Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wilson Takes Over as Youngblood's Artistic Director

Michael Cotey is off to work for Illinois Shakespeare Theatre

By Russ Bickerstaff
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After several years of getting off the ground, Youngblood Theatre enters a new phase of its existence this coming season as co-founder/inaugural Artistic Director Michael Cotey has accepted a Guest Fellowship position with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in northern Illinois under Artistic Director Kevin Rich, who has done a considerable amount of work in Milwaukee as an actor. 


Taking over as Artistic Director of Youngblood here in Milwaukee will be Youngblood co-founder Benjamin Wilson, who has served as playwright, director and actor in numerous Youngblood shows in the past. 


A while back, I'd run into Wilson at a show and asked him if he was working on writing any new scripts. And if I'm not mistaken, he told me that he writes everything longhand with an old school pen and inkwell. So it takes a while for things to formulate. It'll be interesting to see how the personality of Youngblood might evolve with the distinctively iconoclastic personality of Wilson behind it. 


Here's a look at what Youngblood has planned for the season ahead . . .all shows to be directed by Benjamin Wilson . . . 


In September, Wilson directs Dying City by Christopher Shinn. The play debuted in the latter half of the last decade. It's a three-person drama set in New York City in the shadow of the war in Iraq. Exact dates  


In December, Wilson directs The Edge of Our Bodies by contemporary playwright Adam Rapp. Rapp would be best known to Youngblood audiences as the man who wrote Red Light Winter--a hauntingly irrepressible production of which was staged at the Alchemist Theatre. The Edge of Our Bodies is tricky. It's either going to be brilliant or feel kind of flat. There isn't a whole lot of room for middle ground here. It's a monologue delivered by a privileged 16 year-old girl. And in a studio theatre space like the one Youngblood is likely to get for this, it's really, REALLY difficult to fake being 16. The best situation here would be to actually work with a 16 year old actress . . . the play is being staged in December, so theoretically, it shouldn't be that disruptive with a high school schedule. It's really difficult to complete the illusion on the audience's end when adults play adolescents . . . especially in a space close enough to see the most subtle emotions flutter across the face. On stage or screen the only adult actress I've ever seen effectively play a teenager was Amy Geyser in How I Learned To Drive with Kopper Bear in Elm Grove quite a few years ago. It's really, really tricky to get that right. 


The Edge of Our Bodies will be produced in repertory with Rapp's Nocturne. This drama is a challenge all its own. Rapp conjures up his traditional dark poetry and draws it into the service of a very, very gritty drama that should ideally be very raw and earthy. So there's a delicate balance between realism and poetry that has to be struck by any production. 


It's nice to see Youngblood entering this phase of its existence willing to tackle a few interesting challenges. 


As of yet, no venue has been announced for any of the three shows. For more information on Youngblood as it becomes available, visit them online. 

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