Blog Archives

Director’s Note: The Drowsy Chaperone

Just after I finished college, my aunt and uncle paid for a trip to New York as a present. They had arrived earlier than I did, and when I landed, they told me they had bought show tickets for that evening but didn’t tell me what show. I had a list of a half dozen shows I REALLY wanted to see, and so I was very excited when I met up with them. They informed me that they had gotten tickets to see The Drowsy Chaperone, and I had a hard time concealing my disappointment. (I must have mentioned the show to them at some point.) I had been interested in the show, but it was maybe 7th on my list of 6 shows I wanted to see on that trip. But it was too late, and it was a gift. So we went to the show, and it was an utter delight from start to finish. Great characters, catchy songs, tongue in cheek humor. It was a total joy. A truly PLEASANT SURPRISE and one of the highlights of that trip.

 

Fast forward this past fall. I get an email from John Cramer asking if I’d be interested in directing the production at Civic. I was under the assumption that a director was already in place, so it was a very PLEASANT SURPRISE to have been given this opportunity.

 

This cast has been a joy to work with. The Civic has been very welcoming to me and I have enjoyed this experience immensely. When I direct, I tend to be on my feet a lot, playing around right along with the actors. I am fairly certain they’ve had as much fun as I have putting this show together, and today’s performance is proof of that. If you have never seen the show before, I hope you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was when I first experienced it.

 

 

Matt Zembrowski

Director

MAD Corner: Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit is one of my favorite plays of all time.  It is also one of the most produced plays ever, and there is a good reason for that … it is awesome.  Noël  Coward got the title of the play from Percy Shelley’s poem “To a Skylark.” “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert.” The play was first seen in the West End in 1941, creating a new long-run record for non-musical British plays of 1,997 performances. It also did well on Broadway later that year, running for 657 performances. Coward adapted the play for film in 1945, and directed a musical adaptation, High Spirits, on Broadway in 1964. It was also adapted for television and radio in the 1950s and 1960s. The play enjoyed several West End and Broadway revivals in the 1970s and 1980s and was revived again in London in 2004, 2011, and 2014. It returned to Broadway in February 2009.

We hope you enjoy this classic comedy, and that it raises your spirits!

Thank you to everyone that supports WCT!  All of our volunteers help us out in any number of ways by acting, ushering, serving on the board of directors, providing maintenance or office support, or working on sets, costumes, props.  Our patrons come to WCT see quality live entertainment, the fruits of our volunteers’ labor.  Our donors help keep us financially sound by their gifts to the Annual Operating Fund, the Endowment Fund, or by including us in their planned giving. 

The generosity of the Waukesha community astounds me, and I truly appreciate all the time, talent, and money that you give to WCT. 

One way, and arguably the best way, to support WCT is to spread the word about Waukesha’s best kept secret.  It always amazes me when I meet someone in Waukesha who has no idea what a fantastic organization we have right here in the heart of the community.  Tell people about what we do and all we offer. 

Enrich.  Challenge.  Entertain. 

That says it all, so keep watching, keep participating with, and keep supporting this cultural cornerstone.  We couldn’t do it without you. 

Cramer John 2006John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

Spotlight On The Board Of Directors: Blithe Spirit

I’d like to welcome you to Blithe Spirit, the fourth Mainstage show of our historic 60th season. We are thrilled to present this classic play by Noël Coward! With such timeless opportunities for our local talent, I’m honored to be a member of the Board. Yet, surprisingly, there are still some people who don’t know of this entertainment gem centered right here on Main Street!

We have a plethora of different entertainment options running year-round! Between 135+ stage performances, 12 movies, 27 weeks of A.C.T. classes, 18 Friday Night Live concerts, countless hours of design, rehearsals, & construction (and so much more!), the Waukesha Civic Theatre is a bustling metropolis! Our special events – like the upcoming Festival Of Fools – provide entertaining and fun ways to support the theatre. And our education program even extends beyond our doors to teach kids in local schools. That’s right: we’re not just for actors! Whether you can pound a hammer, program a computer, alphabetize a file cabinet, or perform an aria, there are plenty of ways to get involved almost every day of every week. So spread the word!

You are also invited to join in celebrating the Waukesha Civic Theatre’s proud achievement of providing challenging, enriching, and entertaining opportunities for 60 HISTORIC SEASONS. Having reached this elite diamond status, we ask you to help us look to the future with your support. Without the generous support from our guests, we could not continue to provide these great services to the Waukesha County community and beyond. Please consider a donation today. Thank you!

I look forward to seeing you, and let me know what you think!

danner-jonathan-2010Jonathan Danner

Secretary

Board Of Directors

Director’s Note: Blithe Spirit

I’m an enormously talented man and there’s no use pretending that I’m not.

-Noël Coward

Noël Coward is one of the wittiest, funniest, and most outrageous playwrights of the British theatre.  Somehow, it doesn’t matter that his plays take place in another country, that they present outlandish situations with equally outlandish characters, or that they were written three-quarters of a century ago.  They still work.

Noël Peirce Coward was born in 1899 and made his professional stage debut as Prince Mussel in The Goldfish at the age of 12, leading to many child actor appearances over the next few years.  During the frenzied 1920s and the more sedate 1930s, Coward wrote a string of successful plays, musicals and intimate revues.  He remained a successful playwright, screenwriter and director throughout the World War II years, as well as entertaining the troops and even acting as an unofficial spy for the Foreign Office. His plays during these years included Blithe Spirit which ran for 1,997 performances and outlasted the War.

The post-war years were more difficult for him. Austere Britain – the London critics determined – was out of tune with the brittle Coward wit. In response, Coward re-invented himself as a cabaret and TV star, particularly in America, and in 1955 he played a sell-out season in Las Vegas featuring many of his most famous songs.  In the mid-1950s he settled in Jamaica and Switzerland, and enjoyed a renaissance in the early 1960s becoming the first living playwright to be performed by the National Theatre.

Writer, actor, director, film producer, painter, songwriter, cabaret artist as well as an author of a novel, verse, essays and autobiographies, he was called by close friends “The Master.”  Coward was knighted in 1970 and died peacefully in 1973 in his beloved Jamaica.

There is nothing deep about this play.  There are no symbols, hidden meanings, or secret situations.  What we have is the amazingly creative mind of a writer whose sole purpose seems to be to give us enjoyment.  So – please laugh.  Please enjoy.  Please leave your worries behind.  This is what Noël Coward would have wished.  And so do I.

dolphin-carol-2006-cropped

Carol Dolphin

Director

PIX Flix Spotlight On The Board: Casablanca

Put Monday, February 13 at 6:30 p.m. on your calendar to join my wife Dawn and me at the Waukesha Civic Theatre to see one of my all-time favorite films – Casablanca for only $5.00.  Critic Leonard Maltin considers it to be “the best Hollywood movie of all time.”

It stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, in his first truly romantic role and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund which her website calls her “most famous and enduring role.”  Critic Roger Ebert called her “luminous” and her chemistry with Bogart: “she paints his face with her eyes.”

Casablanca has some of the most famous lines ever!  Watching today’s news, an anchor said they “rounded up the usual suspects” which Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault says twice to great effect.

One of the best final lines in any movie, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” was added a month after shooting ended.  Other famous Bogart lines are: “We’ll always have Paris,” and  “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Personally I love when Renault says,  “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling’s going on here” and then’s told, “Your winnings, sir.”  I also love when Bogart tells the head Nazi, “Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”

So come see why Casablanca, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, won Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay at the 1943 Academy Awards and includes the iconic theme song, “As Time Goes By” sung by Dooley Wilson.  Then you should watch Woody Allen’s 1972 film, Play It Again Sam, which Bogart never actually says.

I guarantee you’ll enjoy seeing it on the big Civic screen – “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”  How many films offer comedy, romance, suspense, and the fifth most memorable line in cinema – Rick’s toast to Ilsa, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” which Bogey said to Bergman as he taught her poker between takes.

Nelson Larry 2011

 

Larry Nelson

Waukesha Civic Theatre Board Director

Director’s Notes: For Purely Elfish Reasons

Over the years, many people have asked me how my odd sense of humor came to be. Of course, some of the credit/blame falls on my parents, but so much of it came from another source. On so many weekends, my sister and I would get our parents to take us to Blockbuster Video to rent VHS tapes of the Marx Brothers. Oh, the Marx Brothers… they only made sense when absolutely necessary, but you still could find layers in their humor. From the wit and verbal jabs of Groucho to the wisecracking foolishness of Chico and the sweet pantomime of Harpo, these brothers helped form my humor from a very early age.

In December of 2014, I went to the Alchemist Theatre to see a brand new, five-person show by my old friend Jason Powell. I hadn’t read anything in advance about this Elfish Reasons show, so I didn’t know what the show was about. Almost immediately, a performer came on stage dressed as a Christmas elf Groucho Marx! Then we got to see Jason himself as Chico! And look – Harpo too! I feel as if I owe an apology to anyone else that was in the theatre that night. I have never been a subtle laugher, and I worry I may have ruptured an eardrum or two with my uncontrollable guffaws.

This year, Christmas came early and I was tasked with bringing the new expanded version of this wonderful musical to the stage at Waukesha Civic Theatre. This has been a monumental task (as I’ve directed only one musical, and never a show with more than 14 people) but also a monumental joy. Working with this cast and this crew to bring purely silly holiday frivolity to the stage is a privilege I may never be able to match.

This is a sweet show. It is about caring and joy and love beyond the jokes and jibes. It is also about sitting back in a theatre and laughing with a whole room full of people. There are no great lessons from a ghost of Christmas future, but this show offers a chance to laugh and smile with those around you and those you love. For me, that is the true meaning of Christmas.

Thank you for coming, enjoy the show, and hail, hail Fredonia!

Kaye David 2015

David Kaye

Director

MAD Corner: For Purely Elfish Reasons

As Andy Williams said, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” And in the words of Blues Traveler, “If it’s Hanukah, or Kwanzaa, Solstice Harvest, or December 25th, peace on earth to everyone, and abundance to everyone you’re with.” I love this season, and I love WCT’s tradition of presenting an affordable family show for the community to enjoy. This season we present a hidden gem by local playwright/composer Jason Powell: For Purely Elfish Reasons, a holiday show with great characters and a story line that gives a respectful (and hilarious) nod to the Marx Brothers.

Our Spotlight On The Future Campaign is coming to a close. This major gift campaign has a goal to raise $750,000, providing capital for upgrades that will enhance the theatre experience, increase advertising revenue, decrease operating expenses, and provide for building maintenance. So far we have raised 47% of our goal and have already put these donations to good use. A new HVAC unit, our new lighting catwalk, our new retractable movie screen and projector (join us for our December movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), a new sound board for the Mainstage, new sound and lighting equipment for the Studio Theatre and Rehearsal Hall, and our new LED marquees and window displays. We still need your help. If you haven’t given to the Spotlight On The Future campaign yet, please consider a year end gift! If you already have given, thank you, and please consider an additional gift to help us reach our goal.

And remember, if you’re looking for a good gift to give this season, consider our Festive Flex Four For $64 or a gift card … wonderful gifts of theatre to share with anyone! Happy Holidays!

Cramer John 2006John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

Spotlight On The Board Of Directors: For Purely Elfish Reasons

The Waukesha Civic Theatre is a hidden gem right here in historic downtown! I’d like to welcome you to For Purely Elfish Reasons, the third Mainstage show of our historic 60th season. We are thrilled to present this new gem, by local playwright Jason Powell! Opportunities like this are one of the things that make WCT’s quality, live entertainment not just another night at the theatre. With such a wonderful, professional venue for our local talent, I’m honored to be a member of the Board. Yet, surprisingly, there are still some people who don’t know of this entertainment gem centered right here on Main Street! Please spread the word about our very own cultural cornerstone!

Between the Mainstage, Random Acts, A.C.T., Friday Night Live, Special Events, and our community partnerships with ACAP, the STEM Academy, Waukesha Reads, and others, we have a plethora of different entertainment options running year-round! Our special events – such as Festival Of Fools in April – provide entertaining and fun ways to support the theatre. We also have outreach programs like anti-bullying workshops, the Civic Broadway Singers, the Civic Senior Players, and many more! Our theatre arts education program offers classes at WCT and extends beyond our doors to teach kids in local schools. Likewise, we partner with Carroll University and UW-Waukesha for students of all majors to intern in our office or with our classes.

That’s right, we’re not just for actors! Whether you can pound a hammer, program a computer, alphabetize a file cabinet, or perform an aria, there are plenty of ways to get involved almost every day of every week. So spread the word!

You are also invited to join the celebration of Waukesha Civic Theatre’s proud achievement of providing challenging, enriching, and entertaining opportunities for 60 HISTORIC SEASONS. Having reached this elite DIAMOND status, we ask you to help us look to the future with your support. Without the generous support from our guests, we could not continue to provide these great services to the Waukesha County community and beyond. Please consider a donation today. Thank you!

I look forward to seeing you, and let me know what you think!

danner-jonathan-2010Jonathan Danner

Secretary

Board Of Directors

A Note From The Playwright

For Purely Elfish Reasons has a kind of strange pedigree, as I keep on adapting it for different audiences and venues. It was originally written for an audience of very little children, commissioned by a company that then dissolved before they could produce it. I rewrote the show, adding brand new songs, years later for a six-person ensemble in Bay View’s Alchemist Theatre. (And those six people included the director, stage manager and accompanist, all of whom also played characters in the show and two of whom were me.) This third iteration was customized once again to fit the specifications of a big holiday show at Waukesha Civic Theatre, with a much larger list of characters and twice as many new original songs. I’m very grateful to WCT for allowing this now full-length original musical to continue its slow-but-steady evolutionary path.

Through all of the show’s permutations, the premise has remained consistent. I love the holidays and I love the Marx Brothers. Of course I love other things too, but the comedy of Groucho, Harpo and Chico has something else in common with Christmastime in my brain: They are things that I enjoyed a lot when I was a child AND which I still enjoy today. The holidays to me are all about family – both young and old. So when I found myself in the position of writing a Christmas comedy, it made sense to me to look to the comedians whose humor appealed to me as a young child and still appeals to me as an adult.

When I watch old Marx Brothers movies, I’m in awe of how timeless the material seems. Granted, some of the topical references sail right past my head, I’ll admit that. But their sense of timing, their playful use of language, the absurdity, the physical comedy … those things haven’t aged. It all feels very fresh to me…it’s “classic,” in the best sense of the word.

The idea of recasting the Marx personae as Christmas elves seemed a natural fit, to my mind. I learned after I wrote the show that one of the last projects that Chico, Groucho and Harpo worked on together was a sitcom pilot in which they all portrayed heavenly angels (complete with halos that looked like giant bagels, which Harpo ends up snacking on just a few minutes into the story). So I guess my impulse to cast them as characters from a Christmas song wasn’t too out of the box. It’s just that instead of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” I went with something more out of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

And from that impulse came For Purely Elfish Reasons, a show in which every single character is an elf who either works in Santa’s workshop or used to…including the Marx stand-ins Jules, Dolly and Lonnie (you can look up the brothers’ real names if you’re curious about those source of those handles). That was the other thing that appealed to me about the premise…I’ve seen shows that featured Christmas elves among the cast before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in which EVERY single character had pointy ears. Maybe it’s the Leonard Nimoy fan in me.

In combining the Marx Bros. with the North Pole, my “Christmas wish” is that Elfish has something for everybody. Certainly if you’re a fan of movies like Duck Soup and Night at the Opera, you’ll find some nods and winks, and some redux versions of a few classic sequences to make you smile. But ideally, I very much hope the show also taps into something timeless and classic, so that even if you’re completely unfamiliar with those old films, you’ll still find yourself tickled by the same things that bring a grin to my own lips…Not just the gags and punchlines and slapstick, but also that ineffable holiday spirit, that uniquely Christmas-y warmth that always gives me “comfort and joy” at this time of year.

jason-powellPlease enjoy the show!

Jason Powell

Playwright

MAD Corner: Fawlty Towers

We end our 59th Mainstage season (and thirteen years of putting up with me as WCT’s Managing Artistic Director) with a show that is perfectly silly and full of fun … Fawlty Towers. This John Cleese British television farce has become a cult classic and Netflix favorite. The show is a potpourri of delightful and hilarious characters and situations.

We recently announced our lineup for our historic 60th season and are thrilled about the variety of high quality entertainment we are offering for our Diamond Anniversary. We are sure that you, the Waukesha community, will find something you like from our list of exciting entertainment.

In addition to that, we have been blessed with the incredible support of the Waukesha community as you support us as patrons, donors, and volunteers. We are excited about the future and the possibilities that lie before us, and we can’t to move into the next season with enthusiasm for the arts, our community partners, and all of the people that have been touched, and will be touched by the Waukesha Civic Theatre, a true gem in the heart of Wisconsin. I want to thank everyone for joining us, and I hope you are enjoying the ride as much as we are.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider a donation of any size to our Spotlight On The Future Campaign, a major gift drive with a goal to raise $750,000, providing capital for upgrades that will enhance the theatre experience, increase advertising revenue, decrease operating expenses, and provide for building maintenance. We have raised more than a third of our goal, but we need your help to reach the full amount.

Cramer John 2006John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director