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Theater drawn from real life from the Skylight, Next Act, and Bronzeville Arts.

Orli Shaham

Orli Shaham.

#5: The Classical Option: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center, The Fine Arts Quartet at the Zelazo Center, The Concord Chamber Orchstra at North Shore Congregational Church

Why? Because, as usual, there is a wealth of classical music choices this weekend. So why not catch them all. The MSO tackles Tchaikovsky’s great “Pathétique” Symphony and Bartok’s Third Piano Concerto, with soloist Orli Shaham. The FAQ plays a late quartet by Beethoven, and a seldom-heard string quintet by Louis Théodore Gouvy. And the Concord Chamber Orchestra offers a winter “Sampler” concert that features chamber music by its members, including works by Borodin, Schubert and Ravel.

Chris Porterfield, who will perform at Alverno for 'How to Write a Popular Song.' Photo by Kat Schleicher.

Chris Porterfield, who will perform at Alverno for ‘How to Write a Popular Song.’ Photo by Kat Schleicher.

#4: Alverno Presents’ Christopher Porterfield: How to Write a Popular Song at the Pitman Theatre

Why? Because you may have heard of Christopher Porterfield (leader of Field Report, former sideman in Bon Iver), but you might not know the name Charles K. Harris. This Milwaukee songwriter scored big in 1892 with “After the Ball,” and Porterfield has devised a show dedicated to his music, and the music of others that might have been influenced by Harris’s book, How to Write a Popular Song. Joining Porterfield will be Phil Cook, Ryan Necci and his Field Report friends Barry Clark, Shane Leonard and Tom Wincek.

Robin Guarino

Robin Guarino

#3: Skylight Music Theatre’s Powder Her Face at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? Because Thomas Adès’s four-person chamber opera is considered the finest work of one of the star composers of contemporary opera. Written in 1995 when Adès was only 24, it centers on the story of Margaret Whigham, whose divorce from the Duke of Argyll was the toast of the tabloids in 1963. The superb Cassandra Black will play the Duchess, and director is Robin Guarino, one of the bright lights in contemporary opera. Skylight Artistic Director Viswa Subbaraman will conduct.

Anna Deveare Smith

Anna Deveare Smith.

#2: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at Next Act Theatre

Why? Because almost 25 years have passed since the O. J. Simpson trial, and just as Hollywood decides to revisit that event in its way (with John Travolta in high-makeup mode to play Robert Shapiro), it’s a good time to revisit Anna Deveare Smith’s powerful theater piece about the riots that followed the verdict. Deveare Smith’s shows are created like non-fiction journalism: she records interviews with several real-life players in the drama, then recreates them on stage. Director David Cescarini departs from that, using a cast of six actors to portray 40 different characters.

Marvette Knight and Gavin Lawrence Photo by Ross Zentner

Marvette Knight and Gavin Lawrence. Photo by Ross Zentner.

#1: Bronzeville Arts Ensemble’s Mojo and the Sayso at the Milwaukee Rep

Why? Because this marks the debut of the Bronzeville Arts Ensemble’s partnership with the Milwaukee Rep, and its opening production demonstrates why the company is so important to Milwaukee. Aishah Rahman drama premiered in the late 1980s, but its story is hauntingly contemporary. A 10-year-old boy is shot and killed by a white police officer, and his parents struggle to deal with the loss. American Theatre called it a play that could be the genesis of a national conversation, and Milwaukee is certainly a good place to start.

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