Milwaukee has a lively theater scene many know nothing about. “New Plays Festival,” presented by Carte Blanche Studios, wants to change that. The unique production is set to showcase four brand new plays by local Milwaukee playwrights, all to be directed, produced and performed by members of the local theater company.
Carte Blanche Studios is a multi-purpose “creative space” that hosts cultural events, such as art shows, live music and, of course, theater productions.
The plays that are to be performed are “Turn Around” by Jackie Benka, “Happily Ever After, and Then Some” by Emily Craig, “Under the Bed” by David Kaye and “A Man of Few Words” by Greg Ryan. The festival will take place Nov. 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.
There are many expectations for the festival, but one of the most exciting is that the playwrights as well as the playgoers will be seeing the completed plays for the first time.
“One of the coolest parts of this festival is that the writers are not allowed to direct their own pieces,” said Greg Ryan, the writer of the short play “A Man of a Few Words.” “I know several other playwrights, and I’m excited to see their work. I did meet the director, and although he’s significantly younger than me, I believe he’s going to put on a very interesting show.”
The plays encompass a collection of different topics, including children’s imagination, coping with a close death in the family and modern visualizations of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales. For Ryan, writing the play came as a therapeutic experience.
“My play is about a middle-aged man who is asked to write the eulogy for his newly deceased father,” Ryan said. “A few years ago, my mother asked me to write the eulogy for my father when he passes away. I’ve been kind of dreading the moment when it happens, but I’ve found that writing a play has made me face the reality of it.”
“Under The Bed,” written by David Kaye, deals with children’s imaginary creatures crossing into reality. The playwright’s inspiration came after attending the play “Stage Door” at the Sunset Theater.
“My friend Liz Mistele was in the show and using a voice she frequently slips into, which I would describe as overexcited and child-like,” Kaye said. “I was working on a comedy, but I couldn’t get the voice out of my head and wrote the draft in 10 minutes.”
Kaye’s play “Under The Bed” combines reality and fiction while Emily Craig’s “Happily Ever After, and Then Some,” is a modern take on the Brothers Grimm’s original fairy tales, portraying how the characters would act and talk in the present day.
“I really liked the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and I just thought to myself, ‘What if they were in modern times?’” Craig said. “It’s always fun to write and see how people react to it.”
The Carte Blanche Festival will highlight some of the best that the “underground” Milwaukee theater scene has to offer. Craig is part of Milwaukee’s theater scene on many levels, writing plays but also acting.
“I think it’s great,” Craig said. “It’s so diverse and close-knit. It’s a very positive community.”
Kaye said while many theater goers know of the Repertory and the Chamber, there are many smaller theater groups that aren’t as well known but still put together plays that deserve attention.
“I think Milwaukee’s theater scene is underrated and underutilized,” Kaye said. “There are so many theater companies taking risks and trying new things, you can see something you can barely wrap your head around every week.”
Carte Blanche’s “New Plays Festival” promises to be a memorable experience for both the audience and the writers. The element of surprise, as well as the combination of diverse topics, will give viewers a unique experience and a good introduction into a different side of the Milwaukee theater scene.
“My own experience is more with full length, and this will be my first time even attending a festival of one acts,” Kaye said. ”I’m hoping for a very diverse night. I know we have four very distinct and different voices, so playgoers should see a wide range of entertainment.”