If there's one thing folks familiar with felines know it is that they do not follow a command without first weighing their own desire to do so. Wild cats, house cats, put-'em-in-your-pocket cats, it matters not--they decide when, where and how things will go down and no amount of "training" will ever change that. Years can go by in which Tigger or Fluffy very amiably does as you wish, then--Snap!--just like that he/she refuses, choosing instead to clean the deeper recesses of an inner thigh, showin' you the paw. Such is the cat's admirable independence, a trait loved by some and loathed by others.
So when a playwright--in this case Kim Rosenstock--decides to give her dramedy the commanding title Tigers Be Still you can pretty well imagine it's gonna be a bumpy ride, with at least one character prone to speaking in soothing tones, holding out metaphoric kitty treats and trying to get the animal to play along. You would also imagine that character is not the only member of the play's populace to have both old and fresh scars from the sharp, un-retracted claws of life. And you'd be right!
In honor of your afore mentioned correctness and your not-yet-spoken-of-but-obvious ferocious curiosity to know the whole story, Milwaukee's Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre will be presenting the Wisconsin premiere of Tigers Be Still, opening on July 31 and kicking off it's 28th season. Well, aren't you lucky? Yes, yes you are.
Okay, so one extra sultry day last week I had the very pleasant opportunity to sit down with the cast of this theatrical romp, as well as the Boulevard's Artistic Director Mark Bucher, and ask a few questions.
Just so we all know who is who, the thespians are as follows:
• Shannon Tyburski plays Sherry, our optimistic soother who recently earned an MA in Art Therapy but can't find a full time job--shocking, no?--and has moved back home to live with the her reclusive, never-seen mother.
• Brooke Wegner plays Grace, Sherry's depressed sister whose main occupations are crashing on the couch, finding comfort in a bottle, engaging in a little light thievery of her ex-fiancé's stuff, and doling out snarky comments.
• Josh Wallace plays Zack, a troubled teen--and what teen isn't, eh?--with anger issues, largely stemming from the death of his mother.
• Jaime Jastrab plays Joseph, a high school principal who's hired Sherry as a substitute teacher and assigned her a patient, Zack, his troubled teen son--yes, that guy above! Also, Joseph has a habit of bringing a gun to work.
What, you may well ask, has a tiger got to do with this group of emotionally struggling human beings? Well there's one on the loose and roaming all over town, of course! Silly you for not seein' that one comin'.
Anyhoo, each of the actors has his/her own take on what the real tiger metaphorically represents for each character. For Tyburski, it's Sherry's unresolved feelings of abandonment brought by an absent father. For Wegner, it's the yet-to-be realized stillness required for Grace to face the life choices in front of her. For Wallace, it's Zack's rage and his propensity to wander seemingly without direction. And for Jastrab, it's Joseph's debilitating anxieties. Clearly all of taken ample time to process their approach to this play and their characters, which can only produce good things.
From the Director's point of view, Bucher finds Rosenstock's play to be remarkably well written, filled with the kind of exacting stage direction that enables strong performances, helping to avoid the dreaded guessing game that can make for disastrous results. He also sees this production as an exciting chance to work with an ensemble of both emerging actors--Wallace just graduated from Brown University and is at the beginning his career--and more seasoned actors--Tyburski, Wegner and Jastrab all have a history at the Boulevard as well as other theatre companies.
As an aside, Bucher shared with me his Good Theatre Direction Philosophy, which I will now share with you: 1) Get a good play, 2) Get the right cast, and 3) Get the f*ck out of the way! And to that we say Right On!
Tigers Be Still opens July 31 and runs through August 18, 2013. Tickets range between $20 and $25, depending on which date you attend, and can be purchased here.
Bonus: If you're as enthusiastic as we are about this play and wanna show your love to the Boulevard for consistently presenting quality theatre, get yourself on down to Hamburger Mary's Restaurant, 2130 S Kinnickinnic Ave, this Thursday, July 25, for their HamBINGO Fundraiser from 8-9:30pm! True rumor has it the fabulous Dear Ruthie will be callin' the balls. Suggested donation is $10 for 10 games, but we know you'll wanna give more.
(Thanks Mark, Shannon, Brooke, Jaime, and Josh!)