Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010

Theatre About Theatre Without Theatre

Easing Back Into The Theatre Season

By Russ Bickerstaff
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I found myself at the Alchemist Theatre for a rather long time last night. I had an interview scheduled with Andrew Edwin Voss about his role in the new upcoming Youngblood show Red Light Winter. (Transcripts from the interview will be posted un a couple of weeks.) As I was set to attend the reading of the most recent incarnation of the new play by Patrick Schmitz, I elected to meet with him at the Alchemist before Schmitz and company arrived.

Schmitz’s new play is a fun little drama about a group of actors backstage during a really bad murder mystery show. Schmitz interviewed a rather large number of theatre professionals in researching the script and there are a lot of really good lines—some of them pretty insightful—about the theatre. For m, though . . . the one thing that stuck with me stronger than anything else was something Voss has said after the interview. We were talking about theatre in Milwaukee—and Voss is one of a growing number of talented young theatre people who want to stay here and at least use the city as a home base. Somehow the topic of LA came-up. And Voss said he’d been there, but he wasn’t there looking for work. He said, “I don’t want to be a movie star. I want to be an actor.” Out of context, this probably sounds like theatre snobbery, but there IS a distinction. Not all movie stars are actually actors. Very few actors are actually movie stars. This may all seem kind of obvious, but it seemed terribly profound to me last night for some reason. 

The whole film vs. theatre debate is explored a bit in Schmitz’ new as yet untitled script. The reading was cast really well. There was an interesting interaction between local star Mark Metcalf as a seasoned veteran and young talent Andy North in the role of an upstart young actor. Somewhere in the middle of it all was a typically charismatic Alex Grindeland as a local actor who was going off to audition in Hollywood. The reading was attended by a small crowd of local theatre types who had been invited. For me it was an interesting transition into my first weekend of theatre shows in the New Year—lots of talk about the stage without seeing an actual show.  Yes. I believe I’m ready for those two Rep shows now . . .  

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