EGG HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV)
The summer run of plays is over for Door Shakespeare, but producing artistic director Michael Stebbins and managing director Amy Ensign have plans for a year-around presence.
That starts with a reading by highly trained actors of “Red Velvet,” by Lolita Chakrabarti, the first play of the company’s 2019-2020 Reading Series.
According to a press release: “Red Velvet” will be performed at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, at the Woodwalk Gallery, 6746 County Road G, Egg Harbor.
Admission to the series is free and open to the public, though donations are welcome. Seating is first come, first serve. Info: (920) 839-1500.
The series is sponsored, in part, by a grant from The Green Bay Packers Foundation.
“Red Velvet” tells the story of an 1833 London production of “Othello” starring Edmund Kean, one of the greatest actors of his generation. When Kean collapses during a performance, the theater manager brings in Ira Aldridge to take over the role of Othello. Aldridge is an African American actor who has come to Europe to act, as he is not welcome on American stages. Though he performs the role of Othello successfully, the reactions of his fellow actors and of critics are complex and divisive, and he is not allowed to finish his engagement. The action takes place in front of an England that finds a fiercely divided Parliament preparing to vote in favor of abolishing slavery in all British colonies.
“I am very excited to kick off the Door Shakespeare Reading Series with ‘Red Velvet’,” Stebbins said. “I saw the play when it made its American premiere in 2014 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York. It’s a fascinating story, based on an actual event, and it examines, among other things, prejudice, friendship and betrayal, all under the umbrella of theater. As a timepiece, it also gives us a taste of what the acting style of 1833 was like, which adds much in the way of humor. It is a moving tale, and a timely one, and I am glad that we can share it with our audiences.”
Stebbins added, “The Reading Series offers audiences the chance to see some of their favorite Door Shakespeare actors, and it gives us an opportunity to introduce some wonderful regional actors to Door County audiences, which we are really happy about. One of our goals is to make Door Shakespeare a year-round presence in Door County, and the reading series is one way to do this.”
Lolita Chakrabarti is and actor and writer based in London. Most prominent of her scripts is “Red Velvet,” which was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2013.
The cast of “Red Velvet” features actors familiar to Door Shakespeare audiences and five actors making their debut with the company.
In the role of Ira Aldridge (from age 26 to 60), and in his Door Shakespeare debut, is DiMonte Henning. A native of Milwaukee, DiMonte received theater training from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and received additional training from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Emerging Professional Residency program. DiMonte serves as producing artistic director of the performing arts organization, Lights! Camera! Soul! based in Milwaukee, where the organization focuses on developing emerging theater artists across multi-disciplinary art forms. His recent credits include First Stage’s productions of “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Wiz” and Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s productions of “Dreamgirls,” “Junk” and “Our Town.” He has also been seen on stage at Forward Theater Company, Black Arts MKE, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Theatre Lila and Skylight Music Theatre.
Door Shakespeare audiences saw Michael Herold this summer as he played Pistol in both “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Henry V.” In “Red Velvet,” Herold will play Ira Aldridge’s valet and dresser, Terence, and Bernard Warde, an English actor.
In the roles of Polish journalist, Halina Wozniak, and English actress, Betty Lovell, is Rayne Kleinofen. Making her Door Shakespeare debut, Kleinofen is an actor and stage manager and was most recently seen in Renaissance Theaterworks’ “Br!nk” festival brief “Two Truths and a Lie” and the full-length staged reading “Stitched with a Sickle and a Hammer” and as Miranda in Bard and Bourban’s production of “The Tempest.”
Jarrod Langwinski played Dr. Caius and Bardolph in Door Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and as a host of characters in “Henry V,” including Bardolph, Captain Jamy, John Bates and Le Fer. “Red Velvet” will find Jarrod playing the German-speaking Polish stage hand, Casimir, and English actor Henry Forester.
Making her Door Shakespeare debut as English leading actress Ellen Tree is Annalee Lethco. A Minneapolis-based actor, Lethco has appeared at the Guthrie Theater in “Boudica,” “A Christmas Carol,” “BAD NEWS!” “i was there…” and has appeared in the films “Power Out,” “Breathe and “Gayboy 2019” (HBO’s Outfest and Twin Cities Film Fest). She is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program.
Ryan Dean Maltz is making his Door Shakespeare debut as Pierre LaPorte, the French manager of the Theatre Royal. Maltz has performed with the Guthrie Theater, the Children’s Theatre Company, The Rochester Civic Theatre Company, Illusion Theater, The Playwright’s Center and the Open Eye Figure Theatre. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A Actor Training Program.
Appearing as Charles Kean is Ken Miller, who was most recently seen in Door Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” as Corporal Nym and Fenton and in “Henry V” as Corporal Nym, the Constable of France and the English Herald.
Malkia Stampley is an actor and director from Milwaukee making her Door Shakespeare debut as Connie, a Jamaican servant, described as “older than her years and the voice of truth.” Some of Stampley’s credits include Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s productions of “Two Trains Running” (also at Cincinnati Playhouse), “The Color Purple,” “Dreamgirls” and “A Christmas Carol,” Manhattan Shakespeare Project’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and Court Theatre’s production of “Raisin.” She has also appeared regionally at Theatre LILA, Children’s Theatre of Madison, Optimist Theatre, Skylight Music Theatre, Forward Theater, First Stage, St. Louis Black Rep, Congo Square and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. She has been seen on the television shows “Empire,” “Chicago PD,” “Shameless,” “The Chi” and upcoming “Work in Progress” and on film in HBO’s “Native Son,” Netflix’s “Beats” and independent films “Killing Eleanor” and “Small Town Wisconsin.”
Michael Stebbins, who is directing “Red Velvet,” was last seen as the Archbishop of Canterbury, King Charles VI and Sir Thomas Erpingham in Door Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” In October and November, he will be appearing in The Rochester Civic Theatre Company’s production of “Night of the Living Dead” and as the aging, arthritic but avid duelist Count Otto von Dietrichstein in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s November/December production of “Jeeves at Sea.” For the Door Shakespeare Reading Series, he will be directing the Oct. 14 offering of Richard Nelson’s “How Shakespeare Won the West” and reading seasonal essays from David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice” on both Dec. 16 and 23.