A Carnival comes to In Tandem Theatre

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Many years ago, I was in a community theater production of Carnival back in Michigan. I loved the show: the music, the characters, the setting. About two years ago, when we were looking for a spring musical for this season, I fondly remembered Carnival and wished we could produce it but thought, “It’s so big. It would never fit on our stage.” Then I remembered that when I was in it, we had done it in a large room of an abandoned firehouse.

Shortly after that, I began a conversation with Karl Miller, a local choreographer, about Carnival. The show was a favorite of his as well, and he too, had big ideas about a smaller production. So we put it in the season and now, finally, it’s all about to begin.

A carnival is a place where you can forget your troubles – lose yourself amidst the grandeur and illusion. A carnival comes and goes, leaving you breathless and content. But what happens if you pull back the curtain, revealing the people who are the carnival – who create that grandeur and illusion? We imagine they’re people who are truly living the dream – part of something magical and special. But they’re the same as you and I, made up of many different sides and with dreams of their own.

In Carnival, Paul dreams of finding purpose again – and love. Jacquot dreams of the rebirth of the carnival of his youth – rising from the ravages of war. Marco dreams of commanding the legitimate stages of Europe. And Lili dreams of a new family – somewhere to belong. Carnival teaches us that through love and perseverance, we can reach our dreams and the tough life lessons we learn along the way are a necessary part of that journey. And, of course, it’s a great big musical with music, dancing and laughter!

I couldn’t be happier with the cast, designers, band and crew we’ve assembled and look forward to putting this show together. Our plan is to make this show an immersive experience and we’ll be transforming the hallway and lobby into a Midway, of sorts, with lots of things to see and do like Tarot readings, a Wheel-of-Fortune Game, and cut-outs for picture taking. So we recommend getting here a little on the early side to take advantage of all the fun.


Carnival runs April 21 to May 14, 2017. Purchase tickets at 414-271-1371 or click here.

Life Through The Camera Lens: Part Two

In Time Stands Still, Sarah, a photojournalist, is injured in a war-torn country but eager to return to work. The story not only explores why Sarah puts herself in dangerous positions but also how her profession affects her family and friends. In part two of this blog series (see part one here) with photographer Michael Nelson, whose work will be on display at the 10th Street Gallery February 24- March 19, we discuss how his profession has affected his family.

  1. How has your profession affected yourself and your family?

Photo by Michael Nelson.

            Fortunately, my wife has generally been understanding of what my work involves. There have been times when I was younger and was asked to deploy with military units that she was fearful for my safety and tried to stop me from going. We are never forced into covering dangerous situations and have the choice to turn them down. I have never turned down an assignment, though I did express reservations about covering the war in Liberia. I had never covered a West African war and was not familiar with that part of Africa. The brutality and summary execution of people along tribal lines made me uneasy. Thankfully, I was not assigned to that story.

I have been fortunate in that I have not been very emotionally affected by what I have seen while covering grim stories. The camera has acted as a type of barrier to what I am seeing. I am thinking about telling the story, composing the picture, making sure the exposure settings are right, what the lens choice should be. I am not thinking about the terrible way the person has died or the suffering an injured person is going through as they are being treated or evacuated or the sorrow of a loved ones funeral. It is rare that I will just look at a scene without thinking about how I am going to depict it through a picture. I am saddened by what I am seeing, particularly by the senselessness of it. War is such a waste. A waste of life, a waste by all the destruction it causes, a waste of all the resources it takes. And in most wars I have experienced, it is not the politicians who declare the wars, or the manufacturers of weapons, or even the generals and soldiers who carry them out that suffer, it is the poor innocent civilians who are caught in it and have no choice.

  1. How did you meet your wife?

            I met my wife, Mona Sherif, at the International Language Institute in Cairo when I tried to learn Arabic and she was the Arabic teacher. She was and still is an exceptionally beautiful and exotic person of Nubian-Egyptian ancestry. After courting for almost a year, I converted to Islam and we married. Unfortunately, even after marrying the teacher, I never really learned Arabic very well.

  1. Did having children change your attitude about covering dangerous situations?

            Yes, it did. I almost missed my first child’s birth as I had left to cover the coup d’etat in Sudan at the beginning of July 1989. Fortunately, within days of returning my son, Shamseddiin, was born on 15 July.  At first, it did not have any impact as I separated work from my personal life. I had covered famines in Eritrea, Sudan and Darfur in 1985 and 1988 and had seen and photographed the same sort of scenes. It was difficult to see anyone suffer needlessness and to be helpless to do something, but (and this may sound heartless) it did not affect me personally. After spending the day shooting such scenes and then processing, printing and sending the pictures in the evening, I did not lose any sleep over what I had experienced.

However, when I covered the Somali famine in 1992, I was greatly saddened by the terrible suffering of the people but particularly of the poor children. To see malnourished children my son’s age, starving, and knowing many were in absolute misery and many would die, was heart wrenching. I wanted to do something. Pick them up, give them some food, save at least one, but that was not possible. So I took pictures. But those visions stay with me to this day and when I look at my pictures from those days, I hope they survived. But I know many of them died and it is sad. I may not have realized it at the time, but I came to understand my change in perception was due to having a child of my own that I love and would protect with my life. To think of him or my daughter suffering like that is unimaginable.

  1. What would you like people to know about the photographs that will be at the 10th Street Gallery?


Photo by Michael Nelson.

Photo by Michael Nelson.

The photographs are a small slice of the work I have done over the years. There are dozens and dozens of photographers around the world covering stories like those every day. They are all good people and they are all taking risks to get the story out. We all do it for different reasons. Some people find it addicting and need the thrill and excitement. Others do it because it is a way to make a living in a situation they cannot escape. Others (like me) are dutiful employees that do it because it is one of the requirements of the job. Whatever the reason, the images are important. They inform people and policymakers of what is happening.  Without such a record, wars and tragedies will go on unobserved, out of mind and unchecked.   I know many of us have become immune to the horrors of such situations, especially with all the make-believe violence that entertains us in movies, television programs and video games.

But these are real people and we need to understand that wars and gun violence (here in the US) kill and hurt people and we need to care about them and when we can do something to help, we should try.


Michael Nelson’s work will be displayed during the run of Time Stands Still February 24 to March 19, 2017. Purchase tickets at 414-271-1371 or click here. This exhibit is sponsored by the Milwaukee Press Club Endowment. A free opening reception for the exhibit will take place Thursday, March 16 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. before the performance of Time Stands Still. A talk back with the cast and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel war correspondent , Margaret “Meg” Jones will take place after the performance. 

Life Through the Camera Lens: An Interview with Photojournalist Mike Nelson

During Time Stands Still, the 10th Street Gallery will present photographs from photojournalist Mike Nelson. Capturing gripping and emotional stories from across the world including Lebanon, Africa and the United States over his 35-year career, Nelson has seen the first-hand effects of war and conflict on communities and their people. Now living in Los Angeles, he works for the European Pressphoto Agency.  In preparation for his exhibit, we asked Nelson how his work has affected his life and his family in this two part blog series:

  1. When did you start photography and what was your first assignment?
Lebanon italian paratroopers

Photo by Mike Nelson.

Professionally, my first assignment (self-generated) was in Paris in 1981 on my way to Lebanon where I photographed and interviewed former Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr. My first assignment when I arrived in Lebanon was covering a street battle along the Green Line in West Beirut.

  1. Where have you been to capture your photographs and why?

            In my career as a photojournalist, I have traveled extensively in the Middle East, Africa and the United States. As a wire service photographer, we monitor the news locally and decide if the story is newsworthy to cover. Because I have been a part of a major news agency most of my professional career, our offices around the world will also ask for coverage of certain stories. If there is a breaking news event like a terrorist attack or a disaster, I move on it right away. On breaking stories, the sooner you get there the better chance you have of getting access to the area. Once the authorities get organized, they limit media accessibility.

  1. What made you decide to continue with photography in places that some may consider dangerous? Do you still go to these places and if so, why (or why not)?

I was a history major in college and I wanted to experience history in the making myself. My college roommate, a Lebanese-American and political science major, suspected the Israelis were going to invade Lebanon to try and destroy the PLO. Therefore, after we graduated, he suggested traveling to Lebanon to cover the civil war. We arrived in Lebanon on Thanksgiving Day in 1981 and in June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. When you are young, you feel invincible and war is exciting. Now as I look back, I took some foolish chances during those early days in Lebanon. Once I started working for Agence France Presse (AFP) in the Middle East, I was the only American photographer they had that had any conflict experience, so they wanted me to cover war stories as well as conflicts involving the US military (Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo).

I am no longer interested in covering active war stories. They are dangerous. They are uncomfortable (you often have to sleep outside or in very rudimentary conditions), food can be difficult to come by and dealing with unsavory and suspicious militiamen at checkpoints or military bureaucracies can be scary and frustrating. If called upon, I would cover the aftermath of war. I don’t enjoy such coverage as it deals with funerals, grief, the injured and the terrible destruction of people homes, livelihoods and families.

  1. Did you have any close calls when you were out on an assignment?

    Photo by Mike Nelson.

    Photo by Mike Nelson.

Yes. In Lebanon, a Palestinian militia friend was shot in the stomach near my seaside apartment as the Israelis tried to make a landing in the middle of the night. I evacuated the landlord’s family and during the gun battle taking place on the corniche, my friend was shot. I helped him to safety but learned he died a few hours later. A television cameraman, Ken Jobson, was shot in the neck next to me by a Phalangist militiaman as we tried to take cover from sniper fire. He survived.

And bizarrely enough, one of the most frightening situations was here in the United States when I was covering the rioting that followed the police officer’s acquittal in the Rodney King beating. I was out at night in south Central covering the looting and burning and though I tried to stay with the fire fighters, I needed to drive around looking for where things were taking place. At one point, a large group of rioters carrying clubs and smashing things along the street swarmed into the road where I was stuck in traffic. I had a pretty crummy car at the time and I hunkered down and they passed by the vehicle without noticing that I was a white person. Earlier in the day, a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, had almost been beaten to death and rioters were attacking white people and Koreans. I had been very scared and got out of there right away.

Learn more about Mike Nelson’s experiences in our blog post next Monday, February 20. Nelson’s work will be on display during Time Stands Still February 24 – March 19, 2017. Purchase tickets at 414-271-1371 or click here.  A free gallery reception for the exhibit will take place Thursday, March 16 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. before the performance of Time Stands Still. A talk back with the cast and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel war correspondent , Margaret “Meg” Jones, will take place after the performance. 

New Year, New Faces

One Tony Award nominated drama (Time Stands Still), one romantic musical with our biggest cast to date (Carnival) and a huge celebration on Saturday, June 24, 2017 to kick-off In Tandem’s 20th season! Sound like a lot?

Cat edit 2With all of these exciting events happening, we decided that we needed a helping hand. We are thrilled to introduce Catarina Erba to the In Tandem team! Cat, an undergraduate student from Alverno College, will be joining us as an intern throughout the spring semester as she gains hands-on experience from our last two productions of the season and our fundraiser in the summer.  Learn more about Cat below:


What is your major(s) and why did you decide to pursue this?

My major is English with minors in Theater and Women’s & Gender Studies (WGS) at Alverno College. I chose English because I had originally tried to create my own theater major at Alverno (it is only offered as a minor here), but decided that having English as my major with a minor in theater would be best. I have always loved English and knew that I could use the skills from that major in theater. I also chose the WGS minor because feminism is a huge passion of mine and I was hooked from the first class I took.

What are your roles during your time at In Tandem?

I will be working as Assistant Stage Manager and Deck Chief for Time Stands Still as well as assisting during rehearsals and running back stage during Carnival. While I have worked other tech jobs in the past, I am very excited to learn more in depth about how a stage manager works and what the assistant stage manager does. I am also excited to learn the responsibilities of running backstage during a show.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

Over the course of 22 years, I have lived in 7 different towns/cities within 5 different states!

Dressing the Part: The Backstage Perspective Part 2

Last week on the blog, we talked with Amanda Houchens and Rachel Zembrowski, the dressers for Dracula vs. The Nazis, about their jobs and the challenges that come with it.  This week, we examine how they prepared for their roles and gain an insider’s perspective on what the atmosphere is like backstage.

_mg_2916(Photo by Tanya Dhein)

Q&A with dressers Amanda Houchens and Rachel Zembrowski Part Two:

1. What was the rehearsal process like?

Amanda: The dressers came in a week before the deck crew (the deck crew makes the scene changes move as quickly and fluidly as possible) which was about two weeks before the show opened. We ran the changes slowly and worked out where each one would need to take place, what we’d need to be efficient and get the actors on stage the fastest.

Rachel: Amanda and I watched the show once or twice and then started backstage, giving the actors their wigs, and by the third day we were working with as many of the costumes as we had. It was really a matter of tracking where everyone entered and exited the stage so we knew where the best place to set up their change was. We also did a lot of talking through the show, figuring out the most efficient way of getting the costumes on and off. Once we had our individual changes figured out, we had to figure out when a costume change was happening while we were free so that we could assist.

2. What is the atmosphere like during a show?

Amanda: Throughout the whole show, it’s a very fun atmosphere. The personalities of the actors and crew get along great and it’s an exciting environment to work in. It can get a little stressful during the performance during the extremely fast quick-changes that Doug and Chris do but everyone communicates and works together to make sure that the show runs as smoothly as possible.

Rachel: During the show, we definitely know what we have to do. That also means we know when we have longer breaks. We’ve got things down pretty well. I’m really thankful that we get to work with Chris and Doug on this show, because it is so common for actors to be really in their heads during the show, leaving no room for anything but serious and business-like backstage work. Chris and Doug, though, are comfortable enough with their work, the show, and they trust us enough to know that we’ll make sure they’re onstage on time in the right costume, that we can all be pretty relaxed backstage and even joke around together. It makes things a whole lot nicer and more comfortable than it easily could have been. We work really well together all throughout, able to get everything done, while still having fun. It’s a really nice balance.

3. What is your favorite character in the show? Why?

Amanda: My favorite character in the show would have to be Renfield. I love how quirky and loyal he is throughout the show.

Rachel: Definitely Nellie. I mean, have you seen that costume? The butt padding is the best! And once Doug has it on, his whole physicality changes. He gets the Nellie walk and attitude and it’s so funny to see that butt bouncing away after I’ve made sure his wig is straight

Dracula vs. The Nazis by Michael Neville runs until October 30th. Purchase tickets by calling the box office at 414-271-1371 or click here.

Dressing the Part: The Backstage Perspective of Dracula vs. The Nazis

2 actors, 15 characters and 42 quick-changes. How do actors Chris Flieller and Doug Jarecki manage to get into costume so quickly, sometimes with as few as 10 seconds? They have a little (well, not just a little) help from our wonderful dressers backstage. During the next two weeks, we’ll take you backstage as we learn more about the tasks involved with being a dresser, the atmosphere backstage and how the backstage crew is essential to making a comedy like Dracula vs. The Nazis run so smoothly.

dracula_vs_the_nazis_2-of-3 Q&A with dressers Amanda Houchens and Rachel Zembrowski Part One:

1. What is your role as a dresser and how did you come to be one?

Amanda: I essentially assist Chris with his costume changes as he moves from scene to scene. I did a few shows in high school and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where I had to assist in some quick changes. I’d have to say this is the most I’ve ever experienced in a show though!

Rachel:  As a dresser, I help Doug change his costumes throughout the show. I make sure he’s got any props he needs for the top of the scene, and that he knows what scene is coming up. This is my first show as a strict dresser. I have helped out with costume changes during my previous backstage work, though, and have had my fair share of quick changes in my own performance career.

2. How many times do you help Chris and/or Doug get into costume during the show?

Amanda: There are forty-two quick changes between Chris and Doug. I believe Chris has about twenty. Rachel and I work on most of the changes together too.

Rachel: Doug has 21 costume changes during the show and I help with them all. I help with 9 of Chris’s costume changes.

3. What’s the hardest quick-change that you do during the show?

Amanda: During the second to last scene, Chris goes from Renfield to Cecily and back to Renfield in only about two minutes. That is definitely an all hands on deck change!

Rachel: During the second act, Oogie runs offstage, leaving Frank onstage. We have to change Oogie to Dracula B, which involves adjusting his pants, changing his shoes, changing the whole top costume, getting his wig on, and making sure he has an integral prop. All while Chris is onstage stalling for time. 30 seconds may not seem like a lot to the uninitiated, but it is a long time to stand onstage by yourself without anything to say, and it’s not a lot of time to do that big of a costume change. Amanda, Shannon, and I all help out with this change. It’s pretty busy.

Find out more about Amanda and Rachel’s roles as dressers in Part Two of this blog series! Dracula vs. The Nazis by Michael Neville runs until October 30th. Purchase tickets by calling the box office at 414-271-1371 or click here.

Summer Adventures with In Tandem

Greetings Tandemites! Jane and I have been able to relax a little after an exhausting but very successful eighteenth season. After putting the fiscal year to bed on June 30, we were very much looking forward to our road trip, to the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario. I had never been, and for Jane it had been quite a while, so naturally we were very excited to experience the wellspring of such giants of the theatre as Tyrone Guthrie, Christopher Plummer, Martha Henry and yes, even William Shatner (Mr. Sulu, take us out of orbit). The festival has been running for sixty some years now, and they are not shy about telling you that they are the finest theatre in North America! (That’s from the equator to the North Pole, in case you were wondering.) I couldn’t wait to be schooled in my craft by the acknowledged masters of the craft in this quadrant of the globe. We saw four shows of the six running at the time; Chorus Line, All my Sons, Macbeth and A Little Night Music. I shan’t bore you with my reviews – if you want more insights go to Mike Fisher’s article on the Journal/Sentinel website. But I will say that, while not exactly disappointed, I was instead heartened to see that the venerable “Best of the Fests” has nothing on our humble little burg. So here’s the happy news, folks; the shows being produced by The Rep, Chamber and  In Tandem could go toe to toe with anything I saw in Stratford in terms of quality, depth and scope. So save your gas and spend that cash on subscriptions, and be proud that we here in “Palooka-ville” have performing arts to rival anyone anywhere. So I say with no hyperbole that for theatre, Milwaukee is as good as anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. And you can take that to the North Pole!


The Life of A Volunteer: A Q&A

With four shows, 2 fundraisers and over 100 performances in a season, things can get pretty hectic here at In Tandem. Thankfully we don’t have to do it alone; we have a group of spectacular volunteers that help out with everything from office tasks to building sets to ushering. We asked our longtime volunteer extraordinaire, Tom, about his volunteer experience at In Tandem Theatre.

How did you get involved with In Tandem Theatre?

My introduction to In Tandem was the hilarious Scrooge in Rouge.  That production was enough to hook me into my new-found favorite theatre.  Being on the e-mail list, I received a notice that they needed help in the office a few hours each week.   Being newly retired, I thought this was a great opportunity to get out of bed in the morning, at a time of my choosing and still feel like a productive member of society.  It was a perfect match of my skills with In Tandem’s needs.

What are some of the tasks you do to help In Tandem?

Recording subscription/ticket sales in the In Tandem database is my main task each week.  I also keep all the paper records of the sales for reference purposes throughout the season.  Among the “other tasks as assigned” are copying and then shredding classified and sensitive documents, and answering the phone.

What has been your favorite volunteer experience at In Tandem?

Learning and working with the database has been my biggest challenge and best learning experience.  However, this ranks second to getting to know the incredibly wonderful staff of In Tandem.  It is so much fun to come to “work”; why couldn’t the first 40+ years of work have been like this?

What’s a fun fact about yourself/anything you would like people to know?

I worked on the business staff of my high school drama club, doing lots of typing and helping with advertising and ticket sales.  It was clear that I didn’t belong on stage.  Now, just like Luke Skywalker, I have finally embraced my destiny.

Why do you volunteer?

It’s fun; it’s productive; it’s free.

Interested in becoming a volunteer like Tom? Learn more about the theatre and front of house usher duties at our volunteer orientation meeting. Join us on either Monday, July 25, Tuesday, July 26, Monday, August 22 or Wednesday, September 14 at 6:00 p.m. at In Tandem Theatre (628 N. 10th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233). Even if you have volunteered for In Tandem in the past, we ask that you attend one of these days to help prepare for a wonderful 2016-17 season.

RSVP to Ann Ricca at 414-271-1371 or at ann@intandemtheatre.org. If you are unable to attend either dates, please contact Ann to arrange another time.

Take a Journey with In Tandem Next Season!

Hold on to your seats everyone-it’s time to be transported! In Tandem Theatre is traveling far and wide next season and we’d love for you to join us for the ride.

Our exciting season includes one wacky comedy that sends you to an alternative universe and back home again (Dracula vs. the Nazis), a classic twisted holiday musical that transports you in time to the 1950’s (always very popular! Holiday Hell: The Curse of Perry Williams), a timeless drama in which we view the lives of a couple who witness war through the camera (Time Stands Still), and a musical extravaganza set under the big top in 1920’s France, featuring In Tandem’s biggest cast to date (Carnival)!

As if the amazing line-up of shows wasn’t enough to get a season subscription, two lucky subscribers will be entered to win one of two phenomenal, one-of-a-kind prizes: one subscriber will get a fantastic and unique prize of a private movie night in our theatre space for you and up to twenty guests. Another subscriber will get a pair of tickets to a Green Bay Packers game (yes, you read that right – a Green Bay Packers game!!) To snatch one of these amazing prizes, subscribe by July 1st.

Want a taste of the trip before diving right in?  On Monday, June 6th, we’re opening our doors for some “sneak peek” performances of next season! The best part of the event? It’s free! The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with performances at 6:00 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m.  RSVP with the performance you wish to attend and the number of seats you’ll need to info@intandemtheatre.org

So if you’re ready for an adventure, a journey and some wonderful stories to share with your family and friends, come join us for our 2016-17 season. We’ll see you at the theatre!

Season subscriptions and single tickets can be purchased over the phone at 414-271-1371 or in-person at the box office at 628 N. 10th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233.