Elaine Rewolinski (left), shown with Susie Duecker and Joe Dolan, is directing “The Jeweler’s Shop,” which was written by the eventual St. John Paul II in 1960. (Photo by Alexandria Eggert)
For decades, the stage has been one of Elaine Rewolinski’s favorite places.
A native Milwaukeean, born in 1960 as the seventh of eight children, and a member of Blessed Sacrament parish, Rewolinski took advantage of what she calls “wonderful opportunities for performing” in high school at the now shuttered St. Mary’s Academy.
Those opportunities included acting in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” Also as a high schooler, Rewolinski performed at the venerable Pabst Theater with the Milwaukee Players community theater group in the musical “110 in the Shade.” More roles on other stages were to follow.
Rewolinski earned a bachelor’s degree in theater and communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983 and a master of fine arts degree in drama from the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1987. While at Arizona, she appeared as an extra in an episode of the Michael Landon television series “Highway to Heaven.” Rewolinski said, “You can see me behind the guest stars in a couple of scenes.”
During the decade that followed her university studies, Rewolinski worked in marketing for the Louisville Children’s Theatre Company, obtained teacher certification through Alverno College and taught drama at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay and speech and drama at her alma mater, St. Mary’s.
Currently, she’s using her MFA specialization in directing and her substantial directing experience to helm “The Jeweler’s Shop” for the local Acacia Theatre Company. “The Jeweler’s Shop,” advertised by Acacia as “a play for anyone who seeks love — new, young and old,” was penned by Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow in 1960; the playwright became Pope John Paul II in 1978 and was canonized a saint in 2014, nine years after his death.
Rewolinski is directing “The Jeweler’s Shop” for the second time, 21 years after her first staging.
“It is high on my list of favorite plays” to direct, she said. That’s high praise from one whose directorial efforts have included such titles as “The Miracle Worker,” “The Foreigner,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” “Witness for the Prosecution” and “Nunsense.” Most of Rewolinski’s directing has been for Acacia, a non-profit company that presents plays from a Judeo-Christian perspective — as past subjects such as Mother Teresa, Damien of Molokai and Dorothy Day would indicate.
“Christians need to reclaim the arts — that’s my mantra,” Rewolinski said. She called the Milwaukee area “blessed to have a company like Acacia, where community people can share their talents in a Christian atmosphere. We pray before rehearsals. We pray before shows. Theater can be truly a ministry.” Rewolinski added that she enjoys directing plays that provide “something to leave the audience thinking about.”
In addition to her degrees from Wisconsin and Arizona, she has a master’s degree in library science from UW-Milwaukee.
Her church, Blessed Sacrament, Milwaukee, has “a wonderful music program,” said Rewolinski. “I’m hoping to join the bell choir.” She sang in choirs and played the violin in her youth when she attended St. Veronica Grade School, where Franciscan Sisters Phyllis Chang and Marie Ritzke “really made an impact” as music teachers. With her guitar-playing twin sister, Monica Knusta (“my best friend growing up”), Rewolinski eventually “sang at a lot of weddings.” Rewolinski, who is single, said she is “very close” to Knusta’s two sons.
Although “The Jeweler’s Shop” is yet to open, Rewolinski already has her next directing gig lined up. It’ll be at Memories Dinner Theater in Port Washington, for a “wonderful but poignant comedy” entitled “Packing Up Polly.”
As for John Paul II’s “The Jeweler’s Shop,” the three-act drama will run between Oct. 28 and Nov. 13 in the Norvell Commons at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 7845 N. River Road, River Hills. More information can be found at www.acaciatheatre.com.