One of two successors to Madison Repertory Theatre will hit the stage running this October, when the Bricks Theatre opens An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein at the Frequency.
Planning for the first production has been under way for months. "So far everything's great," says producing director George Gonzalez. "We want to be around for a long time."
The Bricks is headed by Gonzalez, production producer Ric Lantz and executive director Dave Pausch. All are former employees of the defunct Madison Rep. The other new troupe, Forward Theater Co., debuts with a radio drama production of All About Eve Nov. 7 in the Overture Center's Playhouse.
Silverstein is best known for children's books like Where the Sidewalk Ends. He was also a poet, composer, playwright and Playboy cartoonist. The evening of one-acts includes "The Best Daddy" and "Blind Willie and the Talking Dog."
The Bricks' name is intended to suggest the iconic backstage wall and theater fundamentals: building blocks. But don't think in terms of heft. The Bricks intends to travel light and resist tying its identity to any specific stage.
"We're looking at a couple of venues," says Gonzalez, including the Majestic and Barrymore theaters, coffee houses and perhaps storefronts. "Another idea we have is to build a portable stage so that we can have a festival in the summer."
As for the Rep's former home, "The Playhouse is an option, always. I think right now it's about money," he says.
The Bricks someday could become an Actors' Equity signatory, as a way of lending support to its performers, Gonzalez says. That won't be the company's reason for being, however. Everyone will still be professional and paid, even if only small amounts.
One thing the Bricks doesn't want to do is compete. "We want to give Madison another great place to enjoy theater," says Gonzalez. "It's not going to be that, if we do really well, Mercury or Strollers [theaters] will suddenly be doing poorly. We're hoping that if we do really well it's good for everybody."
Rather than thinking about a niche, brand or marketing, the plan is to create an audience, increase that audience, and grow in dialogue with it. "So we're very invested in doing our homework, talking to audience members so that we give back as much as they give to us, and building fun, great theater for Madison," Gonzalez says.
"If we're different, then the audience will tell us why we're different."
The Bricks is in the process of incorporating as a nonprofit. Arts Wisconsin, a state advocacy organization, is serving as fiscal receiver until tax-exempt status is achieved. Fundraising officially begins this week.