Taking the Stage: Arts Season Preview

Madison’s performing arts groups share what they have in store for audiences in the 2009–2010 season

Sep 11, 2009

The Bricks Theatre

A brand new company, The Bricks Theatre debuts with a production in October. A set season isn’t planned out beyond that, and executive director David Pausch plans to grow with the success of each show. “So, we’ll perform in October, and when that goes well, we’ll announce our holiday show, and when that goes well, we’ll tell you all about our spring extravaganza (unless things don’t go as well as we think they will; then it might just be a spring production),” he says. “And really, a little anticipation never hurt anyone, did it?” While the company is starting small, Pausch is enthusiastic about the possibilities it brings to town. “We want to bring some rock and roll to Madison’s theater … get it out of the theater spaces and into clubs, bars, coffee shops, whoever will have us. And we want to do it with interesting productions that tell good stories which people will enjoy,” he says. “We're going to have a lot of fun this year, and so will anyone who comes to a Bricks show.”

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein October 14, 16, 17, 21 and 22


Broom Street Theater

When a theater company puts the tagline “No censorship, no restrictions, no limits” on its website, audiences should expect to be surprised—and entertained. And Broom Street continues its tradition of experimentation and pushing limits this season. A highlight includes artistic director Callen Harty’s adaptation of McBeth, in which kings and queens are replaced by corporate executives. A few new playwrights make their Broom Street debut this season, and a few old favorites—such as Rob Matsushita with 900 and Heather Renken with A Woman on Paper—return. As always, the company features a variety of voices and viewpoints in plays that won’t be produced elsewhere, Harty says. “Every play is different,” he adds.

Tales from the Dork Side September 15–November 1
McBeth November 13–December 20
Cattywompus January 15–February 21
Two Plays March 5–April 11
Multiple O: The Second Coming April 23–May 30
Television: The Play June 11–July 18
Proud Theater: Decade July 23–25
A Woman on Paper August 6–September 12
Invisible Boy September 23–October 31
900 November 12–December 19


Children’s Theater of Madison

While many theater companies are scaling back this year, CTM has actually added a show. They’re offering four this season, including Little Women: The Musical as a special collaboration with Four Seasons. Producing artistic director Roseann Sheridan says title recognition—“shows that make you say, ‘Oh, I love that story!’”—played a role in choosing this season’s plays. “Each one of our shows is an adaptation of a classic book, so there’s a great literary foundation for the season,” she adds.

Little Women: The Musical October 9–25
A Christmas Carol December 11–23
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse February 12–28
Narnia April 9–18


Encore! Studio for the Performing Arts

This season marks not only Encore’s tenth anniversary but also the first that the group—Wisconsin’s only professional theater company for people with disabilities—will perform in their own studio at 1480 Martin St. “Although we perform in many places throughout the state, the Midwest and beyond, we most enjoy performing in our hometown,” says executive and artistic director Kelsy A. Schoenhaar. She’s excited to premiere 911, but says the entire season is mindful of the current state of the world. “Our intention to keep things positive in our complicated economic times wasn’t an accident—there’s no better place to escape than an evening at the theater.”

Acts to Grind II September 12–18
Tidings from the Seasonally Affected December 10–19
911: A Collection of 4 One-Act Plays March 19–April 3


Forward Theater Co.

As a new professional theater company, Forward Theater is starting off small on purpose. But artistically, it’s starting off with a bang, presenting Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, a play that debuted this year in New York. “It just felt perfect,” says artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray. “It’s really topical and funny, too.” The play is sure to be popular with theater groups next year, so it’s a big deal to offer it this season, she says. Providing balance are the season’s other two works. All About Eve is a classic backstage story that will allow for a radio adaptation that Wisconsin Public Radio will broadcast later, while a reading of Kiritsis, a play by Wisconsin playwright David Schanker, illustrates the company’s goal to develop new writers, Gray says. And while many in the company worked with the now-closed Madison Repertory Theatre, don’t expect a reincarnation. “We’re not the Rep take-two,” she says.

All About Eve November 7
Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them December 30–January 17
Kiritsis March 20


Four Seasons Theatre

While Four Seasons typically offers a concert version of a not-so-well-known show in the winter, this year the company is bringing in two Broadway stars—Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley—from New York City to perform. And artistic director Andrew Adams is looking forward to another change: partnering with CTM on Little Women. “I’m excited about everything but I think Little Women is especially fun because of working in a new space with an incredible cast,” he says.

Little Women: The Musical October 9–25
An Evening of Broadway with Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley & the FST Orchestra February 19
Fiddler on the Roof August 20–22


Kanopy Dance Company

This season, Kanopy continues its mission to “bring great modern/contemporary dance both new and old” to their audiences, says co-artistic director Lisa Thurell. Autumn Heart features two premieres and also includes “Yggdrassil,” a dance choreographed by Thurell. “This work, lush and romantic, is inspired by the legend of the Norse Tree of life as well as the colors, textures and themes of some of the early twentieth century painters like Gustav Klimt,” she says. Dark Nights premieres co-artistic director Robert E. Cleary’s “Ikarus,” a dance based on a mythological story—“and the theme of going beyond limitations,” Thurell says. And Celebration of Dance is the culmination of a four-year project between Kanopy, Flamenco Dance, Riad Dance WADOMA and Kalaanjali and will feature a blending of modern dance with flamenco, Middle Eastern, classical Indian and West African forms.

Autumn Heart November 13–15
Dark Nights: Ikarus February 19–21
Celebration of Dance April 16–18


Laboratory Theatre

While Madison audiences likely don’t know much about the Laboratory Theatre yet—their last show and Madison debut, Free2B … U & Me was exclusively for second and third graders—that should change this season. And audiences should expect the unexpected, says artistic director Michele Gerard Good. “Seen The Santaland Diaries? Did yours have go-go-dancing reindeer and singing, Rollerblading elves? When was the last time you went to a play where you were expected to participate? Then you haven’t seen our version of Schoolhouse Rock Live!

The Santaland Diaries November 27–December 19
Schoolhouse Rock Live! March 5–27


Li Chiao-Ping Dance

This dance company, known for its emotionally striking and athletic performances, is still working out the details of its spring and summer concerts, but artistic director Li Chiao-Ping is excited to share elements of the season’s first production, Pagoda. “We’ve programmed a show of beautiful and strong dances inspired by Asian folklore and spirituality,” she says. “The program will include powerful solos like ‘Chi,’ meditative works like ‘Satori,’ and dreamlike pieces like ‘Untitled,’ as well as a couple of premieres.”

Pagoda October 23–25
Spring Concert March 5–7
Summer Concert June 18–20


Madison Ballet

Madison Ballet knows what its audiences love, and so the company is giving them the best of the best this season, with productions of The Nutcracker and Cinderella. “The ’09–10 season is a true celebration of the beauty of ballet,” says artistic director W. Earle Smith. “The Nutcracker and Cinderella are always audience favorites. These timeless traditions offer the best of the art form and spectacular performances for the entire family.”

The Nutcracker December 18–20
Cinderella March 13–14


Madison Opera

A mix of old and new characterizes Madison Opera’s new season. “With the opera’s recent expansion to three productions, we now have the ability to offer a well-balanced range of repertoire and theatrical experiences for our audiences,” says general director Allan E. Naplan. “With Carmen, we offer a sure hit of great familiarity and popular appeal. With The Flying Dutchman, we’re able to expand the repertoire and introduce a company premiere from Richard Wagner, one of the compositional giants of the operatic art form. And with The Turn of the Screw, we’re able to present a uniquely intimate musical and theatrical experience.”

Carmen November 6 and 8
The Turn of the Screw January 28–31
The Flying Dutchman April 9 and 11


Madison Symphony Orchestra

If the MSO’s 2008–2009 season celebrated music director John DeMain’s fifteen years with the organization, this season takes a look forward at the next fifteen years—and honoring the audience. “This year is focused on the audience and in putting something special in every concert,” he says. “It’s going to be very appealing discoveries with, as always, visits to old friends.” DeMain has chosen interesting works by major composers that aren’t heard very often, such as Beethoven’s “Consecration of the House” and Strauss’s “Death and Transfiguration” in early October. “That’s part of the fun of this year’s program—the masterpiece surprises,” he says. But DeMain is also showcasing some works that the symphony hasn’t played in awhile, such as Saint-Saëns’ “Symphony No. 3” for organ. The symphony will perform it in early February, the first time since Overture Center’s opening. “That’s going to be a thrilling concert,” he says.

Peter Serkin October 2–4
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg October 23–25
Ralph Kirshbaum November 20–22
Christmas Spectacular December 4–6
Pinchas Zukerman February 5–7
Stephen Hough February 26–28
Jonathan Biss March 19–21
Philippe Bianconi April 16–18


Madison Theatre Guild

Thanks to smart and creative planning, the Madison Theatre Guild is doubling its number of shows this season, from four to eight. That’s because they’re performing two at a time and creating sets that can be utilized by both. Forever Plaid and Spitfire Grill are both musicals with broad appeal, says artistic advisor Joan Brooks. Another two are “plays with music,” Souvenir, which tells the story of a historical figure, and Tarantara! Tarantara!, which follows Gilbert and Sullivan and their contentious relationship—along with beloved songs from their shows. The Madison Theatre Guild is co-producing that show with the Madison Savoyards. The remaining four plays are quite different from one another but humorous as well as poignant, Brooks says.

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins October 14–24
Forever Plaid October 8–24
Hot L Baltimore January 8–30
Tarantara! Tarantara! January 15–24
Two Rooms February 19–March 7
Meg February 25–March 13
The Spitfire Grill May 7–29
The Seahorse May 13–28


Mercury Players Theatre

Mercury Players starts off a strong and diverse season with Catherine Capellaro and Andrew Rohn’s Genesis-inspired musical comedy, In the Beginning. It goes on to feature 1 SW33T R1DE, a psychological thriller by popular Madison playwright Rob Matsushita, and a new play competition, Mercury Rising, which is made up of eight one-act plays. And it wraps the season with Blitz and Smackdown, the annual theatrical event in which plays are written, rehearsed and performed within twenty-four hours.

In the Beginning September 4–26
Vin October 9–24
1 SW33T RIDE November 20–December 12
Fat Men in Skirts January 22–February 13
Mercury Rising April 16–May 1
Poona: The F**k Dog May 28–June 12
Blitz and Smackdown June 18–19


Music Theatre of Madison

While the dates of Music Theatre of Madison’s 2010 summer shows are still being worked out, artistic director Meghan Randolph says the company has settled into a pattern of doing one larger-scale musical and one smaller musical each year. “We focus on producing new or lesser-known works that are educational or thought-provoking and use musical theater to open doors to other worlds,” she says. And there’s a second pattern the company is hoping to carry out from this year. “The productions of Floyd Collins and Yours, Anne will be performed for schools and include younger actors, and we have decided to do a school production each year from here on out,” she says. And though they won’t be including The Wild Party in those plans, they’re looking forward to that production, too. “It’s a chance for a fun, scandalous evening of musical theater!” she says.

Floyd Collins September 12–20
The Wild Party June
Yours, Ann August–September


Overture Center

Working toward the goal “engaging the community in the arts while acknowledging economic realities,” Overture Center is offering fewer acts but more performances this season, says publicist Rob Chappell. The Lion King is the big news of the season. “Of course we’re excited about The Lion King,” Chappell says. “That’s bigger and bolder than anything Madison’s seen.” But Overture is bringing in other family-friendly shows, such as Little House on the Prairie and Grease. RENT should be popular, and “heavy-hitter” names like Gladys Knight and Suzanne Vega are sure to draw a crowd, he adds. Additionally, Overture planners have purposely left room in the calendar so they can add shows if something intriguing comes up—so check in on the calendar throughout the year.

The Capitol Steps October 10
Ballroom with a Twist October 16
Stellaluna October 17
Jungle Jack Hanna October 18
ABBA Mania October 28
A Broadway Harvest: Elizabeth Ward Land November 5
Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps November 10–15
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana November 12
Room on the Broom November 15
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) December 3–20
Step Afrika! December 4
Grease December 8–13
The Christmas Music of Mannheim Steamroller December 29
Chris Botti January 14
Little House on the Prairie January 19–24
RENT January 26–31
Pilobolus Dance Theatre February 9
Lily Tomlin February 11
Peking Acrobats February 14
Love is a Simple Thing: Joan Curto February 14
A Year with Frog and Toad February 21
The Second City 50th Anniversary Tour March 5
Sones de México March 6
Seussical March 7
Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway March 13
Danú March 17
Shidara March 19
Gladys Knight March 26
Four Bitchin’ Babes: Diva Nation March 27
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago April 1
A Tribute to the 1930s: Paul Marinaro Trio April 8
Bobby Osborne April 9
The Man Who Planted Trees April 10
An Evening with David Sedaris April 13
The Blanks April 17
Suzanne Vega April 24
Disney’s The Lion King April 27–May 23
Monterey Jazz Festival: Kenny Barron Trio, Regina Carter, Kurt Elling and Russel Malone April 29
Bill Blagg III: A Night of Magic April 30



Artistic director Tara Ayres is mixing things up this season at StageQ. For one, she’s not directing any of the plays, giving other local directors the opportunity. And while StageQ continues its commitment to show new work and draw in “non-theater people” from the LGBT community, Ayres wants to show different kinds of characters in all sorts of situations and balance lighter works with those featuring heavier themes. The Stops is a musical with three men playing women, but not in drag, Ayres says, while she calls Random Harvest “a bittersweet love story but also a ghost story” and Sappho in Love is “going to be a romp.” She thinks audiences will respond to the mix. “Two of the three are funny,” she says of the works. “Some are sweet. All are thought-provoking.” The season also includes an annual favorite: in June is the fifth annual Queer Shorts playfest, with twelve shows in a night. And some of those shows might be old favorites, Ayres says.

The Stops October 30–November 21
Random Harvest December 31–January 16
Sappho in Love February 12–27
Queer Shorts 5 June 10–19


Strollers Theatre

In planning its season, Strollers knew what it was looking for, namely, a musical, a comedy, a few dramas and a classic piece, says vice president Karen Saari. And that’s exactly what they’ve planned. “The collection of plays that make up the season is very exciting and should flow together well,” she says. “David Mamet’s racy courtroom farce, Romance, is a fiery comedy. This will lead us into William Mastrisimone’s drama Cat’s Paw, which pits an up-and-coming news reporter against an eco-terrorist. John Bishop’s Musical Comedy Murders is a wonderful spoof of murder mysteries of the ’30s and ’40s, complete with revolving bookcases and delightfully corny jokes. It’s a crowd pleaser that leads us into the much-loved Don Quixote musical Man of La Mancha, one of those shows that many know but have never seen. This classic musical leads us to Irish playwright John M. Synge’s ribald comedy, Playboy of the Western World. How could we not be excited?”

Romance August 13–September 5
Cat’s Paw September 10–October 3
The Musical Comedy of Murders of 1940 October 29–November 21
Man of La Mancha April 8–May 1
Playboy of the Western World May 13–June 5


University Theatre

As part of UW–Madison, University Theatre chooses plays that offer its students a variety of styles and experiences. “Because we have so many different needs to fill I believe that this makes UT one of the more eclectic season offerings in Madison,” says director of theater David Furumoto. “This season in particular we have selected what I feel is an extremely strong and varied selection of plays.” The season kicks off with a children’s offering, Revolt of the Beavers, and a highlight is sure to be the kabuki play Narukami, which Furumoto is directing. While it’s not the first kabuki play University Theatre has produced, Furumoto is approaching it with authenticity in mind. “I am excited in being given a chance to share a different world theater experience for our audiences here in Madison as well as introducing the students who will be working on the show to one of the world’s great performance traditions,” he says.

The Revolt of the Beavers October 3, 9, 10 and 11
The Imaginary Invalid October 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31 and November 1 and 5–7
Blood Wedding November 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22 and December 3–5
Narukami—The Thunder God February 26 and 27 and March 4–7 and 11–13
The Lady from the Sea March 19–21 and 25–27 and April 8–10
Into the Woods April 16–18, 22–24 and 29–30 and May 1


Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

WCO music director Andrew Sewell has good reason for feeling enthusiastic about the new season. “The fiftieth season for an arts organization is a big year and a big deal!” he says. “It’s second only to opening a new hall, which we had the good fortune of doing four years ago.” Sewell approached the lineup looking for “several ‘wow’ factors to anchor the season,” such as renowned flutist Sir James Galway, who performed with the orchestra in 2002. Also returning this season are trumpeter Ryan Anthony and pianist Stewart Goodyear. New artists include the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet and rising-star violinist Augustin Hadelich. The performance of Handel’s “Messiah” has a new home this year, in the atrium of Blackhawk Church. “It will be in a new venue for us, and the chorus will be comprised of singers from the Madison area and guest soloists from around the country,” Sewell says. After a few struggles last season, Sewell is focusing on honoring the WCO’s past and future this season. “I’m excited about the prospect of marking this important milestone in the orchestra’s history, and with the labor dispute now settled, moving forward,” he says.

Masterworks I: Augustin Hadelich October 9
Masterworks II: Sir James Galway November 14
Holiday Pops November 28–29
Handel: The Messiah December 11
Masterworks III: Minneapolis Guitar Quartet January 22
Masterworks IV: Ryan Anthony March 26
Masterworks V: Stewart Goodyear April 24


Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Illustration by Sarah Andler.

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