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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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Readers Blog: David Todd

Go East, Young Actors!

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They say “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” which is good news for local actors Lenny Banovez and Jake Russo.  The two Milwaukee-based actors took a chance this summer and up and moved to New York City to stage their own productions.  Banovez, along with fiancé Laura Frye started Promethean Theatre Company NYC in early 2009 with productions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Loves Labours Lost, Jane Martin’s Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage and is currently wrapping up their inaugural season with a classic, but contemporary Hamlet. Promethean fills their shows with both Actors’ Equity and non-equity performers, directors and production staff on what any theater would call a SUPER shoe-string budget (in fact, they don’t even have the shoe)!  Plus, the troupe of “thirty-something” artists get by with a little help from their friends back home including lighting designer Jason Fassl, graphic designer Kristen Godfrey and, well, I’ve done my part, too. 

What’s remarkable is the level of productions they have been able to undertake in a small, black box theatre adjacent to a Mexican restaurant on the outskirts of the city.  The house holds no more than 50, but the patrons are as enthusiastic as if they were seeing a Broadway show.

“These guys are really talented,” said one patron I spoke with at last Friday’s opening night of Hamlet.  Being a theater fanatic and supporter of the arts, she went on to tell me she would put this production up against anything she’d pay $100 plus to see on Broadway.  “This production is not at all out of place with [Tony Award-winner] God of Carnage or David Mamet’s new play Race that I have also seen this weekend,” she offered.  High praise indeed.

What makes it work?  Talented actors from across the country who love theatre enough to work pro bono, simple sets, great material and an extra dose of creativity all add up to smart, compelling comedies and dramas.  Nothing Promethean Theatre NYC produces will strike you as commonplace.  Loves Labours was set against the back drop of the 60s, Flaming Guns was a bloody, irreverent farce and Hamlet, well, you could have been watching ABC’s Brothers and Sister, as the show’s contemporary setting made it feel more like a gripping TV drama rather than a boring Bard dissertation.  

There’s still time to catch Hamlet (and some good airfares to NYC) through January 22nd.  Visit www.promethean-nyc.org for more information and how to get tickets to the show.

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