Connecting to our Community through ANTARCTICA, WI

First Stage is committed to broadening our reach and deepening our impact throughout the greater Milwaukee community. Based on conversations playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer had with young people in Milwaukee, the world premiere of ANTARCTICA, WI presented unique opportunities to extend the theater experience beyond the stage, inspiring conversations around the themes from the play. Thanks to a generous grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund, First Stage embarked upon three initiatives to connect with the young people in our community in a new and dynamic way.

Photographer Paul Calhoun (center) with a few of the students
featured in the Portraits & Stories Project.
First Stage and renowned local photographer Paul Calhoun created the Portraits & Stories Project, for which 33 students from Maryland Montessori School, Parkside Middle School, Milwaukee High School for the Arts, Ronald Reagan High School, and University School of Milwaukee were photographed. These portraits are accompanied by the students’ personal stories, developed through theater workshops led by Artistic Associate Sheri Williams Pannell.

“Sheri was instrumental in inspiring students to share the experiences that have shaped who they are,” said Lucia Lozano, First Stage community engagement manager. “Using theater techniques, Mrs. Pannell built trust with the students to help craft their stories,” Lozano continued.

The Portraits & Stories Project is displayed in the upper lobby of the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater throughout ANTARCTICA, WI performances.

TRUE Skool students creating the Coming Together mural
Local artist and muralist James Tomasello and First Stage collaborated to work with eight students from Milwaukee’s TRUE Skool on the Coming Together mural, inspired by ANTARCTICA, WI. After reading the most compelling parts of the script, the group discussed different concepts and each created a draft of the mural. The final product brings together all of the students’ concepts and visual creations. The Coming Together mural will be displayed at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center April 5 – 9, at the City Hall Rotunda April 9 – 13, and back at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center until April 23.

The Diving Down Below booklet, funded in part by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund grant, will encourage youth to engage in the fascinating journey of getting to know who they are and what matters to them, and to recognize how they can bring healing to their communities. The booklet will be distributed to all young people attending both public and school performances of ANTARCTICA, WI.

“As young people learn to see themselves more clearly, they may also learn to understand others and the world around them better,” said Lozano, who created this booklet in collaboration with Pannell and Artistic Director Jeff Frank. “This booklet will also help young people think deeper, use their creative powers and take risks.”

New plays like ANTARCTICA, WI are part of The Foundry, First Stage’s new play development initiative, forging the next generation of plays, programming, artists and audiences, while fostering community and empathy. To learn more about First Stage’s new play development, visit

ANTARCTICA, WI is playing at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater from April 6 - 22, 2018. Tickets start at just $15. Details and tickets are available on the First Stage website.

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