Results tagged “Madison Repertory Theatre” from flyover

Wow. It's hard to get back into blogging after an unexpectedly long hiatus. But, since fall is a time of renewal (at least for me), I thought I'd jump back in. The first leaves are starting to turn red and gold here in the Great Lakes region and I'll admit it's hard to truly focus on the arts with the looming election and global economic crisis. But I'll give it a shot...

One of the biggest cultural happenings is the opening of a new George Segal exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). The show, organized by MMoCA, heads to Dallas, Kansas City, Mo., and West Palm Beach, Fla., after its run here ends in December. The show represents quite a coup for MMoCA in that a cast of "Depression Bread Line," which Segal did for the FDR Memorial in Washington, will head back to Madison and join the museum's permanent collection after the show is over. For preview coverage, see Isthmus, 77 Square or the Wisconsin State Journal. My review will appear in Isthmus later this week. I've been told the show will also be covered by the Wall Street Journal and Art in America, but I'm not sure when those articles will appear.

Madison's only professional theater company, Madison Repertory Theatre, opens its season this week with Becky Mode's "Fully Committed." The Chicago actress Amy J. Carle, who has performed with Madison Rep before, stars. I'm looking forward to seeing her again, since she was one of the best things about Madison Rep's production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" this past January. "Fully Committed" looks like fluffy fun, but we'll see.

This 40th anniversary year is an important one for Madison Rep. Former artistic director Richard Corley's contract was not renewed near the end of last season. While it sounds as though he and the board made a mutual decision to part ways, I can't help but wonder--and this is my own personal musing here--if he was blamed for not getting enough butts in seats. Which begs the question, who really is getting enough audience members in these tough economic times? And how will Madison Rep's direction change under its interim artistic director? The season's choices seem pretty safe (including well-known fare like "Bus Stop," "True West" and "My Fair Lady"), but of course the proof will be in the pudding.

Under Corley's tenure, I saw a few shows that I'd file in my "all-time most memorable" category, such as "I Am My Own Wife" starring David Adkins and "Permanent Collection" with a more local cast, including UW-Madison professor Patrick Sims.

About 45 minutes west of Madison in Spring Green, classical repertory theater American Players Theatre is winding down its season. I had a chance to catch a Sunday evening show of George Bernard Shaw's "Widowers' Houses," which didn't knock my socks off but was still enjoyable (as far as Shaw goes, I preferred APT's production of "Misalliance" two summers ago). APT is an outdoor theater in the woods and, when the weather cooperates, it's fabulous. Other times, it's, um, challenging--as it was Sunday. Light rain started almost as soon as the show did and got heavier throughout the play. Luckily, I had a tacky-but-useful plastic poncho so the rain didn't faze me too much, but it did halt the show temporarily at one point. That, coupled with two intermissions, broke up the flow of the play, but there was a sort of camaraderie between the audience members who stuck it out and the actors. In its own weird way, it was a fitting and fun end-of-summer experience--rain, swooping bats and all.
September 16, 2008 3:10 PM |

I had to laugh out loud when, after a brilliant "Daily Show" segment on Sen. Barack Obama's speech on race, Jon Stewart dropped the yuks for a moment and said (to paraphrase): "And so it is that a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as if they were adults." Stewart hit the nail on the head. Although I haven't had a chance to watch Obama's speech in its entirety yet, from what I have seen, it was an honest, direct and nuanced attempt to grapple with a complex problem.

All of this leads me to something I had meant to blog about a couple of weeks ago, when I saw a preview performance of Madison Repertory Theatre's current show, Thomas Gibbons' "Permanent Collection." The show blends art-world and racial politics as Sterling North, a black corporate exec, takes on the directorship of the Morris Foundation, which houses a priceless collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, as well as some little-displayed African art. North's desire to incorporate more of the African pieces into the displays rankles the museum's white director of education, and controversy ensues.

After the preview-night show, I felt invigorated in way that, frankly, I rarely do when leaving the theater. Sure, there are good plays to be seen in Madison, but this seemed to me an almost perfect blend of entertainment with meaty ideas. The production was fiery, at times funny and offered characters with real moral complexity. It's a play on race and culture that treats the audience as if they were adults, capable of seeing the merits of each character's position from shifting angles.

I was previously unfamiliar with this play, and I'm glad Madison Rep chose to make it a part of its season. Madison is a changing city but its older generations - you know, the people who are more likely to go to professional theater - are largely white. We like to think of ourselves as an enlightened, progressive place, and to a good extent I think Madison is, but anyone who doesn't believe that they have blind spots regarding race is probably fooling themselves. In that way, I thought Madison's Rep choice of this play was especially well suited to its community. Being entertained and being made to think - in equal measure - is, for me at least, a perfect night at the theater. And if art, as well as political speeches, can move forward our national dialogue on race, I think this is the sort of play that can accomplish that.

For some local reviews of Madison Repertory Theatre's production of "Permanent Collection," see Isthmus, the Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal. The show runs through March 30 at the Overture Center for the Arts.

March 20, 2008 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)

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