Overture Center for the Arts

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Overture Center for the Arts
Main entrance to Overture Center. The facade was originally part of Yost's Department Store.
Address201 State Street
Madison, Wisconsin
United States
Coordinates43°4′28″N 89°23′19″W / 43.07444°N 89.38861°W / 43.07444; -89.38861Coordinates: 43°4′28″N 89°23′19″W / 43.07444°N 89.38861°W / 43.07444; -89.38861
OperatorOverture Center Foundation
Typeperforming arts center
CapacityOverture Hall: 2,255
Capitol Theater: 1,089
The Playhouse: 347
Promenade Hall: 252
Rotunda Stage: 350
Opened1928 (Capitol Theatre)
Reopened1980 (Madison Civic Center)
2004 (Overture Center for the Arts)
ArchitectCesar Pelli

Overture Center for the Arts is a state of the art performing arts center and art gallery in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. The center opened on September 19, 2004, replacing the former Civic Center. In addition to several theaters, the center also houses the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.


The center was commissioned by Jerome Frautschi, and Pleasant Rowland, designed by Cesar Pelli. Perhaps his most famous works are the Petronas Twin Towers, which were for a time the world's tallest buildings. He also designed the World Financial Center complex (since renamed Brookfield Place,in downtown Manhattan. Frautschi/Rowland paid $205 million to construct the building, making it the largest private gift to the arts of its kind.[citation needed] It replaced the Madison Civic Center, located on the same block on State Street. Its first President/CEO was Robert B. D'Angelo, followed by Michael Goldberg, Tom Carto,Ted DeDee and Sandra Gajic.


The building has seven venues, in addition to art galleries:

Overture Hall[edit]

The 2251-seat Overture Hall is the facility's largest theater. Consisting of four levels of seats, it has a striking architectural style and was designed for acoustics (no center aisle). The balconies have "continental-style" seating arrangements, where aisles other than those on the sides of seat rows are omitted in order to provide greater seat size and acoustics. It houses a large, permanent organ by the German organ builder Klais. The Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, and Madison Ballet call this theater home. In addition to local Madison performing groups, touring performances have played in Overture Hall; comedian Jerry Seinfeld and musician Yo-Yo Ma are examples of nationally famous performers who have appeared here.

Capitol Theater[edit]

During Overture construction, the Oscar Mayer Theater (originally named Capitol Theater, which opened 1928 as a movie palace) was restored, downsized, and re-christened the Capitol Theater. The theater's inaugural performance, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, upon reopening took place in November, 2005. Done in muted teal and fuchsia, it seats 1098 in the main floor and balcony. Original to the theater is an organ built by Oshkosh's Barton Organ Company. Resident companies include the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and CTM Madison Family Theatre, although some traveling shows (usually concerts) regularly perform there.


This smaller, intimate performance space replaced the former Isthmus Playhouse. It was renovated with the Madison Repertory Theatre in mind as its resident company, and was occupied by Madison Rep until its closure in March 2009.

Promenade Hall[edit]

This is a smaller room featuring bleachers in the walls that can convert it to a performance space seating up to 300. Kanopy Dance is its resident company.

Rotunda Stage[edit]

This room, located in the lower level, is used primarily for the center's Kids in the Rotunda performances. The only venue accessible to the public during regular hours, it features a color scheme of fuchsia walls and floors, as well as permanent audience riser seats. It is also a venue for banquets, meetings and other performances.

Wisconsin Studio and Rotunda Studio[edit]

These two venues are used mainly for rehearsals and meetings. They are also fully equipped black box theater spaces seating 100-200 depending on seating configuration.

Visual Art Galleries[edit]

The center contains four visual art galleries. The Overture Galleries present exhibits by local and state artists and organizations.

The center houses the James Watrous Gallery, which is operated by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. This gallery displays larger exhibits and installations from regional artists.

Both galleries are open to the public.

Notable Performers[edit]

Following is a partial list of notable performers that have staged concerts at the Overture Center:


The Overture Center has been the subject of several controversies. After Frautschi's/Rowland's initial gift of a $100 million, they donated another $100 million, to make this a state of the art venue. Some citizens complained that the City of Madison's priorities were skewed. Others said the project would hurt the image of nearby State Street. Still others believed it would be accessible only to the wealthy while limiting access to local and smaller acts and artists.[1]

After initial construction of the center, concerns were raised over additional funding. Citizens became concerned that as the economy slowed Overture's reserve funds would decrease. As this happened, the potential was raised for the City of Madison to step in to maintain funding levels. Some were worried that a project that was supposed to be private would become an unnecessary burden to taxpayers. These fears were exacerbated by the liquidation of the trust fund that was set up to pay the construction debt for the building as well as provide some operating income.[2] The liquidation left some construction debt that was paid for by Gerry Frautschi, (Webcrafters), Pleasant Rowland (founder of American Girls), and a number of their friends. The endowment liquidations forced the center to cut staff because of the loss of the operating income.The Overture Center continues to be a privately owned facility and is now run by a non-profit; it is no longer a City of Madison agency. The Center receives an annual subsidy from the city approximately equal to that which the Madison Civic Center received (a facility owned by the city). With an estimated operating budget of $18.4 million (fiscal year July to June 2012-13) Overture Center seems to have emerged from its financial difficulty. Staffing levels now exceed the level before the forced endowment liquidation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Search : Madison.com Madison WI news sports entertainment". Madison.com. 1999-07-22. Retrieved 2012-05-26.[dead link]
  2. ^ "Search : Madison.com Madison WI news sports entertainment". Madison.com. 2008-09-20. Retrieved 2012-05-26.[dead link]

External links[edit]