The passion of Frank Lloyd Wright, a towering figure in the world of architecture, is conjured in the world premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher and Eric Simonson's Work Song, at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Sept. 6-Oct. 8.
The Wisconsin native is seen in three one-act plays that make up the collage-like Work Song, a large-cast epic that is shaping up to be one of Milwaukee's major arts events this year.
Audiences will be offered three objective views of the man, in separate acts set at different times in his life. The tension between Wright's personal and creative work is explored in the piece, presented by 24 performers at The Rep's Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. Wright (1869-1959) created the "prairie style" of architecture that stressed horizontal lines and never broke ties to his home state (his famed home, Taliesen, twice rebuilt, is in Spring Green, WI).
According to production notes, the staging "uses visual and architectural elements to animate the spirit and sense of Wright's architecture on stage." Singers will perform a song called "Work Song" in the show; the song is a poem to which Wright's wife added music.
A Rep spokesperson told Playbill On-Line that because of Wright's Midwest and Wisconsin roots, there is genuine buzz in town about the show. A Sept. 9 symposium about Wright's world and the play will be presented. Hatcher is author of Scotland Road, Smash, Three Viewings, an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw and more. Simonson is Work Song's co-author and director, and is known for his regional directing work (The Rep's Angels in America, several Steppenwolf stagings) and a Tony Award nomination for The Song of Jacob Zulu in 1992-93.
Official opening of Work Song is Sept. 8. Rep ensemble member Lee E. Ernst plays Frank Lloyd Wright.
The cast also includes Laura Gordon, Torrey Hanson, James Pickering, Rose Pickering, Kirsten Potter, Ron Frazier, Richard Halverson, Angela Iannone, Leon Addison Brown, Andrew Morris, Chris Mangels, Christopher Prentice, Andy Gladbach, Andrew Groble, Ian Alderman, Heather Rene Corallo, Jeff Ehren, Lisa C. Jones, Sarah Patterson Malkin, Trina Nance, Robert P. Reeves III, Molly Rhode, Leon Satchell-Paige, Charles R. Schoenherr.
Designers are Kent Dorsey (set), Karin Kopischke (costume), Chris Parry (lighting), John Boesche (projection), Barry G. Funderburg (sound). Ed Burgess is choreographer, Randal Swiggum is choral director and Ernst is the fight choreographer.
Tickets are $5-$40. The Milwaukee Rep Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex is at 108 E. Wells, in downtown Milwaukee. For information, call (414) 224-9490.
This is not the first stage show to approach the subject of Wright. Daron Hagen's opera, Shining Brow, has played Wisconsin and Chicago.
-- By Kenneth Jones