“When you learn theater,” says associate professor Rebecca Holderness, “you learn how to do a lot of different things.”
In her case, this includes developing an award-winning pitch to redevelop the vacant but historic Modjeska Theater in her Mitchell Street neighborhood. Holderness collaborated with a diverse team of area professionals through the NEWaukee-sponsored Co:Lab Project. The community reinvigoration competition challenged teams in three locations – Granville BID and Near West Side Partners also participated – to craft a plan to help reinvigorate their designated Milwaukee neighborhood.
The Mitchell Street team won $5,000. Holderness says the team will use the prize money to continue planning for the Modjeska’s renovation from a vacant theater and parking lot to a community center with green space and an indoor, all-seasons playground.
“The team is going to stay together and work with the Mitchell Street (Business Improvement District) to get the project shovel-ready,” Holderness said. “It was a very thoughtful process. In our research and in talking to the community, we felt like we had the best possible mix of expertise – an architect, an entrepreneur, city employee, anartist(me) – to rebirth the Modjeska.”
The revival of Milwaukee’s urban core has been a research focus for Holderness since she completed the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program last year. In addition to her teaching and research, she will direct the premiere production of the Mainstage Theatre’s 2019-2020 season: the Sarah Ruhl play “In the Next Room.”