Candace Romano

Historic Milwaukee, Pabst Theater team up Jan. 30

By - Jan 23rd, 2012 04:00 am
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The Pabst Theater, during set-up for Rufus Wainwright’s concert. TCD photo by Jennell Jenney.

A decade ago, philanthropist Michael Cudahy bought the historic Pabst Theater from the city of Milwaukee for a mere dollar. At the time, the Pabst looked like a white elephant and the city couldn’t wait to unload it. Monday evening, Jan. 30, Historic Milwaukee will be holding an event there to celebrate the sort of urban Milwaukee rebirth that the venue represents.

Cudahy hired a Chicago native without theater experience–Gary Witt–to be the Pabst Theater Foundation’s executive director. A few years later, the Riverside Theater and Turner Hall Ballroom came under the Pabst’s and Witt’s management.

It was a risk, and one that paid off, according to Anna-Marie Opgenorth, executive director of Historic Milwaukee Inc., a nonprofit formed in 1974 to increase awareness and the preservation of the city’s built community.

“He runs the foundation as if he’s building community,” she said. “Michael Cudahy had a vision to do something, and he took a risk. Gary came on and he took risks.”

Andy Nelson, public relations manager for the Pabst, mentioned Witt’s booking Rufus Wainwright as one of those risks – one that paid off big. He recorded “Milwaukee at Last!!!” at the Pabst in 2007, and gave glowing reviews of the famed theater to Rolling Stone.

“He called Milwaukee the Paris of the Midwest,” Nelson said.

historic-milwaukee-roundtableHistoric Milwaukee’s annual fundraiser, Remarkable Milwaukee 2012, will celebrate the city.

The highlight of the event will be a roundtable, “Envisioning The Seen-MKE,” featuring risk-takers who have made their marks on Milwaukee, including Witt, restaurateur Joe Bartolotta and former mayor John Norquist.

Opgenorth, who hopes her organization raises $30,000 from the event, said the roundtable discussion will take place on the Pabst stage.

“It’s partially theatrical,” she said. “The stage will be set up like a living room.”

“It is very relaxed,” added Nelson. “We’re expecting a crowd of people from all walks of life.”

The discussion will focus on Milwaukee’s finest qualities, and roundtable participants’ views of what they envision for the city.

“It’s not a criticism of Milwaukee or Milwaukeeans,” said Nelson. “It’s about what would be great. You have to have that idealism.”

Others on the roundtable will be artist Reginald Baylor, a partner at Plaid Tuba; Bruce Block, a real estate attorney with Reinhart Law; L.A. artist Sara Daleiden, an adviser of Insite, which promotes temporary art installations in Milwaukee County; Angela Damiani, vice president of Art Milwaukee; Mike Eitel, co-owner of the Lowlands Group; James Godsil, co-founder Sweetwater Organics; developer Gary Grunau; Milwaukee historian John Gurda; John Kersey, executive vice president of Zilber Ltd.; architect Grace La, founder of La Dallman; and Jill Morin, former CEO of Kahler Slater.

Following the discussion, Opgenorth said participants in the audience will be able to tweet questions.

“We’ll open up the roundtable and they can have at it,” she said.

Besides raising awareness and dollars for Historic Milwaukee, Opgenorth wants the event to change minds.

“I’m expecting conversations to start,” she said. “I want younger people to start talking about issues Historic Milwaukee is involved in.”

So does Nelson: “What’s really exciting to me is people who attend will see the Milwaukee I know. I want to work here because Milwaukee’s been through a renaissance.”

Remarkable Milwaukee 2012 (Jan. 30) begins with the roundtable discussion at the Pabst, 144 E. Wells St., with doors opening at 4:30 p.m.  The party continues at Turner hall by 6:30 p.m., with a special dinner and program by Michael Cudahy afterwards — however, this second half of the event has been sold out for awhile now. You can still purchase tickets for the first half for $20 at the Pabst website.

0 thoughts on “Historic Milwaukee, Pabst Theater team up Jan. 30”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ll be at both events, and look forward to them with great anticipation.

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