BWW Review: 2017 REP LAB EMERGES for Company's Ongoing Success
In the seventh presentation of the popular Rep Lab, the short-play festival features the company's Emerging Professional Residents (EPR) in acting, directing and technical theater to showcase their talent. This year, nine one act play along with a devised play written by the Emerging Professionals appeared in the Stiemke Studio for an intriguing evening of theater. Eight actors, seven directors, and four designers comprise the EPR team. In an interesting mix of plays, many examine the angst in relationships: communal, personal and professional within a wide time frame that also embodies considerable emotional range.
Adam Peltzman's Bedfellows explored the competitive natures between James Madison and Ben Franklin, who indeed made strange bedfellows on an early 18th century "business" trip. Matthew Kelty's Opening considered how producer David O. Selznick prevented his African American actresses from the blockbuster opening of Gone With The Wind, an Atlanta world premiere. The event happened in the 1939 South when "colored" segregation raged and even Hattie McDaniel was told to "personally give her excuse to miss the event," for which she eventually won an 1940 Academy Award.
In another professionally related dilemma, three young executives vie for a promotion surrounded by a bottle of cream, a hammer and a stool. The Dairy Company they work for places the trio in a enclosed in room while watching the three from a space above in Steve Yockey's Heavy Cream. Kat Moser stands out as the milkmaid assistant Betty, stirring the three young executives will to survive the unusual test. Moser appears in another poignant performance--G. Flores' The Coyote Stratagem. Paired with Candace Thomas, Moser and Thomas draw with chalk on the floor and use visual images to illustrate their dying relationship. The pictures, similar to cave paintings, emphasize the power of art to help human communications when words become difficult.
In another highly entertaining play, Don Nigro's Goat features a primitive "devil/snake" outcast named Goat, actor Jesse Bhamrah, and his accomplice, Christie Coran in a plot to overthrow their family, a supposed metaphor to humanity. The two connive to revenge their family in "the Garden," perhaps revisiting a version of the first temptation and beginnings of "original sin."
David Ives' BLIZZARD creates a bizarre situation between two couples trapped in a snowstorm, a northern murder mystery on the cusp of something sinister while Erica Saleh's Life compares the classic board game to society's status quo the game board represents. Tanner Medding paired with Candace Thomas portray the game pieces who speak, the little blue and pink pegs placed in the cars along the game's path, to ironic effect.
A lonesome, left on a park bench cardboard box provides the impetus to change people's lives in the devised piece titled Sonder. Numerous individuals search the box, taking and giving, to alter their personal trajectory. A clever and interesting piece, the entire evening provided thought provoking productions while less experimental than in previous years.
Many former Rep Emerging Professional Residents predicted bright careers over the years, and contribute considerably to Milwaukee's theater landscape. Leda Hoffmann, J.C. Clementz, Brent Hazelton, Dylan Sladky, Frank Honts and Nabra Nelson emerged from the ranks of this select community and currently work on The Rep staff in various roles and directed selections from the 2017 Rep Lab. Another former EPR, Elyse Edelman works as a Professional First Stage Resident combined with acting at numerous Milwaukee theater companies.
In Fall 2016, The Rep initiated The Professional Training Institute, which selected 17 high school students to be mentored and trained by Rep Artistic Associates for future theatrical development. As part of this elite ensemble, each one will appear in a paid professional performance during the year term. One of these members, Max Pink, will be under Director Laura Gordon's helm at Renaissance Theaterworks in the 2017-2018 season in the play Russian Transport-a stellar accomplishment for the future high school senior.
These individuals name only several of the up and coming professionals determining and securing Milwaukee's theatrical future, several more sure to be seen in The Rep's 2017-2018 season. Artistic Director Mark Clements uses the prestigious program to draw talent from, as do theater companies across the state, including American Players Theatre, Northern Sky Theater, Forward Theatre Company, Door Shakespeare and Third Avenue Playhouse. Third Avenue Playhouse selected former Rep EPR Katherine Duffy as their acting resident allowing her to hone her skills and head South to Chicago. The Rep EPR program resonates clearly and profoundly across the state and throughout the Midwest.
This year, Mark Clements also expanded his Artistic Associate team by adding Director May Andrales to the expanding company, in hopes of a nod to SWAN-Support Women in the Arts Now. Andrales has guest directed at The Rep numerous times, and her sensitive professional ability contributes considerably to the company's plans for their new works initiative, the John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Program. The nationally known woman director excels in world premiere works, which offer promise to advance the theatrical arts canon throughout the country.
Be sure to keep a watch on these EPR names throughout the upcoming season, close to home in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin: Jesse Bhamra, Darrington Clark, Christie Coran, Gia Erichson, Matt Frye, Tanner Medding, Kat Moser, Candace Thomas, Marina Berenstock, Daniella Wheelock, Olivia Kraus, Emily Strohmenger, Shane O'Neil, Marguerite Frey, and Victoria J. Morales. Each Rep Lab offers a glimpse into the theatrical glass ball to promote and sustain the performing arts. Their ranks multiply each year to assure The Rep's and the theater community's ongoing success. Compelling reasons to give generously to Milwaukee's United Performing Arts Fund this spring---Especially at a time in history when humanity fervently needs the art's heartfelt encouragement and inspiration for cultural survival.
For further information on Milwaukee Repertory Theater's 2017-2018 season or the upcoming production Jane Eyre, please visit: www.milwaukeerep.com. For donations to the United Performing Arts Fund, please visit: https://upaf.org/.