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Milwaukee-born playwright James Valcq has had a stellar career, and it’s far from over.

Born in 1963, James Valcq grew up in an era of Cold War paranoia and space-race mania. As a young adult, he watched a lot of kitschy sci-fi flicks in his Washington Boulevard home. “They were showing them on Channel 12 at the time, and I’d just gotten a VCR, so I’d record them late at night and watch them again later, over and over again,” he says. “They were all so terribly wonderful. Or terrible and wonderful, maybe.”

After racking up acting and singing credits at the Skylight Music Theatre (when it was still called the Skylight Opera Theatre) and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, he moved to New York City to make musicals.

His childhood obsession inspired his first off-Broadway hit, Zombies from the Beyond – a musical comedy about the plucky employees of the Milwaukee Space Center and a buxom alien aviator intent on terrorizing, and zombifying, the local menfolk.

The play returns to Milwaukee this month for a 13-show run at the Skylight Theatre, and Valcq is happy to see that Zombies still has an audience in his hometown, at the venue where he made his theatrical debut (he sang in a Skylight production of Wozzeck when he was only 7 years old).

He’s also happy to be living in Wisconsin again. After 22 years in New York City, he decided to move back to the Dairy State and now works at the Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay as co-artistic director.

“Running a theater has always been one of my dreams,” he says. “And I thought, ‘Well, if not now, when?’ I’m very glad to be back.”

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Valcq continues to find inspiration in his home state. He’s currently working on a show called Boxcar that’s slated to open at Northern Sky Theater in Door County this coming summer. “It’s about hobos riding the rails during the Great Depression – in Wisconsin, of course.”


Go See It

Zombies from the Beyond runs Feb. 2-18 at the Skylight Theatre (158 N. Broadway). Call Skylight at 414-291-7800 to purchase tickets, or visit their website.


‘Out of This World’ appears in the February 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning January 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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