MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Repertory Theater is returning to full capacity shows for the first time since the pandemic. Collaboration with other arts groups in the area helped The Rep form its COVID-19 protocols, which will seem familiar. It's made the relaunch of live theater a challenge, but a welcome one, as The Rep gears up for the return of it's biggest annual production, A Christmas Carol.
The stage inside The Rep's largest space, the Quadracci Powerhouse, has not been this busy in a year and half. No actors just yet, but carpenters, electricians, and tech crews are building the set for Steel Magnolias, which premieres next week.
"I cannot wait to get people back in this building again and to see, hopefully, some packed houses as we start to open up," said Laura Braza. In addition to serving as The Rep's Artistic Producer, she is direction the production of Steal Magnolias.
"I think we're really interested in hopeful, redemptive stories, and particularly stories that offer a little bit of theater magic," Braza explained, referencing the entire Rep season. "We've all seen a lot of Netflix over the last 18 months. I think that we really want to show what theater can do. The main thing theater can do right now is inspire hope and joy."
Already on stage in the Rep's smaller, Stackner Cabaret, is Dad's Season Tickets. It's what it sound like.
"It's a Packers musical, so, it's a story of a family who has a pair of season tickets, dad's season tickets," said Braza. "The question becomes as dad gets older in years, which of the three sisters will inherit the season tickets. So we have a very big King Lear element."
The Rep soft launched some new COVID-19 procedures with smaller shows already. Now, as larger audiences return, they will have digital tickets, masks required, and patrons will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent COVID test for entry. It's similar protocol to what other venues and arts groups have been doing. Braza said the collaboration is inspiring.
"As demoralizing as the last year has been, I think, for a lot of theater makers, it's really been hopeful and inspiring to see people come together and say, we've got a bunch of smart minds here. How do we make this happen? How do we bring this back?" said Braza.
By far The Rep's biggest annual show is A Christmas Carol, staged at the Pabst Theater. Rehearsals begin Nov. 2, and it will be a full-capacity, full cast production that premieres on Nov. 30. Click here for more info.