Taking a closer look at Madison theater
May 28, 2014
09:39 AM
Stage Write

Exit Interview: CTM's Roseann Sheridan Reviews a Successful Season

Exit Interview: CTM's Roseann Sheridan Reviews a Successful Season

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHILDREN'S THEATER OF MADISON

Sheridan: “We had so many people walking down the steps of the Overture Center with that ‘Where do I go now?' face. They didn’t know we were in the Playhouse, which means they were new audience members.”

Pro sports teams do it, just like many theater companies do: At the end of a season, they sit down and talk to their players/actors to debrief, take a pulse and gauge where they are and where they’re going. Now that Children’s Theater of Madison’s 2013–14 season is in the rear-view mirror, we chatted with artistic director Roseann Sheridan to get her thoughts on what worked, what she learned and what, if anything, she’d do differently given a time machine and a stack of Stage Write posts.

The Season:
CTM served up an interesting mix of shows, kicking off with an adaptation of the classic young adult novel Anne of Green Gables that featured an amazing set and a talented young actor. Next came the annual holiday production of Dickens's A Christmas Carol, with a new take by longtime Scrooge James Ridge. The 2014 section of the season featured a pair of literary adaptations—Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Very Bad Day before wrapping up with Fiddler on the Roof.

What Went Well:
Sheridan is emphatic and brief: “Fiddler,” she says. “We sold at ninety-two percent. I was hoping that would happen, but I wasn’t sure.”

The show, fronted by American Players Theatre mainstay Brian Mani, was always the jewel of the 2013–14 season, and it landed in the sweet spot of the strategy Sheridan’s trying to ply with CTM—professionally produced theater that includes children in the casts, but isn’t aimed strictly at a younger audience.

“It’s not the fourth grade assembly performance, and we’re not doing a ‘children’s version,’” says Sheridan. “The show was populated by a wide range of ages, and it did just what I wanted it to do.”

If “goose ticket sales” was high on that list, then mission accomplished. CTM had more than 2,000 new ticket buyers this season, many of whom were of the individual variety, the type Sheridan broadly defines as a person who buys three to four tickets to bring family and friends.

“We had so many people walking down the steps of the Overture Center with that Where do I go now? face,” says Sheridan. “They didn’t know we were in the Playhouse, which means they were new audience members.”

What Did You Learn?
Fiddler on the Roof was also the catalyst for the season’s big lesson: How to Produce a Live Musical in the Overture Playhouse. CTM has done plenty of musicals before, but none quite like Fiddler. Sheridan and her staff experimented with acoustics and stage design before ultimately settling on having the orchestra play in a sub-room in the left corner of the stage, with screens facing the actors so they could see the conductor’s rhythmic cues.

Gimme a Do-Over:
Sheridan wouldn’t mind replaying the 2013–14 season with the support of social media, a tool she’s hoping to use in future seasons to raise awareness about the company’s shows. The victim this season may have been Anne of Green Gables, a strong show that didn’t sell quite as well as expected, despite being based on a recognizable children’s book.

It’s the same challenge Forward Theater faced/faces. “We have to find ways to communicate about our shows,” Sheridan says. “I don’t think we’ve cracked that nut yet.”  

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About This Blog

Once upon a time—okay, it was the mid-'80s—a boy saw a performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the annual summer Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and a spark was ignited. Decades later, that spark’s only grown stronger, burning brightly every time the lights go up and the actors begin to tread the stage.

I’ve spent a long time—okay, more than 15 years—watching and writing about Madison’s theater scene. Now, more than ever, it’s clear our bustling burgh is packed with vibrant theater companies doing important, cutting-edge work, whether it’s original and daring content, stunning musicals or thought-provoking stagings of modern and classic plays. Stage Write is a place where we’ll talk about those plays and the people who make them happen, maybe look behind the curtain a little and gain some new perspective on how and why it all comes together. Theater has the power to transform, to educate, to show us who we are and where we’re going in a way no other medium can. Hey, look: The curtain’s rising.

– Aaron R. Conklin
Follow Aaron on Twitter @arconklin

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