Nothing in the nature of musical theater demands that it be superficial. Civilization’s first plays, the soul-expanding Greek tragedies, were musicals about nature, society and individual responsibility.
Despite its commercialization, the modern musical remains our nation’s great contribution to world theater. So it’s not surprising that when British director Mark Clements took over leadership of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 2010, he found it incongruous that the Rep, a major American theater, didn’t do them.
Clements’ production of the musical Ragtime begins a six-week run on Sept. 17 in the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. It’s his fourth musical since he introduced himself as artistic director by staging Cabaret. The decision to produce that show was a bold step for the Rep and not without controversy. Some feared a musical—any musical—would damage the company’s status as a serious institution; others, that it was wrong to compete with the Skylight Music Theatre, Milwaukee Theatre and Marcus Center. Some felt, too, that the decision was foolish since the Powerhouse has a thrust stage and no orchestra pit (meaning there is nowhere to put musicians) and, more seriously, the Rep’s resident acting company was not formed with musicals in mind.
Creativity solved the band issue but, as Clements says, “The score determines what you need from actors. If there’s a high A, either you can sing it or you can’t.” He’s replaced the resident acting company with a large group of associate artists including designers, directors, writers and musicians, as well as many actors from the former company. He consults them on programming and hires them regularly. Anyone who’s seen the first-rate work of the past three seasons has watched him beautifully balance loyalty with the demands of excellence.
Cabaret and Next To Normal, his second Rep musical, were huge hits. His brilliant staging of Sondheim’s Assassins last season inspired some walkouts. Clements stresses the intelligence of all three shows and their ability to resonate in different ways within the community. “I’m not trying to make people angry,” he says, “but it’s important to be brave.”
With period-inspired music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Ragtime was adapted by playwright Terrence McNally from E. L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel, a hallucinatory dissection of the nation at the start of the 20th century that mixes historical figures with fictional archetypes and rings true. According to Clements, “Race is a subject. Whose America is it? Another subject is the American Dream and how different it is for each person.”
Three groups of characters find themselves accidentally intertwined: affluent WASP suburbanites represented by a family from New Rochelle, N.Y.; African Americans represented by a Harlem jazz musician; and Eastern European immigrants represented by a newly arrived Latvian Jew and his daughter.
With 35 actors and 10 musicians, Ragtime is the biggest show the Rep has ever staged. It’s also the latest to present multiple cultures and ethnicities. “There’s no point in saying we want to be relevant to a diverse audience if that isn’t represented in the programming and casting,” says Clements.
Ragtime opened on Broadway in 2000 to mixed reviews and ran for two years on the strength of a celebrated cast featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald. A superior revival in 2009 was hailed by critics but proved commercially unsustainable.
Clements saw that revival right after he’d received his Rep appointment. A friend in the Broadway cast had invited him. Clements’ mom was visiting from England. He took her to the show. “It was a rare experience for me,” he says. “Because I’ve done so many plays, it’s hard for me to be completely taken over by a show. I’m of a generation of British men—it was instilled in us that you were weak if you cried. I still feel a sense of shame when I cry. But within ten minutes, there I was, tears rolling down my cheeks. Ragtime is a story of being an immigrant, leaving your family for a whole new life. Of course, my experience was much more privileged than the characters’. But having my mom there and being in my new life! It was a brilliant production, pared down but fluid, exactly my taste. Experiencing it, I thought, yeah, this is why I do what I do. And I thought, we have to do this at the Rep.”
Ragtime runs Sept. 17-Oct. 27 at the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex, 108 E. Wells St. Call 414-224-9490 or visit milwaukerep.com.
From 1929 to 1932 Grafton was the site of a Paramount recording studio that recorded blues musicians sent up from Chicago, including Son House, Charley Patton and Henry Townsend. Townsend, the last known living bluesman to have recorded at the studio, returned to Grafton in 2006 after 76 years for the first festival celebrating Grafton’s blues history.
Now, the event is in its eighth year. Bring your own blanket or chair to this open-air event and get your blues on under the sun and stars in Grafton’s Lime Kiln Park.
Where: Lime Kiln Park, Grafton.
Hours: Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Friday (music starts at 5), festival opens at 11 a.m. (music at noon) Saturday.
Admission: Tickets are $15 for the weekend, $5 for just Friday. There is also a limited supply of $90 VIP tickets, which include one ticket for both days, tented VIP seating, a catered meal each day, backstage access, one meal ticket each day and unlimited beverages.
: Charles Walker Band headlines a Friday lineup that also includes Donnie Pick & the Road Band, Blind Dog Hopkins and Jonny Tbird & the Mps. The music starts Saturday with The Co-Dependents, followed by The Blues Disciples, Kevin Purcell & the Nightburners, Leroy Airmaster, Rev. Raven & the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, Jim Liban Band, Janiva Magness and headliner John Nemeth, slated to hit the stage at 8 p.m.
Milwaukee music legend Harvey Scales will be honored for his stellar career as a song writer, singer and musician during a neighborhood appreciation day block party Saturday, August 31.
Scales will receive an award for artistic achievement from Mayor Tom Barrett and a state proclamation from State Sen. Lena Taylor. The block party, which will be held on 20th Street between Hampton Avenue and Fairmount from noon until 6 p.m., will promote pride, safety and celebrate the beginning of another school year.
“Our goal is to make our community (Milwaukee’s Black community) a better and safer place for families, seniors, children and businesses,” says Pastor Charline Britt, one of the event organizers.
Britt is calling on the community to donate school supplies, meat for grilling, prizes for games and competitions, as well as a stage and sound system. “Sponsors will be included on all event advertisements and kept informed on the progress of our project, Britt stressed.”
Active in the music industry locally and nationally since the 1960s, Scales has composed songs for groups such as The Dells, The Dramatics and The O’Jays. He is particularly notable for co-writing the hit songs, “Love-Itis” and “Disco Lady,” a song made famous by R&B legend Johnnie Taylor.
In Milwaukee, before he broke onto the national scene as a songwriter, Scales was known as “Twistin’ Harvey.” In 1961, he and his longtime friend, the late Albert Vance, formed the group, Harvey Scales and The Seven Sounds, which released several singles. At the block party, many friends and musicians will be honoring Scales with tributes in words and song.
Wendell J. Harris of the Cream City Blues Foundation, one of the event organizers, will announce the launch of The Harvey Scales Fund, which is aimed at helping retired musicians and entertainers in need of assistance or who have medical needs.
Old Landmark Deliverance Outreach Ministry and Geon Lead Safe Company are also primary organizers.
“We’re excited to see folks coming together for something so positive,” said event co-planner Joan Hollingsworth, who noted there is still time for more people to get involved. “The kids need school supplies to fill these backpacks and more raffle prizes would be appreciated too.”
The event has already garnered the support of many community organizations and promises to be a neighborhood win. Citizen involvement is always important for such events like this and the neighborhood is demonstrating their commitment in creating a fun day for all.
There will be many activities for people of all ages; but perhaps one of the most exciting will be that Buffalo Soldiers will provide horseback rides for children, five free haircuts will be given.
For more information on a great family event that will be honoring a Milwaukee legend those interested can contact Pastor Charline Britt at 414- 364-0855; or Joan Hollingsworth at 414-446-2305. Spaces and sponsorships are still available.
Free Pre-Broadcast Screening Event Open To Public
The involvement of local citizens in the 1963 Great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom will be the focus of a BLACK NOUVEAU special this month that commemorates the march’s 50th anniversary. “For Jobs and Freedom” will be broadcast at 7p.m. on August 27 and at 6:30 p.m. on August 28 on MPTV 10.1 HD.
In addition, MPTV will offer a free screening of “For Jobs and Freedom” on August 23, at 6:30 p.m., at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum, 2620 W. Center Street, Milwaukee.
The producers of the BLACK NOUVEAU special, as well as some guests featured in interviews in the program, will be available for questions and discussion at the event. The screening is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Seating can be reserved by calling 414-372-7677.
On August 28, 1963, roughly 250,000 Americans participated in the Great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. BLACK NOUVEAU host Joanne Williams recounts the events leading up to the march and talks with participants Ted Mack of Milwaukee’s CORE Chapter; Rep. John Lewis, one of the ten march conveners; Vel Phillips, the first African-American and woman on Milwaukee’s Common Council; Kurt L. Schmoke, former mayor of Baltimore; George Paz Martin of the National Peace Action Education Fund; David Newby, former president of Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO; and Rachelle Horowitz, transportation director for the march.
She also talks with Dr. Lyn Hughes, founder of the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum; Dr. Harry Rubenstein, co-curator of “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation 1863 and the March on Washington 1963” exhibit currently at the Smithsonian; and Dr. William P. Jones, University of Wisconsin historian and author of “The March On Washington.”
The broadcasts of “For Jobs and Freedom” will be followed by an encore of BLACK NOUVEAU’s special “Freedom Walkers for Milwaukee.” Milwaukee’s Freedom Walks began on August 28, 1967, four years to the day after the Great March on Washington across what is now the Father Groppi Bridge.
This 30-minute documentary traces Milwaukee’s most turbulent events during the Civil Rights struggle, and reveals how Milwaukee earned the nickname “the Selma of the North.”
Presented by East Town Association, Inc. at Cathedral Square Park August 29, 2013 East Town Association Presents: Eddie Butts Band
Happy Hour starts at 5 p.m. Music starts at 6 p.m. The Eddie Butts Band has delighted audiences at festivals and on the concert and night club circuits for many years. The Eddie Butts Band is also one of the longest-running, most successful bands in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Eddie is also known as one of the city’s premier vocalists. When you combine his smoky baritone with the sweet tones of the band’s two female vocalists, the fantastic musicianship and a delicious blend of jazz, pop and R&B, well, it’s easy to see why the Eddie Butts Band is considered a Milwaukee & Wisconsin favorite year after year. Enjoy an evening of entertainment, dancing and fun with Milwaukee’s MUST SEE BAND, THE EDDIE BUTTS BAND!
by Christopher McIntyre
As a child of Milwaukee, I’m elated to be apart of the Wisconsin 30 exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum as the youngest artist.
Wisconsin 30 is an intergenerational exhibition which presents a complementary overview of the themes of race & identity explored in 30 Americans, focusing on Wisconsin artists while the 30 Americans exhibition, a collection by the Rubell Family, spotlights the works of 29 national & international African American artists.
The Wisconsin 30 exhibition is curated by Sande Robinson of the African American Art Alliance at the Milwaukee Art Museum & Lynn Shumow of the Haggerty Museum of Art. It is open to the public until September 8th. Along with 30 Americans & Wisconsin 30, an interactive video experience called “Question Bridge” is on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum, sponsored by the Fellowship Open.
The Fellowship Open, the Daniels family & all of the people who make their endeavors live have a passion for art, people of Milwaukee & for excellence. I must send a special thanks to John Daniels III. I’m thankful for them being a model of success, community & the light of God. My art piece in the Wisconsin 30 is called ‘Higher Thought’, an archival giclee limited edition print. I believe art is a reflection of life. The piece is a snapshot of my life.
I’ve seen millionaires up close & I’ve seen drug dealers up close. So the piece talks about my choice. We are all blessed with free will so we choose between good and evil. The choice we make not only affects us but generations after us.
I could have succumbed to my negative environment & ran from my destiny but I chose the narrow path, the higher path as I focused on higher thought.
Forging friendships, alliances with great artists such as Della Wells, Sonji Hunt, Mutope Johnson, Sherman Pitts & many others makes me focus on longevity. Progress is apart of the rise; it makes me want to uplift every part of my life, especially my community. Milwaukee is amidst a renaissance within the art community so I am honored to be alive to contribute to it.
Along with my own corporation, CM Perceptions Inc., I am Vice President of Today’s Artist Guild which is an art non profit to provide platforms for artists, founded by Sherman Pitts. Today’s Artist Guild, also known as T.A.G., is a 501 (c)(3). T.A.G. holds exhibitions, community art workshops & events. T.A.G.’s next event is called
‘T.A.G. Talk’ featuring a curator from the Milwaukee Art Museum, William Rudolph, speaking to the art community about the importance of curating fine art at Bucketworks, recently located to the Grand Avenue Mall, for free on August 27th. The event starts at 6:00 P.M.
I am also apart of the Oasis Project with Della Wells, Sonji Hunt & Townsel Hunt. The Oasis Project strives to bring economic, social, physical, intellectual & creative development to neighborhoods through intrinsic holistic & educational programming with employment opportunities for youth as well as adults.
Thanks to Alderwoman Coggs, the Oasis Project is organizing an art show called ‘Art Comes Back To Bronzeville’ on August 23rd – August 24th for Bronzeville Week.
I must thank the Milwaukee Community Journal staff & Mr. T for allowing me a chance to give the youth of the city of Milwaukee an opportunity to speak via the “Youthful Perceptions” column that I pioneer for a season, under the leading of Darryl Carter.
Our generation is one of thinkers, doers, artists & analytical entrepreneurs. Considering we have our own version of the Great Depression via the Great Recession, we have to make our own way. The Community Journal taught me the value of communication & made me reevaluate how I reach out to my audience.
The black press is a jewel to the community of our people because we have to communicate to be in unity as a body of people; the power of the press is a great tool & resource to the people of Milwaukee. Milwaukee is the sleeping giant of the Midwest & the sleeping giant is awakening.
Thanks be to God
OUR ANNIVERSARY GALA KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:
Introducing Drs. Keevin and Denise Davis Drs. Denise and Keevin R. Davis are board certified physicians with over 60 years of medical experience. They graduated from the University of Toledo, School of Medicine. Drs. Davis have shifted their medical practice from treating illness to promoting Health and Wellness. They are a firm believer in the axiom “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Drs. Davis are co-hosts of the two time national award winning television program, “Doctors in the Kitchen”. The focus is on healthy home cooking and positive lifestyle choices.
In addition they are involved in hosting radio programs and writing health and wellness articles for newspapers and magazines. The doctors speak to groups both large and small and for profit as well as non-profit organizations. The doctors provide keynote addresses, conference presentations, and cooking seminars.
Their number one goal is to “Improve Your Quality of Life through Good Health”. Drs. Davis believe that “Good Health is for Everyone”! Please visit their web site at: doctorsinthekitchen. Com.
Skylight Music Theatre will mount a new production of the Gershwin masterpiece Porgy and Bess May 17 through June 9 in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center (158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee WI).
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess has been a groundbreaking work ever since its premiere in 1935. With the largest all-black cast ever seen on an American stage up until that point, Porgy and Bess ignited social and racial change as the national tour of 1936 made its way across the country.
Most notably when the tour stopped at the still segregated National Theatre in Washington D.C., in which non-white patrons were refused entry.
Title role cast members, Todd Duncan and Anne Brown, refused to perform until the theatre relented and allowed whites and blacks to sit side-by-side for the first time in the theatre’s history.
“Porgy & Bess is an iconic opera that many people consider to be George Gershwin’s masterpiece, and I am certainly one of those people.
“But the exciting thing about Skylight’s production of this classic American folk opera is the fact that we are able to attempt something rarely seen in other opera house revivals.
In the intimacy of the Cabot Theatre, we will create a chamber opera that will allow these characters, the denizens of Catfish Row, to rediscover their journey, which in turn will put them in charge of their own story.
In this process, deeper truths will emerge to shine a new light on away and empower these characters, while at the same time embracing this extraordinarily gorgeous score,” says Artistic Director Bill Theisen.
Performances of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess will take place May 17 through June 9, 2013 in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee.
Tickets are generally $22.50 – $65.50 (plus tax) and can be purchased in person at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office or by calling (414) 291-7800 Monday – Sunday from noon – 6:00 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.skylightmusictheatre. org. Group, student, senior and other discounts may also be available.
Exhibit at Milwaukee High School of the Arts Runs Through March 22
Two Mount Mary art professors worked with more than a dozen Milwaukee High School of the Arts students for five months to create “Standing on Their Shoulders: Memories of Bronzeville,” a multi-media exhibit on the African American neighborhood.
Through oral histories, photo collages and painted murals, the teenagers captured key elements of the historic area.
Led by Mount Mary art professors Paul Calhoun and Brad Bernard, the students learned a variety of skills, including interviewing, writing, editing and storytelling. Most importantly, the students were educated about Bronzeville.
According to Calhoun, none of the students, most of whom were African American, knew anything about the neighborhood.
“The students conducted more than a dozen interviews with elders who lived in Bronzeville,” says Calhoun. “They heard first-hand about segregation and what it was like at the turn of the 20th century.”
The student work focuses on three aspects of Bronzeville – the importance of religion and jazz and African American life during that time.
The exhibit is on display at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, 2300 W. Highland Ave., Milwaukee, through March 22.
The project is supported by a grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund and Know Thyself.