by Karen Moeller
Forward's Annual Open Auditions were held during the first week of August at Edgewood College's spectacular new theater arts facility, The Stream. Many thanks to our hosts there for providing such a welcoming and professional environment. We were lucky enough to see almost 100 actors at our auditions. Some we were meeting for the first time, and some were familiar faces, but all reminded us of what a rich and vibrant artistic community we have here in Madison and Southern Wisconsin.
If you're not an actor and have never been to an open audition, here's how it often goes:
You report to the sign-in desk and have a seat in a hallway or room filled with several people all very intently talking to themselves. You try to calm your nerves. After all, you've been working on your audition piece for quite a while now. What could go wrong? You close your eyes and start to recite the monologue under your breath and suddenly realize that you don't remember it at all. You try not to panic. You take a deep breath. You clear your mind, then focus again. What the heck is the first line?!? Ah hah! There it is. Now it's all coming back. Just as you finish running through it in your head, you hear your name called. You walk into the audition room, say hello to the folks behind the table, and let them know what you're about to perform. You now have anywhere from two to four minutes to show them what you've got. That piece you were certain you had forgotten just a few minutes ago is all there now, and in an ideal world, you perform it just the way you planned it. You try not to think too much about the people sitting in front of you. Are they listening? Are they laughing at the funny parts? Do they like what you're doing? Before you know it, you're done. You smile, you say thank you, and you walk out the door. Immediately, you run the whole audition through your mind and try not to be too critical. You reassure yourself that you did a good job. And if you're me, you stop on the way home and get some ice cream.
Many thanks to those who attended our auditions and shared their talent with us. I hope you all treated yourself to ice cream!
A wonderful conversation between Advisory Company and founding member Jim Buske and FTC supporter Lynda Sharpe. Lynda was the award-winning Middleton High School drama teacher for over 40 years, and is a beloved friend of Forward.
Jim: Ok, get ready. Here come the questions. I watched "All The President's Men" last night to get in the mood.
You've been with FTC since the beginning. Would you tell us a little bit about your life (theater related or anything else you want to reveal) before you hooked up with FTC?
Lynda: Directing, teaching, traveling and trying to see every theater production in the area while cheering on my husband and daughter sums up life before FTC.
Jim: What first made you want to work with FTC?
Lynda: Are you kidding me? EVERYTHING about FTC made me want to be a part of the wow. OR Let me count the ways: Jack Forbes Wilson--Jen Uphoff Gray--Colleen Burns--Celia Klehr-- Sarah Day--Jane Elder (you get the idea) I was giddy at the way the company would be run--and I wanted to support, share, celebrate this incredible idea. I couldn't wait to take students to what would be FTC--or myself, my loved ones and for that matter perfect strangers who asked what to do in Madison!
Jim: You have a started a wonderful tradition of bringing chocolate to pass out at FTC opening nights (Have you noticed how I always happen to wander by on opening night?
Lynda: Of course! You are a man of good taste!
Jim: Where did that idea come from?
Lynda: Early on I was given chocolates to celebrate a performance. Loving chocolates, I began giving them whenever I directed. Inspired by my punning sweetheart, I began opening night circle with cast and crew doing chocolate puns. A trip to Europe gave me the chocolate orange and many puns beginning with, "Orange you glad . . . ." When I retired from Middleton's drama program, students were asked what things would they definitely want to continue with the new director. The chocolate tradition was high on the list. Joining Forward, I tasted Fairy Godmother Celia Klehr's treats. STUPENDOUS! Not being able to EVER match her cooking prowess, I drew upon my chocolate skills and began creating opening night show related (when possible) chocolate treats. There were a few years I helped make welcoming treat bags adding chocolates there as well. Dark or milk?
Jim: What is your favorite FTC memory?
Lynda: There are too many to count, Jim. The FTC play seasons that are challenging, inspirational, wondrously silly, provocative, life-changing, uplifting. The relationships with Staff--ACT--Directors and designers. The tales and treats while singing along with CK's musical collection while stuffing brochures. Seeing JUG in action at rehearsal. Hearing incredible directors and designers speak. The Forward vision. Sitting in the audience at a Forward show. Pre-show talks. After show discussions. Heard in the audience FB posts. Hugging everyone connected. Feeling a part of the Forward family. Having a name tag. Opening night gatherings. Feast Forward. Feast Forward 2015 MH and JB performing. Maybe this last is THE FAVORITE. And there are so many more favorite memories!!!! How long can this blog be?
Jim: Finally, what's the strangest theater memory you have?
Lynda: A moment in the past. My experiences at Forward have been all plus. Long, long ago, in another WI city, a journalist perched in the wings to experience summer stock and the backstage story. My character was in a form fitting black velvet jumpsuit. A bit of bad luck and zipper malfunction left but two thin straps no longer hooked anywhere to keep me from total exposure. My leading man and I restaged things, the SM sent crew to front curtain and the dresser rushed to SL while the journalist captured it all. Did I tell you that I was 17 and a "guest artist" in a professional company?
Jim: That should do it. Hard hitting journalism at its best. Thanks for this opportunity, Lynda!
While the lights are down on the Forward stage this summer, many members of our Advisory Company are busy working on other creative projects. Here's a small taste of what some of them are up to:
New AC member, Karen Olivo, will be going to New York for August to record her solo album and do a show at the Public Theater. Prior to that, she makes her directorial debut with Fugitive Songs at UW-Madison's University Theatre, opening July 16th. She is joined on Fugitive Songs by fellow AC member Maureen Janson, who supplies the movement direction and choreography for the project. Maureen also co-authored the second edition of Getting Started in Ballet- A Parents Guide to Dance Education, which she completed earlier this summer and should be published in early 2016 at the latest by Oxford University Press.
Michael Herold will be portraying Nathan Detroit in Four Seasons Theatre's production of Guys & Dolls, August 21-23 at the Wisconsin Union Theatre. His wife, Tracy, is also in the show, which will make it their first production together. With a daughter in a youth production of Oklahoma, the Herolds will be a busy theater family. Michael will share the Guys & Dolls spotlight with fellow AC member Sam White, who plays the role of Lt. Brannigan. When not on stage, Sam is working this summer on a rewrite of his play, Coyote Moon for a spring production by Mercury Players Theatre.
Last February, Jake Penner, who is new to the AC but not to our audiences (Sons of the Prophet), directed Rose Gold, by Zhalarina H. Sanders, in First Wave's Line Breaks spoken word festival. He continues his work on this piece by preparing it for a performance at the 18th annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Atlanta on July 16th. Jake has also started workshopping Zhalarina's 2nd play, All For One, which they plan to debut in 2016.
And, of course, Sarah Day is delighting audiences at APT in Spring Green, appearing in their productions of Pride and Prejudice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Seascape.
By Karen Saari, 2015 Wisconsin Wrights playwright
There's a reason alcoholism is at the center of many stories. It's a compelling and relatable topic. Most of us have known or loved at least one alcoholic. If not, our gut reaction is often still emotional, ranging from compassion to outright disdain. Whatever our personal experience is with addiction, we want those in the throes to beat it and to find redemption.
What we don't often see in stories of recovery is what happens after the credits roll. The flawed character quits the bottle or puts down the needle and starts over. There's our happy ending ... right? Not really. Now the addict has to face life without the one thing that has been ruling his or her existence. With this comes regret, pain and grief over lost time and chances blown. And if they are committed to recovery, there is no anesthesia for these emotions.
This topic is something I've always wanted to explore in writing. Mark, the main character in my play, "In a Clearing," is living this reality in rural Wisconsin. I chose to write him as smart, but not scholarly. He's a good man who has done some very bad things and may have caused something outright devastating. Or did he? I can't wait to see how an audience reacts to Mark. What will they want for him? Will they relate to him? Or will they relate more to those who love him and are experiencing his recovery along with him, but in different ways? I hope the audience will be surprised at how much humor there is in the story too.
I'm very thankful that my play was chosen to be part of the Wisconsin Wrights New Play Festival and to share this story. I'm in such wonderful company and I really hope you come and see it!