American Players Theater and Spring Green Ties Lead to Group of Filmmakers | Arts and theater

It was a bittersweet day last month when the “We’ll Want for Nothing” crew set up their filming gear and lighting equipment in a barn in Reedsburg.

But after stripping off winter coats and knitted beanies to reveal their well-worn costumes, well-known stage actors Kelsey Brennan as Addie and Colleen Madden as Charlotte filmed a pivotal scene. while the cameras were rolling.

While filming at a farm in Reedsburg, Kelsey Brennan, center, who plays the character of Addie, applies fake blood to her body with the help of hair and makeup artist Galina Emmerich.


The 10-minute film “We’ll Want for Nothing”, currently in post-production, is the latest project from a collective of artists born out of the relationship between Spring Green and the highly acclaimed classical theater company American Players Theatre. The key players in the group are Brennan and Marcus Truschinski, writer and actor Eric Schabla, cinematographer and director Jack Whaley and director Jake Penner.

Once “We’ll Want for Nothing” hits the film festival circuit, “our next step will be to start a film production company” — one based in the Midwest, Truschinski said. “Although we don’t have a name yet, we have a cohesive vision and a very committed and experienced group of people.”

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Kelsey Breenan on camera with Eric Schabla and Jack Whaley

Wearing a coat over her costume as Addie’s character Kelsey Brennan, left, reviews a scene with director Eric Schabla and co-director Jack Whaley. The three are part of a team working on a series of fictional shorts based in the Midwest.


“We’ll Want for Nothing” is the brief mid-20th century story of Addie, “a hardened rancher”, struggling to conceal a devastating loss from her older sister Charlotte, who is visually impaired.

The team previously created the original 25-minute film “One Foot In,” a tale of two grave robbers in the 1800s starring Truschinski and veteran APT actor James DeVita. “One Foot In” was performed outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, at a time when live theatrical performances had stopped, including the summer 2020 season for APT.

Galina Emmerich at the head of Colleen Madden

Hair and make-up artist Galina Emmerich, left, assists Colleen Madden, who wears contact lenses that make her eyesight difficult, while filming in Reedsburg. Madden plays the visually impaired character Charlotte in the upcoming original short.


“The pandemic was really the biggest starting point for all of this,” said Truschinski, a member of APT’s main society. “All of a sudden we had a free summer. We had all been really, really interested in film (and said) ‘Let’s try to produce something.’

Schabla, an APT actor who had started writing screenplays, presented them with the screenplay he had written for “One Foot In”. Soon the band was spinning.

creative exchange

“A lot of us come from the theater,” Schabla said. “And I think we’re all realizing right now, especially during the pandemic, how these major storytelling media – theater, film, TV – are kind of on a collision course.”

Jake Penner and Jenna Wilcox watch the shoot

Producer Jake Penner, right, and consulting producer Jenna Wilcox watch from a screen as an original short was filmed on a farm in Reedsburg last month.


“There’s more creative interchange than ever before,” said Schabla, who will attend an American Film Institute screenwriting program in the fall. “I think people are realizing that this media intersection is kind of a rising tide that’s lifting all the ships.”

Madden and Brennan’s long acting history as APT actors has enriched their performances in the group’s latest film, Truschinski said.

“The APT actors in particular have so much experience with that kind of language, and we’re dealing with a set all the time. You build that family,” he said.

“Colleen and Kelsey, playing sisters, and knowing each other so well, I felt that a lot of the subtext work (in ‘We’ll Want for Nothing’) could be done with a shortcut, because they know each other so well, their relationship is so believable.

Kelsey Brennan and Jack Whaley prepare to shoot a scene

Kelsey Brennan, who plays Addie, center, with co-director Jack Whaley, left, prepares to shoot a scene while filming an original short on a farm in Reedsburg.


The APT’s cast and technical artists traditionally work hard from spring to early fall on productions at the APT’s outdoor theater or its new indoor Touchstone Theater in Spring Green. During the winter, they sometimes find work with other theater companies in the area. But the cinema offers yet another outlet for their talents.

Screen with film clip

Kelsey Brennan, who plays Addie, appears on a screen while filming an original short film at a Reedsburg farmhouse in April.


“We have these great artists who have been working for years and years and years — in that kind of isolation, to be honest,” Schabla said. “These APT artists are at the top of their game, but in the winter it felt like there was this void that could be filled with something that could keep people creatively active, but also get them to use a different set of muscles.”

The film collective is an entity in its own right and entirely separate from APT, though APT has offered support such as costumes for “We’ll Want for Nothing,” Schabla said.

Kelsey Brennan and Colleen Madden warm up next to a fireplace

Wearing coats and hats over their suits, Kelsey Brennan, front, and Colleen Madden warm up in front of a fireplace before shooting a scene in the barn of a Reedsburg farmhouse for an upcoming short film.


“Midwestern Sensitivity”

“We’ll Want for Nothing” and “One Foot In” were shot outdoors “sort of out of necessity” because of the pandemic, but both have a rich, rural Midwestern aesthetic.

“I think we’re interested, as a collective, in telling stories rooted in that rural Midwestern sensibility,” Schabla said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we always have to shoot in the middle of the woods. There are all kinds of vibrant cities and locations to film in. But there’s something about the humility of the Midwest, how understated it is, that lends itself to cinema and lends itself to less sexy, less catchy contextual screenwriting, and hopefully goes to a deeper place. .

movie still from

An excerpt from the film “We’ll Want for Nothing”, currently in post-production.


“This area of ​​the country is often described as – it’s something that’s been made fun of a lot,” Truschinski said.

“I feel like a lot of the stories (of movies) are based on what people do on the coasts. We want to highlight the beauty of this part of the country, but also its diversity. The Midwest doesn’t is not just one thing.

“There’s a natural resilience in people who choose to make this place their home,” he said. “And our first two movies are about that.”

“We’ll Want for Nothing” and “One Foot In” are the band’s first efforts to build a film portfolio, in hopes it will lead to bigger things.

“We have partnered with Arts Wisconsin,” a registered nonprofit that serves as a tax collector for donations, Truschinksi said.

“It was a huge boon for us and gave us a lot of confidence.” Arts Wisconsin “immediately got back to us and said, yeah, there really isn’t anything like that, a non-profit film production company, in the state.”

Direct donors, crowdsourcing and the partnership with Arts Wisconsin helped cover the cost of more than $50,000 to produce “One Foot In” and some $20,000 for “We’ll Want for Nothing.”

“We also have a full idea bank in Google Drive” for future projects, Schabla said. “We have other things in the works – always.”

Tale of Two Sisters is the latest story from this group of Midwestern theater professionals turned filmmakers.

About Marion Alexander

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