The Licensing Committee heard arguments from the community on the placement of a Downtown strip club.
The Licensing Committee heard arguments from the community on the placement of a Downtown strip club.

Downtown strip club supporters point to Minneapolis for examples of success

With a May 8 deadline looming, the war of words over a proposed strip club Downtown is escalating, as a coalition of powerful business interests remain opposed, while the mayor and members of the Common Council are on the other side, using Minneapolis as an example.

Patrick Curley, Mayor Tom Barrett's chief of staff, said Barrett "wants this settled sooner rather than later." Curley would not comment further on the record.

Alderman Jim Bohl was leading the fight for approval on the council, recognizing that the city faced a possible $10 million hit if lawsuits from the strip club owners proceeded. The city has also paid $1 million in a judgment in a lawsuit filed by Silk Exotic. The new proposed club Downtown will be called The Executive Lounge. 

"We have to look out for the taxpayers on this," Bohl said. "There’s a lot of other things we could spend $10 million on."

Minneapolis has become a big part of this argument, following a letter from a Madison attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, who represents the applicants for the license.

OnMilwaukee obtained a copy of the letter, sent to Milwaukee Downtown (BID #21) attorney Deborah Tomczyk, from Olson. Beth Weirick, executive director of BID #21 has been one of the most vocal and passionate opponents of the license proposal for a property at 730 N. Old World 3rd St.

Part of the letter said:

"In your statement from April 24 you reiterated your objection that an adult entertainment establishment ‘has no place in the renaissance of Wisconsin Avenue,’ and you continued to object without making any realistic alternative suggestions. Instead, BID #21 cynically offered five alternative locations in a largely industrial area in the Menomonee Valley. Not surprisingly, the Menomonee Valley partners were opposed. And we don’t blame them. Land that is zoned for industrial use is not the appropriate place for an entertainment venue. Industrial land should be reserved to support businesses that can provide family-supporting, …

Faith Austin, Molly Domski and Grace Fischer star in "Junie B. Jones" at First Stage.
Faith Austin, Molly Domski and Grace Fischer star in "Junie B. Jones" at First Stage. (Photo: Paul Ruffalo)

"Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook," but her First Stage show is a delight

Let us all agree, before we even begin, about what Junie B. Jones is not.

She is not a crook. She is not a nutball (at least not totally). She is not in love with Handsome Warren, even though she likes him a lot.

What she is, though, is the center of a wonderfully funny story, "Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook," the play based on the famous children’s book that opened over the weekend at First Stage.

The outing is the first directorial chance for James Fletcher, who has been involved with the company for 17 years as actor, fight choreographer and teacher. It is an auspicious debut thanks to a great cast of adults and kids – and one actor who delivers the kind of performance that makes you shake your head in wonder.

Her name is Molly Domski. She’s a 10-year-old fourth grader, and she plays Junie.

First of all, it’s a huge part, on stage almost throughout the entire show and the center of attention every moment. But you can teach lots of kids to memorize so many lines and to follow directions.

What you can’t teach is the little things. The quick roll of an eye, the disciplined drop of her head into a slumber in class, each movement timed to the tick of an unseen clock. The look of exasperation that creases her little face as she tries to fathom what it is that makes her friend Lucille (Grace Fischer) tick. The grace with which she shows off her soft mittens that play such a huge part in this story.

Molly is an absolute pearl of an actor. She has a physical, emotional and intellectual depth that is stunningly surprising in one so young.

She was not alone in building this show into one of the most delightful mounted by First Stage in several years. Kay Allmand, Dan Katula and Lachrisa Grandberry all play the various adult roles with the kind of professional panache you always get at First Stage. Allmand is a delight playing two characters as different as night and day.

But it’s the kids, the Found Cast in the show I saw, who carry this show.


Michael Sharon and Margaret Ivey star in "Jane Eyre" at The Milwaukee Rep.
Michael Sharon and Margaret Ivey star in "Jane Eyre" at The Milwaukee Rep. (Photo: Mikki Schaffner)

The story gets lost in The Rep's overdone "Jane Eyre"

Theater can make you feel a lot of things, most of them wondrous. But on rare occasions, it can make me feel like a dummy.

And that’s what I felt like after seeing "Jane Eyre," the final show of the season at The Rep, open Friday night.

The novel by Charlotte Bronte is regarded as one of the classics and is a popular assignment by English teachers in high school which is where I read it. It was scandalous when published in 1847 because it featured a character, Jane, who was nothing like the accepted version of a Victorian woman.

The novel was adapted almost 20 years ago by Polly Teale, and it’s that version The Rep is staging under the direction of KJ Sanchez.

In preparation for the production, the theater company has provided all kinds of supporting information about the novel, about Bronte, about Jane, about the other characters in the book and about the time period of the novel.

That is where my problem arose with this production. It’s almost as if the artistic team learned and knew too much about this story and forgot that, for most of us, this should be a slightly over two-hour journey told with clarity and thought.

It’s obvious a lot of thought went into this production, but the clarity part seemed to be missing, almost on purpose.

When the play opens, there are two women – one tightly wound and the other full of passionate rebellion – and they seem to be two sides of the same coin. They move in synchronized steps, they say their lines at the same time and with the same inflections, and they share secrets as only two women can do.

One of these women, we soon learn, is Jane Eyre, the homely orphan who has lived a life of abuse and poverty. The other woman spends her time on a second level in a red room, obviously mad, but we have no idea who she is or why she is there.

If you have read the book recently, seen one of the movie adaptations or read some of the pre-show information, you might know that the she is the lunatic wife of Edw…

In Tandem's "Carnival" shows that small companies can stage big shows.
In Tandem's "Carnival" shows that small companies can stage big shows. (Photo: Tanya Dhein)

In Tandem's "Carnival" offers example of a small company dreaming big dreams

It’s impossible to stop thinking about the production of "Carnival" currently being staged at In Tandem Theatre, which I reviewed on opening night last week and is a fascinating example of what can happen when you stretch yourself and dream big dreams.

In Tandem stages its productions at the Tenth Street Theatre, in the basement of that big red church on 10th St. between Wisconsin and Michigan. It’s a small space with a stage that is broken at two sides by support pillars, which can’t be removed.

It’s a problematic space for a number of reasons, but Chris and Jane Flieller, who run the company, always manage to stage an interesting, high-level show. In Tandem is one of the theater companies in town that encounters many of the issue facing other similar groups.

Joining them are Next Act and Renaissance and Chamber, all companies that endure the economic realities of a smaller company, keeping a tight rein on expenses while staging meaningful and interesting theater. All four of them meet their missions almost every time they raise the curtain.

But there are constraints that move beyond the size of their stages or configurations of their spaces.

The primary one, as it is for just about every theater, is economic. Nobody gets rich running a mid-sized theater company. Artistic and managing directors need to be very careful, looking for plays that will generate an audience while balancing expenses against expected revenues.

What this frequently amounts to in Milwaukee is that we get plays, normally excellent plays, that feature smallish casts. It is not unusual to see plays in the city with two, three or four actors. There is nothing inherently wrong with small-cast plays. Even one-man (or woman) shows can be thought-provoking, challenging and entertaining.

But it would be interesting to see some of these companies stretch to include productions that call for larger casts, including musicals. I would love to see David Cecsarini at Next Act or C. Mich…