This musing started out as a little reflection on the challenge of operating a performing arts venue deep in a rural area in an old building in a part of the country that embraces the four seasons with a vengeance. Then I realized that we hadn't done a "Meet The Cast" musings for The Shape of Things...so that is included as well. Kind of a two for one for your later winter amusement.
As far as the first notion goes, this is a bit of a follow-up on the mid-winter reflection that I posted back in January. At that moment, things were quiet here at The Forst and we were deep in the grip of winter's howl. Today, almost two months later, winter is loosening its grip, which is creating all kinds of new challenges that we're sharing with pretty much everyone else who lives in the upper-midwest. All that lovely white snow is now slowly re-creating the inland oceans of bygone epochs. Beware that you don't find yourself the victim of some unexpected fossil creating event!
Visitors to The Forst generally comment favorably on the history and charm of the old building and its construction. It is a neat and rare example of nineteenth and early-twentieth century hospitality. The enormous wooden beams and ubiquitous wood trim come from timber long since vanished from the forests. Along with that you also get a building lacking some of the nifty construction benefits of modern infrastructure. It can be a challenge.
I mention this because last night, as I was enjoying the final dress rehearsal of The Shape of Things, I was struck by how unimportant some of those inconveniences are. When we heat the place up, turn on the lights, set out the food and drink and fill the place with energetic patrons, a little water and ice suddenly doesn't seem so important.
So, if you were wondering what we are up to out here, be certain that there is music and theatre in abundance waiting for you to emerge from your winter hibernation, daring the raging waters of Spring to enjoy a bit of the arts again. (Although you might want to park across the street if the lake in front of the building hasn't receded!)
Meet The Cast of The Shape of Things
The Shape of Things opens tomorrow (Friday, March 15). This project is another example of one of those shows at The Forst that is happening because of a passion for art within the community. Actor Thomas Moore came to me some time ago looking to find a place to stage this show, and we were all too happy to oblige.
It's a fascinating script with some unexpected twists. Don't do too much research on the plot...it's more fun if you don't know what's coming. In this modern dramatic work, Neil LaBute asks a range of interesting questions: How far would you go for love? For art? What would you be willing to change? What price might you pay? A young student drifts into an ever-changing relationship with an art major while his best friends' engagement crumbles, so unleashing a drama that peels back the skin of two modern-day relationships. It's a great ride and we hope you find the time to come and see it!
Elizabeth Szyman (Evelyn) has performed and studied theatre and film in Massachusetts, New York, and Wisconsin. She is thrilled to be participating in “The Shape of Things.” This is Elizabeth’s third performance with the Forst Inn Arts Collective, other roles include playing Beth in “Dinner with Friends” and Molly in “Smell of the Kill.” Previous local highlights include Rachel Ann in “Exit Laughing,” Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” and Sarah in “Company.” She is grateful to her family and friends for all their T.L.C. as well as the support and hard work of the cast and crew.
Thomas Moore (Adam) is very excited to finally make his physical appearance on stage at the Forst Inn. His previous credit would include voicing three male characters in "The Smell of The Kill". Other local credits would include Bobby in "Exit Laughing", Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby", Robert in "Proof", CB in "Dog Sees God", Paul in "A Chrous Line", as well as many other Masquers productions throughout the years. After spending a few years studying theatre at UW-Parkside, he loves to help bring great theatre to the lakeshore. He'd like to thank friends and family for their support as well as Michael and The Forst Inn specifically for making this show a reality as it has been very close to his heart for a long time.
Katie Schroeder (Jenny) is thrilled to be back on the Forst Inn stage with some of her favorite people. Previous shows at the Forst Inn include “Dinner with Friends” (Karen) and “The Odd Couple (female version)” (Vera). She was most recently seen in Green Bay for Evergreen Theater’s “Sense & Sensibility” (Elinor Dashwood) and "It's a Wonderful Life" (Mary Hatch Bailey). When not playing with her theatre friends, she can be found slinging coffee, attending classes, or planning her next international adventure. She is honored to be included in a production that holds so much meaning to Thomas and Elizabeth. She hopes you enjoy the show!
Darrick Bruns (Phillip) is happy to be making his third appearance on stage at the Forst inn. He was last scene on stage as “Riff Raff” in the 2018 production of “The Rocky horror show” at UW Manitowoc. He last appearance on this stage was in the 2018 production of “Hello Again”. Darrick is a long-time performer in the Manitowoc area, appearing on stage over the years in productions with the Peter Quince performing company, Masquers, and UW Manitowoc.
A native of Manitowoc, Claran LaViolette (costumes) has been designing and collecting costumes since her college days. She has served as costume designer for Masquers, UW Manitowoc, KB Productions, St. John’s Players and Treehouse Theater. Though she feels that costuming is her forte, Claran has been on stage (favorite roles: “Grandma” in the Addams Family and “Abby Brewster” in Arsenic and Old Lace), in the director’s chair ( Suite Surrender, Miracle on South Division Street, The Savannah Sipping Society) and produced shows for Masquers and St. John’s Players. She is also the current president of The Masquers Inc.
We hope you're staying warm out there. It's been a crazy week for weather and we're looking forward to a little bit warmer February!
One thing that the January weather has done is allowed us to spend a little time getting ready for some of our artist driven upcoming events. We're excited that as a part of our mission here at the Arts Collective we've been gathering projects that are near and dear to the artists who have been collaborating with us this past year.
In February alone we have two interesting events. On February 16 we'll be doing a staged reading of the Eugene Ionesco play, The Bald Soprano. This project comes courtesy of Phillip Jindra and Tessa Komorowski and features a number of our regular performers. Its a free event and after we finish the reading we'll discuss the play.
On February 17 we're presenting Haley Ebinal's production titled Riot Act: A Feminist Manifesto. First produced at the UWGB, this show is a performance art piece featuring 4 monologues by Franca Rame and a devised play. Riot Act shines a mirror on society's epidemic objectification of women, exploring why and how we've let it happen. Haley performed in our production of The 39 Steps and we're excited to have her show on our calendar.
Other artist driven projects this year include Hello Again, Becky's New Car, Always Patsy Cline and a series of musical evenings being organized by Kevin James Sievert under the title "The Forst Inn Sings...". A lot of our music events happen because musicians contact us looking for a place to do their art as well, and Catherine is busy collaborating with those folks and making sure the pub and the stage are hopping with great musicians.
Do you have a dream project that you've always wanted to make happen? Contact us and start the process. Who knows? Stay warm!!
Our upcoming production of November opens on February 22. We've assembled a great cast for this show with a mix of Forst Inn favorites and new faces.
Leading off the cast as the embattled Commander In Chief, Charles Smith, is Jeremy Pelegrin. Jeremy has a challenging task ahead of him filling the shoes of Nathan Lane, who originated the role on Broadway back in 2008. Jeremy returns to the Forst Inn after appearing in 2018’s Hello Again and Putnam County Spelling Bee. In the Green Bay area, Jeremy has enjoyed performing with Daddy D Productions, Birder Players, St. Norbert Music Theatre, Theatre Z, and Evergreen Productions, where he was last seen in the title role of Lombardi. Jeremy earned his Theatre Arts degree from UW Stevens Point and went on to perform at dinner theaters and theme parks around the country. His Florida credits include Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Mark II Dinner Theatre and The Golden Apple. Some of Jeremy’s favorite roles have been in They’re Playing Our Song (Vernon), Into the Woods (Jack), You’re a Good Man...(Charlie Brown), The Baltimore Waltz (Carl), Annie (Rooster), and Monty Python’s Spamalot (Sir Galahad).
Filling the role of Charles' intrepid sidekick, Archer, is Forst Inn favorite Sean Stalvey. Sean was in our first production, “The Glass Menagerie”, and played the lead in “The 39 Steps”. Sean began his interest in theatre in high school and with the Peter Quince Performing Company, playing Flute and Piccolo in the pit orchestras. He started to pursue theatre on-stage at UW-Manitowoc, where he earned the 2018 UW-Manitowoc Fine Arts in Theatre Award. Having graduated with an Associate of Arts and Science Degree at UW-Manitowoc, Sean is currently a student at UW-Green Bay pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Theatre. In his free time, Sean enjoys astronomy and watching movies.
Laurie Conrad is a new face at The Forst and is playing the determined speech writer, Bernstein. Laurie is a recent transplant from Madison, Wisconsin and now resides on the shores of Lake Michigan. She is elated to be with The Forst Inn. Laurie is affiliated with The Collective Writers Group and The Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum. Laurie is an avid writer, and heads the Cool City Writers Group at the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Laurie has performed with the Isadoora Theatre Company and Third Avenue Playhouse.
Margi Diny plays "The Turkey Gal"...we'll let you imagine what that means. Margi is well-known to audiences in the Green Bay Area and beyond, having performed onstage for several years. She particularly enjoys acting and volunteering at the Forst, where she played Agnes in “I do, I do!”, Mickey in The Odd Couple female version, and other roles. You may have even seen her bussing tables or seating patrons. When not helping at the Forst, Margi is a commercial actor, appearing on billboards, print ads, and film. She also keeps busy playing the violin with the Civic Symphony of Green Bay and for weddings and other events.
Rounding out the cast in the peculiar but exciting role of Dwight Grackle is Kana Coonce. Kana was recently seen on the Forst Inn Stage in a number of productions including Mistletoe Musings, Black Patent Leather Shoes and The 39 Steps. When it comes to biographical details, Kana leans toward whimsy and tends to leave all summary to outside and mystical forces. For this particular show and character, that would probably mean that you'll need to look to the Native American spirit world to learn anything useful about Kana's experiences or plans.
The show itself was written by David Mamet in 2008 and was well received by the reviewers in New York. It depicts one day in the life of a beleaguered American commander-in-chief. It's November in a Presidential election year, and incumbent Charles Smith's chances for reelection are looking grim. Approval ratings are down, his money's running out, and nuclear war might be imminent. Though his staff has thrown in the towel and his wife has begun to prepare for her post-White House life, Chuck isn't ready to give up just yet. Amidst the biggest fight of his political career, the President has to find time to pardon a couple of turkeys — saving them from the slaughter before Thanksgiving — and this simple PR event inspires Smith to risk it all in an attempt to win back public support. With Mamet's characteristic no-holds-barred style, November is a scathingly hilarious take on the state of American politics (today, yesterday, forever) and the lengths to which people will go to win.
We have kept the time frame the same rather than attempting to update it. The setting is the final days of a fictional presidential candidate and this lovable commander in chief bears no resemblance to any of our recent occupants of the office. Rather, Charles Smith is created as a broad representative of politicians writ large...with an extreme nod to the way that the exigencies of politics can cause them all to lose sight of their more serious and idealistic values. Mamet takes a shot at just about everyone on both sides of the aisle and manages to offend just about everyone along the way. You should be able to see all your least favorite politicians in his desperate antics, but also some of the lovable traits of your favorite politicians as well.
The show is definitely rated R, with Mamet's usual employment of adult jokes and liberal use of words that start with "f".
"This is satire with a scorpion's sting" - Variety
"A professional skeptic and an inspired word jockey, David Mamet can lay claim to the same connoisseurship of human folly as H. L. Mencken, who once observed that, in America, 'only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night.' Mamet's new Oval Office satire, November... is a hilarious demonstration of the fact that we live in an age of equality: all classes are criminal... Broadway comedy is generally a testament to Twain's maxim that honesty is 'the best of all the lost arts.' On the boulevard, laughter is meant to distract, not galvanize, to enchant, not disenchant. Into this weak hand, David Mamet has dealt an ace." - John Lahr, The New Yorker
"Ferociously original... and crisply performed, [November] rollicks from one politically incorrect punch line to the next." – San Francisco Chronicle
"Vaudeville meets current events... David Mamet just couldn't resist the bully pulpit of satire." – San Jose Mercury News
"Remarkable... one of the most profoundly laugh-out-loud plays that I have seen in many years." – BeyondChron.org
"The big, explosive laughter that starts early in David Mamet's November is of a kind I haven't heard in decades." – The Village Voice
"November gets my vote! Like an expert marksman in a shooting gallery, the playwright takes aim at just about every hot-button issue of the day, scoring a bull's eye every time." –Backstage East
"Sublime! One of the first breezy and intelligent comedies of substance we've seen in a long time" – The Villager
"Extremely funny" – The New York Times
It’s snowing today. Light fluffy stuff that’s easy to move around and looks pretty on the trees. Although I like having distinct seasons, I find that every year gives the arrival of spring more weight and relief. The lifting of the dark of winter is a palpable physical and emotional moment that I anticipate with growing passion each year. Meanwhile, I find that I am more interested in hibernating each year as well. No doubt this is a widely shared outlook.
With that in mind, we elected to close down The Forst for the month of January. This has the benefit of giving Catherine and I some needed time to recharge, plan and renew. As a part of that planning process, we are looking forward to our first board meeting of the year and the introduction of some new board members. We are also enjoying the involvement of new voices in creating plans for many aspects of what we do. This is all much needed and good. Still, it is strange to sit in the pub looking out at the winter in a building that is largely cold and still. Over the past year and a half it has been such a vibrant hub of activity and energy.
The quiet does provide some time for reflection. We have gone a long while without posting new musings…it’s hard to muse when you are neck deep in the intensity of the doing. So, while the cold and dark might inspire melancholy at times, it is also a fertile space to ponder and reflect and, voila, a musing emerges.
There is much I could muse upon; the challenge of doing so much with limited resources; the joy of seeing audiences enthused and inspired; the satisfaction of the slow and steady growth in attendance; the relief of receiving important patron support at year’s end; the growing community of artists and volunteers…it’s all worthy of consideration.
Gratitude and hope come to mind as obvious things to reflect upon. A little cliched perhaps, but still these are the two strongest threads in this morning’s thinking. The scope and nature of gratitude is pretty obvious here. I am grateful for the good fortune that has led to this moment, to the hard work of those around me, to the dedication of Catherine Egger in joining in this crazy adventure, to the support of the community, to the positive events that have allowed us to manage to pay the bills as we go…all of these things have allowed me to immerse myself in an adventure that I can be nothing but thankful for having. I am thankful.
Hope is more complex. While the first phase of the project has gone well, there is much to do in order to ensure the continued survival of this newest incarnation of The Forst Inn. Attendance needs to keep edging higher, more and more people need to be plugged in to more and more tasks to ensure that the place runs smoothly and that our audiences have amazing experiences, new patrons and sponsors are needed to help pay our artists and make much needed improvements in the facility…it’s a long list and fear rather than hope stands out as a rather substantive emotion. Which is where the gratitude comes in.
Because it is all of the things that I am grateful for which give me hope for this next year. Success for The Forst Inn Arts Collective will come not because of what I do, but because of what you do. It will be the moments when volunteers, artists, sponsors and patrons own the success of this magical place that will create hope and, ultimately, ensure its sustenance. That’s a pretty cool thing to get to be part of.
When I taught in the public schools a colleague and I shared a phrase that we would toss to each other in challenging moments. We would simply say, “twig in a stream”; invoking the Buddhist notion of acceptance and release of control. Some things are bigger than you are, and one must accept and trust. There is a path to success and it is a stream that cannot be easily directed. In the quiet dark of winter it is good to embrace that stream, float to the surface, and savor being carried along in its power.
Of course, the stream has to thaw first! :-) Happy Winter!
Forst Inn Underground Has Its First Moment
In one of my favorite musicals, the Baker's wife, having had a mind altering experience in the woods, observes that life cannot consist of nothing but moments of significance, or one would never have a sense of the import of those moments. So, of course, as we have endeavored these past months to continue with the ongoing adventure of staging shows and presenting music one loses the notion that there are things to muse about. And so, it's been a bit since I've posted a musing.
But today, as I sit in the pub writing this, our first Underground production, put together by a young and energized company and stretching the boundaries of what we are able to offer on the Forst Inn Stage, is performing for a cherished preview audience. It is a moment and it is worth taking note of.
Of course, that is not to say that the previous months have been without moments. Lots of cool things have happened along the way. But for myself, musing tends to come with change...or growth...and this feels like a moment of that kind. A moment in the woods.
Although I dearly love directing our shows, it is wonderfully delicious to know that over time more and more of our work will be the creative outcome of the visions of many different people. That in our work of restoring and invigorating this space comes the promise of a diverse community of artists of all kinds who seek a home...a platform...a nest in which their creative work can settle and bloom.
It's a good moment.
Last night, as I watched our small but intrepid audience experience the first act of Mistletoe Musings I was struck by all the different expressions on their faces. It was extraordinarily satisfying to see the wash of emotions playing in their gaze; heads in sync with the rhythm of the music and the mood, eyes locked on the performers and literally sparkling in the light and warmth of the moment. I was again reminded why we do this business that we sometimes call art. There is a joy in the communal experience of live performance that is hard to match.
Earlier this fall, when we started the rehearsals for The Glass Menagerie, I began the script discussions with a conversation about the joy and beauty I find in Tennessee Williams' extraordinary script. Zach Williams, who played Tom and is a diligent analyst of text, made observation of the dark and hopeless reality of the story and challenged the notion that the play is about joy. It was the beginning of lengthy and rewarding discussions of the play, but this too reminded me of why we do this work. For in the presentation of even the darkest night of the soul, there is joy.
The winter holiday has in its deepest roots the need to seek out joy. As the days shorten, the temperatures drop, and the natural world sheds its outward signs of life to focus on sheer survival, the human urge to find light and celebrate it is almost overwhelming. While we have managed to trivialize this urge in a cultural celebration of commercial gluttony, its primal nature is powerful and inexorable.
So, as we move past our weekend of Thankfulness and into our month of Consumerism, I'm thankful that my days are spent pursuing the experience of joy. The collective, communal, life affirming experience of gathering around the fire pit to tell the stories that remind us that after the dark, there is light, and joy.
It’s a Wild World.. This past weekend was wildly wonderful, and next weekend is shaping up to be the same.
Last weekend we closed the four-week run of our premier show, The Glass Menagerie – a beautiful, poignant, and sometimes gut-wrenchingly honest autobiographical portrayal of playwright Tennessee Williams’ family life. Our cast, Zach Lulloff, Laker Thrasher, Vicki Svacina and Sean Stalvey put their heart and souls into their roles and gave the audiences a riveting performance every single night. Our sound and lighting genius, Jeff LaFond, made sure every moment was perfect. It is hard to adequately express our appreciation much less to say goodbye to such a cast and show.
(Also a huge thanks to Chase Dazig, Cole Egger, Jacob Williams, Justin Knapp and Threse Powell for all of your help behind the scenes!)
We had wonderful musicians come out and entertain before and after shows: Erin LaFond, Pete Honzik, and David Bowman. (Singing with Jim and Susie Miller around the piano as David Bowman played? Priceless.)
We held The Forst Inn Art’s Collective’s monthly Board of Directors meeting in the Art Gallery, where with great enthusiasm we reviewed the 2018 season (which will be announced soon!), and had a robust discussion about the mission of the Forst Inn.
(Thank you to the board members, Mary Mauer, John Brunner, Scott Dollinger, Kevin Voysey, Brian Van Ells, Chris Honzik and Connie Hendries who came out even after a Packer defeat for the meeting - some coming directly from Lambeau Field!)
We also launched our Sunday Music in the Pub series with Gary Koepke and Joe LaForce – who brought the Pub alive with an altogether new energy as people relaxed and enjoyed their soulful music.
Next weekend we will be presenting Patrick Dewane’s one-man multi-media show ‘An Accidental Hero’, the true story of his grandfather’s experiences as a WWII American Officer who helped liberate Czechoslovakia, to two nearly sold-out audiences. Then we'll be enjoying Pete Honzik’s music for our Sunday Music in the Pub.
And we’ve only been open for five weeks... Not that long ago all of these were just ideas in our heads.
As Michael and I are usually consumed in the little (endless) details from do we have enough creamer, to getting the piano tuned and the fire extinguishers serviced, to advertising deadlines, to liquor inventory, to…. (on and on - it really is endless), as well as juggling this with our other jobs and the rest of our lives, we often don’t have the time to sit back and take in what’s been created so far, and the experiences we’ve already been able to provide for our guests.
But on Sunday night, as the cast was still saying their goodbyes and hugging one another, the board meeting was complete, and Joe and Gary played to a very appreciative crowd, I took it all in and had a moment where I welled up with tears. Everything about it was beautiful. It’s definitely a wild world, and this has been a wild ride. But every minute has been worth it. And I hope we keep riding it for a long, long time.