UW-Madison in conjunction with Wisconsin Public Radio..

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Posted by madcityradio.com on September 29, 2008 at 06:24:33:

UW-Madison's University Theatre working with city drama groups

It takes a village to produce a play, one of the most collaborative of all art forms.

So it might seem natural this season that UW-Madison's University Theatre is putting the spotlight on cross-town teamwork. But that's not the only reason: Sharing the stage helps the bottom line, too.

In a push to create closer community ties, University Theatre will open its stage adaptation of the classic radio drama "The War of the Worlds" in Mitchell Theatre Friday in conjunction with Wisconsin Public Radio.

In November, it will pair with Madison Repertory Theatre for a large-cast production of "The Greeks."

And next spring, it will tap into resources from Union Theater to produce the musical "Hair," directed by a Broadway star.

"When I came on as director of theater two years ago, one of the things I really wanted to focus on was partnering with the arts institutions here in the city," says Tony Simotes, who is also directing "The War of the Worlds" and recruited WPR on-air host Norman Gilliland to join the 11-member cast, mostly college undergrads.

"I don't think it's any secret that there's a lot of pressure on the university and how it spends its money. We're in a situation where we need public support in terms of tickets and gift-giving, as well as from professional organizations, in terms of sharing resources."

In "The War of the Worlds," Simotes has transferred the action to 1938 Madison, with local references ranging from State Street and Rennebohm's to "the marshes of Monona." During production, students are attending workshops in the WPR studios and will do a live broadcast of the show Oct. 4.

University Theatre generally produces six shows each academic year for about $215,000, says general manager Michele Traband. Box office sales fund about $90,000 to $100,000 of that, and the College of Letters and Science Anonymous Fund contributes between $40,000 and $52,000. The rest comes from donations, grants, and some state dollars for supplies and labor.

"The sad fact is that we are operating on the same production budgets that were in place over 15 years ago, and yet the cost to produce these shows continues to grow," said Traband.

And that's another reason for what Simotes calls "cross-pollination."

"The Rep is a classic example of how this is working," he said. For "The Greeks," "we have a whole class of MFA actors as well as MFA designers who are working on this project" while gaining real-life experience. Student actors will help beef up the professional cast of "The Greeks" as well.

"There are 13 cast members," said Trevin Gay, acting artistic director at the Rep. "It's a big show that we could not do without collaborating with someone. The fact that we can collaborate with another local entity makes it all the better."

University Theatre also has partnered recently with Four Seasons Theatre. Still, these pairings can have a downside, Simotes said.

"What I don't want to see is that we have to do this to survive," he said.

If you go

What: "The War of the Worlds," produced by University Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Oct. 3, 10, 11; 8 p.m. Oct. 4 (live broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio); and 2 p.m. Oct. 5.

Where: Mitchell Theatre, Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.

Tickets: $20; $18 seniors; $16 Friends of University Theatre; $14 for children and UW-Madison students. Available by phone at 608-262-1500, online at www.arts.wisc.edu, at the Vilas Hall box office or the Union Theater box office, 800 Langdon St.

More information: www.utmadison.edu


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