Friday, Sept. 25, 2009

Impressions, Theatre and Thoughts From Bay View

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The Hi-Fi

A Thursday that started at 8am for me was going to end around 10pm. Over a quarter of the day spent in Bay View. Got into the Hi-Fi Café around 3:00 pm to meet with playwright Patrick Schmitz to talk about the theatre script he’s working on. Hadn’t been there in at least a year. On my way in, I see a girl in front of a laptop looking very professional in a full Mohawk and hipster glasses. There’s a bright, floral tattoo tapestry from collarbone down. Then I spot Tom Smith—a musician friend from way back. He’s having a cigarette with a book and it feels like the east side. Patrick Schmitz is running late, but it gives me a chance to talk with Tom about life, politics and the Lewis Carroll I finally got around to reading.

 

Talking with Patrick Schmitz


Patrick Schmitz arrives, apologizes for being late and proceeds to ask me a dozen questions for his new script. It’s the same dozen or so questions he’s been asking theatre people all over Milwaukee. He tells me what the script’s about and it’s another opportunity to get vaguely upset at someone coming up with a brilliant idea that someone should’ve thought of earlier. . . yes, Schmitz’s Rudolph The Pissed-Off Reindeer is a fun comedy, but it’s a fun little highly commercial show. Schmitz’s new script may be commercial, but there’s some real existential bite to it that doesn’t detract from its commercial value in any way and THAT is very rare . . . don’t want to give anything away about it (Schmitz isn’t even really finished with an early treatment of the script the way it sounds) but if he drops the ball on this premise, I’m going to be really disappointed . . . and then probably write my own version of the way it should’ve been, if only for catharsis . . .

 

Dreams of Redefining Professional Conservative Fashion


I’m sitting around in the café after Schmitz has gone on to his second interview waiting for my wife to drop by. The beautifully tattooed Mohican girl with the professional business presence drives off in a car with progressive values written all over it in the language of bumper stickers. I imagine the next generation’s high-powered hipster business professional women with tasteful tattoos and conservative Mohawks making important decisions by exoitc neon light in offices high above the business district on Wisconsin Avenue. It’s an aesthetically pleasing idea . . . the topography of what is considered to be fashionably conservative really should’ve changed sometime in the past five or six decades. It’s getting boring. My wife shows up and we’re off to do the therapeutic pin cushion thing at a place name after a flower somewhere else in Bay View. Somewhere in the midst of a very relaxing session, I’m distinctly recognizing the music of Jan Hammer from Beyond The Mind’s Eye.

 

Morrie Schwartz through Don Devona: It's Really About The People


Later on, I’m at the theatre on the fifth floor of the Marian Center. It’s an intimate theatre, but I like sitting in the front row anyway . . . I’m off to one side and it ends up being within a couple of feet of the spot where Don Devona delivers monologues. Over the course of Soulstice Theatre’s satisfying production of Tuesdays With Morrie, I’m learning to think of Devona as the title character Morrie Schwartz. He’s talking about life and death in monologue and I’m close enough to catch a glimmer of what might be his eyes moistening at certain moments . . . and Morrie’s talking through Devona about the importance of other people, remaining me of how much time I spend alone in a theatr over the course of a year . . . and I’m looking forward to two consecutive evenings of comedy shows with my wife this weekend. It’s almost our wedding anniversary. . .
 
A full review of Soulstice Theatre’s Tuesdays With Morrie runs in next week’s Shepherd-Express. The show runs through October 10th.

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