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In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Lisa Golda in the Vox Box. (PHOTO: Damien Jaques)

Lisa Golda: A new stage voice in town

Discovery is a pleasant perk of being a theater critic. Sometimes a play or playwright delivers an unexpected delight. At other times an unfamiliar actor pops up in a cast and knocks your socks off.

The latter occurred in September '09 when Lisa Golda appeared in an Off the Wall Theatre production of "Company." I wrote at the time, "Newcomer Lisa Golda, playing Jenny, is a huge find for Off the Wall producer-director Dale Gutzman. The owner of a big operatically-trained voice, Golda is bursting with poise, polish and energy."

I didn't know then the singer-actor, who grew up in Portland, Ore., was living in Sheboygan and spending as much time on highways as truckers. She has a master's degree in vocal performance from the prestigious Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and was teaching voice from Green Bay to Chicago.

Golda's professional resume includes singing credits from the Portland Opera and Seattle Opera, but after receiving her advanced degree she was troubled with performance anxiety. Golda was using low pressure amateur and semi-professional theater to get her stage chops back.

At the same time, she was a teaching artist, working in the inner city for Chicago Opera Theatre.

Three months ago, Golda moved to Milwaukee and rented the space -- a former science classroom and office -- in the Marian Center for Nonprofits that was once occupied by the defunct Dramatists Theatre. Cleaning, painting and decorating the two rooms, she christened it the Vox Box, a combination vocal teaching studio and black box theater.

"I want the Vox Box to be a platform for unheard voices," she recently said. "That includes new works, emerging performers, rarely performed yet worthwhile pieces, and neglected world views or perspectives."

Golda sees it as a niche space, where audiences can experience small musicals, one-act operas and other theatrical forms.

The Vox Box debuted as a performance venue on New Year's Eve with what Golda called a theater mixer/revue that included local stage artist Brian Myers' one-act musical "Status." The show will be staged at the 2011 Strawberry One Act Festival in New York this month.

The New Year's Eve event drew a capacity audience of 53.

Mezzo-soprano Christine O'Meally and baritone-pianist Ryan Cappleman will perform their cabaret revue "Oh, To Be a Movie Star!" at 7 p.m. Feb. 20, a week before the Academy Awards are presented, and at 7 p.m. March 26 actress Liysa Callsen will stage her original one-woman show "codadiva," an evening of storytelling chronicling her experiences as a hearing child of Deaf adults. The latter will be performed in American Sign Language, with voice interpretation for the hearing.

Tickets, sold at the door, are $10 for "Oh, To Be a Movie Star!" and $12 for "codadiva." Snacks and a cash bar are included.

Golda has about 25 private voice students in Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Grafton, where she teaches at the Northshore Academy of the Arts. She is also performing at the Chicago Opera Playhouse.

Explaining why she moved to Milwaukee, Golda said, "I think Milwaukee is at the very beginning of a cultural Renaissance. It's bursting with culture, creativity and artistic entrepreneurship. It's beautiful, easy to navigate, friendly, and best of all, no one seems to realize just how cool it is."

That woman should be writing press releases for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

The Vox Box is located in Suite 423 in a Marian Center building at 3211 S. Superior St.


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