An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Archive for May, 2015

Hands That Move, Helene Fischman, Draw Write Here

Memories quickly rushed back, drawn out by the arrangement of the tables. The large compressed wood rectangles with table legs, touching end-to-end, have plastic chairs tightly spaced underneath them. Adults sitting on them nearly hip to hip. 

Utensils for writing, marking, and sketching stand in cups, some lay resting on the table’s flat surface. Paper nonchalantly awaits in piles, staring blankly at the ceiling. People have gathered at Art Bar to Draw Write Here

No one really knows the purpose here, although everyone has something to say. Our guide asks that we prepare ourselves to interact with things that will call on our senses, and ideas that will stand-up to our self-awareness and that of others; that will beckon our thoughts to find their way to paper and speak through symbol, figure and motif; script, cursive and scratch penmanship. Helene Fischman just introduced this unwitting crew to Draw Write Here.

The Reanimator

Whatever intense drive tremendously grips Fischman’s conscious, it has convinced her that sparking communication between sentient beings nobaly dignifies everyone involved. Her search for the ‘how-to’ makes the ‘what-for’ take a breather. 

If asked, she graciously might explain that Draw-Write follows the Surrealist tradition of Exquisite Corps founded by Andre Breton, demonstrated wonderfully by Marcel Duchamp. Her cause contains something additional though, cradling both egalitarian and democratic hemispheres, making both coherent, capturing their deepest functional meaning: participation. 

Draw Write Here calls artists to respond to one another in pairs, often strangers, sharing a bond over a micro-experience, a scensory stimulus or setting. One in the pair writes, while the other draws or paints. The pair swaps work and responds to the other. Confined to the designated set of moments, the ‘drawer’ composes a new picture to the writers words and vis versa. Then all the pairs share what they have.

The Magician

As a conductor might wave their wand emphatically in established time signature to direct her orchestra, Fischman uses her keenly attuned faculties to transmit direction to her creative conspirators, and bridging the gulf between writers and visual artist. They must rely on each other for creative justice.

Amidst the tedium involved in literary and visual arts, Draw Write Here frees those involved from the paralysis perfection. A writer, drafts and revises. An artist, sketches and erases; paints and layers, blends and sharpens, ellipsis. Draw Write Here uses time as an absolute motivator, urgency meeting aesthetic, and a pop-up group exhibition is born. Reconvene and repeat. The most solitary of artists find themselves in an ensemble.

A Marker

Helene Fischman will celebrate eight months of  artist exchanges with her exqusite company, sharing a night of this process entitled Draw, Write, Here, See Tuesday, June 2, 7:30p at In Tandem Theatre.  A compilation of illustration and poetry works concieved in Draw Write Here produced and co-authored by Helene Fischman, entitled Draw Write Here Journal Vol. 1, commemorates this collective effort. 

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Climate Control, Uprooted Theatre, Suddenly Last Summer

Down in the Bayou, Violet Venable’s (Marti Gobel) genteel Victorian sensibilities cling to changing times. Her son Sebastian, the apple of her eye, her muse, her poet, anchors their impenetrable blood alliance, rooted in his artist talent and the rush of collecting graces available only to those with penchant for the niceties of high art and noble society. They together blazed an international trail through the last Gilded corners of global society, recognized nearly as wed.

Together her and her son stood in Paris, while Violet’s husband lay on his death bed. Her and Sebastian’s appetite for couture and soiree too salubrious to abandon. Violet’s husband dies, and Violet and her son live on, inner ring socialites. Their occupation of leisure takes a set back when Violet, stricken by a stroke, must rest in the confines of her home.

Sebastian carries on his tours as a renowned poet with his oft-shunned cousin Cathrine Holly (Sola Thompson) by his side. He has no ties, no wife, no children. For a man entering mid-adulthood this is an eyebrow raising characteristic even at face value, to be hidden by the company of his in-law relation. No matter the question of her suitability to navigate the world contained in his mind, she floats along as Sebastian’s buoy, by his conscious or her guile, much to the chagrin of his mother.

He and Catherine travel through the vestiges of European renaissance, in Spain something goes awry. Catherine returns and is committed to a mental hospital. Sebastian stays forever, dead under nebulous circumstances.

Violet seeks the clinical perspective of Dr. Cukrowitz (Marcus Causey) to dispel Cathrine’s account of Sebastian’s demise, on which presumably hinges a donation Violet may make to the hospital Dr. Cukrowitz has residency if he can fulfill Violet’s wrath. This tension brings Violet’s in-laws Mrs. Holly (Mara McGee) and George Holly (Derrion Brown) out of the woodwork. Catherine’s hospital attendant Sister Felicity (Raven Dockery) and Mrs. Foxhill (Freedom Gobels) helplessly stand-by in awe of the intrigue.

Playwright Gigante

Suddenly Last Summer provides an obscure example of Tennessee Williams’ brilliance as a playwright, often overshadowed by legendary works Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Street Car Called Desire. With co-founder Dennis F. Johnson in the directors seat, Uprooted Theatre venerably stages Suddenly Last Summer as the company’s benediction to a ambitious five year run to lift up African-American theatre for all eyes to see. It’s a verbose and technically challenging play that is wonderfully executed.

Marti Gobels, Uprooted’s founder and Artistic Director, and Johnson alternatively cast William’s play with black American actors, transposing them with William’s original perspective that embodies white American characters. In contrast to color-blind and gender-blind casting, Gobels and Johnson’s artistic intent here provokes the players and the audience to experience the play in its original perspective deliberately inhabited by people of a different race, to challenge our inherent beliefs about the play’s content given our existing historical and sociological knowledge of the play’s setting.

Despite this didactic aspect of the production, the dramaturgy of this play strikes the ear and eye as at once as fascinating, convincing, and as offering full justice to one of Tennessee William’s masterworks, a provocation of the idea that actors from all walks of life can develop the chops to perform roles of depth and dramatic technicality.

Uprooted Theatre’s production of Suddenly Last Summer, has three more runs graciously hosted at Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, Saturday May 23, 2:00p matinee, 7:00p evening show and Sunday May 24, 2:00p matinee.


Deep Sweat, Alchemist Theatre, King of Pop

His contemporaries left silhouettes of incenerated ashes, others have more recently been unearthed long after their heyday, for years burried under piles bullshit they inundated each other with. He immortalized himself, a self-sculpted bronze statue still standing. Andy Warhol the central figure of the New Wave Pop Art movement did not plan to die; loath the idea to let anyone kill him, with establishment aesthetics or petty bullets.

Aaron Kopec delivers his latest stage piece, part 2 of the New York Trilogy, as ode to the 70’s New York underground, a party of legendary hacks and prodigies. He takes us mid-decade where people have tirelessly molded themselves into deformed characatures, desperate attention-starved hedonists. Even the talented put their strengths third at best, lest they sell out.

The Original Fortress

Andy (Randal T. Anderson) is raising an army. An ill-trained band of latently degenerate personalities live mouth to foot in a dingy, crumbling decommissioned factory. They long to make noise, moving pictures and images that get noticed, lacking the strength to project themselve on to the public platform.

Andy lures Edie (Shannon Nettersheim) into his maniacal plans, her place secured by her clutch. She’s a reluctant focal point of the scene, thrown high into the air by Warhol’s crafty vision, will she ever come down. 

Blown in by Westerly winds, a young fellow named Bob (David Sapiro), to all eyes a talented bumpkin, who could go places if he wasn’t so…bumpkin, feels the invisible hands of the Industry message him into an icon. His contemporary Lou (Mitch Weindorf), ornery in all respects, won’t bend his artistic sensibilities easily, reluctantly sharing the stage with Nico (Niko King), a buxom diva stuck solidly in disco glam.

Valerie (Grace DeWolff) nags Andy at every opportunity, a firecraker, willing to go any extreme to propagate her radical feminist doctrines. She’s ready to get off of street corners and on the silver screen. She fixates on Andy as the goat and glorious key to the room she wants to inhabit, will she get the boost she needs?

A growing hoard of sycophants infest the fortress until one by one they fall to pieces. Jack (Greg Ryan) lewdly employs shock value until no one cares. Vivid (Kathy Landry) reinvents herself, fleeing her midlife routine, neglecting her most important connections for the artifice of an art scene. Suede (Paul Pfannensteil), Candy (Amie Lynn Losi), and Nova (Liz Witford) aimlessly add to the body count of exhibitionist megalomaniacs lingering at the feet of Andy. Fed up, Andy looks through the gudders for new treasures to fancy, finding Jean-Michel (Lamont Smith) a perfectly suitable scratching post.

Gifted and Talented

King of Pop steadily clips through scenes, a touch from Kopec that physically translates the short attention spans contained in the collective conscious of artists. The production benefits from even acting up and down the cast. Anderson and Sapiro deliver spot-on performances that mimic the manner and motive of two legendary figures, that provide a solid axis for the show to revolve. 

Nettersheim uses her enigmatic and fragile presence to portray a relativley gripping character without a lot of stage time to do it in. DeWolff and Weindorf also play well, leaving a distinct impression on the production from the fringe, through their ability to concoct personality and quirks of mannerism into the their performances.

A few zingers get sprinkled throughout to keep the audience honest during this enjoyable, although relatively deliberate 2 Act. Moments of staged melodrama distract from the story, however they stay in check enough as not to distract from the overall quality of the show. Kopec weaves a multimedia aspect into the production, a flavor that is always welcome in live theater.

King of Pop opened last Thursday at the Alchemist Theatre and has runs May 7, 8 and 9, 14, 15 and closing May 16, all show times are 7:30p.