Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Press Release

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is Wisconsin’s First Approved by Actors’ Equity Association to Proceed with In-Person Work to Create Virtual Productions

 

By - Jan 13th, 2021 02:03 pm

Milwaukee, WI – Following six months of close collaboration, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) has approved Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) to gather actors and stage managers in person to produce plays for virtual capture and distribution. This landmark permission—the first granted by AEA to any Wisconsin theater company—is secured by a comprehensive safety plan centered on frequent testing, exacting ventilation, sanitation, and distancing standards, and the personal responsibility of artists and support staff to ensure the well-being of all involved. MCT extends deep gratitude to Broadway Theatre Center (BTC) owner Joseph Property Development, LLC and HVAC contractor Just Mechanical for ensuring the BTC meets required standards.

“MCT has a 45-year mission of supporting local artists,” said Artistic Director Brent Hazelton. “We prioritized providing health insurance weeks to eligible artists back in March, and so committed early on to walking the path back to production with Equity. I’m overjoyed to be able to deliver on that goal. I’m also thrilled to continue MCT’s track record of virtual innovation, and proud to do it by following through with one of the most proportionally diverse seasons ever produced by a Wisconsin PWI theater.”

Named by former Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reviewer Mike Fischer as one of 2020’s ten most inspiring theater companies anywhere, MCT was one of the country’s first to pivot virtually and before the end of April established a robust series of artist conversations, produced one of the industry’s first virtual productions in GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM, and orchestrated one of southeastern Wisconsin’s first non-profit fundraising events with its record-setting “Cheers to Chamber!” Gala. MCT’s virtual pioneering continued through the summer as it opened its social media channels to artists and local theaters to earn income, developed original content like its “Drunk Dramaturgy” web series, partnered with PlayOn! Shakespeare on a reading of Hansol Jung’s translation of ROMEO AND JULIET, created the first annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival in collaboration with Black Arts MKE, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Lights! Camera! Soul!, and MPower Theater Group, and offered its SEASON’S GREETINGS FROM MCT package of local artists’ artistic riffs on their own holiday traditions as a free gift to the community.

“People are our purpose,” said Managing Director Amy Esposito. “We haven’t wasted a single opportunity to connect artists and audiences, and to explore the possibilities of what MCT can be. None of that is possible without the hard work and creativity of our dedicated staff and artists. We’ve been lucky and strategic enough to not only keep our full staff on at full salary throughout the pandemic, but to actually add positions. We have also, since the start of the pandemic and without being able to set foot in the theater, provided freelance artists with nearly $50,000 in income and benefits, and nearly three-dozen AEA insurance weeks. Our ability to create in-person virtual productions will allow us to greatly surpass those totals and make meaningful positive impacts in artists’ lives during this particularly challenging time. We have seen the community come forth in support of MCT these last few months and we are thankful for every subscriber, donor, and MCT family member that has showed their support in our unconventional season.”

The first production to be rehearsed and filmed in person is THE ISLAND by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. A mid-20th Century classic offering a scathing indictment of racism through the lens of South African apartheid, THE ISLAND features Milwaukee natives Sherrick Robinson and DiMonte Henning. “By asking questions urgently relevant to this deeply challenging moment in America’s evolution, each play in our virtually reimagined season—some serious, some humorous—continues to open MCT into an artistic home where everyone can feel not just welcome but essential to the conversation about how our community can be its best self for everyone who calls it home,” said Hazelton. “In THE ISLAND’s case: what is our obligation as citizens when our government commits unjust acts, and particularly when those injustices are grounded in racism?”

Said MCT Board of Trustees President Emily Shircel, “The MCT Board enthusiastically supports the collaboration with AEA to create in-person work for virtual consumption. In a world that is hungry for the performing arts, we are thrilled about this opportunity and applaud the work and vision that MCT, under Brent and Amy’s leadership, brought forth to make this a reality.”

“We are excited about this significant accomplishment and look forward to one day welcoming patrons back in person. For now, we must continue to create, inspire, and tell important
stories through our favorite art form however we can,” said Esposito. “Join us!”

More information about MCT, its virtually reimagined 20/21 season, how to purchase subscriptions or single tickets, and how to donate can be found at www.milwaukeechambertheatre.com.

ABOUT MILWAUKEE CHAMBER THEATRE

Founded in 1975, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) produces intimate, high-quality, professional theatrical works of literary merit that engage and challenge the audience, while employing and nurturing principally local theatre artists. MCT performs at the Broadway Theatre Center in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward and is a proud Member Group of the United Performing Arts Fund. For more information, visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com.

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