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Director’s Notes: To Kill A Mockingbird

When the 2016/2017 Waukesha Civic Theatre season was announced and I saw that To Kill A Mockingbird was on the list, I knew that I would clamor and claw for the opportunity to direct this play. I have taught the novel to my freshman World Literature class, and year after year, it sparks a vibrant conversation of race, equality, poverty, violence, innocence, desperation, and hope. It is a story that speaks to my heart and screams to my conscience. I see myself in Scout – in her compulsion to stand up for what’s right, and to be the voice for those who are too scared or unable to speak up. I even named my daughter Harper in tribute to Ms. Lee. It is a dream of mine to direct the stage play of Mockingbird – to bring this conversation to life as only theatre can, and I am deeply humbled to be trusted to tell this story with an incredible team of actors and designers.

I am thrilled to see Harper Lee’s novel bringing our community and schools together, in partnership with the Waukesha Reads program. To Kill A Mockingbird is an intelligent and timely choice for Waukesha Civic Theatre at this point in history. With tensions high, the conversation of the racial divide in America is vital as ever. Voices are raised, fires are burning, and yet voices are going unheard. We need to hear one another and listen to the singing of the “mockingbirds,” so that we can find understanding. In this play, the echoes of slavery are heard in the deeply-rooted segregation of the South, just as the echoes of segregation are heard in towns across America today. Mockingbird not only serves as a reflection of the past, but it mirrors today’s world and provides a lens through which we can look into the future. While you can look for villains in this play, they are hard to pin down. Even the apparent villains are victims of circumstance, aren’t they? Ignorance, poverty, culture, and fear stand in the way of progress in Harper Lee’s 1934 Maycomb, Alabama as they continue to do today across America. If I had to guess, I would say that Harper Lee would never have imagined just how relevant her story would be in the year 2016, and I have to wonder if she would how discontented she would be. My fervent hope is that in my lifetime, this play will become antiquated; it will become a piece of history we will use to look back with gratitude on a time before things changed.

I hope that you find truth here today – that you find laughter, and that you find heartache; I most certainly have found all of these things in building this show with our team. I would like to thank John Cramer for giving me the opportunity to direct Mockingbird, my incredible cast for trusting me and one another, and bringing with them a goodness of heart that moves me, and my production team of artists and organizers who make this show possible. I am forever grateful to my supportive and loving family, Aaron (lighting/sound designer), Jaxon, and Harper. Please help us spread the word and fill this house each performance. We are so glad you are here.

schmidt-rhonda-2016Rhonda Marie Schmidt

Director

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You know what they say about a bad dress rehearsal…

Fear not, Waukesha Civic Theatre fans–WCT’s dress rehearsals are going just fine.  The same can’t be said for the poor, harried cast and crew of Nothing On, the play-within-a-play of WCT’s latest production, Noises Off.   This hysterical, award-winning farce follows the haggard cast and crew from a terrible final rehearsal to a ridiculous opening night and, finally, to a disastrous closing show.  The onstage mix-ups and the backstage drama blend to create a delightful and very funny theatre-going experience.

Written by Michael Frayn, Noises Off was inspired by an experience Frayn had while watching a farce from backstage.  He found what happened behind the scenes was even funnier than what was happening onstage, and he wanted to give audiences that same experience.  Thus, Noises Off was born.  The first act shows the action onstage during the final rehearsal of the farce Nothing On.  For the second act, the set flips around and the audience gets to watch opening night from backstage, as actors and crew members scramble to bring the show to life.  The third act sees the set flipped once more, with an exhausted group now just trying to survive the play’s closing night.

Nothing On may be a disaster, Noises Off is anything but.  The show is critically acclaimed.  “There has never been a more brilliantly conceived machine for generating helpless audience laughter than Michael Frayn’s 1982 classic Noises Off,” writes Paul Taylor of The Independent.  Charles Spencer of The Daily Telegraph proclaims, “Noises Off offers an infallible escape into happiness.”

WCT’s production of Noises Off, directed by Mark E. Schuster, runs from May 2 through the 18th, 2014.  The show features the charming talents of Randall Anderson, James Baker, Jim Donaldson, Gemma Fitzsimmons, Patti Anne Hachmeister, Kassandra Novell, Beth Perry, David Scott, and Phil Stepanski.  The dedicated crew includes Jacob Dougherty, Leah Teske, Patrick Schuster, A.J. Simon, Sharon Sohner, Cindy Velcheck, Aaron Schmidt, Breanne Brennan, and Anthony Mackie.

To purchase tickets, please call the WCT box office at (262) 547-0708 between 12 and 5 Tuesday through Friday, or visit our website here: http://waukeshacivictheatre.org/57thSeason/NoisesOff.html

See you at the Theatre!