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Liver and Chips, Theater RED, Bonny Anne Bonny

A jovial sneer reaches the corner of Anne Bonny’s mouth. A surly fellow known as Blackbeard, convincingly played by James Carrington, has unexpectedly encroached upon her flighty courtship of Calico Jack (Zach Thomas Woods). No strangers to trysts, Anne Bonny (Alicia Rice) and Blackbeard clearly had a thing going. In the present day, a little yelling would do. In the pirate days, a lover’s quarrel deserved a little more action, possibly swords, explosions and a stolen pirate ship?

Rough Water Tales

Delightfully romping through a tale of love, lust, adventure, camaraderie, swashbuckling and deception, Theater RED’s premier of Bonny Anne Bonny, an original piece written by Liz Shipe and directed by Christopher Elst, treats theater goers to a fast-paced, witty and all around fun performance.

Bonny Anne Bonny centers on two seawater drinking shipmates Anne Bonny and Mary Read (Rae Pare), and their never-ending hedonistic escapades, a life’s calling to separate bounty from the hands of fools, dodge capture, and horrific untimely death.

On the lam after her ship is blown up and en route to unfolding her latest plan, Anne Bonny is the hand from the past that knocks at Josiah Addams’ (Bryan Quinn) door asking for help. Josiah, known to Anne as ‘Biscuit’, tries to shield his niece Lila’s (Jessica Shultz) ears and youthful will from fulfilling her fantasy to live a pirate’s life. Lila naively jumps head long onto Anne’s coat tails. Having been forced into hearing the favor of this old friend, Josiah aides Anne Bonny in forming a rag tag crew, from a batch of wayward and not-so-seaworthy souls.

Little does Anne know, that a conniving and unscrupulous military officer Captain Presley (Thomas Sebald) has enlisted some of Anne’s past and recently earned enemies to end her run of petty outlaw pillage. Satisfied only with complete annihilation of Anne Bonny, Presley finds himself gleefully using every tool at his disposal, including jealousy that has seeped into Anne Bonny’s ranks.

All the while, Anne Bonny follows the course of her plan to nab enough riches to sail off the high seas of England for good. Wielding strength and cunning, Anne Bonny tries with every thread of her being to hold all the pieces of her tattered and frayed world together.


Arms and Fists

Anne’s adventures lead her to ‘Heartless’ Jane Bristow, a well-weathered and crude pub matron well-performed by the play’s author Liz Shipe. Heartless Jane’s establishment gets a lot of action and gives the perfect backdrop for some of the plays best action scenes.

Bonny Anne Bonny’s director Christopher Elst has made weapons and stage combat a signature element of many of Theater RED’s productions. He incorporates this element frequently and fittingly for a play about pirates. Fisticuffs, grappling and sword fighting settle impromptu disagreements throughout the play’s acts.

In other more intense situations, Lighting Designer Aaron Seigmann deftly nudges our imagination of fire and explosions. The scenic design of Christopher Kurtz gives it all a place to live, a multi-level modular design that allows wood, ropes and steel to become a functional pirate ship, able to withstand highly physical blocking and aerial elements.

Bonny Anne Bonny is packed with quip dialog, that melds low brow humor, double entendre, conventional wisdom, campy slap-stick humor and cynicism into a story that can be digested by nearly all ages without worry.

Bonny Anne Bonny puts many talented actors in the spotlight with performances from Drea DeVos, Sean Duncan, Jennifer Glueckstein, Corey Hagen, Brandon Haut, Macie Laylan, Marah Nitz, Leah Northrop, Joe Picchetti, Grace Thompson, and Madeline Wakey.

The balance of the production team deserves applause for composing a set of highly polished theatrical design elements not often experienced in an independent show. Liz Shipe and Katlyn Rogers (costume), Alicia Rice (choreography), Katelynn Bowen and Marcee Doherty-Elst (props and scenic decor), Christopher Elst and Nichole Bartsch (sound design), and Andrea Burkholder (aerial choreography).

Bonny Anne Bonny is directed by Christopher Elst and Nichole Bartsch, managed by Julia Xiong, Libby Adelmayer, and Maria Carter and produced by Marcee Doherty-Elst, Christopher Elst, Jay Sierszyn and Simon Provan.

Theater RED brings you Bonny Anne Bonny at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Raabe Theatre, 8815 W Wisconsin Avenue, with remaining performances Thursday, November 10 through Saturday November 12, 2016 with all showtimes at 7:30p.

Power of Life, Cooperative Performance MKE, Cambrian

Ex-post primordial
Sampled evolutionary specimens
Still figuring
A mass without mass
Weighing ages to come

Matter without mind
Electric only in the sense of latent magnetic pulse
Innate urgency animated

A quake, did it tremble?
A tenuous balance revolved
Axis before axiom
Atomic, molecular plenty

Hell, overtly engorged terrestrial heat
Scortching core reaching the surface level cooled by the mixture
Brittle crust chipped, visual maybe, tactile

Immediate revelry, time scrapped by
Time left an untouched wall marred, beginning and ending with stone’s precursor

Whirring, writhing, withering
Noise emulates music overtaking the silence forgotten

Immolation accidental, the rubber tree burns atmos-spherical perpetution
Pin point projection embraced
Modulation, synth pre-digital crude

Process unaware inherent, deliberate
Radiance angular, a reflection on a plane dimensional, minimal degrees separate

Fragility, steadily craving primal ignorance
Focus waxing in traumatic spectacle
An appendage to paddle, a foot
Thoracic concavity, convex abdominal anterior abnormality

Fading through appearance of spectacle
Moribund trappings, intention escaped vapor
Elements expound

Weather Reaction

Brennen Steines launched season one of Coopertive Performance MKE in stellar fashion, devising and delivering Cambrian through the bodies of Kelly Radermacher and Don Russell. An escapade of process art, within Cambrian, Steines cites art forerunner Richard Serra as an influence. 

Cambrian employs human movement interacting with visual art media and sound design to interpret the Cambrian eon of earth’s archeology. The piece calls on the audiences’ imagination to  concieve 50 million years of organic chemistry at work in time-lapse, played back in a compact and quite desciplined interpretive physical theatre duet. 

When asked of the choice of visual art media Stienes shares, “The choice of media gave the performance the primal feel I wanted to convey.” 

Tectonic Art Movement

Cambrian’s perfomance follows a choeragraphic outline envisioned by Liz Faraglia, expounded upon during the fluid three act with movement improvisation of Russell and Radermacher. 

Steines offers that the subjects perpetualy add to the set design, “Each performance has it’s own unique qualities. Even the set and canvas backdrop evolve with each performance, adding to their overall appearance. We started in rehearsals and let the set take on whatever the performers add to it, without deliberately altering them.”

At the end of the run, a canvas will hold the emotional and creative energy of each performance. 

Sound Escapist 

Claranetist Olivia Valenza, sat behind a small tray topped with a turntable. At her other hand, a controller running to a syth pedal serves to complete her tool set needed to orchestrate a live soundtrack to Cambrian.

Valenza’s claranet envolops the performance in an ambient haze, blended with warped textures of digital and analog undertones. Her accompaniment completes the extensive immersion into this prehistoric world the audience experiences.

End of the Epoch

Cambrian will close this weekend, show times are 6:30p and 8:00p tonite Saturday November 5, and closing performance Sunday November 6, 2016 at 12:00p on the 5th floor of the Marshall Building in the Third Ward, 207 E Buffalo Street.

The performance is viewed in roughly an 18 ft by 18 ft whitebox studio, the director prompts the audience to view the performance as one might a sculpture.

Cooperatice Performance MKE functions as and artist coop, where collectively an artist board selects project pitches from working artists.

Off Wells, Alchemist Theatre, Life in the Theatre

I look back towards the doorway as I sit down. A trapezoid of light, thin, sharp and elongated, extends from the entrance, slicing the darkness that engulfs the lounge area facing the bar. In the middle of the day, the Alchemist Theatre amazingly devoid of light, defies the presumptive illuminating qualities of daytime. Drama lives in this space.

In the comfy chairs facing me, and on the plush velvet wall bench next to me, sit Jill Anna Ponasik who is sporting an irreverent pair of translucent blue acetate framed glasses and a blue t-shirt of similar tone, and Dave Sapiro the Alchemist’s utility knife-like resident ensemble lead. A casually dressed bearded gentleman exudes a presence, impatiently jittering a bit. I’m pretty sure his name is Jim. Given his demeanor I presume him at the point of belligerently exiting middle age. Aaron Koepec, the Alchemist’s Artistic Director, also joins us slightly disheveled, a customary appearance betraying his attentiveness.

I stopped down to hear a little bit about Aaron Koepec’s latest production, a rendition of Mamet’s Life in the Theatre. He lured Jill Anna into directing this piece. As the Producing Artistic Director for Milwaukee Opera Theatre, She’s accustomed to directing operas. 

Ponasik, not a stranger to the Alchemist Theatre, had a small role in the now cult-classic Alchemist production Invader! I hardly knew her an original doosie written and directed by Jason Powell back in 2009 (suddenly loud red alarm buzzers started ringing in my imagination). She produced another collaboration at the Alchemist with Powell in 2012 entitled Fortuna Time Bender vs School Sister of DoomWith Life in the Theatre, Ponasik takes on a stage piece for the first time.

Back Stops and the Inkwell of Love

“The story of Life in the Theatre could have taken place last week or in [19]42,” Ponasik offers, “It’s a drama centered on the Society of Theatre, however the central theme is really about the tensions between older generations and youth, which is a topic that spans time immemorial.”

The man I am remembering as Jim, chimes in to give a little more context to this work in the canon of Mamet. “This is the follow-up to Mamet’s first work American Buffalo, which was a smashing success. It’s written like a love letter to theatre. You might describe American Buffalo as a catcher’s mitt, Life in the Theatre would be a lace doily.”

From Understudy to the Grave

The play knits a 26 act dialog between stage-ripened actor Robert and fresh face John. Dave Sapiro who portrays John adds, “The young actor confronts the realities of ambition, and the presumption of having to be ruthless to make it.” Giving a little more away Ponasik offers, “Amidst the drama, there is a healthy dose of comedy in the story, absurdity often ensues.”

As the conversation winds through the thoughts of the ensemble, Jim becomes introspective “After 450 performances of Scrooge from [19]99 to 2012 Robert’s character is definitely within my reach.” Wait what? Nearly a decade and a half in The Rep’s production of the A Christmas Carol?

There in front of me, plain as homemade yogurt, James Pickering’s name is printed on the playbill. No wonder that name sounded so familiar. I glance again at “Jim”, who is looking like that guy at Outpost that might guilt you into buying reusable shopping bags, with beard, wire rim glasses and no top hat or long coat, just looks like a regular guy.

“There is a tension in the play of one actor facing constant pressure of living up to the standard and not stumbling, against the other actor’s drive to make the most of his chances to succeed,” Pickering has been here before.

By the Looks of It

When asked of the aesthetics of the play, Ponasik sardonically drawls, “Well we knew weren’t going to do an opera.” Turning slightly to Aaron she continued, “This is where Aaron will usually tell you he doesn’t like designing for other director’s shows. We went with the idea that the set would be an environment that the play could take place in.”

Koepec avoids complete encryption, “The play is staged as a memory.” Succinctly Pickering concludes, “We are riffing on the idea that [Rob and John], it’s one consciousness. The play will draw on the concept of [memory as] a tunnel.”

Wondering if there are clear artistic tensions that play out between the old guard and new guard, as an example I reference this months New Yorker which observes Improv as having become modern acting, rather than remaining just a technique. The Alchemist, long a haven for Improv comedians and some damn good ones, has successfully co-mingled a variety of stage acting techniques during its lifespan.

The question draws the ire of Sapiro, “Everything on stage isn’t valid all the time, but Method taken to the extreme is very questionable as well. That Jared Leto crap with Suicide Squad was unforgivable.” It’s safe to say the small stage can have a purist embrace too.

Ponasik shares that Life in the Theatre takes place mostly behind the scenes of the theatre in the play. “I’ve seen performances of Shakespeare in New York at the Globe Theatre where the actors are in the dressing room in every scene. It created an intriguing perspective shift for the audience.” Pickering tells it eagerly, “Viewing batting practice can be very entertaining.”

This is a huge playbill for a space that maybe sits 50. James Pickering is legend in the making that you won’t see in this intimate of performance very often. David Sapiro isn’t too shabby either. As for Jill Anna Ponasik, we know she can do opera, but can she do Alchemist Theatre? The Alchemist Theatre opens Life in the Theatre September 30, 2016 at 7:30pm, tickets are $29.



Lost to Time, Frank’s European Sausage

At least 8 people stood in a loose single file facing the empty deli display refrigerator underneath Frank’s European Sausage grocery counter, barely enough room to keep the doorway clear. The store’s shelves, stained polyurethane coated wood bolted to glossy cast iron railing (the kind of railing over which smoked sausages hung) barely hold anything but some pickled vegetables and whole peppercorns. Frank’s store, in the ground and spiced meat business for over forty years, smells only of made-to-order fresh polish sausages that Frank himself personally runs from his mechanical meat stuffer on his last day of walk-in business.

As people wait inside, eventually grabbing their orders that humbly fill plastic supermarket bags, more patrons amble through the door immediately take their place. One guy in his forties says he’s been coming to Frank’s since he was 12. You can feel the  sense of duty in people drawn to visit Frank’s, as the news of its closing spread through social media, like those would to a wake of a distant and respected friend.

New World

Located mid-block just north of Becher on Muskego, Frank’s long-time home is now a predominately Latino neighborhood, just minutes from the Valley and industrial lands of West Allis along Miller Parkway. Opening in 1973, this establishment provided a taste of the old country for descendants of Polish and other East European immigrants. Even today, a young woman asks her husband something in a heavy Eastern block accent, a reminder that most everyone in this country arrived here from another land.

More than a few people have asked about the Hungarian hot sausage, after entering and not seeing anything in the refrigerator case. I had the hot Hungarian on a previous occasion. When cooked, the Hungarian made a red oily stew from the paprika blend seasoning it. Not surprised when an senior woman came in and marched right to up to the counter, calling for the Hungarian. Hearing the house had none but fresh Polish, she turned around and went back out the door as purposefully as she came.

Sturdy, Stalwart

There’s a quintessential familiarness of a bygone Milwaukee here. Regular working-class people with a matter-of-fact folksiness that takes itself less-serious enough to strike up a conversation, or to give a common courtesy nod to a stranger. I remember coming across these people occasionally growing up here, although I never got South of the viaduct until after I was eighteen.

Savor this Page

Frank’s will be lost to time, an obscure draw to an area that will never have a traditional specialty sausage grocer again. He is a testament to that cultural ethic that pervades some residents of Milwaukee that no matter how much their neighborhood changes they won’t leave their home.

Frank Jakubczak has tried to shut his doors before, however his customers have never let him leave. Amazingly, the History Channel featured him in a segment of their Meat America series circa 2012. Well deserved recognition, although I’m certain the stream customers on his closing day were much more gratifying.

Wisconsin Foodie did a segment on Franks’s European Sausage you can check out get a feel for the experience.

Alley Bomb, Stacey Williams-Ng, Black Cat Alley 2016

The alley-side wall of the Oriental Theatre has probably had everything sprayed on it except aerosol paint. That all will change later this fall when a handful of hand-picked muralists will get a shot at bombing that famed back way as a part of the Black Cat Alley street fest.

BCA kicked-off in July, when famed street artist MTO got first dibs lighting up a prime spot on the East. An frog, with a penchant for anachronism, rocking a spray-cap top hat and a mustache climbs out of hole in upper floor of the cleaners Kenilworth and Prospect.

BCA teamed up with the Eastside BID to close out summer in Milwaukee out with a week of outdoor art events starting September 10 and climaxing with a street fest the 17th and 18th on Kenilworth. When it’s done artists enlisted by BCA will have coated Milwaukee with more much needed public art. Stacey Williams-Ng didn’t know it when she set out that she wasn’t gonna let MKE be out done by West Allis.

Local Trolley: How did you get involved with Black Cat?

Stacey Williams-Ng :My friend Tim Decker, who’s an instructor at UWM Kenilworth, struck up a conversation with me one day a couple years ago about using art to revitalize that alley. He was concerned about it being a dangerous area for students to walk through at night. One thing led to another, and the idea for a mural festival was born. We started talking to the community leaders and making the case for street art, and named it “Black Cat Alley” in an homage to the UWM mascot, the panther.

LT: Yeah them kids better be careful trying to sneak in the movies. Whatever the reason, anything to get some street art going. Black Cat is it about Street Art, what is it that makes street art such a unique addition to the landscape of urban areas?

SWN: Who ever said that the only thing we should see in the urban landscape should be either bare walls, or marketing messages? When you’re in the city, it’s a blessing to have your eyes rest on something that’s not trying to sell you anything: it’s there to make you think, or to smile.

LT: Where is Milwaukee on the spectrum of urban areas that embrace street art?

SWN: Great question. We have some really iconic cultural murals here, created and kept safe by communities all around Milwaukee. The Reynaldo Hernandez piece on North Avenue, for example, is over 30 years old. And there are many examples similar to that. However, Milwaukee has not yet embraced street art as a movement at the scale that other cities have. Just one trip to Chicago’s Wabash corridor, or to Denver’s River North district, or to Miami or Brooklyn or L.A. or Baltimore would open anyone’s eyes as to the tremendous impact that street art can have on a city. Our team wants to see that happen in Milwaukee.

LT: Definitely Reynaldo is a legend. We can thank him for the Mural of Peace on the Esperanza Unida building. Ammar Nsoroma is another unsung  artist and muralist in Milwaukee. He did the Middle Passage mural that stood on Wisconsin Black Historical Society for ages. Then you got the new schoolers like Fred Kaems, J Bird and Chacho Lopez.

The slate BCA pulled together is solid too. Brandon Minga has been paying dues for a little bit now. Tia Richardson is phenomenal. I bought a sketch book from her at craft fair that she bound. I can’t wait to see what all the artists come with.

What are some of the most exciting parts about Black Cat Alley fest?

SWN: Am I allowed to say, “everything”? I guess my favorite thing is having out-of-town artists come in and intermingle their ideas with local artists. We are putting them all together in one space to share their own voices and uplift and teach one another. And then we’re inviting everyone else to the party to see what they create.

LT: Parting thought shout outs!?

SWN: I’d like to shout out to our local Milwaukee artists who will be participating, and whose entries were chosen by our esteemed jury: John Kowalczyk, Jenny Jo Kristan, Brandon Minga, Jeff Redmon, Tia Richardson, Adam Stoner, Ian McGibbon and Renee Martinez. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for our alley!

BCA street fest begins September 17, 2016 will also feature visiting artists CERA and Bunnie Reis.