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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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Director’s Note & MAD Corner: Gypsy

Sixty Sparkling Years. Wow! Since its very modest beginnings in 1957, WCT has produced more than 400 shows and continues its long-standing tradition as Waukesha’s first choice for quality live entertainment … truly a “Hidden Gem!” According to the American Association of Community Theatres there are over 7,000 community theatres in the nation, and only 100 of them are on record of having survived for 60 years or more, so WCT is in a very elite group of theatres. In this extraordinary year, we offer you a multi-faceted line-up to celebrate the last 60 years of quality live entertainment at WCT.

I can’t believe I am starting my fourteenth season with the Waukesha Civic Theatre. My how time flies when you’re having fun! It has been a pleasure and an honor to work in this beautiful facility for this incredible organization and with this amazing community, and I look forward to many more seasons of high quality live entertainment.

I am thrilled that WCT is kicking off this Mainstage season by presenting Gypsy. This is one of my all-time favorite musicals. The Styne/Sondheim score is truly amazing. The characters are all full of life, love, humor, and pain … and they are based on real people! I am very excited to bring it to the WCT stage. We have a live, six piece orchestra conducted by Jim Van Deusen; Mark E. Schuster is our scenic designer and associate director; Anne Van Deusen is our music director; Sharon Sohner is our lead costume designer, and of course the incomparable Kelli Cramer taking her turn as Rose. What an incredible gathering of talent!

The 1959 Broadway musical is loosely based on the lives of Rose Hovick and her daughters Louise and June, who both reached stardom later in life. Louise became Gypsy Rose Lee and June became June Havoc. The original stage production starred Ethel Merman as Rose.

Speculated by many (including NY Times critic Ben Brantley) to be the greatest of all American musicals, Gypsy tells the story of the dreams and efforts of one hungry, powerhouse of a woman to get her two daughters into show business. Gypsy is loosely based on the 1957 memoir of famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, entitled Gypsy: A Memoir. The memoir and the musical focus on the story of Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother, Rose, and earned Rose a place in the theatrical and literary canon as the quintessential, archetypal “Stage Mother.” The musical features songs that have become standards of the musical theatre canon, including “Some People,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together Wherever We Go,” “Rose’s Turn,” and the show-stopping, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Gypsy is famous for helping launch lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s career, and features a book by Arthur Laurents that is widely considered to be one of the classic examples of a traditional “book musical.” At the heart of the musical is the gregarious Rose, whose journey made critic Frank Rich call Gypsy “Broadway’s own brassy, unlikely answer to King Lear.” Next week, we’ll post a fun “Hovick Family Timeline” and a few photos of Rose, Louise, and June for your enjoyment.

In addition to our incredible 60th season Mainstage shows, we have more than 80 entertainment options throughout the year, including our Random Acts Of Entertainment, our Education And Outreach productions, our new PIX Flix Movie Series, and more. We offer great benefits to our subscribers (up to 39% off!), including our partnership with 16 downtown Waukesha restaurants offering great discounts to all WCT subscribers. You could literally save as much as you spend if you join us as a subscriber. We also have a year-round theatre arts education program with offerings for students of all ages, including adults.

We are close to wrapping up our Spotlight On The Future major gift campaign 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. So far we have raised 49% 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, a new sound board for the Mainstage, and new sound and lighting equipment for the Studio Theatre and Rehearsal Hall. We still need your help. If you haven’t given to the Spotlight On The Future campaign yet, please consider a gift! If you already have given, thank you, and please consider an additional gift to help us reach our goal.

The generosity of the Waukesha community astounds me, and I truly appreciate all the time, talent, and treasure that you give to WCT. Keep watching, keep participating with, and keep supporting this cultural cornerstone!

Cramer John 2006John Cramer

Director / Choreographer

Managing Artistic Director

Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery Presents: Peter Dahlke

“Dreamtime” Assemblage by Peter Dahlke

“Dreamtime” Assemblage by Peter Dahlke

While the Waukesha Civic Theatre loves to show off its work in the performing arts, we are proud to present the Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery in our very own lobby! Our display during the holiday season will be featuring pieces from artist Peter Dahlke. As a local business, we love to promote local artists for our galleries.

Peter is a Wisconsin native, living in the good ‘ole dairy state his whole life, minus the three years he served as a medical corpsman in the army. After completing his service, he attended the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education and a Masters of Fine Arts in printmaking and painting. Subsequently, he taught art at MPS and later got into assemblage sculptures. He also enjoys doing work in the areas of acrylic painting, mixed-media, and printmaking. Currently, Peter is a member of the Wisconsin Visual Artists and Milwaukee Area Teachers of Art. Having been in many art shows, we are honored to display his work in our gallery!

Peter credits his interest in assemblage sculpture (a sculpture that is comprised of objects arranged in a way that create a work of art) upon seeing work from Joseph Cornell, his mentor. While working on a piece, he said, “My constructions usually begin with the box into which I add found objects, moving them around until something of visual interest begins to develop.” If you are not sure how to go about viewing such figures, Peter has a few tips. He recommends having a sense of eccentricity, as well as an appreciation of the elements that make up the piece, while approaching his work.

There will be many opportunities to see this wonderful gallery featuring the work of Peter Dahlke. The display will be available for viewing at the end of November, through the beginning of January. If you want to maximize your visits to the theatre, the display will be up during the following shows: Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols, Joel Kopischke’s I Got Yule, Babe, and Patsy Cline Live! Today, Tomorrow, And Forever. The exhibit will also be a part of the Waukesha Art Crawl on Saturday, December 6th, which occurs a few times a year and allows people to embark on a journey through Downtown Waukesha to view various art galleries!

For more information on the shows, visit: http://www.waukeshacivictheatre.org/index.html

Contact Mr. Dahlke at pdahlke@att.net

Written By Abbie Bottom