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Overture Center for the Arts

Diversity & Inclusion Newsletter

FEB 2018

Winter 2018 is in full swing and so is Overture! I continue to be excited about being able to share with you some of the work we are doing at Overture to create a more diverse and inclusive space that is open and welcoming to all who come through our doors. To that end, please enjoy the second-ever edition of Overture Center for the Arts’ Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter for FEB 2018. 

We were thrilled at the overwhelmingly positive response we received to our inaugural edition in December. So many of you were enthusiastic about the opportunity to read about the programming and other efforts we are undertaking to make Overture more inclusive and reflective of our community. Thank you for engaging with us on this journey – we want this to be a dialogue with you as we move forward with this important work.

I invite you to read below about some more of the recent and upcoming engagement opportunities we are crafting here at Overture. In this edition, we also highlight some of the other events that have taken place at Overture through our community partners, as well as one of our Resident Companies, Forward Theater Company. Also, we’re announcing an engagement opportunity that we hope you’ll share with your network: a special training session to become a volunteer usher at Overture, open to individuals of diverse backgrounds.

Finally, we hope you will join us on FRI, MAR 16 at Centro Hispano for a Community Retirement Reception for Overture CEO Ted DeDee, hosted by Madison poet Laureate Oscar Mireles, along with Kaleem Caire, Karen Menendez-Coller, Michael Johnson, Karin Wolf, Mark Fraire and Steve Goldberg.

Thank you again for your support and continued engagement around this important and exciting work.    


Ed Holmes, PhD
Director of Diversity & Inclusion
Overture Center for the Arts

Engagement Opportunity:
Become a Volunteer Usher

As part of its ongoing Diversity and Inclusion efforts, Overture is seeking to create a more diverse and inclusive usher team that is reflective of the diversity in the community we serve. The Overture Usher Team is an integral group of volunteers who greet guests, scan tickets and seat patrons – often, they are the first members of the Overture Team to interact with guests when they come to Overture.

In response to conversations with members of our community, Overture will be holding a special, mid-season training for individuals of diverse backgrounds who are interested in becoming ushers. The training will be held in the next few months; those interested will receive more information about the timing of the training as it becomes available.

We need your help! Please spread the word about this important opportunity to anyone who might be interested. For questions or more information, contact Ed Holmes at eholmes@overture.org or by replying to this email.

You're Invited...

Community Retirement Reception for Ted DeDee

FRI, MAR 16, 5:30 - 7:30 PM

Join Madison poet Laureate Oscar Mireles, along with community leaders Kaleem Caire, Karen Menendez-Coller, Michael Johnson, Karin Wolf, Mark Fraire and Steve Goldberg, as we celebrate Ted’s years of service to Overture, his contributions to the arts in Dane County and his commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The event will take place at Centro Hispano of Dane County: 810 W Badger Road, Madison.

Community Spotlight

Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development:
25th Anniversary Celebration


On FRI, NOV 3 Overture Center for the Arts was honored to host the 25th Anniversary Celebration for Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development. Founded by its current president, Rev. Dr. Alexander Gee, in the mid 1990′s in response to the unmet social, academic and spiritual needs of at-risk and disenfranchised African American and biracial children in the greater Madison community, Nehemiah has focused on empowering children, youth and families that are economically disadvantaged and socially at-risk through culturally relevant educational and social service support programs for the past quarter century. Last fall, Overture partnered with Nehemiah to host their anniversary celebration in Overture’s Promenade Hall, which featured dessert and dancing to the music of Kinfolk.

“Nehemiah is my life’s work,” said Dr. Gee. “For the past quarter of a century we have served some of Madison’s most disenfranchised individuals. In celebrating our anniversary, it felt so appropriate to invite participants, past staff, donors and volunteers to celebrate with us at an illustrious venue such as Overture Center. Our guests loved being there… and so did our staff.”

Resident Company Spotlight:
Forward Theater Company

Exit Strategy

THU, JAN 18 - SUN, FEB 4

Did you know there are 10 resident arts organizations that curate and perform their own programming in Overture year-round? We encourage you to keep an eye on them. They are selecting pieces that address important social justice issues, presented through the unique lens of artists from diverse backgrounds.

From THU, JAN 18 – SUN, FEB 4, Forward Theater Company – one of Overture Center’s resident companies – presented the Wisconsin Premiere of Exit Strategy in the Playhouse Theater. A celebrated new play by young, African-American, Chicago-based playwright, Ike Holter, Exit Strategy is the no-holds-barred story of a Chicago public high school slated for closure at the end of the year. The impending shut-down causes tensions in the school's already volcanic neighborhood to rise to the breaking point, but a small group of teachers launches a last-minute battle to save their school.

“I live in Madison and have three children in the MMSD. So I (and the rest of the Forward Theater artists and staff) know that issues of equity in our school district have been a rightfully dominant topic of discussion for the past few years,” said Jennifer Uphoff Gray, Forward Theater Company artistic director. “When we came across Ike Holter's brave, bracing and provocative play, Exit Strategy, we knew we had to produce it here. I believe that theater can be a powerful tool for inspiring new ways of considering old problems and it was our hope that this production would inject fresh perspectives into the ongoing discussions about public education, funding and racial equity in our community.”

Directed by Marti Gobel, Exit Strategy featured a powerful cast of diverse actors: Jim Buske, Marques Causey, Sarah Day, Lachrisa Grandberry, Nicholas Harazin, Rana Roman and Daniel Torres-Rangel. 

Recently at Overture

MadCity Sessions featuring Kinfolk

On THU, JAN 18, Overture’s popular and free concert series, MadCity Sessions, featured local R&B band, Kinfolk. With a diverse musical style that draws on traditional jazz, mainstream R&B, funk, Latin and Jamaican-based rhythms, with a variety of soulful original tunes, Kinfolk had the Capitol Theater bumping. Attendees took full advantage of the chairs being removed in the theater, and got to dancing!

MadCity Sessions is sponsored by: WISC-TV.

Frostiball 2018

On SAT, JAN 27, the Overture Hall Lobby was transformed into a Parisian reverie for the biggest soiree of the year: Overture’s Frostiball 2018. The evening’s attendees enjoyed delicious appetizers and desserts, signature craft cocktails and live music by The UpBeat Orchestra. At 11 PM, the shoes came off as the Isthmus After Party started up, featuring DJ Pain 1.

This year’s Frostiball saw some of the most diverse attendance to date. Since 2016, through intentional outreach, we have seen a steady increase in community partner engagement in Frostiball – this year, nearly 150 individuals of diverse backgrounds attended through VIP table sales and individual tickets sold through our community partners. We look forward to continuing to make this exciting, visible community event accessible to all who wish to attend!   

Kids in the Rotunda: Black Star Drum Line

On SAT, FEB 3, Kids in the Rotunda – Overture’s popular, free family series – welcomed back The Black Star Drum Line, returning for their 4th year. Founded in 2008 by director Joey B. Banks, Black Star Drum Line gives kids in the Madison community an opportunity for creative expression through percussive arts. Banks incorporates diversity, respect for self and others, unity and mastery as the core elements of the youth development model he created as a youth professional in the Madison area for over 20 years.

Funding provided by American Girl’s Fund for Children, Madison Gas & Electric Foundation, Nancy E. Barklage & Teresa J. Welch, the Kuehn Family Foundation, Ian’s Pizza, UnityPoint Health – Meriter and by contributions to Overture Center for the Arts.

OnStage Student Field Trips:
Freedom Riders

OnStage, Overture’s annual field trip performance series for students, connects to content across curricula while offering a diverse range of performing art forms and various cultural perspectives. 

On WED, JAN 31 and THU, FEB 1, Capitol Theater was filled with schoolchildren for four performances of Freedom Riders, presented by Mad River Theater Works. This new play, with original songs and music, explores the valiant and courageous personalities behind one of the most critical chapters in the history of the Civil Rights movement. Demonstrating the importance of working together to affect change and specifically how non-violent protests were used to focus attention on the cruelties of segregation, Freedom Riders was a powerful and fitting way to kick off Black History Month at Overture.

OnStage Series sponsored by American Girl’s Fund for Children. Additional funding provided by the DeAtley Family Foundation, Kuehn Family Foundation, A. Paul Jones Charitable Trust, Promega Corporation, Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, Green Bay Packaging/George F. Kress Foundation, Nancy E. Barklage & Teresa J. Welch, and by contributions to Overture Center for the Arts.

Coming Next...

There are many engagement opportunities at Overture on the horizon; below are just a few. We will be conducting specialized outreach to our community partners for these and other exciting events coming up this season!

International Festival
SAT, FEB 24, 
10:30 AM - 4:30 PM

You are invited to Overture's annual International Festival, featuring more than 30 FREE performances celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Dane County! Join us from 10:30 AM - 4:30 PM; indulge in cuisines from around the world, browse stunning arts and crafts available for purchase and learn about the many local businesses with global connections. Following the festival, join us for an exciting performance from Ladysmith Black Mambazo (separate tickets required)!

The International Festival is supported by Madison Community Foundation, CUNA Mutual Group, Friends of Overture, Ho-Chunk Gaming and Dane Arts, with additional funds from the Endres Manufacturing Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation Inc., the charitable arm of The Capital Times, the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
SAT, FEB 24, 8:00 PM

Winners of the 2017 Grammy® for Best World Music Album, South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo has warmed the hearts of audiences worldwide with their uplifting vocal harmonies, signature dance moves and charming onstage banter for over 50 years. With a deep respect for both their cultural and personal history, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is ever-evolving with an eye toward their long musical legacy.

We are excited to have Ladysmith Black Mambazo as our culminating performance for this year’s International Festival! 

Tickets are still available for this iconic group! Click on the red “Learn More” button below for more information and to purchase tickets.

International Women's Day

Join Girls Inc. of Greater Madison and the Goodman Community Center on THU, MAR 8 for a celebration of International Women’s Day, hosted at Overture Center for the Arts. Dine and connect with young girls and other exceptional women, learn about what Girls Inc. has accomplished and the growth of the program city-wide, and engage in activities designed to encourage strong, smart & bold conversation and participation. This year, three strong, smart & bold women speakers — an ultra-marathoner / author, a photographer / activist, and a singer / songwriter — will be featured. Their messages about overcoming challenges in order to succeed are certain to empower all in attendance.

Earth, Wind & Fire

SAT, MAR 24, 8:00 PM

Overture is thrilled to welcome to Overture Hall on SAT, MAR 24, Earth, Wind & Fire, one of the world top-selling groups of all-time. Born in Chicago in 1969, with a signature sound beyond category and a groove as deep as the soul of the planet, the band’s legendary journey has set the standard for music of all genres and made a profound and lasting impact on popular culture.

“Old-School Jam” featuring DJ Pain 1

Join us at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (227 State Street) from 5:30 – 7:30 PM for a pre-show party! Admission is free with your business card and Earth, Wind & Fire ticket.

Race to Equity funding provided by:

Altria, Cummings Christensen Family Foundation, Carl & Mary Gulbrandsen, Philip & Helen Bradbury, Madison Community Foundation, Scherr-Lloyd Fund, Overture Center Foundation Board of Directors and by contributions to Overture Center for the Arts.


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Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street, Madison, WI 53703

© 2017 Overture Center for the Arts. All rights reserved.