First Stage
Press Release

Delightful ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!” Opens at First Stage this September

Featuring James Carrington as Gerald the Elephant and Rachael Zientek as Piggie the Pig. Based on the Elephant & Piggiebooks by Mo Willems. Published by Hyperion Books for Children Book and lyrics by Mo Willems/Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma Directed by Matt Daniels

By - Sep 3rd, 2019 02:00 pm

Milwaukee, WI – September 3, 2019 – First Stage kicks of its 2019/20 season with Mo Willems’ rollicking musical adventure ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN PLAY!”The cherished characters from the award-winning Elephant & Piggie children’s books will make the leap from page to the stage. When Gerald the Elephant and Piggie the Pig get together, anything is possible! The delightful relationship between these two pals and their devotion to each other through ups and downs will remind audiences of how good it feels to put friends first. Attendees should bring their “bestus” friends and share in all of the pachydermal peril and swiney suspense on stage.ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN PLAY!” is a First Steps production that First Stage offers to introduce children ages 3 to 7 to theater in an engaging, interactive and lively environment. The First Steps Series is sponsored by PNC.

ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!” runs September 21 – November 3, 2019 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets are $14. Tickets are available are available online at or through the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961. Performance runtime is approximately 60 minutes with no intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 3 – 7+.

Director Matt Daniels had this to say about the production: “I just love Mo Willems’ fantastic books about Elephant and Piggie. Their friendship is both silly and sweet, and has its ups and downs, full of times of calm and times of chaos. But through all of their adventures, whether going to a party, learning to play an instrument or just sharing an ice cream cone, Gerald and Piggie always have each other. And now that these books have been adapted into a musical, we get to experience this truest friendship with the delight of song and dance, up close and personal. Maybe we’ll even make new friends along the way!”

Added Artistic Director Jeff Frank, “Mo Willems magically captures the hearts, minds and imaginations of young people of today.We are thrilled to bring these two best friends to our First Steps audiences in a musical that promises big laughs and even bigger heart.”


Mo Willems (Playwright) has a knack for both writing and drawing images. He started drawing cartoons when he was a child and never quit. When it was time to start college, Willems decided on pursuing a degree in animation at New York University. He became successful with a few smalltime films while still a student. Upon graduating, Mo Willems took a job with Children’s Television Workshop in the research department. This later led to him working as a writer for the hit show, Sesame Street. Doing so gained him six Emmy Awards. Willems continued working there from 1994 to 2002. During this time, he was also credited with creating Sheep in the Big City and Codename: Kids Next Door. In the library world, Mo Willems is better known for his children’s books. In 2003, Willems released his first picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Due to the popularity and writing, the book was given a Caldecott Honor. Now, the book is the backbone of several other Pigeon books. Not only are his Pigeon books successful, but Willems has been awarded honors and medals for other books. Included in this list is a series of “Easy Readers.” There is also an illustrated memoir available for older readers to enjoy reading about his trip exploring different parts of the world. Currently, Willems lives in Massachusetts with his family. He is no longer involved with television, but he is still drawing and writing.

Matt Daniels (Director/Director of the Young Company) is a frequent collaborator at First Stage, as an actor (THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, ELLA ENCHANTED, SHREK THE MUSICAL, A MIDNIGHT CRY and A WRINKLE IN TIME, among others), director and movement director (Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, THE SNOW, RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER™: THE MUSICAL, among others), and Director of the Young Company, where he teaches and directs (THE MIRACLE WORKER, HENRY V, ANIMAL FARM, OUR TOWN, among others). Matt’s other acting credits include appearances at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Door Shakespeare, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, In Tandem Theatre and the late Milwaukee Shakespeare, as well as Forward Theater, Kentucky Repertory Theatre, Lake Geneva Theater Company, several regional Shakespeare Festivals and on many independent stages in New York. In addition to First Stage, his directing work has been seen at Door Shakespeare, MCT’s New Play Development series, Sunset Playhouse, goats & monkeys and in New York with his company Tyrannosaurus rep. When at home, Matt makes music as part of Il Bazzone’s Jumping Flea Circus. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School Drama Division.

Jayne Regan Pink (Choreographer) returns to First Stage with this production. Previously, she collaborated with the magnificent First Stage team on ROBIN HOOD, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, MATILDA The Musical, and, most recently, URINETOWN for Theater Academy’s Company class. She is also a proud and grateful parent of two First Stage babies. She is best known for her collaboration and created roles for Northern Ballet Theatre, for which she was hailed as one of Britain’s finest dramatic dancers. Jayne has since acted as répetiteur and coach for Milwaukee Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet and Colorado Ballet Companies.

Josh Robinson (Music Director) is delighted to return to First Stage, after playing keyboard 2 for last season’s hit production of MATILDA The Musical and music directing First Stage’s Company Class production of URINETOWN. Josh’s Milwaukee area music and assistant music directing credits include In Tandem Theatre (THE FANTASTICKS, CARNIVAL, SCROOGE IN ROUGEand TWISTED CAROL), Skylight Music Theatre (THE TALES OF HOFFMANN) and Marquette University (WORKING and FANCY NANCY). As an accomplished pianist, Josh gigs with area jazz groups, and accompanies vocal students and ballet classes at local colleges and organizations, including University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Ballet. He also vocal coaches and has taught for First Stage’s Theater Academy. A graduate of University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Josh holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Classical Piano Performance and Jazz Studies, and he is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Music Therapy through Augsburg University.

Adult Cast

James Carrington (Gerald) is excited to be doing this show with the “bestus” of people! He was last seen this summer at Door Shakespeare in MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR and HENRY V. James is a graduate of UW-Madison’s Acting Specialist BFA Program. Some favorite roles include Matt in MR. BURNS: A POST ELECTRIC PLAY, Man 3 in THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL, Francis Flute in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and The Lion in THE WIZ at First Stage. Past theaters he has worked with include: First Stage, In Tandem Theatre, Madison Opera, Children’s Theatre of Madison, Ordway Center for Performing Arts, Skylight Music Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks and Door Shakespeare. Up next, James will be in THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE with Skylight Music Theatre.

Rachael Zientek (Piggie) is pleased to be playing Piggie in First Stage’s production of ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!” She started taking classes at First Stage when she was in third grade and is thrilled to be performing here again. She was recently seen in UNNECESSARY FARCE at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and FUN HOME at Forward Theater. She will next be seen in NEWSIES at Skylight Music Theatre.

 The adult actor cast of ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!” includes: James Carrington (Member of Actors’ Equity Association) as Gerald; Rachael Zientek as Piggie and Austin Nelson, Jr. as the Understudy for Mr. Carrington.

 Young performer roles are double cast. Young performers in the Swimmy Cast include: Joshua Wirth (as Boy) from Mequon; Lina Singh (as Squirrelle) from Bayside; Ryann Schultz (as Squirrelle) from Wauwatosa and Tarynn Lassiter (as Squirrelle) from Menomonee Falls.

Young performers in the Fancy Cast include: Augie Poppert (as Boy) from Whitefish Bay; Taylor Arnstein (as Squirrelle) from Fox Point; Katie O’Connor (as Squirrelle) from Cedarburg and Maya O’Day-Biddle (as Squirrelle) from Franklin.

The Artistic Staff for ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!” includes: Matt Daniels (Director); Josh Robinson (Music Director); Jayne Pink (Choreographer); Emily Lotz (Scenic Designer); Marissa Abbott (Lighting Designer); Lyndsey Kuhlmann (Costume Designer); Derek Buckles (Sound Designer); Lauren Gingold, Member of Actors’ Equity Association, (Stage Manager) and Aaron McEachran (Assistant Stage Manager).

Tickets are $14 – Tickets may be purchased at or by phone (414) 267-2961.

Group Sales – Groups of 10 or more receive discounts off regular single ticket prices on most First Stage performances at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. Call (414) 267-2964 or email groups@firststage.orgfor more information.

First Stage Family Packages – any combination of tickets for three or more plays in the 2019/20 season – are on sale now. Family package prices are available at up to 50% off the cost of regular single ticket prices. Benefits include unlimited ticket exchanges, backstage tours and more.

Special events for ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!”

ASL Interpreted Performance: Sunday, November 3 at 1 p.m.

This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Sensory Friendly Performance: Saturday, October 5 at 3:30 p.m. 

A Sensory Friendly Performance with accommodations for families with children on the autism spectrum will take place on Saturday, October 5 at 3:30 p.mSensory accommodations include lower sound, house lights up, a quiet area staffed by an educator experienced with the care of students on the autism spectrum and other developmental differences, and more. Contact the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961 to reserve your tickets. 



Location: The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut Street, Milwaukee

Dates: September 21– November 3, 2019

Description: When Gerald the Elephant and Piggie the Pig get together, anything is possible. These two pals and their devotion to each other through ups and downs will remind you of how good it feels to put friends first. Bring your “bestus” friends and share in all of the pachydermal peril and swiney suspense as Mo Willems’ cherished characters make the leap from page to stage in this rollicking musical adventure. Performance runtime is approximately 60 minutes with no intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 3 – 7+.


  • Saturday, September 21 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 22 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 28 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 29 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 5 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. –SENSORY FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE at 3:30 p.m. 
  • Sunday, October 6 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 12 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 13 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 19 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 20 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 26 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 27 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, November 2 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 3 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. ASL PERFORMANCE at 1:00 p.m.

Ticket and information: Tickets are $14. Call (414) 267-2961 or online at

About First Stage

First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves nearly 2,000 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’sEureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Milwaukee Arts Partners and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).

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