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).

UPAF Logos_Color-05-BiggerName copywiartsboardMABlogocolorCAMPAC-Logo-trans


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“To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now” April 2013 E-Broadsheet

April 2, 2013 at 1:49 pm (2013 Shakespeare in the Park, As You Like It, Optimist Theatre Updates, To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now) (, , , , , , , , )

Didst thou survive “the ides of March” (Julius Caesar, Act 1, sc. 2)?  Congratulations.  Spring is here (verily) and in honor of Optimist Theatre’s upcoming Shakespeare in the Park production of AS YOU LIKE IT, may I share…

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.
               As You Like It, Act 5, sc. 3

“To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now” News
To Be logo
To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now

“To Be!” is going international!

Mid-June to mid-July, Ron Scot Fry, our favorite Bard of Avon, will be teaching Shakespeare in Florence with FESTA Theatre.  In addition to teaching, three performances of “To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now” are on the docket.   Ron’s challenge will be adapting his show for interpreters to share with an Italian speaking audience via huge projector screens.

Two weeks will be spent teaching theatre skills in the mountains at Dynamo Camp.  Located in the midst of a World Wildlife Foundation reserve in Tuscany, Dynamo is the first camp in Italy specifically designed for children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses.

For all of us here in the USA, the bad news is that Ron won’t be available for presentations in June, but the latter half of July is wide open.  Wait a moment – that’s bad news?!  Hah!

Buon Viaggio!

Soldier’s Grove Public Library / North Crawford School
William Shakespeare celebrated the Ides of March with a visit to Soldier’s Grove, WI – pop. 595.

Soldier's Grove Public Library The Village of Soldiers Grove is nestled among the steep hills and narrow valleys of the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin near the Kickapoo River.  The business district is the first in the United States to be powered by solar energy.

Soldier’s Grove Public Library hosted a visit by William Shakespeare to North Crawford School. Over the course of two presentations at the school on Friday, March 15th, he got together with all the students at the school – K through 12.

Ron performed in the school theater, which was decked out for the play “Shakespeare in Hollywood”.  Throughout the day, he had great conversations with many of the cast members about the play they would be doing that evening.  “Shakespeare in Hollywood”, by Ken Ludwig, was originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and won the Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play of the Year.  Of course, having received guidance from Shakespeare himself, the play presented that night in Soldier’s Grove was a smash hit.

Over the years of offering “To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now” it’s been wonderful to see the close relationship that so many of our Wisconsin libraries have with the schools in their communities.  It’s often thanks to the library that Shakespeare is able to also visit the school. Great partnerships.

In Honor of April Fool’s Day
In 2010, the BBC perpetrated a delightful hoax when they ran a piece claiming that Shakespeare was Frenc  h.The story wove a convoluted chain of ‘proof’ that his mother was actually French, ergo as was BBC Will by birthright.  The radio article (link via the BBC logo) is quite a fun listen.

Sharing Resources and Inspiration:
No Fear Shakespeare
In the course of portraying William Shakespeare, Ron Fry fields numerous questions about ‘his’ works.  With Ron’s wealth of knowledge, he usually has much more ready answers than I do.  So, when I find myself needing to research a particular play, the interpretations I often end up reading are from No Fear Shakespeare.
No Fear Shakespeare
No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English.

The full, original text is still there, matched with a thorough and credible modern translation.  Of course, the ideal way to understand the works is to see it performed live.  If you that opportunity isn’t available, this handy reference is one of the next best things.

Q:  What are your favorite reference materials for understanding Shakespearean text or context?

Upcoming Presentations for National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month so perhaps it’s not a coincNational Poetry Month posteridence that the greatest playwright and poet of all time will be visiting 20 schools and libraries for a total of 44 presentations throughout Wisconsin this month.
From Milwaukee to Cable to Eau Claire, Shakespeare is going to be racking up some major mileage on the Bard-Mobile.

To see a Google map of upcoming travels, follow the link by clicking on the National Poetry Month poster.

Shakespearean Fun
As you know, Shakespeare coined many words and phrases that are still in common use today.  A few favorite “household words” (Henry V) …

  • A laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
  • A sorry sight (Macbeth
  • As dead as a doornail (Henry VI)
  • Eaten out of house and home (Henry V, Part 2)
  • Fair play (The Tempest)
  • I will wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)
  • In a pickle (The Tempest)
  • In stitches (Twelfth Night)
  • In the twinkling of an eye (The Merchant Of Venice)
  • Mum’s the word (Henry VI, Part 2)
  • Neither here nor there (Othello)
  • Send him packing (Henry IV)
  • Set your teeth on edge (Henry IV)
  • There’s method in my madness (Hamlet)
  • Too much of a good thing (As You Like It)
  • Vanish into thin air (Othello)
Until our next e-meeting, we sign off with this seasonal Shakespearean sentiment …

“O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day;
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.”
          Proteus, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1, sc. 3

Thank you for sharing the joy of the Bard of Avon.  We hope to see you soon.


Susan Scot Fry

Optimist Theatre

SSFry@OptimistTheatre.org / 262-498-5777

org / 262-498-9788

Optimist Theatre is a 501(c)3 non-profit theatre company.

“To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now” is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.

WHC logo

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Announcing the Cast for Macbeth

April 27, 2012 at 10:10 am (2012 Shakespeare in the Park, Macbeth Updates, Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , , , , , )

ImageOptimist Theatre is proud to announce the cast for this season’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Libby Amato as Witch Vengeance and Lady Macduff

Michael Cotey as Malcolm

Tom Dillon as Seyton

Kelly Doherty as Witch Novice

David Ferrie as Old Seyward

Marti Gobel* as Lady Macbeth

Tim Linn as Banquo

Beth Monhollen as Rosse

Emmitt Morgans as Lennox

Angel Mullen as Witch Wisdom and Gentlewoman

James Pickering* as Duncan and the Porter

Tom Reed* as Macbeth

Andrew Voss as Macduff

Ken Williams as Angus

The Coven (Murderers, Familiars, Mystics, Servants, and Soldiers):

David Franz, Evan Koepnick, Mack Folkert (Fleance), Kat Gilbert, Liz Mistele (Young Macduff), Andrew Parchman, Tamsyn Reed, Eric Schabla (Young Seyward), and Sara Zientek.

Macbeth will be directed by Optimist Theatre’s Artistic Director, Ron Scot Fry.  Dramaturgy and Assistant Directing by ML Cogar, Stage Management by Melissa Wanke*, Lighting Design by Jason Fassl and Ross Zentner and Costume Design by Eleanor Cotey.

Macbeth will be performed outdoors on the campus of Alverno College June 21 through June 24 and June 28 through July 1.  Seating reservations will be available beginning May 20 and tickets are again free.  To receive notice that reservations are available, please sign up for Optimist Theatre’s e-newsletter at www.OptimistTheatre.org/Contact.

Optimist Theatre has been presenting free Shakespeare in the Park for greater Milwaukee since 2010 and is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board and our gracious host Alverno College.  For more information, please visit http://www.OptimistTheatre.org.

* Member of Actors Equity Association

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It’s Almost Bunny Gumbo Combat Theatre Time

December 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm (Friends of Optimist Theatre) (, , , )

Our good friends at Bunny Gumbo are cooking up another installment of their venerable tradition, “Combat Theatre”.  In an act of sheer cowardice, Optimist Theatre’s Artistic Director, Ron Scot Fry, will once again be directing.  Cowardice?  It was either direct or act and acting is far too intimidating.  The actors in “CT” all deserve purple hearts.

Anyhoo…  Here’s the blurb with all the info you need to know – straight from the Bunny Gumbo mouth, Mr. Jim Fletcher.

Hope to see you all there.

It’s the Year of the Bunny, baby!

2011 marks the Year of the Bunny and your favorite theatre company isn’t one to let something like that pass by lightly.  Bunny Gumbo starts the year off right by presenting not one, but two Combat Theatres. Our regular version of Combat takes place at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center on January 14th and 15th, but a week earlier, you can catch the high school version, Combat Boot Camp at the Waukesha Civic Theatre on January 8th

For the uninitiated, Combat Theatre challenges eight playwrights, eight directors and 30 actors to bring 16 original scripts from initial concept to performance before a live audience – in only 24 hours.  Topics, locations, directors and actors are all, literally, “pulled from a hat.”  There is no advanced preparation, no warning, no mercy – just instinct, ability and raw talent on display. The outcome of the process is a wide variety of 15-minute works that range from admirable to brilliant.  And while the Boot Campers get slightly longer to prepare, they are no slouches when it comes to entertainment.

Combat Theatre is Friday and Saturday, January 14th and 15th, at 8 pm at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut (on the corner of Walnut and MLK.)  Tickets are $18 each and are available at the door only.  Or buy the weekend package and see both nights for only $30.

Combat Boot Camp is Saturday, January 8th, at 7 pm at the Waukesha Civic Theatre, 264 West Main Street, Waukesha.  Tickets are only $8.  Call their box office at 262-547-0708 or visit their web site: www.waukeshacivictheatre.org

Combat Theatre involves the best writers, directors, and actors Milwaukee has to offer.  Those wishing to attend are advised to arrive early as previous installments of Combat have sold out quickly.

The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center is a collaboration of First Stage Children’s Theatre and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra.

For more information about Bunny Gumbo, write to bunnygumbo@wi.rr.com or visit our website: www.bunnygumbo.com

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New Interview Video: Ron Scot Fry, Director of The Tempest

May 29, 2010 at 8:53 am (The Tempest Updates, YouTube Videos) (, , , , , , )

Optimist Theatre’s newest video interview is up!  Click here to meet Ron Scot Fry, Director of The Tempest and Optimist Theatre’s Artistic Director.

As we get further and further into rehearsals and into producing the festival, perspectives naturally evolve.  It’s fascinating to listen to what Ron has to say now that he’s been into working with the actors for several weeks now.

Hope you enjoy it!


Susan Scot Fry

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Announcing… Angela Iannone as Ariel!

January 7, 2010 at 11:26 am (Brave New World Updates, The Tempest Updates) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Optimist Theatre is excited to welcome Ms. Angela Iannone to the cast of the Tempest in the role of Ariel.  Sparks are already starting to fly between Angela and Jim Pickering, as Prospero.  Like a moth to the flame – I know if I get too close, I’ll ignite.  But, what a way to go!

Shameless Plug Time…

The addition of Milwaukee theatre royalty like Angela to the cast is inspiring in so many ways.  I’m even more driven to make the dream real, and that takes your financial support.  I invite you to help us move beyond the thrill of dreaming and brainstorming to reality. Join us at the fundraiser on January 30th and become part of …

Such stuff as dreams are made on

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1

In Ars Veritas,

Susan Scot Fry

Grateful Managing Director

Optimist Theatre

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Brave New World

December 31, 2009 at 12:15 pm (The Tempest Updates) (, , , , , , , , , , )

This summer Milwaukee will experience, for the first time, free of charge to the audience …


Created by Milwaukee’s Optimist Theatre and performed outdoors on the campus of Alverno College, our premier production will be The Tempest, starring Scrooge himself, James Pickering as Prospero.

Mr. Pickering is actively supporting this production and would like to invite you to support it as well.


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


“How beauteous mankind is.  O brave new world, that hath such people in’t.”

The Tempest  Act V Scene i

Saturday, January 30, 2010

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

Alverno College

The (beautiful) Teaching, Learning and Technology Center

3400 S. 43rd Street – Milwaukee, WI  53234

Event admission is $35 per person

To purchase your admission please visit our website.

We’d appreciate your confirmation by January 22, 2010

Purchase admission or make a donation by December 31 and receive your 2009 tax deduction.

Thank you for helping bring free Shakespeare in the Park to the great city of Milwaukee.

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