Sunset Playhouse

How To Fill A Winter


I’m having one of those “so much has happened since my last update that I feel too overwhelmed to even try to cover any of it, let alone all of it, so I’d rather just not even try” moments.

D’oh.

So here’s my list-y attempt at sharing some of what’s been important in my life since my last post:

Sunset Playhouse - Murder on the Nile

Sunset Playhouse – Murder on the Nile

1. I closed a play. Murder on the Nile at Sunset Playhouse. Gosh what a swell group. I’ll be working with one of my MotN castmates in my next show, I Hate Hamlet

2. I auditioned for a play. I Hate Hamlet, also at Sunset Playhouse. I was cast as Deirdre. I’ll (hopefully) post something or other about it here. At some point. Maybe.

Oh God I’m such a failure at this blogging thing lately oh oh…

3. I auditioned for another play. Talley’s Folly at SummerStage, an outdoor theatre in Delafield. I was cast as Sally. I plan on Instagramming the crap out of the rehearsal and run process. The practice hall and performance space are just so cool.

If you don't watch the show, this will mean nothing to you. Feel free to ignore it; I promise I won't mind.

Meaningless if you don’t watch Hannibal. Feel free to ignore it; I promise I won’t mind…

4. I watched Hannibal an unhealthy number of times. I didn’t start watching Hannibal since my last update, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before so here I am. Mentioning it.

Basically: It’s lovely. I mean – it’s kind of horrifying, yes, in that it centers around a guy who eats people… – but don’t let that fool you. It is truly one of the most beautiful shows on television right now. The writing, the visual aesthetic of it all (from the cinematography to the set decoration to the costuming (!!!) to the way the food is displayed (no kidding)), the directing, the performances — it’s an incredible piece of work.

They’re three episodes into Season 2 right now, but for it to really mean anything you’d have to watch Season 1 first. It’s available through Amazon Prime, and then the three most recent eps are available to watch through NBC.com.

Oh man. Just thinking about that show makes me smile. And that’s saying a lot given that it’s, you know, about a people-eating serial killer, right? I’ve watched all of Season 1 six times now, and have no doubt Season 2 will fare much the same for me.

Plus: It stars Mads Mikkelsen. I’m sorry, but there’s just no topping that guy. Like — jumping between stuff like After the Wedding to Valhalla Rising to The Hunt to Hannibal? That’s just — naw dude. You’ve got to like this guy’s approach to the craft of acting. You can’t not.

5. VIKINGS! Speaking of shows I’ve recently started watching, I’m also really digging the History Channel’s show Vikings. It’s worth checking out as well before they get too much farther into their second season.

6. I attended WMSE‘s Rockabilly Chili Cook-Off Fundraiser. Wow, dudes. I ate so much amazing chili that day. No future chili-eating experience could ever compare. I went with some of the kids from Radio WHT, which of course made it extra fab.

My birthday gift from my friend Bob. My friends know me so well.

My birthday gift from my friend Bob. My friends know me so well.

7. It was my birthday on Wednesday! Oh gosh, you guys – this year was just– it was The Birthday That Kept On Giving.

The Saturday before my birthday, my friend Jenny hosted a Supernatural themed party at her house, complete with show-themed decor, and a dinner of burgers, fries, onion rings, and beer. There were games (SPN trivia, and “Pin the Demon In the Devil’s Trap“), episode viewings, and most of the gifts were SPN (or Hannibal! woohoo!) themed.

The Friday after, a bunch of other friends met up at my buddy Spence’s house for games and pizza and couch-sleeping and it was a blast I’mma just tell you.

Then today, my sibs came over with their families (minus my sister-in-law, boo :\) for mom’s homemade pulled pork sandwiches, par broiled ribs, and a homemade ice cream cake. It was *sniffle* magical

8. We got a nice list of roofs to bid on at work. This makes me happy. Not the way that homemade ice cream cake or Supernatural themed birthday parties make me happy, but certainly a kind that is still very much worth feeling. I’m spending the week helping put together bid packages (something that always takes longer than I estimate it will take; you’d think I’d’ve figured that out by now), and daydreaming about road-tripping to the farther job locations if the proposals come through. *dreamy sigh*

9. I went to the gym. I went an embarrassingly small number of times so far this winter, but I did go – and that’s crazy hard for me (because that is the breed of doofus that I am) – so I’m kinda happy about that.

So yeah, man – all told it’s been a pretty sweet coupl’a months.

Time to get in some reading and then hit the sack. Up bright and early tomorrow to spend the day with friends. Yeah – on a Monday. So stoked.

Happy Spring everybody! :D

Thoughts From Backstage


Updating from the women’s dressing room at Sunset Playhouse, mid-Act II for Murder on the Nile.

The ladies of "Murder on the Nile," L to R: Carrie (Louise), Paula (ff), Me (Kay), Deanna (Christina), Julia (Jackie)

The ladies of “Murder on the Nile,” L to R: Carrie G. (Louise), Paula G. (ff), Me (Kay), Deanna S. (Christina), Julia S. (Jackie)

What a happy, fabulous, funny, friendly, delightful group of women. I’m so pleased! I’M SO PLEASED!

I can’t imagine a life that does not involve spending months at a time with friends and strangers-who-become-friends, all directing our focus on solving the murder of a fictional socialite. Would I cruise the Nile circa 1936 with these ladies? You bet your Baedeker I would.

Twelve Angry Men at Sunset Playhouse


Last week I attended First Call for Sunset Playhouse‘s upcoming production of Twelve Angry Men.

A Reader’s Guide to the Above Statement:

  • I attended: I had Friday night free, and when I walked into the theatre and sat down nobody kicked me out…
  • First Call: The actors’ first on-set rehearsal. At Sunset the show’s volunteers are invited to watch this rehearsal to get an idea for the sort of help needed backstage, etc. for the production.
  • Sunset Playhouse: A vibrant community of theatre lovers working together successfully to create a fun story-telling experience.
  • (A few past Sunset posts here on Locutus of Blog: Sunset Playhouse Q&ATwerpshire Hathaway, a defense of community theatre;  and “I got a river of life flowin’ outta me” wherein yours truly bloodied her own nose.)

The man behind the curtain is one Mr. Matt Daniels, the same dude behind Sunset’s heart-cockle-warming production of Tuesdays With Morrie, and its spooky dram-rom-com Prelude To A Kiss. An actor, director, and teacher he is busy all over the place here in Milwaukee. Click those links to check him out! I got to see his Assistant Director, Katherine Duffy, as the lead in Sunset’s Sweet Charity this past summer and I mean to tell you that girl is an absolute riot. Her delivery, her timing– loved it! It’s exciting to see such a talented pair teaming up to work on this powerful drama.

It was great seeing a few familiar faces in the production team when I arrived. Since what I saw was a rehearsal I didn’t get to experience anything in the way of lighting, sound, or costumes, though I am very much looking forward to seeing what their respective designers have got cooked up for this one. Alan Piotrowicz’s and Jan Pritzl’s award winning lighting and sound design (respectively) in previous Sunset productions assure me the twinkly and tinkly details I missed last week are ones I can very much look forward to when I finally see the whole thing put together. And I didn’t know Jennifer Allen even did costume design, so that was really a special treat to see her listed in that role!

Exploring Koren Black and John Hemingway’s set before the First Call run.

The stage management team on the other hand… Oh where to begin?! Antoinette Stikl and Debi Mumford are rascals, and can only be described as mad as a couple of March hares, and probably flammable. They’ll lure you in with a hug hello, a few jokes, and boundless patience. But don’t be fooled! It’s all just part of their plan. And when I know what that plan is I’ll be sure to pass it along. Unless it’s just a plan to give hugs, tell jokes, and be patient, in which case: *points upward a few lines* You’re welcome. Also, props mistress Erica Ziino and I may or may not have become engaged, and planned out a road trip honeymoon, after First Call. I just hope fellow props mistress, Beth Bland, isn’t jealous. (We promise not to hit the road ’til after the show closes, Beth!)

The real draw for me on this show, though, is the cast. What a group this is. I could try to tell you how sorry I am that I can’t be up there acting alongside this group of lovely fellas, but you couldn’t believe how much I would mean it. What a fun group, this is. What a cast!

Foreman- Dustin J. Martin: Dustin and I go way back, and I’ve always known him mostly as a director. He introduced me to theatre proper, encouraged my love of acting, and taught me again and again the value of professionalism in every aspect of the craft; so of course whenever I get to see Mr. Director trod the boards it’s especially fun for me. One of the things that was particularly cool about seeing Dustin in this show was seeing him apply his own direction to himself. It was a bit like spending years listening to your parents describe how they used to hold you and rock you when you were a baby, and then finally getting to see them cradling some other child in their arms. You always believed their stories, but watching them live those stories is a different experience altogether. It adds so many adverbs to the tale that you never knew were missing.

Juror 2- Scott Jaeger: I knew Scott from his backstage work for show after show at Sunset, but it wasn’t until their production of The Underpants a few years back that dude finally auditioned to work on the lit side of the stage. Happily for all of us he seemed to enjoy the experience, because he has hit the stage several times since then, and frankly he’s just as charming on stage as he is off stage. There’s this pleasant, affable realism to his performance as Juror 2. It provides such a welcome island of contrast to some of the other jurors’ sound and fury, and I think that is exactly what this role requires.

Juror 3- Dan Esposito: It had been years since I’d last seen or read this show, so I forgot how abrasive this character is. This man’s noisome vitriol is that of a sad old man faced with the prospect that his anger at others is unfounded, his opinion unwanted, and his pain unmourned. Like all bullies he demands control and attention, yet deserves neither. For most of Dan’s scenes I found myself cringing at such a realistic portrayal of a heartless, broken man descending into uselessness, but at the end I cringed only that there are really people out there who could treat others this way. This is truly the saddest role in the show, and Dan does a remarkable job inhabiting it. I’d never seen him perform before, but I can absolutely see why he was cast here. Mr. Daniels has a clear eye.

Juror 4- Michael Chobanoff: I first met Michael in December of 2006 when we performed in Sunset comedy Jake’s Women together. Of every actor I’ve ever worked with, Michael seems to jump most consistently from comedy to drama, comedy to drama, comedy to drama. If I had my druthers I’d stick to thoughtfully chuckle-inducing pieces time after time, but this guy just really owns his own comfort with walking both sides of the fence. There is a strong, grounded air to his performance in this show, balanced with the kind of approachable reason Juror 4 cannot do without.

Juror 5- Jared Kuehn: What else can I say? I like this guy. He’s sweet, he doesn’t upstage, he doesn’t steal laugh lines, he’s memorized on time, his choices are clear and believable, and here on this stage of larger than life personalities his low-on-the-totem-pole character holds his own in every one of his scenes. We’ve only worked together once so far (Sunset’s 6 Degrees of Separation last season), but I hope to do so again. I just really like this guy.

Juror 6- John Roberts: I first saw John in Sunset’s Social Security a couple of years ago and oh! Oh! I died! Every time he appeared on stage I sat up in my seat, not wanting to miss a single twitch or sigh. This role here was quite a departure from that one. John brought a thoughtful intelligence to his portrayal of Juror 6, layering him in a detached toughness as a guard against all the poverty and hard work he’s lived through so far. He’s no threat until he threatens – – and I like that, because that is life.

Juror 7- Matthew J. Patten: I’ve been saying it for years and I’ll say it again: This guy is my favorite character actor both to work with, and to watch on stage. He has a tremendous gift for making real people interesting, and interesting people real. He also has a preference for comedies so I was initially surprised he was trying out for this show, but now that I’ve seen what he had in mind for Juror 7 I can’t picture anyone else in that role. Dude knows what he’s doing, doesn’t mug, doesn’t upstage, doesn’t horn in on other people’s time to shine, and makes memorable moments out of lines and activity that could easily have been missed entirely. Plus he walks and chews gum at the same time repeatedly throughout the show, so, you know, hats off to that.

Juror 8- Randall T. Anderson: I trust any stage that has this guy on it. This role must ground the entire piece, must set it in motion, keep it rolling, and catch it on its final descent. You don’t have to like Juror 8- though that helps- but you do have to believe him, and Randall gives the audience the opportunity to do both. I’ve watched this actor shine in comedies, dramas, and musicals, and from the other side of a shared microphone with Radio WHT (much to my own delight). He is ever the gentleman, ever the professional, and ever The Guy you want on your team to keep things afloat with you when the waters get choppy, and to enjoy the ride with you when the waters are smooth.

Juror 9- Doug Smedbron: He’s a sweetheart, Doug is. And somewhere out of all that he pulled up real force, a real “growl” for Juror 9. When he speaks he is standing even when he is sitting down, with a portrayal that commands respect from the other jurors in the room. I found his speech after his first “not guilty” vote particularly compelling.

Juror 10- Gene Schuldt: Juror 10 is a despicable, racist, loud-mouthed jerk. Gene, on the other hand, is an amiable, open-hearted, loud-mouthed actor, fight choreographer, Chicagoan, and professional Santa Claus. Hearing 10’s ugly words in Gene’s voice, and seeing 10’s quaking rage on Gene’s face was unsettling to say the least. As an audience member I felt sick hearing 10’s racism boil down farther and farther into a general “fear of otherness,” and as a friend I had to keep fighting the impulse to interrupt Gene’s rant to tell him he should be ashamed of himself! Good thing I remembered it was all just an act before jumping up and ruining the show. ;)

Juror 11- Ralph Frattura: Ralph’s was the only name on the cast list I didn’t know. I’d never met the guy, never seen him perform, but I figured if he was up there with the rest of these lugs then he must be the right man for the job. And wouldn’t you know it: He was. His behavior was real, his choices made sense, and– God love him for this– his accent was neither hokey nor inconsistent. I don’t attend shows like this one to see cartoons, to see caricatures. I attend them to see what Ralph did in his portrayal of Juror 11: He created a man with a unique perspective which he supported fully and which I bought entirely. Thanks Ralph.

Juror 12- Spencer Mather: This guy… Let me tell ya’ something: This guy is all right. I am so glad he and his wife decided to get involved at Sunset a few years back, and that they both loved it enough to keep on coming back. There’s not much they haven’t been a part of there, from working in the office to acting in shows to serving on the board. Watching Spencer is great, working with Spencer is great, talking shop with Spencer is great. But I digress. *ahem* Watching Juror 12 is great, working with Juror 12 sounds great, and talking shop with Juror 12 is also probably pretty darn great. Spencer’s 12 is easy-going but distracted, and while he cares enough about the case to have opinions about it,  the ad man in him seems intent on going with whichever vote sells to the biggest audience of his 11 peers. When he finally took a stand I cheered inside because this was a guy I couldn’t help but like, so I wanted to see him on the right side of justice.

The show previews this Thursday, October 25, at 7:30 pm. Show dates, times, and ticket* prices are all available by clicking here to view the production’s page on the Playhouse website. From there you can also get the goods on other upcoming Sunset fare, like next week’s 3 Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue Musical Mainstage show, or their mainstage Christmas production of A Christmas Story.

If you make it out to Twelve Angry Men at Sunset Playhouse I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments below. Until then, happy theatre-ing!

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*A quick note before you buy your tickets: Due to the nature of the set- trying to fit twelve grown men around a long table, the bottom of which is four feet up in the air on a stage- visibility is poor in the first four rows or so of the center and side sections. So don’t you go reading this post and then buying tickets in those rows, now. Not after I took the trouble to warn ya’! ;)

Sunset Playhouse Q&A


Sunset Playhouse‘s annual Event I Can Never Remember the Name Of is coming up this Saturday. I’ve turned in my ballot for Best [___], and chosen which dress I shall wear (grandma’s cast-off), leaving naught else to do save answer the following questions that arrived with my invitation:

“Tell us something about you… your favorite story from the season, how you found Sunset, why you volunteer, what you love about Sunset, funniest backstage antic….”

“Tell us something about you…”

Well for starters I’m a Pisces, Year of the Dog. I don’t put any stock into that sort of thing, mind you. I just thought you should know those things about me in case they mean anything to you. When I was three years old a dog bit me in the face, leaving a row of short scars from my eyebrow to my chin. One day I’d like to rent a cottage in the Appalachian Mountains for a few weeks and just write. I like my pizzas deep dish, my theatre community, my screwdrivers sonic, and my sagas set in space.

Also: Ferrets.

“Your favorite story from the season”

I was only involved in one show at Sunset this past season- 6 Degrees of Separation- so I hope you’re up for tales with a limited scope.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much fancy-pants candy as I did during rehearsals for 6 Degrees. Every day we’d show up to a decadent sugar buffet courtesy of Jim Santelle and Sendick’s, and every day we’d clean that sucker out. And then there were the people there like Donna Daniels, man. They wear their little khaki pants, you know? And their little cardigans? And they drink their tea and they eat their veggie snacks and you think they’d never belly up to a processed sugar smorgasbord. But wouldn’t you know she totally did every time? Admittedly she wasn’t matching the rest of us bite-for-bite, but I will say this: Girl is not afraid to put away a few sweets. Admirably so.
  • And then there were the nights when it was time to go home, but it wasn’t time to go home. It was time to congregate outside the door to the back parking lot to shoot the breeze for an hour over bottles of Red Stripe while the bad kids smoked and the short kids had their pictures taken next to the tall kids.
  • The good times weren’t restricted to post-practice rolling, much to our collective great fortune. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled into the parking lot before rehearsal to find our director, Jim Farrell, sitting out in the grass with Spence Mather, the two of them swapping stories and guitars. As our 7pm start time ticked closer and more cast members arrived, the number of lawn hippies would increase. The stories that went around the circle are theirs to share, but I will offer you a prompt: Track down Joan End some time and ask her how not to dispose of a cigarette while traveling. Bad to the bone, that one.
  • And then there was the party at Jim Santelle’s. Oh Jim Santelle, sender of eloquent emails and hero of high-school smokers everywhere: You are great! And your stove is great! And your books are great! And I love your taste in fruit trays and cheesecake decorations!
  • Then there was the time after we opened when I dreamed my mom and I gave JFare and his non-existent elementary school-age daughters a ride back home to their Tuscan villa in a community of theatre folks, all tucked away past miles of farms and fields and hills. The girls wanted to show me their room and their books, then wanted to share their cake. I’m more of a brownie person, but that was some mighty fine cake.
  • Plus we acted in a play, which was pretty cool. (This’un is mighty good for monologue mining for anybody with auditions coming up.)

“How you found Sunset”

Turned left at Greenland.

I’ll be here all week.

But seriously, folks…

I graduated from Carroll University- though we called it Carroll College in those days- back in aught-four. Toward the end of the school year an event was held honoring department chair Dave Molthen, complete with a snack table and places to sit, so naturally plenty of Carroll theatre alumni came to call. Among them was Mark Salentine, the fella who’d directed me in The Nerd my second semester at Carroll. A bit of a nerd himself, I quite liked the man. One of those sorts you can’t help but smile about. So when I learned he’d be directing Cabaret at Sunset that summer I decided to have a go at auditions, in spite of my being neither a singer nor a dancer. And wouldn’t you know the fool cast me?

And that was it. One show was all it took. Cabaret came and went and left me hooked, and I’ve been going back ever since. Occasionally racing head over heels toward my own disaster. Ask me some time where it still hurts from Noises Off!

“Why you volunteer”

Yeah, I mean… I’m gonna keep doing it, I’m just sayin’ if they offered me a paycheck I wouldn’t turn it down, kapeesh?

“What you love about Sunset”

There’s nothing quite like having a hobby where the Venn Diagram of the cool kids and the weird kids is a circle, and Sunset has its fair share of both.

Thank God.

For me, Sunset has had a “home base” feel ever since the first time I crept off-key, and off-beat, through “The Telephone Song” for Donna Kummer, my heart in my throat, my throat in my sinuses, my brain long since flown into hiding so I’d never be able to fully reconstruct my memories of that particular part of the rehearsal experience. The rest of it, though? Not nearly as scary. Brilliantly fun, even. I’d never have believed you if you’d told me I could have such a blast doing so many new, difficult things in front of hundreds of people at a time for weeks on end. But then I did it. And it was wonderful.

It was all wonderful. Every show. There hasn’t been a single one that hasn’t fulfilled some acting dream, or given me a reason to spend countless hours plugging away at exciting work with lovely people, or proven to me that yes I can memorize a stupidly large number of lines. Shows like:

  • Bedroom Farce, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • Rehearsal for Murder, where I got to run around in a robe while married to Ken Smith
  • The Seven Year Itch, where I got to run around in a nightie while haunting Brian Zelinski
  • Jake’s Women, where I got to run around in flats while my boyfriend was haunted by Coleen Tutton
  • Noises Off!, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • It’s A Wonderful Life, where I got to run around in wigs while my husband was haunted by himself
  • 6 Degrees of Separation, where I got to SUFFER OUTRAGEOUS EMOTIONAL TORMENT AS THE ONLY TRULY INNOCENT VICTIM

Themes. I’m sensing themes…

Really it’s the people, though, that made those experiences so memorable for me. The directors, the designers, the crews, the other actors, the beautiful, beautiful audiences. I forget all my lines within two weeks of a show closing, but the people I keep with me forever, tucked away in random brain folds, smiling and laughing and shining.

I love how you all shine.

“Funniest backstage antic”

I– I mean I can’t… Aw geez.

I can’t even begin to think of how to answer this one. Randall Anderson’s slot machine anecdote comes to mind, and Jim Bloomingdale and Mark Salentine with sleeves full of shaving cream are floating around up there too. But as with most great “backstage” stories, the element that made the moment truly magical is lost in the retelling, especially if the tale can’t be acted out since most of the hilarity occurs in silence.

That is, you hope it occurs in silence.

I’ll tell you what: I’ll see what stories come up at Saturday’s Annual Theatre Volunteer Annual Event for Theatre, and if there are any that can stand on their own without the aid of miming and the quaking laughter of onlookers, I’ll post one or two of them here. ‘S’good?

‘S’good.

*Read about 2009’s Annual Theatre Thingy here: The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards

Twerpshire Hathaway


I love me some community theatre. I’ve been acting in it, and loving it, for seven years this July. Sometimes it’s (amazingly, movingly) great, and sometimes it’s (agonizingly, painfully) terrible.

But so are kids and that doesn’t stop people from having ’em.

From time to time I run into folks who aren’t as fond of community theatre as I am. Folks who aren’t as fond of it, and who like to share that lack of fondness verbally. Dissing the interests of others is, I mean– that’s kind of weird, right?

Sometimes these- and other- people ask me why I do community theatre instead of “real theatre,” as they so charmingly put it. And they don’t know it, but more often than not this question makes me want to shake them by the face.

See, it’s kind of like this:

An image you may find amusing if you like your numbers aggravating.

Let’s say you’re somebody who digs numbers. You dig numbers, so you go to college and major in Seven or Avogadro or Counting or something. You graduate, maybe even with a 4.0. (See? I know some numbers too.) Then you go out and apply for a job at companies that like people who like numbers- insurance companies, accounting firms, grocery stores (cash registers, duh)- and then you sit back and wait for the interview requests to start pouring in.

In the meantime, people you know- well meaning idiots who love you- say things like:

“Berkshire Hathaway employees make tons of money using numbers. You should go work there.”

Oh? I should, huh? Okay, well I’ll do that then. Throw on the ol’ Willy Fioravanti, walk in through the front door, and sit down at the first desk that strikes my fancy.

Ah, but you know it doesn’t really work that way. You don’t work places that are great simply because they’re great and you want to work there.

So you snap back to reality. You snap back to the interview calls tying up your phone. Except that they’re not tying up your phone. The real calls are few and far between, and often non-existent from the Big Guys. Maybe it’s because you’re good at pi but bad at 11. Maybe it’s because your plus signs lack professional polish. Or maybe it’s because they’re just not looking for someone right now who does what you do.

So you gratefully accept the position at Mom and Pop’s Bean Counters, even after a friend (read: “friend”) let’s fly some doozie like:

“Mom and Pop’s Bean Counters? I hear they’ll take anybody. You should at least be working at Aunt and Uncle’s Legume Talliers. Their receptionist’s phone has way more buttons.”

Numbers made relatable.
© We Sign

But you don’t let it get to you because you’ve met Mom and Pop. You’ve interviewed with them over burgers on the grill. They are awesome and chill and professional and dependable and the commute is practically walkable.

So you don your Kohl’s shirt-and-tie-combo-pack, head on in to work, and enjoy the fact that the day ends at 5 pm no matter what, that you are awesome at using numbers in order, and that Pop brings the basset hound in on Fridays.

It’s not that you no longer want the Berkshire Hathaway paycheck or prestige. It’s just that those things don’t appear to be in the cards for you, no matter how many times you apply.

But!- and here’s the important part: You can still be a totally rockin’ counter of things someplace else.

Aw yeah. Look at you all countin’ up in there. Right on, right on.

So, back to theatre where those kinds of assumptions and statements are just as absurd as they are in the “working” world. Back to:

“The Rep is a great theatre. You should act there.”

(Responses to which are almost always followed by “It can’t be that hard to get in,” and “You must not be trying hard enough,” all, incidentally, based on the totally erroneous premises that 1) this is the only theatre in town where one could possibly want to act, and 2) once again all you need to get into a place is the desire to get into it.)

And back to:

“XYZ Community Theatre? I hear they’ll take anybody. You should at least be acting at ABC Community Theatre. Their ushers have nicer name tags.”

But you don’t let it get to you, because screw them anyway. You’re fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine. And a lot of fun. And the source of some of your greatest memories and friendships and experiences. And you make people laugh there. And you make them cry. And you get to play parts you’d never be considered for at places that offer direct deposit. And you get recognized at places like the Vitamin Shoppe and it weirds you out. And you get reviewed in the paper and that weirds you out too.

And even though it doesn’t pay, and even though the hours are long, and even though you still get asked condescending questions in an unintentionally insulting fashion– you still love it. You wonder why you feel like you’re always being asked to justify your participation in it, but that’s fine too because by now you’ve gotten pretty good at that. You’re still fine. It’s all still fine.

And then?

And then you blow a community theatre audition.

That.

And then you fear that friends who don’t respect community theatre will make some well-intentioned but totally humiliating comment about the situation and mid-blush you’ll have to come up with some kind of response because they’re your friend after all and you can’t just ignore them even though it’s so awkward blowing it for something they look down on, while not really being totally awkward because you were there and you know the other auditioners were solid, and yeah you mind that you weren’t cast but you also kind of don’t because sometimes that’s just how it goes so it’s fine and all but still upsetting and at least now your weekends will be free, though really that just gives you more time to worry that you’re getting too fat for the parts you want to play which doesn’t really matter too much yet because at least you’re still in your 20s even if only for a few more months but even that is all good because “30 is the new 20” and you love how that sounds because… it’s got numbers in it and… you know I always… wanted to pretend… I was a mathematician…

I forgot where I was going with this.

In conclusion: If you’re going to ask a question, try not to be an jerk about it because you never know how many run-on-sentences you’re up against.

One week to go!



Hair stuff, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, tooth brushes, Tylenol, Neosporin, floss

A week from today my mom and I will be driving to my grandma’s (Mimi’s) house in Chicago before Mim’s and my flight on Saturday to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Excited as I am about the trip, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when I think about how much I have left to do before we leave. I’ve gotten a lot of things done already, except that so much of it is stuff y’can’t see, so sometimes it feels like I’ve accomplished approximately zilch. But I can live with that. ;)

Among the things I’ve gotten done so far that you can’t see are attending a new church here in Waukesha, El Buen Samaritano, to work on my Spanish. My comprehension is SO much better than I had hoped it would be seeing as I haven’t used it in 6 years nor studied it in 9. Whoops! But speaking? Wharbargl… It is hard… and I am le tired… I first learned about the church when Aaron and I met the pastor, Rosa, at an event in Frame Park about a month ago. I’d hoped to attend every Sunday until our departure, but missed one week for a wedding, and another week to attend Elmbrook to hear Jill Briscoe speak. It’s been great to go when I’ve been able, though. Such a warm congregation.

Among the things I’ve gotten done so far that you can see are finding some great children’s books to leave with the mission, and picking up a few meds ‘n’ things for distribution. Nowhere near the quantities we’ll ultimately need, but Mimi’s the one fielding that part of the trip, thank goodness. I’m just the nOOb trying to find small OTC medicines to cram into every available space in my suitcase. ;)

(And thank you SO MUCH to everyone who’s donated goods, time, and financial assistance toward this trip. I’ll take as many pics as I can so hopefully you’ll get to see some of those goods in use!)

Wahoo! So many books!

As for the books- sad to say but a few will undoubtedly not make the trip. They’re just so stinkin’ heavy! It’s possible to pay extra for luggage over the weight limit, and for taking extra bags, but with all the medicine Mimi has gathered we’re already at the ultimate baggage limit. While that is actually great news because it means we’re taking along as much medical aid as we’re physically able to carry, it’s also a tough reality for me to face on a personal level.  The need for books, for education in general, is just so great. And as education and reading are so close to my own heart I want so much to be able to get involved in some way in connecting those things with people who need them.

There’s always the mail, though. And donations to existing education-oriented groups. And additional trips… ;)

To give you a taste of what it takes (me, anyway) to get ready to spend a month volunteering with medical clinics in the Western Hemisphere’s 2nd poorest country (after Haiti), here’s a snippet of what’s left on the ol’ To-Do lists…

Tryyyying to write something to share

HONDURAS TO-DO LIST
Write: testimony, 2-3 devotions, update red journal from Mimi
Email: Pastora Rosa, Laurie, Mimi’s peeps at MC (“about me”), Old Dave
Shopping: lightweight tops, capris, dresses (2), shorts, watch, netbook, netbook case and sleeve, heavy-duty sunscreen
Books/Research: Finish “Intermediate Spanish” book, attend EBS for Spanish review, taking blood pressure, field pharmacy organization tips, maps
Pharmacy: pack OTC meds, print 360 labels, downsize packaging on purchased meds
Paperwork: Confirm passport is still good; make copies for mom, Mimi, suitcase
Pack: books; meds; netbook (cord, mouse, case); camera (charger, memory cards); cell (charger); clothes (shorts, capris, dresses, light tops, jeans, swimsuit, scrubs); shoes (walking, dress); toiletries (sunscreen, bug spray)

 

To Do List...s

PERSONAL TO-DO LIST
Write: Blog update about trip (books, meds, basic itinerary), thank you to M.K.
Email: Jerry W. re: health ins, Marcy R. re: SHE IS BEAUTIFUL, Mark S. re: German dialect tapes
Shopping: David’s birthday present, apt keys for mom ‘n’ dad
Ferrets: baths, razor talons snipped, wash cage/misc, transfer to mom & dad’s house, buy more food
Apartment: laundry, clean kitchen & bathrooms
Job Search: reschedule/attend Remployment class; update resume/job site profiles;  resume to dad to submit for me with list of potential employers
Online: Change Facebook password and give to Becca R., cancel Blockbuster, arrange for bill payment
Call: Bank re: using card abroad, Cell carrier re: int’l usage rates
Fax: Student loan deferment forms

Brodie sleeping... somehow

UPCOMING EVENTS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
7/23: 8 pm “Hair” at Sunset Playhouse
7/25: 11am Church, birthday lunch
7/26: 3 pm RTW audition (1:30 arrive early to read the stinkin’ script first!!)
7/30: 9 am Drive to Chicago with mom
7/31: 5 am Fly to Houston> Tegucigalpa…

I don’t know where I’d be if not for Aaron and the fam. They’ve not only graciously agreed to stop by my place to pick up my mail and check on my apartment while I’m gone (Lord knows the only things of value in it are my netbook and passport and those’re coming with me…), but my folks have also agreed to watch the weasels for the entire duration of the trip. Yippee!! The boys are very excited to stay with their cousin, Patches, and to show their Mimi how good they are at using their litter boxes at least 60% of the time…

And just like that it’s 5:35 pm. Time to get crackin’ on crossing a few more items off the ol’ list before heading to Sunset Playhouse tonight to see their production of Hair. (Pics should be available on their Flickr account soon.) Everybody’s raving about this show, and I’m not surprised in the least!

Beads, flowers, freedom, happiness everyone!

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.

Reception

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. ;)

Catching the moon in their hands


"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Photo by Mark Frohna

"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Photo by Mark Frohna

Saw “Fame” at Sunset Playhouse the other day. If you know me at all you know I’m a huge fan of Sunset and a supporter of all they do, but I’m gonna level with you on this one: I’m kinda glad I saw it for half price. I laughed, I clapped, I had fun, but $10? That’s about right.

The show has some really nice things going for it, namely that it features genuinely young actors playing genuinely young characters. There’s something that’s always struck me as a little false about seeing a 26 year old try to deliver the energy of a 15 year old, so it was nice not having to sit through that charade in this production.

The downside to using younger performers, of course, is that you run into a lot more “young actor pitfalls,” ie. singing through the nose, substituting faux nervous laughter for introspection and development of empathy, turning off your face until it’s your turn to talk and then firing up the pearly whites. You could see a lot of potential in some of the performers, but the lisps, the front-talking, the VERY HEAVY presentationalism (even for musical theatre), the waiting-til-it’s-their-turn-to-talk, the frequent looks into the audience… Some very nice, genuine efforts, but some of them really have their work cut out for them.

Because some of the folks involved in the show are fairly young (or maybe they just make me feel old?), I’m only going to name names for the parts that really stood out for me in a positive way. Not that these were the only good folks in the show, but a few other standouts also have some significant “they were good, but…” statements attached to them in my mind that I couldn’t not include as qualifiers, so I’d just as soon stick to the positives. ‘S’nice? ‘S’nice.

Deidra Fabian (ensemble): You want actors like this in your ensemble. Loads of energy, beautiful smile, but never act-y, never scene stealingly hyper. You know the kind I mean, right? This girl was lovely and fresh and fun and a fantastic support to the production. Keep it up, Deidra. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing.

Ashley Levells (Mabel Washington): I’d watch this young woman in anything. Always in the moment, original, fun, energetic, but with a clear understanding that she’s part of a cast and not in a one woman show. Though Lord knows she could be. Great soloist. Her big song was easily (far and away) the best number in the show. And her non-verbals? Funny as hell.

Cameron Meilicke (Nick Piazza): Either this guy *is* Nick, or he just really nailed this production’s interpretation of the character. Gave a charming performance, very sweet voice, and some of the better acting moments in the show. I like this guy.

Samantha Moyer (Grace “Lambchops” Lamb): Maybe it’s because I know a girl whom this character reminded me of a great deal, but I couldn’t get enough of this kid. Just cute as a button, loads of energy, another team player. Seemed very comfortable in whatever she was doing, and you can’t teach that.

Mary Rodgers (Miss Esther Sherman): I don’t envy actors playing teacher roles in shows like this one. People go to see the kids dance around and sing on lunch tables, not to feel the frustration of the adults monitoring those tables during their free period. Mary really worked that dichotomy in her favor, however, by keeping her scenes strong, and her songs memorably performed. She was an endearing respite from the chaos, and never once fell into some of the more common traps actors tend to fall into when playing parts significantly older than their actual age.

"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Pic by Mark Frohna

"Fame" at Sunset Playhouse - Photo by Mark Frohna

The production also benefited from the beautiful work (as always) of artists Michael Desper (Scenic Designer) and John Dolphin (Lighting Designer). Everything on the set worked; you could see everything you were supposed to see, there were construction surprises built in to even the simplest scenes, and half the set was made from styrofoam and pool noodles. Where I come from that’s not just art- that’s genius. The lighting on the set was bright and colorful without looking like you’d walked into a disco. Some really beautiful mood effects were created without loss of visibility, and the multitude of cues kept things fun, moving, and alive. As for the costumes? I hope you understand the compliment in this statement when I say the costumes made me not mind the prospect of 80s fashions making an even stronger resurgence into the general public in the near future. Yes: they were actually that cute.

As of right now there are four performances left; this Thursday the 6th at 7:30, Friday the 7th at 8:00, Saturday the 8th at 8:00 and Sunday the 9th at 2:00. I’d recommend it for anyone with kids who are into the whole High School Musical/ Jonas Brothers/ Miley Cyrus thing, but I’d suggest you leave the very youngest ones at home as some of the language and topics covered are, well– they’re accurate for high school aged kids, which means there might be a few more curse words and pelvic thrusts than you really want to bring you 7 year old around for. I guarantee it’s cleaner by a long shot than the upcoming movie version will be, but something about seeing pelvic thrusts live makes them all the more jarring and slightly giggle inducing…

Click here to read Express Milwaukee’s mini blog review of the show, and here to read the Waukesha Freeman’s review.

Incidentally, I just realized this Mark Frohna guy who took the above pictures (which I yoinked from Sunset’s Facebook page) is the same guy who did my friend Libby’s new headshots. I don’t know what his rates are, but if you live in the Milwaukee area and you’re looking for headshots you should check this guy out. Libby’s pics turned out gorgeously, and while I attribute a huge percentage of her headshot success to the fact that she is a beautiful woman and any picture taken of her is bound to look great, what this Frohna fellow supplied skill-wise is no small shakes. You can check him out at frophoto.com.

But wait! There’s more!

Since my last post I went to the Renaissance Faire, bought a beautiful new corset, got my credit card number stolen, watched about 15 travel DVDs from the library, dreamed I ran a writers’ retreat visited by a couple whose race kept changing, and finally began saving my CDs onto my hard drive. As it is 11:27 pm on a Monday night, however, I am going to leave it to you to just imagine how exciting each of those topics would be were I to extrapolate upon them here.

Two more reasons to love Waukesha, WI


Would that all houses were purple and sunflowered!

Would that all houses were purple and sunflowered!

I’ve always enjoyed living near the heart of downtown Waukesha, WI, particularly in the week and a half it’s not covered in snow. It’s just such a casual, charming, friendly little town, and for all the complaints I’ve heard- and uttered- about how confusing it can be to navigate when you’re not used to the area, I even love the streets.

I’m a big fan of the direction the town is taking as it cleans itself up, brushes the dust off its dancing shoes, gargles a little mouthwash. It just feels safer, cleaner, and fresher than it did before. I have to say, though, that the one thing I wonder about is how a town this size can support so many coffee shops and art galleries.

They’re all great, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t walk a block without tripping over some quaint little someplace or other where you can grab a cup of joe (delicious, accompanied by friendly service) or buy a local resident’s latest foray into abstract painting. Some places even let you do both. And every time I see one of these places I think: Who the heck is around to drink enough coffee to keep each cafe viable? Who the heck is around to buy enough art to keep each gallery viable? This is Waukesha for crying out loud, not the Third Ward or Cedarburg! I know it’s changing, but is it changing quickly enough for these places to make it when they’re competing in such close proximity?

And then? I heard another coffee shop was moving into town. I couldn’t believe it. Even more unbelievable was that it was to be set up in the purple flower house on St. Paul Ave. where another coffee shop had just gone out of business last year. As nice as it is as a consumer to have the extra variety, I just couldn’t imagine what this place could offer to make it worth walking a block off the main drag for, especially in the exact place another coffee shop had failed.

But folks, I’m here to tell ya’: It’s worth walking a block off the main drag for.

Cafe de Art

136 E. St. Paul Ave., Waukesha, WI 53186

The name of the place is Cafe De Arts and if you like coffee (or tea, or sandwiches, or salads, or desserts, or colors, or free wifi, or Turkish people) you are hereby assigned to check this place out. You owe it to yourselves. Really.

I stopped in this afternoon around 1 to see what the place was all about and was immediately struck by the warmth of the decor. The thickly painted wall art, the custom made doors and tables, the reds, oranges and yellows of the decorative fabrics, all set off by the natural beauty of sunshine and a fresh breeze, made the environment so welcoming I knew it was a place I could easily stay all afternoon.

While reading over the wall menu I was approached by the woman who would soon take my order. So charming, very pretty, all smiles. We met by the dessert case and I asked if the baked goods inside it were made there on site. She told me she makes them herself right there in the kitchen and then went over each one with me, giving me the names- none of which I could pronounce outside of “baklava“- and main ingredients.

I hadn’t been planning on ordering anything to eat, but the feta and parsley stuffed pogaca (pron. pogasha) on the top shelf looked too delicious to pass up so I ordered one to accompany my chocolate and vanilla blended mochaccino.

While waiting for my order I made myself comfortable on one of the leather couches by the flat screen TV which at the time was playing Turkish music videos, one of which was this video by the adorable Turkish pop star Yalin. Isn’t he cute?! The woman I’d spoken with before, who I later learned was Gulten Munzur, wife of owner Ayhan Munzur, soon brought out my pogaca and coffee and I was instantly in cafe heaven.

My drink was strong; very flavorful, very rich, very drinkable. It lacked the “coffee bitterness” I’m accustomed to, without tasting as though the bitterness was perhaps still there but masked by sugar and flavored syrups. As a testament to the freshness of the ingredients and the fact that they had no fancy additives to hide behind, I found myself having to swirl my cup once or twice to mix things back together a bit. And the pogaca, which I’d expected would be cold and flaky, was actually warm and quite soft much to my delight. It’s like a very moist roll that looks like dense bread but tastes like fresh feta cheese. And the glazed top was more than just a nice visual touch– it was delish.

7821_M_W_300.png

A commercial coffee roaster similar to the one at Cafe de Arts

As I was finishing up, Gulten came by to ask how everything was and I could only tell her it was wonderful. Ayhan soon came around to tidy up a table two other patrons had just vacated and also asked how I’d liked everything. We chatted a bit and he was just so personable and friendly it would’ve been impossible not to like him as instantly as I’d liked Gulten.

He asked if I had seen their roaster on my way in and when I said I hadn’t he brought me up to the front of the cafe and showed me a machine I’d’ve sworn was part of an old locomotive refurbished to decorate the living room of a steampunk afficionado. I don’t know how I managed to miss it when I first arrived. It was this enormous black and gold… thing which he was clearly quite proud of and which really was quite impressive.

He went through the process with me of how the roasting is done, showing me the small, green coffee beans as they appear before roasting, how the hopper is filled, how the temperature is controlled and varied to alter the strength of the roast, and a handful of the final product. Amazing. I told him if he ever decides to sell the beans dipped in chocolate I’d buy their first pound.

And in case you were wondering, you can purchase (non chocolate covered) pounds of their coffee beans for somewhere in the neighborhood of $9. (Don’t quote me. I’ll get the actual price and update here soon.) Another ‘variety is the spice of life” part of the whole gig is they import their beans hundreds of pounds at a time from all over the world, and roast them fresh every couple of days so you’re never drinking last week’s brew.

They’re celebrating their Grand Opening (link is to Facebook event page) this Tuesday, June 30th, from 6 – 9 pm and I am definitely going to be stopping in. If you live in the area this place absolutely must make it onto your “must visit” list; I cannot recommend it highly enough. And since they’ve just opened recently after moving here from Turkey-by-way-of-New-Hampshire I cannot recommend highly enough that you visit sooner rather than later to be part of jump starting this promising addition to the local small business community. I get the impression they already have a loyal customer base, which is not at all surprising, but they really deserve your patronage too. No foolin’.

******************************************

After my impromptu guided tour of Cafe de Arts I headed across the Waukesha State Bank parking lot to check out “The Cemetery Club” at Waukesha Civic Theatre for their 2pm pay-what-you-can performance. Sunset Playhouse put on this show last season and I heard it was wonderful but wasn’t able to make it, so I made sure not to let it pass me by again. Especially not on an afternoon when I could name my own ticket price!

The entire experience was absolutely engaging. Director Brian Zelisnki pulled together a remarkable cast of delightful and talented actors who connected so dearly with their characters it truly felt as though they were living out each moment for themselves on that stage.

G. Chmiel, F. Klumb, J. End

Chmiel as Ida, Klumb as Doris, End as Lucille

Joan End’s “Lucille” was loud and funny and wild, and just perfectly drunk enough in Act II that you had to wonder what was really in the tea props. One of her closing scenes had tears rolling down my cheeks it was so touchingly well played. I hate crying in public, but in that moment there was no stopping me. Thank you, Joan.

Fran Klumb’s “Doris” was  humanly solid, comedically smooth, and professionally real. She has this great way with a line where you’re so floored for a moment by her timing and delivery that you can’t even laugh right away because you’re too busy thinking “Wow!” She was perfectly cast in that role. Loved her.

Gladys Chmiel’s “Ida” was a particular treat for me as I am quite the Gladys Chmiel fan. It was all I could do, all anyone could really do, to keep from wanting to run up on stage and hug her throughout the show. Her performance was so tender, her focus so devoted, her dancing so cute, that I cheered for her all the way. Gladys never disappoints, and this show was no exception. Brava, friend.

Supporting this central threesome were Doug Smedbron as “Sam” and Rhonda Trickey as “Mildred.” I’d only ever seen Doug in “Social Security” and “Season’s Greetings” at Sunset Playhouse so I was excited to get to see him in something with a little more stage time. His portrayal of Sam was perfect. Just perfect. Cute as a button without being schmaltzy, cautiously dedicated without being detached, and believable believable believable. I can’t work with him soon enough.

Rhonda’s “Mildred” only appeared in one scene, but watch it and tell me you had any idea she hasn’t been playing roles like this for years. She balanced giggly, oblivious flirtatiousness with respectful stage sharing like a pro. This was her first play ever, but you’d never know it. No rookie hamminess, no “backting.” Good on ya’, Trickey. Keep acting.

Good on all of ’em, really. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next I was gasping in shock, leaning in for more, or brushing away enormous tears. I only wish I could’ve seen it sooner so I could’ve encouraged more people to check this show out for themselves. There are still two performances left, but one starts in 12 minutes so I’m thinkin’ this blog won’t be directing anyone out to Civic for that one. But if you’re free for their closing performance tomorrow, Sunday June 28th at 2 pm, do attend. It’s guaranteed to please.

And I’m guaranteed to be late if I don’t wrap this up and head out soon! Such is the life of a busy Waukesha socialite. ;)

Resting Before I Get Tired


I need to ease into this entry, much the way I need to ease into my chair for the next few days, so I’m going to start with the lighter fare…

Part I: Life Outside the Theatre, or: Life’s OUTSIDE the Theatre?!

Half Price Books comes through once again

Stopped by HPB this past Saturday before heading to Sunset for my weekly two-show workout. I’ve got a nice little routine in place for every time I visit. First I hit up the clearance section, then head over to the children’s books, then Plays and Poetry, non-fiction end caps, and a then the CD bargain racks. To each their own, but this system’s the one that keeps me going.

I picked up six neat-o music selections the other day, and because I know you’re just as interested in hearing what they were as I am in hearing how they sound…

  1. Mrs. Fun: “They Are Not A Trio,” feat. kd lang and Milwaukee’s own Flora Coker
    It’s been a while since I’ve been to Summerfest, so I imagine/hope Mrs. Fun is still part of the lineup there. Acid jazz isn’t generally my genre of choice, but I have to say I do always enjoy watching and listening to these women perform. And they draw the best audiences! I see from their website they were involved somehow in Phranc‘s “I Enjoy Being a Girl” (’89) but does anyone know in what capacity they worked together? Phranc. Can you imagine? Gosh– how fun! How– how Mrs. Fun… She’s a life lover too, you know.
  2. Loreena McKennitt: “Live in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts” (05/94)
    Every time I listen to McKennitt I think of this family I babysat for when I was in high school as every time I went over I’d pop in the mom’s “Book of Secrets” cd. The oldest boy was friends with my brother and he and his siblings were all geniuses, the children of creative genius parents. The mother covered about 40% of their home’s floor space in extravagantly luscious trompe l’oeil paintings that made you want to stick to the carpet to ensure her work would last longer. That family made me happy, just knowing people like them were around.
  3. Jem: “Finally Woken”
    I figure I’ve got to see what she’s all about, and I assume a better way to start is with the older stuff before fame entered the picture in quite such a potentially influential way.
  4. k.d. lang and the reclines: “Angel With A Lariat”
    Don’t know a darn thing about this one, just know I enjoyed “All You Can Eat” an awful lot and this disc was only a buck.
  5. Luscious Jackson: “Natural Ingredients”
    With cover art that screams1994!” I can only imagine this album will chuck (Taylor) me back into a desire to pair a small print floral dress with Docs and a cardigan. That was such a comfier time. Can we go back to that? Please?
  6. Nelly Furtado: “Whoa, Nelly!”
    This is an absolutely fantastic and fun album. Every track is at the very least enjoyable, and at the most downright super great. Too bad she got all trashy when the money started rolling in. *shrugs* At least we’ll always have “Whoa, Nelly!”

I also picked up a book of Spanish literature of the 1700s – 1900s. It’s great because the intros and biographies are in English, but the texts are in their original Spanish, and I’ve been looking (casually) for something like this for a while now. So yay for that.

*nom nom nom*

Okay– but have you tried the California Topper? OMG, fellows. Oh. Em. Gee.

Sun and Stars

I’m re-reading the first four A Song of Ice and Fire books in preparation for the eventual release of A Dance with Dragons. (No rush, George. Didn’t mean anything pressing by “eventual.” You take your time. Do it right. Release it around my birthday in March and I totally owe you a Coke.) It’s amazing to catch all these tiny details, these character subtleties, this second time around. I love- or hate- every character even more upon re-reading their stories, and am even more excited than I was before about book 5 coming out. If you are even remotely a sci-fi fan, a fantasy fan, a historical fiction fan, a regular fiction fan, or able to string letters together to form words: Read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Amazing books. You will not be disappointed.

Matthew, James, and Joel: You have to live the life of a ASoIaF character for a year. Who do you choose and why?

Part II: The Remaining 94% of Last Weekend

JanethePhoolePhoolish Liaisons

Jane the Phoole came to the show on Friday night and let me tell you: I was ecstatic. I heard from a fellow actor that she was in the audience that night and I was instantly aflutter with nerves and excitement and– well and worry! You’ve got to be at the top of your game when Milwaukee’s official jester is present!

I look forward to seeing her every year at the Bristol Ren Faire, so it was a real treat to see her at Sunset– sans the usual regalia, no less. She said she enjoyed the show, which is either a wonderful review for us, or a moment of great acting from a great actress, because she was entirely believable when she said it. So good for us or kudos to her. Either way somebody still wins.

Bore me once, shame on you. Bore me twice…

“It is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get in.” Charles Dickens in “Nicholas Nickelby”

An interesting quote, that, given the fact that the four people in Sunday’s 2pm front row LEFT after the first intermission. I guess when people realize they can get into a theatre they may be faced with the prospect that they have no desire to remain there. Actually, I had no desire for three of those four to remain either so perhaps it’s just as well.

First there was an older couple on the end of the row, featuring a grumpy looking woman with an expression that’d curdle gasoline, and a man who kept sprawling out to find the best position in which to GO TO SLEEP during the performance. If you don’t like comedies. folks, don’t waste your time or money on attending them. No one will mind if you’re not there. In fact, most would probably prefer it that way, yourselves included.

Then there was a couple in their early 20s in the middle of the row. The girl was smiling and laughing throughout the first act, but her boyfriend could barely bring himself to remove his chin from his hand as boredom with our antics ate away at his soul. I know none of you ladies would ever leave something you’d already paid for and were enjoying just because your boyfriend was a humorless Philistine, but this poor young woman did exactly that. Take care, sister. This promises to be one pointless sacrifice among many, I fear…

“Ruth Arnell sat on a wall…”

Because people leaving at intermission should not be an event in itself but rather a hirbinger of greater ills to come, I proceed with caution as I dive into the rest of Saturday’s rather distressing 5pm show.

So first the light board reboots itself at the top of Act II just as the intermission music fades and the curtain opens. No lights, no sound, no action. Just… darkness. Darkness and actors stranded on stage in that darkness with no clue what’s going on, forced to stay in character and improvise as nothing continues to happen. That, ladies and gentlemen is what we call the “joy of live theatre.” It is also what we call “a real drag.” No matter– these things happen. The show must go on! And eventually– it did.

And then Act III hit.

All in all it was fine, and to tell you the truth I don’t think a darn thing happened for most of the act that anyone not involved in the show would’ve noticed. A key prop malfunctioned, cutting short a rather involved and quite comical bit, but again: who’d know?

Things are moving along just fine from then on until about 5 minutes before the end of the show when I’m on the upper mezzanine of the set and I accidentally catch my earring on my finger and hurl it down onto the stage floor below. An annoying, and clearly unintentional, attention grabber from the action in front of me, but again: these things happen.

fallingImmediately thereafter I’m supposed to run down a flight of stairs in 3 1/2″ heels to talk to another character. This is something I’ve been doing for a month down these same stairs, with this same actor, in these same shoes. But for some reason… For some reason this one time my right foot- my dominant foot for crying out loud!- slips in my shoe and I crash onto the stairs, landing hard on a rear end not nearly as padded as I’d thought, before sliding down four stairs to the sound of gasps from the little old ladies in the audience.

And let me tell ya, folks: That fall hurt more than my pride. I finished the scene and then burst into tears as soon as the set door closed behind me. Ain’t no pain like a pain in the ass. Luckily Jenny was there to literally *run* to me, throw her arms around my shoulders, and offer the kind of sweet, tender encouragement that only the awesomest among us can offer. She’s a gem, that Jenny Ko. A diamond in the rough.

The tears eventually subsided, the 8pm show came and went (awesomely, I might add), and much to my delight there doesn’t appear to be any swelling. (Leave it alone…) Still quite a lot of pain, though, as it’s tough for something to heal when you keep sitting on it. Work especially is a real bear as every time I go to get up from my desk I end up spending about a minute wincing and rising at odd angles a few degrees at a time, hoping that either no one is noticing or that they’re all doing me the embarrassed courtesy of pretending not to see. I’ll take what I can get.

Vlog Update

Finally! Geez louise. You know– I’d intended to make this video a good month ago but just never got around to it. I wanted to make a couple, make them kind of informative, include pictures from rehearsals, get footage of people involved with the show talking about why in the world they’d voluntarily get involved with something like this. Yeah. You see how that didn’t happen?

Video homework: What play should I get people together to read this summer?

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.” Edgar Bergen

“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”


“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”
Alvin Barkley

Opening weekend of Noises Off is officially over and now the worry can set in. Review worry, that is. If you are prepared for an entry devoted entirely to typical actor neuroses, read on. If not, may I recommend this page as a fun alternative? All right– on with the show…

The thing about reviews is that they’re written by one person. You’re getting one person’s opinion and even if it’s an educated opinion from a person who genuinely knows what they’re talking about and who you may’ve agreed with in previous theatre considerations, you can’t ignore the fact that it is still, ultimately and always, One Person’s Opinion of One Performance of the production in question. That said, the only time you really want to dismiss this Singluar Opinion is when it’s bad, or merely mediocre. Figures, right? So there’s:

You thought our production was only “all right”? *feh* Your review is only all right. How d’y’like that? Yeah? Yeah? Yeah, that’s right. Your review is only all right… Yeah.

vs.

You thought our performances were a riot and loved our work? Cleeeeearly you are above average in all respects and your review is Gospel!

And it happens that way every time. Without fail. Do you or don’t you trust the review? It all depends. All depends and never matters.

*hee hee hee*

*hee hee hee*

The other thing you’ve got to sit and chew on for a while ’til the review actually comes out is: What performance did the reviewer see? Was it Friday evening when the laughter flowed freely from a crowd eager to leave the work week behind them? Was it Saturday night when the audience applauded individual bits as well as act breaks? Was it Sunday afternoon when entrances were missed, lines were dropped, props were mishandled and– and so forth?

It’s maddening not knowing. It really is. And only slightly less maddening is the fact that the performance that was taped for the theatre’s records of this particular production was this afternoon’s performance in which everything that could go wrong did. I mean– that’s unfortunate, right?

And then there’s the focus of the review. Will it concentrate on those bits you feel are the show’s strongest selling points? Or will the reviewer become so hung up on a costume choice they didn’t agree with that a pair of socks or a necktie will end up getting more mention in the review than the acting or the directing? Will all but one actor get mentioned, leaving them feeling absurd and forgotten? Will the entire review take no more than a paragraph because the writer was so uninterested in your work that they couldn’t come up with anything more to say?!

Or will the review be a book report? You know the type: 90% synopsis, 5% “what, where, when, how much,” and 5% actual review. Because come on: What the heck is even the point in writing something like that?

Luckily the audience feedback has been truly exciting this weekend so the review that actually matters regardless of all the above conditions- the audience’s review- has been a very happy one to receive. It’d still be a drag to get a mention in the local whatever and have it be poor when I really think there’s some wonderfully funny work going on in this production, but the things audience members are saying so far are just– well gosh. Gosh gosh gosh. I mean it really is just such an uplifting and fulfilling feeling to put in so much hard work, so much time, so much creativity and energy and everything, and have it met with this kind of laughter and positivity. It’s fabulous. Makes you want to not do anything else with your life but this.

Hot Toddy

Two, please...

Except for the fact that “this” happens to be so exceptionally draining that all you want to do after the curtain call is whip off your shoes, strip down to baggy shorts and an enormous, ill-fitting tee, and down as much of a hot toddy as you possibly can between the kitchen and BED.

I don’t know how people can run this show for any longer than the four weekends we’re running it; it’s exhausting. All that up and down on one flight of stairs after another in suits and ties, corsets and heels— Egad! Even just our three remaining weekends have got me wondering how we’ll manage. Especially as roughed up as we are. Never in my life have I worked on a show that’s provided opportunities for quite so many injuries as this one has. I wish I had a picture of my latest addition. It’s rather a beauty, really. A 1″ wide by 3″ high scraped bruise on my right bicep. Watch for it this weekend if you stop out. Made it all by myself with a piece of arm and a bit of door frame.

There’s not a one of us that doesn’t have a scratch or a scrape somewhere, and some of the injuries sustained are definitely more major than others, but the average Wound Roster for each of us includes a body full of oddly shaped bruises of indeterminate origin; bright red scrapes from running aground of backstage corners; scuffs and splinters from brutal railings; and flaps of angry skin hanging precariously from knees, shins, fingers, feet, and elbows as reminders that doors and door frames, windows and window frames, buckets, mops, plates, mallets, and staircases are not items to be trusted nor trifled with. Ever.

It’s nearly midnight and I begin fulfilling my meager addition to the department-wide mandatory overtime at work tomorrow. Best head off to bed and save these worries for daylight. Nighty night, all, and may your neuroses not be as ridiculous as these.

************

ETA: The first review- the only review?- is in, and it’s a good one. Very solid, very positive. Keyed in on a few folks whose work I am so happy to see recognized in print. (Extra big hoorays for my buddy Matthew who is super awesomely funny in this show!! :D)

From “Noises Off Delves Behind the Scenes” from the Waukesha Freeman

Director Mark Salentine bravely took on this challenging play but was greatly aided by a very talented, competent cast, which made the difficult look relatively easy. Matt Patten, the consummate comic actor, led the way with his singular antics as Garry Lejuene. Randall Anderson was quite engaging as the insecure hemophiliac Frederick, and David Kaye as the stagehand who filled in for any missing person was quite funny with his deadpan style. I liked the way Cindy Zauner, always reliable in any role, played the dumb housekeeper Dotty Otley, too.

The other competent actors included Nathan Berish, who played Lloyd, the harried director; Ruth Arnell, always good at the dumb blonde roles; Jenny Kosek, who’s convincing as the overwhelmed stage manager; Belinda Blair, who tries to keep everyone happy and focused, an impossible task; and the well-meaning Robert A. Zimmerman as the unreliable burglar.

Kind of hoping there’s another review in the works so there’s an additional outside written opinion that paints the rest of us as perhaps a bit more than “competent.” Yikes! If anything else does come around I’ll post a link here, but until then… um… Yeah I got nothin’.

************

ETA: Review Numero Dos, From “Noises Off! at the Sunset Playhouse is great summer fluff” from Vital Source Magazine

This exuberant and fast paced farce requires the ablest of actor bodies for as it is intense physical comedy, along with synchronized timing to complete in rapid succession while appearing effortless. Each member of the cast successfully provides this, including the lanky Matthew J. Patten (Garry Lejeune), who falls down a flight of stairs and integrates a most appealing hand dialogue with coordinating dialect into his role. Ruth Arnell (Brooke Ashton) pertly gives her character, both the ‘on’ and ‘off’ stage persona, a delightful pout. The returning Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair) remains a charming addition while Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas) directs this entire on stage house of fun with proper British arrogance. The production indeed takes an entire team effort to perform this complicated play, and does so with a confidence that deserves applause.

Yay! Pretty nice, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. :)

Barack Him Right: A Dream


Birds singing in the Joshua trees/ Dream a little dream of me…

Had a visit from the Weird-Dreams-About-the-President Fairy last night, and unless I’m forgetting some random presidential visit in a previous snooze, this may very well have been my first of such visits.

In my dream there were all these reporters giving Barack Obama a hard time for not being in touch enough with his African roots. I remember being a little annoyed at what they were saying because– well: who really cares? It’s the fact that an American president is an American that’s supposed to be the preliminary- and final- deal clincher, right? But there they all are pushing and pushing and egging the guy on, saying he couldn’t survive in the African wilderness and daring him to try. As though it mattered, folks. As though it mattered.

Barack Obama SwimmingFinally, when he’s just had it with this crowd of noise and know-it-alls, he tells everyone he’s going to spend a week living out in the bush with a tribe of hunter gatherers in Africa. Just to prove them wrong. Just to get these people off his back. Just to make this dream weirder.

The crowd is glibly pleased.

Fast forward to a few months later when the crowd is sending back footage from the bush of a loin-clothed Barack flipping off the cameras as he dives into a rushing river accompanied by a dozen or so other men from this tribe he’s joined as they head off to hunt away from the bleating of the confused “journalists.”

This is the last we ever see or hear from the man again.

So I guess the moral of the story is… Don’t push people towards things you’re not willing to lose them to? Man cannot resist the call of the wild? Mother nature trumps a life in politics? Loin cloths are comfier for day wear than suits?

Noises Off Preview

Preview for Noises Off went well last night. I have to say I was genuinely surprised at the low turn out. Previews tend to sell fairly well at Sunset, particularly for more well known shows. And what with tickets being half price and the large number of people everyone in the cast said they’d been told would be there last night– well yeah. Genuinely surprised.

Nice, though, to have an evening to sort of ease into it all. It’s an exhausting show! We’ll see how it all differs this evening given that it’s Opening Night and it’s a Friday, and Friday houses are consistently the best houses. Perhaps on account of everyone being so happy to be done with work for the week that they sit there actively wanting to enjoy themselves?

I think they’ll enjoy themselves. I really do. This one’s a funny one, folks. C’mon out– enjoy yourselves. :)