Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Press Release

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents MASTER CLASS by Terrence McNally

August 7-24, 2014 - Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre

By - Jul 7th, 2014 04:55 pm
Master Class. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.

Master Class. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.

Milwaukee, WI … Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) begins its 40th Anniversary, the 2014-2015 Season, with MASTER CLASS the Tony Award-winning play by Terrence McNally.  Angela Iannone will reprise the role of legendary opera diva Maria Callas, which she first performed at MCT in 1999.  MASTER CLASS is a collaboration with Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT) and Carroll University. MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and Carroll theatre professor James Zager will co-direct the production. MASTER CLASS performs in the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

MASTER CLASS is presented as a character study of the world-famous opera soprano Maria Callas. Late in her career, the pedagogue is holding a master class. Interpolated between her interactions with students, Callas frequently retreats to inner monologues that give audiences insight to the triumphs and difficulties of her career, and the sacrifices she made for the love of her art.

Maria Callas (1923-1977) was born in America but her family later returned to Greece where she studied music at the Athens Conservatoire. The soprano is remembered for her rare versatility as a performer. In the height of career she was in constant demand for the rare and vocally challenging works of Haydn, Rossini, Gluck, Donizetti and Bellini. She is still praised for her genius art of interpreting and deep comprehension of character roles. Although her work as an artist is incredibly impressive, Callas struggled all her life with her self image and personal relationships, including a tumultuous affair with Aristotle Onassis. It is widely believed that the humanity, warmth, and expression displayed in performances were the result of much personal suffering and loss. During the 1960’s, Maria Callas gradually withdrew from the stage following difficulties with her voice. It was at this point in her career that she began teaching master classes at Juilliard.  These classes provide the basis for McNally’s fictionalized play about Callas.

Milwaukee favorite Angela Iannone returns to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre stage as Maria Callas, a role that she first performed at MCT 15 years ago and has played several times since with companies including Madison Rep, Kansas City Rep and Light Opera Oklahoma.  She was recently chosen as a 2014 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow and will participate in week-long residency and master class led by David Hyde Pierce at the Ten Chimneys estate in July. Iannone’s many other MCT appearances include WELL, MEDEA, HOMEBODY/KABUL and FILUMENA.  A director, playwright and theatre professor at UW-Whitewater, she has also performed with Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Music Theatre, InTandem Theatre, Forward Theater, Marriott Lincolnshire, Royal George and Door County Shakespeare.

Angela Iannone is also the second actress to be honored as a “Ruth Schudson Leading Lady.” Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s “Ruth Schudson Leading Lady Fund” is a donor designated fund that was created to honor MCT co-founder Ruth Schudson and provide lasting support to MCT’s mission of employing and nurturing local theatre artists. The Fund supports the work of one MCT actress each season.

The cast also includes opera singers Alicia Berneche, Melissa Cardamone and Edson Melendez making their MCT debuts. Rounding out the cast is James Fletcher who will play the stagehand. Jill Anna Ponasik and James Zager will co-direct and Brian Myers will serve as music director and the onstage role of Manny, the accompanist.

MASTER CLASS premiered at the Philadelphia Theatre Company in March of 1995 and opened on Broadway in November of that same year enjoying a sold out run. That production won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for outstanding new play. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s 1999 production of MASTER CLASS was extremely successful. 2014-2015 marks MCT’s 40th Anniversary and the company is celebrating with a season of “Something Old, Borrowed and New.” Bringing this hit back to the Cabot Theatre stage is an ideal way to start the anniversary celebration!

Playwright Terrence McNally has credits in drama, musical theatre, opera, television and film. He has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Lucile Lortel Award and the Hull-Warriner Award. His plays include LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!, A PERFECT GANESH, CORPUS CHRISTI and LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART. He also wrote the books for the musicals RAGTIME, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and THE FULL MONTY among others.


Sharon (Second Soprano): Alicia Berneche
Sophie (First Soprano): Melissa Cardamone
Stagehand: James Fletcher
Maria Callas: Angela Iannone
Tony (Tenor): Edson Melendez
Manny (Accompanist): Brian Myers


Directors: Jill Anna Ponasik and James Zager
Music Director: Brian Myers
Scenic Coordinator/Properties Designer: Dana Fralick
Costume Designer: Shima Orans
Lighting Designer: Eric Appleton
Sound Designer: Chris Guse


Thursday, August 7 – 7:30 pm (Preview)
Friday, August 8 – 8:00 pm (Opening)
Saturday, August 9 – 8:00 pm
Sunday, August 10 – 2:00 pm
Wednesday, August 13 – 7:30 pm (ViewPoints)
Thursday, August 14– 7:30 pm (LGBT Night Out, Talkback)
Friday, August 15 – 8:00 pm
Saturday, August 16– 4:00 pm
Saturday, August 16– 8:00 pm
Sunday, August 17 – 2:00 pm
Wednesday, August 20– 1:00 pm (Talk Theatre)
Thursday, August 21 – 7:30 pm (Talkback)
Friday, August 22 – 8:00 pm
Saturday, August 23 – 4:00 pm
Saturday, August 23 – 8:00 pm
Sunday, August 24 – 2:00 pm


— VIP 40th Anniversary Kickoff: MCT rolls out the red carpet for this exclusive event filled with champagne, hors d’ouvres and entertainment to celebrate our anniversary. Cost: $40 per person. Following the opening night performance on Friday, August 8 in the Skylight Bar & Bistro.

–Pre-performance ViewPoints: a free, pre-show presentation by Patrick C. Byrne, co-author of “The Colors of Callas: Reflections of an Icon” on Wednesday, August 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Skylight Bar & Bistro.

–Pre-performance Talk Theatre: MCT Producing Artistic Director C. Michael Wright will lead a lively and informative chat with co-directors Jill Anna Ponasik and James Zager beginning at 12:00 noon before the matinee on Wednesday, August 20 in the Skylight Bar & Bistro.

— LGBT Night Out: A free, pre-show reception for the LGBT community, patrons and friends on Thursday, August 14.

–Post-performance Talkbacks:  Post-show discussion with the cast following performances on Thursday, August 14 and Thursday, August 21.

MASTER CLASS performances are August 7-24, 2014 (Opening Night: Friday, August 8) in the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre, 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.  Tickets are available Monday through Saturday from noon-6:00 p.m. at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office, 158 N. Broadway, or by phone at (414) 291-7800. Tickets can be purchased online – 24 hours a day at Group, student and senior discounts are also available. Season ticket packages, $93-$155, can be purchased by calling (414) 276-8842. For more information, visit  MASTER CLASS is sponsored by John E. Holland.


ALICIA BERNECHE – Sharon (Second Soprano)

Alicia Berneche is making her MCT debut, however, she has appeared on the Cabot Theatre stage numerous times with Skylight Music Theatre in shows including THE RIVALS, H.M.S. PINAFORE, LA BOHEME, LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, THE MIKADO and the world premiere of BALLYMORE. Other career highlights include performing as Daisy Buchanan in THE GREAT GATSBY at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and in the world premiere of Philip Glass and Mary Zimmerman’s GALILEO GALILEI.  She has also sung Carmina Burana with the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä and Le nozze di Figaro under Zubin Mehta.

MELISSA CARDAMONE – Sophie (First Soprano)

Melissa Cardamone earned vocal performance degrees from The Eastman School of Music and Lawrence University.  Roles include Mimì in LA BOHÈME, Marianne in THE NEW MOON, Elizabeth in FORTUNA THE TIME BENDER VS. THE SCHOOLGIRLS OF DOOM, Laurie in THE TENDER LAND, Sarah Brown in GUYS AND DOLLS, Johanna in SWEENEY TODD and Susanna in MARRIAGE OF FIGARO. She has performed with Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Music by the Lake and the Lakeside Players, and she sings in the Florentine Opera Chorus.  When not onstage she is a staff accompanist at Carthage College. This is her MCT debut.


James Fletcher returns to MCT after appearing in TAKE ME OUT and THE WINTER’S TALE. He has performed with Milwaukee Repertory Theater, First Stage, Bialystock & Bloom and Peninsula Players. Since moving back to Milwaukee in 1998, he’s made his way as an actor, director, playwright, producer, teacher and fight choreographer.  He is also the founder and artistic director of The Bunny Gumbo Theatre Company.


Angela Iannone returns to role of Maria Callas, which she first performed at MCT 15 years ago and has also played at Madison Rep, Kansas City Rep and Light Opera Oklahoma.  Her many other MCT appearances include WELL, MEDEA, HOMEBODY/KABUL, DIRTY BLONDE, THE FOURTH WALL, TALKING HEADS and FILUMENA. A director, playwright and theatre professor at UW-Whitewater, she has also performed with Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Music Theatre, In Tandem Theatre, Next Act Theatre, Forward Theater, Marriott Lincolnshire, Royal George, Optimist Theatre and the Oak Park, Utah, Georgia, Milwaukee and Door County Shakespeare companies. Her play THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE, the second play in her play cycle “The Edwin Booth Trilogy” recently received its Off Off Broadway premiere with Titan Theatre Company. Her first play debuted in New York at The Players NYC, the home of Edwin Booth. She was recently chosen as a 2014 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow and will participate in a week-long residency and master class led by David Hyde Pierce at the Ten Chimneys estate in July.


Edson Melendez makes his MCT debut in MASTER CLASS.  He can be seen regularly as a member of the Florentine Opera Chorus where he has also been seen as a featured soloist in the summer concert series and as Giuseppe in LA TRAVIATA. He has been a soloist with SEWPA, Racine Choral Arts Society, Kenosha Master Singers, North Shore Opera Hour and Candid Concert Opera and his theatre credits include SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE at Racine Theatre Guild and MURDER ON THE 19TH with Broadway Palms Theater.  He holds degrees from Arizona Stage University and DePaul University.

BRIAN MYERS – Manny (Accompanist), Music Director

Brian Myers is a pianist and singer with performance credits in musical theatre, opera, drama and choral music. He works regularly as a music director with groups including Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Solstice Theatre and Sunset Playhouse. He maintains a voice studio at his home and is a teaching artist for PianoArts and First Stage. His work as a singing songwriter has led him to stages from coast to coast, including the Strawberry One Act Festival in New York City where his song cycle “STATUS: a music drama for the digital age” had its premiere in 2011. This is his MCT debut.


Jill Anna Ponasik makes her MCT debut co-directing MASTER CLASS with James Zager. She is now in her sixth season as artistic director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre where she has led projects including FORTUNA THE TIME BENDER VS. THE SCHOOL GIRLS OF DOOM, 26, AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS, MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES, THE EURYDICE PROJECT, JUDGMENT OF MIDAS and FAÇADE. As a performer, she has appeared in productions with Skylight Music Theatre, Nautilus Music-Theater, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera and Ohio Light Opera among others.  She holds degrees from the University of Minnesota and Rice University.

JAMES ZAGER – Co-Director

James Zager is the head of theatre and arts management at Carroll University and has been directing, choreographing and designing movement in professional theaters throughout the United States for the past 20 years.  He has done work for Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Sunset Playhouse, Fireside Playhouse, Phoenix Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Marriott’s Lincolnshire, Barn Theatre (MI), Apple Tree Young Actors Project (IL), Moraine Valley Children’s Theatre (IL), Soupstone Productions (IL), The Cookie Company (AZ). He has won numerous awards for his work including the prestigious AriZoni Award for Phoenix Theatre’s WEST SIDE STORY. This is his MCT debut.

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