Why It’s Time For A New Rep Building

Last week, we announced our 2020/21 Season, a new 5-year strategic plan and launched a rebranding campaign. I'm pleased to share that we've received quite a bit of press. Below are a few selected articles…

Milwaukee Business Journal: "Five Year Plan will Result in New Building for Milwaukee Rep" 
WTMJ: "Milwaukee Rep plans for major renovation" 
BizTimes: "Milwaukee Rep plans expansion, renovation"
Fox6: "Milwaukee Rep reveals new logo & strategic plan"

It may seem like the priorities in our new strategic plan came together quickly, but the process of creating the plan took more than a year and involved hundreds of stakeholders. In particular, the conclusions reached regarding the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex were the result of an extensive facilities study conducted by Auerbach, Pollack and Friedlander.  The findings of which are below…

• Audience & operations have grown significantly – a testament to Milwaukee Rep’s strength and the community’s desire to have a world-class theater. However, it is evident that we have outgrown our current facilities.
• As the operating models of American theater-making continue to change, we must adjust our physical presence on a building-wide level to remain competitive on a national level and to transfer work created in Milwaukee to Broadway and around the world.
• Even with dedicated maintenance, after four decades of continual use with no major renovations, all major systems are well overdue for replacement.
• To be a theater that is welcoming and inspirational to all, accessibility needs to be significantly improved.

Milwaukee is undergoing tremendous change as Southeastern Wisconsin repositions itself to become a region of choice for all.  The Baker Theater Complex opened in 1987. Since that time, significant cultural investments throughout the region have been made:  Skylight Music Theatre: Broadway Theatre Center (1993), Milwaukee Art Museum: Calatrava (2001), First Stage and MYSO: Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (2005), Florentine Opera: Lueders Opera Center (2009), Next Act: New Theatre (2011), Milwaukee Art Museum: 120k square foot expansion (2015), Milwaukee Ballet: Baumgartner Center for Dance (2019), Milwaukee Film: Oriental Theatre (2019), Milwaukee Symphony: Warner Grand Theatre (2020). A similar investment in Milwaukee Rep is needed for the theater to remain competitive, to continue its growth and to lead as a top-tier theater with a world-class venue. To sustain and grow, a building plan to address the above challenges was approved by the Board of Trustees. It calls for us to remain in our current location but to expand our footprint.

We believe we can make a strong case for support by asking donors to consider this project through a lens of opportunity. If evaluated on the same basis that many use when looking at other financial investments, I believe we have one of the most compelling cases for support in the region. Seven decades after its founding by Mary John Sullivan, Jane Bradley Pettit and Miller Brewing CEO Fred Miller, Milwaukee Rep has become Wisconsin’s largest performing arts organization serving up to 300,000 patrons at 700 performances of 15 plays in 4 venues annually.

Our theater is not in crisis. We have a proven business model, a demonstrated commitment to financial responsibility, clear demand for our work and a track record of growth. In the last five years, the theater has grown by 53% to a $14.5 million operating budget including a 40% increase in earned revenue (ticket sales), a 41% increase in Subscriptions (now with 16,000 subscribers), and a 78% growth in contributed revenue. In looking at national benchmarks from Theatre Communications Group for all professional theaters in the United States, Milwaukee Rep’s financial performance exceeds 85% of its peers. Because of our performance, Milwaukee Rep has been award UPAF’s Good Steward Award 5 out of the last 7 years and Charity Navigator’s Top 4-Star Award for five consecutive years.

We look forward to providing more updates as they are available and appreciate the support you give to your Milwaukee Rep.