of one evening in the courtship between two unlikely lovers. Matt Friedman (Phil Stepanski) is an accountant from St. Louis and has come to rural Missouri to woo Sally Talley (Ruth Arnell) in her family’s dilapidated Victorian boathouse. Through persistence, charm, and humor, he courts her despite her fears that her family would never accept him. But for romance to bloom, each must work through their innermost secrets together. TALLEY’s FOLLY won both the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the season in 1980.”

Dates/Times: Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm;  July 24 through August 9, 2014

Location/Directions: Lapham Peak Unit – Kettle Moraine State Forest, W329 N846 County Highway C, Delafield, WI 53018

  • Take I-94 to exit 285 in Delafield, WI (20 min west of Milwaukee); there will be a brown state park sign on I-94 signaling your exit.
  • Turn right (south) off the exit ramp onto Hwy C.
  • Follow Hwy C straight for about a mile.
  • The entrance to the park will be on your left.

Tickets: $17, $15 for Seniors and Students, $7 Youth. Can be purchased online, or at the park starting one hour before the show.

(The park requires a $5-per-vehicle entrance fee (normally $7) for all vehicles without a WI state park sticker.)

About the space:

  • The park sprays the stage area for mosquitoes every Thursday during the run, but bring your own bug spray too just in case!
  • The seating space is an open, grassy area, so bring a chair or blanket to sit on.
  • Arrive early and bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawn or at the tables under the SummerStage pavilion tent! There will also be a food truck on site.
  • Guests are free to bring in wine and beer, and additional beverages (including wine and beer) are available at the concession stand.
  • There is a bathroom in the building by the parking lot, and port-o-potties at the stage area.
  • The walk from the parking lot to the stage is a short one, however a shuttle will be available to transport anyone unable to make the walk.
  • If recent weather has left you cool in the evenings, don’t forget to bring along a jacket or lap blanket!
  • If it should begin to drizzle, the show will continue. So if it looks like the sky may turn, bring along a jacket/hat/enchanted cloak just in case.
Welcome to SummerStage!

Welcome to SummerStage!

Short-Sleeved Gill Tee


Welcome to my Nothing post. It’s here to remind me to write an *actual* blog post about Waukesha Civic Theatre‘s upcoming production of “Crimes of the Heart,” running February 5-21, 2010, which I am in and about which I have written far too little given how seriously rockin’ it’s going to be.

For shame, little Ruth. For shame. So now every time I see this post– oh the guilt! How it will eat away at me!

Until I write that real post. And delete this one. Ta-da! In the meantime: Vvvvvvlog.

ETA: Waukesha Civic Opens ‘Crimes of the Heart’
Russ Bickerstaff

The last full month of winter opens with a pair of local productions that explore the strange convolutions of human passion and the lengths to which people will go to pursue happiness.

On Feb. 5, Waukesha Civic Theatre opens its production of Beth Henley’s 1980 dramatic comedy, Crimes of the Heart. It’s the story of three adult sisters who reunite in Mississippi and confront the dark paths along which their hearts have led them. A larger-than-usual group auditioned for the show, resulting in a very promising cast. Donna Daniels plays the oldest sister, Lenny, who has been looking after their grandfather. Ruth Arnell plays the middle sister, Meg, who has returned from Los Angeles after a faltering singing career. Jenny Kosek plays the youngest sister, Babe, who shot her husband because she “didn’t like his looks.” Mark Neufang will direct the show.

Waukesha Civic Theatre’s Crimes of the Heart runs through Feb. 21. …

ETA: Dark Comedy On The Edge of Milwaukee
Russ Bickerstaff

The trip out to Waukesha is a bit further than I’m used to going for a show. I don’t make it out that far for a show, but as there was nothing else opening this weekend and there were people involved in this production who have done work I’ve seen elsewhere before, I was looking forward to the long journey west. …

Director Mark Neufang introduced the show opening night. The initial feel of it is very reminiscent of the type of fare that wouldn’t be entirely out of place on stage in a suburban theatre with a generally older demographic than one might find attending studio theatres in town. Things progress and we meet playwright Beth Henley’s three Magrath Sisters—the first of three shows to open in the next couple of weeks featuring three sisters.  Ruth Arnell, Donna Daniels and Jenny Kosek play the three sisters… a cast that has developed a really good rapport to connect-up with a very cleverly-paced Beth Henley dialogue. Between the three lead actresses and a really stylish Michael Talaska set, the production quickly becomes one of the best dark comedies to hit local stages this season. There’s Jenny Kosek at the end of the play dragging a lighting fixture behind her. And she’s contemplating the oven. And it’s a really funny, really darkly comic moment. Much of the action leading into that moment was executed really well. It’s not what I expected out of a trip to Waukesha. It’s well worth the trip.

Waukesha Civic Theatre’s Crimes of the Heart runs through February 21st. A full review of the show runs in this week’s Shepherd-Express.

ETA: Four Shows With Three Sisters
Russ Bickerstaff

My wife’s two sisters came over yesterday. The three of them were in the kitchen making cookies as I worked on bits of writing that I was attempting to get done. The three sisters motif was particularly strong this weekend, as my wife and I had also attended a show about three sisters the previous night. It’s a motif that’ll be carried out on a number of stages in the next few weeks. …

Now through February 21st, Waukesha Civic Theatre presents Crimes of the Heart— Playwright Beth Henley’s award-winning comic drama about three sisters meeting-up in a small hometown in Mississippi. My wife told me that the dialogue was quite true to what conversations between three adult sisters are like—particularly when the three are all talking at once. The three actresses in question (Ruth Arnell, Donna Daniels and Jenny Kosek) may not have a real strong family resemblance between the three of them, but the rhythm of the rapport between the three of them feels very authentic.

“Noises Off” at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove


NOISES OFF opens this Friday, May 29, 2009 at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, WI!

"Noises Off!" Read Thru at Sunset Playhouse

"Noises Off!" Read Thru at Sunset Playhouse

Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, widely regarded as the granddaddy of all farce comedy, follows a troupe of British actors as they put on a touring production of the fictitious sex farce Nothing On. Act I, seen from the front of the stage, features the gang struggling through their final dress rehearsal before opening night as one thing after another goes mildly awry. The true comedy, however, begins in Act II, seen from back stage, when the gloves must come off as the show must go on amidst feuding actors, jealous love triangles, and the agony of being forced to rely on the unreliable. Act III, seen once again from the front of the stage, continues the mayhem and hilarity when all-things-bad become all-things-worse as the production gives Coarse Acting a run for its money.

This has been a delightful show to work on– from the week+ of auditions and callbacks, to the Saturday morning dialect sessions, to the Saturday afternoon pizza bribery, to the all day tech rehearsals. I attribute this in great part not only to the fact that it really is just a fantastically fun and funny script, but also to the tremendous asset this production enjoys in being put together by a group of folks who work so well as a team. A truly enjoyable experience through and through.

An added bonus for me personally is that through this show I got to work with a few folks I haven’t worked with in a while- Mark Salentine (director), Amy Macali (Stage Manager), and Cindy Zauner (Dotty Otley/ Mrs. Clacket)– as well as a few folks I love working with and with whom I’ve shared the stage fairly recently- Jenny Kosek (Poppy Norton-Taylor), Matthew J. Patten (Gary Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain), and Randall T. Anderson (Frederick Fellowes/ Philip Brent). Got to work with some new faces in this one, too, which has been a lot of fun given that they’re such cool folks- Jennifer Allen (Stage Manager), Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair/ Flavia Brent), Bob Zimmerman (Selsdon Mowbray/ Burglar), David Kaye (Tim Allgood), and Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas).

If you’re looking for a fun night out I cannot recommend this show highly enough! It really is a great, laugh-out-loud comedy, and with 19 performances (including Preview) there is sure to be a showing that fits your schedule. Sunset also features great discount options on tickets (details below) making it that much easier to head on over.

Here’s the full scoop, featuring info from the Sunset Playhouse website:

Noises Off SunsetNOISES OFF!
A side-splitting farce by Michael Frayn
May 29-31, June 4-7, 11-14, 18-20, 2009

“Called the funniest farce ever written, Noises Off returned to Broadway in the 2002 season and sent reviewers searching for new accolades. This extremely popular play-within-a- play by Tony Award-winner Frayn has the same act of a fictitious play performed at different times in different theatres, showing the onstage and backstage antics at ever growing levels of madness. “As side-splitting a farce as I have seen. Ever? Ever.” – New York Magazine (Samuel French, Inc.)”

Days and Times:
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturday, May 30 at 8:00pm only
Saturdays at 5:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday, May 31 at 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday, June 7 at 2:00pm
Sunday, June 14 at 2:00pm

There is also a preview performance on Thursday, May 28th at 7:30 pm. Tickets for this performance are $9 (cash only) for General Admission seating and are available one hour before curtain on a first-come basis. This preview performance tends to sell out very quickly so if you plan on attending I would strongly encourage you to arrive early to ensure you’re able to get a seat.

Tickets: $18, $16 for seniors, $10 for students, plus $10 Rush Tickets available one hour prior to each performance. A $2.50 per ticket processing fee applies for tickets ordered online. Tickets are available online until two days before the performance. After that, please call the box office at 262.782.4430.

Hope to see you there!

Want to keep tabs on other great projects Sunset has coming up? You can follow them on FacebookTwitter, Flickr, and blip.tv for details on upcoming mainstage and studio theatre shows, classes, musicals, and more!

*grinning from ear to ear*


Got an email the other day from a fellow Spiraler with a link to a blog review by Russ Bickerstaff of “Wait Until Dark.” It came too late to help the show, but we sold well and got some awesome feedback anyway, even in spite of a weird review in the Freeman, so who the heck cares? ;D

I’m just really encouraged by the fact that the writer of this blog/review still saw the show even though it’d be too late to post anything about it before we closed. I mean– that’s pretty cool, right?

Anyway- here’s a link to the blog, and here’s a big chunk from it:

…the space at Bucketworks was reasonably accommodating for the final performance of Wait Until Dark. It was a hot night and the heat carried into the crowded space as Giffin appeared to give the curtain speech. After a brief and congenial introduction, the show started. The opening of the play faded in slowly, allowing for a cursory evaluation of the set, which was solidly constructed for a theatre company with limited funds. The space almost looked lived-in–very impressive for a show that had only been running for a couple of weekends. The story seeped-in around the edges of the set as Brian Richard and Randal T. Anderson began to set the tone in the role of a pair of ex-cons ho had broken into an apartment in Greenwich Village. Anderson was the rougher-sounding of the two, speaking in a voice that reminded me of a Brooklyn I’d never been to. Richards is a distinctively familiar face, having appeared in a number of shows between Spiral and RSVP over the course of the past few years. Here Richards is the tragic “nice guy” criminal who probably would’ve ended up in a more honest profession had things gone differently for him. Richards and Anderson have a natural rhythm for their dialogue that fits the familiarity of the characters well. It isn’t easy to construct familiarity between two actors onstage in a way that seems entirely natural, but Anderson and Richards pull it off quite nicely.

With the early elements of the plot established between Richards and Anderson, Matthew J. Patten appears onstage in the role of their employer. Patten towers over everyone else onstage as usual, but here his height really adds something–here he’s playing a savvy, sinister criminal and the height adds a physical dimension to a commanding stage presence. Patten’s mastermind outlines a job for the other two: they must find a doll filled with narcotics that one of the apartment’s residents unwittingly brought with him from a trip out of town.

Of course, the three men don’t find the doll right away and the couple who live in the apartment return home quit unaware of the three men or their interest in the apartment. The couple in question are Sam and Susy Hendrix. Sam (Nate Press) is a professional photographer. Susy (Ruth Arnell) is recovering from an accident that has left her blind. Press and Arnell have a palpable chemistry together that establishes itself early, which is good because it has to. Sam doesn’t end up in much of the play, so he has to make enough of an impression early on that we feel his effect on Susy for the rest of the play. Press does an excellent job of doing this without making his character seem too unduly charming or superhuman. In the role of the heroine, Arnell is probably onstage for longer than any other person. Arnell carries the center of the play with casual, well-executed grace. The plot that rushes over the stage seems a bit awkward and artificial, but Arnell does a breathtaking job of grounding the production in a very sympathetic emotional center.

Gloria Loeding rounds out the cast in the role of the girl from the apartment upstairs, also named Gloria. Loeding is playing a girl far younger than she is, but she’s carrying the role pretty well considering the character comes harrowingly close to being little more than a plot device. Her role in the central conflict of the story comes as little surprise, which probably has more to do with the script than the production.

The only major flaw in Spiral’s final production at Bucketworks was the title noun. The climax of the play is slowly bathed in darkness as Susy confronts the villains on her own terms. Though Hooker did an admirable job with the production’s lighting design, the space at Bucketworks spilled too much light … rendering messy, imperfect shades of darkness that felt relatively uncomfortable in the summer heat. …

Isn’t that cool?! :D

I know Brian, Randall and Gloria are in something together that opens in a couple months, and Matthew’s in something that opens around the same time. Don’t know what Doug and Nate are up to, but when I find out, and when I get the details on B, R, G and M I’ll definitely post it here so you can check these people out. They’re great. :D

And then today- or was it yesterday?- I also received an email with a link to Russ’s Year In Review pt. 2 blog post and man: I just can’t stop smiling. :D Part two starts off with: “Towards the end of last February, Spiral Theatre staged the single best romance of the year with Ruth Arnell and Ryan Dance in Butterflies Are Free…”

*grins*

Too cool, man.

And to Mr. Bickerstaff: Thanks. Really. Thank you so much. You’ve made my mom ‘n’ pop ‘n’ me smile very much this season with your reviews, and we’ve needed that. Thank you.