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Entertainment briefs

Tom Hardy to play Elton John in biopic

Tom Hardy will play Elton John in a biopic titled Rocketman. The film is planned to begin shooting late next year.

The 36-year-old British actor is well respected for his wide-ranging talent, but his brawny, tattooed frame makes him an unconventional choice. Hardy is most famous for playing the terrorist Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He has showcased a muscled masculinity in films like Warrior, Lawless and Bronson.

John’s an executive producer of the film.

MTV debuts new program in app

In a technological milestone for television, MTV recently released a full season of its new series about a downtrodden high school football team on its mobile application a week before the first episode is seen on TV.

MTV’s release of Wait ‘Til Next Year on its app is reminiscent of when the streaming service Netflix made an entire season of the drama House of Cards available at the same time.

Nearly 2 million MTV apps have been downloaded, primarily on iPhones and iPads, since MTV made them available in June. The network also recently experimented by making extra content from its Miley Cyrus documentary available exclusively through the app.

New musical brings back songwriter Fred Kander

The Landing, a musical starring out actor David Hyde Pierce, had its world premiere at New York City’s Vineyard Theatre on Oct. 23.

The play is notable because it brings legendary composer Fred Kander (Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman) out of retirement at age 86 and teams him with Pierce’s nephew, rising playwright Greg Pierce.

The Landing, which consists of three one-act musicals, is garnering strong reviews from critics.

‘Ragtime’ breaks Rep’s record

Ragtime became the bestselling musical in The Milwaukee Rep’s history after the first week of performances, surpassing the previous recordholder Cabaret. The latter, which opened The Rep’s 2010–11 season, was artistic director Mark Clements’ directorial debut. Ragtime was Clements’ latest directorial effort and also the largest production ever mounted on the Quadracci Powerhouse stage.

Clements signed a new four-year contract with The Rep earlier this year.

Skylight reports record year

Skylight Music Theatre’s 2012–13 season broke box-office records and resulted in a small operating surplus, according to managing director Amy Jensen.

“We are pleased to report that we increased revenues by 14 percent over the prior year while holding our expenses to a nominal 2 percent increase,” she said in a press release.

Ticket sales topped $1.5 million — the highest in the theater’s 54-year history and 31 percent above projections. Last year’s The Sound of Music was the biggest draw.

Last season was the ninth and final year for outgoing artistic director Bill Theisen.

Harper Lee sues Alabama museum

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee is suing a museum in her hometown of Monroeville to stop it from selling souvenirs with her name and the title of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Mobile, said the Monroe County Heritage Museum has traded on Lee’s fame without her approval and without compensating her. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

The lawsuit comes after Lee sought a federal trademark for the title of her book when it’s used on clothing. The museum opposed her application, saying its souvenir sales are vital to its continued operation. A ruling is more than a year away.

Lee’s book is set in fictional Maycomb County, but her suit says the setting was inspired by the real Monroe County in south Alabama, where she lives. The museum in Monroeville has displays honoring her and presents the play To Kill a Mockingbird each summer in the old county courthouse courtroom, which served as a model for the movie’s courtroom. The museum pays royalties for using the play, and that is not an issue in the suit.

The Milwaukee Rep presented the stage version of the book last year.

‘Walking Dead’ inspires new convention

Cable TV’s The Walking Dead has inspired a new convention, a podcast and a one-man play.

The podcast and Atlanta-based convention are the creations of Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier, also known as the “Walker Stalkers” because of a road trip they made last fall from Nashville, Tenn., to Georgia to see the AMC show being filmed.

The convention, Walker Stalker Con, is expected to draw 10,000 or more participants, Nordhoff said.

The Walking Dead characters battle zombies known as “walkers” in the streets of downtown Atlanta and in forests, small towns and a prison south of the city.

The convention will feature appearances by some of the show’s actors.

The series returned for its fourth season this month with its biggest audience ever. The 16.1 million people who watched the Oct. 13 series premiere shattered the show’s previous record of 12.4 million, the Nielsen company said.

Peck School professor honored

Rebecca Holderness, associate professor of acting at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts, will be honored for her work in regional theater and for transforming “the national arts landscape by (her) artistry, passion, and courage,” according to a UWM press release. Holderness is one of four finalists for the Stage Director and Choreographer Society’s Zelda Fichandler Award, to be presented Nov. 4 in Cincinnati.

The university said that Holderness has reached “beyond the world of academia to create opportunities for creative endeavors in Milwaukee.”

REP wins UPAF award

Milwaukee Repertory Theater has been named recipient of the prestigious 2013 United Performing Arts Fund’s Management & Organizational Performance Excellence Award, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual. 

The Rep also announced that it’s conducting a fundraising challenge campaign to coincide with its anniversary. Anonymous donors have pledged to match every new or increased gift up to $200,000, doubling the impact of each gift. To learn more about Milwaukee Repertory Theater, its productions and how to donate, go to www.milwaukeerep.com.

Carol Burnett wins America’s top prize for humor

A big Tarzan yell to Carol Burnett. The trailblazing comedienne received the nation’s top humor prize at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Top entertainers, including Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, paid tribute to Burnett as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The show will air on Nov. 24 on PBS stations. Ellen DeGeneres won the prize last year.

Lou Reed dead at 71

Lou Reed, the bisexual punk poet of rock ’n’ roll who influenced generations of musicians as leader of the Velvet Underground and as a solo performer for decades, has died at 71 from complications related to a recent liver transplant.

No band did more than the Velvet Underground to open rock music to the avant-garde — to experimental theater, art, literature and film, to William Burroughs and Kurt Weill, to John Cage and Andy Warhol, Reed’s early patron.

Indie rock essentially began in the 1960s with Reed and the Velvets. Likewise, the punk, New Wave and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s were all indebted to Reed.

Reed’s New York was a jaded city of drag queens and drug addicts. His songs quested for transcendence.

His one Top 20 hit “Walk on the Wild Side” and many other Reed singles became standards among his fans, including “Heroin,” ‘’Sweet Jane” and ‘’Pale Blue Eyes.”




Signs of the times | Billboards to display work by Milwaukee artists

From Oct. 1 through Oct. 10, original work by Milwaukee artists will rotate on 18 digital billboards in the metro area to raise the visibility of the local public art scene.

IN:SITE, which promotes temporary public art, is partnering with Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Outdoor Advertising to organize the 10-day campaign, part of Digital Billboard Art Month.

Each billboard will display images from one or two artists selected to represent local nonprofit visual art organizations. Billboards also will include the artists’ and nonprofits’ names.

“Over the 10 days of the campaign, well over 1 million people will have the chance to see these pieces of art,” said Jay Guidinger, sales manager of Lamar of Milwaukee.

IN:SITE hopes the campaign will encourage viewers to seek more information about the artists and nonprofits. The ultimate goal of Digital Billboard Art Month is to act as a catalyst for developing more advocacy, promotion and funding for Milwaukee’s visual arts.

IN:SITE, which did the research and planning for the project, discovered that art on billboards – both vinyl and digital – is growing nationally. In the fall of 2012, IN:SITE contacted 27 visual arts groups to request their participation. Each group was asked to contribute $75–$300, depending on its annual operating budget.

The participants’ contributions paid for Graeme Reid, director of collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, to review the art submitted. The contributions also covered some of the reception expenses and paid for graphic designer Marly Gisser to develop and oversee the technical submission guidelines.

A public reception for Digital Billboard Art Month takes place 6–8 p.m. on Oct. 2 at INOVA, 2155 N. Prospect Ave. Creative Alliance Milwaukee, the newest incarnation of the 2005 Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee, will act as the reception’s primary sponsor.


Unlike the city’s performing arts groups, which benefit from funding through the United Performing Arts Fund, the city’s visual arts groups face an uphill battle in securing financial support. Created in 1967, UPAF raised more than $11 million this year through corporations, workplace giving, individuals, foundations and the annual UPAF Ride for the Arts. The funding helped support 32 performing arts group in the 2012–13 season.

In anticipation of the 2001 opening of the Santiago Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, a visual arts funding umbrella was started. In November 2000, Marilu Knode, then-senior curator for INOVA at the Peck School of the Arts at UWM, held the first planning session for what became Visual Arts Milwaukee, also known as VAM! The Greater Milwaukee Foundation contributed $10,000 to the effort.

VAM! co-chair Mark Lawson, director of galleries at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, cautioned at the time, “It’s important this collaborative energy doesn’t drift away.” But it did. The visual arts community did not continue with other joint initiatives, perhaps because VAM! was disappointed that the media attention in 2001 focused almost exclusively on MAM.

Now Creative Alliance Milwaukee seeks to become a catalytic hub to help grow what its organizers call “creative industries” that have “aesthetic, artistic or cultural content.”

“Visual artists and groups in Milwaukee are an undervalued resource,” said Creative Alliance executive director Maggie Kuhn Jacobus. “The Creative Alliance wants DBAM to succeed so it can continue past 2013 and spur more group efforts.” 

Pegi Christiansen is co-founder of IN:SITE


The Milwaukee Ballet Company’s recent production of “3,” a program of dance works created by three world-class choreographers, was a thrilling reminder of one of the greatest benefits of living in Wisconsin: the arts.

The burden of our northern latitude winters is lightened by the quality and diversity of the performing arts groups that crisscross the state.  You’d have to search hard to find a corner of the Badger State where you could not access an outstanding performing arts venue.

Unfortunately, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is as artless as it is heartless. Not content merely with gutting healthcare and education funding, he’s also taken an ax to the arts. His budget eliminates all funding for the Wisconsin Arts Board and subsumes it beneath the Department of Tourism, which is headed by Walker crony and former beauty queen Stephanie Klett. Her experience with the arts is apparently limited to the cornet, which she played at the 1993 Miss America finals in Atlantic City.

The arts are among civilization’s proudest and most defining achievements. The tradition of government support for the arts well predates the vaunted tradition of monogamous heterosexual marriage that Walker and his ilk publicly promote with such vengeance. Yet right-wingers treat the arts as if they were as disposable as their spouses.

The performing arts do much more than entertain. They inspire and enlighten. They strengthen communities by fostering social cohesion. They stimulate debate and encourage multilayered thinking.

The arts are also an effective economic generator that puts money in local economies. Funding of the Wisconsin Arts Board represents only .013 percent of the state budget, while the arts account for 3.6 percent of total employment in the Wisconsin.

Consumers must help to offset public funding cuts to the arts by ramping up their individual support. We urge you to volunteer or contribute to arts-related nonprofit organizations in your area.

Wisconsin Gazette is proud to support the United Performing Arts Fund’s annual fundraising drive. UPAF is a nonprofit organization that supports 34 performing arts groups in southeastern Wisconsin. Together, these groups produce over 2,000 live performances of music, dance, theater and opera each year and provide arts training and education to 400,000 area youth.

To contribute, go to www.upaf.org/campaign/donation.