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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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American Players Theatre recently named a new managing director.
American Players Theatre recently named a new managing director. (Photo: Carissa Dixon)

American Players Theatre names new managing director

The hits just keep on coming for the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, recently called the best classical repertory theater company in the country.

Now, the company has announced that Carrie Van Hallgren, a highly respected theater administrator, will become the new managing director of the 35-year-old company. The Platteville native will take over the administrative side on Jan. 1, teaming up with new artistic director Brenda DeVita.

Both women will replace David Frank who is retiring after a 30-year run that took APT from a small Madison diversion to a true national powerhouse.

Van Hallgren has a strong background in classical theater, having been managing director of Milwaukee Shakespeare and interim general manager at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. At Yale Repertory Theatre, Van Hallgren served as both associate managing director and company manager. While also at Yale, she completed her management fellowship under the mentorship of Barry Grove at Manhattan Theatre Club during the company’s Tony Award winning 2005 season.

"We were looking for someone very special to be the new managing leader of APT, and we believe we have found that in Carrie Van Hallgren," said Barbara Swan, president of APT’s Board of Directors.

"Carrie grew up in the area and was in a sense raised on APT’s work as well of that of the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival. APT helped to develop her love of Shakespeare and theater and set her on a path to become the talented and experienced theater professional that she is. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring her back to the area and to APT."

The cast of The World's Stage Theatre Company's production of "Seminar."
The cast of The World's Stage Theatre Company's production of "Seminar." (Photo: Nathaniel Schardin and Maria Pretzl)

"Seminar" is cute but goes astray with misdirection

Almost anyone who has ever gone to school, especially at the college level, can relate to a story about the pompous "I'm too good to be doing this" professor who takes a macabre delight in whittling his students down to size.

That’s the essence of "Seminar," the Broadway hit by Theresa Rebeck that opened this week at The World’s Stage Theatre Company and runs through Aug. 31 at the 10th Street Theatre.

The story is about four would-be writers who have paid $5,000 each for a 10-week session with Leonard, a published and formerly popular writer. These four have each paid dearly to have Leonard read their works and suffer the incredible humiliation he seems to love dumping on their heads.

The play is billed as a dark comedy, and the first act is full of cute writing and many funny moments and situations.  

The four students are Kate, a wealthy graduate from Bennington who lives in the glorious apartment where the seminars take place; Douglas, a well-connected writer who has visited many a writer’s colony; Martin, a tortured soul who has tried to get into all those writer’s colonies and failed; and Izzy, a vacuous slut who may not love sex but who clearly understands what a powerful tool it can be.

Leonard, played by a masterful Bryce Lord, quickly draws his viper sword as he reads only Kate’s piece only to the first semicolon before pronouncing it useless. As she tries to retaliate, he offers, "Don’t defend yourself. If you are defending yourself, you aren’t listening."

Kate is the conflicted rock of this group while Izzy, all long legs and sex appeal from Gretchen Mahkorn, lounges on a couch and proclaims to all who will listen, "I am going to be famous." She leaves no doubt that she is willing to use every weapon at her disposal to achieve that fame.

Douglas has a pomposity about him at the beginning that is no match once he comes face to face with Leonard’s bitter act. Martin spends almost the entire play unwilling to let Leonard, or anyone els…

Which shot should you choose when you lose at bar dice or liar's poker? Dave has options.
Which shot should you choose when you lose at bar dice or liar's poker? Dave has options. (Photo:

The 10 best shots to buy when you lose at bar dice or liar's poker

Bar dice and liar’s poker are fanatically popular games in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. One game is mainly luck; the other requires some luck and skill.

Oh, you can occasionally find someone who plays in other states (Minnesota has a small culture), but they are really Wisconsin games with legions of devoted fans. I’m not going to get into it, but you can learn how to play liar’s poker here and how to play bar dice here.

In each game, there is a loser, and in both, the loser buys shots (unless you are playing for the cash in liar’s poker, and that’s probably illegal in Wisconsin). Since it’s up to the shooter to decide what kind of shots to buy, it’s important to know what’s the way to go. Are you trying to get everyone drunk or trying to make the evening last?

Well, after decades of playing both games and being on both sides of the winner/loser equation, I’ve determined the top 10 shots to buy when you lose at either bar dice or liar’s poker. I will say I consulted a couple of people on this – one being Tracy Duggan, the bartender I shook dice with the most in my life. The other one is related to me by blood (hey Alli).

There are shots and booze out there that are in very special categories, but I’m talking about stuff I’ve had in bars that had all this on hand. Nobody had to send out a special order for these shots.

I’ve divided them into two categories: Mixer, that the bartender has to assemble, and Neat, that come straight out of the bottle. One of the things about the Mixer shots is that it takes the bartender a while to make them so you have a chance to catch your breath (a.k.a. sober up) while you wait. I’ve started with the least lethal I’ve had and move on to booze that makes you think you’re invisible and bulletproof.

10. Screaming Orgasm (Mixer): It comes with vodka, amaretto, coffee liqueur and I think Irish cream liqueur. It’s sweet as can be and is kind of like drinking some treat you got from an ice cream truck aft…

Wall Street Journal drama critic called APT's recent production of "The Seagull" the best he's seen.
Wall Street Journal drama critic called APT's recent production of "The Seagull" the best he's seen. (Photo: Carissa Dixon)

Wall Street Journal drama critic calls APT one of the best in the country

Terry Teachout is probably the second most respected theater critic in the United States behind Ben Brantley of The New York Times, who is the acknowledged king of all critics.

But Teachout, critic for the Wall Street Journal, isn’t far behind. And after a recent visit to review Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull," he called Wisconsin's very own American Players Theatre in Spring Green the "finest classical-repertory company in the U.S."

That’s the whole United States, and it’s incredible to get that kind of honor from such a respected critic.

If you haven’t been to Spring Green and seen a play in one of their two venues, this is a trip well worth making.

Teachout's review of APT’s production of "The Seagull" is here, concluding the piece by calling the company's rendition the best he has ever seen.

Very heady words for a Wisconsin company, and something we can all take pride in.