By ANNE SIEGEL
Whitefish Bay's Isabelle Kralj and Mark Anderson.
Is it possible to find love and artistic happiness in Milwaukee? Just ask Isabelle Kralj (pronounced "crow-l") and Mark Anderson, the artistic director and associate artistic director, respectively, of Milwaukee Dance Theatre.
Though both artists are Milwaukee natives, their diverse experiences have taken them literally all over the world. Anderson, a theater major in college, went on to receive his Master's Degree in Fine Arts (MFA) from the Michigan School of Art & Design. He studied and worked in Seattle for seven years before returning to Milwaukee. Anderson is best known locally for his performance art pieces. He also teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD). Kralj teaches, too, though her pupils are students at the University School of Milwaukee in River Hills. Her area of the arts is primarily dance. In addition to creating Milwaukee Dance Theatre in 1987, she has worked with a number of other arts organizations in Milwaukee and overseas. As a dancer, she performed in Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia and throughout the United States. She received her Master's degree in Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Anderson has worked with Intertia Ensemble, Boulevard EnsembleStudio Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks and Theatre X. Kralj has worked with First Stage Milwaukee, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Florentine Opera, Bel Canto Chorus and, like Anderson, Theatre X.
Working in Milwaukee has been both a blessing and a curse, Kralj admits. While Milwaukee Dance Theatre has attracted a loyal audience, it's probably not as large as it would be in other cities that are more accustomed to seeing multi-disciplinary performance work. However, she says she and Mark are grateful for all the professional recognition they've received over the years. Kralj received a new choreography award from the Wisconsin Arts Board; Anderson has received a number of commissions and twice won the Wisconsin Arts Board Interdisciplinary Arts Fellowship. Kralj is alsointensely proud of the Milwaukee Dance Theatre's status as an associate member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).
The company officially will open its 15-year anniversary production this month, with a restaging of "It's a Wonderful Life." The production will be staged at Marquette University's Helfaer Theatre on Dec. 13-17.
Most audiences are familiar with the famous holiday film of the same name, starring the late Jimmy Stewart. The Milwaukee Dance Theatre's version keeps fairly close to the movie script, although it intersperses dance sequences with stretches of dialogue. It is suitable for families and children of all ages.
"We believe we've developed a clever twist on how the story is told," Kralj says.