Wisconsin Union Theater

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uprightThe Wisconsin Union Theater
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Wisconsin Union Theater is a performing arts center in Madison, Wisconsin, located in the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Memorial Union. Wisconsin Union Theater performances include world stage, concerts, dance, jazz and other special events.


The theater opened in the fall of 1939. Statewide radio broadcast the October 8th inaugural ceremonies, and the next three days saw four performances of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, starring the leading couple of the American theater, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

Union Theater audiences have seen and heard some of the most famous public figures, actors, dancers and musicians in performances over the last 70 years. Eleanor Roosevelt, Fritz Kreisler, Ella Fitzgerald, Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Frank Lloyd Wright, Yo-Yo Ma, T. S. Eliot, Jesse Jackson, Arthur Rubinstein, Jascha Heifetz, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Frost, Itzhak Perlman, John F. Kennedy, Louis Armstrong, Martha Graham, Ted Turner, Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Brubeck have all appeared at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Wisconsin Union Directorate allows students to participate in the programming and execution of performances at the theater. Every year, students work with the Union Theater staff on artist booking, contracts, box office and front-of-the-house management, backstage and technical crews, production, business operations, and publicity.

In 2006 a student referendum was held for the third time on funding the remodeling of Union South and the Memorial Union. The referendum passed. The Arts and Recreation Wing of Memorial Union is undergoing remodeling work in 2012-2014.[citation needed]. Renovations were completed in June 2014, which marked the 75th anniversary for the Wisconsin Union Theater. Renovations included Shannon Hall - the largest space in the Union Theater with 1135 seats, Frederic March Play Circle - a technological space with room for 300, and finally the Festival Room - a new performance space for classes and workshops.

The Union Theater today[edit]

Some performances, like Toshi Reagon, are held in Music Hall

Madison World Music Festival The annual Madison World Music Festival debuted in September 2004. Designed to expose Madison residents to music from around the world, the event is free and open to the public. Past performers include Lila Downs, Whirling Dervishes, Balkan Beat Box and many more.

Isthmus Jazz Fest The Isthmus Jazz Fest is offered each June and features free jazz music on the Union Terrace. The 2007 headliner was Madeleine Peyroux.

Concert Series The Wisconsin Union Theater's concert series is a long-standing tradition that is as old as the theater. Each year artists perform classical piano, violin, bass and flute, and more. Past performers include Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, Emerson String Quartet, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

World Music Festival and the Isthmus Jazz Fest are held on the Terrace

World Stage Series The World Stage Series has featured artists from all over the world. Highlights include Youssou N'Dour, Lila Downs, Angelique Kidjo, and Anoushka Shankar.

Isthmus Jazz Series Jazz artists perform at the Union Theater season, and there is a Jazz Fest each June.

Special events Special performances from the 2007–2008 season include Andrew Bird, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and others.

External links[edit]