If you start listing things you want to do where there is a risk that the rewards might not be quite what you hope, starting a theater company might be right near the top of that list.
But that doesn’t make any difference to Jim Farrell, whose long-time love of the theater takes a new twist this year with the birth of The Splinter Group, a fledgling troupe that will stage three plays during its inaugural season at the Marian Center on the South Side of Milwaukee.
Farrell, 51, has a long and impressive resume in the theater. He’s been a development director, a fundraiser, an actor, a playwright, a producer, a director, an audience development coordinator and is the current fiancé of Nifer Clarke, who is just about my favorite actress in Milwaukee. They are getting married Aug. 18 at the Skylight Music Theatre, where they met.
With a background like his, Farrell would seem a natural to run his own theater company. But it is a task filled with peril and he is going into it with his eyes open.
"We are going to do three plays the first year and see if we can develop an audience," he said recently over coffee at Alterra. "I think we’ve got a wonderful space at the Marian Center and we’re going to stage plays that are going to be a little edgy for Milwaukee."
The season opens Sept. 20 with "Kimberly Akimbo," a play by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay Abaire. The play tells the story of the most dysfunctional family you could imagine. It’s about pain and sorrow and a little bit of hope as well, and it is likely to attract a healthy audience. It’s not an unknown play, but it’s not been frequently produced in Milwaukee.
Farrell is a very nice man and, unlike a lot of dreamers, he brings a lot of juice to this endeavor. He’s got a pretty clear vision of what The Splinter Group should be.
"Lots of people in the Milwaukee theater community want to do something a little edgier, something that has a little teeth," he said. "All theater starts because people want to flex their creative muscles."
Farrell will hold auditions next week and he’s gotten over 100 headshots and resumes from hopeful actors.
"When we make it to the second season I want to begin to offer contracts to actors," he said. "But for the first season, I’m going to give them a stipend. Something to help them with gas money and stuff like that. I’m really happy about the turnout for the auditions. I was worried I’d be sitting in a room all alone for three days."
Farrell understands, perhaps better than most, the difficulties in starting a theater company. He holds a master's degree in performing arts management. And his experience as an actor gives him a healthy view of that side of any production.
I know people who say that Milwaukee has too many theaters now, that the audience isn’t big enough to support all of them. To that I say: there is always room for good theater, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if The Splinter Group delivered.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published July 28, 2015
Who would ever expect to find some of the best soul food in Milwaukee in the North Shore suburb of Shorewood? The answer may be nobody, but you'd be wrong, especially if you haven't visited Nino's Southern Sides on Oakland Avenue.
Published July 27, 2015
Tuesday is a big day for the Milwaukee Bucks as the State Assembly is slated to take up the measure to provide $250 million in financing for the new downtown arena. If the bill is amended, and Democrats are going to fight for amendments, the measure will go back to the State Senate.
Published July 24, 2015
In a place that has hosted such decadent theater as a blistering "Cabaret" and a shockingly brutal "Trainspotting" it is stunningly surprising to find a morality play being staged in the tiny black box of Off The Wall Theatre.But that's what you get with the production of "Spring Awakening," the multiple Tony Award winning musical with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik.
Published July 23, 2015
For the past two decades the Milwaukee Bucks have disproved a fear that former Milwaukee Brewers' owner Bud Selig had when it was time to build Miller Park. And the historic presence of the Bradley Center can provide confidence that Selig's fears will not resurface when the new arena is built.
Published July 21, 2015
The ceremony Saturday to retire Brett Favre's number and put him in the Packers Hall of Fame was a touching and emotional evening. It was quintessential Favre, drawing up a play in the dirt. But it was nearly ruined for the folks at home by a terribly lackluster WTMJ broadcast.
Published July 20, 2015
Brett Favre will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame Saturday. The retired quarterback joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Paul Molitor as players who left Wisconsin under difficult circumstances but later were honored for their contributions.
Published July 16, 2015
Nothing is as exciting as watching young athletes try to qualify and make it to the big leagues. The Symmetry tour is for young women trying to make it to the LPGA tour and the Potawatomi are sponsoring a tournament with these players at Brown Deer Park golf course.
Published July 16, 2015
Governor Scott Walker has pitched his flag and declared that he is the kind of candidate who will stand up to all opposition and do what he believes is right. That dogmatic image of the fighter may not be enough to get him to the presidency.
Published July 15, 2015
The modern grand slam of golf was created on an airplane when writer Bob Drum was flying with Arnold Palmer to the British Open. Drum wrote a column about it and before long the concept was born and golfers everywhere talked about it with reverence. It has never been done.
Published July 12, 2015
Based on a true story of the radium girls, who suffered radium poisoning from their jobs at a watch plant, Umbrella Group stages and poignant and powerful production of "These Shining Lives." The performance of Libby Amato is one of the best of the season.