Z-Fest is a theater festival of staged play readings. The first reading was held Monday, June 9, in Dudley Birder Hall of St. Norbert College – “Cloud 9,” a two-act, two time-period venture into British mores by noted British playwright Caryl Churchill.
“Cloud 9” looks like a play, sounds like a play, is built like a play, but its content is vastly different than standard play fare. “Cloud 9” is safe for theatergoers who are not offended by anything, basically, in matters of sexuality.
Without going into great detail, Caryl Churchill deliberately sets off to get into to the viewer’s head. For instance, early in “Cloud 9,” I had this discussion with myself: “That person playing the wife is a man. Is the director toying with me? Is the director following the playwright’s orders? If it’s the playwright, everything in this play may be turned upside down.” It turns out that Caryl Churchill set out to tip over apple carts one after the other. It’s on purpose that the wife is played by a man.
“Cloud 9” is funky, funny, twisty and unlike anything to make its way to the stage around here – and one of the points of Theatre Z, which is putting on Z-Fest with committed actors and directors from the region. Z-Fest reveals there’s a whole another level of intellect and thoughtful adventure out there in Packerland (excuse me, but Packerland is the common perception of life in these quarters; Z-Fest states, “Wrong, again,” about the perception).
Stephen Rupsch and April Beiswenger of the
“Cloud 9” is directed by Laura Riddle, with Courtney Sherman as music director – both of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay faculty. Act I is set in 1880 in British-occupied
“Cloud 9” will be repeated at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 14, to open a marathon of all five plays in Z-Fest. Five play readings back to back in one day – that’s about as far-reaching as the material in the plays.
Here’s a look ahead at the rest of Z-Fest, with cast members included:
- “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play” by Sarah Ruhl, today, Tuesday, June 10, directed by Merlaine Angwall. Winner of the Glickman Prize, Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony nominee for Best Play, the play is set in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity. Based on the bizarre historical fact that doctors used vibrators to treat “hysterical” women (and some men), the play centers on a doctor and his wife and how his new therapy affects their entire household. Andrew Delaruelle, Carolyn Silverberg, Sarah Gorski, Justin Gulmire, Erin Zimmerman, Larry March, Kathleen Donnelly, Linda Feldman.
- “Take Me Out” by Richard Greenberg, Wednesday, June 11, directed by Lee Kerwin. Winner of the 2003 Tony Award, “Take Me Out” looks at a star professional baseball player who comes out as gay. He assumes that everyone will accept the news, but he wrong, and the reverberations move through his entire team. Andrew Delaurelle, Adam Elmergreen, Justin Gulmire, Cameron Hitchcock, Lee Kerwin, Jerry Lesperance, Ron Lotte, Ian Wisneski.
- “The International Stud” by Harvey Fierstein, Thursday, June 12, directed by Teresa Aportela Sergott. In part one of Fierstein’s ground-breaking “Torch Song Trilogy” (Best Play Tony Award as well as Drama Desk, Obie, and Dramatist Guild awards) we follow the hero, Arnold Beckoff, after a fight with his boyfriend into a hilarious romp in a sex club. Justin Gulmire, Dan Terrio.
- “Blackbirds’ Garden” by Merlaine Angwall, Friday, June 13, directed by Stephen Rupsch. This will be the first public concert reading of the play. “Blackbirds’ Garden” focuses on the life of antebellum author, prison reformer and feminist Eliza Farnham during her tenure as matron for Mount Pleasant Female Prison (mid-1840s). The play investigates Eliza’s reforms and the opposition to her “treatments” during this seminal time in the American prison system. The reading will be followed by a discussion with the author. Lyle Becker, Chanda Daretas, Sarah Gorski, Justin Gulmire, Cameron Hitchcock, Kimberly King, Abigail Lee, Derek James Knabenbauer, Pam Obey, Ellen Rosewall, Teresa Aportela Sergott, Carolyn Silverberg, Rochelle Van Erem, Ian Wisneski, Ashley Wisneski.
VENUE: Dudley Birder Hall at
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