Report says Milwaukee Rep has outgrown its downtown home

Looking for solutions to space constraints and facility needs

Milwaukee Rep executive director Chad Bauman. Credit: Lila Aryan
Milwaukee Rep executive director Chad Bauman. Credit: Lila Aryan

Last updated on February 17th, 2020 at 11:06 am

The growing Milwaukee Repertory Theater is looking for solutions to the space constraints and facility needs at its home of 33 years, the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex in downtown Milwaukee.

The Rep said a recent report from a facilities planning firm confirmed the organization has outgrown the theater complex at 108 E. Wells St., and that the facility needs various infrastructure upgrades. Addressing those challenges is one of the top priorities in the Rep’s newly adopted strategic plan.

The organization moved into the complex, a redeveloped former power generation plant, in 1987. It includes three theaters, the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio and Stackner Cabaret. The facility also houses the Rep’s rehearsal facilities, production shops and administrative offices.

“The complex … has served as an exceptional home for four decades but the wear and tear on the building given the large numbers of people Milwaukee Rep serves has been substantial,” the organization said. “A recent report from the country’s leading planning firm for arts facilities confirmed Milwaukee Rep has outgrown our current facilities, all major systems are overdue for replacement and theaters need to be upgraded to meet modern day production capabilities.”

The Rep has grown over the past five years, from operating a $9 million annual budget to a roughly $14 million budget in that time frame. In an August 2019 interview with BizTimes, executive director Chad Bauman said the theater company’s subscriber and patron numbers are also up, which he credited in part to the downtown renaissance and nearby Fiserv Forum drawing more people to the city. The organization also expanded its leadership team last year to meet its growing programming needs.

In 2018, the Rep completed a $1.75 million renovation of the Stackner Cabaret, which expanded its seating capacity from 124 to 186.

“Milwaukee Rep is having a moment. Performances are selling out, outstanding new plays have been created in Milwaukee for Milwaukee, and our subscriber and donor bases are at decade highs,” Bauman said in a news release. “Since completing our last strategic plan ahead of schedule we knew it was time to re-evaluate our goals. Through this strategic planning process, we looked at all the changes in the nonprofit theater industry through a lens of opportunity, leading us to double down on our mission of artistic excellence and civic engagement. Our work is representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity, and with our new brand identity we aim to communicate we are a theater that is welcoming and inspirational to all.

Several other projects are underway to revitalize Milwaukee’s aging cultural assets. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to open its new symphony center in the former Warner Grand Theater this fall. The Marcus Performing Arts Center, meanwhile, is in the quiet phase of a fundraising campaign to support interior and exterior improvements at the downtown facility.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.