Saturday, April 4, 2009

APT: No Matinees in June

By Russ Bickerstaff
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There’s a forecast for snow tomorrow. Eerie, plastic decorative Santas still lurk outside a number of houses on my side of town. In spite of the lingering signs of winter, I’m still thinking ahead to summer. As the theatre season winds down, I am looking forward to summer theatre. And looking forward to scheduling for the coming summer, I can’t help but notice that the American Players Theatre won’t be doing any matinees for June. June is the summer theatre’s big month for early season openings. The lack of matinees makes it a bit more difficult for those from out of town to go and see all three early-season APT openings in a single weekend. Spring Green, Wisconsin is kind of a long way away from Milwaukee and even the tiny motels along the highway outside of Spring Green feel a bit expensive in this economy.

 

Up The Hill at APT

 

APT is scheduling things for its newly completed indoor theatre this year, but the majority of its offerings this season are in the outdoor stage Up The Hill. Of the five shows I intend on seeing in Spring Green this summer, only one of them is a matinee, which actually IS something of a relief. I love seeing matinees there when the weather’s okay, but I remember being intensely uncomfortable there at times as well.  Stories of overheated APT summer matinees aren’t uncommon . . . but the actors seem to know the territory . . .

I recently ran into Travis Knight before UWM’s opening of Nathan The Wise—Knight’s a local actor and graduate of the UWM theatre program who has the honor of being an APT intern this summer. He wasn’t aware of the June schedule. He seemed happy to be heading out there for the work . . . with reduced matinees this year, the towering gentleman won’t have to deal with the heat, but he WILL still have to deal with the nightlife.

a typical APT audience: few mosquitoes in attendance


Last night at the opening night of The Pavilion, I had an opportunity to talk with Next Act Theater Producing Artistic Director David Cecsarini. Cecsarini had been active onstage with the APT years ago . . . long before I started going. He’d mentioned the mosquitoes . . . which any evening audience at the APT will be familiar with. The canisters of bug repellent are provided free of charge at the bottom of the hill for patrons’ convenience and really . . . if you haven’t thought to bring your own, you really should use the stuff. The mosquitoes can get pretty pushy if you don’t take precautions.

Actors and audience alike have to deal with the bugs. With an audience there, the mosquitoes are relatively disbursed, but Cecsarini was telling me about rehearsing onstage Up The Hill without an audience in the seats to distract the mosquito population. It’s the same number of mosquitoes with fewer people for the bugs to target, which sounds awful. Even when an audience is there, there are those uninvited stage mosquitoes who want to get involved. This is okay when the actors are up and moving around, but when the script calls for an unfortunate soul to die onstage and stay there lie motionless in an effort to look convincingly dead, he or she is an easier target for mosquitoes. Look closely and you’ll see an actor subtly sweeping a cape over a fellow actor without breaking character to interrupt the bugs’ feast.

And looking over the above paragraphs, I realize that I’m making the whole experience seem really uncomfortable . . . it can be kind of sticky out there, but this is some of the best theatre anywhere in the state (possibly some of the best in the Midwest,) so it’s well worth the heat and the bugs to see a show with the APT . . . and with the new indoor theatre, audiences don’t have to sit outside to see all of it.

It was interesting being reminded of this before Next Act’s Pavilion . . . which is, itself set in an outdoor pavilion complete with stars towards the end of the show . . . and as expected, the performance was thoroughly engrossing. Having completed its four-show season, Next Act has been the one theatre company in town to complete a consistently top-notch standard 08/09 season. Every show they put on this season was great. The one other company in town that could potentially do this in my opinion is In Tandem, which opens its final show of the season at the end of the month.

A full review of Next Act’s The Pavilion runs in this week’s Shepherd-Express.  

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