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 April 17, 2014
Recently, it was news that the state Republican Party is going to vote at its convention on a resolution that says the state party "supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin's right, under extreme circumstances, to secede." Secede? You've got to be kidding me. Maybe we should all find a way to get the Tea Party to secede from the rest of us who have at least a little bit of common sense.
Published April 15, 2014
Tiger Woods missed the Masters Tournament last week, which was won by Bubba Watson. Waton had to fend off 20-year-old Jordan Spieth to claim his second green jacket, and it proves to me that the game is better off without Woods.
Published April 14, 2014
You really have to hand it to George Webb, the venerable Milwaukee restaurant chain. There may be a "new" kid on the block, trying to mimic Webb's claim to fame, but the Webb people aren't all that concerned.
Published April 13, 2014
Ever since he made his debut into the American pop culture world, Superman has been a character who made people wonder what he really was. After all, he's technically an alien disguised as a human. That was kind of the way I felt walking out of the opening night of "The History of Invulnerability" at the Milwaukee Rep. I wasn't totally sure what I had just watched, but I knew whatever it was had made me a little uncomfortable.
Published April 12, 2014
Everybody wants Tito Morelli except his wife, and she's ambivalent about the whole thing. It's those burning desires from six wacky characters that are at the heart of "Lend Me a Tenor," the Ken Ludwig chestnut that opened at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre Friday night and runs through April 27.
Published April 10, 2014
In these trying times it's obviously good to have a job, but some jobs are much harder than others.
Published April 8, 2014
This season was a thrilling ride for the Wisconsin Badgers and it seems almost too much to hope for another one next year. But on paper, next year's team looks even stronger than this season's.
Published April 7, 2014
In a way, the theory behind "Mr. Marmalade" is admirable. Take Lucy - a 4-year-old with an imaginary friend - and give her a whole bunch of experiences that are more suited to adults on massive drug cocktails than to a child, no matter how precocious. Unfortunately, the show itself - which runs through April 19 - is just too much of a one trick pony.
Published April 7, 2014
Ten years ago, I saw the Renaissance production of "Skin Tight," a story of love and life. A decade later, the company brought back the original cast and its original director, Laura Gordon. This new version, running through April 27, is even richer and more nuanced than the original.
Published April 5, 2014
"Three Views of the Same Object," the Henry Murray play that opened Friday night at Next Act Theatre and runs through April 27, is a story is of honor and betrayal, truth and lies, the things we do either for or to the people we love. And in this production, it's a story told on the shoulders of giants.