Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Art center plans bash

Located on State Street, the Overture Center for the Arts turned five this year.[/media-credit]

The Overture Center will be hosting a variety of events to celebrate its fifth anniversary this Saturday.

According to the Overture Center’s website, the celebration entails performances by Madison Symphony Orchestra, VIP backstage passes, wine tasting and a children’s costume event, all accessible to the general public from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Also involved in the celebration is Madison’s Opera and Ballet, who will be present in full costume, as well as Madison’s local band the Gomers, who will be hosting karaoke.


“We’re going to make this place really fun and magical for the day,” said Rob Chappell, spokesperson for the Overture Center.

While the Overture Center is only a few years old, the Madison entertainment venue has had a long history, starting in 1928 when the Capitol Theater opened and began showing silent films.

Chappell affirmed the Overture’s aim to maintain its historic character by continuing to play silent movies in its Capitol Theater with the original 1928 Barton organ playing the accompanying music.

Chappell said it was not until the 1970s the city of Madison bought the Capitol Theater and, in 1980, it became part of the Civic Center.

“(During) the late ’90s, there was a push for more modern space,” Chappell said.

So, he said, construction for the new Overture Center began in 2002.

The three main theaters — Overture Hall, Rotunda Stage and The Playhouse — opened Sept. 18, 2004.

Both private donors and the city of Madison have given funds to the Overture Center. The biggest private contribution came when philanthropist W. Jerome Frautschi donated $205 million.

“He wanted to leave a legacy for the next five generations,” Chappell said.

Rachel Strauch-Nelson, spokesperson for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, said the city gives some funding to the theater.

This year, the city gave the Overture Center a subsidy of just under $1.8 million, according to city of Madison Comptroller Dean Brasser.

Brasser said there is no longer a contract in place between the city government and the Overture Center determining the subsidy amount — it is now based on inflation.

The Overture Center experienced financial difficulties in 2008 when Frautschi’s underperforming trust fund did not contribute to the Overtures’ funds.

The fund was supposed to help pay construction debt for the Overture Center. However, it was liquidated and left the Overture Center with a construction debt totaling more than $27 million.

The city was asked to contribute $12 million to the debt, but Cieslewicz denied the request.

“(There) are some challenges that lie ahead … but we have very committed people working on it,” Strauch-Nelson said.

According to Chappell, sales are up compared to the 2008 figures when more than half a million people attended the Overture Center.

“We are bucking the trend. … Broadway subscriptions are up significantly,” Chappell said.

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