TO THE PROMISED LAND is a piece with deep historical roots and a strong connection to the urban Milwaukee community. Against the injustice and prejudice of the times in which they live, the young characters of Ruth and Golda Meir struggle to find the meaning of home and discover their own promised land. Ruth is an African American girl living in 1967 Milwaukee, and Golda Meir is a young Jewish girl living in the same Milwaukee apartment 60 years earlier. Ruth has lost her brother, is struggling at school and with some children in her neighborhood, and she is losing hope. Hope arrives in the form Golda Meir who grew up in that same neighborhood years earlier. Golda, now an adult, is coming to speak at Ruth’s school, and Ruth is assigned a special project – a book report on Golda Meir. In reading the book, Ruth discovers similarities between her life and young Golda’s, and Ruth finds the strength to persevere through her hardships and find a way to reach her own promised land.
I'm constantly planning for upcoming seasons. I have a wall in my office that is filled with post-its with titles I'm considering, and I'm always shifting them around trying to find the right blend for the next season. We typically have a few plays in development (usually a 3 year process) so that has to be a part of the puzzle as we move forward. For example - we're looking at developing a play inspired by the Bronzeville neighborhood and history - and a new musical adapted from the Anatole books that John Maclay, Lee Becker and James Valcq have started to work on. We try to make sure that we are presenting a variety of shows that reflect the diversity of our community and target varying age groups - but the common element of all is that they need to be great stories!
Well, the movie certainly wasn’t a musical – so that is one big difference. But the heart of the movie – Josh’s wish to be big and the problems that result when his wish is granted – is still the heart of the musical. And of course we’ll have the scene in which Josh and MacMillan dance on the giant piano! And Josh will be nibbling on a tiny corn at the party!
For those of you who are familiar with the musical and concerned that maybe it is too mature for some of your younger children because of the relationship Josh develops with Susan – know that we made some cuts to ensure that the content is family friendly for ages 7 and up. Grown up Josh falls for Susan and there is a first kiss, but the primary focus of the story is the friendship between Josh and Billy and how that friendship is threatened by the changes in Josh’s life – something that, despite the fantastic nature of Josh’s changes, we can all still relate to and understand.
I'm fortunate enough to be directing Rudolph myself. I am so honored that the folks at Character Arts have entrusted us to bring this classic Rankin/Bass special to the stage. It is going to be something special.
Will Rudolph fly?
Someone asked me earlier today if Rudolph will fly in our production. And yes. Of course Rudolph will fly - with the help of some other actors who will be dressed in white so as to disappear into the set more easily. They will lift Rudolph so that he can “fly” as needed. Those of you who were fortunate enough to see our production of PETER PAN AND WENDY will understand.
Through the use of Kokens (we’ve actually been calling them Snowkens – because they are dressed in white instead of the traditional black) we’ll manipulate the elements of the environment, help the reindeer fly and bring to life puppets ranging from birds, to the Misfit Toys, to the Abominable.
For more about kōken and the tradition of utilizing costumed actors/stage hands to manipulate the set, actors, or puppets from traditional Japanese theater, click here.
Here's an early design of one of the stage looks for RUDOLPH. Look closely in the upper right corner for a sneak peek at the Abominable!
We're not completely cast at this point, but there are a few alums who will be appearing in next season - including Katie Gonring who is doing an artistic internship with us and will be in both BIG and Rudolph. Jeanette Minson will be playing Miss Watson in BIG, and Karen Estrada will be playing Mrs. Claus in Rudolph. That's what I can remember off the top of my head. We're thrilled to have them back at First Stage!