All It Needs Is Love

Actors Carrie Sweet and Jalen Thomas star in Madison Theare Guild's "A Behanding in Spokane."

A series of Community Impact grants give an old building a fresh new feel

The Gerald A. Bartell Community Theatre, one of Madison’s most beloved performing arts facilities, is quietly undergoing a renovation project funded by Madison Community Foundation.

The collaborative improvements initiative is enhancing the theater-going experience for patrons while improving the safety and quality of the 112-year-old building and its aging equipment for the six presenting companies that call it home: Madison Ballet, Madison Theatre Guild, Mercury Players Theatre, StageQ, Strollers Theatre, and Kathie Rasmussen Women’s Theatre (KRASS).

Starting in 2014, a $25,000 capacity-building grant enabled the Bartell to begin its work in three major areas: digital lighting control, marquee operation and maintenance, and lobby/concession stand.

Subsequent grants in 2017 and 2018 to complete the work will keep ticket prices affordable and increase production values of theater and other events, such as weddings and benefits, which account for some 10 percent of the facility’s revenue stream. Updates to the marquee and its electrical system—in place since the 1970s—will make it safer to operate and more attractive.

“In total, $43,000 has made a difference,” said executive director Kirk Stantis. “We would not be where we are now without these grants.”

MCF is also partnering with the Bartell thanks to a $150,000 gift from an anonymous donor to establish the Bartell Community Theatre Endowment, ensuring permanent support for community theater long into the future.

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