Get to Know Gretchen Mahkorn

Ryan Blomquist Photography Ambition seems to come naturally to Gretchen Mahkorn. As artistic director of the World’s Stage Theater Company, she has already produced more than twenty shows, including several adventurous plays that more mainstream companies wouldn’t touch. She studied Shakespearean acting one summer at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and in 2013, brought TWS’s production of Waiting … A Song Cycle to the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. It would be an impressive list of achievements for a midcareer producer-director-actor. But Mahkorn is just 21.  She is a Milwaukee native, a graduate of…


Ryan Blomquist
Photography


Ambition seems to come naturally to Gretchen Mahkorn. As artistic director of the World’s Stage Theater Company, she has already produced more than twenty shows, including several adventurous plays that more mainstream companies wouldn’t touch. She studied Shakespearean acting one summer at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and in 2013, brought TWS’s production of Waiting … A Song Cycle to the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. It would be an impressive list of achievements for a midcareer producer-director-actor. But Mahkorn is just 21. 


She is a Milwaukee native, a graduate of Pius XI High School and – this year – the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s undergraduate acting program. She started TWS when she was a 16-year-old member of First Stage’s Young Company. This season, TWS will stage four plays that reflect the theme “Unveiling our History, Striving for Justice, Leading us Onward,” starting with Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman, which premiered, oddly enough, at the Cherry Lane Theatre. 

Mahkorn carved out some time from that busy schedule to talk about TWS’s evolution.

On her love of the stage:
“My mother signed me up for different things: sports, music, theater. And it was the music and theater that stuck. I was involved in First Stage and Milwaukee Children’s Choir from when I was young.”

TWS’ DNA: “TWS is really interested in a full theatrical experience, so we’re drawn to site-specific work and pieces that involve other artistic media. We are always interested in how to create a full environment for the audience that fits the play, whether that means doing it in a black box theater, or in a parking lot or a warehouse, or at Villa Terrace. The biggest challenge is still balancing creativity and budgets. It’s a challenge, but it also forces people to be more creative and think outside the box.”

Milwaukee’s Theater Community: “I would love to see more collaboration between the theater community and the film, music and visual arts communities. We can learn a lot from each other in that crossover between different media.”

The Future: 
“I want to be more secure and established in our finances and planning. We want to reach a young professional audience. How can we get that crowd excited about theater again? First, we need to educate people about theater and make them feel like they are part of the process. Show them the rehearsal process and the backstage. I also want to bring the theater to them – create a new environment that’s different than going to a movie or going to see a basic ‘sit down and watch a play’ event.”

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Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Get to Know Gretchen Mahkorn

Ambition seems to come naturally to Gretchen Mahkorn. As artistic director of the World’s Stage Theater Company, she has already produced more than twenty shows, including several adventurous plays that more mainstream companies wouldn’t touch. She studied Shakespearean acting one summer at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and in 2013, brought TWS’s production of Waiting … A Song Cycle to the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. It would be an impressive list of achievements for a midcareer producer-director-actor. But Mahkorn is just 21.  She is a Milwaukee native, a graduate of Pius XI High…

Ambition seems to come naturally to Gretchen Mahkorn. As artistic director of the World’s Stage Theater Company, she has already produced more than twenty shows, including several adventurous plays that more mainstream companies wouldn’t touch. She studied Shakespearean acting one summer at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and in 2013, brought TWS’s production of Waiting … A Song Cycle to the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. It would be an impressive list of achievements for a midcareer producer-director-actor. But Mahkorn is just 21. 


She is a Milwaukee native, a graduate of Pius XI High School and – this year – the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s undergraduate acting program. She started TWS when she was a 16-year-old member of First Stage’s Young Company. This season, TWS will stage four plays that reflect the theme “Unveiling our History, Striving for Justice, Leading us Onward,” starting with Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman, which premiered, oddly enough, at the Cherry Lane Theatre. 

Mahkorn carved out some time from that busy schedule to talk about TWS’s evolution.

On her love of the stage:
“My mother signed me up for different things: sports, music, theater. And it was the music and theater that stuck. I was involved in First Stage and Milwaukee Children’s Choir from when I was young.”

TWS’ DNA: “TWS is really interested in a full theatrical experience, so we’re drawn to site-specific work and pieces that involve other artistic media. We are always interested in how to create a full environment for the audience that fits the play, whether that means doing it in a black box theater, or in a parking lot or a warehouse, or at Villa Terrace. The biggest challenge is still balancing creativity and budgets. It’s a challenge, but it also forces people to be more creative and think outside the box.”

Milwaukee’s Theater Community: “I would love to see more collaboration between the theater community and the film, music and visual arts communities. We can learn a lot from each other in that crossover between different media.”

The Future: 
“I want to be more secure and established in our finances and planning. We want to reach a young professional audience. How can we get that crowd excited about theater again? First, we need to educate people about theater and make them feel like they are part of the process. Show them the rehearsal process and the backstage. I also want to bring the theater to them – create a new environment that’s different than going to a movie or going to see a basic ‘sit down and watch a play’ event.”

Comments

comments

Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.