10 Arts & Culture Picks for January

We’ve rounded up the performances and exhibits you need to see this month.

Musicals and symphony concerts dominate this January, alongside dance performances and art exhibits showcasing diverse voices.

Visual Arts

I Contain Multitudes

Frederick Layton Gallery (MIAD)
Jan. 18 – Mar. 19

Nina Ghanbarzadeh; photo courtesy of MIAD

I Contain Multitudes is the brainchild of curator Nina Ghanbarzadeh, an Iranian immigrant and chemist-turned-artist. The exhibit showcases the work of 10 female artists, many of whom immigrated to the United States from around the world, from Saudi Arabia to Kenya to Lebanon. I Contain Multitudes highlights the challenges immigrants face, elevating a variety of diverse voices.

“I feel like we need more diversity in the Milwaukee art scene, more fresh voices,” Ghanbarzadeh says. “With this exhibit, I would like viewers to see how the artists found their voices through art, and I want them to pay attention to our similarities, not our differences. Our country is so politically charged right now; with the exhibit, I want people to pay attention to what brings us together as humans, not what tears us apart.”

To get the fullest possible experience of the exhibit, we recommend attending the opening reception and artists’ discussion on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m. This event is free to the public and will feature a documentary about the making of the exhibit and an opportunity to mingle with the artists.

Sneak Peak Part II: A Look at Private Collections

Union Art Gallery (UW-Milwaukee)
Jan. 22 – Feb. 15

Following a popular series from 2016, Sneak Peek Part II offers a backstage pass to the most prolific art collectors from Milwaukee and Chicago. The free exhibit illustrates why they began their collections and the reason they collected the chosen pieces.

And if you are free on Friday, Jan. 25, the collectors are hosting a panel at 7 p.m. as part of the exhibit’s opening reception (5-8 p.m.). Some of the collectors are artists themselves and are thus bound to have exquisite taste. Marna Goldstein Brauner, in particular, was a longtime arts and design professor at UW-Milwaukee.


The Book of Mormon

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Uihlein Hall
Jan. 2 – 6

Even if you’re not a musical nerd like yours truly, you’ve probably heard of the nine-time Tony Award®-winning musical The Book of Mormon. Its crass language and not-so-subtle innuendos will likely make you laugh out loud as the musical follows two missionaries traveling to Uganda to spread the Mormon religion. (The musical’s depiction of Ugandan culture, however, is stereotypical at best.)

This traveling show’s production is sure to be fun and go down like sugar; just take it with a grain of salt.

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Ronald Dahl’s MATILDA the Musical

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Todd Wehr Theater
Jan. 11 – Feb. 24

Children’s theater company First Stage is presenting its first full-length musical with Ronald Dahl’s MATILDA the Musical. The production is sure to enchant children and adults alike, as it tracks bookish heroine Matilda as she bests her headmistress and overcomes other childhood woes.

Written by Broadway legend Dennis Kelly and relative newbie Tim Minchin, Milwaukee’s version is directed by Jeff Frank, First Stage’s longtime artistic director, who said that they decided to adapt the play because of its value for the company’s audience.

“This amazing tale of a remarkable young girl who finds her voice and works to set things right was tailor made for First Stage — with our long-standing commitment to age-appropriate casting and our tradition of excellence,” Frank told Broadway World.


Milwaukee Repertory Theater – Quadracci Powerhouse
Jan. 15 – Feb. 17

Ayad Akhtar — Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Disgraced — returns to The Rep with fanfare with his fresh-off-Broadway play Junk. The play highlights the dalliances of junk bond kings in the 80s, delving into the power and failure of greed with precision. The Rep’s production features one of the largest casts the Quadracci Powerhouse stage has ever had and is directed by the Rep’s seasoned artistic director Mark Clements.

Mark Twain’s River of Song

Milwaukee Repertory Theater – Stackner Cabaret
Jan. 18 – March 17

If you enjoyed The Rep’s hit 2017 play Back Home Again: On the Road With John Denver, you’re sure to like Mark Twain’s River of Song, which is helmed by the same creative team, Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman. The play revolves around three characters, who explore the Mississippi and are played by talented actor-musicians. If you are a musician yourself, be sure to bring your instrument and join one of David Lutken’s Hootenannies on Jan. 31, Feb. 21 or March 14.

Blood at the Root

Next Act Theatre
Jan. 31 – Feb. 24

Tackling the roots of racial injustice, Blood at the Root is not for the faint of heart. The play begins with an African American student sitting under a tree, challenging its “whites only” status, and then, the next morning, nooses are found hanging from the same tree. The rest of Blood at the Root follows the school’s students’ struggle to find solutions for prejudice and exploration of the consequences of injustice. Director-actress Marti Gobel is at the helm of this production, which features a six-person cast.



Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall
Jan. 12 – 13

Morgan Williams, the cofounder and artistic director of SueMo: A Dance Experience and the creative mind behind Symbiosis, is ambitious. He founded SueMo only five years ago and has already booked a multimedia performance at the Marcus Center. Symbiosis is the culmination of Williams’ ambitions, featuring contemporary dance choreography alongside a live drummer, a poet and a light show, and projections designed by MIAD students. Williams thinks that these elements will be an asset, pleasing both those interested in high art and those in it for the entertainment.

“We have all of these different kinds of art thriving in Milwaukee,” Williams says. “And our show showcases those different kinds. It’s a collaboration, symbiosis, if you will.”

Photo courtesy of SueMo


Edo de Waart; photo cred: Jessie Williams

The Flying Dutchman

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Uihlein Hall
Jan. 11 – 13

Seasoned MSO conductor Edo de Waart heralds in the new year with two performances of Wagner’s relatively short opera, The Flying Dutchman. Keep in mind that the opera is supposed to be an allergy of the power of unconditional love and settle in for a night of flawless music and visual effects. This melodramatic opera spans from young love to tragic death, and you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Strauss & Dvořák

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Jan. 18 – 19

This is a performance made for the masters. Acclaimed MSO concertmaster and violist Frank Almond will begin the show by playing Ravel’s Tzigane and Bartok’s Two Portraits. Carlos Kalmar will then conduct Strauss’s Don Juan and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6. Before both performances, be sure to arrive an hour early for Meet the Music, a discussion led by MSO musicians that is for anyone attending the performance.



Since interning for the magazine in spring of 2017, Anna has contributed to both the print publication and website. She has covered topics from women in the workplace to communal gardens and also writes guides to life in Milwaukee. Outside of writing for the magazine, Anna is going back to school at UW-Milwaukee to work towards a career in genetic counseling.