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 5, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks are expected to name head coach Jason Kidd the head of basketball operations next week. Kidd tried to get both jobs when he was in Brooklyn and his failure to do so was cited as a factor in him agreeing to come to Milwaukee.John Hammond has been general manager of the Bucks since 2008.
Published July 3, 2015
Sports can bring joy and jubilation and it's about the best feeling in the world. But the flip side of that coin is the sadness that comes in the world of sports. Here's seven things that make me sad and I just hope someday I can recover.
Published July 2, 2015
Wisconsin's basketball scene is undergoing change. The Milwaukee Bucks are going to go after a big name free agent, and it's apparent the Bucks are real players this year. That addition, however, is tempered by the loss, after next year, of Bo Ryan. He's going to be missed.
Published July 2, 2015
It was almost by accident that I discovered a perfectly legal ripoff from a car rental company. But that one seems to be almost small potatoes compared to the scandal of fake reviews that plague the internet.
Published July 1, 2015
The Women's World Cup is turning out to be yet another example of why soccer is called "the beautiful game." Here are six reasons to love watching the tournament.
Published June 30, 2015
The No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the world, Germany and the United States, will meet tonight for a berth in the final of the Women's World Cup. Both teams were favored to win the tournament before it started and the game feels like it should be the final.
Published June 29, 2015
Just one day after the nation was rocked to its foundation by the Supreme Court decision to honor love in all its forms the story of another love that blossomed as the world was changing came to our attention. It's the APT production of "Pride and Prejudice."
Published June 29, 2015
Pity is a coomplex thing but it's relatively easy int he world of sports. There are good guys and bad guys and we like some of them and dislike others. It's all a big pity party.
Published June 28, 2015
"The Island" is a play about the brutality and pain of apartheid in South Africa. But it is also more than that - a tale about the obligation to protest against unworthy conditions. It is a difficult and meaningful play to watch.
Published June 26, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks, who didn't have much shooting in their arsenal last season, went for exactly that in both the NBA draft and a draft-night trade. Rashad Vaughn, a shooter from UNLV, and Greivis Vasquez, a veteran shooter from the Toronto Raptors, will join the Milwaukee Bucks.