Monday, July 4, 2011

Shannon Tyburski, Jane Austen and Acacia's cozy cavern

Austen's Emma At Acacia

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Tyburski as Emma from a promo photo . . . . . . and offstage from Facebook.

People often ask me if the theatre activity in Milwaukee dies-down in summer. (It doesn’t.) If there is a slow-down point in the summer, it’s probably in July. This coming week, there’s almost nothing opening. Next week, though: four shows opening in great Milwaukee.

As I won’t have time to see them all, there’s one that I won’t be able to see. And while I will be seeing no less than three musicals next week including one about a cannibal, it’s kind of disappointing to be missing the only drama to open next week. It’s the new Acacia Theatre show—a production of the Jon Jory adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.

The title of the story, of course, refers to Emma Woodhouse—a twenty-year old Jane Austen character from almost 200 years ago who was fiercely independent for the time and probably one of the more interesting characters to show-up in English literature in the early 19th century. 

For the Acacia production, she will be played by Shannon Tyburski. The actress has special connection to staged Austen—she first met her future husband performing adapted work by the author onstage with Acacia. The actress has since made a subtle but unmistakable impression in a number of productions on various stages. 

Tyburski’s presence onstage is remarkably understated, but very, very distinct. It’s been interesting to see her in smaller roles on various stages, but this one would be particularly interesting to see. Here she’s playing a fiercely independent, headstrong character, which would be interesting to see through the understated prism of her usual stage energy.

The challenge to make the character sparkle is particularly complicated by Acacia’s performance space at Concordia University. It is, (and I mean this in the nicest way possible,) a huge, cavernous theatre. I don’t know what actual square footage or seating capacity or stage space is like, but I’ve been there more than enough times to know that it at least feels like an indoor Marcus Amphitheater. The beauty of an Acacia show is that, more often than not, it’s actually able to make the place feel warm and friendly—so it is at least a cozy cavern for theatre. The challenge for Tyburski, though, is to juggle all the particulars of the character while simultaneously coming across as vulnerable AND headstrong in a space that feels very, very big. And I honestly wish I could be there to see it.

Acacia Theatre’s production of Emma runs July 15th – 24th at Concordia University’s Todd Wehr Auditorium. For ticket reservations, call 414-744-5995.

 

 

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