Milwaukee is a city blessed with a lot of great professional theater.
We probably have more professional theater than most cities our size and the quality is almost uniformly top tier. We get great plays and wonderful acting as well as excellent direction, a combination that makes for a wonderful experience at the theater.
You can now add one more theater to the list of places to check out if you love live theater, Sunset Playhouse.
For years Sunset, which is a beautiful building in Elm Grove, was the cream of the crop as far as community theater goes. With good leadership and a dedicated base of volunteers, you could always count on a great time.
But under the new leadership of Jonathan West, who used to run the fabled Bialystock & Bloom theater company, Sunset has taken a big leap forward. He has broadened the corps of directors with such outstanding professionals as Matt Daniels, Bryce Lord, Ray Jivoff and Mark Metcalf. These new directors have brought a new demanding level of style to Sunset.
The selection of plays is still guided more by box office potential than by experimentation or efforts to expose Milwaukee to new and unfamiliar plays. But that is a curse that is shared by every theater company in town. If you don't get an audience, you don't last very long.
West, though, has broadened the offerings at Sunset to a variety of performances, ranging from holiday concerts to jazz performances and wonderful plays for children as well as the high level of theatrical offerings.
Sunset has always been close to that line that separates community from professional theater and under West's direction the place has now crept so close that it's hard to tell the difference. It is more than worth the trip to Elm Grove to check them out.
Yes, Sunset Playhouse absolutely produces some wonderful theater. No question. All the credit in this blog post, however, seems to go directly to Sunset's Managing Director Jonathan West, and that isn't the case. It seems as if further research was in order.
For instance, three out of four of the "broadened corps of directors" Jonathan West is given credit for hiring were actually interviewed and hired by Sunset's former Artistic Director, Mark Salentine. Bryce Lord, in fact, was hired to direct numerous productions well before Mr. West was ever even hired by Sunset, beginning with Sylvia which began rehearsals in 2005.
"West, though, has broadened the offerings at Sunset to a variety of performances, ranging from holiday concerts to jazz performances and wonderful plays for children..." This statement, too, is inaccurate. Sunset Playhouse's tremendously successful Musical Mainstage series began as "Musical Monday," a performance meant to take advantage of a dark night in the Furlan Auditorium. This idea was introduced to Sunset by a longtime volunteer, and Mr. Salentine fleshed it out, appointed a producer, and those two together, buoyed by some of Milwaukee's most talented vocalists, built the strong and well-attended series it remains to this day. The Musical Mainstage series was conceived and in full bloom before Mr. West was ever hired as Managing Director at Sunset.
More of the offerings mentioned in this blog come to audiences in the form of the SideNotes Cabaret series. SideNotes was conceived by Mark Salentine, and placed into the Sunset rotation as a means of further utilizing the Sunset Studio Theater and affording opportunities to even more of Milwaukee's many gifted musicians. Sidenotes, too, continues to grow and be a strong draw for Sunset .
The Children's Theater mentioned by Mr. Begel was floundering when Mark Salentine began his tenure at Sunset in 2004, and he hired longtime volunteer Erika Navin as Education Director and together they worked assiduously to build the program, and in fact co-wrote the first "Bug-in-a-Rug" script together to the delight of children and parents. Erika remains in her position to this day, and the program continues to thrive, primarily due to her tremendous drive and energy.
Mark didn't do any of this by himself. The core volunteers of Sunset have always worked tirelessly to make the theater a place of which to be proud. No one person ever deserves credit for a team effort such as those mentioned above. Sadly, Mr. West was given sole credit in this post, and as much as I hoped he would offer a response giving credit where credit was deserved, he didn't. It appears that since he was offered the acknowledgement, he was content to take it for himself.
1 comment about 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 May 21, 2013
When a team is as bad as the Milwaukee Brewers have been, you kind of just hold your breath, waiting for somebody with authority to lose patience with the whole thing and start chopping. And, as we all know, the normal first head on the chopping block belongs to the manager.
Published May 16, 2013
For decades Milwaukee has been a whipping boy for all those state legislators who aren't from Milwaukee. We need to find a way to fight back, something that will scare the crap out of some Republican from Bonduel or Abbotsford or even Mequon. Here are Dave Begel's weapons of war...
Published May 15, 2013
I have been kind of out of commission for more than 40 days with a health difficulty and it's been a real long haul. I think I'm in the final couple of weeks before I get to go home, but lately I've been thinking a lot about what things I miss the most.
Published May 14, 2013
The Journal Sentinel just hired someone named David Paulsen to be its new Breaking News Editor. Paulsen comes to the paper after stints as a reporter in Wausau and Poughkeepsie, N. Y. and two years at Fox News. Well, when the announcement was made the cries from staffers in the newsroom in Downtown Milwaukee could be heard throughout the civilized world.
Published May 14, 2013
Any sport can be improved upon with simple tweaks to the rules. Here is a list of one change for the major spectator sports that will help each game.
Published May 9, 2013
For months, all the pro leagues had been preparing for this announcement from some athlete. They had formed alliances with LGBT groups, laying plans for how to respond and how to handle the inevitable public reaction. But even in Wisconsin, we have moved beyond this kind of homophobic bull crap.
Published May 7, 2013
Do something great and we adore our heroes with shouts, screams and applause. We care and we show we care. What are we to do when they screw something up? We care about them just as much and ignoring their failure should not be part of this equation. Not caring is worse, much worse, than disapproving. We have to let them know that we who depend on them so much are disappointed.
Published May 3, 2013
Enough young people have been convinced they should care about using the proper fork that a number of colleges and universities in Milwaukee have started holding etiquette classes for students headed out for job interview lunches and dinners. I see no reason, however, to limit this to meals. Think of all the opportunities these kids are missing.
Published April 25, 2013
Nobody is born a criminal. There is no inevitability to a kid becoming a criminal. There is something else at work here, and that leads us to the big question: Does crime cause poverty or does poverty cause crime?
Published April 23, 2013
Excitement, recreation and fun are good things and they are well worth paying for. Let's remove the science from this debate and just concentrate on the style of life and caliber of a city we all really want.