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.
I'm really grateful and (more than) kind of in awe that in the midst of dealing with real estate contracts, amendments, figuring out how to go paperless, figuring out what to do about improperly vented water heaters and all the other tasks Realtors do to help our clients meet their needs, I get to put on this other hat as well, and create experiences for people.
In this little corner of the earth, for this particular time, I get the privilege of creating a space where magic happens - that magical connection that can happen when artists and their audiences truly connect. The more I listen to Peter Mulvey's songs, the more I'm in awe that I get to present him to a room of people tomorrow night. (And have The Belle Weather in our Pub before him to boot!)
I've had the privilege over these past few months to deal with so many wonderful people sharing their talent, heart and soul with our audiences at the Forst Inn. I might not have created the magic, but creating a space where it can happen feels pretty darn good.
Peter said in an email to me last fall, "So glad you're running a room. Rooms where art happens are the pinnacle of civilization."
Wow. And I get to be part of that?!
It's (really) weird and it's wonderful all at the same time to feel you're doing what you are suppose to be doing at this moment in time. It's so fulfilling to me to be doing something for others with both of the hats I wear. Guess that makes me a good Girl Scout. (Hope you're proud, Mom. lol)
That's what's on my mind tonight - thought I'd toss it out in the cyber-wind. I'm just really perplexed, and yet really grateful for the mysteries of this universe.
(Click the pic to hear Peter perform.)
Next week it will be six months since our Gala Opening on September 23rd. Just six short months – or 180 days. This time a year ago we were planning in what was for me often vague, theoretical terms. (That was even before our visioning meeting we held last May!)
But now here we are, and some of the numbers from the past six months sort of blow me away.
To date we have had:
13 unique ticketed events
60 ticketed performances
18 Sunday Music in the Pub performances
3 gallery exhibits
2200 tickets sold
6500+ drinks served (500+ were Old Fashioneds!)
11 board members guiding us
30+ patron members offering financial support
60+ volunteers offering their time
4 major sponsors for events
1000+ likes on our Facebook page
14,200 page views on our website
And 1 new sink!
In the bar we work with five suppliers, offering 20 craft beers and 13 wines, and have just begun serving unique signature cocktails for each show.
These numbers might say something on their own, but there are so many great stories and people behind each of the numbers - the actors, the musicians, the artists, the tech staff, the volunteers, the patrons, the board members, the sponsors, all of the guests who have enjoyed a performance here, and all of the new friends we have made in the community.
When I look at this list, I want to add behind each one, ‘so far!’ – as we truly have just begun. (Remember - we have just 180 days in - so far!) We have been buoyed to be able to add another quality entertainment option to this arts-rich Northeastern Wisconsin area, and to have so much support and enthusiasm for what we are creating.
Thank you all, and here’s to the next 180 days! - Catherine
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.
We are proudly serving Steep and Brew Coffee at the Forst Inn with your intermission dessert! There’s a little story behind those three ‘air-pots’ of coffee...
Thirty years ago I worked at the newest Steep and Brew café on Odana Road in Madison. The owner roasted the coffee daily in small batches. It was delivered to the stores still warm from the roaster, glistening in oils which coated our arms from scooping beans from the bins all day. It left us smelling like a rich mix of vanilla and hazelnut and French roast coffee by the end of our shifts. The owner had high roasting and serving standards which he instilled in his employees. I loved my Chemex and French press coffee makers. I always had a little fantasy of opening a Steep and Brew franchise someday.
Life took me around the country and the world, and I found myself returning to Manitowoc at a time before Starbucks was an idea in anyone’s head, and there wasn’t a single coffee shop to be found in town. Some years later, I saw that Steep and Brew coffees could now be purchased in local stores and I was thrilled.
Fast forward thirty quick years to opening the Forst Inn and deciding we really should serve coffee. By now Steep and Brew had grown and not only has the contract to serve the American Player’s Theater, but has the contract to service the entire UW-Madison system!
I searched their website to see if we could purchase coffee wholesale for resale at the Inn. There I discovered that they have moved away from owning cafes themselves, and now have licensed cafes! I reached out to them but was afraid our venue would be too small. It wasn’t – and I was off, literally, to Madison to meet their representative in the very store on Odana Road I’d worked in, and then to the warehouse to pick up our supplies and coffee beans.
We did a tasting that rivaled any wine tasting. The owner of the café and a barrista joined in as we sampled The Guatalaman, the Costa Rican, The Sumatran, etc etc.. They even have a coffee, The Nitro, specifically roasted and prepared to be served on tap! We discussed the every nuance of each one – from earthy undertones to crisp after tastes. I remembered having loved the bold, rich Sumatran, and found I still did. But was it too bold to please everyone? In the end, after much discussion the hands-down winner was – The Colombian - which sounds almost too common to be cool. It was just an all-around good, smooth cup of coffee.
It was a no-brainer to include 'Icing on the Cake' as our flavored coffee. It is a warm buttery cup frosted with a touch of cinnamon - a pleasing, without being overwhelming cup of coffee perfect with dessert.
Then I was off to their headquarters and the factory, with its small non-descript sign on the door so a passerby wouldn’t confuse it for being a café and stop in for a latte. I was able to tour the entire facility – which for me was like a kid touring Santa’s workshop. The small roasters had long been replaced with a large industrial-sized facility to accommodate the growing demand for their coffee.
I arrived back at the Inn anxious and proud to set up our extremely modest addition to the Pub – our coffee station. I put the sign on the window and stood back. We ARE proudly serving Steep and Brew coffee. And if coffee's your thing, I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy our cup. - Catherine
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.
In the summer of 2015, I had the pleasure of subletting a townhouse in the suburbs of Minneapolis with several friends who were acting and directing in various projects around the area. It became a place for friends to gather and share stories, struggles and dreams for their work in theatre. At the time, a friend quipped, "Michael, you need to get a place like this where we can gather."
That thought stayed with me as I left graduate school and started looking for the home that would house this current phase of my professional journey. What might the possibilities be to find a place that would allow artists to gather, hone their craft, present their art, and share great times together?
Tisch Mills was not, as you can imagine, a place I expected to find. And yet, here we are! The Forst Inn is the perfect place to build and develop the many elements of a performing arts retreat space that we envisioned that summer. The hidden jewel that is the arts community of northeastern Wisconsin is an amazing resource on which might rest the fulfillment of those imaginings.
At the Gala in September, I had family members gathered from distant places and cherished that opportunity to share this cool space with them. The next week, a good playwright friend of mine stopped by for the preview of The Glass Menagerie and we shared stories as he lent a hand painting the set. Tonight, as I sit here in the pub, cast members from the UW Manitowoc production of Spring Awakening are sharing the performance of The Glass Menagerie together. In November, several fabulous actress friends of mine from Des Moines and Chicago will be performing in The Smell of The Kill. These are just a few examples of the many people who have and will come and share the space with each other and with those local folks who are making this project happen.
Theatre is, at its core, a collaborative experience. It is about the gathering of dedicated souls with a desire to share the creative journey. I am looking forward to the many souls who will enter the doors here! It's a blessing and a gift for us all.
Thanks for sharing it with me.. --- Michael