April. The snow is melting, then falling, then melting again....
It may seem like we're in a lull, with the show still two months away. But, behind the scenes, there's a LOT happening. We're prepping for rehearsals. Costume designs are just about done. Music is being scored. Sets are being designed.
It's the time when all of the less-visible-but-so-critical foundation work happens. Very soon, the separate parts of the creativity machine will come together and turn into...well, you can never be sure what shape all that inspiration will eventually take. It will be Shakespeare, and in the park. And it will be -- MAGIC! As to the details, we'll all just have to wait to find those out.
While the Frys frolicked in Florence, Tom Reed was doing something less alliterative in the woods of the Northern Kettle Morraine.
Specifically, Tom spent five very chilly days shooting a film called The Coldest Game -- a story of complications on an uncle-nephew hunting trip.
Tom plays Uncle Saul, a hard-faced war vet, who has taken his nephew Ben into the woods for his first hunt. When things go wrong, Saul takes it upon himself to help them escape the dangerous situation they find themselves in.
With temperatures ranging from high-20s to the mid-40s, it was physically demanding. With shots that required multiple takes of sprinting through the woods and snow, it was a draining (but fulfilling) experience.
The filmmakers are two local men, Jordan Larson and Emmanuil Morari, who found their funding from a film producer outside of the state. They are using well-known industrial professionals to help with the post-production, so Tom is particularly excited to see the completed film in its entirety.
Fans of Optimist should look for it on the local film circuit this fall, and at film festivals nationwide. Click through to the film's Facebook page to stay apprised.
The title, Bloody, Filthy Shakespeare! (BFS) suggests lots of lust, gore and more -- and the performance delivers: Blood. Sex. Murder. Lust. Revenge. But for Susan and Ron Scot Fry, producing an original "Shakespeare" show in Florence, Italy was more along the lines of joyful, fascinating and delightful.
After seeing Ron's outreach work last summer in Tuscany, FESTA (Florence English Speaking Theatre Artists) commissioned Optimist Theatre to coproduce an original play. The production focused on the universal concepts of murder and death...Shakespeare's plays having no shortage of wrack and ruin!
Ron shared the stage with the talented Elia Nichols. Originally from Louisiana, Elia is an ex-pat living in Florence and one of FESTA's cofounders. Elia played The Boy, who enthusiastically aided in Shakespeare's exploration of art vs. popular entertainment. Although the violent bits were broadly drawn, the dialogue was in earnest. The Boy was also obviously a woman -- obvious, that is, to everyone but Will, until the end of the play. Let your imagination run wild on those breadcrumbs.
BFS was performed on March 28 & 29, 2014 at Teatro Goldoni in Florence. According to Ron, here's the recipe: a grand total of 48 hours face-to-face rehearsal time--GO! Start with 1 show featuring 2 actors playing 36 characters in 18 scenes from 20 plays with 3 fights involving 10 weapons and 9 blood packs. Sneak in 1 puppet with removable bloody tongue and hands and 1 severed hand. Interweave 34 costume pieces, 10 props and 3 poems. Corral 6 audience members on-stage, perform 2 magic tricks. Set up all of the above in a picturesque Florentine venue and the result: 3 encores from a lovely and generous audience and a happy, exhausted Susan and Ron.
The Frys are the first to admit how bloody filthy lucky they are -- to have the opportunity to do what they love together, in Florence, the hotbed of Renaissance creativity. It was magnifico!
There are plans afoot for BFS to return to Italy in August. Will we see BFS in MKE? "Stay tuned," Susan teased. And so we will....
Contributor: Sarah Bernstein
I won't deny that I am more than willing to get caught up in the insider trading of literary-historical trivia -- and that the back-stories of the plays of William Shakespeare DO make for engaging dialogue. But what I find even more interesting than understanding his plays in the personal, cultural and historical contexts in which they were first written is how fresh and pertinent their content is in today's context.
Like Shakespeare's London, Milwaukee is a port city, a city of immigrants, a city with deep class divides, and a city with a rich industrial, mercantile and artistic history. And, here in Milwaukee, in this year alone, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, we are lucky to have many diverse points of entry into Shakespeare's work: Fly Steffens' collaboration with Pius XI High School on The Tempest /#LATEMPESTAD; a therapeutic program, dubbed the Feast of Crispian allows local veterans prompted by Shakespeare's words, to tell their stories; Off the Wall Theatre's sexagenarian Romeo and Juliet; and of course, Optimist Theatre's (always free) Shakespeare in the Park is presenting The Winter's Tale.
There is a "ripped from the headlines" quality permeating The Winter's Tale with its sex scandal in the highest level of government; political cover-ups and double identities; broken family; social inequality; and even its fatal wild animal attack. The plotlines possess currency and universality that resonate with the issues of our time as they did with those of Renaissance England. But it is the rhythm, rhyme and repetition of Shakespeare's poetry, ably assisted by the power and grace of the acting and production, which pulls us again and again into this "realm of relevance."
"Is this nothing?
Why then the world and all that's in't is nothing;
The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing;
My wife is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings, if this be nothing."
(I, ii, 292-96)
Sarah Bernstein is a longtime Shakespeare in the Park supporter, President of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement, and blogs about fundraising, research and whatever else strikes her.
We don't really know the answer to that, either. But, "as good luck would have it," there's still a few days to figure it out. And, you'll want to.
Because April 23rd is going to be an observ-ance to "beggar all description!" (See what we did, there?).
April 23, 2014 marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and Stratford-upon-Avon will lead the world in the revelry with fireworks, workshops and theater tours. The celebration will culminate in productions of Henry IV parts 1 and 2 performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).
The RSC is also spearheading a three-year jubilee to mark the occasions of Shakespeare's life and death. Between 2014 and 2016, theatre performances and live streaming cinema will take place around the world.
Check out this website for information on more birthday celebrations, museum exhibits, library projects and the story behind Shakespeare's meet-up with a 20-foot mechanical Lady Godiva!
Closer to home, Optimist Theatre's Ron Scot Fry will be on hand as the Bard of the Hour for a reception for the Racine Literacy Council on April 23rd. Then he's off to Eau Claire where the collected middle schools hold their annual Shakespeare Festival.
How can we help you to celebrate? Inspired by a project we stumbled across on the Internet (thanks, Canada Writes!) we would love to receive your Shakespeare Selfies at our Facebook page! By that we mean -- whatever you want it to mean. Photos of you celebrating Wm Shackspeare. Your written homage to Will Shaxspere. The video of your finger-puppet production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Ideally, your submission should include you and Shakespeare.
We're so grateful to 2014 Cosponsor BMO Harris for their challenge matching grant, and to everyone who helped us meet the goal that met the challenge.
But we still need your help
Generous as the grant is, it doesn't cover the full budget of the show. Help us to fill the gaps with your tax-deductible donation:
DONATE VIA PAYPAL
Let us know if your donation is in honor or recognition of a special person or event!
HOW ELSE YOU CAN HELP:
Optimist Theatre, as an affiliate member of UPAF, can earn donations through the volunteer labor it can provide for the annual UPAF Ride for the Arts.
Check this list of volunteer opportunities and sign up -- most of them are on ride day, but not all, so it's possible for you to do both.
Which brings us to --
We want you for a team of riders!
If you're interested in going for a little ride on the morning of Sunday, June 1st to support OT, drop us an e-mail to let us know, and we'll get you the registration details!
What brought you to acting?
Both my Grandfather and Mother were actors. They got me into it and I just kept going.
What did 10-year-old Beth think she'd be when she grew up?
Probably a librarian, or a back-up dancer for Michael Jackson.
What is the greatest challenge of playing Hermione and Autolycus?
The amount of memorization. All that text is a daunting challenge. I've always had to work really hard to get lines to stick in my brain.
What do you hope that Shakespeare in the Park fans will take away from The Winter's Tale?
That life and how we respond to what is presented to us is all about choice. Whether we chose fear or love, anger or forgiveness, determines how our lives play out. Every moment we make choices based on how we PERCEIVE our circumstances, or how we PERCEIVE the words, worth or ideologies of the person in front of us. We have the choice and the power.
Who should play you in the feature film of your life?
What Shakespeare character to you most resemble?
Actually, I think Hermione. She loves her husband and being a mother above all else. She's not afraid to speak her mind or get a little cheeky, but remains true to her values and impeccable with her words. I relate to her, and strive to live this way.
What's your superpower?
Intuition. I like to think my instincts are pretty good. But if I could acquire one, I want to fly. I used to have a recurring dream as a kid about flying through the Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Public Museum!
Tragedy, comedy or history?
Comedy, definitely. Probably romantic comedy, at that -- I love a happy ending!
Truth or dare?
Truth. I allow myself to be vulnerable and try to be an open book. Plus, I'm kind of a chicken when it comes to daring behavior!
Any dessert. ANY. DESSERT.
More about Beth:
Beth Mulkerron will make her Optimist Theatre debut in this summer's The Winter's Tale. You may recognize her from her recent parts in A Christmas Carol or Ragtime with The Milwaukee Rep. She has sung in concert with Davis Gaines and The Milwaukee Symphony and performed across the country including Off-Broadway and locally at The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, The Fireside and Skylight Music Theatre. Television and voiceover credits include Miller, General Electric, the Wisconsin Lottery and NBC. Beth has also appeared in independent films and has enjoyed recording extensively for Hal Leonard.
Beth studied Musical Theatre at the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music and received her BFA from Florida State University.