Madison Repertory Theatre may have died in 2009, but a great part of it lives on as the Madison Arts Production Cooperative.
The Rep's collection of costumes, props and set pieces form the core of the cooperative program, a subsidiary of Children's Theater of Madison. The project recently won a grant of $35,000, spread over two years, from the Madison Community Foundation.
Besides making the collection available to other organizations, the program offers technical expertise and access to the Rep's former scene bay. CTM picked up the lease and purchased the collection in April 2009, for $32,000, $10,000 of which came from an anonymous donor.
"When the Rep was in trouble, I learned that they were going to put everything up on auction," recalls Roseann Sheridan, CTM's producing artistic director. "Really, I did not want to see that, because to split up the collection of costumes and sets they had would really have been an incredible loss to the arts community in Madison and beyond."
The project is not actually incorporated as a cooperative, but its intent is to operate that way. Much of the last year has been spent merging CTM's collection with the Rep's, and offering rentals to short-term users. Cooperative users will be able to select from three tiers of annual membership, each with different pricing and access.
"Our goal is to make it affordable to the nonprofits and self-sustaining for us," says Sheridan.
Anticipated 2010 revenue is $10,000, with an overall budget of $45,000. The Madison Community Foundation's grant is therefore a big, big boost.
"It's really ramping up the cooperative, allowing it to do more marketing of it and some staffing, to get it self-sufficient," says Tom Linfield, the foundation's vice president of grant-making.
Among other things, the grant will allow for digital photography and computerized cataloguing of the vast collection.
"Most theaters don't have the opportunity to do that," says Sheridan. "It's just people's memories."
Already, customers of the Madison Arts Production Cooperative have included theater companies and other groups including Strollers, StageQ, Forward Theater, Four Seasons, Madison Savoyards, Madison College, Madison Opera and La Crosse's Viterbo University. Madison's new Fresco Opera Theatre has also expressed interest in participating. Linfield expects more to follow.
"There are 18 children's theater organizations in the Madison area," he says. "Many of them, you know, they're building sets in somebody's basement, or they've got a few tools. So the idea that they can spend a little bit of money and then have access to real professional-quality space, and any tools they need, and access to somebody who can help them use those tools - that sort of sharing of resources we just found really compelling."