In 1954, Milwaukee native Mary Widrig John forged a plan to create a professional theater for the city. She worked with a committee of city leaders including Charles McCallum, Milton Padway, Jane Bradley Uihlein (Pettit) and Fredrick C. Miller to raise funds to establish the company and renovate the Oakland Theater The new theater company Drama Incorporated was founded. The inaugural production of Sabrina Fair opened on January 25, 1955 in the Fred Miller Theatre [now home to the Miramar Theatre]. The theater building was named for the head of Miller Brewing Company and chair of the theater’s fundraising campaign, who died in a plane crash before the project was completed.
Drama Inc. produced a standard repertoire of Broadway hits featuring well-known performers to draw initial audiences. In the early 1960s, the company re-organized by creating a resident acting company and expanding its repertoire to include classics and premieres of new works. The name Milwaukee Repertory Theater was chosen in 1963 to reflect this new philosophy.
In 1968, Milwaukee Rep moved into the 504-seat Todd Wehr Theater in the new downtown Performing Arts Center. The move spurred attendance and helped Milwaukee Rep establish a firm operating base and a large pool of subscribers. In 1974, Milwaukee Rep converted a small warehouse space into an additional 99-seat theater, the Court Street Theater, which focused on artistic exploration, the development of new work, and plays suited to an intimate setting.
Milwaukee Rep moved to its current home across from Milwaukee’s City Hall in 1987. A cleverly converted power generation plant, the Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex houses three theaters, the Quadracci Powerhouse (720 seats); the Stiemke Studio (205 seats); and the Stackner Cabaret (186 seats), which is also a full-service restaurant and bar. Together, these spaces offer a variety of staging options and host a wide range of theatrical fare. The complex also houses all of Milwaukee Rep’s rehearsal facilities, production shops, and administrative offices.