Social Distancing protocols and “Safer at Home” measures have been devastating to many industries, particularly Milwaukee’s public arts. With no audiences to perform for, no sets to build, and no costumes to assemble, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater has spearheaded an effort to produce masks to aid frontline workers.

The Rep partnered with First Stage and Milwaukee Ballet to leverage their combined resources to make masks and face shields for frontline workers at Children’s Hospital, Froedert, and the Medical College of Wisconsin. So far the organizations have donated over more than 15,000 pieces of PPE, with weekly deliveries ongoing thanks in part to funding from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

“We started a small program once hospitals were able to release specifications for their masks,” said Jared Clarkin, Director of Production at Milwaukee Rep. “Being a part of a non-profit organization, one of our main focuses is care for our community, and it is really important to myself as well as the folks in the production department that we take care of the place where we’re from.”

Ten Milwaukee Rep employees, working in conjunction with First Stage and Milwaukee Ballet, are producing between 700 to 800 masks per week for Children’s Hospital, with an additional 100 masks going to Froedert every week. Twelve other employees, with the help of their families, are creating over 8,000 paper surgical masks per week for the Medical College of Wisconsin as long as mask-making kits are available.

“Jared Clarkin, our Director of Production at Milwaukee Rep, is used to coordinating hundreds of talented people to bring a vision to life on stage,” said Artistic Director Mark Clements. “That is why it is of no surprise to me that he proposed this effort and has worked tirelessly to utilize our resources and the resources of other performing arts groups for a common goal of protecting our frontline workers. As theater makers we are not used to sitting idle and while this may only be a small effort in the grand scheme of things, I’m glad our talented employees are stepping in to lend a hand.”

Additionally, Children’s Hospital and Froedert have received 200 face shields over the past few that Milwaukee Rep was able to construct with materials found onsite.

“Everybody jumped in whole heartedly with this and really came up with some amazing results,” added Clarkin. “The folks that are making these — they’re really grateful to be employed right now and to be able to give back to the community and make a difference in everyday people’s lives.”

© Photo

Milwaukee Repertory Theater

The Milwaukee Independent began reporting on what was then referred to as the mysterious “Wuhan Virus” in January 2020. Other local media did not picked-up on the story until many weeks later. Our early features focused on the economic impact, social issues, and health concerns long before other Milwaukee news organizations even mentioned the coronavirus. Over the following year, we have published hundreds of articles about the pandemic and how it has affected the lives of Milwaukee residents. This extensive body of work can be found on our COVID-19 Special Report page, a chronological index of links by month. Our editorial voice remains dedicated to informing the public about this health crisis for as long as it persists.
For medical resources, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 page or the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. All editorial content published by Milwaukee Independent can be found at With a mission of transformative journalism, our staff is free from commercial bias and are not influenced by corporate interests, political affiliations, or a public preferences that rewards clicks with revenue. As an influential publication that provides Milwaukee with quality journalism, our award-winning photojournalism and features have helped to achieve a range of positive social impact that enriches our community. Please join our effort by entrusting us with your contribution. Your Support Matters - Donate Now