Spiral Theatre

Death by Kohl’s


Who got a 30% off coupon in the mail for Kohl’s Department Store’s President’s Day Sale? ME!

Who instantly regretted entering the Kohl’s Department Store off of X in Waukesha on Wednesday? Me. :(

From the moment I walked in the store until several minutes after I left, my ears were ringing from the LOUD high frequency buzzing/ whirring/ chirping sounds from their various security and tracking systems. Oh my God. Ridiculous. Every time I came near an entrance to the store itself, a fitting room, or a check-out register, the mosquito-in-my-ear-canal noise became so loud I literally had to walk around the store with my fingers pressing my ears closed.

It’s not the first time the buzz of Big Brother has pained my hearing near department store doors, but this time was downright intolerable! The weird thing is my hearing isn’t particularly spectacular. In fact it’s downright *meh.* I’ve got annoyed friends tired of repeating themselves for me who’d vouch for the overall mediocrity of my hearing, in fact, which makes the whole thing even stranger to me.  I also really have to wonder how it was that I was the only person who seemed to be affected by the CONSTANT ringing if aurally bionic I ain’t.

No, guys. It really was That. Bad.

And then I got two pairs of pants and a skirt for under $20. Woo.

The end.

Don’t Dress for Dinner

We’re only a week into the rehearsal process so far- just blocking and stuff up ’til now- but it’s already looking to be pretty darn funny and I’m very happy and thankful to be a part of it. And courtesy of the generosity of a few fellow cast members I now find myself in possession of an unusually large number of comp tickets for the show’s preview night in mid-March. I’m hanging on to a few for the fam. As for the rest of the comps: Any takers?

The following is a quick run down of what’s going on with the show, including a chance to listen in -but not watch because that kills the magic ;)- on a rehearsal, and a brief overview on how the auditions from my last video all panned out. The best part? I kept it under 5 minutes! Woo hoo! I prefer to keep it under 3, but 5? 5’ll do…

Sorry about that vertical blue line in the video, by the way. I don’t really have any way to see that things like that are present until I’ve got the footage uploaded to my computer and I’m ready to edit. *shrugs* I can live with it.

ETA: The show has undergone major changes. Please disregard the comments above and the contents of the video. Related tags have been removed from the video. Thanks!

Torch Song Trilogy

I feel kind of bad that all I’m writing about this amazing production (“Torch Song Trilogy” by Harvey Fierstein at Spiral Theatre in Milwaukee) is this teeny little snippet. I took notes during the nearly sold-out opening night performance and intended to write a full review of it but kept not getting to it, and now the show closes this Sunday so I feel even less inclined to really dive in. Bah. I’m a jerk- I know.

I will take at least a moment to say, though, that Mark Hagen in the lead role of Arnold is worth seeing the show for all by himself. Beautiful performance, real, funny, sweet, honest. The role could’ve been written for him. He’s got this great knack for easing into the levity of Fierstein’s one-liners in such a way that you don’t feel jolted from the emotion of the moment. And some of the moments? Phew! Very emotional.

Another actor bringing in a fantastic performance is Brian Richards. I’ve seen Brian in a few other shows and have had the pleasure of working with him once myself (also with Spiral) and have always enjoyed his performances, but he found something new and different in this part that I’ve never seen come out of him before and I have to say: I loved it. Particularly his first scene with Hagen. There was a confidence there that just– it worked.

The two of them are so enjoyable to watch- charming, romantic, heart breaking, human. Their relationship speaks to so many relationships and so many truths about dealing with people in and out of the bounds of *significant other-ness* I found myself giving my “I totally know what you mean” nod to every other line the two spoke to each other.

All in all: I can honestly say I believe this is director Mark Hooker’s strongest show to date. He packed it with powerhouse performances from an eclectic cast that gels the way a cast should, and because he’s got a soul he cut it down from its original four hour run time to a much more manageable two and a half(ish) hours. It’s at Plymouth Church in Milwaukee by UWM. Tickets are only $10. Go. You’ll dig it.

And whatever you do? Dig it fast! As of right now there are only two performances left… (Saturday 2/14 at 7:30 and Sunday 2/15 at 2:30)


It’s 1:25 am on a Friday night and I’m sorry if this revokes my youth cred but I have *got* to call it a night. Alfred’s in his kerchief, I’m in my cap. It’s time to settle these brains down, y’all. Nighty night…

All the world’s a stage…

… and unfortunately: Stages Pass! So hurry and get your tickets before these stages pass:



Spiral Theatre
Torch Song Trilogy, by Harvey Fierstein
Directed by Mark Hooker

Torch Song Trilogy is a very personal story that is both funny and poignant. Torch Song Trilogy chronicles a New Yorker’s search for love, respect and tradition in a world that seems not especially made for him. From Arnold’s hilarious steps toward domestic bliss with a reluctant school teacher, to his first truly promising love affair with a young fashion model, Arnold’s greatest challenge remains his complicated relationship with his mother. But armed with a keenly developed sense of humor and oftentimes piercing wit, Arnold continues to test the commonly accepted terms of endearment–and endurance–in a universally affecting story that confirms that happiness is well worth carrying a torch for.

Location: Spiral Theatre at Plymouth Church, 2717 E. Hampshire Blvd., Milwaukee, WI; (414) 248-6481 (Call for tickets or email info@spiraltheatre.com)
Dates/Times: February 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 at 7:30 pm and 8, 15 at 2:30 pm
Cast: Enid Barnes, CJ Darnieder, Jordan Gwiazdowski, Mark Hagen, Brian Richards, Kelly Simon
Facebook: Event Page

ETA 2/9/09: I want to write up the show before closing weekend sneaks up on me, but until I get a chance to do so and if you’re reading this post before then: This is absolutely a must-see. And if you’re familiar with the script, fear not! It’s been cut down so you won’t be there all night. ;) It really is fantastic and if you’re on the fence about heading out to see it this weekend, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. You will thank me a hundred times. Feel free to thank me with presents and cash. ;)



Spiral Theatre
Die Mommie Die, by Charles Busch
Directed by: Mark Hooker

The year is 1967, and Angela Arden is a washed-up pop singer who’s married to movie producer Sol but is involved with an unemployed actor named Tony. When Sol turns up dead, all fingers point to Angela. Leading the charge is Angela’s daughter Edith, who’s eager to get even by killing her mother. Edith’s brother, however, is not so sure that mom is to blame.

Location: Spiral Theatre at Plymouth Church, 2717 E. Hampshire Blvd., Milwaukee, WI; (414) 248-6481 (Call for tickets or email info@spiraltheatre.com)
March 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 at 7:30 pm
Will Elwood, Jordan Gwiazdowski, Mark Hooker, Gloria Loeding, Nathaniel Press, Sandra Stark, Jenna Wetzel
Facebook: Event Page (Coming Soon!)


mark-hookerA note from Spiral Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Hooker:

“Don’t miss Spiral Theatre’s LAST SEASON in Milwaukee.  Spiral’s producer and my partner Dave Berg are relocating to the Twin Cities. Dave had a job offer that he could not refuse. We’re sad to leave but excited for Dave’s new opportunity. We are amending our season slightly to accommodate our sudden and unexpected departure.”‘

Milwaukee will miss you two and the fun times and great art you’ve been a part of here. Best of luck to you both in all your future endeavors in Minneapolis!



Waukesha Civic Theatre
Don’t Dress for Dinner, by Marc Camoletti
Directed by: Mark E. Schuster

Be prepared for an evening of riotous confusion as this breathtaking farce races through a romantic week end gone awry. The setting is a New York farm house. The plot is a carefully planned weekend with a chic mistress. Bernard has remembered to arrange every detail; a cordon bleu chef; wife sent to visit her mother; and best friend invited as a cover. Foolproof plan? Don’t count on it.

Location: 264 West Main Street, Waukesha, WI 53186; (262) 547-4911 (Call for tickets or email boxoffice@waukeshacivictheatre.org)
Dates/Times: March 13 and 14 (8pm), 15 (2pm); 20 (8pm), 21 (4 & 8pm), 22 (7pm); 27 (8pm), 28 (2 & 8pm), 29 (2pm)
Cast: Ruth Arnell, Donna Daniels, Scott Fudali, Mark Neufang, Matthew J. Patten, Chelsey Peterson
Facebook: Event Page

Because there’s something in it for me, and you love me. . .

As some of you know I did a couple of shows with Spiral Theatre in Milwaukee this year, (“Butterflies Are Free” and “Wait Until Dark.” Check out Spiral’s “Press” page to read more…), and I’m a big fan of the producers there, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve got a big ol’ soft spot in my heart for the company. It treats its people well, and it treats its audiences well, so you really don’t have to spend much time there to develop a similar soft spot of your own. It’s a great theatre: company, design, production. It uses great people: directors, actors, SMs, designers. And it does great shows: You Should Be So Lucky, Wait Until Dark, Doubt, Angels in America, True West, etc.

And their ticket prices? Well their ticket prices just got a little greater… ;)

Spiral is staging some really solid shows next year (I know some of the directorial placements and casting choices already and can safely say it’s gonna be pretty rockin’) so if you plan on going it will definitely pay to plunk your cash down ahead of time and get season tickets.

And don’t you start giving me any guff about how “season tickets are too expensive even though they save you money in the long run.” I’m just not having it. Not this time. Not when these season tickets are only $30.

That’s right.

Season Tickets. Four Shows. $30.

*cue: Hallelujah Chorus*

And if you value our friendship it will definitely pay to get those season tickets through me. (I will find out if you didn’t and I will hunt you down, so help me…)

But enough threats. Here’s the full scoop, straight from the Spiral producers themselves, on how their season just got a little more affordable:


SAVE 25% – FOUR SHOWS – $30.00
by Harvey Fierstein
February 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15

by Charles Busch
May 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

by Radha Bharadwaj
July 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
by Charles Busch
September 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
make check payable to:
Spiral Theatre
at Plymouth Church
2717 East Hampshire Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53212
purchase tickets online at
Phone: (414) 248-6481


See how awesome and easy and cheap??

And when you buy ’em, be sure to tell ’em Ruth sent ya’. Or I’ll find out, hunt you down, etc. etc.

*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…”


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.

Laughter is the best medicine…

…when it’s someone else that’s sick.

I have mixed feelings about last night’s show.

A lot of weird things happened that had to be worked around, and I don’t know if it was stuff you’d notice as an audience or not, but some of it really threw us on stage and it’s got me nervous because our SM will be gone for our closing weekend so… yeah. :P

Also: The audience. Most of the time they were great. Vocally responsive at all the right times. Very nice.

But then they kept laughing- loudly- at the worst times. Like- really stressful, “scary” times where honestly: ain’t nothin’ funny going on here.

And it wasn’t that short, clipped, nervous laughter like you get sometimes during suspenseful shows, but loud, prolonged, repeated laughter at the most distracting times that makes you wonder if you are totally sucking up the scene and doing everything wrong because why the hell else would the entire audience be LAUGHING at a moment like this? It makes you wonder what you’re doing so poorly that suddenly a murder scene is funny, or whose fly is open, or what fell off the set wall when this is the first audience that has ever responded this way.


I asked my parents about it (they came last night, yay!) and they said they didn’t get it either and found it distracting too. That’s nice I guess. Means the cast weren’t the only ones who didn’t understand what was happening.

And then: The cell phone.

It’s actually kind of surprising to me that this was the first time where we had a cell phone go off during a performance of this show, so in that respect we’ve been pretty lucky thus far.

But there we were, second to last scene, everything’s finally boiling down to the final moments of *scare*, and this light, tinkly, fairy music starts to play in the front row of the audience. And then continues to play, and gets louder, as whoever owned “the phone too important to be turned off” retrieved it from their purse.

*sigh again*

Why don’t people listen to the announcement at the beginning and turn their phones off? Why? I’ve heard people say as an excuse for this when its their phone that “I never get calls” and “I forgot I had it with me” and stuff like that. But that just seems irresponsible to me. Stop making excuses. If you never get calls then it won’t matter that your phone’s off because by your own admission you won’t be missing anything if you’re unavailable on it for 2 hours, and when the person giving the curtain speech mentions silencing phones and you own one, do yourself a favor and check to see if you have yours on you. “Forgetting you have it on you” is a stupid, stupid excuse and I absolutely don’t accept it.

And now that it sounds like I hated a theatre full of people last night, allow me to back track… ;)

They actually were a great house overall. Responsive, as I mentioned earlier, and appreciative and just very cool in general. And in addition to my mom and dad being there (yay!), Nicole G., Mark N., and CJ D. were there, as well as Beverly S. and Mary K.. Woo hoo! All people I like. :D

The option of going out to a number of different spots did come up last night after the show, but I mean to tell ya: You run around sweating like that in a show like this and tell me *you* don’t feel ready to fall over into bed when it’s over. I skipped it all and went home. That’s right. Calm and boring, just the way I like it.

Actually, I really hate just going home when shows are over. Especially when I have friends there that I haven’t seen in a while. What happened to me? When did I suddenly get so… old? *shudders uncontrollably for three minutes*

Maybe it’ll pass…


We’re debating what to do about rehearsal on Thursday because it’s Juneteenth and some of us have to drive through the “festival” areas to get to the church where we practice so there’s no way we’ll be able to start on time, but if we start too late then it’s not worth going at all that day.

Last year I had to drive down Locust to get to an evening audition at that same church and ended up being super late because I didn’t know about Juneteenth and I ended up getting stuck by all the people in the streets who couldn’t cross them faster than .83 mph, or who refused to use the sidewalks, or who were too busy intimidating drivers who wanted to continue driving towards their intended destinations to be able to find time to, you know, get out of the middle of the street…

And bear in mind that these roads weren’t closed off. There was no “festival” set up where I was. No events- formal or informal. Not really anything happening except people sitting in windows and on front stoops and in yards and on sidewalks and in parks and on curbs and milling around in the streets… I know there were things going on someplace else, but where I was there was nothing but people just kinda… hanging out.

And blocking traffic.

And yelling at you when you wanted to take your turn at a stop sign when you had the right of way.

Up to that point it was just annoying. But then–

I watched people in the streets pounding on cars that were trying to get through the crowds, and somehow just kept going like there was nothing to be afraid of. But you know what? There was. There were plenty of things to be afraid of. I was just too blindly optimistic to think there might be cops in riot gear a couple of streets over, or that people would actually break in my windows and pull me out of my car and start beating me in the street in celebration of a declaration read in Texas a hundred and fifty years ago.


Is that how we’re supposed to celebration the emancipation of the slaves? Is that what people lived and died for? Are the freedoms and rights people have been sacrificing themselves for snce the inception of this nation something to celebrate by making a mockery of justice by ignoring laws and committing violent crimes against innocent bystanders?

Happy Juneteenth, everybody…

Where can I find her, a woman like that, like Jessie’s girl?

“Reality is something you rise above.”
Liza Minelli


In rather shocking news here at Dad’s Roofing Company, Inc., one of our sales guys, E.E., called me up on Saturday to inform me that his wife S. E.- the one who sat next to me at the baseball game on Friday- had suffered a mini-stroke some time during the 7th inning and was in the hospital undergoing an MRI at the time of his call.

She’s 30.

At the time her speech was slurred- when she could speak- her vision was blurry- when she could see, and her brain was swelling for no discernible reason. They think it might have been stress induced. Stress? Yeah, I imagine a few of us have heard of that.

They are an amazing couple. Different in all the right ways, similar in all the right ways, great relationship, three wonderful kids; all in all a very committed, loving, young family.

She’s 30.

I know there are incidences every year of people having strokes, heart attacks, etc. at unexpectedly young ages and at seemingly triggerless times. But it hits home so hard when it’s someone you know.

Two of the symptoms that S.E. had which tipped doctors off to the fact that it was probably a stroke were a sudden extremely painful headache in the back of her head, and pupils dilated to the point that there was almost no iris color still visible. Had E.E. known that these were indicators he could’ve taken her to the emergency room almost 24 hours sooner.

Please please please take a quick peak through this article on WebMD. I know an online article isn’t the best means of learning about life saving tips and symptoms to watch for, but even an online overview has got to be better than no prior knowledge at all, right? I just never thought… 30 years old… It’s worth knowing more about, especially if it can be brought on for reasons other than age, genetics, pre-existing conditions, etc.


Just found out I’ll be performing in Spiral Theatre‘s production of “Wait Until Dark” this July. Too cool, man! I’m still waiting to hear who all else is in it. There wasn’t a formal audition so I didn’t get to see what all of Spiral’s choices were but based on people who’ve given truly exceptional performances there in the past I have a few ideas and let me tell you: I. Am. Excited. If Mark brings out his first string here then this is going to be PHENOMENAL. I know the tickets are higher priced than at his previous location, but if this goes as well as I think it will, this will be a show that is not to be missed. Yay Mark!!

There are only six performances of this one so it’ll take some planning ahead. It runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm on July 11 and 12, 18 and 19, and 25 and 26.

I’ll be playing the part of Susy Hendrix, a blind woman who… does a bunch of stuff. I won’t get into it. Look it up. Or don’t. If you’ve seen the movie version, this is the party Audrey Hepburn played, and oh boy do I hope people aren’t expecting to see a Hepburn-esque performance, ’cause “statuesque” I sure as hell ain’t.

The show will be running at Bucketworks on 6th and Vliet. Tix are higher by $5 here: $20 for non-Bucketworks members, $15 for members. Though if you think you’ll see a few shows there this year it’s worth joining to be able to get the discount and to use their space. Holy cow, man. This is NOT the same Bucketworks that was over on MLK the past few years. Wow. Total overhaul. Every reservation I had about working there (which, to be fair, was based largely in part on who I’d’ve been working with) is gone and I now plan on joining.

If you have time to head down there you MUST arrange a tour with James Carlson, one of the guys running the place. And Erin: if you go, ask him about the “Lego” wedding and the remote control car race.


I think I’m going to subscribe to Wired. I always enjoy the online articles. I think I’d get a kick out of being able to bring it around with me. And it’s $10 bucks for a year’s subscription. Not bad, eh?