In response to the ongoing pandemic, The Milwaukee Rep announced on February 1 that it must cancel all live performances through April and make significant changes to its previously announced Season Reset programming.

Originally slated to start mid-February, “Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song” with Alexis J Roston (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill) will be rescheduled for in person performances beginning April 27 and running through May 23, 2021 in the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. In person and virtual performances of “Nina Simone: Four Women” have been canceled, while “McGuire” is indefinitely postponed and the world premiere “Antonio’s Song/I Was Dreaming of a Son” has moved to the 2021/22 Season.

“We delayed this decision as long as we could as COVID conditions continue to improve in our community, particularly with increased vaccinations,” said Executive Director Chad Bauman. “To ensure artistic and production quality, we must make decisions weeks in advance and conditions were not conducive to allow a reopening as planned in February. We have collaborated with the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department and our partner unions to develop a robust safety plan that we hope will allow us to reopen very soon. Thank you to our patrons and donors for their continued support and understanding.”

Milwaukee Rep has now finalized safety protocols with the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department to protect audiences, artists and staff. Additionally, Milwaukee Rep was one of the first regional theaters nationwide to have a safety plan endorsed by all four major performing arts unions AEA, IATSE, USAA and SDC this past summer. That plan includes increased cleaning procedures, paperless tickets, a facemask requirement and upgrades to the HVAC system. When reopened, theaters will initially operate at 25% of capacity and patrons will be seated in a socially distanced manner. Please visit this link for a detailed list of Safety protocols.

Milwaukee Rep has realized more than $7 million in lost earned revenue since the beginning of the pandemic. Season Reset cancellations will increase anticipated losses in earned revenue by more than $300,000. The theater has responded accordingly by reducing its expense budget by 50% while maximizing employment by using operating reserves, applying for federal relief programs and through the generosity of donors.

In response to the devastating impacts of COVID-19, the theater started the emergency relief Rep Rising Fundraising Campaign to help sustain artists, staff and facilities. The campaign has raised over $1 million thanks to the Milwaukee Rep’s Board of Trustees $500,000 match. These funds not only support the theater, but they go towards the Freelance Artist Relief Effort which recently awarded $60,000 to 80 freelance artists.

While Milwaukee Rep stages are dark and most schools are virtual, the Education and Community Engagement departments have been busy continuing their efforts to keep the arts in schools. Milwaukee Rep’s renowned Reading Residency program marches forward in over 20 schools, bringing social and emotional skills to the forefront of virtual learning.

The Professional Training Institute (PTI) a free advance-training program for high schoolers is in process and will continue with its capstone production this summer. The August Wilson Monologue Competition is in full swing with virtual auditions set for February 27, 2021 and the regional final on March 29, 2021. Winners of the regional final will compete in the virtual National competition with teens from across the country.

Milwaukee Rep recently announced “We Rise: MKE’s Black History Month Celebration” with special programming every Monday night in February on Facebook and YouTube Live. Original virtual content continues in the “From Our Home To Your Home” series with original commissions by the country’s leading playwrights; Play On featuring Shakespeare monologues, sonnets and scenes; and REPair Divides a virtual dialogue series that includes an online performance.

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Lee Matz

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