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Theatre Gigante’s 2017 Holiday Newsletter



Wow, another year of gigantic theater, and this one has propelled us into our 30th Anniversary Season!  We are thrilled and thankful to you for all you’ve done to make it possible.

In January, Theatre Gigante launched 2017 with a performance at the University of Maribor in the city of Maribor in Slovenia.  The performance, titled THE WAY THINGS GO, was written by Mark Anderson as a monologue 25 years ago, and was adapted by Isabelle Kralj for two people and a drummer.  The performance was wonderfully received!

In the audience was awarded Slovenian playwright Rok Vilčnik, and after seeing the show, he commissioned Isabelle, Mark and Melita Koletnik, Professor of Translation at the University of Maribor, to translate his play TARZAN.  The task was completed in August, and Gigante will be presenting the English version of this fabulous black comedy in March of 2018!

Theatre Gigante’s second performance took place in March. Regular Gigante musician/composer/performer Frank Pahl’s LITTLE BANG THEORY, the dazzling and sublime musical performance group from Ann Arbor/Detroit, comprised of Frank, Terri Sarris and Doug Shimmin, accompanied a screening of Lon Chaney’s 1928 silent film, LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH, with an original score.  This magical weekend took place in Kenilworth 508 Theatre.

Also in March, Gigante once again donned Peter & Wolf attire and performed their PETER & THE WOLF & THE ONE MAN BAND in schools throughout Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.  This program, sponsored by the Milwaukee Symphony ACE Program, is a big hit with the first graders and great fun for the performers, as well!

Then, Alverno College invited Gigante to create a work to be performed in April in their Pitman Theatre.  Gigante jumped at the wonderful opportunity, and Isabelle re-adapted Mark’s THE WAY THINGS GO – only this time, for ten performers, including Frank, as a one-man band.

THE WAY THINGS GO became a cacophony of musings, thoughts, and ideas, in which performers guided the audience through a humorous evening of text, movement, song, and music, poetically embracing the mystery of life, with juggling balls, bicycles, stilts, cubes, microphones, chairs, and a whole slew of fun instruments!

The cast members are masterful in their movement; perfectly in sync, they go from embodying a group therapy session to Sir Isaac Newton’s cradle to the night sky. It is a philosophy class at the circus…Theatre Gigante’s composite of movement, song and speech endeavors to provide a platform to engage in a conversation about “you-ness” and tackle no less than the meaning of life.
                                                 Hannah Klapperich-Mueller, Shepherd Express

In August, Theatre Gigante opened its 30th season at the second annual Milwaukee Fringe Festival with a performance of Frank O’Hara’s poem, LEXINGTON AVENUE, delightfully set to music by Jason Powell and performed by Powell and Erin Hartman, with Anne Van Deusen on piano.

What Gigante did with LEXINGTON AVENUE is what they’ve done so very, very well over the course of the past ten or so years of their total thirty that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing…something primal exists in the abstractions of simple movements and bits of dialogue that no realistically grounded artifice could ever manage no matter how brilliantly rendered the sets, costuming and lighting might be.                                                   Russ Bickerstaff, Shepherd Express

In September and October, Gigante audiences were introduced to Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, Berlin’s most notorious transvestite, in Doug Wright’s I AM MY OWN WIFE, directed by Isabelle and featuring Michael Stebbins.  This timely play was beautifully embodied by Michael, who played over thirty-five characters, including the charming, enigmatic Charlotte.

… a powerful emotional package that eschews ambiguity in favor of something much more emotionally sweeping. The emotionality of the piece is amplified by the simplicity of the production. Directed by Isabelle Kralj with stark and primal lighting by Leroy Stoner, Theatre Gigante’s staging amplifies the basic emotion of the piece to tell a story focused on the internal struggles of a captivating person.                                                     Russ Bickerstaff, Shepherd Express

November brought the brilliant performer David Gaines and his one-man comedic powerhouse, 7 (x1) SAMURAI, back to Gigante audiences, where he delighted capacity crowds. In attendance was a group of 7th and 8th graders from Highland Community School and a group of UWM theater students, with faculty from the Theatre and Dance Departments.  Besides gracing the stage with his performances, David also taught a fabulous theater workshop at Pius High School.

The percentage of people likely to be satisfied this weekend by Warner Brothers’ Justice League isn’t likely to be nearly as close to 100% as it is with Theatre Gigante and David Gaines7(x1) SAMURAI. Anybody can tell a heroic adventure story with a few hundred million dollars. It takes a special kind of crazy to tell this kind of story with one guy live onstage…and it’s a lot more fun to watch…Hollywood could learn a lot from Gaines.
                                                              Russ Bickerstaff, Shepherd Express

All of these artistic activities are made possible with your help – by your attendance at our shows, your word of mouth, and through your generosity in the form of financial donations.

In this Holiday Season – and for Gigante’s 30th Anniversary – we hope you will consider investing in Gigante by sending a tax-deductible donation.  Thank you for everything!

“…possibly one of the best (if not the best) and most inspiring works of theatre I’ve seen in a very long time.  from a satisfied customer!”

                                                                        Gigante Audience member



Help make many more performances possible.
Join the fun and the celebration! Donate today,
and watch your dollars turn into new art!

to make a donation, click HERE
or mail a check to:
Theatre Gigante
P.O. Box 1999
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1999



The Way Things Go for you, and for them…

“There is a you…then there is a them…and the thing that I’m suggesting is that your connection to them…is…something!”


Come see them in Gigante’s premiere of

Actors, dancers, singers, juggling balls, stilts, mics, cubes and chairs all rolled into
one delightful theatrical experience!

two weekends only!

April 21-29 at 7:30

Pitman Theatre, Alverno College
3431 S. 39thStreet

for tickets:

Wisconsin Gazette preview for The Way Things Go

check out this great preview from the Wisconsin Gazette  

THE WAY THINGS GO press release

Click on this link to read The Way Things Go Press Release

Little Bang Theory returns with a new score to a classic film


Theatre Gigante is excited to announce the return of Frank Pahl’s Little Bang Theory, the dazzling and sublime musical performance group from Ann Arbor/Detroit that delighted Gigante audiences in 2015, playing on toys and children’s instruments, accompanying silent animated films from the early 20th century.
This time around, the band accompanies a screening of Lon Chaney’s 1928 romantic tragedy and silent film, Laugh, Clown, Laugh – the story of Tito, a travelling circus clown touring the country, who chances upon an abandoned child. Naming her Simonetta, Tito decides to raise the young girl as his own – but after she’s grown up, Tito’s feelings towards Simonetta turn from nurturing to romantic, as emotion becomes a tangled love triangle, revolving around Tito, Simonetta and Luigi, a wealthy man whose loving advances Simonetta rejected years earlier.
Don’t miss the drama, the passion, and the musical toys played by bandleader/composer Frank Pahl and musicians Terri Sarris and Doug Shimmin.
March 3 & 4, at 7:30
Kenilworth 508 Theater
1925 E. Kenilworth Place
on Milwaukee’s cool (cold) East Side
All seats, $20


to purchase tickets, call 1.800.838.3006
or online:

Theatre Gigante’s 2016 Holiday Newsletter


Our first event took place March 4-12, when Gigante presented Georg Büchner’s classic expressionist play WOYZECK at Kenilworth 508 Theater.  Adapted by Jim Butchart, this original and innovative Gigante interpretation was infused with music composed by Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan and was exquisitely performed here by internationally acclaimed artists Frank Pahl and Paris-based chanteuse Christine Zufferey.  Mark, in the title role, was joined onstage by Isabelle, Leslie Fitzwater, Edwin Olvera, and Michael Stebbins.

Theatre Gigante delivers “powerful Woyzeck” in key of Tom Waits… This gorgeous song always sends me, but there’s nothing quite like seeing it sung in the context of the play for which it was written, as Kralj and Anderson circle the drain that will claim both Marie and Woyzeck. You’ve got one more weekend to experience this phenomenon for yourself.                                      Mike Fischer

Do yourself a favor and see something you’ll vividly be remembering in 2026. This is a remarkably memorable trip to the theatre.             Russ Bickerstaff

April 4-8 Theatre Gigante performed its PETER & THE WOLF & THE ONE-MAN BAND, created by Isabelle, with Aaron Gardner as the “one-man band,” in nine schools.  A resounding success, this Gigante original is presented through the Milwaukee Symphony ACE Program, and reaches approximately 550 first-graders, yearly.
Faculty comments:
-I loved the story and how enthusiastic the artists were.  I really liked how they presented the story and the characters.

-The performers had a lot of energy.  The students were engaged.

-A very clever and creative presentation. The students loved it!

-I liked how it promoted the students imagination as the characters were performing.

-It demonstrated a lot of movement and dancing which is very engaging for the students.

Gigante brought Milwaukee another classic performance June 17 & 18, GUY KLUCEVSEK IN CONCERT, at Kenilworth 508 Theater.  One of the world’s most versatile and highly respected accordionists, Guy appeared with Gigante for the sixth time.  The evening was made up of Guy’s beautiful and hypnotic music spanning four decades of creative work, performed by Guy and Milwaukee’s own treasure, violinist Eric Segnitz.

If you ever get a crack at hearing him live, sell whatever it takes to raise the funds to get there!                                                       Cliff Furnald, CMJ

August 28, Gigante premiered Then and Now and Then, written and performed by Mark as part of Milwaukee’s brand new Fringe Festival in Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater.  Gigante was thrilled to be a part of the Fringe and hopes this festival will become a Milwaukee theater staple!
Audience comments:
-Mark, thank you for your personal performance tonight. It was the highlight of the festival for me!
-It struck a lot of chords in my own life. Which, in the end, is what it’s all about, really, isn’t it? Shared experience, identifying with one another, finding commonality in the human experience?

A political comedy, QUORUM, written by Mark, hit Milwaukee for a little pre-election fun, October 7-15.  This very timely piece, actually written 24 years ago, was performed by Mark, Isabelle, and Milwaukee’s very talented Leslie Fitzwater, Ron Scot Fry, Michael Stebbins, Bo Johnson, and Jocelyn Ridgely.  Presented at Plymouth Church on Milwaukee’s east side, a perfect setting for QUORUM.  A fun time was had by all, with this one, both in rehearsal and in performance, where we were joined by full houses of lively, charged audiences!

We need to show up so there’ll be a quorum and we can continue; the fact that the characters in “Quorum” actually do so is testament aplenty to our commitment and ability, against all odds, to somehow carry on together.

Mike Fischer

The silence in a room can only be defined by those who aren’t speaking. There’s a certain kind of silence that only happens in committee. There’s a special kind of silence that only happens in congress. There’s a certain kind of silence that only happens in a theater. There’s a special kind of silence that only happens at a Theatre Gigante show….  It’s an election year. I read about politics. I read about the complete lack of coherent government here and elsewhere. It’s frustrating. With Mark Anderson’s Quorum, Theatre Gigante does the unthinkable: it makes that kind of frustration fun to watch. In allowing us to laugh at it in the abstract, maybe it can help us understand…     Russ Bickerstaff

On November 12, Marquette University hosted the Milwaukee Theater Summit, organized by John Schneider, one of the founding members of the new Fringe Festival. The panel consisted of Panna Adorjani (theater scholar, Hungary, EU), and Philip Arnoult (Center for International Theater Development); Gigante Artistic Directors Isabelle & Mark; Simone Ferro (UWM Dance Department); Suzan Fete (Renaissance Theaterworks); Malkia Stampley (Bronzeville Arts Ensemble).  Well attended, the event concluded with dynamic audience discussion.

November 17 also brought about a Gigante appearance at the Whitefish Bay Library, as part of the Whitefish Bay Talks series.  The extremely well attended event’s topic was – our favorite topic – Theatre Gigante! After a brief talk Isabelle and Mark were joined by two Gigante regulars, Michael Stebbins and John Kishline, in a performance of excerpts from SPALDING GRAY: STORIES LEFT TO TELL.  The audience was high-spirited and enthusiastic, and we all walked away from the evening feeling stimulated!

November/December are the months Isabelle joins four Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra musicians in a school performance highlighting the fundamentals in music and dance.  Ten area schools are visited.  This program, developed for third grade, ends in a lively hand dance the children perform with Isabelle and the musicians, to demonstrate a creative tool that is sometimes used when choreographing.  The program is part of ACE.

On the 9th of December Gigante returned to Boswell Book Company for a reading of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES.  The evening was a free event, open to the public. For theatergoers and bookstore lovers alike, looking for fun fare this holiday season, this was just the ticket!  Gigante performer Michael Stebbins, no stranger to the work of David Sedaris, read this gem of a story – a humorous account of Sedaris’ stint working at Macy’s Department Store as Crumpet the Elf in Santaland.  A good crowd joined us for this classic, at the intersection of Christmas and retail…enjoying a Gigante performance and picking up some holiday presents from Boswell Book Company…all in one swoop!

We thank you for everything – your friendship, your attendance at our events, for reading this long newsletter, and for supporting us!

Theatre Gigante wishes you a
Happy Holiday Season

CHEERS 2017!!!


Help make many more performances possible.
Join the fun and the celebration! Donate today,
and watch your dollars turn into new art!

to make a donation, click HERE
or mail a check to:
Theatre Gigante
P.O. Box 1999
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1999


Audience comments on QUORUM

The opening night of QUORUM performed by Theatre Gigante last night was precisely the remedy I needed to wash away the intense “yuck” of yesterday’s news cycle. Mark Anderson’s script should be produced all over the country, stat.  A big thanks to the cast for a night of comedic therapy.
Recommended with delighted enthusiasm.
ML Cogar

TIMELY STUFF!  Very entertaining, thought provoking, and a little dark. Apropos of the political season, but WAY funnier and saner. I enjoyed it greatly. Check it out!
David Flores

Still pondering … It was a MOST interesting experience — funny, poignant, sad, almost believable.

Group dynamic writ large in this clever, quirky, funny, very entertaining and well-acted production of QUORUM by Theatre Gigante. What’s not to love about this playwright and cast?? Don’t miss it!
Margaret Casey

Timely, funny, and extremely well done.
Tom Reed

What makes the play so much fun was that it takes away from what we’re hearing every day but brings the significance of the modern political scene (and actually, any kind of group/community endeavor) home by paring it to its essence. And, at its essence, it seemed very much a play about how we treat other human beings. The appreciative audience was laughing on the outside….but we shook our heads ruefully on the inside at the seven characters’ quirks and vulnerabilities. Such insight. SEE IT!
Donna Tanzer

It is a brilliant play that deals with universal human relationships, funny, thoughtful and beautifully acted. The venue, Plymouth Church, is very nice, as well.  I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

Still smiling after attending QUORUM last night! Playwright Mark Anderson captures the inanity, humor and posturing of modern politics with deft wit and cutting insight.
Anne Landre

Shepherd print review of QUORUM

Theatre Gigante’s ‘Quorum’ of Satire, Frustration

By Russ Bickerstaff
October 12, 2016

The characters in Theatre Gigante’s production of Mark Anderson’s Quorum form a cozy ensemble of local theater veterans. Anderson is first to arrive, playing a fragile, silent giant named Sammy. Next is Gigante co-founder Isabelle Kralj as Vivian, a comically contemptuous and domineering figure who quickly takes control as the rest of the ensemble arrives. Leslie Fitzwater is warmly ingratiating as Sylvia, someone very cautious of upsetting anyone else. Ron Scot Fry tenderly plays a dreamer named Martin.

Everyone in the room seems more or less in favor of coming together as a group except the charmingly surly Abner played by Michael Stebbins. Will resolution come in the form of a lab-coated Bo Johnson as a secretary with perfect penmanship? What of the mysterious arrival of Roberta, a relatively silent woman made all the more mysterious by the very expressive eyes and postures of Jocelyn Ridgely in the role?

Anderson’s comedy of petty unproductive action is particularly potent in an election year marked by incompetence on nearly every side of every political issue imaginable. The satirical sharpness is overwhelming as we watch in horror a group of people seemingly incapable of getting even the smallest thing accomplished. In a theater setting, it’s something we can all safely laugh at. In the context of the world around us, Quorum is delightfully upsetting. It’s the most fun you’ll have being frustrated in a theater this year.

QUORUM opening night review

Russ Bickerstaff of the Shepherd Express writes:

Quorum and Silence and Frustration

By Russ Bickerstaff

The silence in a room can only be defined by those who aren’t speaking. There’s a certain kind of silence that only happens in committee. There’s a special kind of silence that only happens in congress. There’s a certain kind of silence that only happens in a theater. There’s a special kind of silence that only happens at a Theatre Gigante show.
It’s a play called Quorum. It starts in a silence as Mark Anderson walks out of a door and into the room upstairs at Plymouth Church. A tall man walks into a room with folding tables and folding chairs and proceeds to find the most comfortable place in which to sit. He’s sitting in silence at the beginning of a show he has written. In writing it, he’s said everything that will be said in the play. As it runs, he says very little. There’s something sweetly symbolic that can be read into that. So much can be read into Quorum. Stripped of any context, we have a group of people discussing matters in folding chairs and folding tables. We see them try to relate to each other in a maddeningly awkward crawl of progression. There’s a great deal of time spent in the early going deciding whether or not all of the people in the room even want to be in a group at all. All we can do is laugh.
There’s an arch in the ceiling of the room the play is being presented in. It does subtly crazy things with the acoustics in the room that amplify the awkwardness and discomfort of the piece itself. The piece itself is about people and the decisions they make. As I say, there’s no context for it. We don’t know why these people are in this room or why they’ve decided to be so formal with each other. We don’t know why there’s coffee in the second act and we don’t know why Bo Johnson is wearing a lab coat while playing a guy named Sidney who evidently excellent penmanship.
We don’t know why Vivian is so pushy and manipulative. She’s played by Isabelle Kralj with strange modulations and manipulations. She silent through some of the show too. In character her silence is a lot more overpowering than Mark Anderson’s. It’s positively overwhelming.
We know that Michael Stebbins is playing a character named Abner who wants to be a part of the group without being part of the group. He’s a gruff presence onstage and we don’t know why. We know that he’s particularly upset with Vivian and the way she’s treating others, but we don’t know exactly how that conflict is going to play-out.
We don’t know why Sylvia seems like such a nice person, but Leslie Fitzwater does an excellent job of being nice in the role. She’s very quiet and considerate, but there’s a down side to that: she seems to be avoiding confrontation. That makes the group dynamic a bit awkward.
We don’t know how Martin’s dream of wheat and bread and butter means, but since it’s delivered through the voice and distinctive stage presence of Ron Scot Fry, we know that it sounds important without sounding ominous. (Ron Scot Fry is good at that sort of thing. He’s a really satisfyingly complementary presence to Fitzwater as Sylvia.)
We don’t know why Jocelyn Ridgely is the last to show up. She’s playing a character named Roberta. We don’t know why Roberta is there but we know that she seems to want to leave. She seems incapable of leaving.
There’s no question that there’s frustration over the fact that nothing seems to be getting done for all those reasons why nothing seems to be getting done. It’s an election year. I read about politics. I read about the complete lack of coherent government here and elsewhere. It’s frustrating. With Mark Anderson’s Quorum, Theatre Gigante does the unthinkable: it makes that kind of frustration fun to watch. In allowing us to laugh at in the abstract, maybe it can help us understand it in a way that might allow us to make some kind of progress. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something just watching a show that is fun because it’s frustrating.
But I don’t know why.
Anyway. It’s a fun show and a delightful way to ease up on the frustration of another presidential election. Anderson’s script is quite clever.