After six months on the job, the Bartell Community Theatre's new managing director says she's already seen big changes at the shared venue. If Sarah Hoover gets her way, even bolder changes may be coming.
Perhaps most gratifying personally, "I have seen a distinct improvement in - well, to be specific - in trust in my position in the last three or four months," says Hoover. The Bartell's six member troupes are also trusting each other more, she says.
"There is a clear movement toward cooperation among the theater companies, which I identified as one of my first goals," says Hoover. "We have to hang together, and in fact not just as the resident companies of the Bartell but as the heart of community theater in Madison."
Hoover began in June. Her predecessor, Lee Ann Cooper, served five years but abruptly resigned Feb. 19, following allegations including conflict of interest.
Hoover is from the Des Moines area. She attended Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids and earned degrees in theater and business administration. After moving to Los Angeles and Denver, two and a half years ago she came to Madison and served as director of special projects and director of administration at Downtown Madison Inc.
Hoover's personal vision is to help Bartell member companies, and maybe even outside groups, learn more about the business side of the arts. She'd like to see the Bartell be more than just a building.
"That has been picked up by the board members," she says. "Now, what that means, whether we put the rest of our scarce resources right now into developing a unified ticketing system, a volunteer program and a training program, or whether that means we put those resources right now into lowering rent for our member companies, that is yet to be decided. There are going to be some tough questions.
"There's definitely support for local theater, produced by local companies, often using local writers, almost always using local actors. This is why we have seen our attendance stay about the same. So let's build on that. Let's focus on giving - not just to the member companies, but to the rest of the arts scene - the tools to make themselves better organizations."
God bless us, Mayor Dave
When Children's Theater of Madison opens its annual production of A Christmas Carol on Friday, Dec. 12, it will have a cameo appearance by an unlikely actor: Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. The company plans on surprising audiences with cameos by local notables throughout the run. It will be performed through Sunday, Dec. 21, in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center for the Arts.