Melting Plot

Each year, one of the area’s most innovative dance programs takes place during the dog days of summer. But don’t let the August swelter keep you from Danceworks’ Art to Art. The idea is simple: to bring choreographers and dancers together with artists of other genres – poets, filmmakers, composers, actors, playwrights – and let them create a short performance from scratch. Other artists are enlisted as observers of the artistic process, helping with ideas along the way. As the program’s reputation has grown, more of Milwaukee’s best have joined, so expect even better performances than last year’s excellent program.…

Easing the Pain

Justin Vernon recorded his first Bon Iver album while holed up in a northern Wisconsin cabin, drawing from personal pain to create the critically acclaimed For Emma, Forever Ago. What derived from that wintry isolation also defined Bon Iver – painstakingly, soul-searchingly precise with Vernon’s brilliant falsetto – and led to the Grammy-winning, doubly eponymous second record Bon Iver, Bon Iver. But now that Vernon is taking a break from Bon Iver to work on side projects, all that is gone. The debut album of Vernon’s latest project, the Shouting Matches, jangles like a (fantastically talented) jam band of buddies…

Master Pieces

Although it’s open season for Spring Green’s insect life, August is still the best time to visit American Players Theatre. Pick a weekend that highlights your choice of shows, reserve a spot at a local B&B and hit the road. This year, APT offers a must-see double feature on the stunning outdoor Up-the-Hill Theatre. For the first time in a decade, APT stages Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet, featuring Matt Schwader in the title role. But this time, the Dane’s tale is paired with Tom Stoppard’s witty riff Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a comedy that enacts the same story but through…

Famous Friends

It’s a relatively simple premise. A man buys a very expensive, very white painting. His two friends “react.” But Yasmina Reza’s 1994 play Art finds enough juicy comedy in this story to charm actors and audiences alike. For most of its nearly 20-year history, A-list actors have lined up for a role. It was a smash hit in Paris, and since its English version (by Christopher Hampton) opened in London in 1996 and New York in 1998, it has featured the likes of Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Alan Alda and Joe Morton. It’s no surprise to see three of the…

Alive and Performing

Many years have passed since Paul McCartney’s last album of original pop music, 2007’s Memory Almost Full. Now, the puppyish ex-Beatle is going back “Out There!” – as his latest tour is called – and playing stadiums around the world. It won’t be the Beatles at Shea Stadium, nor will it feel like a concerted effort at recapturing that night of pop innocence and fervency. But if past set lists are a guide, McCartney will lope through a marathon show with few surprises but enough gusto to reaffirm that, urban legends aside, Paul’s not dead. Paul McCartney (July 16). Miller…

Milwaukee’s Globe

All the world is indeed a stage for the Optimist Theatre – or all of Milwaukee, at least. For its fourth production of summer Shakespeare, Optimist moves from Alverno College’s campus to the stunning new amphitheater in Kadish Park, ideal for that full (free-of-charge) “Shakespeare in the Park” experience. Appropriately, this year’s offering is As You Like It, the Bard’s masterful romantic comedy that finds a cast of royals and ruffians spending much time in the Forest of Arden. Sitting on a Brewers’ Hill bluff overlooking city lights and the Lake Michigan expanse, we can’t think of a better place…

A Big Year

Steve Martin has a way of standing two feet to the left of everything he does. Is he a wry fiction writer? An actor? A stand-up comedian? A musician? He looks and sounds as if he’s none of these anymore, only moonlighting, but his lackadaisical sense of self-promotion is so refreshing and his sprawling brainy talent for anything involving words and performance is so vast that his bluegrass show is bound to be something worthwhile. We’re curious to see whether the former philosophy major’s comedy-inflected banjo stylings are as enchanting as his banjo-inflected comedy. They very well could be. Steve…

Dancing Queen

Sure, this is the city of ethnic festivals, but if you want to dig deep into international ideas, there’s Nora Chipaumire’s dance-theater piece Miriam. Offered by Alverno Presents and the Lynden Sculpture Garden, Chipaumire’s outdoor performance – using the garden’s landscape to striking effect – is inspired by her childhood in Zimbabwe, and also draws ideas from the colonial novels of Joseph Conrad and the liberating music of Miriam Makeba. In 2012, The New York Times called her “an artist of ferocious intensity.” Miriam (July 13). Lynden Sculpture Garden. 2145 W. Brown Deer Rd., 414-446-8794, alvernopresents.alverno.edu.

Wild Ink

Maybe it comes down to the primal urges of fear, desire and hunger. “The Beast Within: Images of Animals in Tattoo and Contemporary Art,” curated by artist Fred Stonehouse, looks at the influences of tattoo practice on artists. Tapping into the timeless human fascination with animals as metaphors of power, freedom and virility, these images act as totems of mythical strength and mystery. Artists such as Mike Noland and the great CJ Pyle, obsessive master of the ink pen, never fail to pack a visual wallop. Throw in Milwaukee tattoo artist Jon Reiter alongside the eminent California-based tattoo artist Don…

Beer Barons’ World of Beer Festival

Quality, not quantity, reigns at the Beer Barons’ World of Beer Festival. Nearly 40 breweries and 600 imbibers gather at the Schwabenhof Pavilion for some seriously good beer. VIB (Very Interesting Beers) tickets grant access to some impressive rarities. Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, Firestone Walker Sucaba and Samuel Adams Utopias might not mean much to the average beer drinker, but the chance to taste hard-to-find beers like these makes beer geeks more excited than a kid at Christmas. Even general admission ticket holders get access to beauties like Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine.