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Do the Arts Need Critics?

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Volume 1, Number 1




ON THE COVER | Do the Arts Need Critics? By Mike Fischer


MILWAUKEE | A New Job in a New World: How the Marcus Center Navigates Uncertain Times


MADISON | Pandemic provides a pause to reflect, be creative and reimagine the future


NATIONAL | Until the Curtains Rise: How to Support U.S. Theater Artists

By Ryan Albrechtson

By Shari Gasper

By Amanda Finn





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Work featured by Michael Dean Morgan, Eric Welch, and Shawn Holmes

Work featured by Bob Reinke, Trove Arts, and Danielle Rose


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ArtsScene is published by Marcus Promotions, Inc. The content of any article in this publication is based solely on the opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Marcus Promotions, Inc., or its staff.

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From The Publisher

Greetings fellow arts patrons and art lovers! Welcome to the first issue of ArtsScene. Thank you for taking the time to open this new digital monthly magazine. You will not be disappointed! Arts coverage has been dwindling along with the printed page for quite some time. Now that the arts have taken a pause and only the ghost lights are lit due to COVID, we’ve decided to reverse the course and share what’s going on behind the scenes, on the screen, and waiting in the wings with you, the audience and consumer. ArtsScene is the champion of our local and regional arts… both performing and visual. Our inaugural issue features an admirable assortment of voices to share stories, ideas, news and information. We hope to challenge, educate, entertain, enlighten, and hopefully intrigue you to want to learn or see more when the doors are re-opened and the stages and galleries are lit. I’m grateful for the contributions from our writers as well as those artists whose art are featured in this issue. I hate to even mention the word “pandemic” as we’ve all been desensitized to it by now but since this whole thing has started and now gone on for nearly a year, it reminds us of the things we have taken for granted…the freedom to dine out, go to ball games, church, parties, visit museums and galleries, see a movie, and attend the theater. I’d be OK with seeing some bad theater right now vs none at all. Who’s with me? And so, we should be truly thankful for the arts that we do have right now. Consider being extra generous to them right now to keep them alive during this unprecedented time. While we’re at it, how about a standing ovation for our sponsor, The UW Credit Union! We are thrilled to have them as our 2021 ArtsScene sponsor. We applaud their support and mutual appreciation for the arts of Wisconsin! Please click on the “subscribe” button to receive future issues of ArtsScene in your inbox. With each issue, we will feature themes that will carry over into the editorial and the art. This issue features “A Fresh Start.” Fitting. May 2021 bring us all a fresh start! Steve Marcus

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Do the Arts Need Critics? By Mike Fischer

Critics, Stephen Sondheim tells his fellow artists in Look, I Made a Hat (2011), “cause you to waste your time. And did I mention that they can steer people away from your show, just as they can hurt sales of a novel or put a crimp in further gallery showings of your paintings or concerts of your music? They can discourage both you and your audience.” Critics, the naysayers allege, deliberately emphasize the negative. They’re more intent on pursuing their own political and aesthetic agenda than they are in honestly judging what they see. They take themselves too seriously; this is entertainment, after all, and an audience ought to be left alone to have a good time. Finally: they’re parasites, living off the work of others who do something they themselves cannot. Throughout the 15 years during which I covered theater and wrote book reviews for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, I heard many variations on these themes, from disgruntled actors and audience members as well as from directors and designers. The majority of those complaining were convinced I had zero sympathy for artists and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Sondheim again, on critics: “most of them have little knowledge of the craft as it is practiced.” None of this is new, or peculiar to me. “The history of criticism,” writes New York Times film critic A.O. Scott in Better Living Through Criticism (2016), is “an endless cycle of complaint and accusation, a series of protests against the activity of criticism itself, and in particular against the blindness, stupidity, and destructive aggression of its practitioners.” Believe me, I get it. Here’s part of what I wrote in an open letter to the arts community when announcing that I was walking away from the Journal-Sentinel two years ago: “I’m also acutely aware that what all of us remember most are the occasions on which we’ve been criticized. No matter how gently such criticism is offered, it feels personal.” Not to mention, as Sondheim pointedly notes, that a critic’s words are “out there in public, that thousands of people are witnessing your humiliation.” Little wonder that so many people spend so much energy questioning critics’ right to exist. 8 | artsscene

So why do I passionately believe that we need arts critics now, more than we ever have before? Let me begin to answer that question with two illustrative stories.

Discovering Williams; Championing Sondheim On the night after Christmas 1944, an unknown playwright with a string of failures to his name opened a show at the Civic Theatre in Chicago. The weather was horrific: icy, snowy, and cold. The theater was a mass of empty seats. Some of the few audience members who were there remember a howling wind. The play, by a young Southerner named Tennessee Williams, was The Glass Menagerie, and it was reputedly a mess. Two weeks of rehearsals in Chicago had been contentious; the dress rehearsal was a disaster. There were no advance ticket sales; rumors were that the production would close well before completing its scheduled ten-week run. “It looks bad, baby,” Williams wrote in his diary. Among those in the audience that night was Chicago Tribune arts critic Claudia Cassidy – known as Acidy Cassidy for her tough and unforgiving reviews. But she loved Williams’ play, as is clear even now when reading her review. “If it is your play, as it is mine,” Cassidy wrote on December 27, 1944, “it reaches out tentacles, first tentative, then gripping, and you are caught in its spell.” Cassidy would return to see Williams’ play on each of the next three nights; she wrote about it constantly in the Tribune during ensuing weeks. As current Tribune theater critic Chris Jones notes in his edited collection of

Sondheim c. 1976

past Tribune theater reviews, New York theater people started coming west to see what all the fuss was about. Three months later, Williams’ play opened on Broadway to glowing reviews. The rest is history. Theater history is filled with stories like these; among the most famous involves Sondheim himself. While we now know Sunday in the Park with George as one of Sondheim’s best musicals, it opened in 1984 to almost universally hostile reviews, excepting the one in the New York Times by Frank Rich, known as the “Butcher of Broadway” because of his tough, often show-killing reviews. january2021 | 9

Anthony Ross, Laurette Taylor, Eddie Dowling and Julie Haydon in the Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie (1945)

“I went back and saw it again and again and again,” Rich later recalled in Hot Seat (1998). I “kept being moved and kept writing about it until I felt I had made my case.” Other critics were persuaded to return for another look; some of them changed their minds. Sunday went on to win the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. More recently, beloved Broadway hits like Hamilton and Fun Home, Spring Awakening and The Band’s Visit – each a Tony winner for Best Musical – may have never made it to Broadway and 10 | artsscene

immortality after their initial runs, had it not been for the major critics who fiercely championed all of them when they first opened Off-Broadway. But even in New York, there’s precious few such critics left; out here in the heartland, the situation is even worse. When critics retire, they’re now rarely replaced; those still working cover ever less, as space for arts journalism continues to shrink. That’s bad for critics, of course. But it’s potentially far worse for the arts they cover.

The Crisis of Criticism When I began working for the Journal-Sentinel in 2003, individual critics on staff covered art and architecture; popular music; classical music and dance; television; film; books; and theater. Today, almost all of the locally generated arts coverage for the Journal-Sentinel is written by two editors and a music critic. And when it comes to arts coverage, things are actually comparatively good in Milwaukee.

There will also be fewer critics offering mixed assessments, let alone writing flat-out negative reviews. Everything is now measured in clicks, and glowing reviews get more of them. The consequent pressure on reviewers, wrote theater critic Helen Shaw in a 2017 American Theatre magazine article, “works quietly but pervasively, and though critics may not be consciously pulling their punches, the punches do get pulled.”

Wisconsin currently has no theater critic who comes even close to covering the scope and breadth of work throughout Wisconsin that I reviewed for the Journal Sentinel, during years when I routinely saw more than 200 shows each year while also writing numerous features and critical essays as well as book reviews.

Shrinking space for arts journalism within daily newspapers doesn’t help, particularly when this means that smaller companies taking the biggest artistic risks aren’t being covered at all, even as far less can be said about the work that is still being reviewed. You can’t tweet an arts review.

“We may still have critics who review one or two shows a week,” laments New York-based theater critic Elisabeth Vincentelli, who sees “about 215 shows” each year. “But the critic who sees everything, who goes through that exhausting grind, is going to disappear.” The result? New work – something The Glass Menagerie itself once was – suffers most. “You’ll still get coverage of Hugh Jackman coming to Broadway,” observes New York Times critic Jesse Green. “But you’re going to have a hard time getting coverage of a new play by a young author in a basement in SoHo.”

“A good critic,” mused legendary critic Linda Winer in an interview several years ago, “is someone with an interesting mind. It isn’t the yes or the no that matters – it’s the why. Everything we do is about trying to explain the why. That is harder and harder to do with reduced space.” In 2017, Winer decided to resign her post at Newsday rather than continue under such straitened circumstances. That resignation shook me, contributing directly to my own decision to move on and explore new ways to give to the arts. Winer didn’t want to spend the rest of her life groveling for clicks or agonizing over all those deserving small companies that were no longer being reviewed. Neither did I. january2021 | 11

Advocating for the Arts While I worry about Americans’ growing distrust of experts – whether the field is science or aesthetics, it simply isn’t true that everyone knows everything and that all opinions are equal – there’s no point in waxing nostalgic for a time when critics’ voices were authoritative enough to at least foster conversation by offering a focal point for debate and dialogue. The old days aren’t coming back, and they had their own share of problems. Like yours truly, most critics were (and still are) white men, which inevitably skewed what was seen and how it was assessed. I’ll have a great deal more to say about this vital topic – and the current, long-overdue discussion involving race and representation in the arts – in the next issue of ArtsScene. The Covid pandemic – during which the arts have been among the hardest hit sectors of our economy – has also reinforced my growing belief that traditional arts journalism isn’t the only way to promote meaningful and nuanced discussion of plays and books, music and art. Whether as a dramaturg, educator, podcast host, or weekly columnist writing an arts-related visual arts guide, I’ve found ways during the past two years to offer the same sort of nuanced appreciation and assessment I once provided as a critic, while avoiding the necessarily reductive sense that I was offering a verdict on what I’d observed. The arts will always need critics. But criticism itself needs to evolve. Jose Solis, a Honduran culture critic based in New York, rightly insists that criticism must constantly be reinvented. “If

the arts keep evolving,” Solis asks, “why has criticism remained essentially the same since the 19th century?” Sondheim implicitly makes the same point; acknowledging the need for good critics, he envisions something quite different from most newspaper reviewers, who are increasingly reduced by space constraints and click counts to writing up-beat marketing summaries rather than providing engaged analysis. “A good critic,” Sondheim writes, “is someone who recognizes and acknowledges the artist’s intentions and the work’s aspirations, and judges the work by them, not by what his own objectives would have been. A good critic is so impassioned about his subject that he can persuade you to attend something you’d never have imagined you’d want to go to. A good critic is an entertaining read. A good critic is hard to find.” In future monthly columns for ArtsScene, I’ll try to be such a critic for you. Or perhaps a better and more accurate designation is “arts advocate.” What I said when announcing my exit from the Journal-Sentinel remains true: “Nothing has made me happier during my tenure as a critic than celebrating great productions, and I’ve never been shy about sharing my enthusiasm for them.” Even in the middle of a pandemic, there’s a lot in the arts in Wisconsin to be enthusiastic about. I’m looking forward to sharing my abiding love for Wisconsin’s thriving art scene with you. In the interim, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and observations with me. You can reach me at mjfischer1985@gmail.com.

A Milwaukee-based writer and dramaturg, Mike Fischer is a member of the Advisory Company of Artists for Forward Theater Company in Madison. On behalf of Forward, he co-hosts a bimonthly podcast and writes a weekly visual arts guide.

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A New Job in a New World: How the Marcus Center Navigates Uncertain Times By Ryan Albrechtson 2020 has been a challenge for all arts leaders. It’s hard to imagine running an arts organization during a pandemic. It’s even harder to imagine moving across the country to run an arts organization at the start of one. “My first day was March 9th,” shared Kendra Whitlock Ingram, the new President and CEO of the Marcus Center. “My first meeting of that day was Ingram to talk about whether or not we were going to be able to present our Broadway show [The Play That Goes Wrong] the following week.” Ingram replaces Paul Mathews, who served as President and CEO for 21 years. “I’ve only seen three performances at the Marcus Center,” said Ingram as the Marcus Center has been closed for in-person performances since March 16th. “We had to lay off a number of staff, and most of the remaining staff is working remotely… but we still have security in the building 24 hours a day, and we still have engineers that go in every day to maintain the building. It’s interesting, it’s not like you can just shut the lights off and say we’ll come back when there are shows.” Much of Ingram’s first few months on the job were focused on securing a PPP loan and other crisis management tactics. As those items began to play out, it became 16 | artsscene

clear that this shut down would be longer than expected. “Remember when we thought this was only going to be a couple of months?” The Marcus Center team then shifted gears to focus on ways they could use this time to update their facility, and bring people back into the venue feeling confident and safe. One of those safety measures was a complete redesign of the seating in Uihlein Hall, including adding aisles on either side of the hall in the orchestra level as well as more space between rows - making it easier to pass by other patrons. This project is set to be completed by early 2021. “We’re moving on parallel tracks and scenario planning for different things,” said Ingram. “But we are very enthusiastic and optimistic about bringing people together for live performances indoors in 2021.” Another renovation that was made was to their outdoor space, adjacent to the Pavilion Amphitheater. As the weather improves, Ingram anticipates opportunities for a lot of live performances outdoors as well. “We want to get to the point where there is enough immunity in the community to get back to live performance, because that is the nature of what we do… bringing large assemblies of people together to experience this communal and visceral experience,” said Ingram.

Rendering of new seating in Uihlein Hall

Renovations underway

Ingram leads these efforts at the Marcus Center with a vast amount of experience. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director of the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver. Before that, she served as the VP of Programming and Education of Omaha Performing Arts, an organization she describes as very similar to the Marcus Center. “I was very excited to be part of a performing arts center that balances the Broadway commercial entertainment with the cultural programming, as well as being home to a lot of other resident companies,” said Ingram. “I also really love Milwaukee… I’m really glad to be here.” While Ingram and her team focus on safety and reopening, they place an equal focus on advancing racial equality in the performing arts. “It was a big step for the board to appoint me to this position,” said Ingram. “I’m the first female and person of color to ever run the Marcus Center in its 50-year history.”

“If we can’t serve our community when we come back to business, then we need to really think about what our mission and values are,” added Ingram. As the Marcus Center works towards its goals, support from the community is more important than ever. One way patrons can support the Marcus Center is through their Raise The Curtain campaign. Starting at just $600, patrons can have their name placed on a seat in the newly renovated Uihlein Hall, and have their own little piece of helping the Marcus Center safely reopen. Established in 1969, the Marcus Performing Arts Center is the premier performing arts community gathering space in Southeastern Wisconsin. The Marcus Center continues to build bridges between diverse members of our community through high-quality arts entertainment in the region and the state. Learn more about their campaign, safety efforts, and focus on racial equality by visiting marcuscenter.org. january2021 | 17


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Pandemic provides a pause to reflect, be creative and reimagine the future By Shari Gasper When it’s your mission to support and elevate the community’s creative culture, economy and quality of life through the arts but you can’t welcome guests into your facility or gather in person, you’ve got to get creative. But that’s not so difficult for the artistic staff at Overture Center for the Arts in Madison.

high school musical theater throughout the state. The annual show brings a full house of excited students, families and friends to Overture Hall year after year. This spring, with schools closed and Overture closed, some may have considered canceling the event. Not Overture.

“We understood how much work went into these school productions and how much our students were looking forward to this night Overture Center was about to publicly recognizing their achievements,” said announce its 2020/21 season when Tim Sauers, Overture’s vice president the arts industry—and nation—shut of programming and community down this past spring due to COVID-19. engagement. “We wanted to give them Overture’s creative teams quickly turned the honors and recognitions they their season announcement into a virtual deserved.” show via Facebook Live. Featuring an indepth overview of the season along with Overture collected performance videos videos from the season’s featured artists from participating schools and students and created a virtual awards show. In and special guests, the show attracted 2019/20, 101 schools and community thousands of viewers across the region theater groups from 32 counties across versus the several hundred they usually Wisconsin participated in the program bring in for the onsite season launch. with 85 productions adjudicated by At the same time, the programming trained Jerry Awards reviewers. Twentyteam was preparing for its annual five of the musical theater programs Jerry Awards show, which encourages, were affected by school closures and recognizes and honors excellence in could not be reviewed. More than 250

Digital successes

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Patti LuPone in West Side: Women of Broadway. Photo by Rahav.

awards were presented in the virtual event. The reception by the community to the season announcement and annual awards show was encouraging, giving patrons something to look forward to, and at the same time, attracting new audiences looking for something to do with their families from the comfort and safety of their homes.

They found a unique opportunity when Christopher Jackson agreed to put on a virtual show, Live from the West Side from New York City.

“Putting on our first digital concert in August—Live from the West Side with Christopher Jackson, we did really well, and we saw how hungry our patrons “We noticed we were reaching a larger were for arts experiences,” said Sauers. audience, and people were watching the “That encouraged us to offer more videos more than once and well after the digital programming, which we did with initial shows,” said Sauers. “For the Jerry our monthly Live from the West Side: Awards, families who wouldn’t normally Women of Broadway series in October, drive to Madison were able to watch November and December and our Under the show and could share it with their the Ghost Light Paranormal E-Venture family and friends—grandparents, aunts around Halloween.” and uncles, and neighbors could see the students performing—extending our Under the Ghost Light stands out to reach.” Sauers as a highlight of Overture’s year. The interactive show told the story and Overture began to look for other creative history of Overture Center with ghost ways to engage audiences in the arts. stories and a look at places within the

Expanded audiences

january2021 | 21

MAD I S ON building not normally seen by guests. People who attended said it was a unique, great experience. “For years, we’ve wanted to include digital in our programs in some way but never have the time. Now we’re being more creative than ever,” said Sauers. A recent study on digital performances from JCA Marketing reported 43 percent of audience members were new digital only buyers and 16 percent were recent subscribers. Overture’s numbers showed a slightly different story: subscribers made up 38 percent of their viewership while 19 percent were new buyers. “We have such a large and loyal fan base,” said Sauers. “We enjoyed interacting with them through these shows, and we were thrilled, at the same time, to attract so many new patrons, giving them a chance to experience Overture Center.” Mars Rover. Courtesy of NASA JPL Caltech

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Motivated by mission While Overture Center, like all arts organizations across the country, has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis—closing its building since March 13, canceling all in-person shows, reducing its staff by 60 percent and slashing expenses—its remaining “small but scrappy” staff are not sitting back and waiting for the pandemic to end to continue the organization’s mission. “The arts play a vital role in our lives, especially in times of uncertainty, so we are going to keep nourishing our audiences with quality programming, opportunities to grow, learn, laugh and connect with others,” said Sauers. An appealing opportunity came from National Geographic Live, which provides thought-provoking

MAD I S ON presentations by today’s leading explorers, scientists and photographers. Overture Center has presented National Geographic Live shows for the past eight seasons. This month, Overture presents “National Geographic Live - Life on Other Worlds with Kobie Boykins and Kevin Hand” on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. And next month, “National Geographic Live - Reimagining Dinosaurs with Nizar Ibrahim & Sebastián Rozadilla” will be presented on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. Tickets are only $20 per household. “Our objective is not to make a lot of money on these shows; instead, it’s to give people something interesting to watch, a reason to gather together as a family and be inspired,” said Sauers. The National Geographic shows will be followed by the 2021 International Festival, Feb. 27-28.

One of the biggest events of Overture’s season is International Festival, held every February for the past 40 years, celebrating the community’s rich cultural heritage. Last year’s event represented 50-plus cultures and featured nearly 40 performances throughout Overture by artists who call Dane County home along with 37 arts and crafts vendors and 10 food vendors, attracting nearly 15,000 guests. “People love International Festival! It showcases the diversity of cultures existing in our community,” said Alanna Medearis, director of education and community engagement. “But the event has become so large that guests often find themselves waiting in long lines or being turned away from fullhouse performances.” Congestion won’t be an issue next month when Overture hosts its 2021 International Festival: Your Virtual Passport to the Arts. The free event opens to the public with an opening ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. The event officially runs through Sunday, Feb. 28, yet the access link will remain available for two weeks afterward. Due to limited resources and staffing, the virtual event will be downsized from past years; however, viewers will still be able to enjoy cultural arts performances, cooking demonstrations, visual arts galleries, discussions and more. Guests will access a global map and can “travel the world” at their convenience, participating in shows and activities that fit their personal interests. “We will present a variety of online performances, short language lessons, interactive discussions, activities for

International Festival Dragon

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MAD I S ON kids, lots of music and dance—really something for everyone,” said Medearis.

the fallout of the pandemic, especially the loss of earned revenue for almost a year—a $12 million deficit. The And because the event is hosted online, organization is surviving on the people can share the links and spread generosity of its donors as well as state the joy of the arts across the region, state and federal grants. and country—even across the world. Weather, traffic, travel and crowds are “It’s not realistic to think we can pick up not an issue with the virtual format, so all of Overture’s 20-plus programs again more people can attend the festival, when we reopen,” said Sauers. “But that’s even those who are homebound or in okay. This down time is a time to pause hospitals and nursing homes. and reevaluate what’s working and what’s not, what should continue, what will be reduced and what will be retired. It gives us time to think strategically, Sauers is proud of his creative teams reimagine our future and be more and how they continue to adapt purposeful in our programming.” programming to best serve and engage As we welcome a new year, arts leaders their audiences. He understands that across the nation are faced with a digital programming will be sticking “new normal” – one in which anything around for a while. is possible. Last winter, Overture was “We all need art in our lives, so we will closing up on a record year, until keep finding ways to present virtual COVID-19 came to town and everything shows and events to stay connected changed. Overture Center realizes with our patrons,” said Sauers. change can be challenging and painful at times, but good things can come He also understands it will take time when we’re open to new possibilities. for the organization to recover from

Looking forward

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Until the Curtains Rise: How to Support U.S. Theater Artists By Amanda Finn The novel Coronavirus-19 shuttered America’s theaters in 2020 and, while there is hope for 2021, the majority of theaters are still closed for in-person performances for the foreseeable future. Nine months into the pandemic, with cast recordings on repeat and recorded plays aplenty online, theater fans are clamoring for new ways to support artists in this difficult time. Though the holidays are over, it’s never too late to give back to the companies we love and ones we’re just discovering for the first time. No matter where you are in the country there are ways to invest in the arts. First and foremost, the easiest way to support theater artists is by sharing their current work or donating to crowdsourcing funds. Financial relief for artists has all but dried up, but if you aren’t able to give money be sure to share the fundraising efforts wherever you can. Word of mouth is, of course, a great way to bolster support. One reason why streaming theater performances can be a great source of support is because those shows inspire us to give back or find other ways to sustain companies and artists. Watching theater even from a distance also reminds us why theater means so much to us. It keeps the arts in front of the mind so, when the arts are live again, seeing them won’t feel so foreign. While you’re waiting for theaters to reopen, you can still buy gift cards! Even if you can’t see a show right now, you can plan ahead and give local theaters some cash now by purchasing gift cards or certificates to use at a later date. This is also something you can do to support your local businesses as well. Although the holidays are over, consider giving back to local companies by buying merchandise from them. Many theater artists are also major side hustlers and have opened Etsy or other online shops to support themselves. Seek out those sites to directly support artists wherever they are. For example, the performers who were laid off at Walt Disney World are finding creative ways to support themselves and fellow former cast members. While slightly different than your average live theater performer, the performing cast members at Disney World are actors too! Crowdsourcing within our own communities is a great way to help everyone stay afloat. 28 | artsscene


Here are a few more ways you can engage with theaters and artists near and far: West Coast • Theater Bay Area is keeping a list of streamed performances in the Bay Area. The page is updated weekly to support the artists and institutions. • Donations can also be made to support individual Bay Area artists through the Performing Arts Worker Relief Fund. • The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, through their WBTT Live! series, is offering free streamed performances as well as interviews with their artists. Videos are being added to the site periodically for audiences to enjoy while the theater is closed.

Midwest • Since the early days of the pandemic, the Chicago Theatre Workers Relief Fund has been giving back to the community. Through the generous support of donors, artists who are missing their employment can apply for much needed financial assistance. • Back in the spring of 2019, Chicago artists created a grassroots effort through the Chicago Artists Relief Fund to support the community. Donations are still being accepted so they can continue giving grants as funding becomes available.

South • The South Florida Theatre League has launched their own artist relief fund for local artists in financial straits. This fund is slightly different than others as it is specifically to be allocated to companies who can then pay anyone who will be laid off or lose wages because of the pandemic. • In Atlanta, the Atlanta Artist Relief Fund is collecting donations to support artists of all kinds who have lost income because of COVID. They are currently just shy of 13% of their initial funding goal.


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East Coast • The Theatre Artists Relief Fund, supported by the American Theatre Wing, has been providing grants to artists who lost income because of canceled or cutshort productions. Donations to the organization can help sustain the fund as the pandemic continues to ravage the live performance industry. • Theatre Washington in D.C. is still shy of their $500,000 goal to help as many local out of work theater artists as possible. Grants are still being made available for artists in financial need, but donations are still needed. • All Arts, based in New York, is supporting a stream of Dael Orlandersmith’s Until the Flood until fall 2023. This moving work showcases the interviews Orlandersmith conducted in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown. • Every evening at 7:30 p.m. EST a different performance is available to watch on the Metropolitan Opera’s website until 6:30 p.m. EST the following day. While the Met will be closed for public performances through at least September 2021, audiences can enjoy opera from home. • The Kennedy Center has opened its vast collection of recordings on their platform, the Digital Stage, for anyone to enjoy. You can search their public collection for works and there are new performances added regularly. From full shows to iconic performances from the greats like Audra McDonald and Carol Burnett, there’s something for everyone at the Digital Stage.

Everywhere • The Folger Shakespeare Library has a great list of places to watch Shakespeare. The performances are available from all over the U.S. as well as the world. Are you missing The Bard? Do you want to see David Tennant in Richard II? Check it out! • Culture Fix has also curated a list of global performances and these can be broken down by style genre depending on what you’re looking for. Interested in classical music for you but family-style shows for the kids? This is going to be your go-to list. • Kickstarter has an amazing list of other funds and ways to give back to the artists struggling right now. Consider donating or building steam for these programs so they can continue bringing help where it’s needed.

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*- The-*-



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Rel a tivity A Musical

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Visual Art

This month, we asked local artists to submit a variety of visual art pieces to be featured in ArtsScene that tie into our January theme: A Fresh Start. After looking through some amazing submissions, we are excited to share some of our favorites with you. Do you want to see your artwork featured in an upcoming issue of ArtsScene? CLICK HERE to learn about our upcoming themes and show us your work!


click image to see artist’s website

Artist: Bob Reinke Painted during a time of experimentation and expansion, this painting depicts a forest preparing for rebirth. 32 | artsscene


click image to see artist’s website


click image to see artist’s website

Artist: Trove Arts Drawings and paintings inspired by blueprints, mechanical schematics, and the plans we all attempt to make in a fluid, changing world.

Artist: Danielle Rose, acrylic and toilet paper rolls on canvas “Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three...” Because sometimes starting fresh means blowing away the past and beginning a new next season. january2021 | 33


Performing Art The show must go on! While many performing arts venues remain closed, the creativity hasn’t stopped. We went on the hunt to find some great performance related pieces based on our January theme: A Fresh Start. Check out these incredible submissions from local performers and artists – and see what they’ve been up to! Do you want to see your artwork featured in an upcoming issue of ArtsScene? CLICK HERE to learn about our upcoming themes and show us your work!

Michael Dean Morgan, a Milwaukee-area born artist who made his Broadway debut in Amazing Grace in 2015, has created a project to preserve the work and lives of artists across the nation living through a global pandemic. He saw how fast artists were pivoting and trying to stay creative, and wanted to find a way to save this moment in time. Morgan’s project, Theatre Story Archives, is a collection of artists interviewing artists about the effect COVID-19 has had on their careers and their lives. Learn more about the lives artists all over the nation by clicking here! 34 | artsscene

Eric Welch, whose wig and makeup work have been seen in a variety of local theatres such as Sunset Playhouse, the Milwaukee Rep, and more, has taken his creative energy into a virtual setting. Before quarantine, Welch, the owner of K’eric’ters Wig & Hair Company, had started doing photo shoots with local performer/producer Marcee Doherty-Elst, transforming her into classic Disney Villains. He’s now taken that a step further and started to produce music videos with a handful of local performers. Welch has already created 22 videos, with plans for many more on the way. Check them out!

Later this month, local performer Shawn Holmes will be releasing Singing From Holmes, a virtual cabaret featuring many familiar faces from the Milwaukee theatre scene. Holmes, who can frequently be found on professional stage such as Skylight Music Theatre, was inspired to make this project after COVID-19 shut down almost all performing opportunities for this extremely talented group of artists. The performance will consist of edited videos featuring some great Broadway classics, all recorded separately in the safety of these artists’ homes. january2021 | 35

Bravo! The Burish Group supports the arts Whether it be in person or virtual, the arts help economies thrive, communities flourish and individuals connect with each other while educating and enriching societies. We are proud to support ArtsScene and look forward to enjoying the arts together in person again soon. The Burish Group UBS Financial Services Inc. Madison 8020 Excelsior Drive, Suite 400 Madison, WI 53717 608-831-4282

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A world-class outdoor art experience in the heart of downtown. Learn more about the artists and artworks, and take a free audio tour at www.sculpturemilwaukee.com

The power of the stage to unite knows no boundaries. We invite you to join in our mission with a tax-deductible contribution to Name Your Seat in Uihlein Hall. More information at MarcusCenter.org/curtain january2021 | 37


Renaissance Theaterworks, a local Milwaukee-based theatre company, has teamed up with In The Box Entertainment to literally deliver an immersive arts experience right to your doorstep! You buy a ticket. You’re delivered a box, inside which you find a variety of objects, along with an invitation beckoning you to solve a mysterious puzzle. You accept the invitation, and are connected online to a detective who needs the clues in your box to start connecting the pieces... but... the pieces to what? As the plot unfolds into a night of twists and turns –along with virtual live performances that plunge you deeper into a world of noir and intrigue– you realize this is about much more than random items in a box. You begin to wonder: Who’s chasing who? And why is one of your objects a clock that’s slowly counting down? And... perhaps most importantly of all... what happens when it hits zero? All this fun and excitement right from your own couch! This experience is available January 12-23. LEARN MORE HERE

Dane County Arts and Cultural Affairs Commissionaka Dane Arts- produced two videos this year.  The first in May was to recognize, support, and honor the many different individual working artists impacted by COVID-19.  Over 250 artists were each supported with $500 through a grant called DANG!- the Dane Arts Need Grant. In December, they shared a second short video highlighting all the amazing Dane County arts organizations funded through our 2020 grant cycles. Their art is a true testament to the innovative and creative thinking from many talented artists and managers in Dane County. “We are all thankful we have such a diverse arena of artists, arts programs, and projects,” shared Mark J. Fraire, Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs.

LEARN MORE HERE 38 | artsscene


While full orchestras remain sidelined, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is excited to present a new Winter Chamber Series in winter of 2021. This new series will feature chamber works of multiple ensembles ranging from trios to octets, showcasing the versatility and caliber of the WCO’s 34 world-class musicians. Patrons can enjoy the four-concert series in the comfort of their own home, streaming each concert on WCO Live on-demand starting at 7:30 p.m. on the evening of the concert launch, with the first going live on January 21st. All programs will be 60 – 75 minutes in length, with not only music but also stories from the WCO’s own musicians on their journey to becoming professional musicians. Also included is a pre-concert talk with Maestro Andrew Sewell and Norman Gilliland, as well as a post-concert reflection with musicians of the WCO. Learn more about their series here!


The United Performing Arts Fund, the largest united fund in the country for the performing arts, announced at the end of last year that Patrick Rath has been named the next President & CEO. Rath will succeed Deanna Tillisch, who has held the position since 2011. As a musician himself, Rath comes to UPAF with a great appreciation for the arts as well as a long history in Milwaukee’s nonprofit sector. He previously served as the Executive Development Officer and System Vice President at Advocate Aurora Health Foundations. Prior to this role, Rath held development roles at Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Art Museum. You can learn more about Patrick, and helping UPAF support local performing arts, by clicking the button below!

LEARN MORE HERE january2021 | 39


The live, professional theater has been one of the hardest hit sectors in the country by the COVID-19 pandemic and within the field, some of the most vulnerable populations are freelance artists. The Milwaukee Rep, Rep Rising Campaign, was launched to help our theater rebound from the impacts of COVID as quickly as possible and to do that, investments need to be made to assist regional theater artists that are critical to our ability to recover and create the worldclass art we are known for. To assist freelance theatrical artists during this critical time, the Milwaukee Rep Freelance Artist Relief Effort supported by the Rep Rising Campaign will provide a limited number of immediate awards up to $1,000 each for freelance theatrical artists in a variety of disciplines who have lost employment from April 1 – December 1, 2020. This program is supported by private donations from individuals. Learn more, apply, or donate with the button below!


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On-demand digital concerts featuring chamber works for multiple ensembles ranging from trios to octets, showcasing the versatility & caliber of the WCO’s 34 world-class musicians. PERFORMANCE DEBUTS January 22 | February 26 | March 26 | April 16


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Check out some of Southern Wisconsin's best upcoming virtual and in-person arts offerings! Want to see your event in an upcoming issue? Click here! CLAUDETTE LEE-ROSELAND:

IMAGINATION UNLEASHED Cedarburg Art Museum Through January 10 Decades of creativity have prepared this beloved Midwest artist for an exhibition of abstract and non-objective paintings. Abstracted naturalistic works define a sense of place in rural areas.



Jewish Museum Milwaukee Through January 19 Protest posters and signs that have the power to distill complex issues into one essential, recognizable image that communicates across groups and borders.


SELF PORTRAITS The Warehouse Through January 22 The exhibition, drawn from The Warehouse’s permanent collection, features more than 50 self-portraits by prominent artists from 10 countries on 5 continents.


LunART Festival Through February 1 Calling all young women artists! We want to see and hear what family means to you. Share your two dimensional art exploring the theme of family and celebrating human connection.


The Pfister Hotel Through March 27 Nykoli Koslow is our twelfth Pfister Artist-in-Residence. They are a Milwaukee based artist working in the realm of painting and drawing.


Fireside Dinner Theatre January 7 – February 21 In this installment of The Church Basement Ladies series, the year is 1960 and a reformation is underway with more crazy antics, more great songs, and more lessons reluctantly learned.


Miller High Life Theatre January 9-10 DanceFest features a fun, familyfriendly atmosphere. You can expect an event that runs on-time, with a friendly staff that promotes fairness and sportsmanship to all teams.


Cedarburg Cultural Center January 9 – March 20 Painting Original Watercolors will follow the popular Critique, Demo and Work format. Struck will introduce a variety of subjects in this series, including urban and natural landscapes.


MYSTERY IN A BOX Renaissance Theaterworks January 12-23 You're delivered a box with objects, clues and an invitation to solve a mysterious puzzle. Perfect holiday gift!


Schauer Arts Center January 15 The Claudettes fuse Chicago piano blues with the full-throttle energy of rockabilly and punk and the sultriness of ’60s soul to write a thrilling new chapter in American roots music. january2021 | 43








Miramar Theatre January 16 Jack Douglass, better known as “jacksfilms” online, is turning his popular series YIAY (Yesterday I Asked You) into a live game show, it’s going on tour- and you’re the player! Schauer Arts Center January 22-30 The Comicality crazies pounce upon the punny pinnacle of Pikes Peak for Year Six of big funny benefitting the Schauer! Join us for hilarious songs and standup. Forward Theater January 22 – February 7 Zoe, a Black student at a liberal arts college, is called into her white professor’s office to discuss her paper about slavery’s effect on the American Revolution.


Turner Hall Ballroom January 24 Shovels and Rope By Blood Tour + special guest INDIANOLA.


Memorial Union January 29 Acclaimed for its bold interpretive strength and electrifying performances, the Verona Quartet is the 2020 recipient of Chamber Music America’s prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award.


THE HIDDEN FACES EXHIBIT Latino Arts January 29 Madison, WI based artist, Angelica Contreras attended the University of Guadalajara and received her B.A. in Art in 2008 and a Masters on Art Education is 2016. 44 | artsscene

Schauer Arts Center February 6 Comedian Charlie Berens is a dynamic talent in the comedy world. Berens is the creator and star of the smash-hit, Manitowoc Minute. Get some tickets real quick once and keep 'er movin! Next Act Theatre February 11 – March 7 Kay wants to make a difference; she quits her corporate job and heads for Chicago’s South Side to teach English. But this year will be extra tough.

Alliant Energy Center February 12-14 The Garden Expo is a midwinter oasis for people ready to venture out and dig their hands in the dirt. This three-day event celebrates the latest trends in gardening, landscaping and edibles.


Alliant Energy Center February 12-14 The Annual Zor Shrine Circus is always a big hit with the entire family! There are animals, trapeze artists, and of course clowns galore to entertain and thrill the audience.


Waukesha Expo Center February 13-14 100 booths of the Midwest’s finest exhibitors showing a wide variety of handmade arts and crafts.



Milwaukee Repertory Theater February 16 – March 14 Alexis J Roston salutes America’s favorite jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald. Roston was last seen at the Rep in her mesmerizing star turn as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.





Fireside Dinner Theatre February 25 – April 11 Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. The Fireside will pay tribute to many legendary performers in a live band show featuring Steve Watts and the Fireside Band. Skylight Music Theatre March 12-28 This staged concert version is a special limited run of the story of Eva Duarte and her meteoric rise from impoverished child to wife of Argentine president Juan Perón.

Waukesha Civic Theatre March 12-28 George is consumed with the documenting of dying languages from far-flung cultures. At home, however, his own language is failing him, causing trouble between him and his wife, Mary. Milwaukee Repertory Theater March 23 – April 18 Back by popular demand, McGuire is a touching portrait of the uncommonly funny and profound man behind the legend with the man himself played by Tony Award-winning actor Anthony Crivello.

CLICK HERE to submit your events


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Word Search


What are some of the things you are excited to see or do to be creative in 2021? Check out some of our ideas in this A Fresh Start Word Search!




january2021 | 49

Don't miss out on next month's issue of artsscene!



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Profile for Footlights.com

ArtsScene | January 2021