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.”
Milwaukee Repertory Theater