27 milestones in Madison arts scene

Past milestones led to a booming arts scene today

Broom Street Theater begins its long and prolific run as an avant-garde theater.

City breaks ground on the Madison Civic Center, anchored by the Capitol Theater which is reborn as the Oscar Mayer Theater and Isthmus Playhouse.

American Players Theatre chooses the Lockman Farm near Spring Green as its home. APT’s first production, William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” is staged in 1980. Five works of Shakespeare are performed the following year.

Madison Ballet is founded.

Friends of the Opera House forms in Stoughton to raise money to restore one of the city’s most prominent landmarks, built in 1901 as the City Auditorium but shuttered since the 1950s. Now fully restored with the bell tower replaced, the Stoughton Opera House hosts national touring acts.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays its first Concerts on the Square. For six Wednesday evenings every summer, the concerts are admission-free opportunities for thousands of people to picnic on the Capitol grounds and listen to live classical music.

John DeMain becomes the conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

The Bartell Theatre is bought by the Gerald A. Bartell Community Theatre Foundation — a collaboration between six theater companies: Madison Ballet, Madison Theatre Guild, Mercury Players Theatre, StageQ, Strollers Theatre and Kathie Rasmussen Women’s Theatre (KRASS). The building it occupies just off the Square was built in 1906 and housed a dance school, shoe repair shop, bowling alley, pool hall, bike shop, tavern, VFW hall, restaurant and movie theater before becoming what it is today.

Jerry Frautschi and his wife Pleasant Rowland pledge the first $50 million of the $205 million they would ultimately donate to the construction of the Overture Center for the Arts, the largest single gift to the arts in American history to date.

This is the inaugural year of the Wisconsin Film Festival, put on by the University of Wisconsin Arts Institute. It becomes the largest campus-based film festival in
the U.S.

Andrew Sewell becomes the conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which was founded in 1960.

Cathy Dethmers opens High Noon Saloon on East Washington Avenue to replace the O’Cayz Corral, which was destroyed by a fire on Jan. 1, 2001.

Sept. 19, 2004
Overture Hall and four other performance spaces open at the Overture Center.

The renovated Oscar Mayer Theater, Isthmus Playhouse and Madison Art Center are opened, and the Capitol Theater is restored.

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, formerly the Madison Art Center, moves into the Overture Center facilities, gaining 51,000 square feet of exhibit space, a lecture hall and a rooftop sculpture garden.

Majestic Theatre – Madison’s oldest theater, which opened in 1906 – is acquired by Matt Gerding and Scott Leslie, who book a variety of live music most nights of the week.

American Players Theatre opens the Touchstone Theatre.

The free Live on King Street summer concert series begins in front of the Majestic Theatre with Swedish indie pop band Peter Bjorn and John.

Madison Public Library hosts the first annual Wisconsin Book Festival.

Gus Paras and his family buy and restore the Orpheum Theater, a State Street landmark since 1926.

APT completes a $7.7 million renovation of the Hill Theatre.

February 2017
Dethmers sells the High Noon Saloon to Frank Productions.

January 2018
Live Nation Entertainment — the result of a 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster — buys a majority interest in Madison-based Frank Productions. Locally, FP starts booking and operating the Orpheum in place of Live Nation.

February 2018
Frank Productions Concerts and Majestic Live merges to become FPC Live. Majestic Theatre owners Gerding and Leslie become co-presidents of FPC Live with Charlie Goldstone, former president of Frank Productions. The merger also ends True Endeavors, started by music producer Tag Evers, which merged with FP in 2012. Evers becomes a booker for FPC Live.

Other notable elements of Arts coverage27 milestones in Madison arts scene

Jazz Royalty
Jazz runs in the family and on the cover of the magazine: Ben and Leo Sidran, left (September 1994) and Kelly and Doc DeHaven (October 1991). 27 milestones in Madison arts scene

Mad Flix
Several movies are shot in Madison, including Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back to School” (1986); “I Love Trouble,” starring Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte (1993); “Chain Reaction,” with Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman (1996); and “Public Enemies,” starring Johnny Depp (2009). Reeves was on the cover (“Lights! Camera! Checkbooks!”) of the May 1996 issue.27 milestones in Madison arts scene

How Rockstars are made
Garbage — the band including Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker, formerly of Smart Studios in Madison, and Scottish lead singer Shirley Manson — takes shape in 1992 and becomes one of the biggest rock bands in the world by 1996. How the success of Garbage affected the local music scene was explored in the July 1996 issue.

For more on the 40th Anniversary of Madison Magazine, click here.