Waukesha's Klopatek 
bids state farewell

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

August 13, 2009

I first encountered Chris Klopatek in his sophomore year in my speech class. My first impression of him was that he is charming, intelligent and impish. He's what many would call "a cute little guy." He also had a natural bent for amusing others, including me.

This combination of talents has served him well in his ongoing pursuit of a career in the performing arts. Patrick Holland and Ray Jivoff, two professional actor/director/ mentors who worked at Catholic Memorial High School during Klopatek's student years there helped him discover and develop his talent, and he mentions both of them as significant influences.

At the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Klopatek met Jim Butchart, and his coaching prompted Klopatek in his sophomore year to change his major from computer management systems to a degree in fine arts. Angela Ianonne, one of Milwaukee's most accomplished actors, persuaded Klopatek to audition at Milwaukee Chamber Theater for "The Bible: The Complete Works of God Abridged," which turned out to be his first professional gig. He will shortly be opening as the lead in "Around the World in Eighty Days," his last stint here before going off to California to pursue an MFA degree in a class of eight other carefully chosen participants.

Since graduating from Whitewater in 2004, Klopatek has had significant roles in Milwaukee and in Spring Green at the American Players, a theater group that specializes in Shakespeare, a playwright whom Klopatek has grown to love over the years. One of his favorite Shakespearian roles was Puck from "Midsummer Night's Dream," a role he played in high school. Another was Horatio in "Hamlet," which he played for Nevermore Theater. David Daniel, the director of education at American Players Theater, has also been a part of Klopatek's formation, especially in his ability to understand Shakespeare - no easy task.

Several other noteworthy roles include Jeff in "Kimberly Akimbo," where he got to work with the auspicious Ruth Schudson, and Ghia in "The Producers," where he paired up with his mentor from high school, Ray Jivoff, a well-known actor of varied and prestigious talents. Klopatek's had the privilege of working with and observing the splendid work of such actors as Jonathan Smoots, James DeVita, Brian Mani, Jim Ridge, Sarah Day and Michelle Arnold, all of whom he has tried to learn something from.

Klopatek prefers roles with a twist rather than just playing someone's love interest.

The role of Passepartout in "Around the World," which he is working on as I pen this article about him, is just such a role. The production uses only five actors who will play close to forty roles. Klopatek will be sharing the stage with two of Milwaukee's most prominent actors whom he greatly admires - Norman Moses and Robert Spencer - who will create most of the roles. To use Klopatek's own words, "The rehearsal process is one of the most inventive, creative, collaborative and tiring experiences I've ever had ... and I'm loving every minute of it."

Of course, though Klopatek has been able to enjoy a more promising start than many young actors, it has not been a breeze either. When you're engaged in one role, you're always hustling for another. In the meantime, you have to pick up another side job just to survive. Those jobs for Klopatek have included delivering futons, hanging lights and being a boat dock worker in Door County. He has also worked with educational programs for the Skylight and The American Players, has made some commercials and done some voice-over work. Every experience one has can be useful when it comes to acting.

Klopatek's hopes for the future include possible entry into the television and film industry, a tough go, but one he wants to pursue nonetheless. We wish him well on the West Coast, but hope he comes back "home" and delights us once again.

"Around the World in Eighty Days" opens Friday. Call (414) 291-7800 for times and tickets. It's sure to be a memorable adventure and a big hit.