To Kill A Mockingbird at Marquette University

November 13, 2015

On Thursday night, My Dad and I went to opening night of To Kill A Mockingbird at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. And as I have come to expect, the cast and crew did a fantastic job putting this show together. To illustrate just how well they told this iconic story, as the lights came up at intermission, my Dad mentioned to me that it had felt like the show had started just five minutes earlier when, in fact, an entire hour had passed.

The entire cast of twenty-five performers did such an amazing job that it will be difficult to single out only a couple of the truly remarkable performances. That being said, I was very impressed by the student actors that played the children: Jem, Scout, and Dill. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be nearly twenty years old and believably play a role half your age without it becoming a caricature.

I was simply awed by Madeleine Farley, the young women playing the role of Scout. The physicality and mannerisms that she brought to the part reminded me so much of my kids when they were that age. As always, I need to add a disclaimer that my son, A.J., is a sophomore in the MU theatre program. In fact, he plays the role of Jem Finch in this show and I couldn’t be prouder of his performance. And the last of the children, Dill Harris, was well-performed by Amelia Strahan. Her child role was further complicated by also having to believably play the opposite sex as well.

While I would love to go into detail about the portrayals of Atticus Finch by Micheal Cienfuegos-Baca, Heck Tate by Ben Braun, Calpurnia by Zandra Starks, and Rev. Sykes by Terry Lee Watkins, I fear that this post would get way too long. Suffice it to say that they were spot on. I will, however, mention two more truly wonderful performances. Mackenzie Possage and Annie Kefalas played Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie respectively. These two characters really act as the narrators of the story. These two could not have been better cast and I really enjoyed the way they helped to keep the audience informed about what was going on.

Finally, I hope that you can see in the attached photos just how amazing the set, costumes, lighting, and sound were. They really took this show to the next level. There are still two shows left this weekend and another five shows next week starting on Wednesday. Please go and support these fantastic student actors. You won’t be sorry that you went.

Rosie The Riveter World Record

October 27, 2015

Last Saturday, Oct. 24 2015, Erin and Kristi traveled to the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan to help set the Guinness World Record for the “largest gathering of people dressed as Rosie the Riveter.” While it hasn’t been confirmed yet by the official record keepers, the unofficial results are that they broke the record with 2,096 women and girls dressed as Rosie the Riveter. The previous record of 1,084 participants had been set in California this past August.

In case you are unsure as to why Erin and Kristi drove all the way over to the Detroit area to be a part of this momentous occasion, let me provide some background. First of all, Erin has always been interested in strong women role models; Elizabeth Blackwell, Frida Kahlo, Alice Paul, and, of course, the Rosie the Riveters that took the place of the men/soldiers in the shipyards and bomber plants during World War II. So last summer, when Kristi and Erin were planning a vacation, they decided on a trip to San Francisco in part because it would allow them to visit the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Park in Richmond, California. Not only was it an enjoyable vacation, but Erin was able to gather some research for this year’s National History Day competition.

While they were there, they discovered that the park was planning an event for August to break the record for the most Rosie The Riveters in one location. The previous record of 776 Rosies had been set by the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan in March, 2014. The timing of this event was disappointing as a second trip to California in such a short time was not in the stars. As I stated earlier, the August event at the National Park broke the original record by a little over 300.

This event was fortuitous for Erin and Kristi in that it caused the supporters of the Willow Run Plant to organize an additional event to take back their record. As Ypsilanti, Michigan is much closer to home for us, a car trip to be part of the World Record in October was easy to arrange. So, now Kristi and Erin can be proud of the fact that they are part of a Guinness World Record and they did it while supporting strong women.

AJ’s Busy Theatre Schedule

October 15, 2015

As a disclaimer, I should mention that this post will contain quite a lot of fatherly pride and may even border on being a bit braggy. Okay, who am I kidding? It is going to be very braggy. I wouldn’t blame anyone if they decided to bail right now.

Is anyone still there? Good. Let’s get started. I’m sure that I’ve mentioned it before but if you’ve forgotten, my son, AJ, is studying theatre at Marquette University and last year was his freshman year. We were very proud that he was cast in the ensemble for In The Red And Brown Water last November and was chosen to play the role of Philiste in The Liar in February. That’s him as Philiste in green in the adjacent photo.

Normally, at the end of the spring semester, Marquette holds auditions for the first show of the fall semester because rehearsals have to start before the semester does. This past spring was a little different in that they also held auditions for the final show of the season in April as it is going to be a collaboration with Renaissance Theaterworks in downtown Milwaukee. As luck would have it, AJ was cast in both shows.

You may recall from a previous post, AJ was cast as the “enjoyable awkward” Eric Richards in Loose Lips Sink Ships, a musical comedy about women shipbuilders in Sturgeon Bay during World War II. The adjacent picture is from that show. The other role that he was cast in last spring was that of the Artillery Trainee in Censored On Final Approach at RTW next spring. Getting cast in both of those shows for this season before school year even started was pretty amazing and I couldn’t have imagined a better way for his sophomore year to turn out.

On the first two days of class in the fall semester, Marquette holds auditions for the November show and the January, kid-centric, show. As both of these shows rehearse at the same time in the second half of the semester, a student can only be cast in one of them. Fortune again smiled on AJ as he was chosen to play the role of Jem Finch in the iconic To Kill A Mockingbird, the November show. And, now, as I thought things couldn’t get any better, I just got news that the results of the auditions for the final show to be cast were announced this week. AJ was cast as Silvius in the February show, Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

So if you are keeping count, that’s a total of four shows this year while also carrying a full load in college. I’m not sure when that boy actually sleeps. All I can say is that I am very proud of that young man and I’m glad that he is having so much fun.

Home Networking Project – Five Years Later

October 9, 2015

*** NERD ALERT ***

If you aren’t a geek that loves all things techie, you might want to stop reading now! You have been warned!


Almost 5 years ago, I was planning to switch from DSL to U-verse and I had decided that to make things easier for the future, I would run network cable throughout the house and create a Network Wiring Closet in a central location in the basement. I documented that project in this post and in this one as well. It has been almost five years since U-verse was installed and although the project was a success, I have made several tweaks to the network that have made things even better.

If you compare this picture of the Network Wiring Closet above to the one in this post, you will see that several things have changed. The first thing that changed within the first year was that the original gray AT&T Residential Gateway (basically a router), was replaced by newer version (black device standing upright on the shelf next to it’s battery backup on the left). During that first year, I had no end of trouble with the wireless functionality of both of the AT&T Residential Gateways. Any Apple devices in the house had an extremely difficult time keeping their wireless connections active over time. Something didn’t seem to work right with the way that they renewed the IP leases. I had thought that the issue was with the original older model Residential Gateway but it also happened with the newer one. By the end of the first year, I gave up on the built-in AT&T wireless technology. I turned it off and added a Linksys WAP300N Wireless Access Point. From that point on, all of my wireless issues disappeared.

The next major addition to the network happened about 2 1/2 years ago when Windows on my primary computer became corrupted and I had to rebuild the hard drive from scratch. Even though I had been backing up many of our important files to a portable external hard drive, not everything was saved. I decided that I needed a more reliable solution for keeping our important things safe. I added a Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) device with two 2TB hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration. With one kid in college and another in high school, we can have up to three separate computers on the network sometimes. The NAS device allows us to store and share all of our pictures, music, videos, office documents, and even computer backups. Additionally, the NAS backs up most of its information to Amazon Glacier cloud storage for even more redundancy. You will also notice that I added an APC uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to allow the NAS to shut down gracefully in the event of a power failure. The UPS and the NAS can “talk” to each other and the NAS can begin shut down procedures when the UPS has been in battery mode for a certain amount of time.

The final additions to the network happened this past summer. Over the past few years, I have acquired several AirPlay speakers and have them set up throughout the house. They are a poor-man’s version of a home audio system. From the iTunes on my main computer I can play music all over the house. This summer, I decided that I wanted to also play music in the backyard when we are out in the pool. Unfortunately, the wireless signal being broadcast from WAP in the Network Wiring Closet in the center of the basement could not reliably reach the exterior of the house. I decided to add a additional couple of network jacks in the sunroom and hook up a second Linksys WAP to extend my wireless reach. You can see that in this second photo.

If you recall from my previous post, I have four rooms in the house with two network jacks in each. Because one port on my 8-port switch has to connect to the Residential Gateway, I wasn’t able to keep all of the network jacks active at the same time. By adding two more jacks in the sunroom, I made the situation even worse. My solution was the final addition to the Network Wiring Closet. I replaced my Linksys 8-port switch with a Cisco 16-port switch. This has allowed me to keep all jacks active and have a couple to spare for possible future expansion.

At this point, I can’t imagine that I would need to add anything more to this system. But, of course, only time will tell.

Loose Lips Sink Ships at Marquette University

September 26, 2015

Last night, we got to see Loose Lips Sink Ships, another fantastic show at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. This is the university’s first show of a season celebrating Strong Women. This musical tells the story of the women that took jobs in the shipyards in Sturgeon Bay during World War II. It is a light and fun look at the changes in responsibilities and relationships that happened during that historic time. There were a couple of sad moments, as there are during a war, but on the whole, humor, fun songs, and dancing helped to tell this charming tale.

As a disclaimer, I must point out, as I have in the past, that my son, A.J., a sophomore in the MU theatre program, played the role of Eric Richardson in the show. So my feelings for this show are naturally biased. And I am okay with that.

The entire cast did an absolutely superb job. The three young women, Chloe Hurckes, Anna Otto, and Annie Kefalas were lovely singers and poured their souls into their performances. The vocal performance by Chloe was especially well done. The five young men also did a tremendous job. They were all well cast and suited to their roles. Daniel Callahan and Michael Nicholas really stood out in their singing numbers and Peter Sisto truly has a knack for humorous dialogue.

I am, obviously, very proud of the performance turned in but my son, A.J. Magoon. I thoroughly enjoyed his bubbly, energetic antics as the nervous, young highschooler looking forward to his first date and getting ready to join the war effort on the front lines. Physical comedy involving tripping over objects, dropping things, and double-takes can be very hard to make look natural but A.J. really made it look easy.

All in all, it was a fun night of theatre. If you see it, you’ll go home tapping your toes with a smile on your face.

Mid-Season Forensics Update

March 1, 2015

I have to tell ya that I am just bursting with pride. Erin is doing a fantastic job in High School Forensics this year. This is her second year on the High School team and her second year competing in the category of Four Minute Speaking. This year, her topic is entitled “The Psychological Disorders of the Disney Princesses.”

The Sussex Hamilton team is competing in six Invitational tournaments, one Conference tournament, and the State tournament this season. As they have already been to four of those Invitationals, I would consider this the halfway point for the season. In those four tournaments so far this year, Erin has received three First Place trophies and one Third Place trophy. I know, right?

I am so very proud of her and all of her accomplishments so far this season. Keep up the good work, Erin! We’ll be cheering for you for the rest of season.

The Liar at Marquette University

February 19, 2015

Last night, I had the opportunity to go see The Liar at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. The Liar is a 17th century comedy by Pierre Corneille that was adapted and translated by David Ives in 2011. The whole show (mostly) is delivered in modern-language rhymed iambic pentameter and it is extremely funny. Once again, the Marquette University Theatre Department does not disappoint in delivering an outstanding show.

As a disclaimer, I must point out that the role of Philiste was portrayed by my son, A.J., a freshman in the MU theatre program. So I may have a slight bias when it comes to my feelings for this performance. That being said, I think that the entire cast did a tremendous job in the show. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that, of the eight characters in the show, six were played by seniors, one by a junior, and one freshman. Over the past several years, we have seen many of these actors in multiple shows on the MU stage and they are all very good. The two main characters in the show are Dorante (played by Ben Braun), a young lawyer that is a practiced liar, and his servant, Cliton (played by Armando Ronconi), who can do nothing but tell the truth. It was just so much fun to watch these two young men interact on stage. They really made this show a success.

I will mention a couple other outstanding performances as well. Kyle Conner played Alcippe, the main rival of Dorante in the show. We have previously seen Kyle in several MU productions including the lead in Hamlet last season. His portrayal of the enraged, jealous fiancĂ© was a joy to watch. Additionally Hannah Klapperich-Mueller portrayed Dorante’s father, Geronte. A challenging role for a young woman and she executed it with ease. It was interesting to see her in this role after having enjoyed her performance as Maggie in Lend Me A Tenor with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre last spring.

Finally, I need to give a huge shout-out to A.J. Magoon and his performance as Philiste, the quintessential renaissance fop. His affectations and his walk were pure comic genius to me. I couldn’t help but chuckle every time he showed up on stage. Hopefully, we will see him many more times on the MU stage and I will be bursting with pride every time.

Kudos to everyone involved in this show. You should be very proud.

Our Town at Marquette University

October 4, 2014

On Friday Night, Kristi and I went to see the first show of the season at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Helfaer Theatre and their season opened with Our Town.

Over the last three years, our family has seen a couple shows a season at the Helfaer Theatre or featuring Marquette students at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. In all cases, the shows have been incredibly well-staged and extremely entertaining. I’m sure that this factored into A.J.’s decision to become a theatre arts major at MU.

Last night’s production of Our Town was just as fantastic as any other Marquette production that we have seen. As a disclaimer, I must admit that I have seen high school and community theatre productions of Our Town on two separate occasions in the last several years and I have never been a fan of the show. This production, however, was so well done that I have changed my opinion of the show. The level of professionalism put forth by the student actors was quite amazing.

The standout performance of the evening was presented by the young man that played the Stage Manager, Alexander Coddington. As A.J. and I had discussed after the show (He had seen it last weekend), we decided that Alex’s portrayal of the Stage Manager had all of folksy demeanor that you would expect with that character but with an ever-so-slight edginess to it. I believe that long pauses in dialogue are the hardest thing for an actor to do and he had such an effective mastery over them.

Of course I could probably gush an equally long amount about each and every one of the actors and actresses in the performance. They were all extraordinary. I would, however, mention Hannah Klapperich-Mueller’s portrayal of Mrs. Gibbs. She was captivating to watch on stage. I have previously seen her in Lend Me A Tenor and Almost, Maine and she is a splendid actress.

I would tell you to go see this show but there are only two performances left and by the time you read this I’m sure that the run will be over. I will say that if you haven’t ventured to see a show at Marquette University yet, please do so. You won’t be sorry.

A View From The Bridge at WCT

June 10, 2014
A View From The Bridge at Waukesha Civic Theatre

AJ and I went to see A View From The Bridge at Waukesha Civic Theatre on Friday night. This show was written by Arthur Miller, an American playwright known for heavy, dark dramas like Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Prior to Friday night, I was not intimately familiar with this show and wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit through heavy drama in a dark theatre at the beginning June, especially as the weather has been nice lately. Boy, I am sure glad that I did.

AJ and I both agree that this is the singular BEST community theatre production that we have seen in years. If you know anything about either of us, you would know that although we enjoy all kinds of theatre, we tend to nitpick the shows that we see. Even the ones that we love. But in this show, we could find nothing to pick on. The set is amazing, the costumes are wonderful, and cast does an amazing job. Their accents are so completely perfect for their characters. Noah Silverstein, the actor that plays the protaganist, Eddie Carbone, is an absolute thrill to watch. And Jacqueline Gosz, who plays his wife Beatrice, is truly believable in her role. The other stand-out in the cast is Ben Ludwig, a local high school senior that plays the Italian immigrant, Rodolpho. Of course, the rest of the cast is fantastic as well.

For me, a show is truly great when I totally forget that I am watching a show and I become invested in what is actually happening to the characters. I start to see them as real people and not actors playing a part. That happened for me on Friday night.

So, here is the deal. I know that it is June and the weather has been nice lately. And I’m sure that the last place that you want to be is in a dark theatre watching a heavy show. But you really, really shouldn’t miss this fantastic show. There are only eight more performances over the next two weekends. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and go out to Waukesha Civic Theatre and support these fine actors. You’ll be glad that you did.

Dramagoon Band Updates

June 3, 2014

Erin and AJ at the beginning of Marching Band season.

I know that I tend to sing the praises of Erin and AJ quite a bit, but I am so very proud of them that I can’t really help it. If the uncontrollable gushing of a proud parent makes you queasy, please stop reading now.

Okay, now that only the hearty souls remain, I will proceed. I have some fantastic Hamilton Charger Band news about each of them. After the coin toss, I have elected to share Erin’s news first. This spring Erin competed with four other individuals for one of the three available spots as drum major of the Hamilton Charger Marching Band. Drum majors conduct the band during the marching band competition season in the fall. The candidates for drum major compete in front of the entire band and the choice is decided with a popular vote by the band members. Two sophomores and Erin (the only freshman) were selected by their peers. Congratulations, Erin! You will be a spectacular drum major.

And now for AJ’s news. Every year, the band director gives out several awards to the outgoing seniors in recognition of their contributions over the past four years. Only three of those awards also come with a $500 scholarship from the band booster organization; the John Philip Sousa Band award, the Patrick S. Gilmore Band award, and the Louis Armstrong Jazz award. At the spring band concert in May, AJ was presented with the Patrick S. Gilmore Band award and scholarship. Way to go, AJ! It has been a joy to watch you play over the years.


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