Thinking Ahead

hen Broom Street Theater marked its fortieth anniversary last year, a celebration of the past was in order. But for artistic director Callen Harty, looking to the new season and beyond makes more sense.

“I like going forward more than backward,” he says.

This new era finds Harty honoring Broom Street’s legacy, and that of late artistic director Joel Gersmann, while doing what the experimental theater company does best: produce plays that are thought-provoking and present a diversity of viewpoints.

“One theater, many voices. That’s what we’re all about,” Harty says.

Harty reviews more than a hundred new play submissions a year, choosing interesting works to present to an audience base that expects—and eagerly anticipates—the unexpected from Broom Street. Even if theatergoers dislike a particular play, they’ll be back for the next production, Harty says, and he’s grateful for the loyalty.

“We can do what we want,” he says. “We can more honestly be artists.”

Harty’s on the lookout for plays that have a point to make, and use imagination, not an excess of costumes, sets and props, to express it.

“All you need are words and actors,” he says. “All the rest is window dressing. We’re interested in substance.”

Katie Vaughn is associate editor at Madison Magazine.