Thursday, July 9, 2009

Youngblood: A Talk With Michael Cotey

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Michael Cotey has shown remarkable talent since his first appearances onstage as a theatre student at UWM. Not only working with UWM, he’s made a number of appearances in professional theatre over the years. He boldly took the stage in the male lead of an In Tandem’s Equus . . . later appearing in a student production of The Dumbwaiter—a production that he also directed and landing a minor supporting role in Twelfth Night with Milwaukee Shakespeare. His appearance as Azdak in The Caucasian Chalk Circle was phenomenal—mixing insight with Idiosyncrasy. Now fully graduated from UWM, Cotey and a few others are starting a new theatre company—Youngblood. I had the opportunity to speak with Cotey outside Alterra at the Lake during a particularly frenetic Summerfest weekend.

Oddly enough, before we even had a chance to discuss any of the actual shows, we ended up talking about the future of a theatre company that hasn’t even opened it’s first show yet. (That happens tomorrow night.) It makes sense, though . . . I was expecting a casual conversation about the three shows the new company is opening this month and right away, totally unprompted, Cotey speaks in real, coherent and pragmatic terms about the future of Youngblood. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

The Future of Youngblood: Roughly Two Weeks Before It Opens Its First Show

Me: I remember talking to you before the last Pink Banana shorts program and I seem to remember you saying something about a new theatre company. Was that not the case?

Michael Cotey: I don’t know if it had come into fruition then. I think, certainly, a couple of us were tossing around the idea of producing something in the summer, but the more and more we talked about it, it seemed, the larger and larger the idea started to become and now it seems pretty solid. Obviously, we have the three shows, but we’re already sort of thinking, “what’s next after this?” I guess our goals with these shows . . . early on is that we get the work done, we get it done well and our third goal (which is secondary to the first two) we try to break even.

Me: laugh

Cotey: Honestly, though, our budget is really coming from our own pockets and our revenue and if we break even, that’s fantastic. That’s a success.

Me:
Now is this a favor from UWM to use its spaces for a couple of the shows, or are there actual rental fees?

Cotey: No, they’re treating us like we’re an outside entity. They’re making things a lot easier for us. Leroy Stoner, who I think is going to be the new chair of the department, he’s certainly helping us as much as he can, ‘cause way back in the day, Renaissance and Theatre Tessaract and probably others came out of the UWM theatre department the same way. Graduates got together and decided to start putting their own work together. I think . . . I don’t want to speak for him, but II think he sees value in something like this happening. So he’s treating us like we’re a new theatre company, but he’s certainly helping us because we are almost exclusively (I think exclusively) UWM graduates or current students.

Me: Okay. And so you’re just thinking in terms of this summer right now.

Cotey: We’re just thinking in terms of this summer right now, so when our final show closes on August second, I’m going away for a month.

Me:
laugh

Cotey:
I’m going to completely . . .just let things settle for a bit and then come back in mid-September and get together as a group and talk about what the next thing’s going to be.

Me: Okay.

Cotey: So this’ll make sure that we’ll have all of our bills paid and move on to the next thing.

Youngblood’s
first show David’s Redhaired Death opens tomorrow night, July 10th at the UWM Studio Theatre.

Tomorrow: More with Michael Cotey

 

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