First Stage presents WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE Jan. 13-Feb. 5

Contact Erica Davis (414) 267-2931 or

a world premiere play by Sheri Williams Pannell


January 13 – February 5, 2017

Todd Wehr Theater, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

Presented in partnership with the Bronzeville Advisory Committee, the Bronzeville
Cultural and Entertainment District and artist Della Wells.

Written and directed by Sheri Williams Pannell


This play is suggested for families with young people ages 8-16+

Supported in part by a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board and the

Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

Funded in part by a grant from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America
Sponsored by the Burke Foundation


Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Cycle, First Stage’s new play development initiative honoring the local history and heritage of Wisconsin, concludes with WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE by Milwaukee playwright Sheri Williams Pannell, January 13 – February 5, 2017. Performances take place at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street, downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center box office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at


  1. The heart of Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood pulses to the beat of Jazz and doo-wop. Everyone expects Michael Jr. to follow in his father’s footsteps, but is this who he is truly meant to be? The local talent show, a visit by iconic jazz singer Billie Holiday (played by Malkia Stampley), and the wisdom and guidance of a community seeking to lift up their young people help Mike find the path to the man he will become.

“In the play, a young African American man is struggling to find his place in his home, his community, and what it means to truly be ‘a man.’ His parents, siblings, the local police sergeant, and friends all have expectations for him, but ultimately he must decide which path he will take,” said playwright and director Sheri Williams Pannell. “By sharing his journey and the choices he makes, I hope to inspire young people and families of all races to forge their own journey of self-discovery, re-examine the choices they make and their influences, and find ways to connect with and celebrate their unique cultural heritages.”

Though not a musical, the play features songs of the period and original music by Sheri Williams Pannell and local composer John Tanner, bringing the songs (including Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child”), voices, and unique artistry of this African American community to life onstage. Many other elements contribute to creating the world of WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE. Milwaukee artist Mutope J. Johnson’s artistic renderings add to the scenic design (by Sarah Hunt Frank) with depictions of real people who were an integral part of Bronzeville. In addition, Sheri Williams Pannell developed the play with input from elders in the Bronzville community, their voices lending to the authenticity of this rich, multi-layered piece.


Sheri Williams Pannell (Director and Playwright) made her debut at First Stage as Sojourner Truth in A WOMAN CALLED TRUTH.  Since then, she has appeared in A MIDNIGHT CRY, SMOLDERING FIRES, THE WIZ, HOLES, PERSEUS BAYOU, THE HUNDRED DRESSES and CLICK, CLACK, MOO and directed the productions TO THE PROMISED LAND, MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS and THE WATSON’S GO TO BIRMINGHAM – 1963. Her additional directing credits include productions at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Skylight Music Theatre, Old Lyric, United Nations/UW Madison, University Theater, Madison Rep, University Opera, Children’s Theatre of Madison, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, and Uprooted Theatre. Pannell has performed with Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Rep, In Tandem, Skylight Music Theater and Old Lyric Rep. She is First Stage’s Dramaturge and Education Department lead teacher. Sheri is a founding member of the Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and belongs to Calvary Baptist Church, co-directing In the Beginning Was the Word Drama Ministry. A graduate of Spelman College, Sheri also holds a master of fine arts degree in theater and drama – directing from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The professional actor cast of WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE includes Dominique Worsley* as Sgt. Chaney; Gavin Lawrence* as Michael Sr.; Malkia Stampley* as Billie Holiday; Samantha Montgomery* as Irene; James Carrington as Mr. Jones/Male Understudy, and First Stage Fellow Lachrisa Grandberry as Cleopatra/Female Understudy. *Member of Actor’s Equity Association.

Young performer roles are double cast. Young performers in the Flame Cast include Collin Woldt (Mike) from Muskego; Joshua Allen-McConnell (Reuben), Derrick Sanders (Harry), Aziz Draper (Freddy), Kellzhei Hurn-Williams (Johnny), Anthony Wells (Alvaro), and Kaysha Gail (Debbie) from Milwaukee; Ashley Nord (Patty) from Glendale; Miles Coppage (Obie) from Wauwatosa; and Lukas Czerwinski (Jake) from Greenfield.

Young performers in the Regal Cast are Kamani Graham (Mike), Nahjee Robinson (Reuben), Isaiah Martin (Harry), Braylen Stevens (Freddy), Noel Rubalcava (Alvaro) and Makayla Davis (Debbie) from Milwaukee; Michael Loomans (Obie) from Slinger; Deyki Miller (Johnny) from Waukesha; Lonnae Hickman (Patty) from Thiensville; and Mason Sammarco (Jake) from Bayside.

The Artistic Staff for WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE includes: Laura Lynn MacDonald (Assistant Director/Dramaturg); Daryl Harris (Costume Designer); Sarah Hunt-Frank (Scenic Designer); Mutope J. Johnson (Scenic Art Collaborator); Greg Hoffman (Lighting Designer); John Tanner (Sound Designer); First Stage Fellow Giana Blazquez (Choreographer); Anne Jude (Stage Manager); and Julia Xiong (Assistant Stage Manager).

Special events and extended talkbacks are held in conjunction with most performances. For a complete schedule, please visit Highlights include:

Friday, January 13, 2017
Following the opening night performance, First Stage invites all patrons to attend the Opening Night Reception at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located one mile from the Marcus Center at 325 W. Walnut Street. Patrons can mix and mingle with the cast and crew of WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE while enjoying refreshments, courtesy of First Stage.

On view January 13 – February 5, 2017
Friday, January 20:
Extended hours (5 – 9 pm) and artist’s market for Gallery Night
This visual art exhibition features artworks by Milwaukee African American artists Willie Weaver-Bey, Blance Brown, Bennie Higgins, Mutope J. Johnson and others. Curated by Della Wells.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Pay What You Choose Performance at 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, January 21, 2017, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center
In collaboration with First Stage, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and, the Milwaukee Historical Society, join us for a lively presentation and panel discussion to explore the importance of jazz in building community. Moderated by Ben Barbera, Milwaukee County Historical Society curator, with music by Sheri Williams Pannell and MYSO’s Bronzeville Jazz Quartet (BJQ).

Saturday, January 21 immediately following the 7:00 p.m. performance
The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and leaders in the African American community will host a facilitated conversation on the Jewish and African American common history in Bronzeville and how these two communities can work together to help solve Milwaukee’s segregation and divisiveness.






Location:  Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water Street, Milwaukee


Dates:  January 13 – February 5, 2017


Description: 1957. The heart of Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood pulses to the beat of Jazz and doo-wop. Everyone expects Michael Jr. to follow in his father’s footsteps, but is this who he is truly meant to be? The local talent show, a visit by iconic jazz singer Billie Holiday, and the wisdom and guidance of a community seeking to lift up their young people help Mike find the path to the man he will become. Developed with the input and support of the elders in the Bronzeville community, join us for this homage to this historic and revered neighborhood, revealing a humorous and touching tale of growing up, finding one’s true self, and the power of community. Suggested for families with young people ages 8-16+


  • Friday, January 13 at 7:00 p.m. – OPENING NIGHT
  • Saturday, January 14 at 3:30 & 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 15 at 1:00 & 3:30 p.m.
  • Monday, January 16 at 3:30 p.m.  – PAY WHAT YOU CHOOSE
  • Saturday, January 21 at 3:30 & 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 22 at 1:00 & 3:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 28 at 3:30 & 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 29 at 1:00 & 3:30 p.m.
  • Friday, February 3 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 4 at 3:30 & 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 5 at 1:00 p.m.

Ticket and information:
Tickets start at $15. Call (414) 273-7206 or online at

ASL Interpreted Performance:
Sunday, February 5 at 1:00 p.m. – this performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive listening devices are also available at the Todd Wehr Theater.




About First Stage
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in the 2016-2017 season, First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young audiences and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs use theater to promote active learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students throughout southeastern Wisconsin each year.  In 2012, First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. First Stage is the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award in 2013 and 2015, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts. First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).

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