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The Sleeping Beauty Opening production of inaugural season 1987

Jeff Spence

Liza Perry

Mary H. Sprague

Joel Nettesheim, Vice President of Finance

Wendy Petzold

Les Weil

Sheila Reynolds, Secretary & Vice President of Governance

Jami Ross

Past Board Presidents

Janet Schmeling

Richard S. Gallagher, 1987-1989 (Board President, Performing Arts Center)

Gregory Ramirez

Bob Arzbaecher, Vice President at Large

Kristin Sheehan

Gregory J. Schmeling, M.D., Vice President of Programming

Carver Smith

Lauren Pagenkopf, Vice President of Marketing

Amy Taylor Diamond

Kristin Severson, Vice President of Fund Development

Directors Todd A. Adams Nicole Angresano Libby Baranko Vincent Ciccolini Dawn S. Cooke John Fricker Darren L. Goldstein Kristine Havlik Daniel Jones Luke Kowal Carol L. Kracht

Deanna Singh Harry Stratton Chad Tessmer Bridget D. Viohl Dashal Young

Advisory Board Jeff Schouten, Chair Gretchen Barbatelli Tom Florsheim Tamara Hauck Jennifer Keough Marina Krejci Curt Larson Jody Lowe

Judith C. McGoohan, 1989-1991 Jay H. Robertson, 1991-1992 Marina S. Krejci, 1992-1994 W. Scott Blake, 1994-1996 Jeffrey P. Schouten, 1996-1998 Tamara J. Hauck, 1998-2000 Tim Reiland, 2000-2002 David Moskol and Joel Netteshiem (Co-Presidents), 2002-2004

First Stage was created when the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, our founding organization, hired Rob Goodman as the founding artistic director to develop a professional children’s theater to serve families in the greater Milwaukee community. First Stage was born in 1987, incorporated on its own in 1988 and has grown into one of the nation’s most acclaimed professional children’s theaters and the largest Theater Academy. The Wisconsin Arts Board also affirms that First Stage is Wisconsin’s leader of Arts Integrated education in schools. Our success is due to the mothers, fathers, grandparents, educators, and most of all the young people whose lives we touched and who touched our lives in so many ways. They all recognize the value of our work in their lives. We thank them and the entire community for our success. As First Stage celebrates this milestone anniversary, we are thankful for so much and yet look to the future, a future filled with the hope that we have just begun, that many more young people will have access to the life transforming programs at First Stage. We thank you for partnering with us, inspiring us to use all aspects of theater arts to build character and develop leadership skills in young people, empowering them to become our community’s next generation of creative and innovative leaders. The future belongs to them.

Alec Fraser, 2004-2006 Kristin Severson, 2006-2008 Mike Carter, 2008-2010 Special thanks to the generosity and commitment of all First Stage Board of Directors who made this 25th anniversary season possible.

C arol A . Gehl President, Board of Directors

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Megan Madsen

Alec Fraser, President Elect

First Stage is honored to celebrate 25 years of transforming lives through theater. Since our inaugural season our vision has remained the same: to touch hearts, engage minds and transform lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people, and families. Through this mission, we have touched the lives of over 3.6 million people throughout our history.

Rob Goodman Founding Artistic Director & Managing Director

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Kate Scovil

C e l e b r a t i n g

Ron Kuramoto

Carol A. Gehl, President


Carol A. Gehl President, Board of Directors

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Dear Friends,


Dan McKinley Mark Metcalf

Jeff Fr ank Artistic Director


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25th Anniversary Season Board of Directors

Photo by Jessica Kaminski

“Our work strives Mission to be honest, thought-provoking, full of wonder, inspiring, compassionate, Vision alive with humor, and driven by hope.”

First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through: • Professional Theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain • Unparalleled Theater Academy training that fosters life skills through stage skills • Dynamic Theater in Education programs that promote active learning in our schools and community

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Joel Boyd as Kenny in The Watsons Go To Bir mingham – 1963 (2008)

Joel Boyd, student at Columbia College Chicago

Sarah Horn as Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird (1997)

Sarah Horn, First Stage Academy Alumni, Young Per former and graduate of US Naval Academy and Marine Corps pilot


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– Rob Goodman, First Stage Founding Artistic Director

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First Stage strives to be the national leader and driving force behind the creation of the best and most innovative plays for family audiences, theater training programs for young people, and education initiatives for our schools and our community. These three interwoven programming pillars are accessible to, and reflective of our increasingly diverse community. Through our exceptional leadership, dedicated team, and commitment to financial sustainability, First Stage will broaden the reach and impact of our transformational programs, thus enabling dreams to be fulfilled, hope to be fostered, and families to enjoy the lasting legacy of a profound shared experience.

Isaiah Reynolds (left), Alison Pogorelc (right) and cast in Diary Of A Worm, A Spider, And A Fly (2012) Photo by Ross Zentner

• Total number of plays produced: 168

First Stage opened our inaugural season on October 5, 1987 with the world premiere of Ian Dennis’ adaptation of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. We expanded from three productions in our infancy to producing six productions at the Todd Wehr Theater and First Steps series productions at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, serving well over 100,000 people each season.

• Total number of world premiere

Young performers on stage

New Play Development

• Number of Young Performers cast: 2,004

Since the beginning, First Stage has remained committed to age-appropriate casting for both the artistic integrity of the characters portrayed on stage, as well as providing young people the opportunity to work alongside actors, directors, and designers. This is our powerful Professional Development Internship program, a schoolto-work opportunity, where the focus is on developing self-esteem, personal responsibility, teamwork, commitment, focus, time management, and emotional intelligence–skills that empower the young person for a lifetime.

Throughout its 25 years, First Stage has remained committed to new play development; finding innovative ways to tell beloved stories old and new, with over 45 world premieres. Continuing this focus, First Stage launched The Wisconsin Cycle, a series of six new plays over six seasons celebrating the rich heritage of our state.

productions: 46 • Total number of performances: 6,680

• Total attendance at family performances: 1,142,204 • Total attendance at school performances (including touring productions): 2,022,594

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“I have been aware of First Stage for many years, but on Thursday night I SAW and FELT the importance of First Stage in the community. The energy of the actors...the energy of the audience...the phenomenal play... Thank you!” - Rachael Forman

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• Total attendance since 1987: 3,164,798


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Theater for all ages

First Stage productions by the numbers

Joel Boyd (left) and Christopher Stone (right) in SMOLDERING FIRES (2006) Photo by Mark Frohna





The Sleeping Beauty*


Ramona Quimby

Charlotte’s Web

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn*

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

A Little House Christmas

The Dream Thief*


The Outsiders

Romeo & Juliet


Treasure Island*

The Homecoming, a Christmas story

Bridge to Terabithia

Afternoon of the Elves

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

A Woman Called Truth (tour)

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile*

Tom Sawyer*

Hmong Tapestry: Voices from the Cloth (tour)*

Frog and Toad (Forever)

Step on a Crack



Beatrix Potter’s Christmas

Peter Pan

James and the Giant Peach

Tales of Peter Rabbit*


Caddie Woodlawn


Of Mice and Men

Bambi: A Life in the Woods*

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Little Drummer Boy*

To Kill a Mockingbird

James & the Giant Peach

To Kill a Mockingbird

A Wrinkle in Time

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Little Red Riding Hood & The Three Little Pigs*

Alice Through the Looking-Glass*

Swiss Family Robinson*

Island of the Blue Dolphins*

10 Minutes till Bedtime!*

The Wind Whispers (tour)*

Green Eggs & Ham

A Woman Called Truth (tour)

A Woman Called Truth (tour)

Sweet Chariot (tour)*

Children of a Lesser God


Beauty and the Beast*

Snow White*


1990-91 The Velveteen Rabbit

The Irish Chord (tour)*

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Terror of the Soul: Tales by Poe*


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde*



My Emperor’s New Clothes

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

The Nightingale

Number the Stars

Play to Win: The Jackie Robinson Story

The Yellow Boat

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Beatrix Potter’s Christmas

Zink: The Myth. The Legend. The Zebra.*

Rock ’n’ Roll Shakespeare*

The Christmas Angel*


Caddie Woodlawn

Tuck Everlasting

Arthur – The Boy Who Would Be King*

The Ugly Duckling


The Phantom Tollbooth

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Goldilocks & the Three Bears*


The Sacred Hoop (tour)

Animal Farm

Cuentos (tour)

Willkommen to Wisconsin (tour)*

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C e l e b r a t i n g


The Great Gilly Hopkins

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– The Esten Family

First Stage Production History

One Thousand Cranes *world premiere


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“There are a lot of things families can do together, but First Stage is something we can all enjoy. They have a great way of telling a story that all kids can appreciate. It’s really become a big part of our life.”

(left to right) Sarah Day, Ishtar Njaaga, and Sydney Salter in WITNESS (2009) Photo by Mark Frohna 2001-02



The Boxcar Children

Sideways Stories From Wayside School

Hana’s Suitcase

Perseus Bayou (The Search for the Cajun Medusa)

12 Days – A Milwaukee Christmas*

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

A Christmas Story

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963*

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Sleeping Beauty


2002-03 Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage The Little Match Girl’s Christmas Gift

A Year with Frog and Toad

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (First Steps)

And Then They Came For Me (Remembering Anne Frank) (tour)

Ferdinand the Bull (First Steps and tour)

2005-06 Ramona Quimby

If You Take a Mouse to School (First Steps) Tomas and the Library Lady (tour)

2010-11 Peter Pan and Wendy* Disney’s My Son Pinocchio The Magic Bicycle* U: Bug: Me*


The Hundred Dresses


Miss Nelson is Missing

A Midnight Cry*

The Shakespeare Stealer

Charlotte’s Web

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Aesop’s Fables (First Steps)

Treasure Island

Harry Connick, Jr.’s The Happy Elf*

The Little Engine That Could (First Steps)

Hmong Tapestry: Voices from the Cloth (tour)

Smoldering Fires* Tom Sawyer Seussical


Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (tour)

The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) Bridge to Terabithia The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Holes

2006-07 Esperanza Rising Bunnicula

Witness The Neverending Story How I Became a Pirate*


Giggle, Giggle, Quack (First Steps)


The Dinosaur Play (First Steps)

Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly*

Lincoln at Gettysburg (tour)

Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!

A Thousand Cranes (tour)

A Wrinkle in Time

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The Magic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly

The Giver

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business

Miss Nelson is Missing!

Green Gables

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (First Steps)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Two Donuts: Pepito’s Adventures in Cuate-Malo (tour)

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

The Thief Lord*

According to Coyote (tour)

The Wiz*

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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A Christmas Story

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Einstein: Hero of the Mind (tour)*

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (First Steps)

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A Little House Christmas*

The Quiltmaker’s Gift

*world premiere


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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Photo by Jessica Kaminski First Stage Theater Academy by the numbers • Total enrollment since 1992: approximately 33,000 • Average enrollments per year: 3,000 • Number of weeks of Academy classes per year: 33 • Total number of Young Company

Theater Academy Fostering Life Skills Through Stage Skills in the nation’s largest theater training program for young people. Since 1992, the Academy has fostered a positive atmosphere, building community not competition, where young people can trust themselves and others, see that it is OK to be themselves, and learn to overcome the fear of failure by taking positive risks in a completely supportive environment. It builds self-esteem, and cultivates the vital skills necessary to become creative, innovative adults who are positive and successful, such as public speaking, personal responsibility, respect for others, goal setting, leadership, and integrity.

productions: 25

Unprecedented growth What started as six theater arts classes with a small group of students has grown to serve over 33,000 young people since 1992. The First Stage Theater Academy has a year-long schedule with classes for students 3-18 and a very large summer camp program. In addition to our large site at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, we have sites at the Oconomowoc Arts Center, Brookfield’s Sharon Lynne Wilson Center and Carthage College in Kenosha.

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– First Stage “cheer,” recited each day by Academy students

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“I can’t” is not in my vocabulary! I take risks! I conquer my fears! I am not afraid to lead!

“First Stage gave me a sense of social awareness and emotional intelligence that have served me well in every aspect of my life. Everything from reading people’s body language to helping to establish camaraderie in group settings to acknowledging and affirming others...I use all of those skills every day.” – D’Laney Gielow, Academy alum; political science student at Northwestern University

“Confidence, collaboration, creative expression – skills that are imperative both as a theater artist and a vibrant human being. First Stage was where I first discovered that I was special, and alternatively that there were people out there who were just like me.” – Barry Shafrin, Academy alum; Harvard University graduate and theater artist on the east coast “First Stage instills so much professionalism and confidence in young people… the training and support is second-to-none. First Stage teaches teamwork, hard work, and shows hands-on how diligence and dedication produce results. I credit First Stage with helping to shape who I am today.” – Sarah Horn, First Stage Theater Academy alum and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Marine Corps pilot

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“...I would be remiss if I do not stress how particularly instrumental First Stage is to curbing those negative activities among AfricanAmerican youth; this I speak from my own experience.”

Hundreds of alumni have shared the impact First Stage has had on their lives:

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– Jeremy Tardy, First Stage Theater Academy alum and student at The Julliard School

Words most often used by Alumni describing the Academy.


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Samantha Montgomery and Jeremy Tardy in The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 (2008) Photo by Mark Frohna

First Stage is Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, creating programs that produce measured results and help students set and meet high standards of academic and personal achievement.

classroom since 1987: approximately 441,000 • Total number of hours First Stage teaching artists have spent in classrooms: approximately 18,500 • Number of students served through Literacy Residency programs since 2006: over 1,400 • Number of students served in the Bully Ban Workshops since 2008: over 800

First Stage’s Theater in Education programs include: • Pre-Show and Post-Show Workshops: Students gain a meaningful understanding and awareness of the play’s subject and themes, as well as a strong connections to the curricular ties within the show. • Teaching Through Theater – ArtsIntegrated Lessons in the Classroom: These lessons enhance students’ understanding and comprehension of curricular topics through dramatic learning techniques such as role play, improvised scene work, movement based exercises and pantomime. Classroom teachers are supplied with comprehensive lesson plans to continue the learning experience between visits. • Bully Ban Workshop: Created in 2008 in response to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s mandate on bullying prevention programming in the classroom, the Bully Ban Workshop examines the different forms of bullying that occur in the school community, while working to promote respect and tolerance among classmates and teach tactics in problem solving, positive conflict resolution and overcoming obstacles.

• Literacy Residencies: Created in 2006, the Literacy Residency programs are year-long arts integration lessons designed to develop critical English literacy skills and improve state standardized test scores. The Early Literacy Residency (grades K4 – 1) and the Literacy Residency (grades 2 – 6) use active learning techniques to appeal to all types of learners. • Professional Development for Teachers: First Stage partners with Cardinal Stritch University to offer a three-credit Professional Development course, in which participants learn to successfully incorporate theater teaching strategies into their non-theater content units and lessons.

– Mary Hofstede, 2nd grade teacher, Kluge Elementary (MPS)

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Theater in Education programs in the

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• Total number of students served through

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performances: 1,750,902

Throughout its 25-year history, First Stage has served nearly one half-million students in classrooms through its dynamic Theater in Education programs, inciting young people’s excitement for learning and helping teachers explore curriculum using interactive, imaginative and integrated methods.

“It was good for the students to act out different character traits. We related these to our curriculum all week. I loved the high energy level of the Education Teaching Artists and I was very impressed how the Teaching Artist got every student involved in the activities!”

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• Total number of students at school

Theater in Education


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First Stage Theater in Education by the numbers

Photo by Maureen Hartjes

Community Partnership Program:

Outcomes A 2009 study by Reinders Research revealed that the Academy brings the most significant gains to students at the lowest end of the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) spectrum, a group strongly

Through the inspiration and generosity of Richard S. Burke and continued support of the Burke Foundation, First Stage started the Community Partnership Program in 2004. Its goal is simple: provide access. Designed to “Open Doors for Milwaukee Youth to Learn Life Skills Through Stage Skills,” the program includes all First Stage programming that serves at risk and underserved city of Milwaukee young people.

represented by students of color receiving financial assistance. This reinforces First Stage’s belief that the Theater Academy program has the most positive impact on

The Community Partnership Program uses the power of theater arts to nurture the positive personal development and academic advancement of City of Milwaukee children.

underserved at-risk youth.

Family Partnership Program The Family Partnership Program provides scholarships and individualized support to students who would not otherwise be able to attend the Theater Academy. In addition to providing financial assistance, First Stage provides lunch and snacks, safe, reliable transportation to and from the program, and other aid as needed for students to attend and achieve success.


1500 1000



C e l e b r a t i n g


Unknown African American Asian Caucasian Hispanic Mixed Native American (0%)

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8% 9% 13%

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500 0

Photo by Lindsey Abendschein

FY04-05 FY05-06 FY06-07 FY07-08 FY08-09 FY09-10 FY10-11 FY11-12



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Since 2004, enrollments funded by scholarships have increased by over 455%, allowing First Stage Theater Academy to award scholarships to anyone in need, never having to turn away a student because of an inability to pay. Currently, over 20% of Academy students receive scholarships. A total of 3,796 Theater Academy scholarships have been awarded through the Family Partnership Program.

Photo by Maureen Hartjes

the Connections Program was a valuable education tool. “Participants related

“We are good stewards of our talents, time and resources.”

a clearer understanding of the values presented within the plays; demonstrated a higher level of understanding of and empathy for the characters depicted in the play and their purpose in the story; correctly

– Excerpt from First Stage Value Statement

identified answers to production-specific academic questions twice as often.”



Minority Students Free/Reduced Lunch Special Needs





4500 4000





– Carol A. Gehl, president First Stage Board of Directors

2500 2000






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program participants – affirmed that

500 0




FY08 FY09


FY11 FY12


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– surveying both program and non-

“By working in collaboration with families, schools, professional colleagues and other organizations, we effectively and efficiently meet the needs of our stakeholders.”

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The Connections program provides curricular and theatrical experiences to City of Milwaukee classrooms, with the goal of supporting students and teachers at City of Milwaukee schools who, as a result of urban school budget cuts, have minimal access to arts education. Since 2004, the Connections program has touched the lives of over 14,000 students developing creative thinking, logical reasoning, public speaking, and Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

A 2004 study by Growth Design

C e l e b r a t i n g

Connections: An in-school arts-integrated program


Photo by Elizabeth Krumnow Literacy Residency programs

Outcomes A 2007 Reinders Research study revealed that the Literacy Residency is successful in creating and reinforcing a classroom community. While teaching valuable skills

First Stage’s Literacy Residency programs also serve as part of the Community Partnership Program to develop critical English literacy skills and improve state standardized test scores in low-income City of Milwaukee schools. The Literacy Residency programs have seen exponential growth in the last five years, having increased the number of students reached by over 500% from its initial year.

in reading, comprehension, public speaking

schools participating in the program made the greatest gains compared to their own urban peers.


1%1% 8% 90%

African American Hispanic Asian Caucasion

–Ms. Kari Whalen, elementary director at Milwaukee College Prep, 2011

“By nurturing a positive, collaborative and welcoming environment, we enhance the human development and artistic excellence of our staff, our students, their families, our volunteers and ultimately our community.” – Jeff Frank, First Stage artistic director

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This evaluation also revealed that urban

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are many times excluded from participation.

“I believe that the First Stage Literacy Program lessons made a substantial impact on the forward progress of our 4th-grade reading scores. This is the first year that MCP has tied the state in the language scores”

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academic learners and active learners who

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program appeals to and unites traditional


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and technical aspects of language arts, the

In 2003, First Stage and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO), collaborated in creating the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. After a highly successful $12 million capital campaign, led by co-chairs Harry Stratton and Kristin Severson, the Youth Arts Center opened in January 2005. The Youth Arts Center is a state-of-the-art rehearsal and arts education facility. The Youth Arts Center is now nationally recognized, serves as a vital resource for the community, and is Wisconsin’s only facility dedicated to performing arts education for youth.



The mission of the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center is to provide the finest collaborative environment for: • Supporting performing arts training and education for a diverse population of youth

Building a vibrant future for our youth and community through education and involvement in the performing arts by establishing an environment in which young people and adults can be inspired by each other’s work and creativity.

Program Partners

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• Nurturing youth from diverse ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds; instilling valuable life-skills; and inspiring a life-long appreciation for the performing arts

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• Serving as a resource for the entire arts and education community

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– Teig-Whaley Smith, Executive Director, Historic King Drive Business Improvement District

Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

Founding Partners


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“The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center has become a fundamental anchor to our business improvement district, and partner that we cannot thrive without…More important than the facility, the staff and families that are a part of MYAC’s programming have become an integral part of how we operate as a neighborhood.”

The Future of First Stage In 2010, First Stage embarked upon a strategic planning process defining five overarching goals and initiatives to set the stage for success as we head into the next 25 years. The creation of these goals and initiatives marks the beginning of First Stage’s next phase, preparing the organization to impact even more lives as it continues to tackle some of the toughest education and social challenges facing our city: • Embrace our Role as Educator – Deepen our Impact • Communicate our Impact – Transforming Lives Through Theater • Reaching New Artistic Heights – Expand Profound Performance Experiences • Securing Financial Stability – Increase Capacity to Ensure Accessibility • Strengthening the Organization’s Governance – Become Stronger and More Vital to the Community

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On June 9, 2012, First Stage will kick-off its FUTURE Campaign, at the heart of which is our commitment to providing accessibility. It is critical that underserved, at-risk young people in our community have the opportunity to engage in the life-transforming experiences First Stage provides. By positively impacting the lives of these young people, First Stage transforms Milwaukee. The initiatives of the FUTURE Campaign include:

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• Education Resource Center – Professional Development; Literacy Program Development; Increased Young Performer Internship Program

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• New Community Initiatives – New Charter School Model; Special Needs Programming; Collaboration with the Latino Community • Theater in Education Impact – Scholarship Fund for Urban Schools; Capacity Building; New Curriculum Development

• New Play Development – Create National Model of Play Development; Establish National Conference in Milwaukee

Painting by Shelby Keefe


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• Theater Academy Expansion – Scholarship Fund for At Risk, Underserved Youth; Expand Sites in Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Grafton

Thank you to our donors‌.

Photo by Jessica Kaminski


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As First Stage celebrates this milestone anniversary, we are thankful for our family of donors who have made the last 25 years possible. Because of the generosity of thousands of individuals, corporations, foundations and employee matching gift programs, First Stage is able to stir creativity, build strong character, and inspire our community’s young people. We are extraordinarily grateful for your generous investment in our mission to transform lives through theater.

The future is theirs! Photo by STM Creative

325 W. Walnut St. Milwaukee, WI 53212 Tel: 414.267.2929 | Fax: 414.267.2930 |

Profile for First Stage

First Stage's 25th anniversary commemorative book  

Commemorative book exploring First Stage throughout its 25 years, looking forward to its future.

First Stage's 25th anniversary commemorative book  

Commemorative book exploring First Stage throughout its 25 years, looking forward to its future.