Two New: Voices Found and Pride Theatre

Jan. 4, 2017
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The days are short. Uncertainty lingers on the horizon. Last year we lost Splinter Group. This year it looks like we’re losing Soulstice Theatre. There’s been a resilience in the local theatre ecosystem. I don’t know how the numbers work out with respect to money, paying gigs versus non-paying gigs or any of the arcane details of business and exactly how they stack-up, but every time a theatre company vanishes in this town there’s another theatre company ready to go. It’s sad to have watched the passing of groups like Youngblood and Pink Banana and Bialystock & Bloom and so on. It’s always nice to see new groups emerge, though. There are a couple new groups with a couple of new shows this month. Pride Theatre and Voices Found to perform fusion--traditional stuff being done in nontraditional ways that bridge contemporary aesthetics with what general audiences might expect out of a trip to the theatre. 

Both groups have shows opening on the same weekend. Voices Found is a group which looks to develop shows in an interesting way. They’ll plan for a show with a cast of a specific size and then audition people for the show without auditioning them for specific roles. Then there are workshops and reading  and things which allow casting to settle-in once the actors get to know each other. It’s a really organic way of rendering an ensemble dynamic that recently developed a really cool Coriolanus in a basement space downtown. There was a really cool male/female balance in that show that felt really refreshing. This month Voices Found continues with a Taming of the Shrew in the same space. Directed by Sam Robinson, the promotion on the show describes Shakespeare’s classic comedy as: “A love story between sociopaths. know..a romantic comedy.” Cute. 

Voices Found Repertory’s The Taming of the Shrew runs Jan 18 - 22 at the Arcade Theatre in the Underground Collaborative on 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. for ticket reservations, visit Brown Paper Tickets online. 

Bill Jackson’s Pride Theatre Company debuts a couple of days after the Voices Found opening as it presents The Lion in Winter.  The 1966 drama about King Henry II is one for which Jackson clearly has a great deal of love. The actor/educator/director is investing a lot of energy into the show that will launch Pride on the intimate stage of the Alchemist Theatre this month. Jackson himself will play Henry II. The driving philosophy behind Jackson’s casting is to give the roles to those best-suited to them. There are some profoundly talented actors in this town who simply don’t get work. This needs to change to promote diversity and to diversify the local theater community, which can’t help but benefit in the process. Pride looks to aid in making that change in nontraditional casting.  Looks ideally shouldn’t matter in the reality that’s being rendered onstage.  Jackson is leading by example here in taking the role of Henry. 

The poet Peter of Blois (a contemporary of Henry II) described the king like this: 

"The lord king has been red-haired so far...His height is medium, so that neither does he appear great among the small, nor yet does he seem small among the great.” Jackson is a dark, towering figure of great intensity. The historical character he’s playing didn’t sound all that imposing. Peer of Bois refers to a guy with a “spherical head,” who has eyes that are, “full, guileless, and dove-like when he is at peace.” Jackson’s appearance should serve an altogether more dramatic intensity onstage at the Alchemist later this month. Liz Norton plays the equally imposing Eleanor of Aquitaine. The cast includes Ashley Rodriguez as Princess Alais, Nicholas Callan Haubner as John. “The casting of this play is a strategy of Deliberate Diversity in an effort to encourage open casting in regional theatre,” Says Jackson. Sounds perfect. Maybe we can start to have the kind of stability that encourages a little more growth and a few fewer departures in the years to come. 

Pride Theatre Company’s The Lion in Winter runs Jan. 20 - Feb. 4 at the Alchemist Theatre on 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For tickets and more information, visit Alchemist online


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