Tag: English

Still ‘Searching’: Sutton’s musical makes New York pro festival stage

sutton-400When UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Brian Sutton got the idea for his original musical, “Searching for Romeo,” he knew his chances of making it big — Broadway or major off-Broadway — weren’t great.

He was confident in his idea, the re-telling of Shakespeare’s classic from the perspective of the “losers,” Rosaline and Paris. And yet Sutton pegged his chances of serious success as somewhere between one in a thousand and one in a million.

These days? Maybe one in 50, he says.

That’s because Sutton, Humanistic Studies (English), has secured a return engagement at the prestigious New York Musical Theatre Festival in July. After “Searching for Romeo” was done as a staged reading during last year’s festival — dubbed the “Sundance of musical theatre” — the play will be staged as a full production in five shows July 8-13.

“The odds are still way against me, but I’ve brought them way down,” said Sutton, who left for New York June 5. “I felt good about the idea right from the start.”

Search for Romeo cast

Associate Prof. Brian Sutton, far left, and the cast of “Searching for Romeo”

Since its inception in 2004, three New York Musical Theatre Festival shows have opened on Broadway, 24 have made it to off-Broadway and the productions have racked up numerous nominations and awards (including winning a Pulitzer Prize for drama and three Tonys). Sutton is coming off his busiest semester in two decades — even without the additional work on “Romeo” — but says no matter what, all the hard work is worth it.

“How many people in Green Bay, Wisconsin can say ‘I wrote the book and the music and the lyrics … for a show (that) had a professional production on 42nd Street’?” Sutton said. “But beyond that, if it doesn’t go anywhere from there, I can say I gave it every shot I could.”

Sutton’s investment in the production has been both personal and financial, although he is receiving some support in both areas as one of the festival’s Next Link Project entries. As the festival’s primary writer service program, Next Link “empowers emerging musical theatre writing teams by providing entrepreneurial training, career networking opportunities, dramaturgical support, and other services, culminating in a subsidized production in the festival,” according to the NYMTF website. But even with that support, Sutton says, “Searching for Romeo” has an additional budget of nearly $75,000 — so fundraising also has been part of his preparation for the show.

It’s been an interesting journey for a guy who isn’t a member of UW-Green Bay’s Theatre or Music faculty, and who teaches English — but not creative writing. The idea for “Romeo” came to him during a long car trip and was developed over time and in between long hours spent at his day job. The musical sold out all four of its summer 2012 on-campus shows — including a last-minute matinee — and was widely acclaimed at the University and in the community.

The best thing about “Searching for Romeo,” Sutton says, is the twist it provides on Shakespeare’s famous tale. The play starts and ends in a contemporary high school setting, with Rosaline stumbling into the most famous love scene in literature — the balcony scene — while, you guessed it, searching for Romeo.

“That’s how she finds out she’s been dumped,” Sutton said. “I kind of like that sort of thing — one, it allows you to look at another perspective on this famous love story. Sure, Romeo and Juliet, they’re famous lovers, but some of what they do is really unhealthy.

“And also, it allows me to look at the world’s most famous love story from the point of view of the losers in the story … and it’s kind of nice to give a happy ending to these losers.”

In addition to “Romeo and Juliet,” Sutton’s musical alludes to about a dozen other Shakespeare plays — so adapting it for an educational audience, perhaps high school or college, could be an option in the future. He’s cleaned it up some with that in mind, modifying what originally was a more risqué production.

But for now, Sutton is focused on the festival — and the process of intense preparation that will get “Romeo” to opening night.

“On the one hand, it’s approximately as traumatic as going down the birth canal and getting born,” Sutton said. “But on the other hand, it’s very exhilarating.”

For more information, visit the ‘Searching for Romeo’ and New York Musical Theatre Festival websites.

Faculty note: Rybak publications

It has been a good couple of days for Chuck Rybak, associate professor of English and Humanistic Studies, with the acceptance of five different poems and short or super-short stories for publication. His poems “Letters Home,” “Black Box,” and “SAT Sestina” will appear in the magazine Scintilla. The short story, “Radar Gun,” was accepted for publication by Midwestern Gothic. Rybak’s flash-fiction piece titled “Arrivals” was accepted for publication in the literary magazine Brawler.

Faculty note: Henze

Catherine Henze, associate professor of Humanistic Studies and English, is the author of the lead article in the latest issue of the journal Comparative Drama. Her scholarship, “‘Wise Enough to Play the Fool': Robert Armin and Shakespeare’s Sung Songs of Scripted Improvisation,” focuses on the substantive impact Shakespeare’s leading comic actor had on songs in the plays. Institutional research director Debbie Furlong worked with Henze on this interdisciplinary piece, providing statistical analysis of her findings.

Faculty note: Meacham to read from Morbid Curiosities this Friday

Rebecca Meacham, associate professor of Humanistic Studies and English, will be doing a reading at 6:30 p.m. this Friday (March 14) at The Reader’s Loft Bookstore. She’ll read from her new flash fiction collection, Morbid Curiosities, and she promises listeners they’ll get a wee glimpse of material from her upcoming Peshtigo Fire novel, as well. Read more on the Morbid collection.

UW-Green Bay’s Meacham wins literary journal contest for flash fiction chapbook

UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Rebecca Meacham, English and Humanistic Studies, has won a literary journal contest award for her chapbook of flash fiction, which will be published in early March.

“Morbid Curiosities” earned top honors in the chapbook contest of New Delta Review, a literary journal produced by graduate students in the Master of Fine Arts program at Louisiana State University. Meacham’s work consists of 14 stories that are between 290 and 1,000 words long, in keeping with the style of flash fiction, which generally describes very short stories. The entire chapbook will be about 45 pages long.

Meacham’s collection explores the line between private loss and public spectacle in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, with stories often imagined from found things: suitcases, watches, news headlines, school spellers. Events range from the mundane to the extraordinary, with one tale imagining the voices behind the suitcases of inmates in a New York insane asylum from 1910 until 1960. Another story uses the language of an 1870s primer to help students seek revenge on a cruel schoolmaster, while yet another assumes the point of view of a tornado. Twelve of 14 of the collection’s stories have been, or will be, published in journals. Many are available online, and can be accessed via Meacham’s website, http://rebeccameachamwriter.com.

The New Delta Review award was chosen by Mark Yakich, writer and professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans. In reviewing the collection, Yakich reflects on how Meacham uses death and irony in her works of flash fiction: “What I glean most of all here is that while many of us live lives of intentional or unintentional irony, it is death that best ‘enfold[s] the layers of irony’ we’ve lived. As at the end of the story ‘Mrs. Williamson Winds the Watch,’ we view death ‘surprised’ and something to ‘back away’ from, but also we often find ourselves ‘smiling’ to endure morbidity: ‘giddy as a girl carrying the sun in her pocket, poised on the brink of radiance.’ “ That story is one of two set in Wisconsin, written as Meacham was researching the infamous Peshtigo Fire of 1871.

The formal announcement of Meacham’s award is available online at http://ndrmag.tumblr.com/post/73518124090/ndr-2013-14-chapbook-contest-winner.


Student speaker: See the magic, seize the adventure

Andrea Reisenauer, class speaker, commencement

Graduating class speaker Andrea Reisenaur of Sheboygan — posing above with Chancellor Tom Harden before the ceremony — used the theme “magic and adventure” for her brief remarks Saturday (Dec. 13) at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s mid-year commencement.

Basically, she told her classmates, their UW-Green Bay years were filled with hard work, challenging exams and important academic achievements… but with all the stress of finals weeks and job-hunting, she hoped they didn’t miss a chance to celebrate life’s little joys.

“It can be as simple as looking out and appreciating the beauty of the frozen bay… saying thank-you to a stranger opening the door for you… even ordering a new panini at the Garden Café instead of ‘the usual,’… See the (everyday) magic and seize the adventure,” she said.

Reisenauer, in addition to being selected graduating class speaker by a faculty committee, was also chosen by the UW-Green Bay Alumni Association to receive the Outstanding Student Award. At Saturday’s commencement she received her bachelor’s degree with summa cum laude, or highest, honors, and distinction in the major. She completed double majors in English and Spanish, a minor in Humanistic Studies, and an emphasis in linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language.

A published poet, she has had her work appear in regional literary journals. As a student of Spanish, she served as principal translator for a book of fiction soon to be published, in English, by a novelist from Peru.

On behalf of her fellow graduates, she thanked the University’s faculty and staff for their efforts on behalf of students.

Reisenauer says she intents to enroll at a university in Spain to pursue a master’s degree in Spanish translation, attending either Pompeu Fabra University in Barcalona or the University of Valencia, in Valencia. Her goals include working as a writer and translator, and possible Ph.D. studies leading to a career in higher education.

Spanish/English major Reisenauer is Outstanding Student, class speaker

Andrea M. Reisenauer of Sheboygan has been selected to receive this commencement’s two top student honors. She will receive the Outstanding Student Award as presented by the UW-Green Bay Alumni Association, and she was also chosen by a faculty and administrative committee to serve as graduating class speaker. At the Weidner Center ceremony on Dec. 14, Reisenauer will receive her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude with distinction in the major. She completed double majors in English and Spanish and a minor in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis in linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language. She worked as a tutor for the Writing Center and as an instructor for the Adult Literacy Center of Green Bay, teaching English skills to Somali immigrants. A published poet, she has had work accepted by several literary journals. Learn more.

Spanish, English graduate Reisenauer is Outstanding Student, class speaker

The December 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Student Award as selected by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Alumni Association is Andrea M. Reisenauer. She will also serve as the graduating class speaker during UW-Green Bay commencement ceremonies at the Weidner Center at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.

Reisenauer, of Sheboygan, is receiving her bachelor’s degree with summa cum laude, or highest, honors, and distinction in the major. She completed double majors in English and Spanish, a minor in Humanistic Studies, and an emphasis in linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language.

She was nominated and selected for each of the two honors — Outstanding Student and class speaker — from among about 435 graduating seniors in the December class.

Reisenauer will accept the Outstanding Student Award at a student awards ceremony Friday night, Dec. 13. The UW-Green Bay Alumni Association has been soliciting nominations and designating a single Outstanding Student Award recipient for each graduating class since 1976.

Reisenauer compiled a near-perfect gradepoint average over her college career and was a recipient of the University’s Gallagher, Gage, Crandall and Trampe scholarships, as well as a Founders Association Merit Scholarship and the Alumni Association Scholarship. She received the Award for Academic Excellence in Spanish from the UW-Green Bay Modern Languages program.

Reisenauer worked on campus as a tutor for the Writing Center, where she assisted students with English grammar, language and writing on a daily basis, and for the academic program in Spanish. As an instructor for the Adult Literacy Center of Green Bay, she taught basic English language skills to a class of new Somali immigrants.

A president of the student Spanish Club who studied abroad in Spain, she was also active in supporting the student International Club at UW-Green Bay and the exchange network AIESEC International.

Reisenauer’s poetry has been accepted for publication in the literary journals Cicada, Black Heart Magazine, Rock River Review and UW-Green Bay’s Sheepshead Review. Last spring, her essay “The Power of the Educated People” was one of two selected to represent UW-Green Bay in the annual Liberal Arts Essay Scholarship Competition sponsored by a UW System advisory group promoting the value of the liberal arts.