Hear the words "Shaw Festival" and you may think of Canada's venerable institution, but Milwaukee, WI, has had its own Shaw Festival for 14 years and this week announced plans for the 15th.
Hosted by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, the 15th Annual Milwaukee Shaw Festival gets underway Feb. 14-March 9. This year's event will feature a major staging of Shaw's The Apple Cart. Also on tap is Jeffrey Hatcher's play, Smash, based on the novel Shaw wrote when he was 29, "An Unsocial Socialist."
The Apple Cart (1929) shows a popular king wrestling with a cantankerous cabinet for control of the country. Maurice Evans starred in the show on Broadway in 1956. Says director (and MCT artistic director) Montgomery Davis, "This play portends a Shavian future that surprisingly reflects the issues of leadership in both England and America today... A bunch of big wheels circling each other for control of the country."
Guest artists Screaming Penguin Productions will stage Shaw's comic one-act, The Music Cure, as well as the Oscar Wilde-based The Oak And The `Gale. Their evening is titled "Shaw Shorts: Salon Suite -- An Elegant Soiree Of Silliness And Song" (Feb. 14-March 2).
Appearing as King Magnus in Apple Cart will be Michael Ball, a company member of the other Shaw Festival on Niagara-On-The Lake. He'll also appear in Smash. Mary MacDonald Kerr, Paula Cabot, Jim Butchart, JoDean Culbert, David Skidmore, David Cecsarini, Tony Cleme is Flieller, Richard Halverson, Bo Johnson, Jens Rasmussen, Amy Hastert, Tara McAllister-Viel, Christina Grant and Raeleen McMillion will also perform in the festivals shows, which have sets by J. Branson, costumes by Scott Rott, lighting by Bob Zenoni and sound by David Cecsarini. Dan Laurence, retired dramatic advisor on the Shaw Estate, will offer a free lecture on GBS, Feb. 24, at the Milwaukee Public Library. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre established the only continuing Shaw Festival in America because "the plays of Bernard Shaw occupy a unique place in the spectrum of English-speaking theatre."
Shaw, born in Dublin in 1856 and raised as a staunch Fabian socialist, lived 94 years and wrote such plays as Arms And The Man, Major Barbara, Man And Superman, Caesar And Cleopatra, Pygmalion and Heartbreak House.
Hatcher's Smash, directed by Jonathan Smoots, concerns a millionaire socialist leaving his newlywed bride to start a revolution at a ladies' college. Other plays by Hatcher include Three Viewings and Scotland Road. The author will be appearing at and around the Festival in March -- especially since Next Act Theatre will be staging his Three Viewings at the same time.
For tickets and information on the Milwaukee Shaw Festival, Feb. 14-March 9, call (414) 291-7800.
--By David Lefkowitz