Features of Our New Theater Center
At Milwaukee Rep, we harness the unique power of theater from Milwaukee and for Milwaukee. And today, after 69 years as a leading theater and 36 years in the former Wisconsin Electric Powerhouse building, we’re ready to bring that power to a new level.
Through Powering Milwaukee, our campaign for Milwaukee Rep, we will renovate and reimagine our theatrical home for the needs of today, the possibilities of tomorrow, and power a new era of theatre from Milwaukee, and for Milwaukee.
Our reimagined home will include an industry-standard proscenium stage in the Mainstage Theater, a state-of-the-art education and engagement center, and grand public lobbies to enhance the communal experience we want for our audiences.
FEATURES OF THE ASSOCIATED BANK THEATER CENTER
Our new flagship performance space will be one of the finest theatrical venues in the world and will include:
- Flexible Configuration. While uniquely known for its classic thrust configuration allowing audience members to sit feet away from performers, the new theater will also have the option of converting to a proscenium theater compatible with theaters on Broadway and in Europe, allowing Milwaukee Rep to develop and launch new works that can tour, bringing productions created in Wisconsin to the world.
- Fly Loft. The most efficient method of moving large pieces of scenery is to “fly” them, bringing scenery in and out from a fly loft above the stage. Currently, our theater does not have a fly loft, which severely limits our production capacities.
- Improved Seating and Sight Lines. The current theater has an exceptionally large stage allowing for large cast productions. However, when sitting in the right and left sections due to the configuration of the proscenium arch, audiences can see less than 50% of the stage. We are going to reduce audience capacity slightly with configurations offering between 550 and 650 seats, widen the proscenium arch, and install much more comfortable seats to ensure everyone has an enjoyable experience.
- Better accessibility. Currently, persons with disabilities are relegated to theater seats in the very back, last row. The new theater will have accessible seats in prime orchestra and access to those seats from the ground floor, steps away from valet parking on Wells Street without the need to navigate stairs.
- Modern production technology. Our current theatrical technology was installed in the 1980s, and is woefully inadequate. The new theater will have advance digital sound, laser projection capability, automated scenery, live-streaming capabilities, and programmable intelligent lighting.
Our new flexible, black-box space will better serve intimate dramatic productions and boundary-pushing theatrical events. Features include:
- Increased seating capacity. Current seating limits severely limit cast sizes, as even when sold-out, we are unable to offset costs of plays with more than 4 actors. With additional seating capacity and revenue potential, we will be able to program a much wider variety of plays increasing the programming in the Studio Theater.
- Easily transformable performance space. New seating technology will allow us to reconfigure the seating and performance spaces very quickly, giving directors and designers many more options to explore the audience/actor relationship.
- Welcoming lobby. As currently configured, audience amenities are severely lacking. The new studio theater will have expanded restrooms, an acoustical barrier between performance space and lobby, and a beautiful, fully functioning bar and gathering spaces.
The Herzfeld Foundation Education & Engagement Center. For the first time, Milwaukee Rep will have state-of-the-art rehearsal, performance and classroom spaces to serve the 20,000+ students in our in-school, after-school and community programs. The new Center will allow us to expand our award-winning programs to continue to address the most pressing needs of our community including improving literacy, supporting social-emotional growth and creating school to career pipelines.
The Sandra and William Haack Grand Lobby. Uniting all three of our performance spaces as well as all of our other public spaces will be a beautifully open and cascading lobby with entrances on the ground level from Wells Street and the Associated Bank River Center. Lobby amenities will include more restrooms, plentiful bars with robust food and beverage offerings, a gift shop, accessible elevators and a 100-person donors lounge and event space. It will also provide more accessible access to all three of our performance venues.
The Lubar Family Donor Lounge. A stunning new space with the capacity to serve 125 people as a lounge or event space with private restrooms and bar.
Northwestern Mutual Riverwalk. Our historic Powerplant building occupies a beautiful location along the Milwaukee River and Riverwalk. Newly reconceptualized, this space will be an attractive space to gather pre- and post-show and for events, receptions and celebrations with direct access to our Education & Engagement Center and our new Wells Street entrance.
Rehearsal Halls & Support Functions. Our rehearsal halls will be rebuilt to feature three spaces similar in size to our theaters with sound barriers allowing for a wide-variety of work to rehearse at the same time, along with light production capabilities to support public readings, discussions and other events.
World-class production facility. We are going to relocate our production shops, housing them in a new 35,000 square foot production center, to ensure that we will be able to meet the demands of our growing theater, requiring the building of 12-15 productions annually by our talented group of nearly 100 local artisans.
With the new Associated Bank Theater Center we will be able to accomplish the following:
- Strengthening Milwaukee’s brand as a hub of creativity and innovation. Rather than importing works created in other cities, we will honor and celebrate Milwaukee’s unique culture by creating exciting new works here to be shared with the world.
- Attracting and Engaging New Audiences. We will build on our strong position as Wisconsin’ largest performing arts organization with our new capabilities to create innovative and exciting work on par with the best theaters in world.
- Improving Educational Outcomes for Underserved Populations. We will expand our most impactful and award-winning educational programs to meet growing needs, particularly as we rebound from educational gaps resulting from the pandemic.
- Leading as an Inclusive Organization. Our programs and performances will be available to a much wider population, as we aspire to be the city’s most inclusive and welcoming performing arts organization.
- Increasing Local Economic Activity. Arts and culture are big business for the City of Milwaukee, attracting tourists, young professionals, and new residents while providing patrons to downtown businesses. As such, we look to expand our current $30M annual economic impact and help Downtown Milwaukee continue to grow and prosper.