Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Early Daydreams of the upcoming Indie Theatre Summer at the Alchemist

The Rep Announces its next season, but what about Natalie Ryan?

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Somewhere around the past couple of days, The Milwaukee Rep announced its upcoming season. Some of it sounds kind of interesting. Gutenberg!  The Musical sounds like fun. Three guys pitch the idea for a big Broadway musical about the inventor of the printing press—the grandfather of the mass media--Johann Gutenberg. The rest of the season largely consists of classics with big name recognition—Sense and Sensibility, A Raisin In The Sun, The Diary of Anne Frank . . . there a couple of interesting biographical shows. The Mountaintop details the last few moments of Dr. Martin Luther King. Ring of Fire explores the life  and work of Johnny Cash.

As interesting as some of it seems, I didn’t get nearly as excited about any of this as I did when I saw that there would be another Natalie Ryan show at the Alchemist this summer.  Anna Wolfe returns for a second outing as that charismatic cross between Dr. Who, Nancy Drew, and something else altogether. Natalie Ryan and the Rogue Traveler is the sequel to last year’s Natalie Ryan and the Brain Thieves which evidently did good enough business to warrant a sequel. It was a really, really fun show—kind of a mix of sci-fi comedy and drama written by Vince Figueroa and Beth Lewinski. I think, apart from the novelty of seeing this kind of sci-fi on the indie theatre stage, the real appeal of this is the draw of independent theatre itself. There’s a certain impression I have of smaller productions that are written a produced locally. They are shows with that spirit of independence that doesn’t have to answer to bigger issues of funding to boards of directors and corporate sponsors and things…a feel that the success or failure of a show rests solely on ticket sales—the appeal to the public and so on. It’s a very appealing image even if it isn't entirely true. (There are always other concerns in the theatre. In any case, it’s very, very cool that Wolfe and Lewinski and Figueroa are doing another Natalie Ryan. It makes me feel like there’s at least one more thing that’s right with the world.

 

On an almost completely unrelated note. The American Theatre Critics Association’s annual Conference is being held in Chicago this summer. After the initial June 13th-17th conference in Chicago, there’s an optional extension that a few of them will be taking afterwards—an excursion to Milwaukee June 17th – 20th. How nice for them. In thinking about this, I can't help but picture a group of monocled, old white guys arriving in town in top hats—all looking at least vaguely like Statler or Waldorf of the Muppets. (I have absolutely no basis for this visualization. I relly have no idea where it comes from.) It’s a good bet that in addition to tours of the Pabst, the Quadracci and an extended excursion to Ten Chimneys, they won’t be going to Alchemist’s world premiere show that will be nearing the end of its run that week. They probably should, though. Help Wanted sounds quite good.  The Aaron Kopec-written premiere finds a 1940’s businessman being aided in his career by a woman who is unable to succeed in the mid-twentieth-century business world due to her gender. The Alchemist recently established a website to promote the show.

Help Wanted runs June 7th - 23rd. Tickets are available for the show now. It looks like fun. Even for crotchety, old muppets. And it’s a brand new show, so there’s a kind of vitality to it that should help animate another indie theatre summer in Milwaukee. 

 

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