Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

The best in entertainment Madison has to offer

The best in live music, theater, dance and visual arts that Madison has to offer this year and in early 2020.


Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin
Capitol Theater, Oct. 13Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

1990s radio hitmakers and Grammy Award winners Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin are touring together again. Since appearing on each other’s albums 30 years ago and teaming up for a 2013 tour, the alt-country and folk-pop singer-songwriters are back as an acoustic duo playing intimate venues. At the Capitol Theater in Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, the two women will perform songs from their deep catalogues. And the tour comes just in time to promote “Sometimes Just the Sky,” Carpenter’s collection of new versions of songs from each of her previous 12 albums, and the imminent release by Colvin of an all-acoustic re-recording of her Grammy-winning debut album “Steady On” – 30 years after its initial release.

John Hiatt
Barrymore Theatre, Oct. 20Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

The enduring and influential singer-songwriter John Hiatt wrote songs such as “Have a Little Faith in Me” (covered by many, including Joe Cocker, Jewel and Bon Jovi), “Angel Eyes” (a No. 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for The Jeff Healey Band in 1989) and “Thing Called Love” (taken to No. 11 by Bonnie Raitt the same year). Hiatt deservedly received the American Music Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting in 2008 and has released six studio albums since then, including last year’s gritty and gruff “The Eclipse Sessions” – his 23rd album. Catch Hiatt’s show at the Barrymore Theatre.

The Sylvee, Oct. 23Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

AJR is having its moment after garnering millions of song downloads and YouTube views. A decade ago, indie-pop group AJR – the first initials of brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan Met – started busking in New York City’s Washington Square Park and recording music in their Chelsea neighborhood apartment. With influences as varied as the Beach Boys and Kanye West, the trio has attracted a burgeoning fan base with its DIY approach and an eclectic sound reminiscent of Vampire Weekend and Fun! “Neotheater,” the band’s second full-length album was released in April and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s top alternative and rock album charts.

The Chainsmokers
Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Nov. 9Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

DJ duo The Chainsmokers started out remixing songs by indie artists. They’ve gone on to score huge hits featuring vocalists Daya (“Don’t Let Me Down”), Halsey (“Closer”) and Coldplay (“Something Just Like This”). The collaborations fueled 1 billion streams for the songs on Alex Pall and Drew Taggart’s 2018 album “Sick Boy.” The Chainsmokers come to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum as part of the World War Joy Tour with Australian pop-rock band 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella, half of the sister duo that performs as Lennon & Maisy and starred in the musical TV drama “Nashville.”

Sweet Honey in the Rock
Overture Hall, Feb. 29, 2020Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

While 20 African American women have blended their voices in Sweet Honey in the Rock over the a cappella group’s 45-year history, this socially conscious institution will perform as a quintet with an American Sign Language interpreter when it comes to Madison early next year. Taking its name from a Bible verse, Sweet Honey in the Rock is a deeply spiritual group concerned with racial justice and gender equity. It’s recorded more than two dozen albums of traditional gospel and folk music, for which it has earned a Grammy Award and several more nominations.

Joel Patenaude is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Opera, Classical and Jazz Music

Rachel Barton Pine Plays Khachaturian
Overture Hall, Oct. 18-20Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

A strength of maestro John DeMain, the man who’s been on the podium for 25 seasons as music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, is conducting the music of the mid-20th century. This is why the Oct. 18-20 MSO concerts in Overture Hall are much anticipated. Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s popular suite “Lieutenant Kije” will be followed by the long-overdue MSO debut of violinist Rachel Barton Pine playing the underrated “Violin Concerto in D Minor” by Aram Khachaturian, a Soviet Armenian composer. DeMain will conclude the program of Soviet-era masters with Dmitri Shostakovich’s post-World War II “Symphony No. 9.”

Arturo Sandoval and Jane Monheit
Shannon Hall, Oct. 25
Just two weeks before he turns 70, Cuban American trumpeter and pianist Arturo Sandoval and jazz and pop vocalist Jane Monheit will come to Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall. Mentored by Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval was the subject of the 2000 film “For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story” and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 from President Barack Obama. The Grammy-nominated Monheit has recorded a dozen albums, including a collection of songs by Ella Fitzgerald.

“Fellow Travelers”
Capitol Theater, Feb. 7 and 9, 2020
Once again Madison Opera General Director Kathryn Smith brings a new and critically acclaimed opera to Overture Center. “Fellow Travelers” is a 2016 libretto by Greg Pierce, with music by Gregory Spears, based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Thomas Mallon. The story concerns two gay men caught up in the McCarthy era’s “lavender scare,” during which Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt tactics to root out alleged Communists also targeted gays. “Fellow Travelers” will be staged only twice, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m., and both performances will be in Overture Center’s Capitol Theater.

Monteverdi’s “Vespers of 1610”
First Unitarian Society Atrium, April 25-26, 2020
Trevor Stephenson founded the Madison Bach Musicians 15 years ago – and we get only three chances each season to savor its varied and exquisite performances. MBM ends the 2019-2020 season with an impressive spring concert. On April 25 and 26, MBM will present Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespers of 1610,” an emotional work featuring 10 soloists and a 15-member late-Renaissance orchestra. Performances will take place at the First Unitarian Society Atrium, which offers fabulous acoustics for works such as these.

Bill Charlap
Farley’s House of Pianos, April 25-26, 2020Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

The best place in Madison to hear great music in an intimate setting is in the showroom of Farley’s House of Pianos – the venue for the Salon Piano Series. Tim and Renee Farley are celebrating the fifth season of SPS by expanding the series to six events. The last of these – two performances on April 25 and 26 – brings to Madison legendary jazz pianist Bill Charlap. With two Grammy awards on his shelf, the New York-based ivory tickler should pack the showroom.

Greg Hettmansberger covers opera, jazz and classical music for

Visual Arts

“Verse/Us: Language and Power”
Arts + Literature Laboratory, Sept. 7-Oct. 19
Language and discourse can both construct and manipulate concepts of identity and power, and the Arts + Literature Laboratory brings together seven artists to explore the uses and impact of communication. Through artist’s books, video art, installations and other two- and three-dimensional works, artists Nina Ghanbarzedeh, Helen Lee, Julie Chen, Chelsea Thompto, Nazli Dincel, Tuesday Smillie and Matthew Owen Wead investigate the ability of words to preserve power, shift social practices and change personal relationships and values.

“Plastic Entanglements”
Chazen Museum of Art, Sept. 13-Jan. 5Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

Plastic and the modern world are intricately intertwined, often in ways so common that we fail to notice them. “Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials” examines the concept from multiple angles – from physical entanglements of animals and plastic waste to the plasticity of international networks – to better understand humankind’s reliance on the material. Nearly 30 emerging and mid-career artists from around the globe contribute sculpture, photography, installations and mixed-media works that question the past, present and future of plastic use.

Natural Whimsy
Hatch Art House, Oct. 1-Nov. 30Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

Nicci Martin describes her work as “FUNctional art,” and her paintings, sculptures, accessories and mixed media creations certainly live up to that description. Whimsical, creative and colorful, Martin’s art draws inspiration from nature and a wide range of influences, with flowers, birds, dogs and more playing out in bold, vibrant hues – the Oshkosh artist’s preferred palette. Hatch Art House, which specializes in the work of Wisconsin artists, spotlights Martin’s paintings, as well as some of her sculptural pieces.

“Wisconsin Triennial”
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Oct. 19-Feb. 16
Every three years, MMoCA surveys Wisconsin’s art scene and highlights artists and themes that will dominate exhibitions and conversations in the months and years to come. “Wisconsin Triennial” features paintings, prints, photographs, drawings, sculpture, video and other works by artists from across the state, creating a rich and diverse showcase of contemporary artistic expression. The massive exhibition, juried and organized by the museum’s curatorial staff, is not only a who’s who, but also a who-to-watch in the Wisconsin art scene.

Craig Blietz & S.V. Medaris
James Watrous Gallery, Nov. 15-Jan. 26Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

A finely honed talent of the James Watrous Gallery is bringing together two different artists for “side-by-side” exhibitions that shine on their own as well as through their juxtapositions. Painter Craig Blietz of Sister Bay, Wisconsin, probes the notion of Americana through the agrarian landscape broadly and cattle and other farm animals more specifically. Meanwhile, Mount Horeb painter and printmaker S.V. Medaris depicts similar subject matter – chickens, pigs, dogs and more – thoughtfully and playfully.

Katie Vaughn is a Madison writer.


“Matilda: The Musical”
The Playhouse, Oct. 11-27Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

With “Matilda: The Musical,” Children’s Theater of Madison continues working its way through the Roald Dahl catalogue of Broadway musicals. “Matilda” is based on the classic children’s novel about a brilliant (and sometimes telekinetic) girl who overcomes indifferent parents and an evil headmistress. Brian Cowing, who has directed two of CTM’s more successful recent musicals (“Tuck Everlasting” and “Seussical”) will be helming this one as well.

“Held: The Musical”
Threshold, Oct. 17-19
Chances are you weren’t at the Broom Street Theater for the 2015 debut of “Held: The Musical,” created by longtime Madison collaborators Kelly Maxwell and Meghan Rose. It’s even more unlikely you saw it staged at the New York City Music Festival last year. Well, it’s coming back, so don’t miss this third opportunity to catch this fantastical work about a trio of friends held captive by a wizard. One thing is for sure: With Anna Pfefferkorn and Kate Mann playing the leads, the vocals will be stellar.

“A Doll’s House: Part 2”
American Players Theatre, Oct. 24-Nov. 17Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

Nobody likes a permanent cliffhanger, and Henrik Ibsen left us a doozy with “A Doll’s House,” his play about a traditional Norwegian family torn apart at the seams. The questions stretch to the sky: Did Nora ever come back? Did Torvald survive the trauma? And what happened to everyone else? Luckily, playwright Lucas Hnath wrote a sequel and APT decided to pair it with a summer staging of the original. Colleen Madden and Jim DeVita step into the roles played by actors Kelsey Brennan and Nate Burger in APT’s production of part one.

“Every Brilliant Thing”
Forward Theater Co., Jan. 23-Feb. 9, 2020
David Daniel seems to have no end to his bag of acting tricks. Through his long run as one of American Players Theatre’s core company members (and as Scrooge in Children’s Theater of Madison’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol”), Daniel has played romantics, heroes, cads and more. In “Every Brilliant Thing” – which doubles as Forward Theater Co.’s first one-actor play – he plays a hopeful adult inspired to create a numbered list of reasons to live after his mother’s suicide attempt when he was 7. Even if your favorite thing doesn’t make the list, we’ll go ahead and guarantee that this play wrings a few tears out of you.

Aaron R. Conklin covers the Madison-area theater scene.


“Martha Graham: Power and Passion”
Overture Hall, Oct. 18-20Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

Kanopy Dance Co. opens its season with six choreography pieces inspired by iconic dancer and choreographer Martha Graham. “The common theme with these pieces is the journey of the individual, but in a very magnificent way,” says Kanopy’s co-artistic director Lisa Thurrell, who trained at Graham’s studio in New York for eight years. Lone Kjaer Larsen, a program director and choreographer at New York-based Martha Graham Dance Co., created a powerful new work specifically for Kanopy dancers. Graham was known for her powerful, dramatic and beautiful choreography. The show also will showcase original works by Thurrell and co-artistic director Robert Clearly.

Kate Corby & Dancers and The Seldoms
Lathrop Hall, Nov. 14-16
This collaboration between two veteran choreographers who have worked together in the past, is certain to delight audiences. Carrie Hanson has overseen the Chicago-based contemporary dance organization The Seldoms for 18 years with the aim of creating invigorating dance pieces through the use of architecture, installation, video, sound and fashion. Hanson, a 2019 interdisciplinary artist in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dance, joins forces with Kate Corby & Dancers. Corby, an assistant professor of dance at UW-Madison, helms another Chicago dance company that focuses on emotion, physicality and social inquiry.

“The Nutcracker”
Overture Hall, Dec. 20-22, 24, 26 & 28Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019
Pick up tickets early for this holiday staple that has a shorter run this season due to scheduling conflicts at Overture Center. “The Nutcracker” gets a fresh, new take with Madison Ballet interim artistic director Sara Schumann – a former solo dancer and ballet master at Chicago’s Lyric Opera – putting her talents into the choreography. The ballet, which always features a snow-covered stage and a 25-foot Christmas tree, is also a musical treat with Tchaikovsky’s scintillating score played by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. A community cast of more than 100 people take part in the production.

“Dancing the Chazen: Art and Architecture Performance”
Chazen Museum of Art, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2020
Li Chiao-Ping once considered a career as an architect, so the chance to stage a work at Chazen is an exciting opportunity for the choreographer. “I have always felt an intuitive connection between my physical body and the natural and built environments around me, and which I move through,” she says. No strangers to performing in nontraditional venues, Li Chiao-Ping Dance Co. dancers will take full advantage of the Chazen’s interior.

“Love is Love”
Overture Hall, Feb. 14-16, 21-23, 2020Madison Fall Arts Preview 2019

The regional premiere of “Love is Love,” created by choreographer Stanley Love and restaged by retired dancer Arnie Apostol, is presented by Kanopy Dance Co. “Love is Love” tells the romantic tale of Adam and Steve, who live freely in a disco-inspired Garden of Eden. Costume designer David Quinn will outfit the dancers in glamorous costumes reminiscent of clothes worn at New York’s Studio 54 dance club. Dancer Edie Thurrell, the sister of Kanopy Dance co-artistic director Lisa Thurrell, will portray Eve. “We’ve been talking about doing this with our New York friends for years,” Lisa Thurrell says. “It’s fantastical, and we’re so excited for the show.” The performance also will highlight original pieces by Love and Edie Thurrell.

Tamira Madsen is a Fitchburg writer.