Thousands more people will get to experience free Shakespeare in the Park

February 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm (2013 Shakespeare in the Park, As You Like It, Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Now in our fourth year, Optimist Theatre’s Free Shakespeare in the Park is taking on a new challenge, new play, new partners, and a new location12th 52

July of 2013, Optimist Theatre is pleased to present William Shakespeare’s comedy AS YOU LIKE IT.

Plunge in with Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle’s court to find love and adventure in the Forest of Arden. Featuring iconic Shakespearean character Touchstone, the court jester, played by Milwaukee’s Todd Denning, AS YOU LIKE IT includes one of the Bard’s most famous and oft-quoted speeches, “All the world’s a stage.” Associate Artistic Director and Shakespeare in the Park Producer, Tom Reed, recently seen in the title role in Optimist’s 2012 MACBETH, will direct.

How and Why:BMOHB_T2_E
BMO Harris Matching Grant Challenge – BMO Harris has offered a $20,000 challenge grant to fund Optimist Theatre’s 2013 season. If we can raise the matching funds by March 1st, then BMO Harris will match it dollar for dollar. The resulting $40,000 means Optimist Theatre can produce free Shakespeare in the Park.

Since BMO Harris Bank bought the historic M&I Bank Corporation in 2011, they’ve made impressive inroads in community connections by funding a variety of projects. This includes sponsoring local sports teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and the BMO Harris Bradley Arena.

Although audience attendance is free, there are many production costs to offer a professional show. Optimist Theatre focuses the largest portion of our annual budget on hiring cast and crew from Southeastern Wisconsin, primarily from the greater Milwaukee area. The bulk of our budget goes to pay local artists and craftspeople which they in turn pay into the local economy.

Kickstarter – We’ve already raised $8,400.  During the month of February 2013, an ambitious $11,600 Kickstarter campaign will help meet the BMO Harris challenge grant. All donations are tax deductible.

Kickstarter is a crowdsourced fundraising platform focused specifically on creative projects. It has become a popular fundraising source for small organizations and several successful campaigns by Milwaukee-based initiatives have been run in the last year; Youngblood Theatre’s CARTOON, BeinTween’s Matireal Trail, and the Blue Hawaii Spectacular variety show, to name a few.

To support Shakespeare in the Park and help meet this challenge, click HERE for the Kickstarter link.  You will, in turn, be helping thousands more people experience live theatre – many for the very first time.


A new home – The Selig-Joseph-Folz Amphitheatre in Kadish Park.

12-10=12After 3 successful seasons in the Alumni Courtyard on the campus at Alverno College, Shakespeare in the Park is moving to the recently constructed Selig-Joseph Folz Amphitheatre in Kadish Park located at 308 E Lloyd St in Milwaukee. According to veteran lighting designer Jason Fassl, the new amphitheater, “is magic.”

Kadish Park, named for Alice Bertschy Kadish, a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, is at the crossroads of four diverse Milwaukee neighborhoods; Riverwest, the Eastside, and Brewer’s Hill, with a sliver of Harambee nearby. It is managed by the COA Youth & Family Centers (Children’s Outing Association), and the new amphitheater is the vision of its Executive Director, Tom Schneider. The COA is one of Milwaukee’s most venerable community organizations.

The amphitheatre features built in retaining wall seating which will expand on audience capacity. In 2012, seating reservations for free Shakespeare in the Park booked solid within 36 hours. This seating configuration will increase availability and ease.  Translation:  No More Reservations Required!  Come and enjoy this lovely public park, picnic, and stake out a space to see the play when the ‘house’ opens.

The amphitheatre makes its premiere on July 9th, 2013 with a grand ceremony and music performance of the Skyline Music Series.  Optimist Theatre will be the inaugural theatre company to perform at  the new venue.  Performances of AS YOU LIKE IT begin on July 12th.

Kadish Park is easily accessible by Milwaukee County Transit System and the Oak Leaf Bike Trail. Free street parking is also available around the park and in the COA lot.


AS YOU LIKE IT Performance Dates:

July 11 Preview for Media

July 12 Opening Night

July 13, 14

July 18, 19, 20, 21

Possible additional dates:  July 25, 26, 28


About free ShakSITP logo color with frameespeare in the Park Milwaukee – Now in its 4th year, Optimist Theatre brings the grand tradition of free Shakespeare in the Park to Milwaukee. Beginning in 2010 with THE TEMPEST, starring theatre legend James Pickering as Prospero, in 2011, Optimist presented TWELFTH NIGHT, directed by Laura Gordon and starring Todd Denning, and in 2012 MACBETH, starring Marti Gobel and Tom Reed.

For More Information:  Visit the Optimist Theatre website at for details about the 2013 season and to find out more about the Kickstarter campaign.


Susan Scot Fry

Managing Director


* Todd Denning is a member of Actors Equity Association.


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You’re Invited to… Optimist Theatre’s “Sound and Fury Sonnet Slam”

March 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm (2012 Shakespeare in the Park, Macbeth Updates, Optimist Theatre Events, Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , , , , , )

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19-28

You’re Invited to…

Optimist Theatre’s “Sound and Fury Sonnet Slam”

What: Get your “poor player” on and “strut and fret [your] hour upon the stage” (more like 2 minutes) at Optimist Theatre’s “Sound and Fury Sonnet Slam”.

When: Monday, May 7, 2012 – from 8:00pm to whenever

Where:  Transfer Pizzeria and Cafe
101 West Mitchell Street (in Bay View)
Milwaukee, WI 53204

 Parking: Free parking along Mitchell Street

Cost: $25 per person*. Space is limited, so don’t wait.  100% of your ticket purchase goes to support free Shakespeare in the Park and $10 is tax deductible.  Click HERE to get your tickets on the Optimist Theatre website.

What’s a Sonnet Slam?
It’s a fun, optimistic party jam-packed with sonnets and laughter in a delicious setting.

Your ticket includes…

Appetizers provided by Via – Transfer Pizzeria’s sister restaurant on Downer (yum!), sonnets presented by Macbeth performers James Pickering** (Duncan), Tom Reed** (Macbeth), Andrew Voss (Macduff) and a host of other Milwaukee celebs and VIP’s. Transfer will provide a cash bar.

The Sonnet Slam
Got a Sonnet?  Give it!

There will be 3 sonnet sessions throughout the evening with each session featuring 5 or 6 slammers. Only 3 slots per session will be pre-cast. The remaining slam spaces are up for grabs. There will be a sign-up board at the event and if space is still available, you’re welcome to snag a spot and have at.

Sonnets do not have to be memorized and they don’t have to be by Shakespeare.

As if that weren’t enough…

Optimist Theatre will also be raffling off a copy of our Macbeth script, signed by the entire cast and with a special “Forward” by our Dramaturg, ML Cogar.

Have you ever been to an OT party?  If I do say so myself, they’re a barrel of fun.

For more information, feel free to contact Susan Fry at 262-498-5777 or

Hope to see you there!

** Members of Actor’s Equity Association

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“Something Wicked This Way Comes” – You’re Invited

January 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm (2012 Shakespeare in the Park) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Are you ready for some “double, double toil and trouble”?  Well, “screw your courage to the sticking place” and get your tickets now for Optimist Theatre’s …

“Something Wicked This Way Comes”

 Saturday, February 4, 2012, Optimist Theatre hosts our third annual winter fundraising party.  This year we celebrate the 2012 summer production of free Shakespeare in the Park …


By William Shakespeare

Macbeth will feature Mr. Tom Reed* as Macbeth, Ms. Marti Gobel* as Lady Macbeth, Mr. James Pickering* as Duncan and, with your help, is slated for June and July of 2012.  Whether there are 2 or 3 weekends of performances will be determined in large part by how well this fundraiser goes.

The Details:

Something Wicked This Way Comes will be held…

Saturday, February 4, 2012
7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Alverno College
The Teaching, Learning and Technology Center
3900 S. 43rd Street
Milwaukee, WI

Tickets are only $35.00 each.  To purchase tickets
Please CLICK HERE to visit the Optimist Theatre webpage and
select the Add to Cart button.

$20 per ticket is tax deductible.

Unable to join the fun that night, but you want free Shakespeare in the Park to happen? Please consider a 100% tax deductible donation also via the Optimist Theatre support webpage.

Something Wicked This Way Comes will be a delightful evening of fiendish-fun including…

  • Tarot readings by “Tarot Politico” columnist for The Huffington Post.
  • Your Fairy Godmother Deosil  discovering your color aura or reading your palm
  • Numerology readings with Fairy Godmother Widdershins
  • The generous riches of The Milk of Human Kindness Silent Auction.  One of the best silent auctions in Milwaukee has something for everyone and for every budget.  Bid on great items such as airline tickets to anywhere and a signed, first edition of Christopher Buehlman’s blockbuster, award-winning novel “Those Across The River”
  • Sweet and savory snacks and a no-host bar
  • Your chance to cast your vote for the 2012 Shakespeare in the Park seating reservation system you would most like to use

Stage Entertainment featuring…

  • Comedy by Optimist Theatre favorite, Mr. Phil Johnson, juggler, ropewalker, foolish mortal.  Phil’s sublime, physical and musical comedy is a huge hit with Optimists every year and we’re extremely excited to bring him to Milwaukee again.
  • Music by Milwaukee’s own Mr. John Sieger of Tune du Jour.  “One of our local treasures” –  “The man oozes soul, and his talent is not in question.” –
  • Alverno Colleges’ Chamber Choir and Flute Ensemble.  Featured around town at venues including MAM After Dark, both groups were favorites of the pre-performance picnic crowd during 2011’s production of Twelfth Night.

Thank you for again making the dream of free Shakespeare in the Park a reality.  We couldn’t do it without you.

See you there!

* Member of Actors Equity Association

Inquiries?  Please call or email Susan Fry, Managing Director at 262-498-5777 or

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Announcing the Cast for TWELFTH NIGHT

March 11, 2011 at 11:07 am (2011 Shakespeare in the Park, Twelfth Night Updates) (, , , , , , , , )

It gives Optimist Theatre great pleasure to announce the cast for 2011’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night directed by Ms. Laura Gordon.

Mr. Tom Dillon as Fabian

Ms. Alison Forbes as Olivia

Mr. Ron Scot Fry as Sir Andrew Aguecheek

Mr. Dan Katula* as Sir Toby Belch

Ms. Marcella Kearns as Maria

Mr. Clayton Hamburg as Sebastian

Mr. Tim Linn as The Captain

Ms. Georgina McKee as Viola

Mr. Todd Denning* as Malvolio

Mr. Tom Reed* as Feste

Mr. Robb Smith as Orsino

Mr. Andrew Voss as Antonio

And, our Ensemble (working name ‘The Nocturnes’) Ms. Allie Babich, Mr. Derek Nelson, Mr. Andrew Parchman, Ms. Tamsyn Reed, Mr. Eric Schabla, Ms. Elodie Senetra, and Ms. Liz Shipe.

Ms. Melissa Wanke* has again joined the Shakespeare in the Park crew as Production Stage Manager.

Twelfth Night will be performed outdoors on the campus of Alverno College, opening June 16th, running for 8 performances and closing on June 26.  Attendance is free to the public and seating RSVP’s will open up near the end of April / beginning of May.  To be among the first to hear about seating, be sure to subscribe to the Optimist Theatre e-newsletter via THIS LINK to Constant Contact.

Godspeed and Break a Leg!

* Members of Actor’s Equity Association

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An Invitation to “Play On!”

January 3, 2011 at 6:25 pm (2011 Shakespeare in the Park) (, , , , , , , , , )

Last summer Milwaukee experienced, for the first time, free of charge to the audience …


Audiences loved it.

Saw the performance today – magnificent …  Hope you are able to find the means to continue this venue.  We drove an hour to get there and would do it over and over again.  Thanks to everyone involved….

– Miles & Barbara Capron

I think you might want to take a moment to consider the joy that your efforts generated. Prospero may have discarded his staff, but the final spell was cast by Optimists, and hundreds of grateful theater-goers and artists are still experiencing its uplifting charms! Join them.

Lee Ernst

Critics loved it.

Optimist Theatre’s ‘Tempest’ a profile in stage courage, heart

– Headline, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Optimist Theatre’s performance of “The Tempest” gave the state an intoxicating taste of free Shakespeare outdoors.

– From “Wisconsin Theatre Evolving”, Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

So we’re doing it again, and we want you to be part of it.


We invite you to enjoy an evening of entertainment at a fundraiser to benefit free Shakespeare in the Park that we’re calling …


“If music be the food of love, play on!”

Twelfth Night, Act I Scene i

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reception at 7:00 pm / Show at 8:00 pm

Alverno College in the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center

3400 S. 43rd Street – Milwaukee, WI  53234

Parking is free and plentiful

Event admission is $35 per person ($20 per person tax deductible)

To purchase your admission please visit CLICK HERE to visit our Paypal page …

If you are unable to attend, please consider a 100% tax deductible donation by CLICKING HERE.

Entertainment Highlights

Our evening of Play will include a fabulous silent auction, snacks and drinks, snippets from Twelfth Night (watch for Mr. James Pickering* and Mr. Tom Reed*), and entertainment from:

Molly Rhode and Chase Stoeger From the Skylight Opera to American Folklore Theatre, Molly and Chase are perennial audie nce favorites.  For “Play On!”, they bring wit, character, and show-biz style to an entertaining variety of show tunes and comic songs.

Radio WHT – Frequently heard on WMSE 91.7FM and seen at the Alchemist Theatre, Radio WHT brin gs contemporary laughs to “olde tyme” radio drama.

Women who Can’t Sing The Tempest’s spellbinding Ariel, Angela Iannone*, will be joined by Tami Workentin and pianist David Bonofiglio for musical numbers that make great theatre.

Patrick Schmitz – Master of improv, sketch comedy, and stand-up, Patrick will be our Master of Ceremonies.  In addition to keeping things moving and making us laugh, he’ll run a series of games to challenge your trivia knowledge and other skills.  Big laughs and small prizes are guaranteed.  “Play On!” indeed!

Doktor Kaboom! – Played by national performing artist David Epley, Doktor Kaboom will play with science, creating a series of entertaining, explosive, and occasionally successful experiments.  Watch for Doktor Kaboom on his DVD release “Don’t Try This at Home” and an upcoming graphic novel.

To learn more and purchase tickets for “Play On!”, visit, or contact Managing Director Susan Scot Fry at or 262/498-5777 or Artistic Director, Ron Scot Fry at or 262/498-9788.

Have a brilliant evening and thank you for helping bring free Shakespeare in the Park to Milwaukee.



Susan Scot Fry

Managing Director

* Members of Actors Equity Association

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“Twelfth Night” Auditions Begin Today

January 3, 2011 at 8:14 am (2011 Shakespeare in the Park) (, , , )

I suppose there would have been a poetry of sorts to start Twelfth Night auditions on the 6th of January, but we just can’t wait.

Looks like we’ve got a full audition roster today.  Last year, I had no idea what to expect.  As the cycle starts to repeat I’m going to go out on a limb and make some predictions.

Prediction 1:  Personal cognitive dissonance will set in as I get to experience professionally run auditions and I’m not the one running them.  All I need to do is show up with my note pad and this handy expanding file for keeping track of headshots and resumes.  Wow.  Thank you, Mr. Tom Reed.  You’re amazing.

Prediction 2:  My mind will be blown by the depth and range of the talent we will see.  I love and admire my friends in the Chicagoland theatre world, but will happily stack up Milwaukee area talent.

Prediction 3:  I will again be amazed at Tom Reed’s near photographic memory of audition pieces.  After watching numerous actors and actresses, there’s that delightful part of the process where you start mixing and matching for the best cast combinations.  This is when I have to pull out headshots, resumes and notes to refresh my memories.  Not, Tom.  He’s got everyone in his head and it’s almost like magic.

Looking forward to it.


Susan Scot Fry

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Save the Date for “Play On!”

December 31, 2010 at 8:19 pm (2011 Shakespeare in the Park) (, , )

If music be the food of love, play on!

Twelfth Night, Act 1, scene 1

Mark your calendars – Save the date – It’s party time.

Optimist Theatre will be holding our winter fundraiser on Saturday, February 12, 2011.  The theme is “Play On!” and as the name suggests, the focus is on fun.

The official invitation will be sent out to everyone on the email list the week of January 2.  If you aren’t on it, drop me an email at and I’ll make sure you’re added.

Happy New Years!


Susan Scot Fry

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Shakespeare in the Park 2011 Will Be…

December 2, 2010 at 5:56 pm (2011 Shakespeare in the Park, Twelfth Night Updates) (, , , , , , , )

William Shakespeare’s


Directed by Ms. Laura Gordon*

With Mr. James Pickering** as Malvolio

To be performed outdoors on the campus of Alverno College in June 2011.   Exact dates are TBD.



Our Associate Artistic Director, Mr. Tom Reed, has again arranged for audition space at Alverno College and is organizing all those details. If you’re interested in receiving audition information, please drop him a line



Shakespeare in the Park and Optimist Theatre merchandise is now available via our online store.

Please visit us at and peruse to your heart’s content. Hoodies and tote bags and coffee mugs, oh my!  Proceeds all go to support free Shakespeare in the Park for Milwaukee.


The original musical soundtrack from The Tempest is available on CD for only $8 – which includes shipping! Please drop a line to to order your copy and relive the magic.

Digital Download of the whole album is available via CD Baby.  Click on to preview all the tracks and to order your own copy.


Shakespeare in the Park is a joyous gift to the great city of Milwaukee, WI.  Thank you for being part of it.

Susan Scot Fry

*Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
**Member of Actor’s Equity Association

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I Can Haz Grantz Moneyz!

May 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm (Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , )

THANK YOU, City of Milwaukee Arts Board!

Optimist Theatre is the proud and grateful recipient of a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board to aid in our production of The Tempest!  At least, the letter grasped tightly in my hot and sweaty little hand says so.

Makes it hard to type, but I can’t quite bring myself to put the letter down yet.

Please join me in extending a huge THANK YOU to the people at the Milwaukee Arts Board for their faith and support.


Susan Scot Fry

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Tempest Rehearsal Photos – Enjoy!

May 19, 2010 at 10:40 am (The Tempest Updates) (, , , , , , , , )

On the Optimist Theatre Facebook page (click HERE to go to the album) there’s a new mish-mash of photos from our first all-cast rehearsal on May 11 and from our rehearsal on May 18.  It’s only been a week and we’re still blocking The Tempest, but the tranformations are amazing and beautiful.

Jim Pickering* (Prospero) still makes me cry.  I just want to punch him in the arm.

Angela Iannone* (Ariel) is lithe, sleek and kicks major butt.  She IS an anime heroine.

I’m shocked that Jacque Troy (Antonio) isn’t always surrounded by men.  She’s got this primal magnetism.  I know, I know.  It’s called acting, but it still makes me dizzy.

Ken Williams (Stephano) and David Flores (Trinculo) also make me want to cry and punch them, but I can’t because my soul is rolling on the floor laughing and holding my aching side.

Tom Reed* (Caliban) is primal.  We’ll be chitchatting about something like cutting wood for the stage platform legs and seconds later, my skin is crawling with fascination as I watch and listen with awe.

The Lovers, Andrew Voss and Jocelyn Fitz-Gibbon — Neil Haven  — Stacy and Flora  —  The Tribe…  I have so much more to say, but will save it for another post.

And, the best Stage Manager in the world.  I miss my Sandy Wood, but Sandy, you’d be so proud of Melissa Wanke*.


Susan Scot Fry

*members of Actor’s Equity

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