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"The Caucusian Chalk Circle"

by Bertolt Brecht

(By Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Sept, 1997)

Mr. Blink, a local rock band, is no stranger to University of Wisconsin -LaCrosse theater. The band played in UW-L productions of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Working." Band member Nancy Stoll, a 1992 UW-L graduate in music education, was the music director of UW-L's production of "Hair" and used some band members in the musical. But when Frank Bradley, chairman of UW-L's theater department, heard Mr. Blink, he had something different in mind this time.

Bradley, the director, wanted the rock band to write the score for Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," which opened last weekend at Toland Theater. The band thought it would be fun and challenging to compose a score.

Bradley said he and the band did exactly what Brecht and his composer buddies did in his day - got together to write music for his play using the popular music of the day. "I gave us a chance to be creative," Bradley said in an interview before the play opened. "There are certain songs that just click and send shivers up your spine and songs we're still feeling our way through. It's an exciting, creative process."

Mr. Blink is a tight band that clicks very quickly, Bradley said. Mike Caucutt, who plays guitar and sings lead vocals, was the primary writer of the score which includes 26 songs. The words were translated from German to English and the meter is different, and Caucutt said the most difficult part was getting all the words into the songs.

"Just the volume of songs took a lot of time and making them all sound different and unique was a challenge," Caucutt said. "Also trying to match the mood was difficult," he said. "When there is a sad moment on stage, sometimes you're playing happy music." He said he wrote four or five songs a week for the last two months. Some songs have an Eastern flavor, but some have snippets of Mr. Blink, Caucutt said.

The band also interacts with the actors on stage. Stoll said the band liked the challenge and the work. "We didn't need the gigs," Stoll said. The band gave up two weekends of gigs to do the play. Besides Stoll and Caucutt, other band members are Tim Konczakowski, drums; Eric "Guido" Lemon; and Joe "Cowboy" McCartan, saxophone, percussion.

The band has been together since 1989 and got its name from an episode of The People's Court on television when Mr. Blink was a witness for a defendant and never was allowed to speak. Mr. Blink plays all over LaCrosse and is seen frequently at the Haberdashery.

The band has also played Madison, Sheboygan and other parts of the state. Their musical style is big river, rhythm rock mixed with folk and reggae. "Everyone had a blast doing this play," McCartan said.Caucutt said the band might play parts of the score at times for the fun of it at gigs. But Stoll said, "This is the only time the show will be done like this." 

Mr. Blink has recorded two cassette tapes and will release its first CD, with 14 songs, in a couple of weeks. "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" continues today through Sunday.


(By Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Sept, 1997)

UW-L's theater department staged a delightful, entertaining production of Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" last weekend. Director Frank Bradley put together colorful staging and costumes and a talented cast that drew enthusiastic applause. Mr. Blink's wonderful score of 26 songs that complemented acomplex play. The band's performance, led by Caucutt and Stoll, was electrifying as the music and songs set the tone for the play.

Chelsey Peterson as Grusha, a peasant woman who is left to care for a noble child after a revolution, was fantastic in an emotional role.

Brian Roloff, a UW-L graduate, was sensational as the drunken judge, Azdak, who decides the fate of the child when the natural mother returns following a revolution. Roloff played his role with a wide variety of subtleties of a great actor and took over the stage with a fun-loving twist to his character. He and Peterson were ably supported by a convincing cast.

"The Caucasian Chalk Circle" was the best of Brecht last weekend. People in the audience enjoyed the music and the drama and they left liking Brecht and the UW-L production. The play, which continues today through Sunday, is worth seeing.