Forward Theater Company News
Forward Theater Company Announces Open Auditions In Conjunction with CTM, 9/30 and 10/1
Forward Theater Company will hold general auditions for adult actors (ages 16 and up) from 6:30pm – 9:30pm on Sunday, September 30th and Monday October 1st. Actors will be considered for roles in its Soul Food monologue festival (performances November 9–11, 2012) and for various roles in the 2013–14 season. The auditions will be held at the First United Methodist Church (203 Wisconsin Ave. on the corner of Dayton and Wisconsin Aves.) Callbacks for FTC shows will be scheduled in early October.
Artistic staff from the Children’s Theater of Madison will also attend the auditions, and will cast adults only for roles in the remainder of their 2012-2013 season, and beyond. CTM’s callbacks will be held separately.
• Please come prepared with a memorized, contemporary, 2 minute monologue from any published play, post-1950.
• Bring two copies of your headshot and theatrical resume.
• Please arrive 15 minutes ahead of your scheduled audition time.
Some of you may be new to the auditioning process, and we want to welcome you to this always exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking experience.
For general tips about auditions (preparation, headshots/resumes, the audition itself), check out the following websites:
http://www.backstage.com/news/how-to-guide-pre-audition-tips/ (especially the section on how to choose a monologue)
Looking for some excellent audition pieces? These may help:
Of course, some monologues have been done, and done, and overdone. If you are preparing a monologue for the first time, here is some advice about particular shows/monologues you might want to avoid:
http://www.angelfire.com/ego/westmontdrama/BadMonos.html http://www.performink.com/archives/specialissues/audition2005/audition_advice.htm http://www.broadwayspotted.com/audition-monologues-to-avoid/
Some general books on auditioning include:
• Audition- Michael Shurtleff
• The Audition Book: Winning Strategies for Breaking into Theater, Film, and Television (3rd ed.)- Ed Hooks, Richard Thomas
• Winning Auditions: 101 Strategies for Actors- Mark Brandon
• Auditioning: An Actor-Friendly Guide- Joanna Merlin
AEA Actors: Forward Theater will hold its Equity general auditions in conjunction with American Players Theatre on Tuesday, October 9 in Madison. For more information on these auditions or to reserve a slot, please consult the AEA website (actorsequity.org) or contact the Chicago Equity office.
'Love' springs inspirational for Madison's Forward Theater
Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Photo by Zane Williams
Madison - I wish I could tell you that the outstanding production on stage at Madison's Forward Theater was coming to Milwaukee some time soon.
But it won't and I can't, so here's the scoop: Gas up the car and head west, because you have just one chance to see two of Wisconsin's finest actors performing three short plays about how we fall in love and what it takes to stay there.
It's called "Love Stories," and it features Colleen Madden and James Ridge struggling to make marriage work in one-acts by Dorothy Parker, Bertolt Brecht and George Bernard Shaw.
Madden and Ridge are married in real life, and director Paula Suozzi makes the most of it, adding a framing device involving the lives of two married actors. It's lightly done, while nevertheless underscoring how work, routine and a thousand busy nothings conspire to derail any couple's journey. We begin our journey with two honeymooners in Parker's "Here We Are."
Like actors still learning their lines, "she" and "he" have not yet fully inhabited their newly married characters, making them self-conscious and anxious. The resulting discomfort ensures silly spats and tender reconciliations, reminding us that learning to love includes learning to fight - as well as compromise, forgive and move on.
In Brecht's "The Jewish Wife," the title character moves on by saying goodbye, to an Aryan husband who, like so many in Nazi Germany, lacks the courage to keep his commitments, with decency and to a marriage undone by circumstance and time - heard through a church clock and reflected in the sepia-toned marriage bed that dominates the set.
This is a society in which nothing can be said, making it all the more amazing that Madden's agonized face says so much during her final calls to family and friends. Staring in bemused wonder at the phone, she makes us aware of how easily and quickly even the strongest connections can be broken. In Shaw's "Village Wooing," we watch connections being forged between a prickly, stiff-suited travel writer who can't see what's right in front of him - including the colorfully attired and headstrong villager intent on marrying him (costumes by Holly Payne).
As with the first two pieces, it's the woman who is looking for answers, while the man is afraid of the questions.
You can sense the woman's yearning - in the barely controlled passion of Madden's voice, as well as her searching eyes and flitting hands.
It's a performance that could melt stone, and it transforms Ridge's initially reserved and evasive man, who unfolds his body and his mind to reveal the poet lurking there all along - in him and also in us, when we're privileged to live and watch a love story like this one.
Love, loss and surprising seductions in
Forward Theater’s triple bill
Lindsay Christians, 77 Square
Photo by Zane Williams
When the nervous bride asks her earnest, slightly dopey groom whether he “really likes” her hat, it is tempting to yell at him:
The man, a husband for less than three hours, doesn’t recognize a minefield when he’s stepped in one. An evasive response (“I don’t know anything ... I like that blue hat you had”) sends his new wife into a flurry of guilt and jealousy.
The groom’s face falls. He’s doomed.
The title of “Love Stories,” Forward Theater’s triple bill running in the Playhouse through April 29, could seem a bit misleading. This is no Valentine’s Day special, though it’s not overly cynical, either.
As directed with sensitivity and intelligence by Milwaukee’ s Paula Suozzi, “Love Stories” is an evening of three one-act plays showing a shifting kaleidoscope of love and marriage.
It’s made more effective by a framing technique using visible dressing rooms and snippets from the lives of the show’s two performers. Real-life married couple James Ridge and Colleen Madden are both excellent actors and company members at American Players Theatre.
In “Here We Are,” written by Dorothy Parker in 1931, Madden and Ridge play a quarrelsome couple, both of whom thought their relationship would change (specifically, improve) after they walked down the aisle.
No such luck. Crooning “let’s don’t ever fight” becomes “too bad you didn’t marry somebody that would get the kind of hats you like” and “why didn’t you marry Joe Brooks?”
Madden frets and criticizes as the unnamed wife, and one imagines Ridge’s character as a young Walter Mitty, retreating to a place where he can’t say the wrong thing.
The second play, “The Jewish Wife” by Bertolt Brecht, was published in 1938 as part of “Fear and Misery in the Third Reich.” In it, Madden plays a woman forced to leave her home by growing anti-Semitism that she’s certain will cost her husband his position.
Most telling here are the long pauses. Madden breathes and steels herself for the calls she must make, saying goodbye to friends and asking family to look in on her husband, who does not appear until the end of the scene. The import of each call, and the way that societal hatred has poisoned a private home, becomes clear as Madden straightens her spine even as she fights back wails.
George Bernard Shaw’s one act, “Village Wooing,” makes up the second half of the production, a sweet, funny, characteristically verbal piece that shows the pair of actors at their best.
The first scene is on the deck of a cruise ship. Ridge plays A, a brusque British writer of travel books. Madden is Z, a gregarious village woman determined to draw him out.
Her persistence in the face of his repeated brush-offs begins to feel almost masochistic, as Ridge wrinkles his brow in supreme irritation.
“Work is my only pleasure,” he says pointedly, adding, “It is your privilege as a woman to have the last word. Please take it.”
But Z ignores him — or rather, refuses to let him alone. By the time they meet again in the village shop where she works, A is as good as hers, though it will take him another several months to know it.
Suozzi’s direction lifts Shaw’s back-and-forth banter off the page and turns it into a true love affair, though the single kiss doesn’t come until nearly the last moment of the play. Madden hovers on the deck of the ship like a bee on a flower, but just as Ridge’s character turns toward her, she’s off again.
What each of the plays have in common, aside from two actors and a reluctance to give the characters names, are a series of quiet, powerful revelations.
In “Here We Are,” Madden makes it clear that her character babbles and bickers because she’s petrified of the marital bed, cowed by the commitment she’s just made.
In “Jewish Wife,” the title character can see the changes in her husband, and recognizes that character “doesn’t last forever.”
And in “Village Wooing,” Ridge and Madden disarm one another quite surprisingly — one with aloofness, the other with chatter. Shaw can get wordy, but the pacing is perfect, and the characters feel fallible and very real.
The whole production is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s enough to restore one’s faith in the power of theater, if not in the power of lifelong matrimony.
Colleen Madden and James Ridge are exceptional in Forward Theater Company's Love Stories
Jennifer A. Smith, The Isthmus
Photo by Zane Williams
Marriage is often referred to as a journey. Where you start and where you end up can be two very different places. What begins in hope can fall apart, yet amazing things can transpire from the most uncertain beginnings.
Forward Theater Company offers varied looks at marriage in an evening of three one-act plays, Love Stories, in which travel plays a key role. Colleen Madden and James Ridge, American Players Theatre core company actors who are married in real life, deliver exceptional performances that make these stories well worth listening to.
If the title sounds sappy, the plays themselves are decidedly not. Consider the writers, three of the 20th century's sharpest voices: Dorothy Parker, Bertolt Brecht and George Bernard Shaw.
While there are plenty of laughs, there are also tense, probing moments, particularly in Brecht's The Jewish Wife, in which a woman must leave both her husband and her country. Drawn from Brecht's Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, the play's backdrop is the rising tide of Nazism and the growing danger the wife faces. Political turmoil reveals the fault lines of a marriage in this deftly drawn sketch.
Brecht is bookended by lighter fare: Parker's Here We Are and Shaw's Village Wooing. In the first piece, a just-married couple has their first real argument while on a train to New York for their honeymoon. The wife frets about everything from her hat to the thought of masses of people getting married all the time, everywhere — surely all those marriages can't work out? Madden is adorable and exasperating as the new bride, and Ridge is charming as he reassures her, "This is no way to start a honeymoon, with all this thinking!" Nervousness about consummating the marriage underlies their fidgety conversation, to the point where the bride threatens she must write her thank-you notes that evening.
The final play is a classic odd-couple pairing, exploring what happens when a daffy extrovert and an uptight writer of travel guidebooks meet aboard a pleasure ship at sail on the Red Sea. When they first meet, their outfits (by costume designer Holly Payne) say it all: she looks slightly ridiculous in a sundress and floppy, wide-brimmed hat adorned with a flower, while he's sitting on the ship's deck sporting a three piece suit and pocket watch.
The longest of the three mini-plays, Village Wooing sags a bit in the middle — the push/pull between the characters is drawn out too long — but it's still filled with clever observations and unexpected warmth.
Feeling the Love
Katie Vaughn, Madison Magazine
Photo by Zane Williams
Romantic relationships are wonderful. They’re also complicated, messy and sometimes wrought with misunderstandings, breakdowns in communication and disappointment—and make for great theater! For its third production of the season, Forward Theater Company presents Love Stories, a combination of three one-act plays about the evolution of relationships. Opening tonight and running through April 29 at Overture Center’s Playhouse, the show features Here We Are by Dorothy Parker, The Jewish Wife by Bertolt Brecht and Village Wooing by George Bernard Shaw.
While director Paula Suozzi hadn’t worked on any of the plays prior to Love Stories, she liked each right away.
“I love Brecht’s work. Shaw I’ve worked on before,” she says. “Dorothy Parker I only really knew as a poet or prose writer. So it was fun to get to know her a little more.” Here We Are sees a young couple in the 1930s traveling by train to New York City for their honeymoon. “Here We Are is Dorothy Parker at her wittiest,” she says. “It’s clear they’re very uncomfortable. They’re about to have sex for the first time. They never say it but it’s all over the place.”
In The Jewish Wife, also set in the 1930s, a woman prepares to flee her home in Germany. “The wife is going through very real turmoil as she prepares to leave her husband, her marriage, her life,” Suozzi says. “The language is pretty simple but there’s so much underneath.”
And Village Wooing brings together a chatty telephone operator and a curmudgeonly writer. Both characters struggle with how to find a relationship in the pairing—and both are quite straightforward in their speech. “What’s on the page is pretty much what they mean,” she says. Suozzi has relished the opportunity to delve into Shaw, particularly because the two actors playing the couples in all three plays have an extensive background in his work. The actors are real-life married couple Colleen Madden and James Ridge from American Players Theatre.
“I think that the Shaw is great,” Suozzi says. “I have a whole new appreciation for Shaw. I think it’s from working with Jim and Colleen.”
Not only do Madden and Shaw take on the challenge of portraying a range of characters; they also offer the chance to extend the production to a new level. Forward is presenting an overstory of married actors coming into rehearsal for the three Love Stories plays.
Between the “rehearsals” the actors get to become scripted versions of themselves, talking about their marriage, kids and lives at home.
Suozzi believes audiences will enjoy this rare opportunity as well as the three plays themselves. “As a theatergoer, I really like seeing that sort of thing,” she says. They’re plays that don’t get done very often. I think they will make people laugh and cry.”
Three acts, connected by love
MIke Muckian, Wisconsin Gazette
Effective communication is the heartbeat of any relationship, and its absence can extinguish even the most passionate coupling. The connection among couples – and its lack – thread together the three one-act plays that comprise “Love Stories,” the final 2011-2012 seasonal offering of Madison’s Forward Theater Company. The three-plays-as-one runs April 12 to 29 in The Playhouse at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts.
Forward’s “Love Stories” include Bertolt Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife,” Dorothy Parker’s “Here We Are” and George Bernard Shaw’s “Village Wooing.” Although being presented for the first time in Wisconsin, the combination of works was something that Jennifer Uphoff Gray, Forward’s artistic director, first assembled some 20 years ago.
“The three classic plays in ‘Love Stories’ were ones I had first paired up in an Off-Off-Broadway production I created when I was just out of college and new to New York City,” writes Gray in her blog on the Forward Theater website. “I knew they were great pieces that complemented and informed each other in interesting ways, but I certainly had no relevant life experience then to help me interpret what they had to say about marriage.”
Gray’s domestic situation and her understanding of the rigors of relationships has since changed. But the three works have endured in their interconnectivity and appeal, according to Milwaukee Shakespeare’s Paula Suozzi, who directs Forward’s production.
Casting James Ridge and Colleen Madden, American Players Theatre company members who are married in real life, brings a twist to Forward’s production, she adds.
“We were thrilled when Jim and Colleen agreed to do these plays,” Suozzi says. “The rehearsal hall was completely comfortable from Day One because they know each other so well.”
The three individual works all focus on the importance communication plays in supporting and nurturing relationships, the director says. The female character in “The Jewish Wife” talks to friends on the phone, telling them what they want to hear. She then says what she really feels to an absent husband, but remains silent when he enters the room. In “Here We Are,” a young couple, terrified for their future, converse freely but about nothing that has any importance. In contrast to the other works, in “Village Wooing” the characters are open and say what’s on their minds.
“Most married people would put communication as being the fundamental component to a successful relationship,” Suozzi says. “These plays are a study in communication, or the lack thereof. It’s a fantastically diverse evening examining how people communicate.”
Suozzi sought a larger narrative to weave the three works together and bring a fresh approach to some classic texts. Ridge and Madden delivered the over-arching dynamic as two professional actors trying to manage both their careers and family while maintaining their relationship as husband and wife. That gave Suozzi the structure she sought.
“We can each speak to that challenge out of our own life experience,” Suozzi says. “I think it’s going to be a really interesting frame for the piece, one that much of the audience can relate to.” Each of the three plays retains its original and distinct characteristics. Brecht’s realism is accompanied by unspoken emotions that roil just below the surface. Parker’s characters speak in fits and starts, never saying what they really mean, while Shaw’s dialogue is verbose and direct, something that fans of the Irish playwright savor.
“There is a pacing that comes into play in each work that we use as a jumping-off point to pace the conversation,” Suozzi says. “Part of what will make the evening fun is to see the same actors embrace very different styles, and we’re leaning into that to make the performances come to life.” Does Suozzi have a favorite play from among the three? She did, she says, but since becoming involved in the project, her preferences have changed.
“Several weeks ago I would have said “The Jewish Wife” was my favorite, because I have always enjoyed realism in theater,” she explains. “But now I would say ;Village Wooing,’ because I am falling in love with each of the characters in the play, and I owe a big part of that to Jim and Colleen’s amazing skills.”
Forward Theater Company and the Fair Wisconsin Education Fund Present
A Staged Reading of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays
April 22 at Overture Center
Madison, WI -- “I do.” Two little words, and suddenly your whole world changes.
Forward Theater Company will present a staged reading of Standing on Ceremony, an evening of new short plays focusing on marriage equality and the moments before, during, and after saying “I do.” The event, which will be held Sunday, April 22nd at 7:00pm in the Playhouse at Overture, is a fundraiser for the Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, an LGBT advocacy group. Tickets (available for a suggested donation of $20 apiece) may be purchased at fairwisconsin.com.
Conceived by Brian Shnipper, Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays began as a series of benefit events in Los Angeles, then moved to Off-Broadway. Witty, warm, and occasionally wacky, the plays celebrate equality, the universal challenges of relationships, and the often hilarious power of love.
“We are extremely pleased to be presenting a staged reading of this remarkable work,” said Jennifer Uphoff Gray, Forward Theater’s Artistic Director. “The plays are extraordinary – some funny, some tragic, and all very timely,” she added. “Since Forward’s mainstage offering, Love Stories, focuses on marriage from a historical perspective, we thought it would be interesting to also examine marriage in a very contemporary context.”
Richard Ganoung, a member of Forward Theater’s advisory company, initially brought the project to the theater company, and will be performing in one of the plays. “As an actor, it’s really gratifying to work with such an array of talent. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Artistic Director C. Michael Wright will be directing several of the plays, as will Jen Gray and FTC’s artistic associate Frank Honts. And the actors we’ve been able to recruit from Madison, Milwaukee, Spring Green. . . they all just want to be part of it. They are all volunteering their time, to be part of this amazing play.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Forward Theater Company on this exciting project. It’s wonderful to be part of such a powerful event that brings the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied community together to celebrate the different ways that the community exemplifies the institution of marriage,” stated Katie Belanger, Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund. “We thank Forward Theater Company for their work to support Fair Wisconsin Education Fund’s efforts to build more inclusive communities and workplaces for LGBT Wisconsinites.”
The nine plays that make up Standing On Ceremony were created by a group of critically acclaimed contemporary playwrights with two Pulitzer Prizes, four Obies, one Emmy® and three Tony® nominations between them. The short plays include:
“Traditional Wedding,” by Mo Gaffney, centers on a long-married lesbian couple reminiscing about their wedding. It features Jessica Lanius and Stephanie Monday.
“The Revision,” by Jordan Harrison, is an amusing look at how two men might rewrite their vows to more accurately reflect the limited options currently available to a gay couple. It features Bruce Bradley and Bill Bolz.
“This Flight Tonight,” by Wendy MacLeod, asks if there is any hope for happiness when a lesbian marriage begins in Iowa. It features familiar FTC actresses Georgina McKee and Marti Gobel.
“On Facebook,” by Doug Wright, was adapted from an actual Facebook thread chronicling one long fight among friends on the subject of gay marriage. It features FTC advisory company members Michael Herold, Sam White, and Karen Moeller, along with Travis Knight, Tara Ayres, and Susan Sweeney.
“Strange Fruit,” by Neil LaBute, is the story of two men in love whose plans to get married “the old-fashioned way” are thwarted when reality rears its ugly head. It features FTC advisory company member Richard Ganoung and Milwaukee actor T. Stacy Hicks.
“The Gay Agenda,” by Paul Rudnick, is a sadly hilarious plea for understanding by an Ohio homemaker and member of Focus on the Family. It features FTC advisory company member Jim Buske and APT actress Tracy Michelle Arnold.
“My Husband,” by Paul Rudnick, puts a hilarious gay twist on the stereotype of the Jewish mother desperate to marry off her children. It features FTC advisory company member Sarah Day, and FTC favorite Nick Harazin.
“London Mosquitoes,” by Moisés Kaufman, is the poignant story of a widower trying to make sense of the loss of his longtime partner. It features Milwaukee actor Norman Moses.
“Pablo and Andrew at the Altar of Words,” by José Rivera, is a moving play about two men who use their marriage vows to “say the things we never really say.” It features UW Madison MFA candidate Santiago Sosa and Ryan Schabach.
The Fair Wisconsin Education Fund (FWEF) was formed in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to educate the general public about the harms of discrimination towards LGBT individuals and build more inclusive communities and workplaces for LGBT Wisconsinites. FWEF employs legislative drafting, communications, outreach and legal challenge preparation to reach these goals.
Standing on Ceremony
"★★★★! ROARS OF LAUGHTER!"
~TimeOut New York
“FUNNY AND MOVING. A STAGED CELEBRATION of how changing laws are changing lives.”
~The New York Times
‘Uncivil Disobedience’ reading offers first-hand accounts of Sterling Hall bombing
Rena Archwamety, 77 Square
Photo courtesy of the UW-Madison Archives
“They were hell-bent on tearing down an institution.”
“I felt the ground shake. I had no idea what was going on.”
“As we approached University, we began to see debris.”
The stories of those affected when a bomb exploded outside of Sterling Hall on Aug. 24, 1970, killing one person and injuring three others, provide the basis for “Uncivil Disobedience,” a play-in-progress by Mike Lawler and shared with the public Friday evening as a staged reading at the Overture Center.
The reading, part of the Forward Theater Co.’s New Play Development Series, will be performed again on Saturday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. and include a talk-back with the playwright and cast. Interest in this work outgrew the originally-slated Rotunda Studio space, and the reading was moved to the Wisconsin Studio on the Overture Center’s third floor. Reservations for both nights had already reached the 200-plus seat capacity of this larger space. However, those who showed up Friday without a reservation were added to a wait list, and all on the list were admitted to the reading with one seat to spare.
The accounts of the people represented in his play were collected over a span of two years by the Wisconsin Story Project in conjunction with the Oral History Project at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Lawler also weaves in reports from The Daily Cardinal, The Capital Times and other publications, as well as testimony from the trials of the four men who planted the bomb at Sterling Hall in an attempt to target the Army Mathematics Research Center.
Ten actors dressed in black, most reading several parts, presented the real-life accounts. Among the many characters are Karleton Armstrong (Donavon Armbruster) and the other bombers; Michael Zaleski (Sam White), the assistant state attorney general who helped prosecute Armstrong; and David Schuster (Bruce G. Bradley), a graduate student from South Africa injured in the blast, whose narrative as one both caught on the inside and witnessing this unsettled period in U.S. history as an outsider framed and ran pervasively throughout the play.
At Friday night’s reading, Forward Theater artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray pointed out that everything in this piece is a verbatim quote from the interviews of people who were there, and that this is the very first step in a long process of developing the new work. The question-and-answer sessions after the readings provide Lawler with feedback to help further develop the play.
Many commented after Friday night’s reading on how riveting the material was, including those who remember the events and those who are not old enough to have witnessed this part of history. Some felt the use of verbatim quotes hindered the storytelling, as real people speaking real words will ramble and use more "um’s" and "ah’s."
Lawler said he did tighten up some of the quotes, but it was important to him to keep the original words in people’s accounts.
“I feel very strongly that the work I do makes a statement because we say exactly what they said. You really find out who these people are,” Lawler said, arguing that if he took out the false starts and other imperfect dialogue, it would be like taking out the people themselves. One man in the talkback commented that he had transferred to Madison specifically to be part of the protests. Another divulged that the time around the protests and bombing “was a black, black period” in his life, but that “there was something healing about tonight.”
Several people agreed that a particularly poignant line in the reading came when Karl’s mother, Ruth Armstrong, asked if this whole event wouldn’t have happened if the adults had taken more action. A woman commented that she was not from Wisconsin and too young to have been around at the time of the Vietnam protests. Nevertheless, she found the reading compelling as it represented a much bigger story that captured the times and conflict.
When asked about staging the play, Lawler said little of his plans.
“I have a lot of ideas,” he said. “Having the readings is helping a lot.”