By: Brittany Ann Meister
Our VFR Family is very busy! In these posts, we're going to focus on some of the projects and accomplishments from our former and current family members.
Kira Renkas was with us from the very beginning, as Juliet in VFR's premiere of "Romeo and Juliet" and returned with us again this summer as King Phillip in "The Life and Death of King John."
Recently, Kira has finally gotten a passion project of hers off the ground. We caught up with her and asked her to share some of her project with us.
Okay, so let's start off with a bit of basics about your project. How did you get it off the ground? How did you decide to do it?
K:Well it took a LOT of persistence to be honest. I asked many local theater companies around town to see if they would be the umbrella theater company as I don’t have one of my own. A couple were kind and gently turned me down, the rest didn’t respond, and Outskirts was kind enough to say “yes”. I think I had reach out to at LEAST ten but I do believe there’s more, unfortunately I’ve lost track because I started in July right after ‘King John’ closed. I decided to do it because I really think ‘The Children’s Hour’ is a story that still needs to be told and I realized it wasn’t going to be told in this city unless I took it into my own hands and created my own opportunity.
So, what makes you so passionate about "The Children's Hour?" I'm not very familiar with it unfortunately.
K:To give you a very brief plot, ‘the Children’s Hour’ is about two women that worked very hard to follow their dreams of becoming headmistresses of an all girls’ boarding school. After eight long years of working and scrimping and saving things finally come together, however a troublesome student starts a rumor that sends their success shattering to pieces. That wasn’t taken off the back of the script I promise lol What makes me so passionate about it is how it still relates to us as a society even still despite the play being written in the 1930s. It looks at how precarious a woman’s success is: how she has to work twice as hard to make it happen and how it can be taken from her even twice as fast and in this case, from a mere rumor. We as women can absolutely STILL relate to that as even in 2018 we continue to fight for our place in the world. It also looks at other themes of femininity as well as homosexuality, and class distinction. Lillian Hellman, the playwright, sculpts brilliant female characters (and of all ages as is apparent in this play) and she has such sharp wit alongside such a brilliant display of observation. She really was ahead of her time as she was one of the few prevalent female playwrights in the 1930s.
Wow! Thanks for that. I had never really looked into it previously even though I had heard of it. So, why do you think this has been difficult to get picked up?
K: It’s difficult to say. Possibly because it’s a bit dated, but I hardly think that’s a good enough reason. It’s not that it never gets done— a version was done in 2011 with Elizabeth Banks and Keira Knightly and of course there’s he movie version from the ‘60s with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McClain. People that do know of the play always speak of it with passion and enthusiasm....The story is so brilliant and beautiful, I find it hard to figure out why it’s not done as frequently as it should.
How has it been working with a theatre company to produce something you feel so passionate about? How is the process coming along?
K: It’s been amazing! Outskirts has essentially given me free reign with my production and it’s coming along famously. The artistic director and I make a great team, in my opinion.
That's amazing! What's your timeline for the production?
K: We’re still in the fundraising phase. In April we have a fundraising bingo night at This is It, auditions will be held in May and the show will go up in July at the Brumder Mansion.
That sounds really great! Is there anything else you'd like to mention about this project?
K: Absolutely! OnMilwaukee has expressed interest in covering our story so I encourage folks to be on the look out for that. The more people at This is It, the merrier, that date will be April 12th. The LGBT Center has made a presence in our planning and the purpose of all of this is that we really want to have community engagement because of the dense material present in the script. It can bring all sorts of people together and raise awareness and camaraderie in the way that theater does so well. Not to mention, it’s just a great story that still deserves to be told .
If you would like to find out more about "The Children's Hour" with Outskirts Theatre, feel free to check out their gofundme below, and even donate while you're there!
Many Hats: Sound Designer
By:Brittany Ann Meister
Jake Thompson went to Chapman University and focused on theatre studies, and in addition to being one of the founders of VFR, wears many other hats. Jake is a board member, actor, director, graphic designer, and sound designer for the company.
What do you do at VFR?
Lately, not much, which is cool. Now I don’t have to do as many things since we’ve stretched
the leadership board out.
Lately I’ve been doing composition for Hamlet and graphic design. I trust everyone to get things
done so it’s nice to take a breather.
How did you start working in graphic design? How about sound design?
When Joss Whedon released "Much Ado About Nothing" they had a contest to design a poster and submit it through
twitter. I didn’t win, but I didn’t know anything about photoshop, I made this 1960’s style thing,
which when I look at it now makes me cringe, but I entered this contest and it went from there.
A theatre company from my hometown needed help with their glass menagerie poster.
In high school and middle school I did a lot of video editing and I wanted to focus on editing
videos to music. In college it was about putting music to a play. More of a playlist.
During VFR I started exploring the design of it more. “Transition” music etc.
Can you tell us about the sound design for "Hamlet?"
I'm composing a bunch of original music for Hamlet. The concept is to write all of the music with the
play specifically in mind. More specifically than that, moments of the play, and how the actor’s
beats can influence the sound.
The song is tailored to the action. A lot like live scoring. An actor’s cue will prompt the stage
manager to give a sound cue to coincide with the action.
Can you give us some insight into the company's designs for this seasons?
I think it’s indicative of where we’re going as a company. Every poster was different, even the
paper dimensions. Every poster was it’s unique thing. It was a show by show basis, we did a lot
of shows. I wanted to see what worked the best. Taming of the Shrew and Richard posters were
long and skinny, I thought it would be eye catching and easier to hang on crowded bulletin
boards. I think they looked cool ,but ultimately it was too different.
Same thing for the text layout, which is arguably one of the most important part of the posters. I
was trying to find a way for it to work well, which was coherent.
This season, we got our stuff together a lot more. The posters represent that too. Each show
has it’s own color. Simple colors. 8 ½ by 14 paper, so it’s familiar but not too familiar. The font is
the same, the logos are in the same place. I wanted to have a sense of cohesion. I think we
found what sticks and I wanted to roll with that graphically speaking.
I was personally resistant to the idea of a cohesive theme and that’s a silly thing to be resistant
to. You want everything to look similar, you want brand recognition. Even if you don’t
consciously say, hey that looks like the poster I saw a couple months ago, maybe there’s a
As a preview of what to expect from "Hamlet" sound-wise next month, we've included a link (below) to something that Jake's been working on for the show! Check it out, enjoy, and keep your eyes open for more Hamlet fun coming your way soon!
VFR Family on VFR
By: Brittany Ann Meister
We are one week into Hamlet rehearsals!
This week, I wanted to ask our VFR family about their thoughts on VFR. I wanted to know what they thought set us apart. Here's what some of them had to say:
Kira Renkas (Actor): I do have a real soft spot for this theater company. I’ve performed in two of their shows now, and everyone is so young and optimistic that it is a lovely breath of fresh air. For a group containing many young folk in their early twenties, they are exceptionally bright and smart, so I can’t help but admire them. They had a vision, saw something they were truly passionate about and believed in, and they ran with it full speed ahead. They already display a good sense of “the business”, so it’s quite inspiring.
Claire Tidwell (Community Liaison and Actor))We are young people. We are a place for young people made by young people.
Alexis Furseth (Social Media Master, Actor):The people. The generous, caring, inclusive, brilliant people.
Sarah Zapiain (Board Member, Actor, and Director): What I love about VFR, and what separates us from other companies is that we're not doing this for any other reason other than we can't live without it. Why do we spend our precious little free time in a rehearsal room in the basement of a mall? Because
not only are we young, hard working, passionate millenials, but we are artists. A mentor of mine once told the founders of VFR and myself 2 years ago,"We put on clothes that aren't ours and shout into the dark. That's what we do." Why do we need theatre? Because it's what we do.
Alec Lachman (HR, Actor, Director): The people. Doing theatre for no other reason than to do it and doing it our way. Dusting shakespeare off and making it relevant to modern audiences. Giving artists, young and old opportunities that they wouldn't normally get
Brittany Meister (Blogger, Actor): I like VFR because it's a group of people that has certain rituals and procedures just like any theatre company, but they are very open to other ideas and interpretations. It's truly an open playing space fueled by the passion of the artists who occupy it.
Keep your eyes peeled for more info on Hamlet coming up, as well as some exciting new projects from VFR!
In Case You Missed Us...
By Brittany Meister
Missed our art show last week? That's okay! We'll have another this Friday July 21st! Consider this a preview for that show, or a little more detail if you've already seen the work.
I asked two of our contributors (who also happen to be involved in the play itself) to talk about their work. Read on to learn more about the pieces that Jeremy LaBelle (Richard/The Bastard) and Rachel Zembrowski (Blanche) created!
I've been making art for about as long as I can remember, and even though I've been mostly doing it for myself, I've found over the years that my art has been pulling very sincere and often very critical reactions from people. Not just with the technique or with the mediums I use, but more with the content of the piece itself, and what it represents. My socio-political pieces tend to be the pieces that reap the most raw emotions from people, and I am very glad to have been given the opportunity to do so through the King John Art Festival.
The piece I created for the Festival is called "Doth Not the Crown of England Prove the King?" The major focus of the piece was to take a very raw and charismatic piece of text and boil it down to the harsh reality through imagery. In the piece my visual interpretation of King John is surrounded by several newspaper clippings that are very violent or negative in context. Things like "butcher" "cuts and scrapes" "comfortable pain" and "too late" are just a few of the many words I specifically chose from newspapers to wrought a very pessimistic and unfavorable mindset from the viewers to give an overall feeling of unease. The title itself is supposed to make the viewer feel hope and almost a sense of patriotism--- but the piece itself takes advantage of that optimistic state of mind and catches the viewer off guard with depictions of blood and words of pessimism and anger. I believe that is where the teeth and nails of this piece come into play, and I am very excited to see those reactions of confusion, unease, and vulnerability first hand at the art festival.
Jeremy Jaymes LaBelle
More of Jeremy's work can be found on her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/artbyjjlb
I saw the very first prompt for gallery submissions and I knew I needed to do a piece for that. "What is the purpose of art in 2017? Why does your work and your identity as an artist matter?" I started thinking about it and I got this image in my head of someone sitting on the ground with a little blob of bright colors in their hands while the majority of the space was just a mass of darkness creeping in on them. The image evolved, but I think it maintained its original intent. It's all about feeling like there's so much darkness in the world but if I can create something beautiful, then it eases that darkness just a little and every little bit counts. Actually creating the piece was interesting. I started working on it, intending it to be sort of a practice for the final piece-figuring out dimensions and proportions and the like-but it became the final piece and skipped that first part completely. Also I played with mixed mediums which is not usual for me, so it was fun experimenting with that. Making messes with charcoal and water came across as the darkness I was looking for, and colored pencil and sharpie gave me the bright, crisp look I needed for the little artist's creation.
You can catch Jeremy and Rachel and the rest of our cast (and a second chance at the art exhibition) on the second weekend of The Life and Death of King John!
Voices Found Blog
Stay in the loop about the goings on at Voices Found. We'll post production photos, dramaturgy articles, show information, audition calls, and more!