Prize-winning “Disgraced” debuts this month at The Rep,
where the playwright saw productions as a child.
Photo by Dan Norman
lucky to have a vibrant theater scene in greater
Milwaukee, and this month three productions showcase the
talents of artists with ties to the area.
astonishing audiences at a number of theaters across the
country and abroad, the Pulitzer Prize-winning
“Disgraced” will finally make its way to the
Milwaukee Repertory Theater on Jan. 17.
by Ayad Akhtar, “Disgraced” depicts a dinner party gone
explosively wrong. “The play is thorny and complicated
and doesn’t offer any easy answers,” Akhtar says.
one of the most important voices in both American and
world theater right now,” says Mark Clements, The Rep’s
artistic director, of Akhtar. “Presenting this play that
tackles Islamophobia and questions of Muslim-American
identity could not be more timely, and I am very excited
to see how our audience responds,” he says, adding that
he anticipates the play will spur discussion in the car
ride home and well beyond.
such an amazing thing to have my work at The Rep — one
of those experiences in life where things come full
circle,” says Akhtar, who grew up in Brookfield and saw
plays at The Rep as a child. “You see something as a
young person on a stage. You imagine someday you could
be on that stage. And lo and behold, time and the magic
of life bring you there.”
coming-of-age story, “Welcome to Bronzeville”
follows Mike Dubois, a teenage boy living in the
neighborhood that was the cultural and economic heart of
Milwaukee’s black community in the first part of the
20th century. While the story takes place in 1957 with
jazz music and even a visit from the legendary Billie
Holiday, kids today can relate to Mike’s struggle to
find his role within his community amid peer pressure
and expectations from adults.
in the news so much negativity, and right now there’s a
lot of distrust and language of hate,” says playwright
Sheri Williams Pannell of First Stage. “This is a story
of love and affirmation. It’s rooted in truth but shares
the challenges that young people are facing to this day
trying to grow up and become their own person in our
spent time with elders who remembered Bronzeville before
part of it was demolished to clear a path for a highway,
and their reminiscing inspired her fictional account.
Upon sharing early scenes with the elders, she was
delighted with their response.
used my imagination to create some moments that were
outside of the stories they shared with me, some
received those stories as if, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember when
that happened,’” she says and laughs. “So I know that I
was in sync.
to present a story that will inspire and encourage not
just the African-American community but greater
Milwaukee,” Pannell adds.
to Bronzeville,” the first in Pannell’s trilogy about
the Dubois family, premieres Jan. 13 at the Todd Wehr
Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
The second play, “Christmas in Bronzeville,” is set in
1959 and debuts this March.
actual reminiscing and a lighthearted show that will
bring laughs, John McGivern, beloved for his one-man
shows as well as “Around the Corner” on PBS, is taking
“The Wonder Bread Years” to the Schauer Arts &
Activities Center in Hartford on Jan. 27 and 28.
explains that Pat Hazell, a writer for “Seinfeld,” wrote
this show, and the two of them reworked it to suit
McGivern’s childhood. “We made the show my experience,
which happens to be Milwaukee,” McGivern says. That
meant changing the talent show bit as well as the
great family show,” he says, adding that it appeals to
all ages even as baby boomers recall the pop culture
references. “It’s that going back and reminiscing and
nostalgia that drive the show from beginning to end.
It’s funny, and it’s sweet.
specific as I thought my stories were, there is an
appeal that is really universal,” he adds. “People are
like, ‘The streets are different and the names are
different, but what happened to you is just exactly how
This story ran in the January 2017 issue of: