55 Fall Arts Events to Attend in Milwaukee

Our experts pick for the must-see shows of the season: comedy, pop culture, music, theater, film, art, dance and more


John Mulaney
September 15 ·
Riverside Theater

John Cleese
October 7 ·
Riverside Theater

Lewis Black
November 11 ·
Pabst Theater


Kohl’s Art Generation Open Studio: A Handful of Clay
Every Saturday and Sunday in September; Thursday, September 7 · Milwaukee Art Museum

At this open studio, located inside the museum, kids can create their own art inspired by the works on display in the galleries. For the month of September, mini Michelangelos are given lumps of clay and instructed on sculpting techniques. Museum admission is free for everyone on September 7.

Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival
October 13-15 · Various locations

Young readers, writers and artists will find plenty of inspiration at this weekend gathering. Author and illustrator presentations and hands-on activities for kids and teens promise plenty of interactive fun. Check the website of each of the four venues for a specific schedule of events.

Peppa Pig Live!
November 5 · The Riverside Theater

The posh British piglet Peppa and her family return to The Riverside for an action-packed live show. The animated characters appear as life-size puppets in this singing and dancing extravaganza.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
November 24-December 31 · First Stage Children’s Theatre

See the beloved television special of the same name brought to life by a (nearly) all-kid cast. Music director Jack Forbes Wilson will play the show’s classic score live, on piano, at each performance.

Marvel Universe LIVE! Age of Heroes
November 24-26 · Bradley Center
Thrill to the high-flying hi-jinks of Marvel superheroes and villains, complete with amazing stunts and an original storyline. Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Drax, Gamora, Groot and many others make appearances.

November 17-December 23 · Skylight Music Theatre

You’ll want to be there when the seven-time Tony-winning Broadway musical takes the Skylight stage, if only to sing along with the show’s infamous ode to tomorrow. Dog-lover alert: This will likely be your only opportunity to see a canine featured in a major role this year!

Pop Culture

Conversation between Stephen King and Owen King
September 30 · The Riverside Theater

What’s it like to be Stephen King’s son? And co-write a book with the international best-selling author? Expect the father-son discussion to enlighten on this strange relationship, while also centering on the duo’s new book Sleeping Beauties, an original work set at a women’s prison in a small town in Appalachia. A ticket scores you a hardcover copy of the book.

State of Craft Beer Book Release Party
October 11 · Company Brewing

When the city’s beer scene exploded, seemingly overnight, writer and photographer Matthew Janzen took note. His new coffee table book – more than two years in the making – offers a glimpse into what’s been brewing in Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Magazine‘s Annual “Best Of” Party
September 21 · Good City Brewing

Join the editors of this magazine to celebrate everything that’s new and noteworthy in the Cream City. This big bash coincides with the release of our annual “Best Of” issue.

PopCon Milwaukee
November 4-5 · The Crowne Plaza Hotel & Convention Center

Pop culture nerds unite! This annual get-together of multi-genre entertainment concerns all things nostalgia, including meet-and-greets with athletes (MLB all-time hit leader Pete Rose), actors (Lee Meriwether, the original Catwoman, and Sam Jones, who played Flash Gordon) and comic book artists (Mike Grell and Arvell Jones), plus collectors displaying and selling classic memorabilia, Q&A panels and, of course, a staple at any fan convention: cosplaying.

Ex Fabula: Risking It
November 17 · South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve ever done? This fall, you can listen to true tales about risks, and tell your own, at a story slam hosted by Ex Fabula. A live lit series “committed to strengthening community bonds through the art of storytelling,” Ex Fabula is now in its ninth season.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets featuring The MSO
December 15-17 · The Riverside Theater

The fanciful wizarding world of Hogwarts returns to Milwaukee for a one-of-a-kind experience. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performs the magical John Williams score live to a special screening of the second film in the Harry Potter series, The Chamber of Secrets.

Classical Music & Dance

September 14-16 · Goat Palace, Riverwest Creative Arts District

Debra Loewen opens Wild Space Dance Company’s 31st season with “Artifacts,” a collaboration with visual artists to create six “living dioramas” of Milwaukee neighborhoods. The performance takes place at the Goat Palace, a Riverwest community center.

Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony
September 15-17 · Marcus Center

Following the departure of Edo de Waart, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra begins its 2017-18 season without a music director. Fortunately, accomplished guest conductor Cristian Mâcelaru deftly leads a Beethoven symphony, and – later – the “Moby Dick Suite,” a substantial work by Jake Heggie, based on his 2010 opera.

Present Music
September 29 · Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

Guest conductor David Bloom joins the group to perform “Stay On It,” an ebullient 1973 piece by composer Julius Eastman. Singer Lucy Dhegrae also joins the group for a performance of Christopher Trapani’s “Waterlines,” which evokes the tragic 1927 flood of the lower Mississippi River.

Fine Arts Quartet
October 8 · Zelazo Center

The quartet begins its 55th and final season as UW-Milwaukee’s resident ensemble with a trio of crowd pleasers by Beethoven, Haydn and Samuel Barber.

The Merry Widow
October 20 and 22 · Marcus Center

Milwaukee has seen soprano Alyson Cambridge as Madame Butterfly and La Bohème’s Mimi. This season, she returns to the Florentine Opera as the irrepressible Hanna in Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

Serenade and Swan Songs
October 23 · Schwan Concert Hall

The Philomusica String Quartet, resident at Wisconsin Lutheran College, kicks off its 10th season with music by Haydn and Mendelssohn, as well as Gabriel Fauré’s “String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 121.”

La Bohème
November 2-5 · Marcus Center

The Milwaukee Ballet Company starts its season with Artistic Director Michael Pink’s wordless interpretation of Puccini’s La Bohème set to live music played by an in-house orchestra. The company premiered Pink’s version of the iconic opera in 2012.

Danceworks Performance Company
November 11-12, 16-18 · Danceworks Studio

The ever-playful dance troupe showcases its sense of humor in “Mad Li(m)bs,” a concert featuring improvised movement and wordplay, courtesy of company members and special guests – comedians Jason Powell and Andrea Moser.

Prometheus Trio
December 4 and 5 · Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

MSO clarinetist Benjamin Adler joins the trio – now in its 17th season – to perform 20th-century composer and organist Olivier Messiaen’s haunting “Quartet for the End of Time.” The trio opens the concert with the music of Beethoven.

Alternating Currents Live
December 10 · Woodland Pattern Book Center

Some call it jazz, some call it classical. Whatever the genre, Nicole Mitchell is one of the world’s premiere contemporary flutists. She brings her quartet to Woodland Pattern for one of the year’s must-see concerts.

Pop Music

September 11 · Cactus Club

An alt-rapper with fiery punk rock impulses, P.O.S’s breakneck pace was brought to a standstill when his chronic kidney disease flared up in 2012. January’s Chill, Dummy marks his first release since his successful kidney transplant and signals a new vision.

Katy Perry
December 4 · BMO Harris Bradley Center

Seven years removed from the bubblegum pop of “Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry is reinventing herself. On her June album, Witness, she traded in her original glitz and Barbie doll glamour for a club-centric, electro-pop persona.

St. Vincent
November 17 · The Riverside Theater

With frenetic guitar solos and a majestic voice, St. Vincent (née Annie Clark) seems capable of cosmic destruction. 2014’s self-titled album felt like a planted flag: Clark discovered her own planet and she’s sending us interstellar transmissions.

September 13 · The Pabst Theater

The dulcet tones and steady rhythms of Spoon epitomize millennial- era indie rock. The Austin, Texas-based group defines a time with its distinctive laid-back rock formula.

Andrew W.K.
October 20 · The Rave

Sometimes you just want to turn off your brain and turn up the volume. Enter rock ‘n’ roll party dude Andrew W.K. You won’t see his straightforward lyrics discussed in college philosophy courses, but you’ll definitely hear them at post-class parties.

The Flaming Lips with Mac DeMarco
September 18 · The Rave

The Flaming Lips don’t just play typical rock shows – they throw over-the-top musical celebrations. Frontman Wayne Coyne leads the charge as the band performs its soaring anthems. Opening the show is Mac DeMarco, underrated singer-songwriter.

Real Estate
November 5 · Turner Hall Ballroom

The Brooklyn-based indie rockers have been constructing dreamy, seemingly effortless songs since 2009. A recent lineup overhaul forewarned a change in sonic direction, but on 2017’s In Mind, the band’s sounds are as carefree and breezy as ever.


Third Ward Art Festival
September 2-3 · Various locations

This annual art festival draws impressive crowds, and talent, each year. More than 140 artists, 36 of whom are from Wisconsin, sell their wares in galleries and pop-up spaces scattered throughout the neighborhood – at prices ranging from affordable to aspirational.

Gallery Walk & Talk with Lois Bielefeld
September 21 · Charles Allis Art Museum

Local photographer Lois Bielefeld tells the emotionally charged story of Shorewood High School’s cross country team in these arresting black and white images. On this evening, Bielefeld, whose daughter is one of the featured subjects, personally leads a tour of the exhibition, which remains on view through Oct. 22.

Rick Shaefer: The Refugee Trilogy
October 5-January 14 · Haggerty Museum of Art

Connecticut-based artist Rick Shaefer asks: “How does one deal with the onslaught of horrific imagery and news of countless waves of refugees coming from the Middle East and elsewhere?” In this sobering but stunning exhibition of three massive charcoal triptychs, he approaches the question from multiple angles.

Gerit Grimm’s Fairytales: In a Time Neither Now nor Then
October 7-January 14 · MOWA

Let master ceramist Gerit Grimm show you a world of whimsy and enchantment. Her fanciful figurative sculptures – which vary in scale from miniature to life-size – are inspired by myths, fairy tales and other supernatural stories.

Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France
November 4-January 28 · Milwaukee Art Museum

French painters including Manet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Chagall and Picasso have wowed audiences with their expressive brush strokes and unconventional compositions for more than a century. See more than 150 works, including Impressionist and Cubist masterpieces, at the MAM’s biggest fall show.

November 17 to January 7, 2018 · Portrait Society

Ceramics are sometimes neglected by art critics. But the 15 ceramists represented in this group show prove that a simple lump of clay can be transformed into a work of art as compelling as any painting or sculpture.

Derrick Buisch and Bill Reid
December 2-30 · Tory Folliard Gallery

Beat winter blues with a burst of color. Two Wisco artists show their work at the Tory Folliard Gallery throughout December: painter Derrick Buisch and sculptor Bill Reid. Though they work in different media, they share a love of color and a cheery pop art aesthetic.


Guys and Dolls
September 19-October 29 · Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s

Quadracci Powerhouse Enter the charming underworld of Damon Runyon’s dolls, hoodlums and missionaries in the Rep’s revival of this 1950 classic musical. Broadway veterans join Milwaukeeans Kelley Faulkner and Di’Monte Henning in the cast.

I Am My Own Wife
September 28-October 7 · UWM Kenilworth 508 Theatre

Theatre Gigante regular Michael Stebbins stars in I Am My Own Wife, bringing more than 30 characters to life in Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.

Silent Sky
September 28-October 22 · Next Act Theatre

Deborah Staples stars in Silent Sky, Lauren Gunderson’s 2015 play – based on a true story about Henrietta Leavitt, who made important astronomical discoveries in the early 1900s but initially received little recognition.

All the Great Books (abridged)
October 5-29 · Tenth Street Theatre

They whittled down the complete works of Shakespeare, the history of the world, and the Bible. But the folks at the Reduced Shakespeare Company weren’t done yet. All the Great Books (abridged), staged by In Tandem Theatre, offers the CliffsNotes versions of everything from The Aeneid to Wuthering Heights.

Sex with Strangers
October 20-November 12 · Broadway Theatre Center

Sex with Strangers, staging of a play about self-conscious novelist Olivia’s romantic involvement with a younger blogger, Ethan. Eason also writes for the Netflix hit “House of Cards.”

Murder For Two
November 10-January 14 · Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret

It’s been a hit in New York and Los Angeles. Now former Milwaukeean Joe Kinosian brings his comedic musical mystery, Murder For Two, back to his home town.

Miracle on South Division Street
November 22-December 17 · Broadway Theatre Center

What’s the worst that can happen when a daughter stages a “tell-all” play about her quirky family? The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre shows us, in their production of the Tom Dudzick family comedy.


Directed by Greg Kohs
2017 · 90 minutes

What does an ancient Chinese board game have to do with artificial intelligence? This absorbing documentary about Go champion Lee Sedol and Google’s DeepMind AI team earned rave reviews when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

The Blood Is at the Doorstep
Directed by Erik Ljung
2017 · 95 minutes

When Dontre Hamilton was gunned down by a Milwaukee police officer in 2014, his family members were left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. The story is equal parts harrowing and hopeful, and is a must-see for anyone living in this community.

Dear Coward on the Moon
Directed by Carol Brandt
2017 · 80 mins

Filmed largely in Viroqua, Wisconsin, this virtuosic character study chronicles the lives of two sisters. When one runs away from home, the other must confront a figure from their past.


Groundhog Day/Top Gun
September 3 · Veterans Park

Savor the last gasp of summer at this outdoor screening of the two classic films. Then settle in for a winter hibernation, à la Punxsutawney Phil.

David Gilmour: Live at Pompeii
September 13 · Oriental

This concert flick about Pink Floyd’s legendary guitarist and singer screens in theaters around the world for one night only. The Oriental is the only Milwaukee theatre slated to show the film.

Royal Shakespeare Company: Titus Andronicus
September 26 · Downer

Live from Stratford-upon-Avon, the most violent of the Bard’s plays still elicits gasps from audiences around the world.

Milwaukee Bike-In: E.T.
October 20 · Swing Park

For nine years, Milwaukee Bike-In has set up a projector at the swing park beneath the Holton Street Bridge and offered free outdoor screenings in the warmer months. The 2017 season ends, appropriately, with a movie that includes one of the best bicycle chases in cinematic history.

Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival
November 2-12 · UWM

For 32 years, the university has been presenting an annual LGBT Film/Video Festival, an event that spreads awareness of LGBT issues and champions the work of indie filmmakers.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
December 10 · Marcus BistroPlex

The Bistroplex partners with Turner Classic Movies and Sony Pictures to bring one of Sidney Poitier’s most enduring performances to a new generation of audiences. The film opens with an introduction from a TCM host.

Your 2017 Milwaukee Fall Arts Guide

This story is part of the 2017 Fall Arts Guide feature in our September issue. Click to read the rest of the guide.

‘Fall Arts Guide’ appears in the September 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning August 28, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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