John McGivern is a funny guy, performance artist, writer and producer. A native of Milwaukee, he focuses his humor and writing on Milwaukee's insider details, and stars in one-man plays and shows about his hometown.
He’s got many, devoted, fans that range from age 2 to 102, and, after meeting him, it’s easy to see why. McGivern has an easy smile and an infectious enthusiasm that makes anything he investigates all the more interesting. His series, Around the Corner with John McGivern, is taping its second season, and focuses on one neighborhood or village each show.
This week, it was Shorewood’s turn.
"When are we on?" you ask. The answer is, look for the Shorewood episode in January when the second season of the successful show airs on MPTV Channel 10. Watch for the schedule to appear here after July 1.
So this week and into next, John McGivern and his producer/director Lois Maurer are peeking around and in to many corners in Shorewood.
I got a chance to be behind the scenes of his visit to Shorewood High School, which commenced early Friday afternoon. It was to be a simple interview with Barb Gensler, followed by Principal Matt Joynt. They also got a full taste of Shorewood’s drama prowess with full sound, as AIDA was mid-run in the second weekend when they came.
On Friday before coming over to the high school, while cast were putting on costumes and makeup and wigs, McGivern and his producer and crew toured local boutique pet groomer, Vanity Fur, and then had lunch at Thirst and Vine down the street. Right after lunch, they arrived at Shorewood High School, thankfully on time to the dot, which allowed the day to run as seamlessly as possible when navigating a cast and crew of over 75 students into an unscripted afternoon project.
McGivern arrived back stage with Maurer and two film crew people, and was greeted by the cast of Aida, in full costumes, wigs, makeup and mics and ready to go. Senior Lydia Hartlaub led as Aida. The cast performed, and the crew expertly adapted, to the improv-like direction of a short take of a big number, which was then immediately repeated in order to capture wide and close shots with one camera.
The ringing of the classroom bell seemed like a strange juxtaposition to the professionalism that belied the ages of cast and crew on stage and behind the scenes. After a rousing version of "The Gods Love Nubia," McGivern joined students on stage, and asked the group, including the other leads in the cast, Henry Cummings and Martha Hellermann, questions about working with Gensler, being in shows, hearing and feeling the love from the audience. He also asked how many planned to go on to pursue drama professionally or in college, and what the demographic of seniors/juniors/sophomores/freshman was. He was impressed at what a young cast it is, for the big chops many already have.
McGivern’s interview with Gensler commenced as a conversation on her stage, followed by one with Joynt outside, in front of the administration building of the school. Two students, Laura Guadagnino and Julia Wilkinson, still in makeup, came to share their affection for McGivern and thank him for the visit. He hopped on to the grass, posed happily for iPhone pictures with them, and then insisted they "friend" him on Facebook. He resumed his interview with Joynt without missing a beat, discussing the spirited Frisbee playing that was occurring in front of them.
You may see him around this weekend or on Monday for a few last stops in Shorewood’s taping. He’ll be at Goody Gourmets, Alliance Francaise, Chattel Changers to list a few. Maybe he’ll stop in at your place — you never know. He’s really going around every corner.
Wherever he goes, McGivern has a smile and an encouraging word and handshake for Milwaukee’s regular people. Shorewood’s episode will be exciting and fun to see.
When the show is ready and the season begins, MPTV does a premier in the community that hosted McGivern during taping. We might even host the premier at Shorewood High School Auditorium, and sell popcorn. Stay tuned and put it in your calendar now. Those episodes are available at the MPTV website for purchase (looks like $15), and Shorewood’s will be no exception.