First Stage
Press Release

First Stage announces date for next year’s Make Believe Ball: Saturday, May 10, 2025

Milwaukee’s premier black-tie event for the entire family will be held at Baird Center

By - Apr 3rd, 2024 11:46 am

Milwaukee, WI – April 3, 2024 – First Stage, one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families, will host its 31st annual Make Believe Ball on Saturday, May 10, 2025 at Baird Center. The non-profit organization is the lucky winner of this year’s Baird Center’s Gala Giveaway contest, the second year of the contest. This unique fundraising event welcomes attendees of all ages and offers an exciting opportunity for the entire family to get dressed up, shine their brightest and dance the night away.

The exciting prize package First Stage won includes a fully funded gala featuring complimentary room rental at Baird Center’s spectacular rooftop Baird Ballroom, pre-function space for registration and silent auction, a chef’s choice 3-course menu and non-alcoholic beverages for up to 500 guests, two bottles of white and two bottles of red wine per table, a CTI audio-visual credit up to $15,000 and more. The total prize package is valued at up to $56,000. The Wisconsin Center District will also contribute 40 staff volunteer hours to First Stage. To learn more about the First Stage winning the grand prize of the Baird Center Gala giveaway, please visit:

When asked why winning this prize was so important for First Stage, Director of Advancement Kelly Gerlach stated: “We’re excited to announce the Make Believe Ball on May 10, 2025, at Baird Center, marking a special night for families and a pivotal moment for First Stage. This event is at the heart of our mission, bringing families together in celebration and support of the transformative power of theater. It promises an unforgettable evening of joy and community, essential for funding our impactful programs. We look forward to sharing this enchanting experience with our First Stage families!”

For over thirty years, First Stage has brought together families, donors, community members and artists at its annual Make Believe Ball to celebrate their three pillars – professional Theater Productions, unparalleled Theater Academy training and dynamic Theater in Education programming. These pillars define First Stage’s mission of transforming lives though theater and through them they serve more than 100,000 people annually.

Registration: Registration information will be available soon! Watch First Stage’s website and social media for updates.

This year’s 30th Annual Make Believe Ball was held at the Pfister Hotel on Saturday, February 24, 2024. There were 307 attendees and $144,000 was raised. The evening honored former and present leadership: Rob Goodman, First Stage Founder; Betsy Corry, Former Managing Director; Jeff Frank, Current Artistic Director and Daniel Grambow, Current Managing Director. Event highlights included a LIGHTNING THIEF: The Percy Jackson Musical flash mob performance featuring 43 young performers from both casts in the Pfister Grand Ballroom during the evening’s program. The 2024 Make Believe Ball Chairs were Anne and Ben Swoboda. Sponsors of the event included Gold Sponsor Northwestern Mutual and Corporate Sponsors PNCWe Energies Foundation, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Milwaukee Bucks, Madison Medical, Johnson Controls and Godfrey & Kahn. Family Sponsors for the event included The Esten Family, The Hirano Family, The Maloney Family, The Orr Family, The Pence Family, The Puechner Family and The Swoboda Family.

To see photos from the 2024 Make Believe Ball, please view the Google drive below:

For more information, to register or to become a sponsor for next year’s 2025 Make Believe Ball, please contact Special Events Manager Maddy Corson at or (414) 267-2987

To learn more about First Stage and the remaining 2023/24 productions, please visit: or call (414) 267-2961. 

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. It has not been verified for its accuracy or completeness.

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