About the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Photographic History Collection
Scope and Content
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater Photographic History provides a visual chronicle of the artistic productions of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in the years 1977-1994. The collection presents selected images of the plays performed during the 17 seasons in an attempt to demonstrate the creative work of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater (MRT) and capture the uniqueness of theater performance that is so fleeting in nature.
The digital collection includes 1,800 images documenting 195 performances. The images were selected from the Mark Avery Collection housed at the Archives at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries (UWM Libraries). The finding aid for the archival collection can be found at: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-mil-uwmmss0155. Mark Avery worked as the staff photographer for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Company from 1976 to 1994. He donated his collection consisting of thousands of photographic negatives to the Archives at UWM Libraries in 1999. The selected images were scanned and indexed as part of the digitization project at UWM Libraries.
The list of play titles in the collection ranges from Shakespearian tragedy to French farce. It includes works by classic American playwrights, such as Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller as well as contemporary authors like David Mamet and Romulus Linney. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has also supported new and regional playwrights, artistic explorations, and translations of original works from other countries. Plays by Maria Irene Fornes, Amlin Gray, Andrew Johns, John Leicht, William Stancil, and Daniel A. Stein had their world premiers on the stages of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Larry Shue created his plays Grandma Duck is Dead, The Nerd, The Foreigner, and Wenceslas Square while working as a Milwaukee Repertory Theater resident actor and playwright. Works of French playwrights, Jean-Claude Grumberg and Gilles Sègal were presented to the American audience for the first time in Milwaukee.
In addition to the Mark Avery Collection, the Archives at UWM Libraries holds other collections documenting the history of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater: Records of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, 1953-1987, finding aid available at http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-mil00095, and The Larry Shue Papers, 1968-1985, finding aid at http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-mil-uwmmss0063.
Brief History of the Rep
The Mark Avery Collection 1977-1994 encompasses a significant portion of MRT history. The theater, first known as the Fred Miller Theater, was founded in 1954. It was originally located on Oakland Avenue in Milwaukee (now called the Miramar Theater). The new name, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater was chosen in 1963 to reflect the theater’s emphasis on a broad selection of classics and contemporary plays and its commitment to establishing a resident acting company.
In 1968, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater moved to a new location, the Todd Wehr Theater at the Performing Art Center in downtown Milwaukee. The Todd Wehr Theater served as the theater’s main stage until 1987. In 1974 the Rep. converted a small warehouse and opened an additional stage known as the Court Street Theater. This small, intimate theater became a place of creative exploration for MRT artists and a testing ground for new playwrights. Several plays, including The Nerd and American Journey, first performed at the Court Street Theater, were later presented on the Main Stage at the Todd Wehr Theater.
In the mid 1970s the Milwaukee Repertory Theater began performing occasionally at the historic Milwaukee Pabst Theater. Each December since 1976 MRT has presented a performance of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at the Pabst. This special annual production of A Christmas Carol has become a Milwaukee tradition. Portrayals of Ebenezer Scrooge by MRT actors, Henry Strozier, Victor Raider-Wexler, Richard Halverson, Daniel Mooney, and James Pickering can be viewed in the online collection. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater also presented large-scale productions at the Pabst Theater, including Romeo and Juliet (1978), Cyrano de Bergerac (1980), and Much Ado About Nothing (1983).
In 1987 the Milwaukee Repertory Theater moved to its present location, the Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex at 108 E Wells St, across from the Milwaukee City Hall. The Complex houses three theaters, the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, considered the main stage, the Stiemke Theater, and the Stackner Cabaret, where concerts and musicals are performed.
Several prominent artists have been involved in the artistic leadership of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Nagle Jackson served as Artistic Director for much of the 1970s. John Dillon, a director of numerous plays at MRT, assumed the role of Artistic Director in 1977. John Dillon supported the creation of several plays with regional themes, such as Fighting Bob (1979), Kingdom Come (1982), An American Journey (1986), and McCarthy (1990). With the beginning of the 1993-1994 season, Joseph Hanreddy took over as Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
1,800 images were selected from thousands of 35 mm black and white negatives in the Mark Avery Collection. The negatives were scanned at 4000 dpi resolution using a Nikon 4000 ED film scanner at the UWM Libraries Digitization Center. The Resulting 20MB TIFF files (archival images) of approximately 5,600 x 3, 600 pixels are stored at UWM Libraries. Access images (JPEG files) of 620 pixels in height or width were created for Web delivery. A research process accompanied the creation of the digital collection. The images were identified and described as part of the project. The searchable part of the collection is indexed in CONTENTdm digital media management software using Dublin Core metadata. High resolution digital images can be ordered using the online Image Order form.
- Project Staff:
- Krystyna K. Matusiak, Digital Project Librarian
- Cullen Carter, Graduate Student Assistant
- Metadata Consultant:
- Steve Miller, Head, Monographs Department, UWM Libraries
- Other Contributors:
- Kenny Klatt, Information and Media Technologies, UWM
- Lynnette Ponton and Lynne Privatt, Automation Department, UWM Libraries
- Sarah Sturke and Jacqueline Frank, Graduate Student Assistants
UWM Libraries would like to thank Cindy Moran and James Pickering of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for their invaluable help in the research and indexing process.