Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

Exploring Collective Voices

Friday, November 02, 2012

-By Laura Loving, MCT Guest Educator

Donald Margulies' play, COLLECTED STORIES, spans six years. One can't help but wonder if the six specific scenes, corresponding to six specific days, correlate with the six days of Creation in the Hebrew Scriptures. If so, then Mr. Margulies deserves the seventh day, a Sabbath on which to look back on his creation and declare, "That's good!"

Coll Stories photoCOLLECTED STORIES is very good! Margulies, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, has created an emotionally gripping play that pits the insecurities and pride of a seasoned writer from one generation (Ruth Steiner, played by Sarah Day) against the insecurities and panache of her young protégée (Lisa Morrison, played by Laura Frye). As the two characters play out their intergenerational dance in a books-and papers-strewn Greenwich Village apartment, Ruth makes a prescient remark: "We're all rummagers. Rummagers at a tag sale. Picking through the neighbors' discards for material, whatever we can get our hands on. Why not our own journals?"

"Why not?" becomes the operative question as Lisa steps across the threshold into the competitive, intellectual world of writers and their collective stories. Who controls the narrative of one's life? How does the older generation feel, watching young talent rummaging through the detritus of their past? The compelling push and pull of the dialogue and character development in this play lassoes the audience into complicity as Ruth faces being eclipsed by her young disciple.

The process is both funny and poignant, and under the adroit direction of C. Michael Wright (MCT Producing Artistic Director) the play will delight audiences in the intimate Studio Theatre. The casting of Sarah Day and Laura Frye, both Wisconsin-based actors, represents MCT's ongoing commitment to spotlight local artists, playwrights and actors. The play runs at the Broadway Theatre Center in the Historic Third Ward from November 21- December 16 and after its run in Milwaukee, the whole production (costumes, scenery and all) will travel to Madison for a three-week run at the Overture Center, as a part of a continued collaborative effort with Forward Theater Company.

This spirit of collaboration is also evident through the "Exploring Jewish Voices" series, which is a collaboration between MCT, Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the Jewish Community Center. During the 2012-2013 season, MCT is producing three plays by prominent Jewish playwrights of different generations: A THOUSAND CLOWNS by Herb Gardner, COLLECTED STORIES by Donald Margulies and UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL by Glen Berger. The three groups have partnered to provide additional education and outreach opportunities including preshow 'ViewPoints' lectures and 'Jewish Community Ticket' performances.

With the solid start of the season, MCT is well on its way to opening dialogues about the variety of voices in Milwaukee. Collaborating as well with local schools, Wright is reaching out to bring the stage and the stories to life in our community. Students from Nova High School will attend two plays this fall and work with artists and educators from MCT to find their own voices and tell their collected stories. This production is a gift to the theatre-going community and to the city of Milwaukee.

Photo (L-R): Laura Frye and Sarah Day; Credit: Zane Williams Photography

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