Skylight hires Ponasik in the hope it can expand its traditional audience

Skylight Music Theatre has made a very interesting announcement with the appointment of Jill Anna Ponasik as Artistic Associate.

Ponasik, who has  roots in the world of opera – although she has clearly expanded what opera means in Milwaukee – will join Ray Jivoff, the new Artistic Director at Skylight, artist who has roots in musical theatre.
It should be an interesting pairing and may well expand the audience for Skylight.
Opera fans in Milwaukee frequently sneer at Skylight and it’s productions that the hard-core opera fans regard as “opera light.” These fans have stayed away in droves, but the combination of Jivoff and Ponasik may well prove to have broader appeal. Both have established solid reputations in Milwaukee and will surely tap into that for artistic decisions.
I wouldn’t want to bet against this pairing bri
Here’s the release from Skylight.
Milwaukee, Wis. (September 1, 2017) – Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director Ray Jivoff today announced that Jill Anna Ponasik will join Skylight as Artistic Associate effective Sept. 5, 2017.
Ponasik will continue her role as producing artistic director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre, a company she has guided since 2009. In her part-time position as Skylight artistic associate, she will work closely with Jivoff and Skylight staff to develop and implement Skylight’s strategic, artistic and educational programming and priorities.
“Jill Anna has a long history with Skylight as a director, performer and supporter, and we are thrilled that she will officially be part of our company,” said Jivoff. “She has such a deep passion and knowledge of opera and music theatre and is respected and loved in this community. On a personal level, I am delighted to welcome my dear friend and colleague.”
Ponasik’s prior relationship with Skylight includes directing Tosca (2015) and Cinderella (2014), producing a Skylight cabaret called The One Stop Opera Shop (2013), performing in La Boheme(2008) and Pirates of Penzance (2009) and working on Skylight’s Standard Songbook school touring show as both a performer (2008) and assistant director (2009).
In more than 30 productions at Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT), Ponasik has collaborated with community partners in dance, theatre and music to expand access to opera and support artists and their work in lyric theatre.
“Ever since I saw Man of La Mancha as a kid at the old Skylight space, I’ve been hooked on the Skylight,” said Ponasik, referring to the 1990 production that ran in Skylight’s old theatre on Jefferson Street, housed in a converted tire garage. “I didn’t recognize its uniqueness until I left Milwaukee. I had thought it was normal for a city to have a company that performs operas, cabarets and musicals. I am thrilled to join the Skylight staff and cannot wait to work with Ray,” she said.
Ponasik fills the artistic staff position left vacant when Jivoff was named artistic director in March 2017.
Collaboration on The Tales of Hoffmann
Jivoff also announced that MOT will collaborate with Skylight on The Tales of Hoffmann, to be directed by Ponasik, and presented March 16-29, 2018 in the Cabot Theatre.  The partnership will feature a new libretto/adaptation by MOT’s Danny Brylow, which will be developed in collaboration with opera students at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, where Ponasik will be part of the adjunct faculty for the 2017-18 year. Ponasik describes the imaginative new adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann as a kinetic retelling made specifically for the Cabot Theatre.
Skylight will partner with MOT on their Voice Labs program, a free, intimate, educational performing opportunity for both professional and avocational opera and music theatre singers. Ponasik said she expects to tap into Voice Labs as part of the development process of the new version of The Tales of Hoffmann.
“Jill Anna is an exceptionally creative and joyful artist who inspires and motivates everyone around her,” said Jack R. Lemmon, Skylight’s executive director. “Having her be an official part of our exceptional existing team of artists translates into more good news for Skylight. We continue to strengthen and grow both financially and artistically as we near our 60th birthday. I can’t wait to see what Ray and Jill Anna come up with next!”
About Jill Anna Ponasik
As producing artistic director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT), Jill Anna Ponasik revels in the opportunity to direct, perform, program, and support artists and their work. She has worked on more than 30 MOT productions, including A Chorus Line, presented last month; a one-night-only version of 1776 featuring 26 performers in Turner Hall in 2016; a percussion playground version ofThe Mikado (2015 and 2017) and Zie Magic Flute, adapted by Danny Brylow and winner of a 2017 Footlights Award. Ponasik has been actively engaged in working with community partners in dance, theatre, and music to generate new work and create innovative productions of existing work that aim to transform the landscape of contemporary lyric theatre – with a special emphasis on artists who live and work in the Milwaukee area.
Projects have included 26 – a fantasy inspired by Italian songs and arias, a toy-theatre production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, Jason Powell’s comic opera Fortuna the Time Bender vs. The Schoolgirls of Doom, Dominic Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, Nautilus Music-Theatre’s Meditations on Arion, the tango-opera Maria de Buenos Aires, a classroom Candide, The Eurydice Project – a three-year collaboration with Carroll University, the rock recital Guns N’ Rosenkavalier, the world premiere of Kamran Ince’s Judgment of Midas, Walton and Sitwell’s Façade, and a L’Enfant et les Sortiléges that was built out of trash.
Ponasik has maintained a commitment to new work, fresh approaches to the classics, and working with excellent, innovative companies throughout her career. As a performer, she has appeared in productions with Nautilus Music-Theater, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Skylight Music Theatre, VocalEssence, Theatre Latte Da, Skylark Opera, Ohio Light Opera, Bronx Opera, New Dramatists, Alchemist Theatre, and Milwaukee Opera Theatre among others. As a director and collaborator she has worked with Milwaukee arts groups, including Renaissance Theatreworks, In Tandem Theatre, and Wild Space Dance Company. Ponasik has received awards from The Metropolitan National Council Auditions, The Schubert Club of St. Paul, Milwaukee’s Civic Music Association and the Wisconsin and Minnesota chapters of NATS. She holds degrees from the University of Minnesota and the Rice University Shepherd School of Music.

About davebegel@gmail.com

Theater Critic in Milwaukee.
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