EVENT! It’s the 2013 Sonnet Slam!

April 29, 2013 at 9:04 am (2013 Shakespeare in the Park, As You Like It, Optimist Theatre Events, Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , , , , , , , )

Thanks to the fun-filled success of last year’s Sonnet Slam, we invite you to join us the evening of Monday, May 13, 2013  at Optimist Theatre’s …

“All the World’s a Stage Sonnet Slam”   

jacquesAll the world’s a stage,

and all the men and women, merely players-

they have their exits and their entrances,

and one man in his time plays many parts,

his acts being seven ages.

                   AS YOU LIKE IT Act 2 scene 7, 139-143

What’s a Sonnet Slam?

It’s a fun, optimistic party jam-packed with sonnets and laughter in a delicious setting. If you made it to last year’s hilarious evening, you already know how much fun it is!

  • Appetizers and pizza provided by Transfer Pizzeria
  • Sonnets presented by AS YOU LIKE IT actors
    Todd Denning (Touchstone) and  Kristin Hammargren (Rosalind)
  • Plus two very special guests: “Fast” Fres Oquendo* the currently ranked #5 Heavyweight and former WBC, WBO & WBA Latino Heavyweight, and NABF, NABA & USBA Heavyweight Boxing Champion.


  • DJ Marcus Doucette from 88.9 Radio Milwaukee.  Marcus brings world music to Milwaukee like no other.  Featured on the BYO Studio Lounge.

Got a Sonnet?

Give it! There will be 3 sonnet sessions throughout the evening. Sonnets do not have to be memorized and they don’t have to be by Shakespeare.

When: Monday, May 13, 2013 – from 8:00pm to 11:00pm
Where: Transfer Pizzeria and Cafe

101 West Mitchell Street (in Bay View)

Milwaukee, WI 53204

Parking: Free parking along Mitchell Street

Cost: $35 per person. Space is limited, so don’t wait. 100% of your ticket purchase goes to support free Shakespeare in the Park and $20 per ticket is tax deductible. To purchase tickets, click this BUY NOW button.
For more information:  Email Tom Reed at treed@optimisttheatre.org or phone 414-524-9050.

*Fres Oquendo appears courtesy of:


Shakespeare in the Park is also brought to you in part by grants and donations from BMO Harris Bank, the American Association of University Women, and people like you.  Thank you.

BMOHB_T2_E                          AAUW


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WE DID IT!!! Shakespeare in the Park 2013 WILL HAPPEN

February 24, 2013 at 9:32 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

FORGIVE,  I mean, Forgive the caps and the excessive use of exclamation points, please.  BUT, REALLY!  I MEAN, REALLY!! 

The Shakespeare in the Park Kickstarter campaign is 100% funded (plus $31) as of this beautiful, sunny, snowy Sunday morning.

Hallelujah and pass the “All the world’s a stage”.

The success of this campaign means that Optimist Theatre has met the BMO Harris challenge grant offer.  That grant, combined with the $20,000 in donations and pledges tallied by us = Shakespeare in the Park 2013.

More details on the production, dates, directions, special events, fun stuff, etc will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, we dance like muppets and invite every single one of you to join in the glee.

Thank you to the 210 people who have made this possible for us all.  You are heroes. 


Susan Scot Fry

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New Kickstarter Video – Announcing the Cast for AS YOU LIKE IT

February 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm (2013 Shakespeare in the Park, As You Like It, Optimist Theatre Updates) (, , , , , , , , )

Ramble through the forest of Arden with the cast for Shakespeare in the Park’s 2013 production of AS YOU LIKE IT.



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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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June 17, 2011 at 10:54 am (2011 Shakespeare in the Park, Twelfth Night Updates) (, , , , , )

Last night, we opened Twelfth Night to a happy, appreciative audience.  Not surprising.  It’s a wonderful show.  Laura Gordon is an amazing director.  Steve Barne’s (painted by Linda Freund) set is lovely.  Jason Fassl’s lights are magical.  The only surprising thing about last night were the number of empty seats.  It was a lovely evening.  Where were you?

Our final house count was 197, including lawn seating.  We have a total audience capacity of 240.  Our 200 chairs per evening have been ‘sold out’ for weeks.  Where were the other 43 people?  It’s a mystery.  Much like theatre.

It’s probably a bit intimidating to be on a waiting list that tallied 118, as was the case for last night’s show.  All I can say is, Everyone Got In.  Just like last year.

If you have reservations and cannot make it, please give us at least 24 hours notice.  That will give us time to make contact with the next person on the waiting list.  We have an on-line Box Office, but it’s really a human-powered system.  Help out your fellow Shakespeare in the Park aficionados.

If you’re on the waiting list, give it a shot!  Come see Twelfth Night.  Everyone got in last night.  And, it was so worth it.


Susan Scot Fry

Managing Director

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First Rehearsal for Twelfth Night

May 11, 2011 at 11:50 am (2011 Shakespeare in the Park, Twelfth Night Updates) (, , , , , , )

Last night was Optimist Theatres’ first rehearsal for Twelfth Night. What a JOY!

As we got to know each other in this first gathering, some fun stuff came up and I’m going to share…

  • Not only does Milwaukees’ free Shakespeare in the Park get to revel in her directing talents before she heads to Utah Shakespeare, but this is the largest cast that Ms. Laura Gordon has ever directed.
  • We have a name for our ensemble!  Last year, they were “The Tribe”.  This year, they are (drum roll….) “The Nocturnes”.
  • Todd “Some Men Are Born Great” Denning has done Twelfth Night 6 other times but this is his first as Malvolio.  We WIN!
  • The live music score being composed by TJ Hull is drawing from heavily from the Postmodern Era.  Oooo, I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with.
  • Marcy “A Horse of That Color” Kearns was an English Major and is almost as fascinated by the kind of paper she’d write about Twelfth Night as she is about playing Maria.  ALMOST.

There’s much more in store, but I suppose we should keep some things a surprise… Oh! But I so want to tell you about the beautiful costume drawings done by Ms. Leslie Vaglica!  And the set design by Mr. Steve Barnes!  No…  I must be strong.

In the meantime, enjoy the album of first rehearsal photos on the Optimist Theatre Facebook page.

Fittingly, the evening was concluded by Mr. Tom Reed, channeling Mr. Jim Pickering:

“Holy *&^%, Mr. Willy Snake&*^%”.



Susan Scot Fry

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Dark Clouds and Silver Linings

March 19, 2011 at 9:37 am (2011 Shakespeare in the Park, Twelfth Night Updates) (, , , , )

Our dear friend and Founding Company Member, Mr. James Pickering*,  must bow out of the role of Malvolio in Optimist Theatre’s upcoming free Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night.  At this time, Jim’s highest priority must be to stay as close as possible to his dear wife Rose as she continues to fight the good fight for her health.  This tough decision came on the heels of a happy choice that Jim recently made to join the Board of Directors for Optimist Theatre.  As we go forward with this seasons’ free Shakespeare in the Park, we are fortunate to announce that Jim will continue to bless us with his invaluable good counsel — as is his wont.  If you wish to convey a message of support to Jim and Rose, we encourage you to visit Optimist Theatre’s Facebook page.  It’s the perfect place to chime in.  Jim frequents the page, and we’re sure he’d appreciate hearing from you.

Optimist Theatre is pleased to announce that accomplished Milwaukee actor Mr. Todd Denning* has agreed to step into the role of Malvolio.  Todd has a well-earned reputation for his exceptional stage work, both as an actor in multiple Milwaukee Shakespeare productions and as a director/fight choreographer.  Todd is also a regular cast member at First Stage, where he guides the Young Company, a selective group of advanced acting students.

Please join us in wishing Jim godspeed and welcoming Todd to the cast.

Optimistically and With Great Love and Respect,

Susan Scot Fry


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