Blog Archives

Crafting The House Without A Christmas Tree: A Playwright’s Perspective

The reasons for wanting to adapt The House Without A Christmas Tree were numerous. Great story, complex characters, a father and daughter reconnecting….I could go on and on. The trick was in HOW to adapt it. Can you take what is there and expand it to a full play without losing the essence of the story? Well, I think you can and I think we did.

John and Kelli Cramer were a big part of this. They are the ones who introduced me to this story. It was one of their favorite holiday stories, and their affection for it was infectious. I read the book, I watched the TV movie, and I was hooked. I just loved it. But I did have some concerns.

First, there was not a lot of attention given to any character outside of Grandma, Dad, and Addie. The characters that were there simply did not have much to do. In order to become a Mainstage production, it needed some of these peripheral characters to become more prominent. The students in Addie’s class, for starters. I wanted to see a little more of the classroom world, and what kinds of characters there were, and seeing Addie in that world helps give us a fuller picture of her.

Luckily, we have an outstanding group of young and talented students in our A.C.T. (Academy at Civic Theatre) program. I had no doubt we had more than enough young talent to fill this classroom with some fun characters. And in the end, these students help shape our perception of Addie, and really do help to tell her story. And these are relationships and students we all experienced in our grade school years–the first crush, the destructive kid, the kid who always bragged about something, the know-it-all. There is something each of us can connect to in this colorful group of kids.

There was also not a lot for the teacher, Miss Thompson, to do. I wanted to find a way to see her grow throughout the play. A big key was adding the characters of the principal and his assistant. This provided the chance to tell a sweet, sometimes clumsy love story between the Eugene and Peggy, with Mrs. Kulwicki giving running commentary throughout.

The final major adjustment I made was that I wanted to lighten things up. The actual storyline between Addie and her father gets quite intense at times. I think the other characters in the play help to offset that drama and keep the story more balanced. I also think the culmination of all of these stories helps to make it a much bigger, more satisfying payoff at the end. There needed to be more hope, more optimism at the end, or else the struggle to get there doesn’t seem worth it. It would be like watching It’s A Wonderful Life, and having George Bailey be “sort of happy” to be alive at the end (spoiler alert-George Bailey lives and he’s THRILLED about it).

At the end of the day, I am a sucker for a sweet and heartfelt holiday show. And that’s what I think we have here. I think audience members will find themselves belly laughing in one scene, and getting choked up in the next scene. This show is nostalgic without being dated. The kind of show where parents can watch with their kids and not worry about questionable content. All of us involved in the show are very proud of that, and we sincerely hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Doug Jarecki

Playwright

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MAD Corner/Director’s Note: The House Without A Christmas Tree

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 story that is near and dear to my heart.  I grew up watching after school specials (anyone else remember those?) and one of my favorites was The House Without Christmas Tree starring Jason Robards.  There wasn’t a stage adaptation of the story available to produce, so we asked our own Doug Jarecki to tackle the project.  He used the original story, the after school special screen play, and added a few things of his own to create a funny and heartwarming stage adaptation featuring seven adults and twenty children.

Not only are we presenting this beautiful adaptation as our December Mainstage show, the holiday season at WCT is full of amazing entertainment options, including Joel Kopischke’s I Got Yule, Babe, The Wisconsin Philharmonic Chamber Concert featuring The Apollo Trio, our PIX Flix feature film It’s A Wonderful Life, and The Four Guyz In Dinner Jackets: Now In Technicolor!

If you’re looking for even more holiday season entertainment, don’t miss ‘Twas The Month Before Christmas at Next Act Theatre.  This is another Doug Jarecki script, and we are both in it.

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 ~ or one of Joel Kopischke’s CDs … wonderful gifts of theatre to share with anyone, or to treat yourself!  Happy Holidays!

 

John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

Director: The House Without A Christmas Tree

Spotlight On The Board Of Directors: The House Without A Christmas Tree

My Mom had a plaque that said: “All hearts come home for Christmas.” Now that plaque hangs in my home every December.

As the year comes to a close, my grown children will come home from Iowa, Indiana, and Oklahoma, and we will continue our tradition of enjoying the holiday offerings at Waukesha Civic Theatre.

I’m thrilled that our theatre is offering a brand-new play; I predict it will become an instant classic, heartwarming and funny in equal measure.

The House Without A Christmas Tree is adapted from a popular 1972 made-for-TV movie of the same name. The Jason Robards film was shown regularly on CBS for five years and inspired several sequels.

Civic’s own Doug Jarecki wrote the play. A professional actor, Doug has been a linchpin in the success of this theatre, creating an Education and Outreach program that is second to none. His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is a genuinely good human being. Oh, and he’s my homeschooled kids’ favorite teacher.

Enjoy!


Angela Penzkover

Past President, Board Of Directors

Theatre Tour: ‘Twas The Month Before Christmas

We have a very special opportunity for you! WCT’s own John Cramer and Doug Jarecki will be starring in ‘Twas The Month Before Christmas, Doug Jarecki’s hilarious holiday hit from 2015. The show is running December 15-23 at Next Act Theatre in downtown Milwaukee.

‘Twas The Month Before Christmas gives us a unique and hilarious look at Joseph and Mary, the three kings, and the innkeeper in the month leading up to that magical night in Bethlehem. This “smart, silly, and sweet production” (Mike Fischer, JSOnline) is sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

WCT is offering a bus tour to see this show on Sunday, 12/17 at 2 pm for ONLY $50! This price includes the cost of a show ticket, ticket fees, transportation to and from the show, WCT administrative fees, and a tip for the driver.

The motor coach would leave Waukesha approximately 1:00 pm, and return to Waukesha at approximately 4:30 pm. We need a minimum of 25 people to participate, but we can accommodate up to 54 on the motor coach. This is an outstanding way to experience all of the holiday fun and none of the traffic or construction in Milwaukee.

*****REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1ST*****

To reserve your spot on the bus, simply email WCT Office Manager Meghan Hopper at mhopper@waukeshacivictheatre.org with your name, the number of tickets you’d like, and a phone number. You can also call (262) 547-4911 and register over the phone.

For more show information, including other performance dates, go to www.nextact.org.

We sincerely hope you can join us for this fun-filled holiday show. See you at the Theatre!

6 Plays. 30 Actors. 24 Hours. DON’T. MISS. OUT.

Trust me … you don’t want to miss this show!

 

What Is It?

During Combat Theatre participants create and perform six to eight new plays in 24 hours. Writers gather together on the Friday night before the performance at 7:30 pm and draw a location and a subject out of a hat, and the number of actors they need to write for, and then go away and write a ten to fifteen minute play overnight.

The writers return Saturday morning at 9:00 am with their completed scripts, along with all of the directors, writers, and tech staff, and the directors will then randomly draw which script they will direct, and randomly draw the actors that will perform the script. Then they block and memorize the show, find costumes and props they need, and have a 45 minute tech rehearsal to set light and sound cues.

There is a second rehearsal in the late afternoon with all of the shows running in the order they will perform, and then the performance that night. It is truly creating an evening of theatre in just 24 hours. Astounding!!!

 

When Is It?

And now we are bringing this incredible show to the WCT stage as a fundraiser for our theatre arts education program, the Academy at Civic Theatre. The show is this Saturday, August 26, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $25, but the experience is priceless, and all proceeds go to an excellent cause. Don’t procrastinate … get your tickets now.

 

Why Do It?

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in Combat Theatre in downtown Milwaukee several times over the last few years, both as a director and as an actor, and it is truly one of the most amazing and unique theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. It is very challenging and rewarding. I am going to participate as a writer for the first time, and I’m TERRIFIED! I’m also EXHILARATED! I can’t wait, and I hope you can’t wait either.

 

Who Does This?!

Our “Combatants” include Maggie Arndt, Nick Bailey, Tara Cha, Tess Cinpinski, Elena Cramer, John Cramer, Mike Crowley, Alexa Farrell, Janice Ferguson, James Fletcher, Jennifer Fletcher, Tarolyn Fulkerson, Marisa Hernandez, Meghan Hopper, Matt Huebsch, Doug Jarecki, Jon Jones, Sophie Jones, Peter Kao, Stacy Kolafa, Amie Losi, Noah Maguire, Mina Miller, Andrea Moser, Karen Owecki, Chuck Padgett, Lee Piekarski, Cheryl Peterson, Beth Reichart, Sandra Renick, Amanda Satchell, Sharon Sohner, Veronica Somerfeld, Ashley Sprangers, Abigail Stein, Lauren Sutton, John Van Slyke, Kayla Tillisch, Hunter West, Adam Williams, and Karolyn Wokos.

I hope you can join us.

 

 

John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

Cramer’s Corner: Spring Is In The Air!

As the days get longer and the temperature gets warmer, the smile that’s already on your face can just keep growing when you join us for our April offerings! 

Our next ACAP PlayMakers show, Snow White And The Magnificent Seven, opens tomorrow and has seven performances through Sunday afternoon.

Our next PIX Flix movie of the season will be
E.T. – The Extraterrestrial on April 10 at 6:30 pm.  The cast of the movie includes Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and more.  All tickets are $5.00, and we have concessions available, including soda, water, beer, wine, cookies, beef sticks, and … wait for it … POPCORN!    

If you would like to help us select the movies we present in our PIX Flix movie series next season, click
here to complete our survey.

Our next A.C.T. production is
Broadway Bound on Saturday, April 15, at 10:00 am.  

We open our next Mainstage show, 
The Drowsy Chaperone, April 28 and continues through May 14.  The show has three Pay What You Can performances on April 29 at 7:30 pm, May 7 at 7:30 pm, and May 13 at 2:00 pm.

Our current featured artist in the Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery in our lobby through April 9 is a group of students from Waukesha South High School.  They were challenged to create art inspired by 33 Variations in only 33 days, and it is amazing!  Our next artist will be Tom Buchs.

If you are looking for a theatre experience outside of Wisconsin, consider joining us for our
NYC Theatre Adventure October 12-15, 2017, or for our trip to Chicago to see Hamilton January 3, 2018.  Contact John Cramer by email or phone (262-547-4911 ext. 13) if you would like more information about either trip.

Our 60th Season is on sale now.  Subscription packages for the Mainstage shows, and individual tickets for everything can be purchased now.  Please join us for the second half of our current great season of entertainment!

Registration is open for our
A.C.T. spring and summer sessions, including our summer ACT production The Lion King JR.  

Just in case you missed it last month, our 61st season will include:

Sex Please We’re Sixty 

(directed by Peter Kao)
        The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
            (an area premier directed by Mark E. Schuster!)
                The House Without A Christmas Tree
(an original adaptation by our own Doug Jarecki directed by moi)
                        The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged)
(directed by Dustin J. Martin)
                                Clue: The Musical
(directed by Ken Williams)
                                        Wait Until Dark
(directed by Kelly Goeller)
                                                Father Knows Best
(directed by Rhonda Schmidt)

Season Tickets will go on sale in May 2017.


Thank you to all of the generous donors that have supported us so far this season.  If you would like to donate, you can choose from any number of ways you could help us not only maintain, but thrive, as Waukesha’s Cultural Cornerstone.

Please Consider Giving …
     * A gift to our Operating Fund
* A gift to our 
Spotlight On The Future Capital Campaign
* A matching gift through local sponsoring business employers

* A gift that will last a lifetime through your Will or Estate Planning

* A gift by donation to
CARS
* A gift by shopping through
Amazon Smile
* A gift by purchasing something on our
Amazon Wish List
     * Choose WCT as your Thrivent Choice charitable organization
* Become a Sponsor of outstanding performances and educational programs


Happy Easter!  I’ll see you at the Theatre!

John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

jcramer@waukeshacivictheatre.org

262-547-4911 ext. 13

Cramer’s Corner: We Are Marching Along With Another Great Month Of Entertainment!

Everyone marches to the beat of a different drummer but, lucky for you, we have something for everyone at WCT during the month of March.

We open our next Mainstage show, 33 Variations, next week.  This innovative and inspiring show focuses on a modern music scholar facing the end of her life as she studies the mysteries of Beethoven and the 33 variations of a simple melody he composed while facing the end of his.  The show runs March 10-26 with two Pay What You Can performances on March 11 at 7:30 pm and March 25 at 2:00 pm.  We will also have two talk backs with ALS specialists joining the cast and crew immediately after the performances on March 12 at 2:00 pm and March 19 at 2:00 pm.  And we will be selling raffle tickets for several amazing items including the always popular Discount Liquor Basket.

 

We have two auditions coming up this month.  Barefoot In The Park auditions will be held on Monday, March 13, and Tuesday, March 14, starting at 6:30 pm both nights. Kelly Goeller is directing. And Miscast auditions will be held on March 27 starting at 6:30 pm.  Meghan Hopper is directing.

 

Our next PIX Flix movie of the season will be Mr. Holland’s Opus on March 20 at 6:30 pm.  The cast of the movie includes Richard Dreyfuss, Glenne Headley, Jay Thomas, Olympia Dukakis, William H. Macy, Alicia Witt, and more.  All tickets are $5.00, and we have concessions available, including soda, water, beer, wine, cookies, beef sticks, and … wait for it … POPCORN!

 

Our spring fundraiser gala, Festival Of Fools, will be held at Westmoor Country Club on Saturday, April 1st.  We are thrilled to announce that our King And Queen of the festival will be Joel and Rebecca Kleefisch, and our emcee will be Vince Vitrano.  This will be an event you don’t want to miss, so get your tickets NOW!

 

 

Our current featured artist in the Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery in our lobby is a group of students from Waukesha South High School.  They were challenged to create art inspired by 33 Variations in only 33 days, and it is amazing!

 

Our 60th Season is on sale now.  Subscription packages for the Mainstage shows, and individual tickets for everything can be purchased now.  Please join us for the second half of our current great season of entertainment!

 

Registration is open for our A.C.T. spring and summer sessions, including our summer ACT production Disney’s The Lion King JR.

 

Just in case you missed it last month, our 61st season will include:

Sex Please We’re Sixty (directed by Peter Kao)

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (an area premier directed by Mark E. Schuster!)

The House Without A Christmas Tree (an original adaptation by our own Doug Jarecki directed by moi)

The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged) (directed by Dustin J. Martin)

Clue: The Musical (directed by Ken Williams)

Wait Until Dark (directed by Kelly Goeller)

Father Knows Best (directed by Rhonda Schmidt)

Amazing, right?  Season Tickets will go on sale in May 2017.

 

Thank you to all of the generous donors that have supported us so far this season.  If you would like to donate, you can choose from any number of ways you could help us not only maintain, but thrive, as Waukesha’s Cultural Cornerstone.

Please Consider Giving …
* A gift to our Operating Fund

* A gift to our Spotlight On The Future Capital Campaign

* A matching gift through local sponsoring business employers

* A gift that will last a lifetime through your Will or Estate Planning

* A gift by donation to CARS

* A gift by shopping through Amazon Smile

* A gift by purchasing something on our Amazon Wish List

* Choose WCT as your Thrivent Choice charitable organization

* Become a Sponsor of outstanding performances and educational programs

On a personal note – my daughter, Elena Cramer, will be playing Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point March 3-5 and 9-11.  My son, Jude Cramer, will be playing Gomez Addams in The Addams Family at Waukesha South High School March 9-11.
I’ll see you at the theatre!

Cramer John 2006John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

jcramer@waukeshacivictheatre.org

I Want To Be A STAR…For A Day!

act-summer-showcase-august-2016-126That’s right ladies, gentlemen, and children of all ages (and especially children between the ages of 6 and 19) … Waukesha Civic Theatre’s Star For A Day program is back! Mark your calendars, young theatre enthusiasts: the first of this special set of one-day-only classes is coming up on Wednesday, November 23, 2016!

Just what is Star For A Day? We’re glad you asked! It’s a program through WCT’s Academy at Civic Theatre for students between the ages of 6 and 19. On Wednesday, November 23, 2016, Monday, January 23, 2017, and Friday, June 9, 2017 students in the School District of Waukesha will be off school. What are those students going to do for the whole day? Why, come to the theatre, of course!

Star For A Day offers classes for students ages 6-8, 9-12, and 13-19 starting at 9:00 a.m. and culminating in a free performance that evening at 5:00 p.m.

Each group has a chance at three different classes: choreography class Dance Fever, interactive improvisation in Incredible Improv, and singing with movement in Musical Madness. The jam-packed day also has an hour of group rehearsal before the evening’s performance.

Schedule

6-8 Years

Dance Fever 9:00-10:50 a.m.

Musical Madness 11:15-1:05 p.m.

Incredible Improv 1:30-3:20 p.m.

 

9-12 Years

Musical Madness 9:00-10:50 a.m.

Incredible Improv 11:15-1:05 p.m.

Dance Fever 1:30-3:20 p.m.

 

13-19 Years

Incredible Improv 9:00-10:50 a.m.

Dance Fever 11:15-1:05 p.m.

Musical Madness 1:30-3:20 p.m.

 

All Students

Group Rehearsal 3:45-4:45 p.m.

Performance 5:00 p.m.

 

All classes take place at the Waukesha Civic Theatre. Students may sign up for one class for $25, or two classes for $50 – and then the third class is free! Register here!

Still not sold? You can get more information by contacting our Education and Outreach Administrator Doug Jarecki at (262) 547-4911 ext. 21 or at djarecki@waukeshacivictheatre.org. We also have information available on our website.

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our great Star For A Day opportunities!

Lights! Camera! Action! & The ACAP PlayMakers

Well, we are right in the middle of our latest outreach offering – Lights! Camera! Action! with the ACAP PlayMakers. Only this time, there is a twist. The PlayMakers are playing the role of video editor/director. We’ve never offered something like this before, and so far the results have been outstanding!

Let me back up for a minute and give you a quick history here. Last year, Matt Huebsch and I taught Lights! Camera! Action! (LCA) for the ACAP PlayMakers. LCA is an on-camera acting class that has been a part of the A.C.T. program for years. The ACAP PlayMakers are a community partner that has performed at Civic for years. I guess it was only a matter of time before these two met!

The PlayMakers are an inclusive group of performers that feature performers with and without disabilities. It gives a voice to performers who might not otherwise get the opportunity. But even while being so inclusive, there were still some members who were not able to participate in a stage production. That’s where LCA came in. As you well know, acting on camera and acting on stage are two very different skill sets, and some of ACAP’s members were more suited to have their voice heard on camera instead of the stage.

Matt and I worked with the group for six weeks, writing and filming a series of scenes that showcased some of the hidden talents of the group. It was a fun and unique way to show what a great sense of humor these guys have. They love to perform, and it showed in every frame of the video.

This year, we decided to take it one step further and shift the focus.   Instead of focusing on the acting, we put the PlayMakers in charge of the directing and editing. A beginner’s course for how to put a movie together. Matt and I filmed ourselves in a short scene together, filming multiple takes and multiple “moods” of each scene. We created a very loose template for the video, with a lot of options for our editors to choose from. Starting Week 1, we worked with the group to give them an understanding of the tools and concepts of video editing, sound and visual effects. As the weeks have gone on, members of the group have become more proficient in piecing their videos together.

Think of it as a choose-your-own-ending kind of book, except in video form. The PlayMakers work with the footage we provided and piece together scenes that are coherent and follow a logical path (Ok, full disclosure here – sometimes the videos are extraordinarily silly and don’t make much sense, but that’s part of the fun of learning how to do all this!).

To give you an example of how things have been going, there is a scene in which I appear at the door of a home. We filmed me doing several versions of this, and even filmed a dog in place of me. Lorraine, a longtime PlayMaker who has enjoyed poking gentle fun at me for years, wanted to find a way, through the magic of editing, to turn me into the dog. Did I say “wanted to”? I meant “insisted.” We worked together for an entire class, figuring out how we could make this happen. And by the end, sure enough, I was a dog! Thanks, Lorraine.

If this class were to just stand alone, it would be an enjoyable six weeks where we all got to learn something. However, the hope is that this can be a starting point for video to play a more prominent role in how the ACAP PlayMakers continue to help their members find their own voices, their own stories to tell. This is in no way going to replace the excellent stage work they do, it is going to add to it. Classes like this lay the groundwork for an idea that big. It all starts somewhere. And in our case, it started with my friend Lorraine turning me into a dog.

Jarecki Doug 2008 CroppedDoug Jarecki

Education & Outreach Administrator

Why Theatre Arts Education?

Academy at Civic Theatre (A.C.T.) works with students to develop and strengthen listening, communication, and creative problem-solving skills. These are core stage skills for any performer, but they are so much more. That’s a nice thing to say, but what do we mean by that?

These core skills are vital to just about anything students will pursue in life. Learning to listen, to truly be engaged and focused on where you are, is invaluable. There are more and more distractions in the world that splinter our focus, and theatre education is a fun and effective way to train ourselves to block those distractions out when necessary.

The communication skills we work on also carry well beyond the stage. Simple but vital skills like eye contact and articulation are at the heart of our A.C.T. programs. There’s a big difference talking to a young person who stares at their feet the whole time as opposed to looking you in the eye when they speak. Eye contact speaks to a confidence level that we work to develop. And with electronic devices doing more and more of the talking for us, exercising these communication muscles becomes more and more important.

And what do we mean by “creative problem-solving” skills? When we work with our students at A.C.T., we make sure they know that acting is not about being perfect. Mistakes happen in almost every single live performance they will ever see. They will probably not notice 95% of those mistakes because actors are trained to not focus on them, but rather to keep moving forward with the story. While we always work with students on ways to minimize mistakes, the more important work we do with them is training them on how to deal with a mistake when it does happen. When something goes wrong, do you shut down and give up, or do you stay calm and allow your brain to figure out how to make it right? We provide a safe and supportive environment for kids to learn how to positively navigate the mistakes that will inevitably pop up.

Theatre Arts education helps equip students with the tools they will need in whatever endeavor they choose to pursue. We are not focused on developing the next generation of actors and singers and dancers. Rather, we are focused on helping develop the next generation of well-rounded, civic-minded young people who are prepared to overcome whatever obstacles lie ahead for them. We just get to do it in a really, really fun way!

Jarecki Doug 2008 Cropped

 

~Doug Jarecki
Education & Outreach Administrator