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After Two Postponements, John McGivern's 'Up Close (But Not Too Close)' Is Finally Live At The Pabst

John McGivern at The Pabst Theater
The Pabst Theater Group
After being rescheduled twice, John McGivern's new show has finally opened to audiences at The Pabst Theater.

The Pabst Theater began postponing in-person performances on March 13, 2020 and eventually those postponements turned into cancellations. Many theaters and performance venues sat empty for over a year but now, as more Wisconsinites get vaccinated, audiences are being invited back in.

After being postponed twice, John McGivern’s new one-man show, Up Close (But Not Too Close), has opened at the Pabst. The theater is currently allowing up to 250 audience members per show to create room for social distancing.

McGivern says he is excited to be back on stage and jokes that he now finally has a reason to put on shoes after a year. “To be back on stage, to be sitting in the dark, to be able to feel like there’s a sense of real future that looks normal is, that, it’s offered, like, me such joy,” he explains.

McGivern is best known for his Emmy-award winning PBS show Around the Corner with John McGivern. Up Close (But Not Too Close) follows the themes of his past one-man shows, telling stories from throughout his life focusing on his family and life growing up on the east side of Milwaukee.

McGivern says he's drawn to the format of the one-man show because it offers control —and it also makes him responsible for making the performance come to life.

“Whatever happens on stage, really it’s determined by what I do and what I put out,” he says.

The through line of this newest show is the idea of milestones and the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has become a yearlong milestone in every person’s life.

“We all have shared milestones and we all have personal milestones, and I’m going to touch on some of both of those,” he says.

One event that McGivern focuses on from the past year is the death of his mother. She has been featured heavily in his past shows as the two had a very close relationship. He says now his stories of her have a different meaning for him now that she's gone.

As he put together the show, McGivern says working with these stories has helped him grieve the loss of his mother.

“Stepping on stage in a light where people are relating in the darkness has, this has really freed me of some sort of anxiousness around it and has really brought a real sense of, of her presence,” he says.

Despite being the only performer, McGivern says his favorite part of getting back on stage has been the collaboration between him, the crew, the director and the production manager to make the show happen.

“The collaborative work that goes into doing a one-man show is really what I love the most,” he says.

Up Close (But Not Too Close) will have live shows at the Pabst until Saturday, May 15.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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