Orsino (Stuart Mott) strides on the set, his bellowing maroon silken half tunic rippling at every incisive gesture he makes, urging his tender aged servant attendant Cesario to his presence.
Espousing noble tenure, Orsino with much affection, whether smug, faintly sarcastic, or down right charmingly dorky, commands his boy to his slightest need. Cesario abides dutifully, though peevish, at times practically nervous. There lies some question of what dynamic really radiates between them.
A duet of local theater groups opened a masterfully delivered three act production of Twelfth Night over the weekend, a cheeky piece from Shakespeare’s repertoire of plays. Performed in the Thomas Moore High School outdoor commons, the production runs three more shows this weekend. A wonderful collaboration, H+D Productions and Storyteller Theater breathed the hot breath of artistic life into this show.
A Letter, A Love
On glen some miles away, Olivia (Bridgette Well) swirls in her well stationed life, surrounded by her handmaid Maria (Sasha Sigel), second relations Sir Toby Belch (Shanna Theiste), and a muse Feste (Tawnie Thompson). Olivia’s courtier Malvolio (Ethan Hall), a special breed of maniacal obsessive, deludes himself into believing in his conceit, as he caters all of Olivia’s favors.
Mercurial in his ways, Orsino surmises with certainty Olivia should be the Lady of his court. As any Lord would do, Cesario is given chore to deliver his masters purpose to Olivia. Receiving this message, Olivia prods Cesario on its suggestive designs. Cesario’s loyalty to Orsino and other demurely difficult ways, charm her. Alas, he stands but a servant.
Sir Toby Belch keeps some ragtag company to toy around, notwithstanding his fellow Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Eric Scherrer). Sir Andrews’ counterpart Feste (Tawnie Thompson) sides up to Maria whenever she can. The two of them become intertwined in their domineering friends’ machinations, entangling Sebastian (Glenn Widdicombe) and crossing paths with swashbuckling Antonio (Rachel Zembrowski).
Maria tries to humiliate one of the court, and Sir Toby Belch and Maria instigate fights between the whole lot. Meanwhile, Orsino becomes impatient with Olivia’s hesitation and approaches her in person with Cesario in tow. Olivia, having been enchanted on an earlier occasion by a gentleman thought to be Cesario, is visibly smitten.
Though Cesario pledges his allegiance to his master Orsino, the matter of Olivia’s feelings leave the situation unresolved. Viola (Hayley Cotton), a familiar acquaintance to Orsino, enters suddenly after attempting to flee her past. In the end, the audience is left to discern just desserts.
Beating the Beaten Plath
Taking a traditional swipe, H+D Productions and Storyteller Theater staged Twelfth Night in its given period. Although a choice that has fallen out of favor over the years, thankfully this directing duo failed to heed theater’s current aversion to traditional Shakespeare.
Director Jared McDaris staged each scene with purpose, allowing the actors to thrive. Each of the players represent each role with an impressive performative center; each character roaming their eyes and accentuating precise and choreographed gestures to convey their meaning.
Producers Hayley Cotton and Danielle Levings have plenty to be proud of in this show. The three act runs just over two hours with hardly a wasted movement. Their staging of Twelfth Night actually leaves you satisfied but willing to stuff yourself on pure drama. It’s minimal, allowing this exceptionally balanced cast to work their characters, and a brilliant overall production from two promising theater artists.
Twelfth Night performances will happen again Friday August 1 and August 2 at 6p and Sunday August 3 at 2p at Thomas Moore High School 2601 E Morgan Ave, Milwaukee. $10 admission. (Though obscurely sited, Its a modest and worthy courtesy).
Dusk had yet hit and I’m on the edge of some suburban, southwesterly boundary of Milwaukee County. The clouds hold harmonies of country fields, drawn off key a bit by encroaching gated communities. Historic Trimborn Farm in Greenfield was platted there, and gave plot for Quasimondo Physical Theatre’s physical and interpretive theater adaption of George Orwell’s classic socio-political commentary Animal Farm.
In the Dell
Kicking-off their second formal production season, with great ambition as always, Quasimondo devises several acts of scenes transforming puppets into the mammalian hides of domesticated animals. Mr. Jones (Ben Yela) farms these animals: a hand full of pigs with alphas Napoleon (Kirk Thomsen), Snowball (Jessi Miller), and Squealer (Jeff Kriesel); a charming Cow, Clover (Danielle Levings); a sturdy horse, Boxer (Michael Guthrie) and sumptuous phillie Mollie (Emma Kate).
Benjamin the donkey (Jordan Moran) gives the animal politic a no-nonsense layman conscious, bearing the burden of limited instincts held by a flock of sheep (Kristoffer Xavier), peep of chickens (Michael Petit), and a gaggle of geese (Kris Sukup), a pack of dogs captained by Bluebell (Julia Teeguarden), some birds and Moses the domesticated raven (Andrew Parchman) cawing mocking humor.
The audience is invited into the social workings of Manor Farm‘s animal citizenry, a micro-civilization on the brink of revolt. Dissatisfied with their treatment under whip of their fiefdom ruler Mr. Jones, the animals plot to take over the farm and re-write the virtues of agrarian economics.
Urged by the philosophies and charisma of Animal Farm’s fallen fore-hog Old Major (voice of Brian Rott), the remaining inner circle of pigs record a manifesto of “Animalism” to guide their machinations to achieve freedom. A struggle for power ensues between Snowball and Napoleon. Who’s vision will carry Animal Farm to the future prosperity?
As events on the newly liberated “Animal Farm” bring new order to the beasts, the natural trappings of power and privilege lead the farm into and self-inflicted oppressive abyss. Animals clash with farmers for animals sake; a sake quickly forgotten,as animals raise hooves to their own kind and assert their will. Eventually, the audience is left to decide whether the animals are better off under Mr. Jones’s lash.
Quasimondo’s fiendish hands always find a way to twist something really bizarre and visually interesting out of whatever they touch. The characters of Animal Farm are largely portrayed by hand-mended puppets, angular, almost Gothic, almost disfigured. They interact with the human farmers neighboring Animal Farm, initially with hostility as they ward of Jones, Pilkington, Wymper and Frederick. In the course of farm-making, some animals become “more equal that others” and endeavor more amicable relations with humans.
Damn, Critical, Acclaim
Animal Farm is set literally in a barn house, befitting a production that includes choreographed puppeteering, and short individual interpretive movement scenes capturing the ethos and pathos of personified animals. In fact, much of the play’s action relies more on interpretive movement than dialog.
At times the choreographed scenes featuring movements of the entire farm stock appear slightly off-kilter and overshadow individual efforts of the ensemble members’ to magnetize the audience. In other places, well-blocked vignettes transition and summarize parts of the plot without explicit telling of what’s going-on .
Quasimondo first-timers Danielle Levings and Jordan Moran both standout in this right. Leving’s extraordinarily focused stage presence provides a consistently driven character in Clover as she tries with all good intentions to keep the moral fabric of Animal Farm from tearing.
Similarly, Moran‘s portrayal of Benjamin, while limited in part by the tertiary importance of his character in the story, takes every opportunity to make a subtle impressions of quality on the audience. Emma Kate as Mollie also has moments of individual brilliance, tussling with the choice of creature comforts bestowed on a show horse and freedom.
A live music ensemble of upright bass, guitar, banjo, drums, and other noise making props accompanies the drama dutifully, providing original score and timely sound cues composed and performed by Ben Yela, Wylie Hefti, Eston Bennet, and Eddie Chapman.
Animal Farm is basically a heavy-handed story by an author with one of the heaviest-hands in literature, George Orwell. Quasimondo succeeds overall in taking a literary mainstay with a direct and clear agenda, and drawing-out artistic awnings to shade the audience from some of the glaring political overtones deliberately charging the story.
In some places, Rott grinds his own axes at the risk of nicking his blade on some audience members. This is theater though, rarely put on stage to sooth nerves. The play runs just short of three hours so there is a lot to see and digest. Some acts get a little jumbled when the direction exceeds the execution of the cast. Despite this, Quasimondo represents itself well once again.
Technical credits go to Posey Knight and Andy Walsh (Scenic Design), Edward Winslow (Lighting Design) and Andrew Parchman (Puppet Design).
Quasimondo’s adaption of Animal Farm has a few performances left this week beofre closing. You can see the play tonight Thursday July10, or July 11, 12, 13 all at 8pm on Trimborn Farm 8881 W. Grange in Greenfield (just West of Sourthridge Mall) and is worth a nice evening out in a pastoral corner of the county, catching your mood for a night of experimental theater.
Correction: George Orwell is the author of Animal Farm. Must be secretly craving some hardcore alien Sci-Fi.
Suns out at least for a day, so lets pretend it will be tomorrow as well. While one hundred thousand people will be down at Henry Meier Festival Grounds, the rest of Milwaukee will carry on the per usuals. BBC has Antony and the Tramps to simmer the musical stew tomorrow night. They got ambient American Gypsy down on the floor laying a woven mat of thread bare roots.
Grappling forces that oppose the good and bad times, Anotony and The Tramps sing their memories through their instruments. Unfolding their hands, they reach for what you have buried within your mental diary. The outfit carriers dimensions that overlap quadrants of taste.
Upright bass stands prominent in their soundscape, with an assortment of percussion, keys, brass, and woodwinds for ample sides, suiting their proclaimed gypsydom. Antony and The Tramps has roots, folk and Americana stained in their sheet music. Mother’s Nature Tree (The Warrior pt 1) typifies their ability to animate unvisited places scrapped off lonely paved country highways. Gradually, keys seep through thick layers of reverbed guitar scales, kept in their place by a mellow racket of drum snares.
Antony and The Tramps, Mother’s Nature Tree (The Warrior pt 1)
A harmonic chant brings you to The Warrior, a benediction to their self titled album, music heart bred.
Antony and The Tramps, The Warrior
Their out of that scary place 90 minutes south of here, coarsely ground good times leave the threats behind. They’re glad to take you deep enough to remember. Antony and The Tramps embark at BBC’s tomorrow nite Friday June 27.
With so many artists having musical aspirations blooming everywhere at every moment, there just isn’t enough time to give everyone their due. North Coast kid Madden Miles, just keeps lining up raw and unsung projects. He does what needs to be done, in this era of mega pop like me simpleton tunes, the projects just are. Madden Miles was cool enough to give me a few moments to talk music and his latest project #HeroMusic.
Tried and Tried by Madden Miles ft. Amber Ruthe
Local Trolley: #HeroMusic makes the third Madden Miles proper beat tape drop. The Candace Bailey (2012) and Kate Upton (2013) tapes actually played like instrumentals of EP albums to me, more so than beat tapes. #HeroMusic actually features vocal performances, what was behind that decision? You realize #HeroMusic is an actually a pretty damn good EP. You basically just produced half a legit album, f- a beat tape.
Madden Miles: #HeroMusic was a mix of a few things I had going on behind the scenes. I had a couple MCs and a vocalist that I really just wanted to branch out with. I’ve prided myself on being ‘conceptual’ and staying the course with my projects. I also wanted to make something that was sonically huge. I’ve been wanting to take a step away from sampling to see what I could brain storm and I’ve always felt like I could make something special with the right mix of people.
I have absolutely no qualms that we’ve achieved that and even more beyond what I thought could be measured. #HeroMusic has taught me a lot as far as engineering, mixing, and just keeping the straight path on remaining positive. It took a lot longer then I expected, but I’m extremely pleased and grateful to everyone who contributed, listened, and complimented on the quality of work. I genuinely appreciate it with all sincerity.
I also appreciate the subtle compliment of #HeroMusic. It was never meant to be a beat tape. I just always felt like 10 tracks is a great balance of work. I could’ve had 17-18 tracks on here but I felt it would imbalance the 10 solid tracks that were done. I didn’t want to risk polluting it.
LT: I caught a little thread on the twitter, I wont name names but something about a hip-hop bracket. Heads were picking match ups between Drake and Wayne, Lupe was in there… Everybody knows hip-hop is about competition, you care to speak on the state of hip-hop from a competition stand point, where do you see things being at right now?
MM: The way I see it, if you’re in it to get money, then.. Get Money. I like everyone to an extent, but I also have my preferences. I will say I myself, am waiting for the next ‘it’ guy for all ‘hip-hop’ fans. I realize there’s commercial success to be had, and someone has to get that, I understand that absolutely. Instead of being bias as a hip-hop fan, all I’ll say is, if and when you get called on as a producer, make the most of the opportunity. You may not like who it is, or stand for what they rap about, but truthfully, 2013 made me realize, you can’t be picky unless you’re in a position to be picky. So stay humble, grounded, sincere, and work your ass off to get to that position to where you can be picky and choosy. I realize [that's] more of a savvy answer…
LT: I like that, it’s well suited. Seems to me among artists the competition factors is decreasing. Every now and then dudes will go at each other but most of now-a-days artists is playing by so many different rules, really the only comp is among fans. Speaking of competition, you went in the past 3 years at a long running producer battle hosted in Milwaukee and didn’t advance, take me from your first battle to now, how have you had to adjust your game?
MM: Battle one, that was an absolute wake up call, but it was awesome. I met a lot of awesome people that I still connect with to this day. I’ve never been what you’d title as a ‘battle producer’. I literally thought it was just go, play some beats, get some recognition and face time, and go. Then I was on stage, and I didn’t know WHAT the hell was going on. I looked at a couple of my friends in the crowd like, what the hell am I into here!? It was so hilarious.
The battle scene has been great just to meet new people, stay connected, build, and get better sonically. There’s so many good producers that it’s criminal. I have much respect for all of the competitors and everyone involved in organizing it. It’s influenced me to just all around get better. All in all when it’s said and done, I’ve enjoyed every year doing it as much as the next.
I pushed the bar about 2 years ago by having Alida do some live strings for me while I performed live. That was awesome. I have something that I think is pretty dope lined up for this year if I’m in it. Never been done before. I can’t seem to get people from my city to go to Milwaukee to support, and that’s fine. I’m more excited about the challenge to gain a new audience… That’s the ultimate thrill I’m going for this year.
LT: Yeah the battle format does lend itself to being a popularity contest. The Mil can be hyper local too, same with most of these woods. I’m going to just get this out of the way and give you a well earned Milwaukee pass. Any funny stories about pulling #HeroMusic together?
Beat the Odds by Madden Miles ft. Born Infinite
MM: Not terribly funny stories… Just more, compelling things in my opinion. On a more comedic side, I can’t tell you how many times I scolded Keno to get me the vocals for Gwen Stacy Sh*t. He came through clutch though. Honestly, the best story that I have or give is literally that I just sent them all the beats in the most basic format. They all performed what they did taking their own direction. I took that and stayed true to what the concept was, and catered to what they put down and their overall sound.
For instance, a good example would be Wanted:Heroes, I built that from the ground up. I had the beat, just bare piano, drums, breaks, and I went and recorded Amber. I was the only one that had the mix. All I did was tell everyone involved that was assigned a track what the concept was. They literally just gave me the pieces to the puzzle and I thrived on the challenge in placing it all as it came together.
I took about 3 to 4 months off from the project in it’s entirety because I was getting way too hands on and obsessive about everything. It needed to breathe and get a natural progression. By the time those months elapsed, I played what I was feeling. I was down and out at the time. I felt like I couldn’t finish it, wouldn’t finish it, and basically, not amount to anything as a producer, or life in that matter. It was an unbelievably hard time. But it rose me back from the dead, and as stereotypical as it sounds, it motivated me. I carried that motivation, and we cranked that shit out until it was done. I actually just listened to it on a drive and I am unbelievably happy and still so proud of everyone and happy that we could all do this. I absolutely love it.
LT: I’m not surprised to hear that artists just gravitated to your sounds without much direction. What I like most about your work is that it’s not very loop reliant. You got a hell of mixture of track themes, and the lyricist and vocalist are turned up.
MM: I appreciate the knowledge and understanding that I’m not entirely just predicated off of loops. Obviously, a loop drives the general feel of the track, but I’ve also had some awesome people guiding me, believing in me, driving me, and developing me to get away from that.
At times it’s beyond frustrating because you wonder if you’re ever going to meet the expectations that are made for you, but in retrospect, it’s all part of the growth. Like any producer, I definitely just started with a loop and just let it ride. It’s also hard because I have a lot of beats that may not even see the light of day because their victim of being too musical maybe. Too much going on, when maybe I needed to tone or scale back some of the intensity. I’m still learning but I feel like I’m getting there more sooner than later.
LT: You have unparallelled humbleness bro, #HeroMusic and everyone on it is quality, skull candy crush. I mean you got thoughtful tracks, philosophic, swaggin, grimy and that Born Infinite piece is just throw back hard. What do you think sets you apart most from other producers?
MM: I don’t know what sets me apart to be honest. Like I said, there’s just so many damn good producers. I’d say work ethic but I don’t want to because I know there’s others that work just as hard. I try to be out of the box with my concepts as much as possible. I try to do every kind of beat there is based on [the current] industry standards. My heart stays in the boom bap, grimy sample, dirty drums, heavy sound. However, in order to stand out, I look at artists like Just Blaze, Kanye, Pharrell, Timbaland, they wear so many hats and can make something different and unique and you still ‘know’ who’s behind that beat. That’s the crowd that someday, I reach to be mentioned in the same breath as…
LT: Pharrel killed the hat game over the winter. That was a vintage bored reaction. The Smokey the Bear joint? For real though… For real, for real you brought up a interesting point though earlier about Racine not necessarily branching out to the Mil a ton, I’m going to extend that to places like Madison, Kenosha… The Mil don’t really branch out that much either, but now with the Mil going big at SxSW… Your thoughts on how that might change the game for whats possible for small markets if not through collaboration or through just getting out there dolo…
MM: I wasn’t able to attend, but I seen enough people that I know that were there and I felt like it gave me a good perspective. They’re hungry man, and again, that’s a testament to them. Go be heard. Don’t wait for it to come to you. I love seeing what people like Klassik, Unifi, Blax, Yodot, and Proph are doing to grow. I hope nothing for the best for those guys and look forward to hopefully working with all of them soon.
LT: Parting Shots?
MM: I hope any and everyone is able to at least give #HeroMusic the 34 minutes it earned… I wanted to make a piece of art, not an album. It’s not a record to me as much as it is a soundtrack. I can’t thank the people involved enough and can’t wait to do the second part of the series. #VillainMusic. If you digging it definitely connect with Madden Miles on facebook and twitter @MaddenMiles. I appreciate the reach out and hope all is well with you and yours.
LT: #VillianMusic without a doubt… you got rare ear for sound and song structure so glad someone is pushing that envelope…
Wanted Heroes by Madden Miles ft. Keno, Alida Lacosse & Amber Ruthe
Suddenly tons of stand-up basses have rumbled on the Milwaukee music scene. Notably, Thistletown Thunders and Calamity Janes, Jaems Murphey’s Vedic Eden, and The Flood offer the bass’s ruminating thuds in bluegrass dialect. Add to that list Barry Paul Clark.
Fluent in Jazz and electric composition, Clark fused both as his super alter-ego adoptahighway at 414Melt. Adoptahighway superbly tasks his hands with queuing electronic samples of live recordings resonating from his bass strings that he played moments before.
The live instrument sampling technique compels attention every time it’s done. Maybe not quite as vicious as Manual Controller, but not many things are.
A recent discussion about what to do to grow Milwaukee’s music scene made me wonder what or where people look for music. Hyper-talented artists like Clark do their part by contributing to niche collectives like 414 Melt. He also spins a silken thread with traditional jazz adding to the potion blended by Unrehearsed Milwaukee, which you will have a chance to see this Sunday (May 4th) at the Jazz Estate