The Broadway tour of
"Memphis" opens this week at the Marcus Center.
Things are still a little quiet this week. Fans of Broadway musicals should be happy with the arrival of two shows, Memphis at the Marcus Center and A Chorus Line at the Milwaukee Theatre. A few stages are active with recently opened shows, and there’s bound to be a few people yodeling or canoodling at the neighborhood bar down the street. But it’s a good time to look to the year ahead. While I tend to agree with Mark Twain thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions (“humbug” is one word that comes up), that’s no reason not to indulge, so resolute we shall be.
If I were looking ahead to the arts year as a free entity, unencumbered by responsibility to both of my readers (you know who you are), this would be my list of Shoulds and Shalls.
Why? Because subscriptions are the life blood of the arts community, particularly in a time where government, foundation and charitable support is dwindling. Imagine a job in which you showed up every morning to this: “Well, we’ll see if we have anything we can pay you to do today. If we don’t, try again tomorrow.” For you, subscriptions are a great way to set aside a few nights a year in which you’ll be out on the town, and not huddled on the sofa for another night of Frasier reruns.
#4: Make It a Really New Year.
Why? Because familiarity helps fill houses, so newly minted work—in dance, theatre or music—has to jump a few more hurdles to get into the public’s collective craw. That’s why Milwaukee companies that specialize in new work—creating something from scratch—are among the most adventurous and rewarding groups to keep up with. And they give you the satisfaction that you’re supporting particular kinds of creative artists who have something to say and aren’t afraid to take risks. Yes, I’m talking about you, Wild Space Dance Company, Present Music, Danceworks, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, and Theatre Gigante.
#3: Go Back to School.
Why? Because the students and faculty of area colleges and universities (and conservatories) are deep into their subjects and studies. But every once in a while they emerge for public performances, and their dedication shows. The calendar at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts is jam packed with concerts and shows throughout the academic year. The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music features faculty performances several nights a week. And theater and arts departments at Marquette University, Alverno College, Carroll College and other schools are replete with shows and concerts.
#2: Get Small!
Why? Because Milwaukee theatre and dance goes way beyond the shows at the Marcus Center, Milwaukee Rep and Broadway Theatre Center. If you haven’t seen shows at Windfall, Soulstice, Boulevard, In Tandem, Off the Wall or Theatre Gigante, you’re missing some great work. And dance fans should be sure to look beyond the Milwaukee Ballet and check out companies based around Danceworks, as well as several groups that perform occasionally—Your Mother Dances and others.
#1: Get Really Small!
Why? Energy and invention is everywhere in the arts scene these days, but there are particular hot spots in small fledgling companies that weren’t around ten or even five years ago. With the growth of new “fringe” theater companies like Youngblood, Pink Banana, Alchemist, Carte Blanche Studios and The Quasimondo, Milwaukee is inching toward the template of great theater cities like Minneapolis and Chicago, where a mix of established institutional theaters and scrappy Do-It-Yourself groups make for a heady and charged mix of work.