Monday, July 9, 2012

Kohl's Wild Theatre At Summerfest

Excellence in Kid's Fare From Milwaukee County Zoo

By Russ Bickerstaff
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photo of an earlier performance at the zoo by Steve Barnes

 

My wife and I had free tickets to Summerfest. So We went with out one-year-old daughter to check out the kiddie stuff. Still a little young to be taking it all in, the trip might not have been for our daughter so much as it was for us. In and amidst the awful cover bands that seem to inhabit all the stages during the day, we caught a few snippets of a few kid's performances. Our daughter isn't going to be able to really start engaging with these things for a while, but that makes now a good time for myself and my wife to familiarize ourselves with local live children's fare so we know what she might like when she's old enough to appreciate it better.

 

The very last bit we saw Saturday afternoon was an awful puppet show . . . one of the worst I'd ever seen. Prior to that, Kohl's Captivation Station had an educational performance by a group they sponsor at Discovery World. And though the overall theme of recycling was really important, it lacked the clever sophistication of the Kolh's Wild Theatre show that was onstage right before it. 

 

I'd only ver had the opportunity to see one other Kohl's Wild Theatre show  before. I was impressed with the sophistication of the script. As luck would have it, they group was performing something other than A Climb through Time. The show in question was Lights! Camera! Arctic! It covers some of the basics of global climate change in a really clever way. 

 

The program has a group of playwrights working on it . . . not sure who wrote Lights! Camera! Arctic! (playwright isn't listed with the rest of the cast and crew on the web page)

 

The script mixes some pretty sophisticated bits of humor with bits of audience participation that even my one year-old daughter seemed to be following on some level. The cast appears to vary from performance to performance, but in this particular instance, Lindsey L. Gagliano is charming as a documentary film producer . . . an American who adopts a British accent because any nature documentary is going to sound a lot  better with a British voice over . . . 

 

The documentary she's making is, of course, covering the arctic. Megan Kaminsky played a Trumpeter Swan who had lost prime nesting space to the gradual deterioration of the arctic.  The swan had been neighbors with a local polar bear (I believe that was David Franz as the sympathetically ominous starving polar bear . . . ) now he's roommates with him.  Kaminsky has been good in everything I've seen her in . . . and here she's got the opportunity to play a male swan with a lot more depth than what one would imagine for the stereotypical swan. The character is strong, aggressive--a wing like a baseball bat and not afraid to use it. He's probably the most interesting character in the short and Kaminsky does a really nice job of bringing him to the stage in puppet form . . . Brandon Kirklan did a really interesting job with the design . . . anatomically precise with a separate head and body . . . VERY articulate.

 

Kohl's Wild Theatre continues to make appearances at the Milwaukee County Zoo. For more information, visit the Zoological Society online. 

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