Accentuate the positive

Who couldn't use a little good news these days?  With that in mind, here's a smattering of positive arts news from Wisconsin, albeit an incomplete one.  Feel free to share your own good news in the comments area below.

  • The Milwaukee Ballet recently received a $1 million gift from the Dohmen Family Foundation, and its school has become fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance.
  • Spring Green's American Players Theatre, a classical repertory company, opened its second stage this year.  The 200-seat, indoor Touchstone Theatre now complements APT's main stage, a 1,148-seat outdoor amphitheater.  Ticket income for the 2009 season was up 1% over the previous year, despite a smaller patron base of just over 101,000 attendees.  Some Touchstone shows were so successful (like Jim DeVita's one-man show, an adaptation of Ian McKellen's Acting Shakespeare) that extra performances were added.
  • The Wisconsin Book Festival, which took place in Madison Oct. 7 to 11, was once again a splendid event.  Presenting authors ranged from Wisconsin residents with national profiles (Jane Hamilton, Lorrie Moore) to comix legends Harvey Pekar and Lynda Barry to thinkers like Wendell Berry.  Events are typically packed by grateful audiences--all events are offered to the public free of charge by our state humanities council.
  • While the Madison Repertory Theatre folded earlier this year--very sadly, in the midst of its fortieth anniversary season--new professional companies are starting up in an attempt to fill the void.  (While Madison has dozens of community theater companies, the Rep's closing left a hole in the professional sphere.)  One I'm excited about is Forward Theater Company, which will stage the first production of Christopher Durang's Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them outside of New York.  As Jennifer Uphoff Gray, Forward's artistic director, told me in a story for Isthmus, "We reached out to Chris Durang directly. He actually responded the next day and was really supportive. He said, 'Oh, I had heard about the [closing of the] Rep,' and he was really upset about it."  We need timely, provocative, professional theater here, and I'm glad there are people willing to fill that need.
October 29, 2009 10:53 AM | | Comments (3)



John: check the date on the post you're commenting on -- Oct. 29, 2009. Pekar did indeed appear at the 2009 Wisconsin Book Festival. He died in summer 2010.

Quote a coup for The Wisconsin Book Festival to get Harvey Pekar for an October appearance, since he died on July 12th. Any idea how they pulled that off?

This is all great news! I would add to it the founding (and debut) of Bricks Theatre with "An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein," the new OutCast Theatre's upcoming production of "Dog Meets God" and Madison Opera's upcoming production of "Carmen," with 238 people involved. (I cannot wait for that last one!)

Also, the Bartell is lousy with theater, as usual. Li Chiao-Ping didn't have to cancel her fall performance after all (even though she didn't get the grants she applied for). And I am totally psyched about the Arts Enterprise class at UW-Madison, which is helping rising artists figure out how to make their way in business using their creativity.

Hope to see you soon, Jennifer!


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