Meet the Young Performers: TO THE PROMISED LAND

by Jordan Calgaro

Esther O'Brien and Hannah Engel
First Stage continued its 26th season with the opening of TO THE PROMISED LAND, an original play by Milwaukee actor and playwright Jonathan Gillard Daly, which opened this past Friday, January 25.
Young performers in the Promise Cast are Lonnae Hickman (as Ruth) from Milwaukee, Katherine Pollnow (as Goldie) and Christine Pollnow (as Sheyna) from Kewaskum; Nora Laughlin (as Tzipka) from Wauwatosa and Madison Penzkover (as Regina) from Mukwonago.  The young performers in the Hope Cast are Esther O’Brien (as Ruth) from Brookfield, Hannah Engel (as Goldie) from Mequon; Lexie Peterson (as Sheyna) from Milwaukee; Emily Foran (as Tzipka) from Germantown; Kate Futoransky (as Regina) from Hartland.  Young performer Isaiah Reynolds from Brookfield will serve as Understudy for this production.
The young performers have a varied background with First Stage.  Many are making their First Stage debut while others have performed with us for some time. Many cast members have performed in other local and school productions and have participated in the First Stage Academy classes and Young Company. They do have one thing in common: they all love First Stage!

Nora Laughlin and Madison Penzkover
“Everyone here welcomes you with open arms,” Madison Penzkover said, who was last seen at First Stage in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY in 2012.  “My favorite thing would be the friends I made here,” she added.  Lexie Peterson says First Stage has changed her life.  “Here at First Stage, I have learned to eliminate ‘I can’t’ from my vocabulary, to take risks and to conquer my fears.  I love every aspect of what they do here,” she said.  The friends, the teachers and environment and the family atmosphere are all favorite things for Esther O’Brien and Katherine Pollnow. Katherine was last seen in THE HUNDRED DRESSES (2011) and A WRINKLE IN TIME (2012).

“I have a new appreciation for history after being part of this show,” said Emily Foran.  This being her first production at First Stage, she has joined right in and enjoyed meeting friends and transforming into a different character on stage. For someone like Lonnae Hickman who has been involved in theater for five years, she enjoys telling such a deep story on stage and learning to make friends with one another.
Lonnae Hickman and Katherine Pollnow
One young performer, Nora Laughlin, says her favorite thing about TO THE PROMISED LAND is the acting.  “This is my favorite role I’ve played and I love expressing my feelings through acting,” Nora said.  Kate Futoransky’s favorite part of acting is being able to come out on stage and become a different person.  Not only has she learned a lot about acting, but the show has taught her and the other young performers many important lessons.  For Kate, it is to “never give up.”  “If you want to change you can’t just sit around and wait for it, you need to be the one to stand up and change it yourself,” Kate said.  Hannah Engel, who was last seen in THE HUNDRED DRESSES, added that even though sometimes you feel like giving up, keep going and you can accomplish anything if you try. 
TO THE PROMISED LAND runs through February 10. 

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