Forward Theater is on its way to becoming one of Madison's next professional troupes.
"It's been a whole whopping four weeks since we started this endeavor, and it's been a whirlwind," says Jennifer Uphoff Gray, acting artistic director.
Many of Forward Theater's organizers are veterans of the recently defunct Madison Repertory Theatre, and some have ties to American Players Theatre.
"It came a little bit out of all of us getting together and saying how we have always wanted our professional theater experiences to go, and asking if we could create that model at a professional level," says Gray. "We're sure going to try."
It's too soon to say if the troupe will produce on the Rep's home stage, the Overture Center Playhouse. It likely won't be until early 2010 at the earliest before Forward is ready to mount a full production.
"I would imagine over the first couple series you could see us doing some of everything," says Gray. "New work, the best of contemporary, the work coming out of New York, Chicago, Seattle and the other major theater areas, possibly small musicals, the occasional revival where we bring something special to it - we don't want to define too narrowly the kind of theater that we would do."
The company does not want to grow from a civic model, as did the Rep, but instead plans to launch as a completely professional operation. Still, its organizational structure will somewhat parallel that of a community theater. Gray calls that inclusive model exciting.
"It's not the more typical set-up where there's an artistic director and the company is sort of set up around that one artistic voice," she says. "Our company does have an artistic director, and we do have a managing director, but we have an advisory council of nine additional artists who are going to be involved in the direction and the artistic choices of the company."
A corporation board has yet to be organized. The acting managing director is Celia Klehr, and advisory council members include Colleen Burns, Jim Buske, Sarah Day, James DeVita, Richard Ganoung, Michael Herold, Frank Schneeberger, Sam White and Jack Forbes Wilson.
"These people with deep, deep roots in the Madison theater community are going to be guiding the company and its choices over time," says Gray.
Forward has incorporated as a nonprofit. Until it receives tax-exempt status, its fiscal receiver will be Arts Wisconsin, a statewide arts advocacy organization. A website is under construction and should be up in a few weeks at