17 WAYS TO EXPERIENCE THE ARTS IN MADISON
Greater Madison is a melting pot of extraordinary entertainment—a place where you’ll find something for every age and theatrical taste. Check out our vibrant offerings as you plan your next visit; we think you’ll give our capital city a "standing O"!
BROADWAY & TOURING ACTS
The Overture Center for the Arts was designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli and is the city’s heart for major theater productions. Inside, you’ll find seven unique performance venues—from the awe-inspiring Overture Hall to the historic Capitol Theater. Each features performances designed to dazzle audiences, including Broadway productions, legendary music groups and modern dance troupes.
For more than 20 years, Kanopy Dance Company has been fusing modern dance with contemporary ballet into “soulfully fearless” works. Classicists will want to check out Madison Ballet—they perform the perennially popular Nutcracker as well as edgier, small-scale repertory works. Kanopy Dance Company and Madison Ballet are just two of the 10 resident arts companies at Overture Center for the Arts.
PERFORMING ARTS & THEATER
For a city of Madison’s size, we have an amazing array of theater groups! At Overture Center, Forward Theater Company is a resident group that prides itself on locally-produced works. In the eclectic Williamson Street Neighborhood, you’ll find the Broom Street Theater, home to a hard-hitting, thought-provoking group that performs off-the-beaten path, original works on an intimate stage. (Note: this is an adult-only venue). Further out, Fort Atkinson’s Fireside Dinner Theatre is an excellent spot to enjoy a delicious meal paired with favorites like Phantom or Newsies.
Madison’s reputation as great college town extends to the performing arts, as each college has a respective theater department that puts on great performances: Diane Ballweg Theatre at Edgewood College, Mitby Theater at Madison College and University Theatre at UW-Madison. You’ll also find the Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW-Madison campus—a wonderful multifaceted theater showcasing spoken-word poetry, student performances and traveling artists.
TAKE NOTE: MUSICAL ARTS
Just as thrilling as an acted stage performance, live music shows can be calming, exciting and thrilling—all woven into one. The city’s foremost classical music groups include the Madison Symphony Orchestra, led by renowned conductor John DeMain, who is also a frequent guest conductor for symphonies and opera companies around the world.
The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is the Madison Ballet’s resident orchestra and also performs Masterworks concerts with guest artists throughout the year—and may be best known for its six-concert Concerts on the Square series over the summer. Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society is an inviting and innovative group that puts a modern spin on chamber music. Their performances take place at three different dynamic venues: Overture Center for the Arts, Stoughton Opera House and Taliesin.
Opera buffs will delight in the diverse offerings from Madison Opera (also a resident of Overture Center). This professional nonprofit group performs three operas annually plus its popular annual summer event, Opera in the Park.
LAUGH OUT LOUD COMEDY
Enjoy a laugh while you’re here! Madison is home to two groups that focus on the fast-paced improvisational side of comedy: Monkey Business Institute, located in the popular Atwood Avenue neighborhood, does multiple weekend shows plus private events and workshops. Atlas Improv Company, also on the east side, was voted “Best Comedy Group in Madison” and performs two shows every Friday and Saturday night.
Kids of all ages will enjoy two of Overture’s family-friendly performance options. The free Kids in the Rotunda series takes place on Saturdays from October through April, and features dance groups, singers and magic shows. Children’s Theater of Madison is Overture’s youth resident arts group and produces five main stage productions per year—look for favorites like CTM’s A Christmas Carol and Tuck Everlasting.
Want more arts? Discover our galleries and museums or get lowdown on our live music scene!