Picture Perfect: Wisconsin's Historic Theaters
The performing arts are as old as the state itself.
In 1834, a visiting New Yorker wrote an account of
attending a performance at Fort Crawford in Prairie
du Chien, where soldiers of the 1st Regiment performed
several English comedies. John Hustis founded the
first legitimate theater in Milwaukee in 1842. Its
first performance was reportedly Shakespeare, an
early favorite. Today, most of us watch movies at
home or at a suburban Cineplex, but many of Wisconsin's
historic theaters and opera houses continue to have
a viable existence. Tour some of Wisconsin's most
significant theaters and learn about the historical
forces that moved us from the 19th-century
opera house to the movie palace and beyond. See
some of Wisconsin's most unique, interesting, and
beautiful old theaters and learn their history.
For most of their history, theaters were spare,
utilitarian, working locations. Early theater was
often performed in local social and meeting halls.
In the mining community of Argyle, the simple-looking Star
Theater (built as Partridge Hall) served as
a social hall, meeting hall and sometime theater.
In New Holstein, a local drama club performed plays
by Goethe and Schiller in a local tavern. As theater
became more profitable, a movement grew to professionalize
theater productions, performances and the halls