5 Reasons to Jump Up for ANNIE JUMP at Milwaukee's Renaissance Theaterworks
This weekend, Renaissance Theaterworks will open a new play called Annie Jump and the Library of Heaven. The title alone had my ears perked and curious to learn more. What I discovered got me even more jazzed. Here are five reasons to jump up for Annie Jump.
No. 1: The plot features female-centric sci-fi. 'Nuf said.
Playwright Reina Hardy is described as creating plays that "usually contain magic and sometimes contain science" - two of the very best things. Annie Jump and the Library of Heaven follows Annie, a lonely 13-year-old science brainiac living in Kansas. (Some of the best, most-fantastic adventures start in Kansas.) Enter an intergalactic supercomputer manifesting as Althea, a mean girl with really great hair. Althea is here to help Annie take humanity from Earth to the stars - but what is Althea hiding? I, for one, can't wait to find out.
No. 2: This Annie is brand-spankin'-new!
Reina Hardy came to Renaissance Theaterworks' (RTW) Br!nk New Play Development Series in 2017 with Annie Jump already well underway. RTW Artistic Director Susan Fete explains that, typically, the goal of Br!nk isn't to produce a play, rather to have the playwright walk away with something they feel is better than what they came with. This is achieved through a week's residency at RTW, where a team of artists work with Br!nk playwrights to analyze their play's themes, characters, and plot. Following that week, there's a staged reading with public feedback.
"In Reina's case, it just so happened that her script was already in a great spot and that she had clear objectives coming into the workshop week," Fete says. "During the 2017 Br!nk New Play Festival, Annie Jump was well received by audiences, so when it came time to choose our season that was already skewing towards a science theme, it seemed like the perfect fit."
No. 3: Annie Jump is going national.
Following the production at RTW, Annie Jump with be produced in Washington DC, Austin, and Ridgefield, Connecticut, each with unique casts and production teams. How did Annie win national attention? Thanks to Br!nk, RTW has fostered relationships with larger play development organizations, such as the National New Play Network (NNPN). It's because of them that Annie Jump is a Rolling World Premiere.
No. 4: The Milwaukee talent is fire.
Annie Jump herself will be played by Reese Parish, a student at Nicolet High School, who I last saw in the Milwaukee Rep's Lost Girl. She is a phenomenally poised and powerful young talent. Bringing Althea to life is Milwaukee-native Rachael Zientek, who I last caught in the Skylight's Urinetown. She's a sheer delight. Also among the cast is Jonathan Gillard Daly as Dr. Jump. Scenic and lighting design by Jason Fassl also promises something splendid.
No. 5: Spread the local theater love!
Milwaukee has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to quality local performing arts groups. Renaissance Theaterworks is Milwaukee's only professional, nonprofit theater company whose core mission is to improve gender parity. Their dedication to roles for women, both on stage and off, is certainly evident in productions like Annie Jump. If this play sounds as intriguing to you as it does to me, stop in and spread the local theater love.
Annie Jump and the Library of Heaven runs from March 29th to April 21st, 2019 at Renaissance Theaterworks in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. Info and tickets at r-t-w.com.