MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Repertory Theater on Tuesday revealed renderings for their $75 million campaign to create a new re-imagined theater complex in the city.
The upgraded space will include three state-of-the-art performance spaces, a bigger lobby and offsite production center, and more modern audience amenities, such as improved seating and accessibility.
Over 68 years, the Rep has grown into one of the largest theaters in the country, serving approximately 300,000 people. For 35 of those years, the theater has resided in the former Wisconsin Electric Powerhouse building.
But Rep officials said they need an upgrade to their current East Wells Street complex. That's where the Powering Milwaukee campaign comes in.
“While it has served us well for four decades, our aging and inefficient Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex severely limits the productions we stage, the plays we develop, and the kind of educational impact we have — and will soon jeopardize our mission,” Milwaukee Rep officials said in a press release regarding the need for an upgrade.
Earlier this fall, Associated Bank announced a $10 million sponsorship for the Milwaukee Rep. In honor of that donation, the newly renovated Rep space will be named the Associated Bank Theater Center.
One of the more notable additions in the renovation will be a flexible configuration in the Mainstage Theater. This will allow the stage to be transformed from a classic thrust configuration, where audience members sit feet away from the action, to a proscenium theater that’s compatible with theaters on Broadway and in Europe. Rep officials said this would mean they could launch new shows that can tour across the U.S.
Also notable for this space is the addition of a Fly Loft. That will allow them to “fly” in larger pieces of scenery, something they cannot currently do.
The Rep will also renovate their black-box space to become the new Studio Theater. It will be more intimate and contain much more seating.
All performance spaces will be tied together with a beautifully open and cascading Sandra and William Haack Grand Lobby that will include bars, a giftshop, more restrooms, an event space and more. Pedestrians will be able to enter from ground level on Wells Street and the Associated Bank River Center.
But upgraded theater spaces won’t be the only upgrade.
The project will introduce the Rep’s first Education and Engagement Center, which will serve more than 20,000 students in their in-school, after-school and community programs.
Productions for performances will also be moved to a new 35,000-square-foot production center.
By making these improvements, the Milwaukee Rep said they hope to better education for underserved populations, attract new audiences, strengthen Milwaukee as a creative hub and expand their current $30 million annual economic impact.
To date, the Milwaukee Rep has raised more than half of their goal, rounding out at about $43 million.
All performances will continue as scheduled throughout the renovation period.