Raves from all critcs for Blvd Theatre's STEVIE!>CLOSES Sunday, Novemb er 9th-hurry!
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Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre's production of Hugh Whitemore's tender drama STEVIE (about British poetess Stevie Smith) wins raves from Milwaukee theatre critics! And the cast (Ken Dillon, Sally Marks and Amber Page) are winning high praise from all circles. Call 414.744.5757 (24-hour voicemail) to reserve your seat now. The production runs Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2:30 pm through and including Sunday, November 9th. But there will be no extensions.
The Boulevard Theatre is located at 2252 South Kinnickinnic, one-half block north of the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Kinnickinnic. (Right next door to Riviera Maya restaurant and across the street from Cafe Lulu).
Ticket prices are $20 (How reasonable is that? It's the best investment in the market today!). And tickets are going fast. Judge for yourself by perusing the reviews below! From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review:http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/arts/33145319.html 'Stevie' nails complex character Play about tormented poet meets dramatic potentialBy MIKE FISCHER
Posted: Oct. 24, 2008
Amber Page plays 'Stevie.' more photos Amber Page plays 'Stevie.' Close "Stevie," Hugh Whitemore's 1978 film about British poet Stevie Smith, finally made it to New York in 1981 - as part of a double bill scheduled for two days - and to Milwaukee in 1983. Whitemore's 1977 play of the same name is now rarely performed.
Such ominous history never deters Mark Bucher, whose Boulevard Ensemble Theatre regularly rescues unjustly forgotten plays from the dustbin while offering unproven actors the chance to present them.
The Milwaukee premiere of "Stevie" that opened at the Boulevard on Wednesday is a fine example of the magic that ensues when Bucher's mojo is working.
It isn't hard to see why "Stevie" lacks curb appeal. From 1906 until shortly before her death in 1971, Smith lived with her aunt in the same modest house in a nondescript London suburb. She had few romances and never married.
Smith's poetry is impossible to pigeonhole: obsessed with death but mordantly funny; deeply religious but defiantly agnostic; steeped in myths and legends but also grounded in her middle-class reality.
The story of a life in which little seems to happen, coupled with quirky poems reminiscent of Emily Dickinson and Robert Browning, is not the stuff of which great plays are usually made.
But "Stevie" works because Smith's poetry is so dramatic, as her disarmingly simple meter battles the dizzying swirl of emotions her poems explore.
Add a memory play scaffolding and two foils - Stevie's aunt and a narrator who also plays numerous minor roles - and there is plenty of dramatic potential, assuming one finds an actress to credibly play Stevie herself.
Enter Amber Page. While her deliberate movements and speech are overacted, this approach perfectly captures Smith's own view - discernible on old recordings and in poems like her signature "Not Waving but Drowning" - of life as a self-consciously heightened performance amidst the outer darkness.
Page gives us the darkness as well, using luminous, deep-set eyes as a window into Smith's loneliness, frustration and anger at a world from which she demanded more than it could give.
Along the way, Page inhabits multiple personae in Smith's poems, exhibiting a range that includes elfin children and droll old women. Ken Dillon is appropriately understated in his many roles, while Sally Marks sticks to type as the lovable aunt.
Bucher's ingenious set, with its empty picture frames and shrouded furniture, quietly calls attention to the unknowable mystery of death that Smith tried, in her poems and in her life, to map and contain.
If You Go"Stevie" continues through Nov. 9 at 2252 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
For tickets, call (414) 744-5757.
Not satisfied? - Here is the Vital Source Magazine (Online edition) review :
Boulevard Theaterby Peggy Sue Dunigan
Hugh Whitmore�s two-hour play, Stevie, tells the story of the life of British poetess Stevie Smith. Christened Frances Margaret Smith and called Peggy by her family, Smith was said to resemble jockey Steve Donaghue, inspiring the name that stuck with her. Born in 1902, this feminine literary figure was honored with two prestigious awards for poetry including The Queen�s Gold Medal in 1969. Yet her Aunt Madge ("The Lion"), who helped raise Smith, often referred to Stevie�s writing and rhymes as only �stuff and nonsense,� rarely appreciating Smith�s creative talent.
Yet Smith�s written musings reached far beyond the �stuff and nonsense� her Lion Aunt believed them to be, which the Boulevard Theatre�s production confirms with stellar clarity. Under Mark Bucher�s direction, the debut Boulevard performance of actor Amber Page resurrects the poetess with stunning directness and genuine sensitivity.
When Page recites Smith�s poetry or transforms her character into significant figures recalling Smith�s past, the audience listens mesmerized by her facial expressions and stage presence that evokes Smith�s spirit. Page embodies both the writer�s life and her language. The script�s vignettes of biography, autobiography, and Stevie�s poetry are touched with humor and poignancy. This performance brings the audience to a modern understanding of Stevie's words about living a life outside conventional norms.
The set of empty picture frames hanging on the wall behind furniture draped with white cloth accentuates the colorful personalities of Smith and the Lion Aunt Madge, who is ably portrayed by Sally Marks. These two actors display a visible affection for each other on stage that intensifies during the Lion�s illness. Page as Stevie states, �People thought because I never married I didn�t understand the emotion, but I loved my aunt.�
Sally Marks plays the Lion Aunt Madge
This relationship provides the centerpiece for the entire production because Smith considered herself estranged from conventional society, an independent woman who shunned marriage and the status quo that believed �a poet is not an important person.� Even the various men who flow through Smith�s life, remarkably played by Ken Dillion costumed in a black suit, including her vagabond father who left home when she was three, the fianc� she dearly loved, and male friends that cared for Smith later in her life fail to offer Smith a comparable love. While reciting one of Smith�s famous poems about a man who died at sea, the audience understands the depths of Smith�s despair and her consequent fascination with death when Page repeats the last line, �I was much too far out my whole life, not waving, but drowning.�
The Boulevard Theatre�s not-to-be-missed production of Stevie recalls that neither love, the enjoyment of everyday life, nor following a dream are only �stuff and nonsense,� but rather they substantiate human existence. Page, in a luminescent performance enhanced with an equally wonderful performance by Marks, reminds the audience that Smith�s life contributed volumes on the difficulties inherent to living a life with creativity and imagination, yet outside society�s norms, even when success affirms that decision. VS
Boulevard Theatre�s production of Stevie continues until November 9. 414.744.5757 or http://www.boulevardtheatre.com
--------There you have it---hope to see you at the Boulevard Theatre in the next two weeks.
And our next production are three rare David Mamet plays: DARK PONY, THE DUCK VARIATIONS, & REUNION---running November 19 through December 7. Reserve now and be a trendsetter!
But wait---there's more if you have time or inclination (reviews that just came out today -- Thursday, October 29th):
And if you must read another swell posting,
here is the latest (10-29) from the Waukesha Freeman and critic/writer Julie McHale:
Delve in a poet�s
mind in �Stevie�
British literary figure was
at once quirky and morose
By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Movie Critic
October 29, 2008
Mark Bucher, king of the Boulevard Ensemble Theatre, has a tendency to find plays of quality that have fallen into the scrap heap or haven�t seen a showing for many years. Such is the wonderful gem called "Stevie," a sort of memory play about the British poet, Stevie Smith (nee Florence Margaret Smith) from Yorkshire, England. Hugh Whitemore�s memoir about her has not been staged enough. We are the lucky recipients of Bucher�s insistence to resurrect precious theatrical relics.
Stevie Smith will never rank with Byron, Shelley, Browning or Tennyson, but her quirky style and peculiar philosophy certainly piques one�s curiosity to pursue her poetry further. Perhaps Amber Page is responsible for my leaving the theater transfixed with this woman and her work. Page�s exquisite portrayal made Smith painfully palpable: her impeccable English accent, her movements, her beautiful expressive face - all contributed to Stevie�s re-incarnation.
The play is a mix of biography, autobiography and poetry. We learn that her father deserted them when she was 3, her mother died when she was a teenager, she herself had bouts with tuberculosis, and she was largely raised by a dear spinster aunt she called Aunt Lion. She never married, loathe to give up the freedom that "singledom" affords. She had her chances but decided she was built for friendship, no more. Her love for her aunt probably was the greatest love of her life.
Her ambivalence about religion, her obsession with death, her interest in fairy tales all permeate her poetry. She was also a skilled sketcher and doodler. Though known primarily for her poems, receiving an award from the queen near the end of her life, she also wrote three novels, which were not as successful.
Ken Dillon (whom I have an affinity to like) was dignified and classy in the various roles he played in Stevie�s journey through her life, sometimes lost, sometimes lonely, but always able to "find the marvelous moments." Sally Marks, whom I enjoyed in "The Cemetery Club," played the darling little aunt with warmth and a subtle sense of wonder.
Beautifully directed and staged, this little treasure will appeal to those who appreciate character more than plot, those who can savor the beauty of language and relish the adventure of plumbing the depth of another complex and brave human being. The following excerpt from one of her poems captures her struggle:
"Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning ...
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving, but drowning."
Kudos to Bucher for this jewel of an experience.
The play runs through Nov. 9. Call (414) 744-5757 for times and tickets.
And, Dear Reader, also visit
(site of the Shepherd Express Newspaper/Magazine)
for another great review of Boulevard's STEVIE
Well, as long as I have you---here it is>>>
By Russ Bickerstaff
An Evening with Stevie Smith
The Boulevard Theatre continues its season with the Milwaukee premiere of Hugh Whitemore�s biographical memory play Stevie�the story of famed 20th-century British poet Stevie Smith. Though a few other characters are present in the play, the script wastes little time with anyone other than the title character (played by Amber Page). This proves to be one of the play�s greatest strengths, as it�s difficult to imagine a more pleasant evening with a single character.
Page begins the show by delivering a casual monologue in a cheerfully intellectual British accent while taking tea with her great aunt (Sally Marks). Page, thoroughly charming in the role, speaks of passionate thoughts, including her childhood ideas about death and her realization that, as a person acclimated to the idea of suicide, there�s a kind of comfort in thinking of death as a servant who must come when called.
This thought and others like it, though both liberating and morbid, never hit with much impact. In the role of Stevie, Page is too charming to ever shock the audience. Not that this is a bad thing: It remains an immensely enjoyable performance. As heavy as the production gets, Page is always a delight to watch. She�s the type of person one would want to deliver the worst news.
I could listen to Page melodically deliver Stevie Smith�s deliciously sweet yet intensely forgettable poems for hours on end. As such, the production almost feels too brief, in spite of the fact that it�s a feature-length play.
Also appearing in the production is Ken Dillon in various male roles, including Smith�s lover. Dillon has appeared with Boulevard before, but this time he makes a much bigger impression than in previous appearances. Though he rarely has much to say, his intense presence manages to balance out the stage.
The Boulevard Theatre�s production of Stevie runs through Nov. 9.
Finally, the > End of Boulevard Stevie release ( 28 )
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