Community Members Appreciate Attending a Forward Theater Production

As a tribute to her parents, Efrat Livny provides 50 tickets

by Ken Baun, Madison resident

Gretchen and Victor Talbott were feeling very special at the post-play pizza party after seeing Forward Theater Company's "Sons of the Prophet." They were among 50 Goodman Community Center participants who enjoyed the play recently, courtesy of a grant provided by Efrat Livny. "Someone from the Center invited us to join and gave us a brief description of the play, and we didn't hesitate," Gretchen said. "It gave us an opportunity to get away, to laugh, to cry, to be together in something that was so enjoyable. It allowed us to take a deep breath and to feel rejuvenated and not constantly focused on our worries. We feel so fortunate; it touched our hearts and made us feel special."

Efrat had set it,up so that she could both provide significant funding to Forward Theater and enable a number of folks in the community, many of whom had never been to a professional theater, to see this heart-stirring production. Together, Efrat, the GCC and Forward Theater arranged for two groups of25 people to attend the play, and Goodman provided staff, transportation and child care to those who needed it.
The first group, consisting mainly of teens, many from the TEENworks program, saw the play on a Wednesday evening. One of the teens (who prefers to remain anonymous) later had this to say, "It Was an interesting experience. The play brought up significant human suffering, but it managed to be funny. It helped explain the world at large and helped me be able to relate to the world more. I never go to plays, but if I had a choice, I would again."

The second group, consisting mainly of adults, many from the Women of Worthington program, saw the play that Saturday afternoon. A number of them went out to eat after, and Deena Givens, GCC's Parent and Community Engagement Program Manager who works with the Women of Worthington said they appreciated and related to the play and that it also provided a rare and significant bonding experience for them.

The following Monday, several of the participants and a number of staff from both GCC and Forward gathered at Goodman for a pizza party and discussion. The play is an emotionally stirring production, and people were moved and spoke from their hearts. The theater-goers unanimously praised the play and expressed gratitude for the unusual opportunity to see it.

Jennifer Uphoff Gray, director of Forward Theater, offered, "For everyone in the Forward Theater family, this partnership opportunity with the Goodman Community Center has been incredibly meaningful. To have so many first time theater-goers in our audience, thanks to the GCC and the generosity of Efrat Livny, has been both exciting and emotionally moving. It reminds us that theater is at heart a truly democratic art form!"

Becky Steinhoff, GCC director, shared her perspective: "When we learned that Efrat was donating 50 (!) tickets to a Forward Theater play for us to share with people here at the Center; we knew that was a great gift. I'm so glad for our teens that got to see the play. It was pretty adult fare and honestly, it stretched our teens. But that's good. I know most of them have had challenging situations thrown at them, and this play showed adults handling some intense life stressors with humor and honesty. Many of the adults who went saw their own lives mirrored in the art, too. And they simply appreciated the chance to be so richly entertained. It was also special in that for many, it was their first time in the Overture Center and their first time seeing professional theater."

Asked why she did it, Efrat replied, "I love the arts. Growing up in Jerusalem my parents took me to the theater from a very young age and taught me to appreciate it deeply. I did this to honor them. I want to share this love with others, especially those who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity."

In light of the overwhelmingly positive responses, Efrat, the GCC and Forward Theater plan to continue and expand the program in the future.

Poetry of the Prophet


Forward Theater Company will open their 2013-14 season with the Wisconsin premiere of Sons of the Prophet by acclaimed playwright Stephen Karam. A dark comedy about one family's ability to withstand a hailstorm of misfortunes, the play's main character is a distant relation of Lebanese-American poet Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet.

To complement the production, Forward partnered with Verse Wisconsin and invited Madison-area writers to create original poetry in response to the play’s source material and subject matter. The selected poems will be published in the October issue of Verse Wisconsin, and displayed in the lobby of the Overture Center during the run of Sons of the Prophet in November.

poetry93013Two additional collaborations, with the Wisconsin Book Festival and the Wisconsin Historical Society, invite audiences to see the winning poets read their pieces alongside actors reading scenes from Sons of the Prophet.

Wisconsin Book Festival
October 19, 12:00 - 1:30 pm
Overture Center for the Arts, Madison
Click here for more information.

Poetry of the Prophet
October 24, 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Wisconsin Historical Museum, Madison
Call 608-264-6555 or click here to reserve space by October 17.

Scheduling an Audition


Forward Theater's open auditions on October 7th and 8th are almost here! Here's the information you'll need to reserve a three-minute audition slot.

1. This process should take less than five minutes to complete. First, visit the Forward Theater Acuity Scheduling website:

2. Select your preferred audition date, either October 7 or October 8.

3. Select your preferred audition slot from the list of available times (between 6:00pm and 9:00pm).

4. Fill in Your Information and click Continue.

5. Fill in the Audition Sign-up Form. (Note some fields are required.)

6. Click Finish to confirm your appointment. You will automatically receive an email confirming your audition time. On the final page, you do not need to Register an Account in order to schedule an audition time.

7. If you need to reschedule or cancel your audition for any reason, you may do so via the confirmation email you receive. Any changes or cancellations after Saturday, October 5 at noon should be made directly through Kimberly Megna Yarnall (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

8. Easy right? Now you’ve got plenty of time to polish your monologue.

Innovative collaboration between Forward Theater Company and Goodman Community Center offers much more than a free ticket

Madison, WI September 3, 2013 – Professional theater is alive and well in Madison, and one local patron is giving some Madison residents the chance to discover that for themselves.

Efrat Livny, a longtime fan and supporter of Forward Theater Company, has lots of enthusiasm for live, local theater. So, as a gift in memory of her parents who instilled the love of theater and art in her, she is making it possible for Forward Theater and the Goodman Community Center to collaboratively launch an exciting program. This unique program is designed to give community members who have not had the experience of seeing a live theater performance and for whom cost may be a barrier, an opportunity to do so — complete with a ride to the Overture Center, dinner and child care for those who need it.

This November, 50 program participants at the center will receive tickets to see Sons of the Prophet, by Stephen Karam, which focuses on a family keeping their sense of humor in the face of hardship. In addition to tickets for the play, Forward will provide a teaching artist who will meet with everyone the week before seeing the show to introduce the play and then again after they have seen the show to discuss the play and their experience, to answer questions and to converse about whatever people are curious about. Participants will choose one of two performances to attend, the center will provide transportation and baby-sitting services and Livny is arranging for each group to have a meal at Ian’s Pizza before or after the show. To wrap it all up, Forward artists, Goodman staff and Livny will meet to discuss the program and the possibility of repeating it or expanding it. Livny is hoping that the program’s success will inspire others to help fund it and/or to establish similar programs in other community centers.

Jennifer Uphoff Gray, Artistic Director at Forward Theater Company, is thrilled. “Forward Theater Company was founded on a commitment to the civic life of our community. Thanks to Efrat’s gift, we can fulfill that commitment by giving people in our community who may not have access to the arts — especially live theater — an opportunity to not only see a great performance, but to talk with actors and directors and share that experience with their friends and community.” And, according to Gray, Livny’s gift will also help Forward understand how they might increase audience diversity and engagement across the community, which is a core part of their mission.

Becky Steinhoff, Executive Director of the Goodman Community Center, knows these tickets will be popular, “Last spring, Forward made it possible for several of our low-income teens, their parents and some of our staff to see their production of Good People and it was a total hit. Clara, a receptionist here who grew up in poverty and still struggles, had never been to the Overture Center, much less seen a live play. The next day she was telling everyone about it, ‘I loved it. I can’t believe how much I loved it. It was SO good. I’ll go every chance I get.’ And with the chance to meet the artists and learn about the play before going, I think they are guaranteed to have a rich experience again.”

Forward Theater Company is a not-for-profit theater company in residence at Madison’s Overture Center that was founded in 2009 to provide a home base for Wisconsin theater professionals and audiences that expands the cultural and economic life of the greater Madison area. For more information about Forward, visit

The Goodman Community Center is one of the busier neighborhood centers in Madison. The Center offers many programs to strengthen the lives of preschoolers through teens, meals and social activities for older adults, a food pantry, a gym, an exercise facility and community space. For more information about Goodman, visit