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Community Gathers, Generations Reunite for Alumni Picnic July 14

The village comes together for Shorewood High School's all class reunion including food, drink a tour of the high school's underground tunnel and a tribute performance honoring retired Drama Director and teacher Barbara Gensler.

David Flores, local performer and returning alumnus, wrote in his food request for July 14's all class reunion and community picnic, "Brats, please — they say Milwaukee and summer, don't you think?

"And they always remind me of a silly revue that Sue and David Knudten did years ago called 'Some Like It Brat' (I am not kidding you)."

So goes registration for this summer's most unusual, and special event at the high school, along with a tie-in event — Shorewood's version of Mr. Holland's Opus, a tribute performance for retired drama director and teacher Barbara Gensler.

The day starts with brats, sauerkraut and beer, as well as veggie burgers and gluten free options, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m, as the fourth annual all class reunion and community picnic sponsored by Shorewood's Alumni Association kicks off with live music under the big tent. Jason Braun, class of 1988, performs at 11 a.m., and the duet of Todd Pearson and David Miller, class of 1981 and 79, at 1 p.m. 

The lawn will be home to games and Frisbee for kids and adults, hopefully the Shorewood adult ultimate Frisbee team will join in, too; a silent auction including two original bowling pins and actual parts of the stage and gift baskets with gift cards to many local favorites and haunts, like . The drawing is at 2:15 p.m.

The unique benefit of attending this free admission picnic event is not just the live music, the delicious brats and beer, the games for kids, and the silent auction. It is reliving memories on the front lawn — the event is open to all community members and friends of Shorewood, and the campus. For alumni near and far, it offers the ability to show family and friends the places that you remember, like the “old pool” and the bowling alley, the youth center, the roof … and the thing that only alumni before 1975 remember (after their actions forced the closure) tours of the closed-off underground tunnels. Flashlights and waivers will be provided. Expect to get wet, and a little spooked.

The first all class reunion picnic was thrown by Renee Shavers and Becky Allison in order to be with friends across graduating class lines. Since then, the event has grown and often has other events that tie to the date, every year on the second Saturday in July. This year, Gensler will be celebrated with a tribute from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the SHS Auditorium.

Gensler officially retired in June, after 47 years (including two sabbatical) and over 200 shows. Susan Knudten, SHS Class of 1982, stepped up to coordinate Gensler's tribute performance via her home in Denver, CO. Knudten is a Gensler success story herself, having founded and directed an improvisational comedy theater in Denver in 1987, where she has provided comic relief ever since. Knudten will be debuting an original song (a trio, with two former classmates) that she wrote for a show currently in development in Denver.

Knudten's story blends with many who are coming home to perform this show for Gensler and the community. Some are reprieving hilarious acts that were performed in the 70s. One man is playing the piano. Many, like David and Jerry Zucker, are offering video greetings that will be played in the show. 

Gensler's former students are coming to Milwaukee from all over the country, and even the world, for this event.

"We expect alumni from New York, Dallas, Denver, Boston and Fort Lauderdale," said Knudten. "We've confirmed one from Tokyo and tentatively have another from Germany. The response has been fantastic and the show promises to be amazing."

The volunteer support and enthusiasm for the show has grown to a feverish pitch. Because Gensler did not stop her support of students when they graduated, but kept in touch throughout the many twists and turns of their careers, she has remained an unwavering source of support for many graduates. Arik Luck, class of 1996, stated in his bio, "Barbara Gensler flew to New York to see my final cantor thesis recital after leaving acting behind, and it meant the world to me."

The number of mementos and cards, photographs of spouses and babies and pets sent to her over the years filled her office. Unfortunately during a summer cleanout this past two weeks, while she was in the hospital recuperating from a broken hip, the school disposed of those memories. This tribute performance is well-timed.

Right now, while we wander around Shorewood wondering if it's going to rain or be 100 degrees or what, there are almost 50 people around the country singing quietly in their cubicles at work, grounding themselves, remembering the emphasis Gensler put on their performances years ago. They're packing their bags and "dropping their baggage" (that’s a Gensler thing), focusing their messages on the one woman who is not directing this show, but who will be sitting in the front row (with a microphone … so watch out).

“The performances will be touching, funny, goofy, serious and fun," said Knudten.

The tribute is a kick off to a fundraiser for the Shorewood Drama Department in Gensler's name.

Here is a list of confirmed featured live performers, not a complete list, alpha by last name. 

Many will be singing but we also have a poet, a pianist and a reader's theater performance: Paul Augustine ‘82, David Flores ‘82, Melinda Frenzen ‘81 (known as Mindy MacDonald in HS), Janet Heller ‘67, Bill Hindin ‘72, David Johnstone ‘75, Billy Kahn ’69, Chuck Kahn ’67, Judith Kissel ‘66, D.P. Knudten ‘79, Susan Knudten ‘82, Tim Leslie '78, Vivian Anton Liberatos ‘75, Arik Luck '96, Peter Maris ‘97, Dawn Miller '89, Helen Morrison ‘75, Monica O’Meara ‘75, DeDe Manger Pitrof ‘80, Kathleen Ruen ‘87, Wesley Savick ‘79, Lori Sherman ‘75, Geri Wilkinson ‘75, Maripat Wilkinson ‘74 and more.

The SHS Alumni Association is also compiling a tribute book for Barbara Gensler, which is open to anyone wishing to submit a message to her. The form and online registration have options for this book, and forms will also be available at the tribute performance.

A light reception will be held in the tent on the front following the performance.

Pre-registration for both the picnic and tribute events is recommended, available online at www.shorewoodalumni.org or via mail-in registration. Forms are available on the website, per request at shorewoodalumni@gmail.com, or locally at Shorewood High School’s main office, the , and the . Purchase tickets and/or make additional donations here: www.shorewoodalumni.org.

The scoop on the tribute seating: Shorewood's box office is not handling this event. Tribute tickets are in four levels $25, $50, $100 or $150 and seating will be first-come, first-served by section, which will be determined by number of seats purchased in each category. You may purchase by credit card online, or call the organization’s cell phone at 414-534-6287 to order. Tickets will be available for purchase at the picnic and in the lobby prior to the performance until the capacity is reached. Once the show is sold out, tickets will no longer be available for purchase. Tickets will not be mailed ahead of time, but may be picked up at registration at the picnic. Theatre doors open at 2:45 p.m.

Ticketed alumni and community for both the picnic and tribute are up-to-date on the website at www.shorewoodalumni.org.

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