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Jane Kaczmarek reminisces on growing up in Milwaukee, ahead of performance with Theatre Gigante

Actress and Milwaukee native Jane Kaczmarek
Alberto E. Rodriguez
Getty Images North America
Actress and Milwaukee native Jane Kaczmarek

Actress Jane Kaczmarek is a self-described big mouth, Polish girl from Milwaukee who rose to fame as the character “Lois” on Malcolm in the Middle.

Now, she’s back in her hometown performing in Theatre Gigante’s latest production of Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell.

While growing up in the Milwaukee area, Kaczmarek developed an early interest in acting as a kindergartener at Jeremiah Curtin Grade School (now Jeremiah Curtin Leadership Academy). She played a peach blossom and found she had a talent for persuasion.

"I convinced all the other peach blossoms that we were supposed to exit stage right when we were supposed to exit stage left, and they all believed me and followed me. My mother thinks that that was the first time I realized, 'Hmmm, I can get people to do what I want on stage,'" says Kaczmarek.

She continued following her passion for theatre at Greendale High School and made friends with fellow theater-lover Mark Anderson. He introduced her to more theater productions that inspired her to pursue acting as a career, including a notable production of Our Town at the Milwaukee Rep.

She explains, "It's the first time I'd ever seen it and I was hysterically weeping and remember thinking: can theater make people feel this? This might be something I want, tell stories like this."

Anderson is now the co-artistic director of Theatre Gigante, with his wife Isabelle Kralj, who established the theater company in 1987. All three actors are starring in the company's production of Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell. Gray was a friend to both Anderson and Kralj, who describes him as "an amazing artist... a master monologist."

"I was also fortunate to meet [Gray] through [Anderson]. And when Spalding died, Kathy Russo, his widow, had created this piece with Lucy Sexton, and we saw it in New York. And we just absolutely loved it because it does celebrate his work for me," she says.

Kaczmarek adds about Gray, "Above all else, he's a storyteller and isn't afraid to show you the words of himself in telling the story."

The Theater Gigante's production of Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell will be on stage from May 5-7 at the Kenilworth 508 Theater located at 1925 East Kenilworth.

Tickets are available here.


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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