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Performing Arts Weekly 12.1

Nov. 29, 2016
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On Display/Milwaukee

@ Haggerty Museum of Art, Dec. 3

Some two dozen of us are “installed” among the galleries on the ground floor of the Haggerty Art Museum at Marquette University. We are differently abled: some well-trained dancers, some folks confined to wheelchairs, some middle aged or elderly. A motley crew, we move differently. We’ve had three rehearsals for the free, hour-long public performance we’re giving at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. Our third rehearsal was recorded on video for presentation at the United Nations along with videos of others performing the same work in cities around the world to commemorate the U.N.’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 2. The global performance, titled On Display, is the brainchild of choreographer Heidi Latsky, whose New York dance company has spent years demonstrating the power and value of including differently abled performers in modern dance works. Alverno Presents brought the company to Milwaukee in 2011.

Latsky’s instructions to participating “movers” are as follows. Dress in pure white. Remain in one spot. Close your eyes and move from the core of your body as slowly as humanly possible, following your inner impulses until you come to a position that you feel you want to hold for a while. Open your eyes, affix your gaze and stay perfectly still. When you’re ready, close your eyes and sense how your body directs you to move from that point. Move with eyes closed; hold with eyes open. Continue for an hour. 

You’re part of an exhibit. You’re looked at and judged. It’s harder than it sounds and deeply affecting to witness. On Display/Milwaukee is directed by choreographer Catey Ott Thompson, who danced with Latsky in New York. Students, colleagues, friends, members of the Catey Ott Dance Collective and yours truly are the cast. (John Schneider)

Animolecules: Choreographia Microbiotica

Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theatre @ Danceworks, Dec. 3-11

Jenni Reinke, co-director of this show with Brian Rott, calls Animolecules “our original microbiology-inspired physical theatre production,” which is intriguing enough a description to warrant further exploration. Quasimondo takes the world of the very small and brings it up close and very personal. The bitter battles and the symbiotic syntheses that take place every day all around us—as well as on us and within us—are magnified and personified via a fine corps of dancers. With the aid of costumes, lighting, animation and music, Quasimondo brings microbiotic drama to which we are normally oblivious to vivid, human-scale life. (John Jahn)


For Purely Elfish Reasons

Waukesha Civic Theatre @ Margaret Brate Bryant Civic Theatre Building, Dec. 2-18

Local playwright Jason Powell originally created this family-friendly comedic play about Santa’s worldwide search for some new elves after his magic spell over his existing elf team has been broken for Milwaukee’s Alchemist Theatre. By “create,” I mean he not only wrote all of For Purely Elfish Reasons’ shtick but also composed its original songs and even provided the guitar and piano accompaniment for its original production. As Powell once expounded about his artistic vision, he sought to make “something that’s straightforward enough that kids will find it funny and entertaining, but also something that parents wouldn’t be too bored at, so I thought the Marx Brothers would be pretty universal” as inspiration—utilizing their legendary hijinks, no doubt, for purely elfish reasons. (John Jahn) 

A Behanding in Spokane

Over Our Heads Players @ Sixth Street Theatre, Dec. 2-18

Overwhelmed by the plethora of holiday season-themed entertainment offerings this month? Racine’s Over Our Heads Players offers you something completely different: the black comedy A Behanding in Spokane, by Anglo-Irish screenwriter, film director and playwright Martin McDonagh. A Behanding in Spokane was McDonagh’s first play set in the U.S., opening on Broadway six years ago. Screen actor Christopher Walken was the original production’s lead, portraying Carmichael, a killer who has been looking for the left hand he lost as a youth. As Over Our Head Players explains it, “Life and death are up for grabs, and fate is governed by imbeciles and madmen in this darkly comic new play.” (John Jahn)

An Unexpected Gift

@ Memories Dinner Theater, Dec. 2-17

An Unexpected Gift is an original holiday musical by Memories Dinner Theater’s owner, Rolland Roebuck. The setting is the not-quite-Norman Rockwell-ready Christmas get-together of the Buerkle family in Wisconsin. Family drama ensues with all its concomitant emotions—common to many such occasions when not exactly close-knit family members assemble at what is, by its very nature, supposed to be a trouble-free love-fest. An unexpected winter storm is the unwelcome guest at the gathering, but maybe its arrival will mark a turning point in many a frayed relationship? In An Unexpected Gift, “we find the essence of the ‘Family Christmas,’” as Memories puts it, “with its bickering, love, fear and strength.” Plated or buffet-style dinner is part of the package for attendees. (John Jahn)


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