Brennan Connors & Stray Passage maintained a regular presence in Madison as an improvising/experimental jazz unit for over a decade. Their album “Emergence” was released in 2017 via the Italian record label Setola Di Maiale. Saxophonist and leader Brennan Connors has been delving further into his own musical and compositional concepts. Brian Grimm (bass guitar and electric cello) has been composing scores and sounds scapes for live theatre in Chicago, Indianapolis, and throughout Wisconsin for the past 2 years as Geoff Brady (drums, theremin, and electronics) maintains his presence as one of the top percussionists in Madison. “All three members weave in and out of freely tumultuous passages and desolate spaciousness, achieving a collective, convincing direction that challenges the listener’s understanding of the passing of time in live composition” (Emili Earhart, Tone Madison). Always listening deeply to one another and the audience in the room, the trio connects directly to the listener with sensitivity, a wide dynamic range, and deep emotional engagement. Don’t miss the rare chance to see this trio live and in full swing!
BlueStem Jazzis a non-profit venture dedicated to presenting progressive, avant-garde, experimental jazz in Madison WI.
Be sure to check out their website to see their many upcoming events! BlueStem Jazz has been working incredibly hard to book as much high quality Jazz and Improvised music as possible in Madison, WI. Including supporting both local and touring talents.
(from their website) Located on Madison’s near East Side, nestled behind Olbrich Gardens, the award-winning Garver Feed Mill® is a multi-faceted destination that features local artisans, producers, wellness studios, and retailers offering visitors everything from coffee to ice cream, catering to kombucha.
The renovated Feed Mill honors and preserves Madison’s rich agricultural and industrial history by re-activating the building as a next-generation food production center and provide visitors with the opportunity to taste the best of Madison. The historic Mill has been transformed into a platform for local food businesses to grow, and in turn, expand Madison’s profile as a Midwestern hub of high quality, hand crafted food and drink.
Private and public events in our indoor and outdoor event spaces keep Garver bustling throughout the year, bringing people from near and far to “the Soul of Madison” – the vibrant East Side of the City. In winter months, Garver is home to the Dane County Farmers Market, the largest producer only farmers market in the nation.
Health and wellness enthusiasts looking to connect with themselves, each other, and the world around them will also find community at Garver Feed Mill through a variety of spiritual and physical wellness offerings from yoga and meditation classes to aromatherapy and spa retreats.
Garver is a foodie and wellness destination for locals and out-of-towners alike, benefiting from the close proximity and future programming with Olbrich Botanical Gardens and Olbrich Park.
Wednesday, May 10: Pay-What-You-Will Preview Thursday, May 11: Final Preview Friday, May 12: Opening Night
Wednesday – Saturday evenings at 7:30pm Friday matinee May 19th at 2:00pm Sunday matinees at 2:00pm
A world premiere!
Esther Shannon (*Karen Estrada) is a government stenographer working for the US Air Force during the tempestuous Vietnam War. Lonely, conflicted, and haunted by voices from her past, Esther finds herself smack dab in the middle of a troubling investigation.
With plenty of twists and turns along the way, Jennifer Blackmer’s taut, suspenseful mystery packs a real emotional wallop at the end. This new play will be presented as part of World Premiere Wisconsin, an inaugural and ambitious statewide festival celebrating original works.
TAP has founded a wonderful tradition of partnering with local community organizations on each show of their season. All of the ticket sales from the pay-what-you-will preview show goes directly to the community partner. In this case it is Door County Farm for Vets, and truly needed and amazing organization whose mission is to eradicate veteran suicides through farming. I love this so much. What a needed cause and what a fantastic approach.
Since 9/11 we’ve lost roughly 5 times as many veterans to suicide than we have in combat. It is massive problem that needs to be tackled and supported!
From DC Farm for Vets website:
DC Farm for Vets is a rehabilitation farm that provides education and services to Veterans entering into agriculture. This service includes several different programs. We have an available community gardening program along with scheduled training tailored to the specific time of the growing season. Our training program entails regenerative agriculture, sustainable chemical free produce production, livestock, and cherry and apple orchards. We believe in Growing while Healing.
The specific objectives and purpose of this organization is to work towards the elimination of veteran suicide. We accomplish this through teaching skills of sustainability and consumption of nutrient dense produce and livestock. Being able to grow your own food gives you a sense of control over your life and it is incredibly rewarding. Every dollar that gets donated to DC farm for Vets we donate back to our veterans or the community giving our veterans the opportunity to serve something bigger than themselves once again.
As always, there is the potential for some spoilers when talking about my design for the show, so reader beware! I’ll be honest, this was maybe the most difficult play and stressful Tech process that I’ve been through. Most of the time I show up to Tech with all of my cues composed, recorded and mixed – already arranged in my Qlab session with best guesses at timings and fades. But this show was a tough nut to crack. I spent 3 weeks working on melodic themes for the different characters and emotional moments. I would compose a theme and develop it into a cue, only to listen back to the recording while reading the script and thinking… hmmm – that’s not quite right. I think this is the most material I’ve ever developed and then immediately scrapped during the rehearsal and design process for a show.
It took me 3 weeks to realize that the reason all of my melodic material did not feel right, is that the character Esther is the melody! Because it is a one woman show, I needed to sink further into the background; purely be the accompaniment support and let Esther drive the show, let her be the melody. It was soooo different than doing even a two actor show. That is something I did not anticipate.
So the weekend before Tech, I made a HUGE design pivot and developed the idea of recording many variations of long tones. It was a tricky assignment – the director Jacob made it clear that we’d probably want sound under most of the show, but it couldn’t be melodic, and it couldn’t be rhythmic… hence the tones. But it made sense because we had the concept of there being fluorescent light tones for half of the play’s design – and these musical tones could be the color of the storytelling world outside of those fluorescent and cold deposition spaces.
On that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Tech (starting Wednesday) – I recorded Emma Cifrino on viola, Greg Smith on clarinet and bass clarinet, and myself on cello and guqin zither (individually) running through “the gauntlet” of tones. I’ve done this before on my own, it’s intense, so I definitely understood the process and what I was asking of these fine instrumentalists. I’m so glad Emma and Greg were down to complete this process. It wasn’t random notes, I created a scale built out of all of the notes needed for each chord progression and melody that I had developed throughout the whole process (even if I thought we were scrapping it). We went one note at a time, recording 5 styles of that note. Long straight tone, no vibrato. Long tone with vibrato. Crescendo to a sting. Sforzando to diminuendo. And my favorite, wobbly oscillating pressure dynamic pulsing long tones! Greg was a total champ, because we ran through the whole process on Clarinet, and then picked up the Bass Clarinet and said… ok here we go again. And then he went on to perform Carmina Burana with the Madison Symphony Orchestra later that evening … WOW!!
I made sure to have every player record every melodic theme as well, just so I had my bases covered for Tech. Even just my melodic and tones libraries were quite extensive for this show – because I knew I’d just have to build most of the cues on the spot. Jacob and I really couldn’t judge what would feel right until we were in the room and tried things out. So it was a slow, brutal process to build cues on the spot, and not at all my ideal scenario. Let’s just say there were a number of all nighters that needed to happen. This is something I try to avoid at all costs these days (by being over prepared), but that just shows you how different this show was and how much needed to be built, created or refined even outside of tech hours.
Besides the melodic and chord tone libraries, I had built up an even deeper library of Military Sounds from the Vietnam war including AK-47s, Air Bombers, Rocket Launchers, and very importantly the Huey Combat Helicopter. I also recorded the forced air heat sound from my vents at home, and the intensely loud buzzing of each fluorescent light in my basement. From these fluorescents and vent sounds I created many variations of tone clusters and chords that created a framework for the sonic tonal texture of the show (which I then replicated with the acoustic instruments).
Throughout the show, you’ll hear the Huey Helicopter as an intense heartbeat. You’ll hear Air Bomb drops and Rocket Launchers as a forced air vent rattling in the corner. You’ll hear Bass Clarinet as the persistent buzzing of the deposition room fluorescent lights. You’ll hear musical themes for the Military, and each individual character in the show. You’ll hear the USA’s actual Military Jazz Band playing dance party music. You’ll even hear clapping from a 1960’s video of people applauding for the IBM Selectric II World Champion Typist who could type 180 words per minute (deep cut!)!! You’ll also hear the iconic music sounds of the 1960’s! My absolute favorite era for popular music! This was one of the huge discoveries that Jacob and I made late at night trying to crack the code of this play. It’s been so much fun to revisit the music of that era, the music I grew up on. If you like this music of the late 60’s, you’ll enjoy the preshow!
Honestly, I felt like I came prepared for 4 different versions of this play, and none of those versions was the show we ended up doing!! So this one was a big learning process for me and I’m glad I had everyone record those melodic themes, because we ended up using most of them! Thank you to the whole production team, Karen, and Jacob for your patience with me on this tech. I know it was stressful for you too, and I appreciate your grace to let me figure out each cue on the spot.
The final two music cues in the show are two of the best cues I think I’ve ever composed and produced. I’m really happy with how those turned out (you can hear the “Poem Cue” above).
Special Shout Outs
In the end, the true star of this show is Karen Estrada who is absolutely fabulous in this piece of 1,000 transitions and micro-moments. I think audiences will love the performance she gives in this show. What a feat to memorize and perform and hour long show alone, all by yourself. So many lines!!! I could never, ever, ever do that. This performance really highlights Karen’s wide range as an actress. Not only that but she kept us all laughing deep belly laughs throughout tech, which I absolutely needed to keep me going! I hope you can come see the amazing work that Karen has put into this show!!
The other star of this show is Colin Gawronski‘s light design and how it interplays with the beautiful scrim paint job by Alex Polzin. The combo of those two elements is GORGEOUS. It’s like a watercolor painting and I love it. It’s worth coming to this show just to see the different worlds that Colin and Alex have created together with their designs.
Congratulation on the World Premiere to playwright Jennifer Blackmer and for building such a dynamic world for us to play in. It is a whirlwind of a play, and there is just so much contrast and emotion to dive into. I want to know more about her mother, who is the inspiration for the stenographer character Esther who is transcribing all of the Vietnam non-com depositions. I’m glad I could be a part of your premiere!
Thank you Thank you Thank you to Emma Cifrino (viola) and Greg Smith (clarinets) for performing and recording on this score!!! I love how both of your instruments support the story and add color to this world. The recordings turned out great and you both killed it in the studio sessions!
Sunday, Dec 11: Pay-What-You-Will Preview Wednesday, Dec 14: Final Preview (ticketed) Thursday, Dec 15: Opening Night
Wednesday – Saturday evenings at 7:30pm Sunday matinees at 2:00pm Special Friday matinee, Dec 23 at 2pm Special Tuesday performance, Dec 27 at 7:30pm No performance on Dec 24 or 25
A New Holiday Tradition for Door County!
You’ve never experienced Charles Dickens holiday classic quite like this. The five WFBR Radio Players bring to life scores of characters, live sound effects and musical underscore to create an authentic 1940’s radio experience all in front of a live studio audience. In A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE LIVE RADIO PLAY hear and see how Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas in this charming, family friendly production.
ELYSE EDELMAN as Sally Applewhite CASSANDRA BISSELL as Lana Sherwood RAY JIVOFF as Freddie Filmore DAN KLARER as Harry Jazzbo NEIL BROOKSHIRE as Jake Laurents BRIAN GRIMM as “Chet” the Foley Artist & Musician
Director: Mikael Burke Production Stage Manager: Kelsey York* Set Design: Alex Polzin Costume Design: Kärin Kopischke** Lighting Design: Eric Watkins** Sound Design: Brian Grimm
For this 1940’s radio play adaptation of the Charles Dickens holiday classic, I’ll be performing music underscore written by Kevin Connors as well as my own arrangements of traditional Christmas tunes on cello, tenor viola da gamba, glockenspiel, bell set and chime tree. One of the most exciting parts of this play for the audience is that the cast will assist me in performing live sound design aka “foley” on small doors, bells, pans, skeleton keys, chains, boots, books, coins, sheets, plates, silverware, a wind machine and more (see photos above)! The cast is super goofy – this is the most I’ve ever laughed during a rehearsal process! We’ve had such a blast putting this production together and can’t wait to share the fun with you!
Feed and Clothe My People, the Community Partner for this year’s A Christmas Carol
For every show of the season, Third Avenue PlayWorks collaborates with a Community Partner. I believe this is a wonderful practice and for A Christmas Carol, they couldn’t have found a better match. At the December 11th “pay-what-you-will” preview, all ticket proceeds went to an organization called Feed and Clothe My People:
Feed and Clothe My People (FMP) is a charitable organization formed in 1982 by Bev Hogan, Bev Knutson and Reverend Burke Johnson for the purpose of providing sustenance to local residents in need.
The program was initially designed to meet emergency needs only. As the number of residents in need of food and clothing increased, so had the scope of required services. As a result, it was decided that having a single location for the operation was necessary to coordinate activities between the various programs. In addition, the Board of Directors was expanded and the search for a new location commenced to increase operational efficiency and bring all facets of the program under one roof. After an exhaustive search, the Board purchased the old skating rink on 14th Avenue. With a few bequests and donations specifically designated for permanent relocation as down payment, the FMP organization was able to secure a mortgage and the new building opened for business in July of 2000. In summer of 2004, FMP of Door County joined Second Harvest, now known as Feeding America, which is a national food distribution center that sells food to pantries like ours at far below market prices. On August 31, 2004, due to a generous donation, the mortgage debt was officially retired. The building now belongs to Feed and Clothe My People.
Our mission is as strong as ever! A great share of our success depends on donations from those who can assist us financially, as well as through various food and clothing contributions. We wish to thank all those who have supported FMP in the past and we look forward to meeting and exceeding expectations and keep our founder’s dreams alive and well.
Here are some video teasers of music cues from the show! I’ll be updating this section each week, enjoy!