By Maricha Harris
If someone announced that animals could be seen at the zoo, you’d probably look at them like they were crazy for announcing what everyone knows. But if you heard you could see a free theater show, you may raise an eyebrow in shock.
Indeed, Milwaukee County Zoo patrons can participate in free interactive theater shows. More than just theater, local talent performs for a worthy cause—environmental conservation.
A Milwaukee native, Sherrick Robinson, 24, is one of the actors in Kohl’s Wild Theatre, a program courtesy of a partnership between Kohl’s Cares, the Milwaukee County Zoo and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.
For Robinson, his start in the arts began with typical grade school plays, but it wasn’t until high school that he started thinking about theater as a career. “I had an acting coach/teacher by the name of Joann Woodard who kind of like took me by the ear and said, ‘You’re going to be in this play.’ I did it, and I like it.”
Robinson continued to act at Pius High School where he attended. The bond he formed over the years with Woodard contributed to his decision to attend college in Nebraska.
“She came up to me and she said, ‘I’ve got a couple of friends at Nebraska Wesleyan University. I think you should maybe check that school out or something for college. ‘So I went there, and I absolutely loved all my time there at Nebraska Wesleyan University. “
Upon completing his B.F.A. in Theater Performance, Robinson returned to home to Milwaukee. And despite the economy, Robinson is flourishing with the Kohl’s Wild Theatre program. With conservation-themed performances, the cast uses drama, songs and puppetry to inspire audiences at the zoo and in the community to make life changes for the greater good.
“It teaches kids and adults conservation of the environment, things like sustainable sea food, and avoiding things like palm oil because they cut down rainforests [for the oil]. A lot of the stuff I’m learning as well.”
Establishing a career in theater has been a major accomplishment for Robinson. “It’s been a life changing experience for me to be able to do theater professionally.”
Like most performing artists, Robinson’s work comes with great rewards. “I just really enjoy entertaining people. I enjoy [it] not just for the fact that people can come up to me and say, ‘oh you did wonderful’ but I want them to say, ‘oh that play was wonderful.’ I want them to take away a sense of enjoyment from the production, whether I’m in it or not.”
As an up-and-coming performer, Robinson has found inspiration in his guardian. “He’s been the driving father figure in my life, and I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to go to a school like Pius if it wasn’t for him. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to attend a school like Nebraska Wesleyan out in Lincoln, which is a private college.”
He also credits his grandmother. “She made it all possible. I would never have even been able to have a guardian if it wasn’t for her. I would have never known him if it wasn’t for her. She was the real driving force in my life as far as getting me to someone who could help me achieve what I wanted.”
To aspiring artists, Robinson says, “Really, I know it sounds cliché, but if you put your mind to it, the sky is the limit. You just gotta get out there, you gotta be determined, you gotta know what your goal is, [and] you gotta have a set plan to get there. Don’t let anything get in your way. Times can be rough, but just smile and say, ‘Yes, I can do it.’”
Robinson is hardly done with his career. He has future goals. “A short term goal is just to continue doing professional theater like what I’m doing at Kohl’s Wild Theater at a high level. I’m still learning the ropes there, but I’m having an absolute blast, which is very important.”
During spare time, Robinson still wears his acting hat. “Working at Kohl’s Wild Theater is a lot of fun because there’s always something for you to learn and do. Learning some of the lines in the shows that I’m not scheduled in is something I like to do.” He also enjoys watching and playing baseball when time allows.
Zoo-goers can support performing arts talent by taking the family see a show. “There’s no real reason to not come out. The shows are free. They’re free, they run all day whether it’s hot or cold,” Robinson said.
The community sees the challenges facing young, African American males. Just turn on Milwaukee news. Many in our communities have personally experienced the challenges, and they affect all of us in some way. So as a community, stand behind Robinson as he defies what statistics say of young African American men. See a Kohl’s Wild Theater show today.
For information visit http://www.zoosociety.org/Education/WildTheater/