photos by SR Studios There’s a suitcase standing in the corner of Mark Clements’ office at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, a telling sign of the life he’s led since being appointed artistic director in fall of 2009. Although his official starting date wasn’t until July 1, he’s been split between his native England and Milwaukee, spending […]

photos by SR Studios

There’s a suitcase standing in the corner of Mark Clements’ office at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, a telling sign of the life he’s led since being appointed artistic director in fall of 2009. Although his official starting date wasn’t until July 1, he’s been split between his native England and Milwaukee, spending most of 2010 dealing with Rep matters. There was a season to select for three stages, for example. And there was the simple matter of adjustment – to Milwaukee and its arts scene, to The Rep organization and its audience. And The Rep needed to adjust to him, its first new artistic director in 17 years.

Clements’ adjustment is fairly daunting, for this is his first permanent position in the United States. Born in London in 1961, he grew up as a child of working actors and did his share of television work as a kid. When his parents became producers, he moved into stage management, and at a young age was “bossing around heavy-duty stage hands.” He became a company manager at age 21.

“I used to get bored in the rehearsal room,” Clements says, “so I’d restage things in my head, just to keep myself awake. Once I started doing that, I realized what I actually wanted to be, although there were still these distracting ideas of becoming a professional motocross racer or football player.”

Eventually, Clements landed as the artistic director of the Derby Playhouse, where his tenure was acclaimed for its wide range of classics, contemporary dramas and musicals. His success led to freelance work in both the U.S. and U.K., and eventually he caught The Rep board’s eye as a successor to Joseph Hanreddy.

Hanreddy and former managing director Tim Shields had overseen huge jumps in Rep subscription audiences in the late ’90s and early 2000s. But in recent seasons, The Rep has seen declines in attendance and revenue, along with an aging demographic. With openings in the top two positions at The Rep – Dawn Helsing Wolters replaced Shields in late 2009 – the board seized on the chance to change.

The contrast between Clements and Hanreddy makes clear the board’s desire for a new direction. Hanreddy was quiet and cerebral; Clements is more outgoing and obviously theatrical. Hanreddy is a former Californian but came to The Rep from the Madison Repertory Theater (like a true adopted Wisconsinite, he even has a cabin in Door County); Clements could hardly be more of an outsider. Hanreddy made a resident acting ensemble the central component of The Rep’s identity and a key concern in the shows he chose; Clements is more free-wheeling and audience-centered.

The Rep’s coming season reflects both Clements’ style and the theater’s financial concerns. Season offerings have been pared down (The Rep will mount a total of 12 productions rather than the 14 of recent years). Subscription packages have been restructured. But Clements’ most attention-getting move was devoting three of the five mainstage shows to musicals, something unprecedented in The Rep’s 53-year history. Clements will direct all of them, including Cabaret,which fellow Brit and Milwaukee Ballet head man Michael Pink will choreograph, and the musical comedy tribute and spoof, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.

Clements doesn’t soft-pedal the changes. “For 17 years, Joe chose a season that revolved around the passions and skills of a particular group of individuals – The Rep’s company. I want to broaden that net. I want to say ‘What is right for the theater? What is right for the audience?’ I felt we needed to address that.”

The change certainly has caught the attention of Rep patrons, generating impassioned letters. “Some people are afraid we’re ‘dumbing down’ The Rep,” says Clements. “I honestly don’t understand that. When we do musicals, it’s going to be strong, narrative-driven musicals. It’s not like we’re doing Grease or Legally Blonde.”

Clements has an interesting way (as does Wolters) of handling the letter writers: He calls them and says, “Let’s talk about this.” He ultimately sees the strong response as a testament to the strength of The Rep and its place in the community.

“People are afraid,” he explains. “ ‘Are we going to lose what we already have?’ I understand that.” His major challenge, of course, is to preserve that “something” while helping The Rep connect with younger and more diverse audiences.

“I’ve seen theater work brilliantly for young people,” he says, “where they feel a part of it and feel the building is a happening place, and not just a place for their parents or grandparents.

“Every theater says it’s committed to young people. But theaters actually doing something about it – really meaning it – that’s a whole different ballgame. We’re going to be one of those theaters.”

For Clements, this approach is about more than just selling tickets.“Some of the best experiences I’ve had have been sitting in a theater with a huge age range of people. And everybody is responding differently, enjoying the experience on several different levels. That’s the thing that keeps driving me toward that Holy Grail.”



When Michael Pink was growing up in northern England, his mother used to give him money for a Saturday-afternoon movie, and Pink would promptly wander down to the local ballet academy, asking the instructor to teach him some steps. “Finally,” Pink recalls, “she phoned my mother and told her, ‘If he’s going to keep coming every Saturday, he needs to buy some ballet shoes.’ ”

It’s a story right out of Billy Elliot, the film and Broadway musical about a working-class boy who dreams of being a dancer. Pink kept up his classes, and when scouts from London’s Royal Ballet came by, they recruited him. “At that time, if you had reasonable legs and feet, and a good attitude, you were picked up,” says Pink. At age 10, he was off to the Royal Ballet’s boarding school in London.

But unlike Billy, Pink’s father wasn’t an out-of-work coal miner. In fact, his parents were active in the local Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (Am-Drams, they were called). Pink says he “never ever recalls having thoughts of anything but theater.”

Pink, now 54, moved through the Royal Ballet structure quickly, winning choreography competitions and becoming the first dancer offered a place in the company directly from the Lower School, an offer unfortunately rescinded when administrations changed. “It made me realize I need to get out and find out about the real world,” he recalls.

And what a world he discovered after leaving the Royal Ballet and its politics behind: Glen Tetley, Léonide Massine, Antony Tudor, Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev were among the legendary dancers and choreographers he met or worked with at the London Festival Ballet. He became a friend of Nureyev, who hired him to restage his ballets around the world.

But even then, Pink was put off by the hierarchy and egotism of the ballet world. After 10 years, he quit dancing. “None of it made any sense,” he recalls. “You could ask as many questions as you liked, and invariably the answer was, ‘Do it because I told you so.’ ”

After that, he taught at the Central School of Ballet in London, where he found a sense of purpose in helping school the next generation of dancers “in a way that I felt I never was prepared.” He also met Christopher Gable, who, like Pink, was equally drawn to dance and theater. Gable created major roles for the Royal Ballet, but he also performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, including a lead role in Peter Brook’s famous production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

When Gable moved to Leeds to head the Northern Ballet Theatre, Pink joined him as associate artistic director. They had a common vision: to create something more than a “lame excuse for a ballet – lots of dancing with no real meat,” as Pink puts it. “We started working on narrative dance. Take a subject and make it work as nonverbal theater. It was about creating good theater along with good dance, which allowed the audience to relate to it in a strong way.”

Audiences here have seen several of his “dance dramas,” as Pink calls them, since he became Milwaukee Ballet artistic director in December 2002. He has restaged classics like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and remounted his own original works (Dracula and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which will be revised and presented this season as Esmerelda). While shepherding the organization through turmoil and restructuring, he’s developed a different kind of dance company, one that eschews authoritarianism and emphasizes collaboration. Milwaukee now has an artistically vibrant company doing work markedly different than most American ballet companies.

The process behind Pink’s latest work, last year’s Peter Pan, reflects the blend of dance and theater he has been balancing for much of his career.

“The steps grow out of the characters and the relationships,” Pink says. “So once we’ve blocked something out, the dancers are all buzzing and talking about motivations and details. Eventually, they feel the whole and are able to truly portray the role.”

In other words, they are acting.

This kind of process is both by design and necessity. Although Peter Pan was five years in the making, there were only 24 days for rehearsal. Although Pink had the general architecture of the piece in his head (created while working with composer Philip Feeney on the commissioned score), much of the detail was left to the dancers. “For me, that’s the most satisfactory way of working,” he says. “It’s a real collaborative effort.”



Of all the designers creating stage-worlds this season, Noele Stollmack, 46,has one of the toughest jobs – designing Río De Sangre on the Uihlein Hall stage. Don Davis’ meditation on the cyclical nature of power, the Florentine’s first world premiere, involves assassinations, coups and earthquakes – major events even by opera’s spectacular standards. A further complication is that Davis, a veteran film composer writing his first opera, approached the story cinematically.

RELATED  CC Strong: How a Stoughton High School Cross-Country Team Tragedy Became a Story of Resilience

“There are lots of locations in the story,” says Stollmack. “To get from one to the next, we’re dissolving, we’re jump-cutting.” Not easy to do on stage.

Stollmack and director Paula Suozzi eventually decided on moveable backdrops suggesting a South American cityscape, plus a central turntable that can represent several different places. It’s the kind of innovative solution that’s become a trademark of recent Florentine productions.

Stollmack has been the Florentine’s director of design and production since 2000, but in recent years has really made her mark as its de facto resident stage and lighting designer. Under general director William Florescu, the Florentine has made the transition from opera presenter to opera producer. There are far fewer “opera-in-a-box” productions, with sets and costumes rented from another company, and more created from scratch. In this economic climate, that means working with less, but Stollmack has done so in striking and memorable ways.

For Tosca, she created the Act 1 cathedral with a few bold strokes – a statue, a huge projected painting and a crucifix-shaped arrangement of candles on the stage floor. For Magic Flute, projected animal icons surrounded ramps and platforms, creating a magical atmosphere.

She approaches things in “a graphic way,” Stollmack explains, chatting at the Florentine’s new Riverwest office. Her work in architectural lighting and with innovative performer Meredith Monk led to a “purer way of looking at space,” she says.

Stollmack worked as a New York-based freelance theater designer before landing as resident lighting designer at the Houston Grand Opera. That’s where she met Monk, with whom she’s frequently collaborated. And where she discovered her true passion: “I figured out it was opera that really motivates me.”She arrived in Milwaukee in 2000, planning on a one- or two-year break from freelancing, but she’s found a home at the Florentine, adding freelance designing for the likes of First Stage Children’s Theater, The Rep and American Players Theatre.

Besides her work for Río De Sangre, Stollmack is excited about a Baroque double bill at the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall – the Florentine’s second foray into the era, after its acclaimed production of Semele in 2009.

“I want to make the audience feel like they’re walking into a Baroque theater,” she says, “to just wrap them in a blanket of that time, because that’s so much of what Baroque opera is about.”



You can’t miss Molly Rhode. Tall and elegant, with classical chops that made her a regular in Milwaukee Shakespeare’s leading roles, she also has the vocal pipes to carry lead roles at the Skylight Opera: Sally Bowles in Cabaretand Ulla in The Producers.

If you’re a real Rhode fan, you’ve also seen her wield a standup bass, either at the American Folklore Theatre in Door County or with her sister Alissa and friend
Rhonda Rae Busch in their cabaret act, “The Rhode Sisters (sort of).”

This severe case of performance diversity is no accident. Rhode, 32, grew up in a musical Brookfield family, played bass violin in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony and was active in the First Stage Theater Academy. When it came to college, her talents made a musical theater program a perfect fit, but that was too easy for Rhode.

“I wanted a college program that would help me address my weaknesses,” she says. “Music and singing and musicals were what I did as a kid. I wanted a good background in classical training, as well as work in playwriting and directing.”

This season offers the chance for her professional debut as a director. (Rhode admits, “playwriting terrifies me.”) The show is familiar: Main-Traveled Roads is a musical based on an 1891 book of short stories by Wisconsin-born Hamlin Garland. She performed in it three years ago in Door County, and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre artistic director Michael Wright thought she’d be a good choice for directing the show’s Milwaukee debut, one of MCT’s rare ventures into musicals.

It will be a season of challenges for Rhode. In the spring, she’ll direct Miss Nelson Is Missing for First Stage, a show she choreographed for that theater in 2004. And she’ll draw on her musical talents to help out artistic director Bill Theisen with the Skylight’s HMS Pinafore. (Theisen will miss some rehearsal time while performing in The Rep’s Laurel & Hardy.)

For Rhode, it’s another chance to keep things diversified and fresh. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed in Milwaukee,” she says. “I don’t know if there are a lot of cities where I’d be able to work in this kind of range.”



Marti Gobel still remembers the looks from her new neighbors. She had just moved from Southern California to Fort Atkinson, Wis., where her lawyer-husband had found a job. Out grocery shopping on a summer day, she wore a peasant skirt and a midriff-baring top.

“My little belly-button ring was hanging out,” Gobel recalls. “And I remember thinking, ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore. This is not appropriate.’ ”

Ten years later, Gobel, 39, has only good things to say about her small-town
experience: “I was one of the few African-Americans in the area, and certainly not a shy person,” she says. “But they welcomed me with open arms.” In fact, she calls it a “perfect environment” for her at the time. Her son was a year old, and she would soon give birth to triplets.

But Gobel felt “a hunger to get back into things,” even as she became involved in the Fort Atkinson arts scene, staging shows at the Café Carpe and serving on the county arts board. As her kids got older and the two-hour commute became easier to manage, that hunger brought her to Milwaukee stages – Chamber Theatre’s Around the World in 80 Days, The Rep’s Yankee Tavern– and led to the founding of Uprooted theater with director Dennis Johnson, which in its short life has quickly become the most prominent African-American theater ensemble in town.

Her polished performances and managerial energy have already made her a woman to watch in Milwaukee theater. In August, she and her family moved to Bay View, ensuring her presence will be felt more strongly. “It will be easier to meet with people,” she says, “and to encourage the African-American community to come out to the theater.”

Gobel and Uprooted will get a big boost this season: Renaissance Theatreworks will collaborate with the young company in one of the season’s major events. Crumbs from the Table of Joy is a 1995 play by last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Lynn Nottage. It’s a strong play that’s been on Renaissance’s radar for a long time, and this production will join the old and new guard.

And that new guard is rising fast. Companies like Uprooted and Youngblood Theatre, and performance venues like the Alchemist Theatre are creating a vital culture of new theater artists.

“This is the new wave,” Gobel says. “We want to do greater, riskier theater and break some of the confines of the theater community – nontraditional and colorblind casting, working with new playwrights and directors. Uprooted is small. Because we have so little, we can take very big risks.”



It’s hard to imagine a more unassuming artist than Brook Slane. When I meet him at his Brewers Hill studio, he’s on an isolated park bench smoking a cigarette, nursing a glass of wine. Inside his apartment, he points to a couch and low coffee table as “his studio.”

“I tend to work small,” he says. “And I like painting at home. It’s my own space, and I feel inspired by what’s around me.” Surrounding him are a quirky collection of objects and images: medical illustration posters, half-assembled Lego figures (“I love giving Legos as gifts.”) and wildlife paintings that look stolen from a northern Wisconsin resort.

But his small oil paintings, which will show at Tory Folliard in the fall, are something special: mysterious, curiously aged, matter-of-factly surreal. He paints on wood panels that haven’t been treated, preferring to let the grain seep into the painting. “I like the texture,” he says. It gives it an instant sense of age. And when the grain is going a certain way, it gives a certain feeling of movement – it’s almost like wind.”

His animal characters populate a sweetly rustic landscape that resembles 1950s greeting cards. But they are enmeshed in strange, inscrutable stories: Swans cry, hot-air balloons burst into flame, silent bird-men comfort each other against a snow-washed landscape.

Slane, 27, has no warm feelings for his small-town childhood in Mukwonago. He came to Milwaukee to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and spends his days designing graphics for clothing at Kohl’s. His portfolio features T-shirts and other illustrations that hit the big time: photos of stars like Beyonce and Tina Fey wearing his shirts in videos and movies, and projects for international magazines.

“I’m not super-conceptual,” he says. “I’m not going to make a Plexiglas box full of bees. I just like painting.”



Hip waders aren’t part of the usual equipmentfor a theater technical director, but Tony Lyons isn’t your normal TD, as the job is called in the trade. For the Wild Space Dance Company’s “On Sight” performance at the Menomonee Valley’s Chimney Park, artistic director Debra Loewen wanted to put a picnic table in the middle of a lagoon, where Scott Howland would sit and read poetry aloud during the performance. Lyons was there with boots on.

Lyons has worked with Wild Space for 10 of its 24 years, and the relationship between he and Loewen is one of mutual admiration. She calls him a great problem-solver, and he loves the problems her works pose. “The ideas are crazy and that’s what makes her work,” he says sitting outside the Humboldt Alterra on a rainy summer day. “She’s willing to push the audience to think differently about ‘What is art?’ ”

Lyons began thinking about theater when he was only 7 years old and a student at Marjorie Walker’s theater school. There, he was taught by some of the city’s best actors – Mark Corkins and other students at UW-Milwaukee’s Professional Theatre Training Program. He stopped performing at age 14, and when he tried it again 10 years later, “Whatever inhibitions I gained growing up,” he says, “prevented me from enjoying myself onstage as an adult.”

RELATED  Revisiting the Riverwalk: 30 Years In

But he was still drawn to the theater and became involved as a “techie” in the Inertia Ensemble, the now-defunct theater whose heyday was the 1990s. “I had no experience to draw on,” he says. “But I had a mechanical aptitude and was willing to say, ‘Sure, I’ll pick up a wrench and hang some lights.’ ”

Today, Lyons co-owns a shop for building props and sets (and for other construction projects that help him make a living). He’sthe technical mind behind Wild Space, Danceworks and Renaissance Theatreworks, where his aptitude for problem-solving is particularly helpful. Because of the Broadway Theatre Center’s tight performance schedule, he and his crew have exactly 36 hours to transform a bare stage into one with a working set and lights, even when a Renaissance show has complicated special effects like its production of The Woman in Black.

But Lyons wouldn’t want it any other way. “I want directors and designers to think in a theoretical world,” he explains. “That’s why I never attend the first meeting of the designers. I would never want to influence their creative process by saying, ‘You can’t do that,’ before an idea is even out of the gate.”



Zachary Cohen isn’t a big man, which influences his approach to playing the bass violin: “You have to overcome it physically, or it will overcome you.”

You can see what he means as he maneuvers his 18th-century instrument (“It belonged to my teacher.”) down hallways, across streets and into the back of his Subaru. You can picture it as he recounts his student years at the Juilliard School, taking the 6 1/2-foot instrument into the Manhattan subway. And you can watch it while he plays.

Capering through a gigue from Bach’s Suite No. 1 for Cello, Cohen is a model of stillness, his head bowed in concentration as his left hand leaps over the fingerboard.

Because of his small hands, Cohen does stretching exercises and learned about the ergonomics of playing the instrument. “A lot of it is just keeping things compact,” he explains. “Keep things small, and don’t make extraneous motions to get from one place to the next.”

Despite his small hands and youthhe’s 27 – Cohen travels in pretty heady company. The day after we met, he was catching an early-morning flight to New York, where he’d perform at a synagogue with Itzhak Perlman. He’s a regular at the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival, and plays and records with The Knights, an ensemble that grew out of his time at The Juilliard School (several of its members perform with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project). And of course, he snagged a principal bass position at a major American orchestra – the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra – while still a student.

Cohen started playing electric bass at age 13, starting with jazz and rock. He soon discovered the acoustic bass and, in only his second year playing it, was accepted into Perlman’s prestigious summer music program. “I was immediately exposed to some interesting classical musicians.” In his senior year at Juilliard, he successfully auditioned for the MSO post and started with the orchestra after graduating in 2005.

This season, along with renowned bassist Edgar Meyer, Cohen will step forward as soloist in the “Gran Duo Concertante” (1880). Written by Giovanni Bottesini, who’s known as “The Paganini of the Bass,” it’s filled with virtuoso passages for both soloists. It’s one of the few concertos available for bass violin, and Cohen would like to change that. He’s ever eager to meet with composers to talk about new work for his instrument and wants to create a Milwaukee “salon,” where visiting musicians and composers can play and socialize. For Cohen, the plans seem to flow as easily as the melodies from his instrument.


Paul Kosidowski is a contributing writer for Milwaukee Magazine.Write to him at


Best Bets of the Season

Oct. 1-9
Danceworks Performance Company:
Under artistic director Dani Kuepper, the group has evolved into a company of creatively inventive collaborators. For proof, be sure to see “Lying!” – it features the company exploring the vagaries of truth with New York choreographer Amii LeGendre.


Oct. 8-DEC. 12
Mary L. Nohl Fellowship show:
A temporary cut in grant money means just four artists, but don’t expect the expected at the Innova Gallery show. Other than painter Peter Barrickman, artists Kim Miller, John Riepenhoff and Harvey Opgenorth have a strong conceptual bent, and use video, performance and “intangibles.”

Oct. 9-Jan. 9
European Design since 1985:
Contemporary art gets a bit of short shrift in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s season. This intriguing show by the museum will no doubt prove the forward-thinking economy of our neighbors across the pond.


Oct. 10
The World Beloved:
This season’s opener is a “Bluegrass Mass” by Carol Barnett, part of an innovative season planned by the Bel Canto Chorus’ Richard Hynson. The chorus will honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with concerts featuring the words of Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass and others.


Oct. 11
Frank Glazer:
The Milwaukee-born pianist has performed worldwide and even had his own show in the early days of TV. He’s back for a special recital at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Yes, he’s 95, but he performed Beethoven’s sonatas in an eight-concert series while in residence at Bates College two years ago.


Nov. 26-Dec. 26
My Son Pinocchio:
First Stage has become a pioneer in developing family-friendly versions of recent Broadway hits, with shows like Seussical and The Wiz. Here, they collaborate with Stephen Schwartz (Wicked and Pippin) to adapt his Disney TV musical, Geppetto. It’s full of original Schwartz songs, plus the classic When You Wish Upon a Star.

Jan. 12-May 22
Hollywood Icons, Local Demons:
The Haggerty Museum explores the cultural traditions of Ghana and the iconography of large, narrative paintings by Ghanaian artist Mark Anthony, which were originally used to advertise concert-theater performances.

Jan. 20-Feb. 13
Big Boys:
As Next Act Theatre prepares its new space, it will spend the year at the Tenth Street Theatre. But this production of Rich Orloff’s satire of corporate culture should have that same Next Act gut-punch and contemporary relevance.

Jan. 28-29
The GIMP Project:
As its title suggests, this is no ordinary modern dance. Some of Heidy Latsky’s dancers have all their limbs, some don’t. It creates a charged space that examines questions – about bodies, abilities, sex

Feb. 4-5
Die Walküre:
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performs the five Beethoven Piano Concertos this season and offers Beethoven and Mahler symphonies. But we’re most excited about Edo de Waart’s concert version of the first act of Wagner’s opera, as the orchestra and singers tackle some of the canon’s greatest music drama.iness, beauty. Alverno Presents hosts the group for a residency and two performances at Marquette’s Helfaer Theatre.


Feb. 7
Philomusica String Quartet:
Milwaukee was already great for chamber music fans. It’s better with this relative newcomer, whose third season is heavy on Beethoven. Its second Wisconsin Conservatory concert features a Beethoven “Rasumovsky” quartet and the haunting first quartet by Polish composer Henryk Górecki.


Feb. 9-March 13
Becky Shaw:
Intrepid Boulevard Theatre celebrates 25 years with a season dedicated to laughs, including this dark comedy by Gina Gionfriddo. A hit at the 2007-08 Humana Festival of New American Plays, its New York premiere was likened to “fireworks fizzing and crackling across the stage from its first moments to its last.”


Feb. 17-March 13
With many theaters reveling in classics or imports, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre offers one of the season’s few new-ish American plays. Theresa Rebeck’s 2007 play marked the veteran’s Broadway debut and features one betrayal after another among characters coveting a valuable stamp collection.


March 3
Paul Silbergleit:
The jazz guitarist steps out from his contributing role with the Wisconsin Conservatory’s We Six ensemble for an evening of his hard-swinging originals, many from his album, My New Attitude.


March 18-May 8
Bombitty of Errors:
The Rep stages a terrific and inventive “ad-rap-tation” of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors– a welcome nod toward the hip for the Stackner Cabaret.


March 19
Vijay Iyer trio:
Alverno Presents’ David Ravel brought Iyer’s trio to town in 2008. Since then, the pianist has taken the jazz world by storm with his heady improvisations blending jazz traditions with the ragas and rhythms of his South Indian heritage.


April 9
Mark Morris Dance Group:
No longer the l’enfant terrible of contemporary dance, Morris can still surprise with his innovative approaches to classics. This concert offers works both recent and old, including his exuberant “Going Away Party,” set to the Western swing of Bob Wills. (Wilson Center)


April 29-May 15
Thrill Me:
In Tandem Theatre has great fun with small chamber musicals, but this 2003 musical about “thrill killers” Leopold & Loeb raises the stakes, demanding just the right blend of comedy, camp and chills.


May 5-8
Isadora and Nijinsky:
Theatre Gigante typically draws from both dance and theater, and this double bill offers a portrait of two pioneering choreographers of the 20th century. UW-Milwaukee dance wiz Ed Burgess collaborates with Gigante’s Mark Anderson and Isabelle Kralj.


May 20 – June 12
Adding Machine:
Since Milwaukeean John Schmidt’s 2007 musical won acclaim in Chicago and New York, the composer has been busy. But we’re counting on him to be here for its Milwaukee premiere. Based on Elmer Rice’s dark play about a lowly office worker, Schmidt wrote it with the Skylight Theatre in mind, and now it has finally come home.