First Stage is delighted to announce its return to live theater performances in the 2021/22 season. Following an innovative virtual season of plays last year and the successful launch of the second Amplify – BIPOC Short Play Series in early September, First Stage proudly announces the full 35th season kicking off in November at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. Looking ahead to next season, Artistic Director Jeff Frank commented, “After all of the challenges we faced this past year – and the resiliency our staff and artists have shown in the face of those challenges – we are thrilled to return to the stage, and connect with our audiences once again, live and in person.”
“After all of the challenges we faced this past year – and the resiliency our staff and artists have shown in the face of those challenges – we are thrilled to return to the stage, and connect with our audiences once again, live and in person.”— Jeff Frank, Artistic Director
The season begins with A Charlie Brown Christmas (November 20 – December 26, 2021 ) by Charles M. Schulz, based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, with stage adaptation by Eric Schaeffer and direction by Jeff Frank. Everyone is giddy with Christmas cheer, but Charlie Brown has the Yuletide blues. Will directing the Christmas play help him get in the spirit of the season? Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they learn the true meaning of Christmas. This is one holiday gift the entire family will treasure.
Next up is The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 (January 21 – February 13, 2022 ) adapted for stage by Cheryl West, based on the book by Christopher Paul Curtis, and directed by Aaron Todd Douglas. Ten-year-old Kenny chronicles the events of a fateful summer for the Watson family of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny’s older brother Byron starts getting into too much trouble, Momma and Dad decide the family needs to pay a visit to Grandma Sands in Alabama to set him straight. Momma, Dad, Kenny, Byron and youngest sister Joetta set out on a cross-country journey, heading south and toward a moment in American history where the world seems to change before their eyes.
Following that is The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors (March 5 – April 3, 2022) by Drew Daywalt, with book and lyrics by John Maclay, music and lyrics by Eric Nordin, direction by Kelly Doherty, and choreography by Molly Rhode. These three fierce warriors return to the stage for a rematch after their brief battle was cut short in March 2020. From the Kingdom of Backyard came Rock, from the Empire of Mom’s Home Office came Paper and from a messy village in the Junk Drawer Realm came Scissors. They were the strongest, smartest and fastest in all the land. Though they searched far and wide for worthy opponents, no one could beat them . .. until they met each other and a musical battle royale began to see who would come out on top!
Next comes The Amazing Lemonade Girl based on the true story of Alexandra Flynn Scott, written by James DeVita, and directed by Molly Rhode. Meet Alex Scott. She has a story to tell – about her life and her legacy, her humor and her heart. The story of a young girl fiercely determined to make a difference despite the challenges she faces. Alex’s true story reminds us all that a single person can change the world – one act, or even one cup, at a time.
The First Steps Series at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center Includes The Dancing Granny (February 12 – March 6, 2022), a collaboration with Ko-Thi Dance Company By Mansa Ra, adapted from the book by Ashley Bryan, and directed by Samantha D. Montgomery. Kids and adults will be dancing in their seats as Ananse, the clever spider of African folklore, tries to trick Granny into dancing away from her garden so he can take her vegetables. But his plan backfires when he is drawn into the dance himself. “Shake it to the East, shake it to the West, shake it to the one that you love best!”
Next in the series is Last Stop on Market Street (May 7 – June 12, 2022) with Book, Music & Lyrics by Gloria Bond Clunie, Adapted from the book by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson and Directed by Johamy Morales. Six-year-old CJ is visiting his boisterous Nana, reluctantly accompanying her on a bus ride that he finds loud, gritty and weird. Guided by his veritable force-of-nature Nana, CJ travels a little closer to his roots and sees that things are not always what they seem.
Young Company Performance Projects at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center begin with The Laramie Project (December 3 – 12, 2021) by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project and directed by Elyse Edelman. In October 1998, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student, was brutally beaten and left to die on the plains outside Laramie, Wyoming. Hailed as one of the most captivating and encompassing pieces of contemporary theater, The Laramie Project is a breathtaking collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable. Warning: This play is based on a true story, and includes strong language and mature content that some may find upsetting, including descriptions of homophobia, violence and death.
The Young Company will also take on Macbeth (March 25 – April 3, 2022 ) directed by Marcella Kearns. Tempted by an evil prophecy from a trio of witches, and encouraged by his Lady ever deeper into his own dark ambition, Macbeth rages a bloody path to the throne of Scotland. Infamously known as the cursed Scottish play, Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy is filled with ferocious battles, supernatural horrors, famously gorgeous poetry and some of the Bard’s most vivid characters.
This Year’s Amplify: BIPOC Short Play Series includes How to Actually Graduate in a Virtual World by Nikkole Salter and directed by Samantha D. Montgomery (Streaming now – December 5, 2021) When Milwaukee High announces that graduation will be virtual, TT gathers friends to come up with a way to make the ceremony special. As they weigh their options – and battle invisibility, hopelessness and indifference – we learn how the pandemic affected them all. Is an achievement an achievement if it goes unacknowledged? Tune in and consider this question in this provocative short play.
Second in the series is Step Kids, A one-act musical by Tyrone L. Robinson and Postell Pringle, directed by Christopher Gilbert. A group of seemingly unconnected high school students find common ground in the most unlikely of places – the audition for their school’s competitive step dance team. As the students become unified through the power of rhythm and dance, experience the joy of finding your tribe in this energetic performance.
The series rounds out with The Tale of La Llorona as Told By Consuelo Chavez by José Casas, directed by David Flores. Disappointed that a thunderstorm has stopped them from their traditional trick or treating, six middle-schoolers huddle together in a basement on what might be the last time they are together to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve. To pass the time, they share some of their favorite ghost stories . . . but are they just stories? Suggested for families with young people ages 12+. Warning – the performance includes blackouts, loud noises and scary moments.