You Can Still Catch Genealogy on YouTube (Link Below)

(L-R) Atticus Cain, Karl Reinhardt, Jamie England, and Quanda Johnson Sort Out the Family Trees

The live run of the problem comedy, Genealogy, by T.J. Elliott and Joe Queenan directed and coproduced by Dana Pellebon has ended at Broom Street Theater in Madison Wisconsin. Our sellout standing ovation audiences during this three week run encouraged us to keep on telling the story and, therefore, we invite you and whomever you think wants to engage with this Satire Of Inconvenient Family Ties to watch the video of Friday, November 19’s Live Stream at this link.

The Hunts and The Wilsons aren’t fooling around
The podcast that made it all happen! (Jackson Rosenberry as Glenn Weber)
“We are not done!!!”

To Make Theater Live Ain’t Easy

Karl Reinhardt: My Hero

Theatre is a series of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”
Tom Stoppard

On March the 12th, 2020, Joe Queenan I were set to audition actors for our second co-written play, Grudges.

March 12th, 2020.

That’s the day the pandemic hit the fan with the NBA canceling its season, ERs overflowing, and travel of pretty much any kind cancelled, cancelled, cancelled. Theater also just stopped. Around the country, whether in Broadway palaces or school gyms, Regional playhouses or East Village cabarets, it just stopped. Dead.

But we couldn’t bear to give up. So, hatching our tagline #maketheaterlive,  we produced Grudges on Zoom followed by Within The Context Of No Context by George W S Trow, and my solo effort, the Swedish screwball comedy, Keeping Right.

And then this year, we got to actually make theater really live again through the gracious coproduction of our third play, Genealogy, with Broom Street Theater in Madison WI. Because that’s what’s important about theater: it’s live. You have to remember the lines right then. The lights have to go up at the right time and the sound effects have to go off at the right time. And the audience is right there. Breathing, coughing, laughing, groaning: right there.

Other arts amaze me, but theater is the one where you are least likely to know what’s going to happen. Oh, yes, there is a script, a text that the playwrights created and of which upon that foundation the director has formed a production. But every night the connection between the actors and the audience and even among the actors themselves can differ.

The Irish critic Fintan O’Toole put it very well recently:

“Live performers …make their own decisions, here and now, in this moment. In a filmed performance, the performer loses that power. It belongs to others – the director, the editor. But this also applies to us as members of the audience. At a live event, we choose where we look and how we listen. In a virtual event, other people are – sometimes heavy-handedly, sometimes subtly – making those choices for us. This is what we miss about live performance: the autonomy and integrity of the performer, our freedom to shape our own responses, the sense of our shared presence in space and time.”

That’s one of the reasons why being able to see and feel and hear our wonderful actors perform Genealogy this month awed and thrilled us. But certain events reminded us of the fragility not only of theater, but of life. One of our team, one of our amazing actors, took ill. (He’s doing much better now and we trust on the road to a full recovery) And our astonishing director, Dana Pellebon, approached Karl Reinhardt (who had been doing spectacular work as our stage manager from day one) to ask him if he was willing to step into a role of a character who is on stage from beginning to end of our 95 minute play.

And he did. Karl committed to make theater live. God bless him.

He played the role last weekend and he’s playing it again this weekend including at our live stream performance on November 19th. (Tix are here; choose “11/19 Live Access” from the dropdown menu.) Stepping into a role that another actor has created without having had the benefit of the weeks of rehearsal, the space to learn lines, the experiences to forge connections with the other characters is beyond daunting. Try terrifying on for size. Yet Karl did it and he did it very well. That’s why on Saturday night when I get to see the live stream, I’ll be toasting not just the entire cast and the director and the crew but especially Karl Reinhardt who embodies the commitment to make theater live despite that “series of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”

The podcast upon which our characters appear in Genealogy
Quanda Johnson and Atticus Cain
Jackson Rosenberry as podcast host, Glenn Weber

Thank God for Stage Managers (and just nice people) like Karl Reinhardt

Karl Reinhardt

Some of the people reading this blog post have now experienced the strange phenomenon also visited upon me earlier this month. It’s it’s okay, the experience proved to be a good thing, a very good thing. I walked into a theater, specifically Broom Street Theater which is producing my and Joe Queenan’s play, Genealogy and stood with actors and other crewmembers for the first time in two years. Strange and wonderful. But somewhat nerve-racking as well. And that’s one reason why meeting Karl Reinhardt, Stage Manager for Genealogy, made me happy and grateful. Anyone who has ever worked in theater knows the extraordinary value of the stage manager in regard to their skills and knowledge. But if they also turn out to be a really nice person who chats with you about life and art then that’s magnificent!

Karl is such a person and he has been on the Madison, WI theater scene for twenty years. He has graced the stage as an actor in such shows as Torch Song Trilogy as “Ed” and Almost, Maine as “East” and “Lendall” among many other offbeat and independent productions. As a high school teacher and auditorium director, he has challenged the acting abilities and sensibilities of the parent audience in Lodi, WI with his creative approaches when directing such shows as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gypsy, and Night of the Living Dead. Karl is scheduled to direct ‘Attack of the Killer Bs’ at Broom Street in March 2022. He has also spent many an hour in the wings and the tech booth as a stage manager and board operator. He tells us that he is proud to be a small part of bringing Genealogy to audiences. And we tell him he’s too modest. Find out for yourself the effects of Karl’s work along with the rest of the cast and crew by watching our November 19 live stream of genealogy at 9 PM Eastern 8 PM central. Tickets are free at this website although if you want while you are there to make a donation to support the marvelous Broom Street Theater that is also possible.

The Cast of Genealogy: (L-R) Donavon Armbruster — Hamilton Hunt,
Jamie England — Muggs Moriarty Hunt,
Quanda Johnson — Aaliyah Lewin-Wilson, Atticus Cain — Mosiah Wilson,
Jackson Rosenberry — Glenn Weber

Jamie England is NOT to be Missed as Muggs Moriarty in Genealogy

Jamie England

Blog post by T.J. Elliott October 24, 2021

While my co-playwright, Joe Queenan, was writing a dozen books and thousands of columns over several decades, my life required me to take several steps back from direct activity in the theater. That did not mean I stopped writing or thinking about plays; it just meant that I had to concentrate on my straight job because I was just not talented enough to dance that corporate tango and stage plays. But those moments in which I could consider theater yielded results that continue to be important now when I’m back full-time in this world. Several large drawers overflow with notes from that earlier era that may yet find their way onto the stage as plays and a few well-worn books that inspired me then persist still in nourishing my theatrical interests.

One of those books is by the playwright Alan Ayckbourn. The Crafty Art of Playmaking became one of the books of my ‘Bible’ guiding me in playwrighting. Perhaps counterintuitively, one of the most important messages Ayckbourn conveys emphasizes an element other than the writing: “Theatre is not about the writing, it’s not about the directing. It is about that, but in the end it’s really about the actors and the audience and most audiences – aside from the cognoscenti who sit there being experts – come to watch a bit of acting. … Stephen Joseph always taught me that you serve that wonderful moment between actor and audience. And that is the precious moment that live theatre has that no other media has quite to that extent and that is why I stick to theatre.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Ayckbourn’s sentiment and that is why meeting and then working with Jamie England who plays Muggs Moriarty in Genealogy, which opens in just a dozen days from now at Broom Street Theater in Madison Wisconsin, elated me so powerfully. Having an actress like Jamie who was not only capable of creating that “wonderful moment between actor and audience”, but also possessed such imagination and curiosity made me certain that a character that enchanted Joe and I as she came into being on the page would now be even more compelling on the stage.

That Jamie owns such talent is no surprise to those who have seen her act in Madison or elsewhere. After all, Jamie has been acting since fourth grade, when she gave a rousing, critically-acclaimed performance as the narrator in Cinderella. Here in Madison, Jamie most recently appeared onstage as Judy in Madison Theatre Guild’s 2019 production of Small Mouth Sounds. Other favorite local acting experiences include turns as Joyce in Body Awareness, Mattie Fae in August:  Osage County, Nightshade LaVixen in Sweet William, Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman, JoAnn in Company, the unsinkable Narrator in You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery, Lisa in Cancer Stories, Margaret Hughes in The Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Liz Morden in Our Country’s Good, and Arsinoe’ in The Misanthrope.   We are very fortunate that she has taken on our Muggs as her next role and for those of you who will see Genealogy either live November 5, 6, 11-13, 18-20 or via our streaming performance will be fortunate to see her performance. For those of you who can travel to Madison, you can purchase tickets at this link. We should have more details on our live streamed formants, which will air on the last weekend of our run at Broom Street. Stay tuned and don’t miss Jamie!

Dana Pellebon: How Lucky Are We!

Dana Pellebon

Luck is the residue of design. That’s a saying by Branch Rickey whose fame as being the first courageous general manager of a Major League baseball team in the 1940s to integrate the game through the addition of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers squad of 1947. Many other figures of that day are forgotten but Rickey persists in the popular imagination to this day as an example to all of us to have the courage to lead change, to design our lives so that we will have the luck we need. My luck is very much in my friends. And the design that produces that luck of companions may seem inconsequential until we have the opportunity of retrospective. We meet a lot of people when we are young, but choosing with whom we continue to be friends represents a channels of choices, choices that we made. Who we have as friends is not accidental, the way in which we continue to stay in touch with them, to attend to those relationships, to be a giver and not just a taker, is a kind of design.

The linkages among friends accounts for how we now enjoy the extraordinary good fortune to have Dana Pellebon as Director and Co-producer of Genealogy nearing its opening on November 5 at Broom Street Theater in Madison Wisconsin. How so? Through a lineage of friendships that stretches back half a century. I first met John Clay over 50 years ago in the Players at Manhattan College in the Bronx where John was a few years ahead of me and an outstanding actor and director. Our friendship continued through lots of changes in our lives so that when Joe Queenan and I wanted a director for Alms, our first Equity showcase production at TheaterLab in May, 2018. John was the obvious and… lucky choice.

That meant that when I decided to stage a reading of Within the Context of No Context, the seminal 1980 New Yorker essay by George WS Trow, I asked John not only to be part of that cast but also to suggest other actors. He introduced me to Quanda Johnson. My connection to Quanda was so immediate and rich that I dared to ask her to read our play Genealogy and consider playing the part of Aaliyah. She said yes and when I told her I really needed to find a director who could help us to bring this work alive in a dynamic but sensitive fashion she introduced me to Dana Pellebon, whom she described in our first joint email as “a force to be reckoned with in the world of Madison theater.” Understatement alert!

The design part of this luck is putting myself in a place where I get to meet wonderful artists and establish links to their lives and work. The luck part is Genealogy gaining the perfect director for this play where secrets in family trees surprise two couples appearing on a ‘reality’ ancestry podcast. Again and again since that first email introduction, I’ve had the opportunity to thank my blessings in gaining Dana as a collaborator for a ‘problem comedy’ in which the characters manage audaciously to conjure a few shocks for each other and their host while also confronting some key culpabilities in our country’s heritage.

One bio describes Dana as “a Madison, WI based activist, artist, and educator.” Even with my acquaintance being fairly recent, I find this description insufficient. Her work in  Madison is already legendary including such important innovations as helping to make a  Black Theater Festival happen there. The breadth of her work encompasses achievements such as directing the powerful Dominique Morisseau play ‘Detroit ‘67 ‘ and being part of the Peach Pies Caburlesque group. She has been a regular director and producer with StageQ and other local theater companies including our wonderful host theater for this production Broom Street. Dana acts sometimes, too, as in in StageQ’s 2018 production of “A Lady and a Woman,” about two Black women who fall into a romantic relationship in a small, late-1800s town.

More recently Dana was one of the organizers of the Loud ‘n Unchained Black Theater Festival. She has served as Chair of the 2020 Magic Pride Festival planning committee and a member of the Outreach board. I have to stop and just say luck is the residue of design and we can’t believe how lucky we are to have Dana Pellebon not only as director but as co-producer of Genealogy. Another piece of luck that we recently heard from Doug Reed , Artistic Director of Broom Street, that we will be able to have a live streamed performance of genealogy available to people all over the country and indeed all over the world as was the case with earlier Knowledge Workings Theater productions. That means everybody else will get to see how lucky we are to have followed the connections to Dana Pellebon.

Genealogy Opens November 5th at Broom Street Theater!

artwork by Kelly Maxwell

Broom Street Theater and Knowledge Workings present A Satire of Inconvenient Family Ties:

“Genealogy”

by T.J. Elliott & Joe Queenan

Directed & Co-Produced by Dana Pellebon

Presented live at Broom Street Theater, Madison, WI

November 5 – November 21, 2021

[Madison, WI — October 18, 2021] Broom Street Theater and Knowledge Workings present a new play by T.J. Elliott and Joe Queenan. The playwriting team’s third and latest effort, Genealogy, explores how a shocking ancestral connection revealed during the taping of a reality podcast which incites a series of surprising negotiations and unanticipated antics among its participants. The host of “Chasing the Dead” is Glenn Weber, a former “influencer” and erstwhile MTV emcee who attempts to finesse his guests – two high-profile, straight married couples, one black and one white – while wrestling with the demands of unseen supervisors in the Control Room. When Mosiah Wilson, a former all-star pro football player and his wife, professor and activist Aaliyah Levin-Wilson, meet home-maker and former prosecutor, ‘Muggs’ Moriarty Hunt and her husband, Hamilton Hunt, a high-profile lawyer whose presumably illustrious family tree is under scrutiny, a power struggle ensues. Individual allegiances seem to sway and shift over culpability for the legacy of slavery and the debate over reparations. For Director and Co-producer, Dana Pellebon, “The play, while a comedy, doesn’t shy away from issues of history, trauma, and paths moving forward. We need more conversations on reparations. We need to voice the pain caused by slavery and how to repair the enormous damage of the current and past history of white supremacy. Art is an important outlet to start conversations. Genealogy does just that.” Genealogy stars Donavon Armbruster, Atticus Cain, Jamie England, Quanda Johnson, and Jackson Rosenberry. Genealogy runs for three consecutive weekends: November 5, 6, 7 November 12, 13, 14 November 19, 20, 21 Tickets available at this site: /

More information available at Broom Street Theater’s Site

Audience members will be required to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination at the door and remain masked at all times while in the building.repair the enormous damage of the current and past history of white supremacy. Art is an important outlet to start conversations. Genealogy does just that.” Genealogy stars Donavon Armbruster, Atticus Cain, Jamie England, Quanda Johnson, and Jackson Rosenberry. Genealogy runs for three consecutive weekends: November 5, 6, 7 November 12, 13, 14 November 19, 20, 21 Tickets available at: https://genealogy.brownpapertickets.com/ More information at http://www.knowledgeworkings.com and https://bstonline.org Audience members will be required to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination at the door and remain masked at all times while in the building. Dana Pellebon has acted, directed, written, and produced for a variety of community and professional theatrical troupes in the Madison area since 2001. She performs in/produces the Madison-based Caburlesque troupe, Foxy Veronica’s Peach Pies. She also produced three shows for the New York International Fringe Festival and is a co-founder of the Loud ‘N Unchained (LNU) Black Theater Festival. In 2021, she co-founded LNU Black Theater Festival and directed Good Bad People for LNU Black Theater Festival, directed 2 pieces in “Network Playwright 10 Play Festival” for Chicago Dramatists, and directed in Forward Theater’s Monologue Festival “Within These Walls”. She produces LGBTQ+ events for OutReach and other local not for profits. This is Dana’s first show with Knowledge Working Theater Company.