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City Guide: Cultural Landmarks

Apr. 29, 2016
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Bel Canto Chorus



Founded in 1931, Bel Canto Chorus has presented music lovers with many seasons of fine classical and contemporary choral music—both a cappella and with orchestra. In addition to its 100-member choral ensemble, Bel Canto offers a Senior Singers program and a Boy Choir. (John Jahn)





The Pandemonium DANCECIRCUS was its name when founded in 1975. Choreographer Betty Salamun soon became its driving force, engaging important collaborators in interdisciplinary experiments over the years, making her concern for the natural environment the focus of the work and eliminating the “Pandemonium” and all but two upper case letters from the name. (John Schneider)


Downer Theatre



The Oriental Theatre gets the attention as the East Side’s movie palace, but the more modest Downer Theatre is the city’s oldest still-operating cinema. Open since 1915, the Downer, with its small lobby and sidewalk ticket kiosk, exemplifies the old neighborhood movie houses. (David Luhrssen)


Florentine Opera Company



Founded as a choral ensemble in 1933, the Florentine began full-scale opera productions in 1950, welcoming over the ensuing decades some incredible talent to its stage—José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Beverly Sills among them. The Florentine offers main stage as well as more intimate vocal performances via its Studio Artists and At the Center series. (John Jahn)


Ko~Thi Dance Company



Founded in 1969 by artistic director Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker-Bronson, a native of Sierra Leone, West Africa, Ko~Thi continues to explore, build on, teach and tour the music and dances of the African Diaspora. Caulker-Bronson co-founded the Black Arts Think Tank, Ko~Thi’s home base in the Marcus Center. (John Schneider)


Milwaukee Ballet



With a small cast, an old-fashioned classical bill and stars from American Ballet Theatre in New York, the company’s first performance was in April 1970 at UW-Milwaukee. Within a year, the group had staged a complete Coppélia at Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts with American Ballet Theatre leads. Today, Milwaukee Ballet needs no outside help. (John Schneider)


Milwaukee Chamber Theatre



Milwaukee had a community of professional (Equity) actors in 1975 with only The Rep to employ them, so Monty Davis and Ruth Schudson founded MCT, presenting George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell in Vogel Hall. MCT is an original resident of the Broadway Theatre Center, home since 1993. (John Schneider)


Milwaukee Public Theatre



Milwaukee’s original professional multicultural performance art group began as Friends Mime Theatre in 1974, working from a storage space in Theatre X’s Water Street Arts Center. Devoted to social justice and high entertainment in performances, workshops, school and community programs, pageants and parades, the city is their stage. (John Schneider)


Milwaukee Repertory Theater



As part of a national movement to decentralize American professional theater from NYC, The Rep evolved from the semi-professional Fred Miller Theatre Company, founded in 1954 and housed on Oakland Avenue. The Marcus Center née PAC was home from 1969 until Wisconsin’s largest producing theater opened its own Downtown theater complex in 1987. (John Schneider)


Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra



The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has been the company for local orchestral music for the past half-century and counting. It performs more than 130 classical, pops, family, educational and community concerts each season. Under its current, world-famous maestro, Edo de Waart—currently in his last season with the symphony—the MSO has reached a consistently high level of artistic performance. (John Jahn)


Pabst Theater



Beer baron Frederick Pabst opened the Pabst Theater in 1895 as a forum for German-language stage plays. In the years since, the ornate temple to Goethe and Schiller has accommodated performances of many sorts and is now one of Milwaukee’s premiere concert venues. (David Luhrssen)


Skylight Music Theatre



Beneath the skylight of a vacant room above a newborn beatnik coffeehouse in 1959, a two-man performance of Gilbert and Sullivan songs marked the birth of the Skylight Opera Theatre. In 1993, the rechristened company opened its exquisite jewel-box opera house in the newborn Broadway Theatre Center. (John Schneider)


Turner Hall



Milwaukee’s liberal-minded German immigrants founded the Turner Society’s local branch in 1853. The turn of the previous century Cream City brick Turner Hall was a setting for professional theater and other cultural events before becoming known for fish fries and concerts in the upstairs ballroom. (David Luhrssen)


Woodland Pattern Book Center



Opened in 1979, Woodland Pattern offers some 25,000 books not typically available elsewhere. Serving as both source and venue for local artists and writers, its raison d’être is: “There is more than what you see at your chain bookstore, more than you are taught in school, more than what is reviewed in the papers. We hope to act as a catalyst, putting readers together with small press literature.” (John Jahn)


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