Monday, August 3, 2015

First Stage hosts American Alliance for Theater & Education National Conference

First Stage is excited to host AATE’S 28th National Conference from August 5 - 9, 2015. Over 300 Theater artists, educators and leaders in the field of Theater Education will gather in Milwaukee to share expertise as they explore how theater enhances the ability of young people to empathize, achieve and create.

"We are thrilled to welcome the AATE National Conference to Milwaukee for the first time,” said Julia Magnasco, Director of Education at First Stage. “AATE is the largest professional organization of Theater educators and artists. We look forward to creating unique experiences for attendees while they’re here, and showcasing Milwaukee.”

The goal of the five-day convention is to explore the topic of “Tapping the Power of Creative Minds,” and examine the connections between the brain and theatre through an interdisciplinary series of keynote speakers, master classes and workshops. The conference will engage social cognitive neurologists and neuropsychologists in a dialogue about the relationship between both fields. In addition, educators, artists and students in the field will learn new techniques, network and be inspired to use theater to change lives. 

Keynote speakers, master classes and workshops will be held at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. In addition, the organization is hosting events at Milwaukee Youth Arts Center with excursions available to First Stage, Milwaukee Art Museum and Lake Front Brewery.

  • Devising Civic Practice: Theatre, Community and ChangeMichael Rohd, Artistic Director at Sojourn Theater Company and faculty member at Nothwestern University
  • Resonate: How effective performance training engages the brainDr. Indre Viskontas, Professor of Science and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • Echolalia. A window on autism in the style of clown theaterJenny McArthur, Graduate of New Zealand School of Dance, Circomedia – Circus Skills and Physical Theatre School (Bristol UK) and Michael Johnson, Assistant Professor at the University of Utah

  • Thinking Narratively: Telling stories through multiple methodsJohnny Saldaña, Professor Emeritus from Arizona State University
  • In Rehearsal – The Dynamics of DiscoveryJeff Frank, Artistic Director at First Stage; Matt Daniels, actor/movement specialist and Edwin Olvera, Choreographer 
  • Taking Our Next Steps as Artists and People: Creating transformative theatre training experiences for students with autism using a research based approachJenn Adams, Academy Director at First Stage and Mary Stone, Special Education teacher
  • Storytelling – A Gymnasium for Empathy; A Workout for the ImaginationRives Collins, faculty member at Northwestern University and Don Doyle,  Professor of Theatre at Arizona State University.

We'll be posting updates throughout the week! Follow hashtag #tappingthepowerofaate on Twitter for more AATE National Conference updates!

Learn more about AATE.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Kid to Kid Cabaret on Tuesday, July 21st

First Stage prides itself on teaching children life skills through stage skills and on the people that make that possible—our staff. To celebrate our Theater Academy’s teaching staff, First Stage will host the Kid to Kid Cabaret on Tuesday, July 21 at 6:00 p.m. at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center.  The Kid to Kid Cabaret will be comprised of performances from some of this summer’s Academy teachers. Families attending the event will enjoy performances of scenes, monologues, music, dance, improvisation, and much more!

Admission is a $5 suggested donation, which will directly support First Stage’s Kid to Kid program. Kid to Kid is a fundraising program operated by First Stage Theater Academy students to fund scholarships for others to attend the Academy. 
“Above all, First Stage is a COMMUNITY,” said Karl Iglesias, First Stage resident teaching artist, and organizer for the Kid to Kid Cabaret.  “The fact that students and teachers work together to help bring this opportunity to fellow students in need is truly inspiring to witness.” 
“The Kid to Kid Cabaret is also a great opportunity for our families and parents to witness the incredibly talented teaching staff reaching their students this summer,” continued Iglesias.
For more information on First Stage’s Kid to Kid program, CLICK HERE

For up-to-date information on the Kid to Kid Cabaret, check out our event on First Stage’s Facebook page.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hello, Fellow!

by Logan Peaslee

We are proud to welcome the first ever members of the Teaching Artist Fellowship—Amy Shu and Ashley Jordan—to the First Stage family!

The Teaching Artist Fellowship is a program that provides teaching and performance experience for an emerging professional interested in working with youth. In the classroom, the fellows will develop curriculum for Academy classes, observe classes as an assistant teacher, teach as a lead teacher, receive mentorship from staff, and facilitate mentorship with students. On stage, the fellows will perform in at least one theater production, serve as understudies throughout the season, and help develop new plays.
Amy Shu (center)
Before moving to Milwaukee to become a First Stage fellow, Amy Shu lived in Southern California. In college, she studied to be an elementary school teacher and had her first experiences in acting. The Teaching Artist Fellowship allows Amy to combine her two passions of teaching and performing.

Ashley Jordan (center)
Ashley Jordan was a member of the First Stage family before she became a fellow. Having been an Academy student, Ashley is excited to recreate her experiences with First Stage for other students. She is also excited to put her training from First Stage to use in the coming year’s productions.

Why did you want to be a Fellow for First Stage?
Amy: I had a desire to bridge my two passions—teaching and performing. First Stage was the place I was sure I could do just that.
Ashley: My interest for the First Stage Fellowship was piqued when I heard about it through one of my mentors, Malkia Stampley. I was so interested in having the opportunity to teach younger students and also to develop my own artistry.
What are you most looking forward to about being a Fellow for First Stage?
Amy: I am most looking forward to the opportunity to perform alongside the students I will be teaching. I haven't performed with children before, and I'm excited to see them in action.
Ashley: The thing I am looking forward to most is helping students defy limitations through expressing who they are and growing in to who they want to become.
What’s one goal you want to be able to look back and say you’ve accomplished during your time as a Fellow at First Stage?
Amy: One goal I want to accomplish is that I will be able to teach my own class and have it run successfully. It is a very straight forward goal, but I have only had experience teaching school curriculum and this will be the first time I get the opportunity to teach acting material. 
Ashley: One goal I want to be able to accomplish is becoming more confident as a performer and artist. I believe the mentorship from the wonderful staff, my friends, and the students will push me to reach my furthest potential.

Watch for more news about our fellows teaching and gaining life skills through stage skills throughout our upcoming season!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

First Stage Announces Partnership with Monster Run

By Richard Elver

First Stage is excited to announce that we will be the official charity partner of the 3rd annual Monster Run on October, 17!  We’re thrilled to be partnering with Monster Run, whose previous runs have turned out over 3,000 participants.  We believe that together we could produce the largest turnout yet for Monster Run!

The 3rd annual Monster Run, produced by Vision Event Management, will retain many aspects from its successful first two years.  The Run will feature a Wickedly Wild 5 Miler, a Goose Bump Filled 5K (3.1 miles) and Frightfully Fun Kids’ Runs which are less than .5 miles long.  One difference from previous Runs is the new location at Hart Park in Wauwatosa.

Costumes are certainly encouraged but not required.  Awards will be given to the top three male and female finishers but walkers are also welcome to join in the fun.  Awards will also be given to the best individual, group and kid costumes so be sure to get creative with your wardrobe!

Monster Run is open for team and family registration through its website There is no age limit so the whole family can take part in the festivities!  We will have delicious post-race treats and food as well as free “witches brew” (beer) for registered participants over 21.

The event needs over 150 volunteers.  We are looking for volunteers to take on fun roles such as being “course rock stars,” who otherwise might be called course marshals, and working at packet pickup before the race to hand out materials and bibs to runners.

Participants can help raise even more for First Stage by fundraising on their own.  All additional fundraising provided by runners will be donated to First Stage!  Visit Monster Run’s website for more information on individual fundraising. 

The Monster Run has quickly become a Milwaukee Metro Halloween tradition for many and our partnership can make this year’s run the biggest yet.  Come join the fun and support First Stage!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First Stage to offer "Les Paul, Wizard of Waukesha" workshop for schools

First Stage was honored to receive a grant from the Les Paul Foundation to create and implement an Arts-Integrated Teaching Through Theater program based on Les Paul’s extraordinary life and musical accomplishments. The weeklong program, facilitated during our 2014/2015 season, utilized dramatic activities such as role-play, improvised scene work, movement-based exercises, and pantomime to explore Les Paul’s legacy and specifically his impact in Waukesha, Wisconsin. During the workshops, students explored his songs, his use of rhythm, and his exemplification of the Four P’s of Performance (Project, Plant, Purpose, and Personalize). By engaging in the dramatic arts, students also re-enacted important moments from Les Paul’s life and explored his innovative inventions.

Thanks to the generosity of the Les Paul Foundation, First Stage reached 6 schools in Waukesha through the Les Paul workshops, reaching a total of 375 students and their classroom teachers!

We're excited to announce that First Stage will now offer “Les Paul, Wizard of Waukesha” as a workshop option as part of our Theater in Education programming. The workshop is available for any interested classroom throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. First Stage looks forward to sharing the impact of Les Paul’s music and life with more young people and classroom teachers in our community.  

Workshop Description:
Les Paul, Wizard of Waukesha
 (Grades 3 – 5): Examine the life of Les Paul and discover the local legend's many attributes which have forever influenced music. Through dramatic activities, students will explore the innovative, problem-solving, and creative skills of Les Paul and how such attrubutes are an inspiration in their lives and future pursuits. (CSS.ELA-Literacy: RI.3.1, RI.3.3, RI.3.4, RI.4.2, RI.4.3, RI.4.7, RI.5.5, SL.3.3, SL.4.1.D, SL.5.2).

Visit our website for more information about First Stage’s Teaching Through Theater workshops (facilitated in your classroom).

What educators had to say about the Les Paul workshop:

“The Les Paul workshops for our third graders were great. The material was perfect for our study of the history of Waukesha.  The presenter was very enthusiastic and held all of the students’ attentions. We would like to participate next year in the workshops. Both third grade teachers agree, it was a great program.”
– Third Grade Teachers at Meadowbrook School

“…People in the music industry don’t go a day without thinking about how much Les Paul has changed their lives, but for the average 3rd grader this might not be the case. It is, however, the case now thanks to this workshop. Kids usually had a small grasp before the workshop about who this guy was, but after the workshop they started to listen to music a little differently. After the first day of teaching I would encourage the students to go home and listen to their favorite band or artist and think if that song would exist without the inventions Les Paul brought into the world.” – J.T. Backes, First Stage Teaching Artist

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Transforming lives through theater – Beck's story

This season, First Stage played a big role in the lives of the Lawrence family. Read below as Kelly shares her story about the impact First Stage has had on her family.

“My son started at First Stage with a Next Steps session after we received the flyer from his special education teacher. I was thrilled to hear about this new program within First Stage's Theater Academy because there are really not many activities for him. My son Beck is eleven years old and in 5th grade at Fairview Elementary in Milwaukee. He is also on the autism spectrum.

We always love the First Stage productions which we have been attending since he was three. We knew there was an Academy but we also knew it wouldn’t work for him. The timing of us learning about Next Steps was perfect because Beck was in third grade and that is the starting age. After his second Next Steps session, one of the instructors suggested that his “next step” be an acting class on Saturday. He did that class and has done several others since then.

First Stage is one of the most positive influences for Beck. 
He is completely accepted and encouraged there. We joke when he starts a new class about who the teacher will be to ease his anxiety. It is a joke because we have learned is doesn’t matter. They are all awesome! They also have older kids intern and help with both Next Steps and other Academy classes. This is great for Beck because it shows him the “next steps” he can take with First Stage as he gets older.

The First Stage cheer has become a part of our building blocks for life. We printed it out to put on his desk at school. It helps him to remember not only the positive reinforcements in the cheer but also the people at First Stage who believe in and encourage him. The cheer goes:  ‘I can’t’ is NOT in my vocabulary, I take risks, I conquer my fears, I am not afraid to lead.

The difference First Stage has made in my life, in my son’s life and in so many others’ lives is priceless and any amount you can give First Stage makes a difference for all of us.

One and two-week Next Steps Summer Academy classes begin August 17! To learn more, CLICK HERE.

First Stage is honored to play a role in the lives of thousands of young people and families, just like the Lawrence family. Whether it’s on stage, in the classroom, or in the audience, people are transformed through the power of theater.

We are less than one month away from the end of our fiscal year and need your help to reach our year-end goal. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution before June 30 so First Stage can continue making a difference in our community.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why we make art

Another First Stage Young Company student - and graduating senior shares his thoughts on art, and the many moments that made his experience at First Stage exceptional.

Maxwell Zupke in Our Town, 2015
Hi, I’m Maxwell Zupke, and I’ll be studying English, creative writing, and lifelong poverty at the University of California-Los Angeles. This is only my second year in the Young Company, but I’ve been at First Stage in some capacity for over ten years.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why we make art, specifically theater, why it’s important to us. There are a lot of popular reasons – because it’s entertaining, because it teaches us morals or lessons, because it’s a historical or cultural mirror – and they’re all somewhat true but I think there are flaws and exceptions to each of those arguments.

But the most irresistible argument is that great art becomes immortal –our ideas, our feelings can live on beyond our own short lives. But I’m not sure that’s the case, either. There’s a line the stage manager says in Our Town: “Babylon once had two million people in it, and all we know about ‘em is the names of the kings and some copies of wheat contracts.” We like to say that Shakespeare is immortal; Hamlet may die in act five but he’ll live forever. The truth is that Hamlet has a much longer life than any of us – he was born hundreds of years ago and he’ll likely – hopefully – outlive us all by a good deal more, but there was a day when he was born onstage and there will be a day when he dies onstage as well.

In the end, all theater is – like life – just a series of moments that somehow form a human experience, some of which we take on in memory and which we pass on ourselves so that they might live a little longer; moments of discovery, of conflict, of bliss, of melancholy, of magic, of mystery. So I thank you for the moments – onstage and off – I’ve spent with you, with the understanding that most everything worth expressing has either already been said in small words here and there or else is, in fact, unsayable.

So thank you to Noa Rubnitz for always asking questions – even if half of them make no sense, to Josie Trettin for your sly glances across the room, to Max Wilson for your bemused ingenuity, to Mary Elsa Henrichs for your impressive combination of grace and fierce intelligence, to Caroline Fossum for sharing the anxiety of a first Company Class and a last Young Company show, to Hannah Engel for your emotional honesty and your contagious nervous excitement, to Max Pink for gently correcting my cockney (many times), to Lexie Peterson for the warmth and love in your backstage hugs, to Katherine Pollnow for your calm and your resilience in the face of small children and other seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and to Conlan Ledwith for your gleeful abandon in everything – especially things which have never before been treated with gleeful abandon. Thank you to Henry Lynch for your ease and good humor and for acting as a point of semi-reliable mental and emotional stability through the years. God knows we all need it. Thank you to Ben Braun for our late night movie rants and for our close encounters with death of the automobile kind. Thank you to Erin Bentley for your loyalty and for your ability to always make me laugh. Thank you to Alison Pogorelc for our forays into theater of questionable quality and for our Saturday afternoon coffee sessions.

And thank you to my mom, for convincing me – when it became apparent that soccer was not my thing – to try a theater class. Thank you to Marcy Kearns for showing me the sheer joy of continual, ceaseless discovery. Your bald, unmitigated enthusiasm for just about everything is a source of infinite inspiration. And to Matt Daniels for showing me how to build a character and a world from the text up, and for including me in the creative process like I’d never been before. You made all of us feel as though it was not only our town, but our play. And of course, thank you to John Maclay for teaching me to love Shakespeare, to wrestle like a kung fu master, and to be stingy with my cookies.

At First Stage I’ve played a king and a street urchin, a drunken priest and an arrogant wrestler, a count with a cheating fiancée and a boy with a mouse infestation, an embattled circus ringmaster and a probably underpaid stage manager. But by far the roles I’ve cherished most have been student and friend – and I hope to continue playing them for a long time. Thank you, my friends, for all these wonderful moments.