Historic Modjeska Theatre Moves Closer to Opening
The Modjeska Theatre Project LLC, owners of the Modjeska Theatre at 1124 West Historic Mitchell Street, has named Larry Widen to the position of Executive Director.
The Modjeska Theatre Project LLC, owners of the Modjeska Theatre at 1124 West Historic Mitchell Street, has named Larry Widen to the position of Executive Director. The theatre is expected to re-open in mid-November as a neighborhood recreation and entertainment facility. The Modjeska’s initial programming will include indoor sporting events, comedy shows, plays, movies and performances by local bands.
Widen says that Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern cultures abound in the neighborhoods surrounding the theatre. “The Modjeska is there for everyone and the programming will reflect that,” Widen said. “We want the theatre to become the provider of music, film and other events to a wide variety of tastes and cultures.” Previously Widen operated the Times Cinema in Milwaukee and the Rosebud Cinema in Wauwatosa from 2006 through February of 2012. Under his leadership, the theaters offered a classic film series on weekends, cult film showings on Friday evenings, exclusive Milwaukee-area premieres and the annual Oscar short film programs. Widen also booked live music shows that included Johnny Winter, Rick Derringer, Canned Heat and the Corky Siegel Band. Cinema personalities that appeared at the Times included Russ Tamblyn with a showing of “West Side Story,” Harry Shearer with “Spinal Tap,” and the cast and crew of the independent hit “Sweet Land.” “I’m excited about the opportunities before us with the Modjeska,” Widen said. “We want to be the destination for eclectic, creative and multi-cultural entertainment.”
Also joining the Modjeska board is Rob Meiksins, who will act as consultant to the theatre’s fund development effort. Meiksins will also serve on the board of the Friends of the Modjeska, a philanthropic group raising money for ongoing operational costs. Meiksins started out in professional theater in New York City, later moving to Milwaukee to work with the Milwaukee Rep as the dramaturg. He was also the executive director of Future Milwaukee, a community leadership development program, where he helped create the non-degree certificate program at the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management.
The Modjeska Theatre Project LLC is operated by the not-for-profit group Mitchell Street Development Opportunities Corporation (MSDOC). Governing board members include John S. Kesselman, commercial property broker; Herbert M. Hillman, CPA and Mitchell Street property owner and manager; Jesus Enrique Nanez, owner of DropZone, a web and print design firm; Robert Sheehy, design and construction management consultant; and Thomas Vavra, owner of Vavra Design LLC, an architectural design and planning firm. Additional candidates for the board are currently being considered.
The Modeska Theatre has been an anchor of the Mitchell Street district for 90 years. Originally opened in 1924 as a 2,000-seat cinema, the Modeska has evolved into a performance facility over the decades. Milwaukee Youth Theater was headquartered there for many years, and stage concerts with national acts included the Gregg Allman Band, Faith No More, Richie Havens, Widespread Panic, Robin Trower, and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. To date, fund raising efforts have topped $10,000, including a grant from the Inbusch Foundation.