Theater offers a chance for people to get together and reflect on what it means to be human.
Phil Martin, theater professor at Edgewood College, has a passion for it, and at the April 4 Waunakee Rotary meeting, he shared how innovation has changed the performing arts, particularly music theater.
In order to innovate, you must first know who you are, and what the real you is.
As an example, Phil said when Disney wanted to take its classic film, “Beauty and the Beast,” to the Broadway stage, the directors considered altering it to reflect Broadway’s dark, cynical side.
Michael Eisner of Disney stepped in and said, “We are Disney; that’s who we are,” Phil related, and so they stayed true to the original film classic.
Driving innovation is curiosity. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote “Hamilton,” was reading a book on Alexander Hamilton on the beach and became curious about how it might translate to a musical. He wanted something revolutionary, and he created a tapestry of musical theater, hip hop and rap woven in. With the stage filled with ethnic diversity, it became a story about America then told through America now, Phil said.
Phil pointed out that many ways exist to accomplish one task, but knowing the rules before breaking them helps with successful innovation.
“It’s all about taking risks, and sometimes, risks will lead to failure,” Phil said.
He cited the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “Oklahoma,” which broke the musical theater formula at the time. It opened not with a chorus line but with a single woman on the stage, and it changed musical theater forever.
Finally, Phil said as we innovate, we do not need to reinvent the wheel but rather to stand on the shoulders of science.
Other News:
–Bob Lenz, one of the greeters, gave his 90 seconds of fame. Bob was one of the club’s charter members. He worked for the canning company in Waunakee for 37 years and after it closed, went to work for Wisconsin Public Radio and Television. He’s now involved with Theater Bus, which takes anywhere from 50 to 100 people to about 37 shows and outings per year.
–LeRoy Adler attended the meeting to present the Rotary Club’s portion of the Super Raffle proceeds, amounting to $900.
–A flyer on each table told of the Rotary Night at the Mallards on June 22. If you have pictures of club members working on projects, share them with Linda Olson. They can be displayed on the jumbo-tron at the Duck Pond. There are 125 tickets available for Rotary members in the area.
–The district conference is June 7-9. For information, visit
–The District Governor’s visit will be a little different this year. In the past, governors have visited each club to deliver an inspirational talk about Rotary. Instead, the district governor will be at Octopi Brewing Sept. 4 for a meet and greet.
Guests: LeRoy Adler, guest of the club; Howard Teeter, guest of Al Langeteig; Phil Martin, speaker;
Visiting Rotarians: None.
Birthdays: None.
Anniversaries: April 12, Phil and Kathy Simon; April 13, George and Lynn Ohlendorf.
Greeters: April 11, Ross Maurer and David May; April 18, Gordy Meicher and Dan Miller; April 25, Ed Niebuhr and George Ohlendorf; May  2, Linda Olson and Cindy Patzner.