Today it’s promoting a March run of Broadway’s Riverdance, tomorrow it might be scheduling one of the many education series events that bring 20,000 school-aged children, annually, to the Weidner Center. It’s all in a day’s work for Katie Green, president of Weidner Center Presents, Inc.
The non-profit organization, led by a board of community volunteers, is dedicated to programming at the beautiful Weidner Center for the Performing Arts on the UW-Green Bay campus. At the helm and heart is Green, a 1999 graduate who was “lured back home” to her alma mater in 2006 by the Weidner Center Presents Board.
“The Weidner Center was undergoing a change in programming structure at the time, and I knew I absolutely wanted to be a part of rejuvenating the programming at the venue that had been my home for so many years,” Green says.
Her kinship with the Weidner started in 1995, when she was a student worker in the Weidner Center ticket office. After graduating with a Communication degree, Green worked as the Weidner’s group sales manager before moving on as the director of marketing and partnerships for the Green Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Operating independently but in partnership with UW-Green Bay, Weidner Center Presents provides public entertainment and educational opportunities. It’s Green’s job to lure quality performances that can meet the market niche, while continuing to be a vibrant performing arts center serving the students and residents of Northeast Wisconsin.
“Being able to program and recruit entertainment for a venue as magnificent as the Weidner Center is a real treat,” Green says. “But like programming any entertainment venue, there are challenges associated with it. The past several years of sluggish economy have made some tours skittish about committing to cities far in advance. That, in turn, can leave venues on a waiting list for confirmation of a show, subsequently creating a difficult position for presenters like us when it comes to announcing a traditional season of events. Additionally, patrons have become more likely to make their entertainment decisions last-minute, which can wreak havoc on even the best-laid marketing plans. “
Even so, this year’s line-up includes something for everyone, including the Broadway tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot, the Christmas return of Mannheim Steamroller, and the national tours of Riverdance, (March 16-17) and Grease (April 8).
According to Green, one of the biggest misconceptions about providing entertainment at a performing arts center is that ticket sales can cover all costs.
“A non-profit organization like ours is reliant upon individual donations and business support to present a show at an affordable price-point for the community,” she explains. “Just like Wisconsin Public Radio or Public Television, a decrease in financial support can result in decreased programming, as the two go hand-in-hand. Weathering this economic storm has helped us to realize and embrace a new normal, wherein success is defined by a new set of factors. Success means providing long-term, quality programming at a level supported by the community; being nimble enough to adapt to the changing marketplace; and developing new industry partnerships that allow us to provide more for less financial risk. We’re already experiencing the reward of some of these new partnerships as we look at the upcoming calendar of events.”
A mainstay since 2007, despite the economy, has been the education series — known formally as the Stage Doors Education Series: Opening the Way to Learning Through the Arts. The series provides educational programming at the Weidner Center to students in grades pre K-12. The well-received series has brought nearly 60,000 students to campus via 66 performances, drawing from 18 counties throughout Northeast Wisconsin and reaching into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Another 20,000 students are expected by the wrap of the fourth season, the 2010-11 school year.
“The goal of the series is to complement classroom curriculum, expanding upon the subjects of literature, science, history, technology and relationships,” Green says. “We all know people learn in different ways, and it is extremely rewarding to receive feedback from an educator that one of our programs directly influenced a student and led to their engagement and better understanding of a subject.”
In fall, for instance, the Stage Door Series presented “Laura Ingalls Wilder,” for grades 2-6 (see related photos below). The show met six of eight curriculum requirements (based on a book, history or social studies, language arts, music or dance, relationships and theatre). Some of the school groups arranged a trip to Heritage Hill State Park for an in-depth look at life during America’s pioneering days.
The Stage Doors Education Series is made possible by the Kress Family Foundation and with the support of UW-Green Bay. The much-needed scholarship program for the series, providing scholarships to schools and students demonstrating need, is made possible by area foundations and the individual annual donors to Weidner Center Presents, Inc.
More about the Stage Doors Education Series, as well as other upcoming events, can be found online.
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