It's been a hectic few months, gentle readers. Since April and before the end of June, I will have directed two shows and performed in two shows. That's four productions in three months. Am I crazy? Absolutely yes. Is it fun? Absolutely yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely yes. This is a crazy time, but I have to pay my dues now so I can maybe coast a little bit later on.
So what were these four shows? It started off with directing for Milwaukee Comedy's Retro Comedy Night. I had the honor of directing some of Milwaukee's most awesome actors in this show. While I cannot say exactly what they show was, I can tell you that it was Fresh, and featured Sean Jackson, Marti Gobel, Devere Burnett, Raven Dockery, James Carrington, Aja Luckett, Audwin Short, and Bria Cloyd. This was a short and sweet process, and had my cast members excited for the next opportunity to perform in one of Milwaukee Comedy's Retro Comedy Nights.
The next show I did was a hilarious adaptation of an episode of The X Files. Ours was called Close to Home: A Musical X File. With a short, 3-night run, this show ended up surprising me by being one of my favorite productions to date. It was written by the hilariously talented Stuart Mott, who tragically moved away from Milwaukee a few weeks ago. The music was great, the cast had that comedic timing, and I learned that the number 6 comes after 7 (but only when counting to 4.) It was so great working with a group of improvisers in a musical, and it was great working with musical actors working in an improvised show. I met some awesome people, and I hope some of them continue to pursue performing in this capacity.
I am currently in performances for Suddenly Last Summer with Uprooted Theatre. I talked about Uprooted before, and it is such sad news to share that they are closing after this production. Uprooted has provided me and other actors of color many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had in other places in Milwaukee. I have performed beautiful and poignant new works, I have performed songs that I would never normally get to sing, and I right now I am in a groundbreaking production with a nontraditional, all-black cast performing a Tennessee Williams script. Uprooted, Marti Gobel, and Dennis Johnson has always been the forerunner in providing amazing opportunities. I am sad to see them go, but I also know that I have the opportunity to step up and fill that void.
Which leads me to my next project, which is directing with All In Productions. We are doing Little Shop of Horrors. While I do have some directing credits under my belt, I have never done a show this large. However, I know that I am lucky to have so much talent surrounding me. Karl Miller has been dreaming of choreographing this show for years. Burt Gross, our puppet and set designer, has had so many ideas in his head that he even sketched out some costume ideas for us. Our costumes, makeup and hair, props, and of course my AWESOME cast, are doing so much so well that my job as a director is super easy. We are all on the same group mind. There are times when I have an idea that I think could be too crazy and silly, but then someone will turn to me and say “what if…[the exact idea I just had!]” It’s so wonderful working with great people. But I am not going to lie—it’s scary, too. With so many people coming up to me telling me how much they love this show, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. Of course, that pressure is there for every show. I have done the show before—as a performer. I got to play Ronnette. Every production I have seen is basically the same. It makes sense because the stage directions in the script are so specific. It’s probably the most specific script I’ve ever seen. But you know what? I’m one to make my own rules. Our show is going to be different. I haven’t seen every production out there, but I can tell you that I haven’t seen one like ours. What makes our special? Besides the talent, the dancing, the singing, the non-traditional casting, the new puppets—you’ll have to come check it out to find out.
Dreams vs. Reality. They can coexist.