The performing arts community in Madison is full and flourishing. From theater to dance to improv, there is something for everyone in downtown Madison. Below are 15 local venues and groups that students, staff, community members and more should be looking forward to:
1. University of Wisconsin-Madison related theater
First, we have University Theatre. This fall, you can catch “Peter and the Starcatcher” at Mitchell Theatre in late November through early December. This play is your classic — or maybe not so classic — representation of what could have happened before Peter Pan met Wendy.
Student produced theater groups are putting forward productions this fall as well. “God of Carnage” is a comedy playing in Hemsley Theatre the second week of October. The comedy is produced by the Undergraduate Theatre Association, who are also showing “No Exit,” which will appear on Halloween weekend.
2. Wisconsin Union Theater
Many students are familiar with Memorial Union and Union South because of their various food and study spaces. But did you know there are also a wide variety of exciting performances that occur weekly? This October and November, see Grammy winning artists and cultural performances by groups such as the Soweto Gospel Choir, right at the heart of campus. Memorial Union’s Play Circle will host performers such as Joel Ross on Oct. 16 and American Patchwork Quartet on Nov. 17. Student tickets are inexpensive and sometimes even free!
3. Overture Center for the Arts
There is something for everyone through the doors of the Overture Center. National tours such as the Broadway musical “Pretty Woman” — Oct. 18 to 23 — or local and cultural events such as the Wisconsin Dells Singers — Nov. 5 — await right on State Street!
4. Bartell Theatre
Close to the Capitol, Bartell puts on bigger community productions. This year’s lineup includes season opener “Shrek: The Musical,” which closes Oct. 8, and a much more serious “Bent,” which premieres Oct. 14. Attending a Bartell show is a great way to support local actors, and it is within walking distance of State Street.
5. Broom Street Theater
Broom Street Theater is a wonderful experimental theater where one can appreciate new, exciting stories and experience a passion for the art of performance. As unpublished scripts get sent in from across the country, volunteers put on shows to bring life to the words. Though their budgets are small, Broom Street performances keep theater alive in Madison and throughout the country. Broom Street Theater is art for the love of art. Their production of the dark comedy “The Little Death” will be on stage until mid-October.
6. Forward Theater Company
Forward Theater performances take place at the Overture Center’s Playhouse on State Street. This Nov. 3 to 20, gothic tale “Feeding Beatrice” will take the stage to provide a spooky end to your fall. The company provides lectures before performances to educate theater lovers about the show’s content and how Forward’s designers produced the show. “Feeding Beatrice” will feature an ASL interpreted show on Nov. 19.
7. Four Seasons Theatre Company
Four Seasons will be putting on the Christmas tale “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” at the Overture Center’s Playhouse. This story of a German soldier in the midst of World War I performs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Dec. 1 through 11. The company also works with former UW band director Mike Leckrone, who will discuss and play through his time at Wisconsin-Madison. His show “Mike Leckrone: Moments of Happiness” performs Oct. 12 through 16 at Overture.
8. American Players Theatre
APT has a large number of shows, playing throughout October and November. This theater attracts large crowds, so make sure to take a look at tickets as soon as you can. The tragicomedy “Stone in His Pockets” — which performs Oct. 27 through November 20 — already has sold out dates!
9. Madison Symphony Orchestra
The Madison Symphony Orchestra has five different events stacked up for the rest of the season featuring musicians such as violinists and organists. Talent within their groups abounds as various professionals put their love for the arts on display with the orchestra at the Overture Center.
10. Madison Ballet
This December, the Madison Ballet will be performing the timeless classic “The Nutcracker” at Overture Hall. Including a company cast with international professionals, the Madison Ballet will also feature local students and apprentices in their adaptation of a Christmas favorite.
11. Madison Bach Musicians
Catch the musicians this Dec. 11 in their 12th annual Baroque Holiday performance. A collaboration of singers and instrumentalists, this group's deep dive into Latin American Baroque music will feature award-winning musicians from all over the world.
12. Atlas Improv Company
Who doesn’t like a little bit of improv? Every Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m., there is a perfect opportunity to enjoy some spontaneity down at 609 E. Washington Avenue. The company includes improv performers from across the Midwest who are sure to make you crack a smile.
13. Kanopy Dance Theatre
Kanopy Dance has professionally trained company dancers and an academy for training local dancers aged five or older. The company’s performances for the end of 2022 include “Kanopy Redux: No Limits” Oct. 20 to 23 and “Winter Fantasia: Reimagined” Dec. 8 to 11 — the latter of which will feature top dancers from Kanopy’s academy alongside professionals.
14. Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra
The WYSO provides opportunities to support local youth in a diverse array of orchestras and at a variety of age levels. Performances in November and December at multiple destinations around Madison include the Youth Orchestra and Brass Ensemble which perform at the McFarland Performing Arts Center Nov. 20 and the cute WYSO Music Makers who perform at the Grace Episcopal Church Nov. 19. All shows are open to the public and a wonderful way to cheer on the future of Madison arts.
15. Young Shakespeare Players
Speaking of the future of the Madison arts scene, Young Shakespeare Players produces both in person and online productions for youth and others to learn about Shakespeare and performing. Go to see a handful of Short Plays by G.B. Shaw Dec. 9 through 11 or round out the year by logging onto Zoom throughout December to hear a dramatic reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” by the ensemble.