Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) begins its 40th Anniversary, the 2014-2015 Season, with MASTER CLASS the Tony Award-winning play by Terrence McNally, today, August 7. Angela Iannone reprises her role of legendary opera diva Maria Callas, which she first performed at MCT in 1999. MASTER CLASS is a collaboration with Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT) and Carroll University. MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and Carroll theatre professor James Zager will co-direct the production. MASTER CLASS performs in the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.

MASTER CLASS is presented as a character study of the world-famous opera soprano Maria Callas. Late in her career, the pedagogue is holding a master class. Interpolated between her interactions with students, Callas frequently retreats to inner monologues that give audiences insight to the triumphs and difficulties of her career, and the sacrifices she made for the love of her art.

Maria Callas (1923-1977) was born in America but her family later returned to Greece where she studied music at the Athens Conservatoire. The soprano is remembered for her rare versatility as a performer. In the height of career she was in constant demand for the rare and vocally challenging works of Haydn, Rossini, Gluck, Donizetti and Bellini. She is still praised for her genius art of interpreting and deep comprehension of character roles. Although her work as an artist is incredibly impressive, Callas struggled all her life with her self image and personal relationships, including a tumultuous affair with Aristotle Onassis. It is widely believed that the humanity, warmth, and expression displayed in performances were the result of much personal suffering and loss. During the 1960's, Maria Callas gradually withdrew from the stage following difficulties with her voice. It was at this point in her career that she began teaching master classes at Juilliard. These classes provide the basis for McNally's fictionalized play about Callas.

Milwaukee favorite Angela Iannone returns to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre stage as Maria Callas, a role that she first performed at MCT 15 years ago and has played several times since with companies including Madison Rep, Kansas City Rep and Light Opera Oklahoma. She was recently chosen as a 2014 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow and will participate in week-long residency and master class led by David Hyde Pierce at the Ten Chimneys estate in July. Iannone's many other MCT appearances include WELL, MEDEA, HOMEBODY/KABUL and FILUMENA. A director, playwright and theatre professor at UW-Whitewater, she has also performed with Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Music Theatre, InTandem Theatre, Forward Theater, Marriott Lincolnshire, Royal George and Door County Shakespeare.

Angela Iannone is also the second actress to be honored as a "Ruth Schudson Leading Lady." Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's "Ruth Schudson Leading Lady Fund" is a donor designated fund that was created to honor MCT co-founder Ruth Schudson and provide lasting support to MCT's mission of employing and nurturing local theatre artists. The Fund supports the work of one MCT actress each season.

The cast also includes opera singers Alicia Berneche, Melissa Cardamone and Edson Melendez making their MCT debuts. Rounding out the cast is James Fletcher who will play the stagehand. Jill Anna Ponasik and James Zager will co-direct and Brian Myers will serve as music director and the onstage role of Manny, the accompanist.

MASTER CLASS premiered at the Philadelphia Theatre Company in March of 1995 and opened on Broadway in November of that same year enjoying a sold out run. That production won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for outstanding new play. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's 1999 production of MASTER CLASS was extremely successful. 2014-2015 marks MCT's 40th Anniversary and the company is celebrating with a season of "Something Old, Borrowed and New." Bringing this hit back to the Cabot Theatre stage is an ideal way to start the anniversary celebration!

Playwright Terrence McNally has credits in drama, musical theatre, opera, television and film. He has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Lucile Lortel Award and the Hull-Warriner Award. His plays include LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!, A PERFECT GANESH, CORPUS CHRISTI and LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART. He also wrote the books for the musicals RAGTIME, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and THE FULL MONTY among others.

MASTER CLASS performances are August 7-24, 2014 (Opening Night: Friday, August 8) in the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre, 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. Tickets are available Monday through Saturday from noon-6:00 p.m. at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office, 158 N. Broadway, or by phone at (414) 291-7800. Tickets can be purchased online - 24 hours a day at Group, student and senior discounts are also available. Season ticket packages, $93-$155, can be purchased by calling (414) 276-8842. For more information, visit MASTER CLASS is sponsored by John E. Holland.

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