Milwaukee Public Theatre
Serving the Community
After programs such as this one, they have brochures available for students interested in getting help or further information. For shows dealing with delicate subjects, counselors from both the school and the mental health facility are available. Another program, “Tobaccosaurus Rex,” is a puppet play about tobacco and its effects.
Another big component of MPT is their arts residency programs, with which they work with a number of agencies and schools. “Our arts residencies cover all kinds of different things,” says Leigh. “We also do circus residencies called Rainbow Circus,” she continues. “They learn things like acrobatic skills, juggling, balancing, and plate spinning.”
“We’ve got both summer programs and ones that run from September to December,” Islam adds. “Most of them are after school, but some are during the day.” One of the two residencies Islam herself is involved with is at Stuart Elementary and is done in cooperation with Arts-at-Large. “We’re dancing to the Michael Jackson tune ‘Man in the Mirror’ and some of the 3rd and 4th graders come up in a line asking ‘what life means to me’ and then they dance to the song,” says Islam with a smile.
It’s not only inner- city residents that benefit from MPT. “We’ve gone into some of these communities that are totally Caucasian and, being that we work with a multi-cultural group, we’ve had a black ‘Uncle Sam,’ for example, we were able to, I think, give the message ‘we’re all in this together’ without beating people over their heads with it,” says Islam.
Working in conjunction with other groups is another important goal of MPT. One is the Ajula Performance Troupe, a project that focuses on African culture and is composed of performers aged 13 and up who are from central Milwaukee. Another, the Esperanza Players, focuses its bilingual performances on health issues specific to Latinos.
“My co-founder, Mike Moynihan, and I were trying to figure out how to really reach people. We decided it’s not just through lecturing them, it’s through hands-on experience,” says Leigh. “Theatre can reach people in ways that other forms don’t.”
“We have worked with so many people, and that’s really what makes us, gives us that energy that people brought to the theatre and that’s really what we’re about. We’re really trying to collaborate (with other groups) and not be territorial. We’re all struggling for the same money pot, but, ultimately, we’re all working for the same goals,” says Leigh.