We trust the text.
We break down the script, we study the verse,
and we present the best version of the story.
Our bread and butter is Shakespeare - we are HUGE Shakespeare nerds. Like, sit at the bar and debate character motives while getting more and more excited with each pint, kind of nerds. But that means we know our stuff. We know the characters. We know the plot. We know the verse. We fiercely love these shows. So we examine the scripts and trim them to be as clear as we can for a modern audience. We never change the text - we just make sure there is less of it.
We have fun.
We don't take ourselves too seriously.
Listening to us talk about how Shakespeare is the greatest playwright in the history of the world is about as much fun as listening to your drunk uncle talk about politics. We don't want to do that. We just want you to understand what we are saying. Look at it this way, we'll be having fun on stage telling this great story and we invite you to share the evening with us. So let's raise a glass so we can laugh and cry together.
Our casts are small for Shakespeare standards - typically 8-10 actors will portray all of the characters; and, because we trust the text we know that it doesn't matter what you look like. It matters that you can play the characters intention. When Shakespeare wrote these scripts, the audience saw men dressed in drag playing the love interests and that didn't stop Romeo and Juliet from becoming "the greatest love story ever written". (Debatable, but we will save that for the bar!) Our city is diverse, our lives are diverse, we want our stage to reflect that.
We believe that everyone has a right to tell their story.
We cast the best actor for the part -
regardless of age, race, gender, ability or identity.
Mad Rogues is a theater company based in Milwaukee, WI that hosts two series of performances throughout the year.
The first series, known as Bard & Bourbon, consists of classic Shakespearean plays performed with a twist. Before the performance begins a pre-selected actor consumes several shots of bourbon. Yes, you read that correctly! This is commonly known as "Drunk Shakespeare". While we did NOT invent the idea we fell in love with it. If you are asking yourself WHY? Keep reading below.
The second series, known as Gravediggers, was created in 2019 with the intention to move beyond just "Drunk Shakespeare" and to open our doors to those members of our community that might not be interested in watching a drunk Shakespearean performance. We understand that not everyone is comfortable in an environment where getting someone drunk is a part of the spectacle.
We felt it was important to continue to grow because what we offer is unique. Most people that experience a Bard & Bourbon show for the first time will agree with you. This is not something you see everyday. But why is that?
Because something amazing happens when an drunk actor lets go just a little bit - the other performers listen harder - the audience perks up in their seats - and when the words finally pour out of them it's like everyone in the room is hearing them for the very first time. "To be or not to be" are no longer just words on the page but they are an experience soaked in bourbon and brought to life.
Letter from our Founder:
It’s hard to believe it’s already been five years since I first convinced a group of brave friends to join me in getting drunk while attempting to do great, fully staged Shakespeare. Since then it’s been incredibly rewarding to see the company grow artistically while retaining the same spirit. Now it’s time for our biggest change yet, one which we hope you’ll be as excited about as we are.
Beginning this season, our beloved drunk shows will be joined by a selection of classic works performed stone cold sober. Both will be produced under the new company name Mad Rogues. The new name comes from Hamlet, as a nod to where we started.
For our loyal fans who don’t want us to change, don’t worry!
Our Mad Rogues drunk show experiences will be called the Bard & Bourbon Series, so simply look for the familiar title and you’ll find the same familiar drunk format that made us who we are. For those who love what we do but wish we didn’t have to include the alcohol, look for the Gravediggers Series which will feature “bare bones” productions of classics from around the world. For those who simply love the classics, drunk or dry, look for our new Mad Rogues logo (debuting on Facebook later this week) to catch ALL our shows. No matter which style of shows you attend, you can expect our usual focus on character, humor, clarity, and heart.
Thank you to everyone who has taken this journey along with us for the past five years. We can’t wait to share these next exciting steps with you
Letter from the Artistic Director:
Greetings and salutations! Welcome to the inaugural season of Mad Rogues, an expansion and natural offspring of the fun and adventurous Bard & Bourbon. In an effort to spread our wings and embrace more and more of the theatre-going community, we will feature not only the ever-popular drunken-style Shakespeare in our Bard & Bourbon Series, but also non-alcoholic productions in what we are calling our Gravediggers Series.
We have a wide-ranging selection of Shakespeare’s works to explore this season—from romance to history, from tragedy to comedy—but the one central theme connecting all of the plays this season is the exploration of “other-ness.” How does one exist in a world where one is viewed as different or strange or even dangerous? Each play revolves around a central character who is set apart from the society in which they live, either because of their religion, race or culture—in The Merchant of Venice and Othello—or because the character’s unique individuality does not fit into the expected norms of behavior—in Richard II and The Taming of the Shrew.
The predicament of those viewed as “other” has been a part of human life for as long as we have chosen to form communities. How does the “other” survive, or not survive? How does the “other” adjust, or fail to adjust? How does the “other” remain true to oneself, if even possible? And what does society’s treatment of the “other” say about the world in which they live? … and ultimately, about us?
Join us on this journey through the diverse, expanding universe of Shakespeare!
J. T. Backes
J. T. Backes