McMann & Tate Productions is the resident comedy troupe of the Cedarburg Cultural Center. Many people don’t know that. But the nearly 500 fans (“Taters”) that packed the Center in mid-December for “Instant Fruitcake” sure know it. And love it. The Center has been the fortunate recipient of Tater Love since 2000. Four times a year, the McMann & Tate crew—often with Tater Tots (read “children”) in tow—takes over the Center for weeks of evening rehearsals culminating in a weekend of hilarity. (Click here to Yuck It Up via YouTube.)
I had asked troupe co-founder Vance Edwards for some insights and history of the group. Additionally, I was able to reach into our archives and find a decades-old press release that—taken together—gives us a pretty rounded (and only slightly revisionist) history of McMann & Tate.
According to Vance, “In the late part of the twentieth century, Spring 2000, a group of friends went to see a theater production. Midway through the performance, Phyllis Lukas and Carrie Edwards turned to their husbands, Jeff Lukas and Vance Edwards, and whispered, ‘If you two think you're so funny, why don't you guys go write your own show. Now shut-up! We're trying to watch the play!’ And from that, McMann & Tate Productions was born.
“After sweet-talking, blackmailing and bribing others to join the group, the next step was to find a place to put on the show. Soon a deal was made with the Cedarburg Cultural Center to perform an off-beat, comedy holiday show called The Holidays (Some Assembly Required).
“Next, this theater group needed a name. Many monikers made the first draft, including Cliffs of Insanity Productions, Beyond Parsley, and What Are You Looking At Productions. All were shot down by the groups' voting spouses. Then one day, the day that followed the night they stopped letting spouses vote, McMann & Tate Productions (remember the old TV show, Bewitched?) was agreed upon.”
Both Jeff and Vance had been part of Cedarburg Players. “We wanted to branch out and do something different than Rogers and Hammerstein and Neil Simon,” continued Vance. “Nothing against those type of shows. Very popular and well written shows, and worth seeing, but we were just done doing them.”
This is a creative bunch. Even the titles of the shows make you laugh:
· The BiPolar Express
· Bologna Quesadillas (and other reasons you’re single)
· The Love Handle Monologues
And then there’s “Tomato Dodgeball,” an annual Improv extravaganza and fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The word Improv means impromptu or unrehearsed. That’s a bit of a misnomer. Sure, the group never knows what the audience is going to throw at them (tomatoes are discouraged), but Improv is hard work, and it takes a lot of practice to make it look like a bunch of really funny guys and gals just horsing around on a Saturday night.
You know the type: These were the kids who probably spent a lot of time being escorted (by the ear) down to the principal’s office by a decidedly not-amused, long-suffering English teacher. But these kids were probably the best and brightest in that class! McMann & Tate's first original full-act play, "Family, Frying Pans & the FBI," went on to win two national play writing competitions and was performed by theater groups in Vermont and New Jersey. McMann & Tate has also done murder mysteries and children's shows, and although they have performed at other venues from time to time, “the Cultural Center remains our home.”
Your next opportunity to see McMann & Tate will be “Tomato Dodgeball: CFF FUNdraiser” on April 14, 2012, beginning at 6 pm. Tomatoes may be consumed but not thrown.
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