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Fiasco at Marquette

The Fiasco Theater’s off-Broadway production of Cymbeline earned a glowing review from The New York Times  so it was bound to be a hit off Wisconsin Avenue, too.

The New York-based troupe performed William Shakespeare’s play as part of its fall residency program on campus. Plenty more went on behind the scenes.

Fiasco actors held workshops for Marquette theatre students and even enlisted a few of them to help work on another project, a play based on the role John Quincy Adams played in the movement to abolish slavery.

“The classes that I was able to visit personally were really fun, really engaging,” says Fiasco Co-artistic Director Jessie Austrian of the time spent on campus. “It seems like a very passionate student body, and the Theatre Department has a really wonderful energy that was lovely to be a part of.”

The idea of bringing Fiasco to Marquette was hatched after College of Communication Dean Lori Bergen and Stephen Hudson-Mairet, assistant professor/chair of performing arts, went to New York to see Fiasco cast member and alumnus Andy Grotelueschen, Comm ’02, perform in Cymbeline.

Coming to campus made sense for Fiasco because their work on Adams’ role in the abolitionist movement dovetailed with Marquette’s campuswide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in the year-long celebration titled the Freedom Project. Austrian and Hudson-Mairet credit Ted Rogers, Grad ’68, for financial support that made the residency at Marquette possible.

“It was really magical that this all happened,” Hudson-Mairet says.

The residency program hit its crescendo on stage at the Helfaer Theatre. Fiasco’s interpretation featured six actors playing multiple roles. A large wooden trunk took the place of fancy set designs. The only thing missing was Grotelueschen, who was unable to fully participate in the residency because of an acting conflict. He was performing in a Broadway production of Cyrano de Bergerac. He did come back, however, for a day to host a workshop for students.

While visiting, the theatre troupe found time to absorb some local flavor. “Milwaukee’s a fun town,” Austrian says. “Good beer, good brats.” CJ


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