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Written and Directed by Kevin Ramsey
September 11 – November 8, 2009
Stackner Cabaret
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Playwright and director Kevin Ramsey returns to The Rep this season with his newest production, SOULTIME AT THE APOLLO. Having just created FIRE ON THE BAYOU: A MARDI GRAS MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA for the 2008/09 Rep season, we are grateful to have yet another of Kevin’s music-filled, historical portraits come to life on our stage and inspire our patrons to once again get up and dance!

I spoke to Kevin recently, on the heels of his busy production schedule.

Sharon Pomaville: Kevin, I was so happy to see that you were directing another production at The Rep this season. It’s good to have you back with us once again. Tell me about SOULTIME AT THE APOLLO.

Kevin Ramsey: SOULTIME celebrates the legacy of the Apollo Theater, commemorating its 75th anniversary this year. The first show I co-wrote and directed at The Rep, IF THESE SHOES COULD TALK, was in 1993, starring the legendary Harold Nicholas. It was also Joseph Hanreddy’s first season as Artistic Director for The Rep. The irony is, this is Joe’s last season with MRT and somehow we’re back at the Apollo. IF THESE SHOES COULD TALK took place at a shoe shine stand in front of the Apollo, and SOULTIME takes place in the basement of the Apollo, chronicling the memory of an old stagehand called Soultime. The Apollo is a cultural icon, and I have been fascinated by how much music was created there that has influenced the American landscape both musically and culturally over a span of 75 years.

Audiences will be taken on a great journey through the musical annals of the Apollo Theater – ranging from doo-wop, jazz, soul, gospel, R&B and everything in between – every decade ushering in new music inspired by what was happening in America at that time.

We may be aware of the notables – Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Cab Calloway, James Brown, Sam Cooke – those that crossed over into the mainstream. But there were hundreds who became big stars only within the Harlem community. Here was a place where you could go on Wednesday nights for an Amateur Talent Show – I guess the original American Idol. You signed up weeks in advance, and either you succeeded or failed terribly. The Apollo tested the strengths of any human being: if you could play the Apollo, you could truly play anywhere. If there wasn’t such a thing called segregation, the Apollo might never have existed. But what a price to pay!

SP: What do you hope your audience will experience and take home?

KR: To know that they are a part of this tapestry that is so Americana, with the music swimming and swarming in their heads. I feel it is so important to honor those that have come before, because we all stand on somebody’s shoulders in a way, with a handing off of various torches from generation to generation. I think one of my biggest thrills with BAYOU was at the top of the second act, where people actually got up and danced! I find that extremely liberating, not only for me, but for the audience to have that kind of freedom, that kind of theatrical experience, that dialogue with the actors.

SP: What’s next for your hopes and dreams for yourself and this beautiful world we all share?

KR: Artistic and financial freedom. My dream is to continue to be inspired to write about humanity, whether in theater, film or television and to bring my work to audiences globally. I have so many dreams of wanting to use my art to help, to heal, to encourage, to educate and to learn, but most importantly to provoke and entertain.

At the end of the day, I’m so blessed to be able to do what I do, and love what I do. Once again, my heartfelt gratitude to Joe Hanreddy, Sandy Ernst, The Rep’s staff and wonderful audiences. Who would have thunk, coming from New Orleans and spending many years on the East Coast, that out of all the places in the world, the place that would give me so much inspiration would be Milwaukee? It gets very cold and I hate the cold. I must really want to be here!

Sharon Pomaville, Music and Art Journalist
Sharon is a not-for-profit fundraiser, event producer and blues aficionado.

Written and Directed
by Kevin Ramsey

Previews: September 11
September 12 – November 8, 2009
Tickets: $30.00 – $45.00

Monica Dillon
Melanie McCullough
C.E. Smith

The Stackner Cabaret features some of the best musical entertainment in Wisconsin and also is a full service restaurant with a delightful menu in a unique theater setting. It’s the perfect place to meet before you see a show in the Cabaret, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater or Stiemke Theater, or stop up afterwards to enjoy dessert and drinks – you never know which Rep actor you might see! The smoke-free Stackner Cabaret is open to the public before and after all evening Rep performances and is located just up the escalator in The Milwaukee Center.

If you plan to dine in the Stackner Cabaret before seeing a Rep production, dinner reservations are strongly recommended. Please be aware that if you have tickets to a performance in the Cabaret, it does not automatically include dinner reservations. To make dinner reservations for the Cabaret, please call The Rep’s Ticket Office at 414-224-9490. To view the Cabaret menu click here:

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