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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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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Highlights from Milwaukee’s first ever free Shakespeare in the Park

June 21, 2010 at 11:59 am (Tempest Cast and Crew Thoughts, The Tempest Updates) (, , , , , )

“A hit, a very palpable hit.”

Through temperatures and tempests.  On glorious, mild and star-spangled eve’s.  The cast and crew of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest brought it.

Huge kudos and thanks to all the goodly folke who created and came this past weekend.  The feedback in person and via email has been glorious and gratifying.  A a grateful speck in the big scheme, it’s imperative that I share this cache of happiness with you all.

Here’s what people have said…

Updated and added to 7-8-10:

Hi! We just returned from seeing “The Tempest”.  It was wonderful!  Thank you so much for such a lovely evening.  The creativity and acting were terrific.  You proved that one can do a lot without a big budget.  Good for you!  Do you plan on doing more productions?  Hope so.  Good luck in your endeavors! Thank you.

My daughter & I really had a wonderful evening for your first ever FREE Shakespeare in the Park………ALFRED AND LYNN WOULD BE SO PROUD OF ALL OF YOU   (ck out the story on who may have  really authored all of W S work)   THANKS AGAIN AND SEE YOU AGAIN!!!!!

A friend and I enjoyed the Tempest at Alverno last evening.  The tribe was fantastic as was the entire cast.  We certainly hope that you are able to continue doing this wonderful evening entertainment for years to come.

Thank you for sponsoring such a wonderful event.  Bravo!

Wonderful evening. So glad we took the time to come out. Thank you so much.

Susan,  What a charming, divine rendering of the Tempest!  Of course, I was enchanted by the revels of Ariel and Prospero.  The words of the Bard lept off the page in their hands/feet and I was captivated.  Even being the first public show, it was an engaging company performance, as well.    Certainly the weather even helped give the island aura.  Bravo to all!  Not the least of which is your clear and expert handling of tickets and directions.  Many blessings for the rest of the run.

Saw the performance today – magnificent.  A bit warm, but that was not in your conrol.  Everything from the staging (simple but used well), costume design, talent, etc was a joy.  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…

Congratulations on this wonderful achievement. I do hope you can enlarge your schedule next year.

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday’s  presentation  of “The Tempest”. There were many memorable performances, particularly (but not solely)   those of  Ariel and Caliban .  As always, James Pickering was a delight.  The costumes of “The Tribe” and of the goddesses were  fascinating . The “choreography” of their stage movements was very imaginative .  The peaceful, intimate  and secluded (yet accessible) courtyard of Alverno College  was a great choice.We will encourage our friends who were not able to attend this year to attend any future performances .We hope you will find the resources to mount one or more  productions of ‘”Shakespeare in the Park” in  2011.

We attended the performance last evening and were VERY impressed.  Beautiful setting, very well organized and the acting was superb!  Thanks to everyone for making this possible.
It was outstanding! Thank you for the opportunity to (finally) appreciate Shakespeare.
Just wanted to say that my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance Friday night. We wanted to thank all those involved with making it a delightful evening, and wanted to especially thank the actors for pursuing it to the finish, even indoors. We appreciated that very much.  Well done all around!
Last night I attended the performance of The Tempest.  My five companions and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.  This is a wonderful project, and I sincerely hope that you are able to do it again next year!  Thank you, and my compliments to your talented cast and crew.
I did go last night and was able to get a seat. What a fantastic setting and production! I can’t wait for next season.

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No Fear Shakespeare

January 14, 2010 at 9:32 am (Brave New World Updates, The Tempest Updates) (, , , , , , , )

There’s this lovely website called “No Fear Shakespeare”.  I started reading their side-by-side (Shakespeare’s text and a modern translation) text for The Tempest and found it to be non-simplistically, brain-candy enjoyable.

I say Hey!  Take the Fear out of Shakespeare!  Free Shakespeare for Everyone!  And if this helps, I also say AMEN!

Check out The Tempest at http://nfs.sparknotes.com/tempest/.

What a Brave New World.


Susan Scot Fry

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Jeanna Salzer is on 88.9 at 5:30 This Evening

January 8, 2010 at 1:11 pm (Brave New World Updates) (, , , )

Catch The Jeanna Salzer Trio live this evening on Milwaukee radio station 88.9.

Jeanna has a rich, soulful style which won her recognition as the Best Acoustic Musician and the Best Vocalist – Female in the Shepherd Express “Best of Milwaukee 2009″ issue.

AND, she’s a headliner at the Brave New World fundraiser on January 30th.


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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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Find the Best People and Get Out of Their Way

January 4, 2010 at 10:27 am (Brave New World Updates) (, , , , , , , , )

I posted today in another blog called “A Year of Significance” that my goal for January 4, 2010 is to find our leaders — specifically for the upcoming Brave New World fundraiser.  Yes, that’s pretty ambitious, but I’ve already begun and have faith that it will happen.  Yes, it will take me more than just today to do. Yes, it’s worth the effort.

So many of the Optimist Theatre goals — for both the company AND Shakespeare in the Park — focus on community involvement.  Our work is a collaborative effort.  It’s not the only way to go about these things, but it is the approach we prefer.  Utopian?  Why not?

We have a unique blend of optimism, faith in people and practical experience to draw from.  It’s the approach that worked successfully when Ron and I ran entertainment for the Bristol Renaissance Faire and for the couple of years at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  Let’s see how this works for Shakespeare in the Park.

Hopes are high.


Susan Scot Fry

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An Ambitious Goal – 1,000 More Invitations Today

January 2, 2010 at 1:58 pm (Brave New World Updates) (, , , , , , , , )

Today I am determined to find at least 1,000 more people to invite to our Brave New World fundraiser.  It’s do-able.  Milwaukee has over half a million people in residence.  Surely, I can suss them out.

A key parameter is No Spam.  There are plenty of people who love Milwaukee, love Shakespeare, love festivals, love theatre, love…. you get the picture.  The key is to find them and let them know about this wonderful thing that’s happening.  I’m spending quite a chunk of time wading through Yahoo E-Groups today and that’s looking good!

So, if you’ve got any ideas or leads on special interest groups who would appreciate hearing about free Shakespeare in the Park and how to turn the dream into reality, wave and shout.  I’ll come running!

In Ars Veritas,

Susan Scot Fry


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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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