Community Engagement: ANTARCTICA, WI

By Susan Wiedmeyer

From April 6-22, 2018, we look forward to presenting our world premiere production of ANTARCTICA, WI—written by internationally renowned playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, with input from the citizens of Milwaukee. Inspired by his conversations with Milwaukee’s young people and families, ANTARCTICA, WI explores the struggles of growing up in a challenging world through the lens of the people of our future.

Set in the present day, ANTARCTICA, WI tells the fictional tale of a young man named Lenny who lives in Milwaukee, and sees things more deeply than others. He sees so much that he loves in his city, but he also sees the fractures. As he sees it, “if you keep dividing up a thing, keep isolating pieces of it—berg by berg, block by block—[it eventually can] only remember a time when it was a lot of separate bits. It forgets it was all one place once.” When Lenny begins to see allegorical icebergs floating into Milwaukee, he must find a way to help his community navigate through the dangerous waters.

Parkside students
Along with performances for youth and families at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, ANTARCTICA, WI will encourage deeper thinking,  and spark relevant conversations through community engagement projects for school groups and families. With our community’s youth at the center of our efforts, we aim to develop their social and emotional skills—particularly empathy and compassion for others—by encouraging inner exploration, use of their imagination, and seeing themselves as change agents in their communities.

Thanks to funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund, we are developing a Self-Exploration Booklet filled with narrative prompts connected to the play’s themes. The booklet will give youth the opportunity to draw, journal and personally connect to the play—empowering them to be the protagonist of their own lives and encouraging them to work to bring the pieces of the city’s icebergs (a relevant theme of the play) back together. This booklet will be distributed to ANTARCTICA, WI youth audience members and enhance our Theater in Education programming.

Paul Calhoun and Maryland students
We are also working with local schools and well-known photographer, Paul Calhoun, to create the Portraits & Stories project. Paul is creating photographic portraits of selected students. With the guidance of First Stage teaching artists, students are writing their personal histories. Portraits & Stories will be displayed in the theater lobby and at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center during the run of ANTARCTICA, WI. Check it out when you come see the show!

With generous support from the Brico Fund, First Stage is also partnering with the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion with the aim to use the shared experience of seeing ANTARCTICA, WI to inspire constructive conversations through listening circles. These listening circles will build trust and deepen empathy between students from a variety of different neighborhoods throughout our city.

Hearing from and listening to the varied voices that make up our community—particularly to those of our young people—First Stage believes it is imperative that all of our programming is reflective of our community: through the stories we share, the programs we implement, and the teams we assemble to bring those stories and programs to life. With the unrest we have seen in Milwaukee and across our nation, First Stage desires to use theater—particularly ANTARCTICA, WI and its related community engagement—as a way to foster understanding, provoke discussion, and inspire change and healing within our great city.

To learn more about or purchase tickets to ANTARCTICA, WI please contact our Box Office at (414) 267-2961.

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