Archives for posts with tag: Tami Rentmeester

Rentmeester in The Triumph of the Still

Tami Rentmeester is one of the funniest actors I know.  She’s got the rare ability to send an audience over the edge with a single look.  She’s also got the guts to extend a pause further than it has a right to go.  It takes a special kind of actor to wait a gag out, let it get to that point where it’s not funny and the audience gets uncomfortable, go past the point where most actors break and give in and thus suffer the joke falling flat on its face.  Tami will wait until it’s funny again.  Then she’ll wait a little longer.  Then she’ll wait a bit longer until it’s hysterical.

As such, she’s a hot commodity at Combat.  Not that anyone has a choice, the actors are cast at random, but your day gets a little better when Tami’s in your play.  “Whether Tami is in a play of mine or not, she usually comes to mind during my writing process” says playwright John Van Slyke.  “She’s so versatile and fearless, Tami typically comes to mind for as at least one of the roles. And when she is picked for one of my plays, I know all will be well. Tami brings comfort with many exciting surprises.”

Rentmeester in Fiddler

She’s also a favorite amongst directors.  Katie Cummings has had the opportunity to work with her several times.  “Some of my favorite moments of Tami in Combat are her portrayal of  the madam in the whorehouse that Maclay was interviewing for PBS, playing Sesame Street’s Ernie in Patrick Hollands, “Scalp Those Muppets” and Floyd the Barber in Tony Woods “Triumph of the Still.”  Katie adds, “She’s genuine, she’s the real deal, she has the ability to transform into any character she chooses and she works hard.  Bottom line, she is beautiful inside and out and I can’t imagine doing a Combat without her.”

So who doesn’t like working with Tami?  Just one person: John Maclay.  “I don’t like being in scenes with Tami because she is really quite a bit funnier than I am and I don’t like getting shown up at Combat Theatre.  Each Combat morning I sit and pray that she will be cast across Bo Johnson or Doug Jarecki as she is also funnier than them.  And I have no problem with them getting shown up.”

So enough of the love, let’s have Tami speak for herself.

What first got you involved in theatre?

My folks used to take my brother & me to see the high school musicals when we were little, which is an inexpensive way to introduce your kid to the arts.  I saw Brigadoon when I was only about 4 years old and I was BIT.  HARD.  Plus, we had a ton of cast albums that I listened to all the time.  When I was 12 or 13, a friend’s mom was directing a children’s play for the local community group, and I was cast.  I never really stopped after that.  Weirdly, during high school, I was too chicken to audition for the school shows, but I was continuously doing community theater on the side.

Where did you grow up?

Greendale, Wisconsin.  Or, “The Bubble” as all residents between the ages of 13 and 19 refer to it.

Where did you go to school?
Greendale High School.  No college.  Well, a little bit of UW-Oshkosh for seasoning.  No theater/drama/acting school.  I got all that training in the trenches.

What was your first professional gig?

I was in the chorus of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” for Milwaukee Opera Company.  Which has since changed names a whole bunch of times and may not even exist anymore.  I think I made around $40 or $45.  Woot!  I did a few more shows for MOC, then some Music Under the Stars.  It was a while before I made much more than gas money.  But hey – at the time, $45 bucks filled my Horizon more than 3 times.

Why Milwaukee?

It’s just home.  I’ve never strayed, apart from a brief period travelling for regional stuff.  When I decided  a) It was time to stay in one place.  b) That place will not be New York; it just made sense to stay here.  I like it here.

The first time I met you was on the docks outside of Skylight (I was doing something in the other theatre and we were having a smokey treat).  What show were you doing then?

Ooooh, what was I doing?  I think it had to be A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  Mr. Bo Johnson was in that show, and I believe he is the one who introduced us.  I beat him up every night in Funny Thing.  And my wig was made of yak hair.  Awesome.

Michelle Smith, Bo Johnson and Tami Rentmeester in Forum

You’ve got a great singing voice, were you trained?

Yes, I was trained.  I started out lucky – just accidently sang correctly when belting out Loverboy’s “Get Lucky” album in the living room after school.  But I knew that in order to advance in musical theater I needed real training.  I studied classical technique privately with Patricia Nelson for several years.  I even did the regional Met Auditions.  Holy carp, that was terrifying.  But rewarding.  But seriously terrifying.

Rentmeester as the Fairy Queen in Skylight’s Iolanthe

You’re a great comedian, do you prefer comedy to drama?

I do.  I enjoy drama as well, but comedy’s just more fun.  (Duh)  Plus, I think I’m better at comedy.  I think I’m more believable in funny situations than dramatic ones.  (Or so I assume.  I know people who think I’m hilarious when I’m angry.  I hate them.)

What was your favorite gig?

Am I a brown-noser if I say Combat?  ‘Cause I love that.

Playing Fruma Sarah in Fiddler at the Skylight fulfilled a childhood dream.  I loved doing Honk! at Music Theatre of Wichita, being Ruth in Pirates of Penzance and Sr. Mary Hubert in Nunsense.  ONE real favorite?  Impossible.

Rentmeester in Honk

What was your scariest gig?

See above re: Met Audition.  Not really a gig though.  This:  Michael Wright cast me in “A My Name is Alice,” and he gave me a pretty sizeable monologue.  I was perfectly comfortable standing alone in the middle of the stage to sing.  But to TALK?  It was the first time I was expected to actually TALK that much.  Scared the crap out of me. (thank you for kicking my butt, Michael)

Is there a dream role out there?

I consider myself mostly retired now, so I doubt I’ll ever do it, but there was I time I would have hurt someone for the chance to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

What’s your day job?

I’m a secretary.  I get in trouble when I use that word, but I prefer it.

I’m officially Executive Administrative Assistant in Communications & PR and Assistant Vice President at Baird, a financial services company.  I really love it.

Besides Sheepshead, what else do you enjoy?

I read like it’s a sickness.  I’m such a book nerd that I set myself ridiculous reading challenges with spreadsheets to track & calculate how I’m doing.  It’s embarrassing.  Don’t tell anyone that.

Tami playing Sheepshead with the boys

The year is 1960.  Things are well in America.  We’ve won World War II, survived the Korean War and Vietnam isn’t even on the radar yet.  Jack Kennedy is on the cusp of being elected and leading us into the golden age of Camelot.  CBS seizes upon this season of good will and introduces widower and sheriff Andy Griffith and his son Opie.  Set in the sleepy town of Mayberry North Carolina, Sheriff Andy sets out to clean up…well nothing.  Mayberry is as idyllic a place as you could wish for.  Wisdom is dispensed freely in the barber shop, fish are as fresh and abundant as the good will in the town, and apple pies cool on every windowsill for miles and miles.

Things are perfect in Mayberry…or are they?  Let’s slow that camera down just a wee bit and see what’s really going on.  Wait a minute, what’s that over there?  Is that..yes I believe it is…it’s NAZI’S!  Nazi’s in Mayberry!  For the first time explore what really happened in Mayberry during the Cold War.  It’s Tony Woods’ The Triumph of the Still and it will blow your mind.

Bunny Gumbo presents The Best of Combat Theatre…so far!  Eight of the greatest plays from the last ten years.  One night only, Saturday, December 17th at 8:00pm.  The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MYAC) 325 W. Walnut Street (on the corner of Walnut and MLK Drive.)  Tickets for this special benefit are $25 and available at the door only.  You’ll laugh so hard, you’ll grow a little moustache.

We’re getting close and we’re getting excited.  And when you take a look at who’s performing, you’ll get excited too.  Here’s the lineup:

Logan Adams, Diana Alioto, Libby Amato, Brad Bingheim, Drew Brhel, John Cramer, Katie Cummings, Leah Delaney, Kelly Doherty, Karen Estrada, Susan Fete, Donte Fitzgerald, James Fletcher,Reva Fox, Jeff Frank, Maretes Hein, Tim Higgins, Patrick Holland, Matt Huebsch, Angela Iannone, Pat Ivansek, Doug Jarecki, Bo Johnson, Allison Katula, Robert W.C. Kennedy, Joel Kopischke, Amie Losi, John Maclay, Brittany McDonald, Steve Midthun, Ed Morgan, Emmitt Morgans, Alan Piotrowicz, Nate Press, Diane Rector, Jazz Reed, Randy Rehberg, Tami Rentmeester, Brian Roloff, Cheryl Roloff, Jennifer Rupp, Shannon Sloan-Spice, Charles Sommers, Jeana Stillman, Ted Tyson, Jim Thibodeau, John Van Slyke, Matt Whitmore, Ken Williams, Rachel Williams, Tony Wood and Sara Zientek.

I’m all a tingle!

Friday and Saturday, June 3rd and 4th at 8:00 pm.  The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut.

Single night, $18, Weekend package, $30.

8 Writers, 8 Directors, 30 Actors

16 Plays in 48 Hours

We do it because we can!

And finally…

I’ve only had the good fortune to be paired up with Tami Rentmeester a few times, and this was the most enjoyable such occasion.

Tom Dillon’s variables were a Crossing Guard on Project Runway.  The play also featured Reaca Pearl and Brian Moore.  Also a donkey head from the John Maclay directed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

These are all from a piece written by Chris Abele.  His variables were Fast Dating in a Pet Shop.  That’s Tami Rentmeester as a parrot and a cat and Laura Gray as a poodle and a peacock.  Ka-Zaa!

More pictures from Combat 8.  Here’s Patrick Holland as Pauly Shore.  Jim Thibodeau’s pairing was Clint Eastwood in a Relay Race which turned into something of a celbrity roast.

John Maclay and Tami Rentmeester were featured in this play written by Steven Midthun.  His pairing was Public Access TV on a Chicken Ranch.

There’s Ken Williams making his first appearance in Combat, not as a performer, but as a volunteer from the audience.  The lesson to be learned here is that everything is an audition.  Either that or never, ever volunteer.

These are pictures from the first night of Combat 11.  John Maclay and Sophia Petropolis in a play by Drew Brhel that would have made Noel Coward proud.  This was in The Off-Broadway Theatre and I love how close the crowd is.  Which brings us to night 2…

This is the play Maclay was supposed to be in.   The variables were Goldilocks on an Acid Trip.  Maclay was to play Papa Bear and had been rehearsing all day.  In fact the show had already opened at 8:00 when John got a phone call.  But I’ll let him recollect it himself:

So Here is my story. It may not have happened this way at all. I remember about five minutes from the moment it started to now. But this is how I like remembering it. To paraphrase Eudora Welty, It may not have happened this way, but its true.

It was a long day. June 11th, 2005. It was Saturday, the second day of Combat and everyone was a little loopy-AND my wife was due to give birth to our first child in a mere three weeks. My wife(Sweet Jen) was out playing with her mother and Grandmother doing last minute baby preparations. One last party for me. I was exhausted- though the day had been relatively smooth. Laila, our playwright, confessed that she wasnt sure she had written a great piece- but I disagreed. I thought it was very funny.I think it was Goldilocks on an acid trip- though that entire day is a blur in my memory. I was to play two parts: an over the top hair dresser in a Harvey Firestein mode and a strange, loud
version of Papa Bear. Or mytbe it was one part; Hervey Firestein and Harvey
Firestein on acid thinking he is a bear. It was very esoteric in that way. So all was well.

Then, at about 5 minutes after the show began my wife called. The conversation went something like this (though this may just be a figment of my flawed memory)

Jen: Honey?
Me: Hi Bunny- the show’s about to start, what’s up?
Jen: I think that my water might have broken.
Me: Ok…What does that mean? Like maybe your water broke but maybe you just
peed in your pants? Or do you mean MY WATER JUST BROKE!.
Jen: I dont know.
Me: Cause if its the first one, lets wait a moment before I cancel my play. But if its the second one then I will drive really fast and Fletch will make something work.
Jen: I dont know. I’ve never had my water break before.
Me: What does your gut say?
Jen: I’d really like you to come here now.
Me:OK. I am on my way.
Jen: Wait…I will call you back in 5 minutes

So then I ran upstairs to the second floor of the Off Broadway and eventually found Fletch and said something to him. Something like:

ME: Fletch, Jen called and she thinks that her water broke but she isnt sure so I may have to go but she is calling me back so I might not go if her water didn’t break but I think I might go.

Then Fletch was very calm. And said:

Fletch: John, GO. We’ll be fine. Just go.
Me: I’m waiting for her to call me back because she thinks that her water broke but she isnt sure so I may have to go but she is calling me back so I might not go if her water didn’t break but I think I might go.

Fletch: We’ll be fine. Get out of here.

The rest of the Combat part of this story I only know from others and the miracle of Brian Roloff video. Fletch enlisted my friend Laurie Demoon- longtime part of Bunny Gumbo- to take over my role. So she learned it in an hour and was pretty wonderful.

And 11 hours later Jen gave birth to Jackson Hawkins Maclay. Not Bunny Maclay,
as Fletch informed the audience that night.

By the way, that’s the second time Laurie has had to replace an actor last minute.  That would be Laurie as Papa Bear in the moustache, Logan Adams as Goldilocks and Tami Rentmeester as Mama Bear.

John Maclay directed this play featuring Tony Wood and Doug Balcer, which means that it involved at least one ridiculous fight sequence.  Julie Pandl wrote this play about the Homeless at Wolskis.  This was also Tony’s first stab at the acting thing.

Mondy Carter wrote this piece about Sit-Com Writers in a Womb.  It featured Brian Roloff, Rebacca Merritt and Rebkkah Voss.  Check out the umbilical cords.

John Van Slyke wrote a really sweet piece about Faith Healers in a Silent Film.  The play featured Jennifer Fletcher, Kim Cieszykowski and Robert W.C. Kennedy.

Our first musical.  Tony Wood selected Leonard Nimoy at the Pearly Gates.  He wrote all night and performed the Wolskis piece with no rest.  Having done the same thing, I can’t recommend it.  The play featured Brian Miracle, David Steward and Tami Rentmeester.  One of them knows how to sing.

Here are some more Combat memories for you.  This is Rebecca Merritt and Eric Price in a play about Fast Dating at the Running of the Bulls.  A fine script by Jim Thibodeau.

These next two shots are from a play by Laila Wiechmann, “A Matchmaker to the Finish.”  It involved a Matchmaker in a Bowling Alley.  The first shot is of Sarah Sokolovich.  The second features Tami Rentmeester, Michael DiPadova and Sokolovich.  This was in the Studio Theatre at UWM.  I loved that space.  People would be hanging from the rafters and there was an energy that assured every show of success.