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Oconomowoc High School Theater Program Performs in Scotland

Off the Cuff with director-teacher Tom Klubertanz

Jan. 13, 2015
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Photo Credit: Rachel Buth
“An Iranian playwright helping Wisconsin kids get on the world’s stage in Scotland. Great story for the new year.” So said Tom Klubertanz, Oconomowoc High School’s (OHS) theater director as well as musician and actor. He sat down with Off the Cuff to discuss cookies, haggis, the performance by his students at this summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the decision of playwright Nassim Soleimanpour to allow Klubertanz to stage White Rabbit Red Rabbit royalty free as a fundraiser for the kids’ trip to Edinburgh.

The Shepherd has spilled ink on you before?

About my work on stage. You were also first to review my band, Crazy Man’s Basement.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The switched words make it more fringe?

It’s three electric weeks in Scotland’s capital—the world’s largest performing arts festival. One million people from 35 countries.

Oconomowoc High School too?

We will perform: One of 40 groups selected from 2,200 North American programs. State, regional and national organizations nominated us. The American High School Theatre Festival [AHSTF] ranked their selections, and invited us. Pretty cool stuff!

Pretty expensive stuff.

Yeah: $6,000 per head, times 35 students, 10 adult chaperones and my co-director/choreographer, Karl Miller. The kids raise $3,000 per family. Oconomowoc High School does a few things. But I’m not much for cookie sales. Sort of hate that stuff.

And this is the second invite?

In just 10 years! Summer 2008, we were one of 2,100. It’s the single most rewarding experience of my teaching career.

What’s in the water in Oconomowoc?

I have no idea. But I can tell you I have never worked with such committed, passionate artists.  

How was Edinburgh on OHS’ first trip?   

A blast. Shows round-the-clock for three weeks: dance, spoken word, improv and comedy. New plays and experimental troupes. Everything becomes a stage: zoo stalls, campers, a drained swimming pool—every bar, pub and church.

Did you try Haggis?

 It was good.

And then you went back? 

The AHSTF sends directors ahead—the year before—to become acclimated. I just got back.

Who is Nassim Soleimanpour?

Iranian playwright. Wrote White Rabbit Red Rabbit at the age of 29—which I saw in Edinburgh. He challenges the conventions of theater as we know it. Hands down, amazing.

High praise …

You’ve got to see it. An actor gets a sealed script. No rehearsal. No director, no elaborate set. The actor opens it, then performs—as they read it. Immediacy, excitement and performance meld, playing out extemporaneously…

And then?

I couldn’t sleep. So I wrote Nassim. And to make a long story short—he offered to let me produce the play at the Oconomowoc Arts Center (OAC).

Wow.

Amazingly generous. And royalty free—all proceeds for Edinburgh! Doesn’t just happen, does it? It’s a hopeful reminder that there are good people out there, and art is amazing.

The show?

Has played worldwide—New York, L.A. and Chicago, stateside. Nine of Wisconsin's finest pros are onboard for its debut here. Each night is a new actor! Black box-style stage, seating for 200; runs Jan.15-25 at the OAC.   

 By the way, where’s Crazy Man’s Basement these days?

Twelve years. Still going strong.

For tickets to Oconomowoc Arts Center’s production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit, call 262-560-3172 or visit oasd.k12.wi.us.

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