Category Archives: Mainstage Performance

Director’s Note: The Little Prince

I can’t actually remember a time when The Little Prince was not a part of my life. I don’t remember the first time I heard it, read it, or when I saw the film with Gene Wilder as Fox and Bob Fosse as Snake. The story has always been a backdrop to my life. It was one of my mother’s favorites. I was certain she knew the answer to the Aviator’s question, that she could speak the language of the stars. When I was 16, I left for Africa on a Rotary Exchange. She told me to always look at the moon. She would always be looking at it too, so in this way, no matter where we were, we would always together.

When Laura invited me to co-direct this production, my mother was very ill and I knew I would be doing this story after her passing, in the sacred place of grief and gratitude. Laura, too, was in an underworld journey with the discovery of her son’s brain tumor. We were both living in the unknown with our best beloveds, and yet we were each able to turn to this masterpiece for solace. Exupèry says, “It is such a strange place, the land of tears.” And he was right. We began really feeling the paradoxes of life and death, love and loss, hope and renewal. We were somehow no longer in the world of either/or, but in the exciting realm of both/and.

In exploring the deeper mysteries of the duality of this story, one has to know how it came to be written. Antoine de St. Exupéry was a pilot at a time when the airplane was a new technology. His iconic writing about flying was considered vital to the development of the aero-technology. Exupéry was no stranger to sorrow. His father died before he was four, and so did his younger brother. Like the pilot in the story, Exupéry actually crashed in the Sahara desert with his navigator, André Prévot, on December 30th, 1935. They both survived, by nothing short of grace—they didn’t have enough food and water to last one person one day in such heat. They had no idea where they crashed, and were rapidly losing any chance of survival. Both men suffered from severe dehydration during this time and began to hallucinate quite viscerally. It was from these desert hallucinations that the story of The Little Prince was born. Some suggest that the boy who visited Exupéry when he was so close to Death, was the ghost of his little brother, who would not leave his side until he was rescued.

Throughout the show, you may notice that we made very specific choices to explore the duality we discovered. To begin, we have two directors on two different, yet similar, journeys with death: one which leads toward loss, and one which leads toward miraculous recovery. All of our principals hold different kinds of dualities: we find with Rose that when we fall in love, we must be willing to accept both the conscious and unconscious forces at work in the psyche of the Beloved, and in ourselves. Exupéry seems to suggest that we carry the wounds of our childhood into our adulting; he reminds us to be gentle with one another. Snake is the Great Goddess, the Womb and Tomb of Natural World. She inspires us to confront the fear of the unknown through acceptance of our constant ability to transform and transcend our limitations. Both roles are played by two actresses to amplify this powerful theme. We also have real people and puppet actors in the show. It was important to heighten the sense of distortion between those who see with the heart and those who see only with the eyes. We have two Little Princes: one, a girl, and one, a boy. Gender, after all, is a construct of the mind and of society, it is an agreement, not a truth. It’s time to really challenge paradigms which are based in power and move toward creating paradigms based in love. In this double-casting choice, the Little Prince is also not fixed to a single vision of “who the character was, or is,” it also suggests the possibility of who the character is going to become after returning home. Ironically, we had three sets of twins involved in the casting of this production: both actors playing the Little Prince are twins, as well as one of our Roses. You might also notice the striking similarities between the Aviator and Fox. I like to think of Fox as the Aviator’s higher self; the ancient one inside all of us, that gives us the exact wisdom we most critically need dark nights of the soul. And finally, the script called for an ensemble so we called upon the ancient and powerful idea of a Greek Chorus: the ensemble play the supporting cast members as well as create sunsets, baobobs, volcanoes, and birds; they are the landscape of the world around this story. Blending the idea of my love for Greek Chorus with Laura’s passion for ballet was so exhilarating to watch come to life.

We are so incredibly honored to share in this creative vision with such a talented dream team of designers as well as our unbelievably talented cast. We are deeply grateful to all of you for sharing this vision with the eyes of your hearts. Thank you to Harmonie, Michael, Liz, Evan, Mike, Mark, Linda, and David. Thanks to my son, Charlie. (I love sharing this story with you!) Thank you, Mary, for stepping in as ASM. Thank you, Kristelle, for lending your artistic expertise. Thank you to Doug for warmly welcoming us and cheering us on. Thank you to John Cramer for being our champion and never losing faith that we could tell this story through our own challenging journeys. Thank you to the WCT administrative team: Rhonda, Katie, Meghan, and Nancy for invaluable mentorship through the entire process. Thank you to Phillip and all the volunteers. Thank you for consulting on the set design, Derek Castor and Dustin Martin. Thank you, Jim Padovano. We so appreciated your welcome and support to us in this space. Thank you to all the parents and families that allowed us the time with your talented children and partners. Thank you to Katie Cummings and Pink Umbrella Theatre for consulting with us on sensory-friendly performances. Thanks to Peter for spear-heading WCT’s first inclusive show. We cannot think of a more beautiful story to launch this new WCT tradition.

Finally, we dedicate this performance to you, the audience, and to all who hold this story dear. Actually, no. We dedicate this show to the children you used to be, who knew the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor eating an elephant. Most importantly, we dedicate this to the little ones inside you who know how important it is to tend to the baobabs of doubt and fear, like Laura’s son, Burgoyne, who despite having a tumor removed from his brain, the size of a grapefruit, miraculously continues to get stronger and stronger every day! While we were in rehearsal, he not only traveled to Korea, he managed to complete his final class for his master’s degree in education! Burgoyne is living proof of the transformative and healing power in the stories we tell ourselves.

As for me, I am learning to see my mother with the eyes of my heart. On a quiet evening, when I look at the moon…I think…I can hear her laughing…

 

 

Dr. Shannon Sloan-Spice

Director

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Spotlight On The Board: The Little Prince

Now that summer is almost over, along with vacations and all of the summer activities, maybe it’s time to think about our entertainment schedules for the fall and on into next year. One great idea is to enjoy a change of pace, to be able to sit back and just enjoy a live stage performance put on by local actors. I am talking about the Waukesha Civic Theatre, located in the old PIX theatre building in downtown Waukesha. This non-profit organization puts on a variety of plays every year, and this is in addition to theatrical education programs, video showings, and much more.

When was the last time you went to live theatre? It’s much different than going to a movie or a sports event. Sometimes the plays just entertain you, sometimes they challenge your basic concepts. Whether you like a play or not, you have to be impressed with the time and effort our local entertainers put into the productions. So why not try something different this year and visit the Waukesha Civic Theatre? My wife and I are season ticket holders, and before that my parents were season ticket holders. I have to say that these plays are done as well as any I have seen from Purdue University to Milwaukee to Fort Atkinson.

This fall’s Mainstage lineup begins with The Little Prince, a play based on a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The Little Prince brings to life the story of an Aviator lost in the desert who learns what it is to be tamed. This show deals with the themes of love, loss, and friendship. This play runs from September 13-29, 2019. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office on Main Street in Waukesha or online via the Theatre’s website www.waukeshacivictheatre.org. If you go to the website, take time to look at all the things the Theatre does in our community, and if I were you, I would buy season tickets for the seven Mainstage shows.

Dean Danner

Board of Directors

Spotlight On The Board: The Giver

When I was asked to write something about The Giver a couple months ago, I had mixed feelings. I didn’t want to admit that this title is the book I purchased many years ago and didn’t even read a page of it yet. Honestly, the cover with the old man on it made me apprehensive to read it. Then my middle school daughter told me it was her favorite book? So with this task at hand and the encouragement of my daughter, I dusted off my book and starting reading…and reading…and reading. I was so intrigued by the book that when I found out it is a series of 4 books, I had to get them all. I am currently on the third book in the series. The old man on the cover has taught me to truly never judge a book by its cover. My daughter and I are now anxiously awaiting to see this book come to life on the Waukesha Civic Theatre stage.

The Giver is the story where Jonas lives in a utopia with no pain, no fear – and no choice. Language is precise and sterile; emotions and other physical impulses are controlled. At age 12, children are assigned a vocation. As Jonas approaches this momentous occasion, he notices strange things happening to ordinary objects around him – which no one else seems to notice. He is assigned a special job – to receive and keep the memories of the community. But what happens when he learns the truth – that there could be choice, and love, and what it means for a person to be Released? Based on the Newberry Award winning novel by Lois Lowry.

You don’t have to read the book to enjoy this show. So join us at the theatre for The Giver May 2-19, 2019.

 

 

Nancy McCaskey

Board Director

MAD Corner: Thoroughly Modern Millie

WCT is thrilled to bring Thoroughly Modern Millie to the heart of Waukesha, brought to life by incredible production staff and a robust and talented cast and crew. Millie premiered on Broadway in 2002, receiving multiple Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards, and ran for two years and over nine hundred performances, and since has been produced around the world.
Set in the 1920’s, Millie brings to the stage flashes of color in bold, swishy costumes, toe-tapping song and dance numbers, and much like the other shows of this genre, takes a tongue-in-cheek nudge at the political incorrectness of its time. This is not to say that we unabashedly jumped into the cultural references of this show, which can go over the line. WCT worked diligently to cast actors of Chinese descent in the roles of Bun Foo and Ching Ho, and when we were not able to fill these roles authentically, we worked with a culture and dialect coach through our diversity council to proceed in the most sensitive and respectfully authentic way possible. That said, we would like our community and audience to know that we are continuing to work toward a more balanced and diverse representation on our PIX stage.
I would like to thank everyone that supports Waukesha Civic Theatre! We wouldn’t be here without you. The volunteers are the heart of this theatre, contributing on stage and off, serving on the board of directors, ushering for our many events, providing maintenance and office support, and working on multiple production elements. You, our patrons, come to WCT to enjoy quality live entertainment which is only possible because of our incredible volunteers and staff.
How does our community theatre thrive? Through patrons like you, who return show after show to support our theatre community, and through our donors and community sponsorships. Our donors help keep us financially sound and looking to the future through gifts to the Annual Operating Fund, the Endowment Fund, and by including us in planned estate giving.
The generosity of the Waukesha community is mind-blowing and life-giving, and we at WCT truly appreciate the time, talent, and financial resources that each of you give to keep our theatre thriving.
The best way to support WCT is to spread the word about Waukesha’s top choice for live entertainment. Find us on social media, like and share, and help us spread the word. These are exciting times and we are thrilled that you are here with us.
We hope you are entertained, enriched, and challenged and that you come back for more!

Rhonda Marie Schmidt
Managing Artistic Director (Lady MAD)

Director’s Note: Thoroughly Modern Millie

Thank you for choosing to spend your time in 1922 New York City with us. We know that there are many things you could be doing, and the fact that you are here means more to each of us than you could even imagine. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to express my thoughts about Thoroughly Modern Millie, which hopefully will enhance your experience.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Music Director Yeng Parman-Thao; your musical prowess is certainly on display here. To Choreographer Jessica Fastabend: your creativity is as big as all outdoors. From Set Designer Marisa Abbott to Props Designer Johanna Kaye to Light Designer Mike Van Dreser. My dear friend, David A. Robins, who labors tirelessly with our sound design, shortly after the untimely passing of his father. Our Master Carpenter, Scott D. Prox, has never seen anything on paper that he could not build. Our Production Stage Manager, David Kaye, who kept everything organized and on track through all the rehearsals and through a very trying technical rehearsal process. Joshua Parman-Thao, who assembled and conducts our orchestra, an orchestra that boasts of some of the finest musicians to ever sit in an orchestra pit – most masters degree prepared in their instrument. Also, very special thanks to my friend and confidant, Jill Anna Ponasik, who lent her support and talent as vocal coach.

The list goes on and on, but it must be stated here for all to see. You will be amazed by the costumes designed by Nikki Maritch and assisted by Sharon Sohner, and our wigs by Eric Welch. These two areas which are often overlooked but absolutely are essential to this show.

This creative staff is without doubt one of the finest I have ever had the honor to work alongside. From concept to fruition of opening night, we had a vision for the production and we could not be more proud. This cast has never flinched and drove forward daily, striving to deliver the vision of the creative team. The words do not exist to praise them enough.

The original Broadway production won six Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards, including the win for Best Musical at both ceremonies. It is the vehicle that propelled Sutton Foster to stardom, as she stepped into the role of Millie after being the understudy for the workshop and preview performances!

All the way back in December, 2018, with auditions, we set upon our mission of providing the Waukesha Civic Theatre audiences an evening in the theatre that is enjoyable and special. We assembled our cast and made a very conscious decision to use the incredibly talented Keith R. Smith, in drag, as our Mrs. Meers. We were lucky to have two impressive actresses to play Ching Ho and Bun Foo, Delaney Schlake-Kruse and Anna Lapean absolutely amazed everyone with the amount of work they put in to learning and perfecting the Cantonese and Mandarin dialects. The entire cast worked through the awful winter and trudged through the snow and ice and the polar vortex to attend rehearsals and in the process they became the caring, loving family that they are. I believe we have assembled one of the most talented casts to ever trod the boards of the Civic stage. They are backed up 100% without question or pause by the production team – a team that I believe is unlike any team of creatives to work in the Milwaukee theatre community.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is a valuable show because it teaches us how a strong work ethic and desire to do what is right will always overcome evil and ill will. It entertains us with its exceptional musical score and helps us find a sincere level of cultural sensitivity.

Having said that, in our effort to achieve cultural sensitivity, we have done many things in regard to the roles of Ching Ho and Bun Foo. We reached out to the community to try to create interest in the audition process to cast these roles authentically. We did extensive research on dialect, costumes, make up, hairstyles and culture. We worked with a dialect and culture coach.

Our dialect coach was Waukesha Civic Theatre’s own Peter Kao. Peter has been involved with three other productions of Millie, and in fact had auditioned for this one but was unable to be in the cast due to some conflicts. Peter was a huge help in mounting this production.

The Thoroughly Modern Millie family is very proud of the show we have produced and are so excited to share it with you now. So come with us to New York City in 1922 and let’s have some fun.

I urge you to visit the lobby display featuring the work of the creative staff of Millie. The set drawings and costume plot as well as the lighting plot are all featured. See how the herculean task of putting a huge Broadway musical together is accomplished.

Thanks for coming and please enjoy the performance!

 

James Padovano

Director

Meet The Thoroughly Modern Millie Stage Manager: David Kaye

What is your name and role in the show?

My name is David Kaye and I am the Stage Manager for Thoroughly Modern Millie.

 

What attracted you to participate in the show?

It is a show full of tap dancing, and I am not the one that has to do it.

 

What has been your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

My favorite part of the rehearsal process is getting to know this incredible cast, as it is my first time working with most of them. They are so dedicated, talented, and supportive of each other. It’s a truly beautiful thing to watch.

 

What has been the most challenging part of the rehearsal process?

At the start of the rehearsal process I had an emergency appendectomy so I missed most of the first month of rehearsals. This has put me behind in organization and getting to know the cast. As someone who struggles with names, losing that extra time to connect with everyone was frustrating.

 

Have you been involved in productions at Waukesha Civic Theatre before?

This is my fifth production with WCT.

 

If so, what productions?

I was on the run crew for A Little Night Music, I directed Almost, Maine and For Purely Elfish Reasons, and I sound designed Sex Please We’re Sixty. I am also directing the upcoming production of But Why Bump Off Barnaby?

 

What is your favorite thing about working at Waukesha Civic Theatre?

It’s the people. I love theatre, but I’d leave it behind entirely if it wasn’t for the caring people that make up the audience, cast, crew, and management. Being around good people is the best thing I know of.

 

Why should audiences see Thoroughly Modern Millie?

It is fun, it’s as simple as that. Sure, the show talks about some serious issues, but the most important part is the fun songs, stunning dance numbers, and rat-a-tat dialogue the cast gets to play with. Add to this the incredible orchestra, the gorgeous sets and lighting…This show will be something special.

 

 

David Kaye

Stage Manager

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Spotlight On The Board: Thoroughly Modern Millie

My family has been patiently waiting for the Waukesha Civic Theatre to present the musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie for a long time! As the first show my husband and­ I saw on Broadway (with the Tony Award-winning Sutton Foster in 2003), it immediately became a favorite! When our four-year-old daughter started tap dance lessons, we could not wait to show her the movie that the musical was based on. At the ripe old age of 6 years old, we treated her to the tap-dancing, mad-cap antics of Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore featured in the 1967 film, also starring the recently deceased Carol Channing. Finally, bringing everything full circle, the same daughter, now sixteen years old, just finished her sophomore winter musical as Millie Dillmount in Catholic Memorial High School’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. We are thrilled that our own cultural cornerstone, Waukesha Civic Theatre, is able to introduce a new generation of theatre lovers to this classic story of determination, perseverance, and, of course, love!

A spoof set in New York City at the height of the roaring twenties, the musical introduces the audience to Millie, a “modern,” who comes from small town Kansas and plans to marry her boss at a job she hasn’t yet found. The situations she and her friends get caught up in at the Hotel Priscilla, their temporary residence, are somehow shocking and hilarious at the same time, eventually leading Millie, Dorothy, Jimmy, and Ching Ho to discover the true meaning of love.   Along the way, the group encounters flappers, speakeasies, a villainess-involved in kidnapping, and time in jail. All this, combined with a powerful score and explosive tap numbers, promises an evening of entertainment that will leave you grinning!

If you saw Gypsy at the Waukesha Civic Theatre in 2016, you will be thrilled to know the amazing actress who played Gypsy Rose Lee, Megan Miller, is starring as Millie Dillmount in this show! Audiences will once again be wowed by her talent!

Thank you for coming, and enjoy the show!

 

 

Jenny Erato

Board Of Directors

Director’s Note: The Underpants

Whenever I told anyone I was directing a play called The Underpants, I was almost always met with the same response. A small smile. A polite laugh. A sideways glance, cautious but intrigued. I would go on to give a brief synopsis. 1910 Germany. A woman goes to see the king in a parade, and there is a mishap with her skirt. Her underpants are seen. In public. Then several guys want to move into her boardinghouse because of it. Typical hijinx ensue. And even better, it was adapted by Steve Martin. Yes, THAT Steve Martin, the hilarious American actor and comedian. All of a sudden, those smiles got bigger, those laughs got louder. It suddenly was not only acceptable, but understandable, that this show was about underwear. To me, that’s what theatre is all about. I love a great farce. The sillier the better. It’s an escape from reality. A chance for all of the stress and anxiety of daily life to melt away for a couple of hours. To not take life too seriously. To enjoy silly facial expressions, physical humor and witty wordplay. We had so many laughs as we brought these crazy characters and silly situations to life. I hope you have just as much fun watching it as we had putting it together. And it’s okay if you laugh loudly and laugh often, even if a few of the jokes are a bit naughty. You spent your hard earned money to come see a play about underwear. What else would you expect?

 

 

Phil Stepanski

Director

WCT Welcomes New Managing Artistic Director: Rhonda Marie Schmidt

In WCT’s history, there have been six managing directors over the past 62 years. We are excited to announce our seventh: Rhonda Marie Schmidt.

Rhonda has been managing theatre departments in an educational setting for nine years after studying at UW-Milwaukee and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She has had practical experience as a performer and director in New York and has been present in exploring many avenues in Wisconsin Theatre, including directing, teaching, performing, producing, and designing at Divine Savior Holy Angels, University Lake School, Waukesha Civic Theatre, Sunset Playhouse, The Milwaukee REP, and Skylight Music Theatre.

Rhonda has a love for Waukesha Civic Theatre and the City of Waukesha, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and their beloved pets. She believes that Community Theatre is about building a team of individuals who show-up for one another – to create, to build, to plan, to dream, to clean, and to work – combining the efforts of paid and unpaid artists to create something beautiful. Rhonda looks forward to building a team that will look to the future and longevity of the Waukesha Civic Theatre.

The staff and Board Of Directors at the Waukesha Civic Theatre are excited for Rhonda to join us as we continue to enrich, challenge, and entertain both participants and audience members through our quality, live theatre performances and educational opportunities. 

Spotlight On The Board: The Underpants

Welcome to The Underpants, a hilarious comedy by Steve Martin based on Die Hose, German play written in 1910 by Carl Sternheim. The play begins with a most unfortunate wardrobe malfunction that briefly leaves a young woman caught with her pants down, both literally and figuratively. Everyone involved in the incident, including her husband, gets their knickers in a knot as they try to iron out the wrinkles this delicate situation has caused. What’s revealed is an intimate piece of comedic schadenfreude that is sure to charm your pants off.
What I love about Waukesha Civic Theatre is the many opportunities available to get involved. In my tenure here at WCT, I have been an actor, costume assistant, stage crew, production director, and Board Director. This spring, I will take on a new role as Props Designer for The Giver (May 2-19, 2019).

This particular production of The Underpants continues the tradition of providing opportunities for participants to try some new skills. WCT audiences are used to seeing Gwen Ter Haar and Phil Stepanski playing various characters on stage. This time, they have taken on new challenges as Costume Designer and Director, respectively.  

If you’ve ever thought about volunteering at Waukesha Civic Theatre, please consider joining our team where you can share your talents or discover new ones!
Thank you for choosing to spend your time at Waukesha Civic Theatre and enjoy the show!


Peter Kao
Secretary
Board of Directors