Ready for the new

By - Sep 1st, 2008 02:52 pm

By Amy Elliott, Introduction by Jon Anne Willow

It’s often the case that when performing arts budgets are tight, new work by emerging artists finds its way to more stages more readily. It can be less expensive to license and easier to obtain, and it’s uncommon for a company to collaborate directly with the author, choreographer or composer. The results can be heady stuff, born of constrained circumstances but giving birth to artistic expression
of great imagination.

But, there is another reason an abundance of new work might be seen in one community in one season: the patrons are ready for it. It’s a promising mark of Milwaukee area audiences’ evolving tastes that so many well-established companies are eager to offer more never-before-seen programs. What follows is just a sampling – listed alphabetically by company – of the premieres awaiting adventurous lovers of theater, dance, music and art.


Have a Seat
November 7 – 9, 2008
This eclectic evening of dance features choreography by Guest Artistic Director Janet Lilly, including “The Weight of Skin,” based on a poem by Milwaukee Poet Laureate Susan Firer. The show includes work by Isabelle Kralj choreographed for members of the Slovenia National Ballet, as well as a solo premier by New Delhi-based performer Navtej Johar.

The Bra Project
January 23 – February 1, 2009
Danceworks’ Resident Choreographer Kelly Anderson presents an irreverent evening of dance dedicated to the history, design, social influence and pop-culture significance of that bust-loving bane and blessing, the bra.

A Guy Thing
March 6 – 8, 2009
Ah, the male dancer: a rare bird indeed, and this performance celebrates them in all of their perplexing, complicated and handsome glory. See guest dancers from the Milwaukee Ballet, collaborations and partnerships between dancers, solo and group works. Choreographed by Ed Burgess and friends – all of them men.

First Stage Children’s Theatre

September 19 – October 5
This landmark collaboration between Lois Lowry, First Stage Children’s Theatre and Portland’s Oregon Children’s Theatre is Lowry’s first attempt to adapt one of her novels for the stage – though audiences may remember Eric Coble’s 2006 adaptation of The Giver. The show premieres in Milwaukee this monthThe imaginative story follows a young dream-giver who helps a troubled child and a lonely woman overcome nightmares. Jeff Frank directs.

The MacDowell Club
For more information on the decorated past of one of Milwaukee’s most historic arts organizations, check out our feature on page 11 – after you avail yourself of this impressive season calendar. We’re especially excited for the April 19 performance of a song cycle by Paula Foley Tillen based on poems by Wisconsin’s first poet laureate, Ellen Kart.

Farruca for Cello and Guitar

By Peter Baine
November 9 – Cardinal Stritch University

Poem for Cello and Strings

By Minh Tam Trinh
December 14 – Cardinal Stritch University

Song Cycle for Tenor and Piano
By Paul Fowler
January 25 – Cardinal Stritch University

The Road to Emmaus for Voices and Organ
By Hildegarde Fischer
February 1 – St. Matthew’s Church

Essay for Harp
By Cary John Franklin
March 8 – Cardinal Stritch University

Everything is Love is Near at Hand

By Paula Foley Tillen
April 19 – St. Joseph Center Auditorium

Song of Ecclesiastes for Baritone and Piano
By Michael Torke
May 19 – Woman’s Club of Wisconsin, 7:30 pm

Milwaukee Art Museum

October 4 2008 – January 11, 2009
Guest-curated by George Fifield, founder of the Boston Cyberarts Festival, and coordinated by MAM up-and-comer John McKinnon, Act/React brings together, for the first time, six artists whose work is not just interactive, but immersive. There are no interfaces here – no keyboards or touch screens – just the viewers, who by their participation, create the art they are seeing. The centerpiece is a commission by Brian Knep, whose computer graphics software appeared in Jurassic Park. Milwaukee is your only shot to see it – the show won’t be traveling.

Jan Lievens: A Dutch Master Rediscovered

February 7 – April 26, 2009
It won’t be a world premiere – the show opens at the National Gallery – but it’s being spearheaded by MAM Curator Laurie Winters and organized in conjunction with Arthur Wheelock at the National Gallery and Lloyd DeWitt at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Like Winters’ Biedermeier in 2006, Jan Lievens pulls an oft overlooked period of art history to light – and, like Biedermeier, the show is traveling internationally, this time to the Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam. It’s the first to present a full overview of Lievens’ career and promises to draw significant scholarly attention to Milwaukee.

The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs

June 6 – August 23, 2009
Rounding out a full season of original, in-house main-gallery shows at MAM, Charles Rohlfs presents over 40 pieces of early 20th-century naturalistic and Art Nouveau furniture by the pioneering craftsman. It’s the first major show for the Chipstone Foundation, which has been under MAM’s wing since 2001, and after premiering in Milwaukee, it will travel to Dallas, Pittsburgh, California and – the big ticket – the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It’s kind of a big deal.

Milwaukee Ballet

Peter and the Wolf

September 6 – 14
Sergei Prokofiev debuted Peter and the Wolf in 1936, but the Ballet’s production is notable for Ballet Director Michael Pink’s original choreography and for the landmark collaboration between some of Wisconsin’s mightiest youth arts organizations: First Stage, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Ballet Academy. First Stage Associate Artistic Director John Maclay and MYSO Conductor Carter Simmons team up with some of the area’s best high school dancers, actors and musicians to capture the imagination and spirit of a young audience. Unique to this production is the expansion of a single role into a trio of narrators – one performs in English, one in Spanish and the third in American Sign Language. See it at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut Street.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Warmth and Nobility

September 26-28, 2008
Celebrating its 50th Season in 2008-2009, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has a tremendous performance calendar including Maestro Andreas Delfs’ valedictorian year and big-ticket guest artists like Itzhak Perlman and Renee Fleming. The MSO rarely performs world premieres on the simple fact that the vast majority of symphony repertoire was composed by people who are currently dead. But this is a special season, and accordingly, some special work will be performed. During opening weekend, hear a onetime only world premiere, “Festival 50: Fanfare and March” by composer and MSO bassist Maurice Wininsky.

Present Music

Present Past
September 6
The Present Music squad attempts a radical reimagination of everything Turner Hall is and has been, with a focus on the venue’s “proclivity for a vigorous mind, strong body and appreciation for the arts.” The season opener starts with ballroom dancing demonstrations by the Milwaukee Turners Ladies Auxiliary and showcases the Midwest premiere of John Adams’ “Son of a Chamber Symphony,” with supplementary pieces by Caroline Mallonee, Sofia Gubaidulina, Stravinsky and Present Music stalwart Randall Woolf. Catch performances by choreographers Luc Vanier, Elizbaeth Johnson and Milwaukee based group Your Mother Dancing, for “an over-the-top explosion of music, gymnastics, fencers and dancing.”

November 23 – St. John’s Cathedral
Present Music’s biggest concert of the year showcases the world premiere of In Beauty May I Walk by young New York-based composer Alexandra du Bois, written for a women’s and children’s choir. The piece will be performed by Milwaukee Choral Artists and the Milwaukee Children’s Choir.

Sound Brain

February 21 – Discovery World
Ryan Carter has been praised by the New York Times as “imaginative … like, say, a Martian dance party.” He world-premieres a new technology-
inspired work at Discovery World in conjunction with tours of their technology-based exhibitions. Synthesis… get it?

Theatre Gigante

The Perfect Candidate

October 30 – November 1
In 2008-2009, Theatre Gigante – formerly Milwaukee Dance Theatre – will premiere a brand-new season of work, the first under its new name. Don’t despair: Mark Anderson and Isabelle Kralj are still committed to producing multidisciplinary, original work. In 2007-2008, the company’s performance of Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell made waves, and this year, just in time for the biggest national election in eight years, try The Perfect Candidate, written by Kralj and Anderson and described as “a fun romp through the world of politics.” And really, what romp through the world of politics isn’t fun? Another Theatre Gigante world premiere you may not be able to attend happens on October 19 – in Slovenia. But if you’re free November 7-9, catch Isabelle Kralj with Slovenian dancers in the Danceworks concert, Have a Seat.

Windfall Theater

When I Give My Heart

February 20 – March 7, 2009
Windfall has promised a season of “Fearless Theater,” and this season the courageous can look forward to a brave world-premiere production of When I Give My Heart by Wisconsin playwright Thomas Rosenthal. The show focuses on Alana, a college woman who has disappeared in Northern Wisconsin, and Jason, the boy who finds her. The show, a poignant, mysterious drama about love, solitude, outcasts and media attention, will be directed by Windfall’s Producing Director Carol Zippel. Not to be missed.

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