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Janesville show at JPAC makes you think about life—and death

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Greg Peck
March 18, 2014

Maybe you're not into basketball. If you want to watch something thought-provoking, something besides the latest inane reality or comedy TV show, why not check out “Tuesdays With Morrie” this weekend at the Janesville Performing Arts Center?

The show, performed by Stage One in JPAC's intimate Gallery Theatre, is based on the true story of a remarkable relationship between two men.

As JPAC explains it: “'Tuesdays with Morrie' is the autobiographical story of Mitch Albom, an accomplished journalist driven solely by his career, and Morrie Schwartz, his former college professor. Sixteen years after graduation, Mitch happens to catch Morrie's appearance on a TV news program and learns that his old professor is battling Lou Gehrig's Disease. Mitch is reunited with Morrie, and what starts as a simple visit turns into a weekly pilgrimage and a last class in the meaning of life.”

Gazette readers might realize that Albom's columns appear from time to time in our print product.

As I've written in my blogs before, I'm not a theater critic, but you'd have to be a pretty cold person not to be touched by this performance. Not that the show doesn't involve much humor. Throughout, just two people appear on stage—Zac Curtis as Mitch and Jeff Kelm as Morrie. Directed by Pat Thom, they manage a realistic portrayal of this relationship, which delves into why you should live life to the fullest, take time for the people you're closest to and forgive those who've done you wrong.

Kelm lives in Sheboygan but works in Madison and drove to Janesville several times a week to rehearse. Curtis lives in Janesville and works as an assistant professor of theater and communications at UW-Rock County.

My wife, Cheryl, and I enjoyed their performance last Saturday and stuck around for a post-show chat with the actors and director. I asked the two stars if they had read Albom's 1997 best-selling book, “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Kelm's answer in particular struck me: He said he hadn't read it and, once he was picked for the play, didn't want to read it so it wouldn't alter his efforts to portray Morrie as the theater script intended.

The book had a big impact on my life. Some of you might recall that I posted in my blog last November, to mark the 10th anniversary of his death, a column I wrote about my Uncle Louie Klecker Jr. shortly after he died. Louie was a wonderful man and in many ways my mentor, just like Schwartz was to Albom. I tried to visit Louie weekly as cancer ravaged his body. Instead of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” those visits became my “Thursdays With Louie.”

“Tuesdays With Morrie” concludes this weekend at JPAC. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 21-23. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for seniors. The handling charge is $1 per ticket. Still, if you and your loved one were to go to a movie theater and buy a big soda and tub of popcorn, you'd pay close to that price. A modest meal out might cost you more. My guess is if you instead go to JPAC and support this local theater group, you'll come away with something much more meaningful.

Seating is general admission. Click on janesvillepac.org or call the box office at 608-758-0297.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 



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