Optimist Theatre and BMO Harris Bank to Present 2014 Free Shakespeare in the Park’s Production of “The Winter’s Tale”

March 6, 2014 at 10:21 am (2014 Shakespeare in the Park, Optimist Theatre Updates, The Winter's Tale) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

MILWAUKEE, WIS. – With great confidence that southeastern Wisconsin will have put the harsh winter of 2013-2014 behind them sufficiently by June to appreciate William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” Optimist Theatre and BMO Harris Bank announce the dates of 2014’s Free Shakespeare in the Park. The romantic comedy will be performed across three weekends: June 13-15, June 19-22 and June 26-29. There will be a media preview on June 12. Shakespeare in the Park will return to COA Youth and Family Centers’ amphitheater in Alice Bertschy Kadish Park for a second year.

The expansion of the season from two weekends to three was made possible, in part, by the organization’s achievement of a $20,000 challenge grant from 2014’s Presenting Sponsor BMO Harris Bank. Though fundraising for the free performances continues, the sponsorship of BMO Harris enables planning for the extended fifth season to proceed.WTLogo2

In addition to announcing the season for Shakespeare in the Park, Optimist Theatre further revealed the casting of “The Winter’s Tale.” The production will be directed by M.L. Cogar, who has been both the Dramaturg and Assistant Director for all four of Shakespeare in the Park’s previous productions.

Cogar is particularly drawn to “The Winter’s Tale” as “a panoramic adventure-romance that showcases some of Shakespeare’s richest language. The story stretches between two fairy tale kingdoms, across the genres of tragedy and comedy…it offers us a jealous king, a wrongly accused queen, a brave princess, a comic shepherd, and a singing thief—in other words, plenty of room for our team of local artists to explore the parallel inventiveness of both performance and production.” The audience, she explains, should “expect clear language and storytelling, evocative movement and music, and technical artistry that celebrates imaginative theater traditions. And puppets.”

The cast for “The Winter’s Tale” includes:

Allie Babich as Perdita

David Bohn in the Ensemble

James Carrington as Dion / Ensemble

Liz Fraglia as Dorcas / Ensemble

David Franz in the Ensemble

Ron Scot Fry as Antigonus

Cassondra Gresl in the Ensemble

Ethan Hall as Florizel

Jeffrey James Ircink as the Shepherd

Ashley Jordan as Mamillius / Ensemble

Mary Kababik as Paulina

Megan Kaminsky as Mopsa / Ensemble

Patrick Lawlor* as Polixenes

Linda Loving in the Ensemble

Brian Miracle as the Clown

Beth Monhollen as Cleomenes

Emmit Morgan as Camilio

Beth Mulkerron* as Hermione / Autolycus

Tom Reed* as Leontes

Genessee Spridco as Emilia


Susan Scot Fry as the Bear

*Member of Actor’s Equity Association

The cast includes the return of several actors from prior seasons of Shakespeare in the Park, alongside a number of Optimist Theatre debuts. Tom Reed, Optimist Theatre Associate Artistic Director and Shakespeare in the Park Producer, as well as the production’s Leontes, is “pretty darned excited to collaborate with this cast and crew. Each of our productions arises from the chemistry of the people we pull together. This cast of local professionals is so multi-talented—we have singers, actors, dancers, musicians—I almost can’t wait for the audience to see the results. We’ll be using all those talents to the best of our Optimistic abilities!”

About “The Winter’s Tale”
Generally believed to have been written later in Shakespeare’s career (1610-1611), “The Winter’s Tale” is a romantic comedy of jealousy and suspected infidelity, revenge, and ultimately, of redemption and reunion. It contains one of the most famous stage directions in English literary history: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Some speculate that, because the Elizabethan theaters were housed in the same sketchy entertainment district as the “bear baiting” pits, it is possible that one or more performances featured a live bear.

Of further interest to historians, the plot, in which a monarch falsely accuses his consort of adultery, appears to parallel the fall of Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII, and may have been an allusion to which the Bard’s audience would have been attuned.

SITP logo color with frameAbout Optimist Theatre
Optimist Theatre is a 501(c)3 non-profit theatre company and an affiliate member of UPAF, the United Performing Arts Fund.  Free Shakespeare in the Park is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board.  In addition to Free Shakespeare in the Park, Optimist Theatre offers interactive educational outreach performances such as “To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now.” The organization’s goals include reaching artists and audiences across the economic, ethnic, and experiential landscape by creating art that is accessible to all people.  They aspire to educate, entertain, and inspire through creative works of artistic integrity and, in doing so, to serve as a “gateway” theatre experience, bringing new audiences to the arts. To learn more, visit OptimistTheatre.org, or contact Managing Director Susan Scot Fry at SSFry@OptimistTheatre.org or 262/498-5777 or Artistic Director, Ron Scot Fry at RSFry@OptimistTheatre.org or 262/498-9788.

Shakespeare in the Park is also support in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Milwaukee Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, the United Arts Performing Fund, and the Milwaukee County Arts Fund (CAMPAC).

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Shakespeare in the Park March News

April 1, 2013 at 8:35 am (2013 Shakespeare in the Park, As You Like It, Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , , , )

Hey Optimists!
We made it! Shakespeare in the Park

Thanks to the help of people like you, Optimist Theatre’s winter 2013 fundraising campaign is a success.  We raised over $20,000 via direct donations and Kickstarter.  Our good friends at BMO Harris Bank will match it with another $20,000 and that means that AS YOU LIKE IT this July is a GO!   



Preparations for AS YOU LIKE IT proceed apace. Rehearsals begin in June and Optimist Theatre is grateful to our original ‘park’, Alverno College, for use of classrooms for rehearsals.Now that casting for AS YOU LIKE IT is complete, artistic thoughts turn toward designing the look of the production and our Designers are kicking into high gear.  We’re fortunate to again be working with some excellent artists and artisans.


Optimist Theatre’s Artistic Director, Mr. Ron Scot Fry, has again taken on the mantle of Set Designer.  Ron created the sets for THE TEMPEST and for MACBETH.  The challenge of designing for our new home in Kadish park is exciting.


Costume Design is also well underway.  Ms. Mel Benson, Costumer for The Tribe in Optimist Theatre’s THE TEMPEST, is designing the costumes for AS YOU LIKE IT.   Mel is a Costumer at the Florentine Opera Company.


Lighting Design will be by Mr. Jason Fassl of AntiShadows.  Jason has been the Optimist Theatre technical adviser from day 1 and did lighting designs for THE TEMPEST and TWELFTH NIGHT.  Jason has designed for many theatres in Milwaukee, throughout the Midwest and (more and more) in New York.

Shakespeare coined a number of phrases that are still in use in the English lexicon.  In addition to Jaques’ iconic line “All the world’s a stage”, here are some favorites from AS YOU LIKE IT:”In a better world than this” – LeBeau – Act 1, sc. 2

“Forever and a day” – Orlando – Act 4, sc. 1

“Laid on with a trowel” – Celia – Act 1, sc. 2

“Neither rhyme nor reason” – Orlando – Act 3, sc. 2

“Too much of a good thing” – Rosalind – Act 4, sc. 1AS YOU LIKE IT Trivia…

Which of these quotes has a much racier meaning than we generally attribute to it now?

Community Partners:  The COA Youth and Family Centers
Founded in 1906, the Children’s Outing Association was a labor of love for a group of women from The Personal Relief Society.  Thanks to their efforts, that first year eight children adventured to a tent colony in Whitewater, WI for fresh air and sunshine.Over 100 years later, the COA serves thousands of people, especially children, in greater Milwaukee and beyond.

Our Shakes-partners embody hands-on community spirit and caring through their many programs and projects.  You’ll encounter a personal favorite when you venture out to enjoy AS YOU LIKE IT.  Kadish Park is the home to one of the loveliest community gardens in Milwaukee and it’s sponsored by the COA.

The COA and Optimist Theatre share a dedication to fresh air and the fresh viewpoints that are created by inspirational communal experiences.

The COA Youth and Family Centers.  An inspiration to Optimist Theatre and Milwaukee.

As we get closer to this summer’s free Shakespeare in the Park, this ‘Nuts and Bolts’ section will help provide details you need plan your evening at AS YOU LIKE IT.


Performance dates are slated for July 11 (preview night for media), July 12 (opening night), 13 and 14 and July 18, 19, 20 and 21.  Possible additional dates will be July 25, 26 (no performance on the 27th) and 28.

We’re still working on adding that additional weekend.  If you’d like to help, please click the Donate Via Paypal button toward the upper left column of this e-newsletter.


Performances are slated to begin at 8:00 pm.  If we add a matinee, we’ll post those details here.


Performances will be held at the brand new Selig-Joseph-Folz amphitheatre in Kadish Park overlooking the beautiful downtown Milwaukee skyline.

This park has no official address and is labeled as Kilbourn Park on several city maps.  In future issues, we will provide detailed driving and parking directions.


Amphitheatre Honors


The Selig-Joseph-Folz Amphitheatre was honored as one of Wisconsin’s Top Projects of 2012.  The architects, HGA Architects and Engineers, have won a number of honors of late and we’re exceptionally happy to be the debut theatre company in one of them!

Thank you for spending a bit of time sharing our love and enthusiasm for free Shakespeare in the Park.

Here’s to summer 2013 and we’ll see you at Kadish Park!
Susan Scot Fry

Managing Director

Optimist Theatre

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Shakespeare in the Park 2013 – News, Updates, and Cast Announcement

February 20, 2013 at 9:06 pm (2013 Shakespeare in the Park, As You Like It, Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , , , , , , , )

Thanks to a little help from our friends, Optimist Theatre is off to a great start on making Shakespeare in the Park 2013 a reality. An update…

BMO Harris Challenge Grant / Kickstarter Status


We’re almost 78% funded!

As of February 20, Optimist Theatre has raised a total of $15,536 in pledges and donations toward BMO Harris’ $20,000 challenge grant. With 7 days left to raise the remaining $4,464, we’re optimistic.

Optimist Theatre is raising a large portion of these funds through a Kickstarter campaign. If you aren’t familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a great way for non-profit organizations to fund a specific project.

Since we launched this campaign, we’re proud to note that the Shakespeare in the Park 2013 project has been selected by the Kickstarter organization as both the Project Pick of the Day (among the thousands of other causes) and as a Staff Pick for Milwaukee projects.

If we meet our goal, Kickstarter turns your pledge into money by charging your credit card. If we don’t make it, then you don’t get charged and Optimist Theatre does not get any money.


Our deadline to tally pledges for the challenge grant is the end of the day February 28, 2013.

When meet their challenge, BMO Harris will turn every $1 you give to $2.


SITP logo color with frameOptimist Theatre is excited to present William Shakespeare’s comedy AS YOU LIKE IT and we’re proud to announce the cast for this year’s production…

Mr. Tom Reed,* Director

Ms. Tess Cinpinski as Phoebe
Mr. Todd Denning* as Touchstone
Mr. Christopher Elst as
Charles/Oliver Martext
Ms. Alison Mary Forbes as Amiens
Mr. David Franz as Oliver
Mr. James Fletcher* as Duke Senor/Duke Frederick
Mr. Clayton Hamburg as Orlando
Ms. Kristin Hammargren as
Mr. Evan Koepnick as Silvius
Mr. Patrick Lawlor* as Jacques
Mr. Bryce Lord as Adam/Corin
Mr. Emmit Morgans as Le Beau
Ms. Tamsyn Reed as Lady Page
Ms. Genesee Spridco as Audrey
Ms. Sara Zientek as Celia

In addition to these actors and roles, Optimist Theatre will again cast a young company of players. In THE TEMPEST, they were The Tribe; TWELFTH NIGHT had The Nocturnes; and they were The Coven for MACBETH. For AS YOU LIKE IT, we will have The Guild.

Ongoing announcements, including casting for The Guild, will be posted here on the Optimist Theatre blog.

Dates: Performance dates are slated for July 11 (preview night for media), July 12 (opening night), 13 and 14 and July 18, 19, 20 and 21. Possible additional dates will be July 25, 26 and 28.12-10=12

Location: Performances will be held at the brand new amphitheatre in Kadish Park overlooking the beautiful downtown Milwaukee skyline.

*Members of Actors Equity Association.


FUN 1: Yet again, Shakespeare has his heroine dress as a boy to escape detection. Ah, Rosalind. But hey, if it works once (or 4 or 5 times)…

QUIZ: What name does Rosalind assume as a boy in disguise?

FUN 2: In the original text, there are actually two characters named Jaques in AS YOU LIKE It. One is a melancholy lord attending to Duke Senior, the other is Jaques de Boys, the brother of Oliver and Orlando.

QUIZ: Which Jaques delivers the famous “All the world’s a stage” speech?

FUN 3: Musical Comedy? AS YOU LIKE IT has more songs in it than any other Shakespeare play.

     QUIZ: How many songs are featured in AS YOU LIKE IT?

Community Partner News: MKEFoodies

MKEFoodies is a group of ordinary Milwaukeeans who enjoy food, drink, and socializing. More importantly, it’s a collective that believes that community is vital, and that giving back makes a big difference.

Shakespeare in the Park has been selected to benefit from MKEFoodies’ February gathering.

Thank you. We are honored.

Watch for more updates

To see how the pledge drive is going, check in on our Kickstarter or on our Facebook page.

Thank you for your consideration and support. Here’s to a shining 2013 and we’ll see you at Kadish Park!

Susan Scot Fry
Managing Director

Optimist Theatre is a 501(c)3 non-profit theatre company.  All donations are 100% tax deductible.  For more information, visit www.OptimistTheatre.org.

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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 www.OptimistTheatre.org 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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