First Stage recently celebrated its 26th anniversary as a children's theater, producing professional productions and developing new plays. It has hosted 40 world premieres and worked with renowned artists and authors including Stephen Schwartz and Cornelia Funke.
Through its theater academy and education program, First Stage aims to inspire a love of learning amongst young people with active teaching tools and a curriculum that emphasizes imagination. The theater-in-education programs reach roughly 20,000 students every year through theater residencies and in-classroom workshops such as the Bully Ban workshop, which teaches students how to respect one another and prevent harassment through improvisational exercises. Schools can also partner with First Stage to bring the arts into their facilities with field trips, workshops, and arts-integrated teaching.
Madison's experiential comedy show takes place at the eastside Glass Nickel Pizza Company on Atwood Avenue and begins at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.). The Monkey Business Institute features no sets, props, or scripts, which allows the hilarious ensemble to craft improv hilarity off the spur of their cufflinks. With decades of improvisational cosmonaut experience and interactive audience participation, each show is distinct and spontaneous. This simian comedy collective features improvisers such as Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, who have received more than 70 million YouTube hits for viral video sensations such as "Chad Vader." Keep a third eye peeled for other local favorites Brad Knight, Jason Stephens, Sheila Robertson, and more.
Hosted by WBAY's chief meteorologist George Graphos and Frank Hermans of Let Me Be Frank Productions, Starstruck showcases talented local performers in “A Starry, Starry Night." Comprising horns, keyboards, and percussion, Bay City Swing accompanies performers, recalling that golden era of music before the Electric Slide squashed the jitterbug. Audiences can aim ears at St. Norbert College’s Knights on Broadway, an apple-cheeked band of student crooners that don fetching formalwear when oscillating between Broadway showstoppers and holiday ditties. The program features vocals from local talents such as Dino Biloti and Jennifer Stevens, a dulcet remedy for ears still ringing from that morning’s space-shuttle launch, as well as jazz clarinet from Kevin Van Ess of The Talk of the Town.
For more than 60 years, the Attic Theatre has culled the talents of local actors to stage thrilling community theater productions of classic and contemporary masterpieces. Featuring lines and lyrics penned by Fantasticks librettist and lyricist Tom Jones, I Do, I Do chronicles 50 years in the lives of married couple Michael and Agnes Snow with intimacy and poignancy. Audiences witness the lovebirds' wedding-night nerves, midlife crises, spats, and, ultimately, abiding love for each other while relishing tender tunes such as "My Cup Runneth Over," a song about Michael's tragically impaired depth perception. The original 1966 production earned multiple Tony nominations including Best Musical, and Robert Preston won Best Actor in a Musical. The Attic Theatre's production is directed by Julie Martin.
There aren't a lot of theater stages that can claim to have hosted presidential speeches—and fewer yet for which that president was William Howard Taft. Opened in 1883, the Grand Opera House has seen performances by the likes of Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, and John Philip Sousa, among other culture-makers of distant generations. Across a century and a quarter, the magnificent auditorium has played the parts of a vaudeville venue and a movie theater, and it wasn't until the mid-'80s that the stage resumed its duties as an opera house. After a sweeping referendum, the city acquired and restored the building, and in 1986 it reopened with a new staging of The Bohemian Girl—the same work that had first lifted its curtains more than a 100 years earlier. Today, 660 can enjoy the opera house's historic magnificence: an enormous, staggered chandelier, cherubic murals across the ceiling and flanking the balcony, and an unmatched ambiance of crimson and gold grandeur.
Since 1960, the nonprofit Sunset Playhouse has grown and flourished alongside the community who helped build it, paying them dividends in lively musicals and family-friendly classics. In Craig Lucas’s Prelude to a Kiss, Rita and Peter’s seemingly perfect wedding takes a turn as unexpected as the end of Titanic, when a mysterious old man interrupts the celebration to request a kiss from the bride. The gesture causes their souls to trade places, leaving Peter to unknowingly take a total stranger on a honeymoon. As the groom realizes his error, he seeks out his beloved, who is now trapped in an aged body, forcing the couple to navigate through unexpected challenges involving commitment, physical appearance, and arguments over how much to tip at Denny's.