Thank you for joining us.
I’ve been a lover of the theatre for more than three quarters of my almost 50 years here on Earth. At a young age, I was enthralled by the storytelling and the magic that happened on stage. I was also raised Catholic, and I think that a big part of my love for the theatre came from my time spent in church – the music, the pageantry, the storytelling, the grand design of the space and even the smells took me to another world. Theatre does the same thing. This show is an amazing combination of the two for me!
The classic story by Victor Hugo and this version made popular by the Disney animated motion picture asks us to consider the idea – What makes a monster and what makes a man? It raises many questions – is the lonely, deformed hunchback the monster or is it the pious, God-loving Archdeacon? Which one is truly ugly on the inside? Does the outside matter? Can we see beyond physical deformity to the person beneath the surface?
Ultimately, we are all human.
Frollo makes it clear early on that he despises all Gypsies. His hatred for them seems to drive his every move. Does any group of people deserve to be hated simply because of who they are or where they come from? Can a race justifiably be universally condemned? Doesn’t everyone deserve to be treated equally and fairly? Esmeralda challenges Frollo’s thoughts and awakens something in the Archdeacon that he’s never faced before. Opening ourselves up to one person could literally change our lives. This show will hopefully make us all think about “what side” we’d rather be on – the judge or the judged, the lover or the loved, the monster or the man. If theatre can entertain us AND make us think, then I think it is most effective.
I hope you enjoy the fruits of the labor of a truly incredible group of people. I am so very lucky to have the chance to work with these amazing performers, musicians and design team. They are all top notch and I thank them for sharing in this vision. I do what I do to work with folks like you!
May you be filled with more of Heaven’s Light and less Hellfire. Celebrate the good in your life. Accept and encourage. Take a chance. Stand up for what you believe. Love.
Enjoy the show!
Mark E. Schuster
I love how highly theatrical 33 Variations is in examining how we choose to live our lives when we know the end is closer than the beginning. It is this combination of theatricality and powerful storytelling that drew me to this play.
“Time is scarce” multiple characters tell us during the play. Both Dr. Katherine Brandt and Beethoven are trying to complete their work before their bodies ultimately rob them of the ability to do so.
For me, it is much broader than that. Time is scarce for all of us. None of us know how much time we have left. Therefore, we need to lives our lives to the fullest and enjoy what we have been given and those closest to us.
My eldest daughters are entering high school this fall. I have spent a lot of time recently bemoaning the little time I have left with them until they become adults and head out into the world. This play has directly challenged me to be sure that I do not waste that time while I have it.
After all … Time is scarce.
Officially, Ex Fabula’s mission is “strengthening community bonds through the art of storytelling,” and we’re excited to carry out our mission in collaboration with Waukesha Reads. Over the years, however, I’ve come up with a series of unofficial mission statements based on stories about things that have happened at our events.
The first unofficial mission, “Host local events where people tell personal stories,” dates to the beginnings of Ex Fabula. In 2009, I and four other twenty- and thirty-somethings kept having the same conversation over and over. For example, after Amy Schleicher and I attended a StorySlam while on a work trip, we kept talking about how someone should start a storytelling organization with a more Midwestern sensibility back. Then, Matt Sabljak and I expressed the same wish after chatting about stories that we heard on the podcast This American Life. At some point Matt and his friend Adam Weise had the same conversation, and then I met Leah Delaney and repeated it. Eventually, it occurred to us that perhaps we were the “someone,” so we scheduled a time to connect at Maharaja’s lunch buffet. 90 minutes after some of us met for the first time, we were planning an event and brainstorming names for our group; six weeks later, we hosted our first StorySlam.
Down the line, we became better at articulating the reasons that we loved personal stories, and thus was born another unofficial mission: “Connecting family, friends, neighbors and strangers.” For example, Amie Losi told a story in 2010 that touched on two big events in her life: her marriage and divorce. After hearing that story on Ex Fabula radio, Amie’s sister reached out to her to talk more about those incidents. At the time of the divorce, Amie’s sister didn’t really understand what Amie was going through, but the personal story opened her eyes and brought the two closer together.
A variation of that mission would be “Making strangers hug each other.” One of many examples comes from Yetunde Bronson, who described her experience at the Spectacular in December 2014 as “That incredible moment when you tell a story about suffering from PTSD, and two Vietnam veterans come up to you afterward, hug you and thank you for sharing your story.” Aww!
Taking that mission one step further and you get “Create a platform for healing and learning through personal stories.” Nakia Hood experienced the power of telling his story as an Ex Fabula Fellow, and the day after his first event, he emailed saying “You don’t know the healing from hurt that has taken place by me just talking about my issues”. I thanked him for sharing because his story, which focused on his experiences in school as a young Black boy, also taught me a lot; I grew up in very different circumstances from Nakia’s, and although I’ve read research and news articles about our education system, his personal story was way more powerful.
Of course, our Slams aren’t all serious, so another mission is “Entertain people through interactive live events.” We’ve heard stories about all sorts of hilarious situations: skinny dipping, dating mishaps, childhood mischief, mistaken identities, and more. The audience is so supportive when people get vulnerable on stage, and it’s really nice to laugh hard with a group of people. Just thinking about these stories makes me giggle a bit!
There’s one last informal mission that I want to share because you can play a part: “Help everyone in the Greater Milwaukee region to share a personal story.” We’re trying to accomplish this by partnering with groups like Waukesha Reads and by providing lots of ways for people to share, including the UltraShort, which can be done without getting onstage, and the Terkel, an interview format. To that end, please join us at the Waukesha Civic Theatre this Thursday November 3rd at 7 pm for a free StorySlam. You can come just to listen – no pressure, I promise – or, if you have a true personal story to share, you can throw your name in the hat and then take the stage. Either way, we hope that one of our missions – formal or informal – can enrich your life as it’s enriched my life and the lives of so many others in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Executive Director of Ex Fabula
Photo Credit: Kat Schleicher