John McGivern is Earlene Hoople in "A Kodachrome Christmas" at the Marcus Center.
John McGivern is Earlene Hoople in "A Kodachrome Christmas" at the Marcus Center. (Photo: Ross Zentner)

Another Christmas with John McGivern

The icons of Christmas in modern Milwaukee. Santa. Rudolph. Scrooge. John McGivern.

As sure as the days getting shorter and doorbuster sales at the mall, Milwaukee's favorite funny man, McGivern, pops up in some kind of Christmas production every year. This season it is the one-man show "A Kodachrome Christmas" in Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center.

The big news is that McGivern is in drag, playing a public access-channel cable TV hostess, Earlene Hoople, presenting her annual holiday program. Here's a little secret. He is kind of cute as a girl.

"A Kodachrome Christmas" was authored and directed by Pat Hazell, who previously worked with McGivern on "The Wonder Bread Years" and "Bunkbed Brothers," and although it was not written specifically for Milwaukee, the script has been adapted to include many local references. Ozaukee County gets a lot of attention.

Most of the show is standup comedy in costume on a set, and that is what McGivern does best. His comic patter is entertaining, albeit rather sophomoric, and the multiple sight gags are fun. There are plenty of puns and a few slightly naughty jokes.

Pre-recorded ersatz television commercials projected on a screen come from the "Saturday Night Live" school of advertising spoofery.

Following a formula that McGivern has developed over the years, "Kodachrome" turns sentimental towards the end. He has gone to the well once too often with that device, and it comes across as weak and strained here.

Just keep us laughing, John. "Kodachrome" continues through Dec. 31.

Penn State's Nittany Lion mascot
Penn State's Nittany Lion mascot (Photo: Ben Stanfield)

The moral void at Penn State

Bad behavior, scandal and evil are part of the human condition. So is giggling and gossiping about it.

I doubt the world has become darker, nastier and more dangerous than it was in the good old days, whenever they existed, but you would be excused for thinking otherwise. Around the clock cable news and instant information available with a few keystrokes leave the impression that single women are constantly disappearing from Caribbean islands and mothers are regularly murdering their children.

We either tune it out, as I do, or are entertained by the salacious details. In other words, we become hardened to the steady drumbeat of human misery and malfeasance.

But a week after news of the Penn State football pedophilia scandal broke, I still can't wrap my brain around it, and the story won't leave my consciousness.

The similar and much larger-scale tragedy of predatory sex in the Catholic Church didn't surprise me because it involved the religion of my youth, and I had long suspected unsavory activity was being hidden behind the medieval attitudes and costumes.

Penn State football is different. It was seemingly created and certainly run by a bonafide scholar with Lombardi-esque clarity about right and wrong.

Joe Paterno was on a pedestal high above the tawdry cheating and hypocrisy of big time college sports. He produced national champions the right way, with respect for the rules and zero tolerance for ethical fuzziness.

Or so we thought. As the details of the Penn State situation dribbled out in the past week, I have become increasingly astounded at the moral cowardice apparently epidemic at a nationally esteemed school entrusted with shaping future generations of Americans.

Paterno was a poseur as a leader of young men, and we were all taken in by him. A decent person would have asked questions, pursued the troubling report he received, and called the police.

High-ranking university administrators covered up, looked the other way and even lied under oath, …

Rob Goodman will move to emeritus status with First Stage Children's Theatre.
Rob Goodman will move to emeritus status with First Stage Children's Theatre. (Photo: First Stage Children's Theatre)

Goodman to leave First Stage managing director position


Rob Goodman, the founding executive of First Stage Children's Theater, is beginning a transition process that will see him leave the company's managing director position for an emeritus role with the group. Although no exact timeline has been set, a search has begun for his successor.

Goodman was a stage manager and director at the Milwaukee Rep in 1987 when the Marcus Center hired him to put together a children's theater company the center was starting. First Stage eventually became an independent organization.

He was First Stage's first artistic director before moving into the managing director role. Under Goodman's leadership, First Stage became one of the largest family-oriented theater companies in the country. In his emeritus position he will work on an arts education capitalization campaign with the goal of making theater accessible to all children in the community.

First Stage is the second major Milwaukee theater company seeking to fill a top management job. The Skylight Opera Theatre is interviewing candidates for its artistic directorship. Bill Theisen is leaving the position after next season.