By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published May 16, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Vince Lombardi returns to Wisconsin next football season when the Milwaukee Rep stages the post-Broadway regional theater premiere of "Lombardi" on its Quadracci Powerhouse Theater stage. Written by state native Eric Simonson and based on David Maraniss' 1999 biography of the coach, "When Pride Still Mattered," "Lombardi" opened on Broadway last October and is still playing there.

The Rep's production, which will star Lee Ernst in the title role, will open Oct. 11 and run through Nov. 13. Sanford Robbins, the founder of the late and lamented Professional Theatre Training Program at UWM, will direct.

This Lombardi play should not be confused with another Simonson previously wrote, titled "Lombardi: The Only Thing." That piece was premiered by the now defunct Madison Repertory Theatre in 2007 and was later given a Milwaukee production by Next Act Theatre.

Actor Ernst has been on a roll of big roles, portraying Willy Loman and the emcee in "Cabaret" in the Rep season that just concluded. He has played Frank Lloyd Wright, Cyrano de Bergerac and many of the great Shakespearean characters during his long stage career in the state.

The Rep is currently selling only season ticket packages. Tickets to individual shows will go on sale during the summer.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.