Local actor Elyse Edelman has garnered positive reviews on the pages of hometown publications, national blogs and BroadwayWorld.com alike.
This summer, she returns for a second season with the Door Shakespeare company in Baileys Harbor, Door County, where she will challenge her artistic range as the lead in “Twelfth Night” and as a clever, musical dog in “The Heart of Robin Hood.”
Edelman credits the Milwaukee Jewish community for giving her the strong artistic foundation that would lead to a life as a professional actor. Growing up in a family involved in both Jewish life and the arts, Edelman was surrounded by musicians, learning Yiddish and Hebrew songs from relatives at a young age. She took her first acting classes as a 5-year-old at First Stage at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay with instructor Nancy Weiss McQuide.
She attended Milwaukee Jewish Day School. “During chugim (extra-curricular activities), we had the opportunity to take electives, which allowed us to harness and direct our energy and excitement towards our individual interests and strengths and then work hard to capitalize on those strengths,” recalled the 2004 graduate.
At Nicolet High School, Edelman continued Hebrew-language studies and got serious about an acting career. Already performing professionally with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, she landed a spot in the competitive University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, where she spent the next four years, including a semester at the Globe Theatre in London. She earned the Outstanding Senior Award, probably in part thanks to her final project – a one-woman musical performance based on the 1,000-plus letters exchanged between her grandparents over the course of their relationship.
“Most of the letters were written when my grandfather, as a Jewish man, was fighting the Nazis,” Edelman said. “The piece ended up being a lot about my Jewish identity.”
In fact, Edelman’s Jewishness is deeply ingrained in all her work. “I can’t separate the fact that I’m Jewish. I can’t separate my work ethic and my striving for excellence from the fact that I’m Jewish,” she said.
Two decades since her first acting class, Edelman has come full circle, now teaching at First Stage at the JCC, where she has also performed. Her resume is jam-packed with regional-theater roles throughout Wisconsin and beyond to Minneapolis, Chicago, Iowa City and Cedar City, Utah. Even her involvement in this aspect of theater reflects her Jewish values.
“One of my reasons for wanting to do regional theater is because I just want to tell the story. I just would like to be in the play,” Edelman says. “The work done in regional theater can be just as good as the work in New York. I just really like to tell stories that make people think. If I can create a shared communal experience and make people leave their immediate worlds and think about themselves and their lives, then I think that’s doing service. I think that’s tikkun olam.”
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How to go
Elyse Edelman appears on stage with Door Shakespeare in Baileys Harbor all summer.
- “Twelfth Night,” by William Shakespeare. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.
- “The Heart of Robin Hood,” by David Farr. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 5 p.m.
Tickets: 920-839-1500 or DoorShakespeare.com.