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Bringing the Heart 'Of Mice and Men' to Life

Photo by Michael Brosilow
Milwaukee Rep
(From left to right) Actors Jonathan Wainwright & Scott Greer

There are many talents that go into making a successful theater production.  There are actors, the playwright, stage hands, and directing and design teams.  Most directors have a stable of scenic and lighting and costume designers they like to work with. And Milwaukee Rep’s artistic director Mark Clements is no different.

The Rep’s latest production, Of Mice and Men, marks Clements' and scenic designer Todd Ivans' 18th collaboration.

"As much as we do things the same, we do them differently," Ivans says. "So I think that while our history and knowing each other's aesthetic, if you actually look at the shows we've done side by side, it would actually look like different people did them."

This production of the show is Ivans' second, but he explains that the new setting at The Rep makes the play completely "immersive" and "saturates" the audience in all aspects of the show. "The performers on the stage, the people, are not the only performers of the show. And so we treat all the aspects of design as a character of the play," he says. "The set is a character in the play, the lighting, the costumes, the sound...we try to truly make it as if they are the next character on the list...and like a character it's trying to constantly serve the narrative of the show which is never sitting still."

Ivans says that his scenic design is similar to "directing the show in (his) head" in order to fit into the content of the overall production with nothing left to chance.

"A second in the theatre feels like a minute in normal time," says Clements. "So if you have ten seconds of nothing going on, there might be a real good reason for having people sit in the dark for ten seconds – (but) it should be because you want that to happen, not because you don’t know how to fix it."

The Rep’s production of Of Mice and Men begins Tuesday evening at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.