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Riverside Theater's re-imagined green room aims to keep touring acts coming back

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Posted at 5:21 AM, Feb 01, 2022

MILWAUKEE — We're taking you inside one of the most exclusive spots in Milwaukee, typically only accessible to rock stars, artists, and comedians passing through on a tour stop. It's recently gotten a remodel, for a very specific reason.

Eight floors above the city you'll find a fresh slice of classic Milwaukee when you step into the Riverside Theater's re-imagined green room. "It was time, we are always looking to grow and to change," said Esmeralda Sambar, director of artist hospitality. "And we had some downtime during the pandemic."

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Riverside Theater's re-imagined greenroom

Milwaukee does a lot of things well. Its nickname — Brew City — applies to beer and coffee. You'll see both highlighted backstage in the green room.

Two new 'ghost sign' murals, featuring the logos for Colectivo Coffee and Miller High Life, were hand-painted on cream city brick by local artist, John Chirillo.

Chirillo jumped at the chance to be involved and said it's cool to think about who will see his artwork. "That's one of the first conversations that I had when I came in," recalled Chirillo. "They said that Bob Dylan was opening his national tour here, and basically this would be the first thing that he saw when he came through the elevator."

Riverside Theater

The Pabst Theater Group wants Milwaukee to also be known for top-tier artist hospitality, highlighting long-time features like a turntable, a personal barista, and a kitchen with a private chef and pastry chef.

"We put so much work into you know, just the writing of the menu," explained Kevin Sloan, the executive chef for Pabst Theater Group. "I'll look and see where they (the performer) grew up, where they're from. If they're from the south I might do some etouffee or some BBQ for them. And I always like to give a little slice of Milwaukee too, so we try and get some local stuff in there as well."

Riverside Theater

The incredible food helps fill stomachs, but the hope is that it will also help fill in Milwaukee's name when it comes time for bands to plan new tour stops. "We're kind of glossed over," explained Sambar. "We're Chicago's little sister and they think — Wisconsin, what's there?"

The idea to re-vamp the green room, and the backstage experience, aims to keep artists coming back to Milwaukee.

And if history holds any lessons, it just might work. "One of our bigger shows is 'Widespread Panic'. Last time we had them through they did a four-night run, every night was sold out," said Sloan. "And they love the catering so they come in a day early."

Riverside Theater

There were a lot of local artisans involved in this project. Scathaintook the lead with the design, including features like chicken wire window panes and custom light fixtures.

For a limited time in February and March, you can book a tour of the new space and even have Chef Kevin Sloan prepare you one of his mouth-watering meals. Information can be found on the Pabst Theater Group's website.

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