Uncategorized – Next Act Theatre

Announcing Our 2022-2023 Season!

Our production of THE LAST WHITE MAN draws Next Act’s 2021-22 season to a close, and what a season it’s been! We returned to live theatre and welcomed you back into our space. Things looked a little different, with masks and vaccine checks, but you stuck it out with us. We enjoyed laughing as well as thinking – these plays provided us with moments for enjoyment and reflection.

We’re excited to keep that all going with our 2022-23 season. In it, you’ll see plays about people dealing with big change – wanting a change they can’t seem to get, grappling with the aftermath of a big change or trying to change the world as it changes around them. We hope that you’ll continue to join us at Next Act to laugh and enjoy, think, reflect and embrace another season of transformative plays.

The season will bring big change to Next Act too, as Producing Artistic Director David Cecsarini will step down after the 2022-23 season. More information will be coming soon, but we hope you’ll join us to embrace this change and say “farewell” to David.

by James Ijames
Directed by Marti Gobel
September 22 – October 16, 2022

In a space somewhere between past and future, between now and never, four Black men meet. Isa, Daz, Grif and Tiny have been torn from the lives they knew and thrust into limbo, just to find out they are only four names on an ever-growing list. Their time waiting for others to arrive turns into an electrifying fusion of words, movement, combat, music, dance and play that express both profound grief and radical joy. Far from merely cold statistics of slain Black men and women, James Ijames sketches moving portraits of vibrant lives cut short.

by Sean Grennan
Directed by Edward Morgan
November 23 – December 18, 2022

Receiving a heart transplant gives Joy a new lease on life. Her second chance, however, comes with a question: how to avoid squandering this new gift? A complex web of laughter and grief entangles Joy and the family of her transplant donor as they grapple with what comes next. Based on a true story, THE TIN WOMAN is a heartfelt, humorous look at the importance of family and what it means to live fully.

by Mickle Mahler
Directed by Mary MacDonald Kerr
Featuring Cassandra Bissell and Neil Brookshire
February 23 – March 19, 2023

A couple, scholars teaching William Blake,
Engage in coitus on a campus green.
The fallout from this public act may break
The lovers up, destroy their jobs, and mean
An end to all the happiness they’ve had.
In lectures to their students, these two vent
Feelings on love, on death, the good or bad,
And ire ‘gainst the college president.
Laughter, drama! Love might win the day
In Mickle Mahler’s modern poem play.

by Bill Cain
Directed by David Cecsarini
April 27 – May 21, 2023

A lawyer, a prostitute and a playwright walk into a room. And then they stay. Shakespeare (Shax) runs London’s most popular theatre, but now he’s forced to shelter inside due to an outbreak of plague. With the theatres closed and no distractions, what’s left to be done is to write a new masterpiece. Assisted by two unlikely companions, Shax (and favorite Next Act playwright Bill Cain) explore the mysteries of life, love and death while navigating the complexities of a world under quarantine lockdown.

Season tickets and memberships are on sale now! Click here to buy.

Please contact the Next Act Theatre ticket office at (414) 278-0765 or boxoffice@nextact.org with any questions.

Single tickets for the upcoming season will go on sale August 1.

Help us celebrate our 33rd season by becoming a production sponsor! Contact Development Director Jane Flieller at jane@nextact.org or (414) 278-7780 to learn more.

The Fun is in The Details!

The Fun is in The Details!

By Jane Flieller, Development Director

Bravo, Next Act 2022 is just around the corner: Saturday, June 11, 2022, from 5pm to 9pm, to be exact!

Our indoor/outdoor, carnival-themed fundraiser will be held at Next Act as we wrap up the 2021-22 season by saying, “Bravo” and “Brava” to everyone who made this year possible. Actors, designers, directors, crew, staff and of course, you! To what can you look forward? Take a peek:

Each guest receives ten complimentary tokens upon entry to use for games. Admission is $65 and includes food, games, prizes and a special magic show by local favorite Tom Burgermeister!

Call today to get your tickets at 414-278-0765 or buy them online. Let’s have some fun!

A silent auction sampler:

Simple Elegance
Celebrity Grand Slam
Spa … rkling Stay!

Classroom and Community

Classroom and Community

By Grace DeWolff, Education Manager and Ryleigh Carroll, Education Intern

My favorite part of this season happened on March 2, 2022. Each year, Next Act develops a student project that coincides with one of the season’s plays. The overall goal is to provide a group of students the opportunity and means to create an artistic response to the Next Act production. This year, that show was PIPELINE, by Dominique Morisseau.

PIPELINE‘s student matinee was full to capacity with students from four different schools: two classrooms from Oak Creek High School, a class from Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Audubon High School and Obama SCTE. The latter were in attendance through Story MKE, a grant partnership with UWM’s Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education and Milwaukee Public Schools. My intern Ryleigh and I had been delivering workshops both virtually and in-person for about a month, diving into Dominique Morisseau’s text and preparing them for the live performance. If a school couldn’t make the workshops or the field trip work, we sent them asynchronous curriculum along with the script and free access to the virtual production.

A small but mighty directing class at Milwaukee High School of the Arts opted into the full PIPELINE Community Project residency. We talked about a few select scenes in the play, and the students were able to email questions to PIPELINE director Jamil A.C. Mangan, which he answered via video. I asked them to respond to the question “What would you tell your mom if you were in Omari [the student in the play]’s shoes?” The students wrote, directed and filmed their own creative response to the themes and ideas in the play. You can find their work, and Jamil’s video, on Next Act’s YouTube channel.

Story MKE is a project in which student leaders identify authors and texts they want to read, lead discussions and develop cultural connections. They had found PIPELINE before they knew we had it in our season and were ecstatic to be able to watch it live. I asked one of our young audience members after the show if it had met her expectations. “It was really emotional,” she said. “I knew what it was about because we read it and studied it, and I knew it was an emotional piece, but you don’t really know how much – you don’t really get that, you’re not feeling it, unless you see it live.” On the Friday after the student matinee, we reserved ten tickets for the Kellogg PEAK initiative, an after-school program held in a gorgeous building in Tiefenthaler Park. For the kids who weren’t able to see the live performance, we held a watch party at PEAK, where actors Malaina Moore and Ibraheem Farmer (PIPELINE‘s Jasmine and Omari, respectively) were able to visit and talk with students about the world of professional theater.

Due to COVID restrictions, some students hadn’t had a field trip in years before coming to Next Act. “These poor kids have been begging for a field trip,” one teacher told me after the show, “I’m so happy we could take them on one with so much substance. They loved meeting the actors [at the talkback]!”

MHSA students at PIPELINE

Thank you to Werner Krause, Bader Philanthropies, Pieper Power PPC Foundation, Inc. and the Kohl’s Hometown Giving Program whose generosity this season continues to keep all of our educational programming free of charge to schools and students.

Do you have students who would be interested in attending a matinee at Next Act? Are you a student who is interested? Contact Education Manager Grace DeWolff at grace@nextact.org or (414) 278-7780.

Updating Our Safety Policies

Updating Our Safety Policies

By A.J. Magoon, Marketing Director

Since the pandemic started, we have set COVID safety policy to keep our audiences, artists and staff safe based on local and national guidance. Since September 2021, we’ve made live theatre happen safely again at Next Act, and it’s all thanks to our incredible patrons. You have stood by us through challenging times, returned when we called, followed protocols and shared in entertainment and conversation. Our success this season wouldn’t be possible without you. Thank you.

We have continued listening to the CDC, the City of Milwaukee Health Department and our community over the past few weeks as COVID cases have declined to levels not seen since July 2021. Milwaukee County currently has the best possible LOW rating from the CDC and all key COVID-19 indicators that Milwaukee County tracks are currently in the best possible GREEN zone. For these reasons, we are joining other major Milwaukee arts and entertainment venues in a phased rollback of COVID-19 protocols.

This phased roll-back will continue as long as pandemic conditions continue improving in Milwaukee and in our state.

What this means:

Effective April 14, 2022 (for the final production of the season), patrons will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination to enter Next Act Theatre. We still encourage all patrons to be fully vaccinated and boosted before joining us at the theatre! Survey data shows that our audience is at least 98 percent vaccinated, and we thank everyone who has done their part to help us return safely.

Masks will still be required at Next Act Theatre through the run of THE LAST WHITE MAN. Effective May 9, 2022, masks will no longer be required at Next Act Theatre.

We are continuing to limit seating to two-thirds capacity for the run of THE LAST WHITE MAN.

We are confident in our ability to keep Next Act a safe place to visit. Our upgraded HVAC system and enhanced sanitation procedures continue to make our building a safe and clean environment. Help continue keeping everyone safe and stay home if you feel sick.

If it becomes necessary—and we certainly hope it does not—we will reinstate appropriate protocols depending on changing conditions.

For full information on our current safety policies, click here.

Roll With It!

Roll With It!

By Jane Flieller, Development Director

Next Act is a proud member of the United Performing Arts Fund, from whom we receive support for our artistic and educational programming. Help them, help us!

Join in the fun as UPAF presents the annual Ride for the Arts, presented by Miller Light.

Bike the Hoan and support the arts on the new 12-mile Hoan Loop Course where bikes rule the road! Using Interstate 794 from downtown Milwaukee to Cudahy and back again, this exciting course takes riders across and beyond the iconic Hoan Bridge, offering scenic views for riders of all ages and abilities. Completely closed to car traffic in both directions and free of traffic lights, this ride is safe and smooth! Shorter routes are available, too.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Ride the new Hoan Loop Course! 2022 UPAF Ride for the Arts

Visit events.upaf.org/nextact to sign up for our team by May 16

I Owe It All to Hamlet

I Owe It All to Hamlet (or, The Sword That Follows Me)

By David Cecsarini, Producing Artistic Director

We’ve started working on Bill Cain’s THE LAST WHITE MAN, and given that Shakespeare’s HAMLET features prominently in the story, it’s inevitable that theatre tales around that most venerable play will emerge in the rehearsal hall. There are the legendary performances, the sword fight mishaps, brilliant – or outlandish – interpretations, the films, the comparisons, the remembrances of those no longer with us, which text has the final say, costumes to remember or forget. A rich history, indeed.

My HAMLET experience yields, more or less, the shape of my theatre life’s roadmap, at least from my college years onward. Having finally decided that my future was destined more toward the stage as actor rather than the skies as flyer, my significant theatre training was received at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. It was a terrific department, great profs, and a nice new facility called Rarig Center with four theatre spaces: proscenium, thrust, black box and inthe- round. With its gifted, dedicated faculty, Rarig was a perfect laboratory for young, would-be theatre professionals.

In Combat

Among the required classes was stage combat and fencing. Now, this seemed right up my alley, having dabbled in improvised Pro Wrestling exhibitions with a few friends in our high school cafeteria during the waning minutes of lunch hour. I took to the swords very well and after two semesters, found myself filling in as the class instructor to cover for a grad student who had seized an off-campus, professional opportunity. Little did I know how much that fencing – these swords and daggers, retreats and advances, parries, thrusts and cuts – would influence my future.

Fast forward to graduating with a BA in Theatre Arts from the U of M, a very respectable and pretty much useless degree in terms of professional employment. After a discouraging Midwest audition tour, I returned to my day job as a residential fence builder at an Anchor Fence branch in Minneapolis. I’m hoping that a few of those fence installations are still standing straight and true to this day. But pounding posts and stretching wire was not my life’s destiny. Drastic action was required. The answer? Grad school, of course!

Now What?

The U of M Theatre MFA program was affiliated with the Guthrie Theatre. One auditioned for the Big G folks because your second grad year would be spent carrying spears on Tyrone’s unique and pioneering stage (incidentally, Milwaukee was a finalist as a potential location for Mr. Guthrie’s regional theatre movement). As an unvarnished 24 year-old, I could string enough words together, make myself heard and occasionally believed: the Guthrie said they had spears in need of carrying right then, so “no need for grad school, just come be a journeyman actor with us.” Great.

Hamlet the Dane

We were a company of actors, still a priority for many theatres in the late 70s. Among this seasoned group of pros was Randall Duk Kim, who would be playing Hamlet mid-season along with other roles in that year’s repertory. First off, Randy portrayed a forceful and Machiavellian Bishop Nicholas, running his corner of a turbulent world from his death bed in Henrik Ibsen’s challenging epic, THE PRETENDERS. Incidentally, in my role as minor pretender Sigurd Ribbung, I spoke my first words from a professional stage; which was frightening. But I survived.

Randall Duk Kim as Hamlet

On into the season, as we began to rehearse HAMLET, I was involved in the sword fight rehearsals because my character, Barnardo, would be handling a weapon. The fight choreographer was a wonderful, old-school, Errol Flynn-era legend named Patrick (Paddy) Crean. My mental picture of him remains: red athletic training suit, white scarf at the neck, a vital shock of white hair and dashing mustache. A charmer. At 67 years young, he still had an eye for the ladies. And he believed in “ZA,” his trademark word for the panache he asked actors to bring to their stage fencing work.

Put Me In, Coach

Though the rehearsal process spanned 4-5 weeks, Paddy had been booked for only the first 6 days. He taught the techniques, the choreography and the theatrical sense of the HAMLET duels, but then would not be returning until tech time. Learning this, I sensed a gap in the planning – a complex duel such as Hamlet/Laertes requires almost daily practice and refinement. My U of M training gave me the temerity to offer my services as fight captain, to work with the fighters throughout rehearsal and the performance run. This brought me into direct, collegial contact with Mr. Kim and with Guy Paul, our Laertes, and gave me an outlet for sharing my particular skills. The experience would prove itself invaluable, though not immediately.

Special Providence

Flash forward to early 1980, when ADC Electronics provided my slim paycheck as a receiving clerk. One April day, a phone call for me was routed to our department. Anne Occhiogrosso, co-founder of American Players Theatre along with Randy Kim, was on the line.

Their inaugural season was soon to begin but they needed to replace an actor. They remembered me from our Guthrie year and invited me to join their bold and daring enterprise: Shakespeare in the middle of the driftless hills of Wisconsin.

David Cecsarini and Jonathan Smoots, rehearsing the KING JOHN broadsword fight (using sticks) on the American Players Theatre stage in 1981.

What I thought would be a great summer acting job turned into a seven-year relationship with passionate and talented theatre colleagues who opened my eyes to a world of classical plays and serious-minded pursuit of acting excellence. Those years, replete with pre-season training, post-season tours and glorious summers of rotating rep on the APT stage, forged my instrument and sensibilities into an artist with confidence and a realized purpose for the work at hand. True, there were some rocky times along the way, but I treasure those developing years – mosquitoes and all – as the opportunity of a lifetime.

Hamlet Returns

 In 1986, APT season 7, Shakespeare’s HAMLET was on the docket in which Randy Kim would reprise his Guthrie performance, this time in the un-cut First Folio version. Myself, clad in magnificent red and purple robes and a sharp-angled beard and mustache, would play the dastardly King Claudius. Once again, the fencing was infused with “ZA” under Paddy Crean’s watchful eye. It was a four-hour show and under the right weather conditions, it was a theatre feast for our audience and playtime for us actors.

David Cecsarini as Claudius

Mr. Kim suggested that in the next season, he and I would switch roles, and I would get my chance at those 7 brilliant arias and Hamlet’s transformative journey. Alas, there were events that summer which led to changes of plan, and what was once to be became not to be. The great Dane had eluded me, and to this day – long past my time to play a college student looking for revenge – I occasionally brush up against the dramatic events at Elsinore. Bill Cain’s play offers such an occasion, and we are joyfully preparing a new take on what many view as the western world’s most brilliant play. The readiness is all.

See you at the theatre.

Tickets for THE LAST WHITE MAN are now on sale at https://nextact.org/shows/the-last-white-man/?tickets. This production is offered live at 255 S. Water Street as well as virtually. Performances run April 14 – May 8, 2022.

World Premiere Workshop

World Premiere Workshop

By A.J. Magoon, Marketing Director

On Sunday, December 5, a limited number of Next Act subscribers and donors enjoyed the first public reading of THE LAST WHITE MAN by Bill Cain. You may recognize Cain from his plays EQUIVOCATION, HOW TO WRITE A NEW BOOK FOR THE BIBLE and 9 CIRCLES, all performed at Next Act in recent years. In early December, Cain spent a week in Milwaukee to workshop this world-premiere play with a team of actors before presenting it for its first-ever public reading. Feedback from attendees, as well as the work done in rehearsal, will inform how the play grows and evolves before it is seen fully-produced on our stage in April! Thank you to everyone who attended and helped shape this new play.

The Last White Man
by Bill Cain
First reading – December 5, 2021
Charlie – David Cecsarini*
Rafe – Ryan Zierk
Tigg – Jonathan Wainwright*
Xandri – Demetria Thomas*
Director – David Cecsarini*
Stage Manager – Bailey Wegner*
ASM/Safety Supervisor – Natasha Goeller

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association

Notes from Bill Cain:
This play is suggested by a series of events that took place at the National Theatre, but the play itself is a complete fiction.
It’s a theater story.
It never happened –
but it might have a truth of its own in any case.

Author (and Jesuit priest) Bill Cain takes a moment to appreciate the Sistine Chapel

Want to be invited to more events like this? Become a subscriber or join our Producer’s Circle! For season subscription information, visit nextact.org or call our ticket office at (414) 278-0765. To join the Producer’s Circle, contact Development Director Jane Flieller at jane@nextact.org or (414) 278-7780.

Connecting with the Community

Connecting with the Community

By Grace DeWolff, Education Manager

Malaina Moore, our new Community Liaison, is a local playwright, actor, teaching artist and community advocate. While attending Rufus King High School, her one-act play THIS JUST IN… was one of three pieces selected city-wide for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival. While working on her undergraduate degree at Marquette University (studying theatre with an emphasis in performance and a minor in social welfare and justice), her play WHITE PRIVILEGE was selected to perform at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF Region III) in January 2019 and also won a national Citizen Artist Award for its social justice impact from KCACTF. You may have seen Malaina recently as Lil’ Mama in STEW at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre or previously at Next Act in our virtual production of PRINCIPAL PRINCIPLE. You can see her at Next Act in our February-March production of PIPELINE.

“As Community Liaison, I want to help create a space for people of color and invoke conversations between people who don’t necessarily have the same backgrounds. I think that’s what makes theatre powerful; we’re coming together and we’re forced to reckon with the truth of whatever the story may be. Theatre teaches us so many lessons. I’m always thinking about what stories people have to tell and why those stories are important. It’s a way, especially in Milwaukee, to bring people together.”

-Malaina Moore

Our First Scholarship Recipient

Our First Scholarship Recipient

By Grace DeWolff, Education Manager

It’s my honor as Director of the Next Actors to brag about our first Sue Krause Next Actor Memorial Scholarship recipient, Isabelle (Bee) Rashkin (they/ them). Bee is a 2016 alum of Next Actors, in which they performed, wrote lyrics, and composed music on the ukulele as part of that summer’s show. After their year at Next Actors, they studied at Interlochen Arts Academy, and then went on to UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts to study Musical Theatre. Bee returned to Next Actors for the 2020 online year of Next Actors to assist in writing and editing. During the pandemic, they collaborated with a few UWM students to direct and produce their own musical composed entirely from music Bee had written. Bee says their life goal is to “create theatre that changes the pedagogy of the musical theatre landscape,” and we’re happy to help them do just that. This scholarship will allow Bee to pay off student loans before they graduate this year, providing them stability as they launch into a musical theatre career that focuses on creating equitable theater spaces. Go forth and change the world, Bee!

“My best memory from Next Actors would have to be touring. Being able to take an original production all around Milwaukee was something that was really special in not only my artistic development but my development as a person: to see the arts and how they affect everybody. Also learning to adapt to venues, that’s fun. If it wasn’t for Next Act, I wouldn’t have been so comfortable with the many different, amazing theater communities Milwaukee has to offer. Next Act gave me a new level of education that helped me become a more aware artist by becoming a better, well-rounded person.”

-Bee Rashkin

Next Act’s Education Intern

Next Act’s Education Intern

By Ryleigh Carroll, Education Intern

Meet Next Act’s Education Intern, Ryleigh, in her own words!

Hello! My name is Ryleigh. I am 18 years old and an early graduate from Reagan High School. A little background information about myself: I was born and raised in Wisconsin and am the youngest of three girls. I have taken two and a half years of Film and Theater Performance and one year of Film and Theater Production. I have been involved with Next Act since 2019, being in two live summer performances and one virtual performance. This year, I am an Education Intern, working alongside Grace DeWolff, the Education Director for Next Act Theater. After this, I am going to be a student at UW-Milwaukee to major in mathematics and minor in theater.

My passion has always been math, especially algebra. I’ve always enjoyed it because it was something I was good at and knew I could accomplish. I want to use my math skills to benefit my future job opportunities, whatever those may be. With that being said, my love for theater is going to follow me along on my journey. I have only been into theater for about four years. It started as a way for me to open myself up and try to become more comfortable with myself and others. Since starting, I have realized I love everything about theater, whether it’s acting, writing or directing. I wanted to expand on my theater skills and put myself in the shoes of someone who has experienced so much about theater. This is why I wanted to be part of this internship. My future continues to express all of my love for math and theater combined.