Maureen Connors Badding arrived in Wauwatosa 22 years ago via Buffalo and Phoenix. She's a freelance writer and habitual volunteer who enjoys book clubs, travel, entertaining and cheering for her daughter's swim team.
Pat yourselves on the back, fellow Tosans! WauwatosaNow just reported that our town had a higher percentage of response to the census than the county (+16 percent), state (+2 percent) and country (+17 percent). With our 83 percent response, we’re going to save the federal government an untold fortune in census worker wages.
Why the response isn’t closer to 100 percent escapes me. I grant you, the census isn’t perfect. A friend who has mixed-race children pointed out the lack of that choice on the form other than as a write-in option.
When it comes to the performing arts, we Milwaukeeans are fortunate to have so many top-notch options in a city of this size. But I have always wondered why there was no Shakespeare in the Park, which has been a mainstay in my comparatively smaller hometown of Buffalo, NY, since I was a teenager.
Enter Optimist Theatre, a local nonprofit arts group that believes in making professional theater available and accessible to everyone. The group will be offering free performances of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in a courtyard setting on the campus of Alverno College in late June.
“It is not enough that The Tempest entertains. To the people of Optimist Theatre, it needs to enrich peoples’ lives and invigorate the community,” claims the group’s press release.
That’s a tall order, but it looks like this young theater group is on the right path to do just that. For starters, they have selected an enchanting romantic comedy by Shakespeare about castaways on a mysterious island. (Yes, not unlike the TV show Lost, but with way better dialogue.)
The cast has been selected with an enriching experience in mind as well. Wauwatosa resident and Milwaukee Rep institution Jim Pickering takes on the role of Prospero. (Jim, you no doubt recall, has defined the role of Ebenezer Scrooge for a generation of Milwaukeeans.) Angela Iannone, who may be best known for her work with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, plays Ariel. Tom Reed, Jacque Troy, Jocelyn Fitz-Gibbon, Andy Voss and a host of others round out the cast.
I’m looking forward to the play’s original score by Milwaukee composer T.J. Hull, which will be performed by the group Full Fathom Four.
Despite being outdoors, the courtyard provides a fairly intimate setting. There’s seating for 200, plus space on the sides for people who want to bring lawn chairs or blankets. In case of an actual tempest, the performance will be moved indoors.
Optimist Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park is free, but RSVPs are recommended because of limited seating. To RSVP, e-mail your preferred date and the number of people in your party to SSFry@OptimistTheatre.org. You’ll receive a confirmation with more details including directions and parking.
Show times for The Tempest are:
Friday, June 18 at noon and 8 p.m.