Overture: Now and Tomorrow

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Sandra Gajic 4 17 2019

From left: Club President Jason Beren, Sandra Gajic and Loretta Himmelsbach

Sandra Gajic, President and CEO of the Overture Center, treated Rotarians on Wednesday to a whirlwind overview of the history of Overture and plans for its future.  The Overture Center, Gajic said, “was built to last 300 years,” but it needs renovations, citing a leaking roof and front doors so heavy that many people have trouble opening them.

The Overture Center, she said, is three ages in one (the original Capitol Theater, built in 1928; the Oscar Mayer Theater, built in 1974; and the Overture Center, which opened in 2004, funded by a $200 million gift from Jerry Frautschi & Pleasant Roland).  The current facility “reminds me of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women,” Gajic said.

Despite the challenges of its complicated history and aging infrastructure, “over 12 million people have come to Overture over the years,” she said, citing both its impact on our ecomony and our community. In order to “meet its civic mandate and preserve the facility,” leaders of the Overture Center are pursuing a long-term goal to fund a $30 million endowment to make it “fully accessible for generations to come.”  Ongoing and future initiatives include maximizing equity, innovation and inclusion by looking closely at policies such as recruiting ushers and removing barriers for people of limited means.

One future program involves arts-career exploration for high school and middle school students.  As a student, Gajic studied piano and economics.  “I absolutely love the arts,” she said, and she enjoys Overture’s diverse arts presentations, including Kids in the Rotunda, Duck Soup Cinema, Broadway shows, concerts, plays and art exhibits.

Fun, Not Fine, Dining Theme for Culinary Arts Fellowship at Vignette

submitted by Valerie Renk; photos by Richard Merrion

IMG_0021 (1)“Amazing Tastes” is how Fellowship Chair Loretta Himmelsbach described the five-course event held at Vignette Dining Club April 15.  Owner and Chef Mark Wroczynski introduced each course and completed the evening with a short presentation on risotto.  The meal included unusual treats such as caramel seasoned with cinnamon cayenne, pimento goat cheese in a salad, and lavender poppyseed cake.

The group learned there are three types of risotto rice; the one sold most in the US is Arborio.  The chef’s tips for cooking include cooking for 20 minutes in hottest liquid, serving piping hot, and if adding vegetables to sauté them separately and add at the end, rather than cook with the risotto.  He suggests adding a little parmesan and butter at the end, but no cream.

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The 23 Rotarians and guests were invited to join the invite-only list for future dinners online.  Future dinners at Vignette include a July 20 Brazilian Carnival with fire dancer, and an Aug 17 dinner co-hosted by Chef Mark’s pastry chef mentor from Chicago with roller derby experience.

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Mark and his partner, Brian, started the business hosting dinners in other people’s homes before buying the property in Fitchburg on Caine Road.

The next Culinary Arts Fellowship event will be at Heritage Tavern, Madison.

“A 55 Year Old Start Up”

submitted by Linda Baldwin’ photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Joel Plant 4 10 2019

From left: Joel Plant, Herb Frank, Renee Frank and Club President Jason Beren

That’s how Joel Plant, Frank Productions CEO, describes their company.  Indeed, Herb and Sylvia (who The Sylvee is named for) Frank came to Madison in 1964 to manage operations for the Capitol and Majestic theaters.  And the rest is history…now Frank Productions booked 214 shows in 148 cities in North America in 2018, with plans for more than 1800 shows this year across the nation.

Here in Madison, the Frank family, including patriarch Herb, sons, Fred and Larry, daughter-in-law Marla and granddaughter Renee all work in the family business with a staff of 55 overseen by Plant.  Their mission statement is “Connecting artists with fans and helping them have fun!”  With their recent merger with the Majestic Theatre, acquisition of the High Noon Saloon and the opening of The Sylvee, Frank Productions will reach even more fans.  Frank Productions also owns facilities in Columbia, Missouri, Nashville, Tennesee, and books 15 more exclusive venues in North America.

The brand new Sylvee is a state of the art venue with a capacity of 2500 and seating for 150.   Situated right in the middle of Madison’s burgeoning Capitol East neighborhood, The Sylvee is right where the action is, and, in the first six months, they sold 70,000 tickets to 53 shows and 34 special events, averaging 1700 patrons a show.  And poured 167 thousand ounces of Spotted Cow!  Plant joked “and it wasn’t even our best seller.”

Frank Productions take pride in their relations with the neighborhood and law enforcement.  “We want to make sure that our business doesn’t have a negative impact on the neighborhood and community.”  While some in Madison have had concerns about other venues suffering with Frank’s expansion, Plant says all indications are that other venues are doing better as well.  And he notes that their presence has had a positive economic impact on the restaurants and other businesses in the area.

What’s next…do more shows…sell more tickets and beer!

Wine Fellowship Gathering on April 8

–photos and summary submitted by Mike Wilson

Wine Event 6 April 2019

On Monday, the 8th of April, our club’s Wine Fellowship Group met at Mike Wilson’s home to compare six wines with a wine-cocktail counterpart.  Two of the wine cocktails we tried were similar to some I had tried at local restaurants that were similar promoting these and another was recently published in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Wine Event 1 April 2019We started with a Manzanilla from one of the corners of the Sherry triangle in Spain.  This was La Guita (about $10 per half bottle) – a famous one.  It was a very agreeable Dry Sherry.  The cocktail contained the same wine plus Cointreau, Tequila and lime juice for a wine version of a Margarita.  We next had a red fortified wine, Kopkes’s Fine Red Ruby Port, which was excellent and reasonably priced ($9.99 + tax per half bottle).  This was compared to a Port Manhattan that was made with this Port and Maker’s Mark Bourbon and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters.  The wine became the vermouth substitute.  In both these comparisons, the wine cocktail was preferred.

Next we had two white wines: a 95 pointer Doisey Daene 2014 Barsac – botrytis (noble rot) infected grapes that result in a honeyed wine.  This was the most expensive wine ($45 + tax) tasted and was excellent.  With this we had an Ice Wine Martini (Ice Wines are from Niagara and Germany, but French Sauternes and Barsac can be used interchangeably).  We added Vodka to make the wine a martini.  Next was a 92-93 Pointer Moscatini where we made a martini with Moscato (frizzante white wine from the Piedmonte region of Italy) with Plymouth Gin (least aromatic gin).  The wine alone was preferred – but experimentation made the wine cocktail much better.  Tasters added a little more of the wine to the cocktail from their wine sample and it significantly improved.

Lastly we tried two inexpensive Italian red wines – a Valpolicella (from the Veneto) and an Aglianico (from Campania), two favorites of the host.  The Italian Red Wine Cocktail was Valpolicella with half the volume of Maker’s Mark Bourbon added.  The other was an Aglianico Sour where copious amounts of simple syrup and lemon juice were added to Mile High Rye from Utah, and then the red wine was layered on top of the cocktail components which made for an interestingly layered visual appearance and the sensation of drinking the cocktail portion through the thin layer of red wine.  Both the cocktail versions were preferred by the attendees.

Wine Event 9 April 2019  Wine Event 8 April 2019  Wine Event 10 April 2019

Photo 1: Jennifer & Bob Winding; Photo 2: Tim Muldowney & Jackie Hank; Photo 3: Keith Baumgartner & Peggy Lescrenier

Currently there is a real surge in Cocktails in the beverage industry while wine drinking has stalled. In 5 of the wine/cocktail comparisons the wine cocktail was preferred by our serious Rotary Wine Fellowshipper wine drinkers. The tasting provided excellent means of showing everyone how enjoyable these wine cocktails are, and minimal changes in the formulation of additional wine to the cocktail significantly modified the wine cocktail enjoyment to many attendees.  There is room for considerable experimentation in this exploration of wine cocktails so that every wine drinker can enjoy them.

The tasting provided everyone with the drink formulas so the attendees could replicate them at home.  It was of noted that the Wine Fellowshippers preferred the wine cocktail over the wine in 5 of the 6 pairings.

A great time was had by all, and excellent Fellowship resulted.

Madison Youth Arts Center Coming in 2020

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

MYAC Presenters 4 3 2019

Madison is blessed with many amazing performance spaces, but 20 youth performing arts organizations don’t have affordable and appropriate places to practice.  That was the problem that motivated leaders of the Children’s Theater of Madison (CTM), Madison Youth Choirs (MYC), and many others to find a cooperative solution.

Their answer is the Madison Youth Arts Center, a 65,000 square foot $35 million facility that will break ground in May and open in the fall of 2020 at the intersection of East Mifflin and North Ingersoll.

The handsome four-story facility will provide a central and permanent location featuring rehearsal classrooms, dance studios, production and costume shops, a community room, office space, and a 400-seat theater.  The facility will allow up to 25,000 school-age youth—including many from Madison’s minority communities—to participate in the performing arts every year, a substantial increase over the number now served.

The Madison Youth Arts Center was made possible by a $20 million gift from Pleasant Rowland.  “I can’t think of a gift I could give that would impact more than this in the arts and for young people,” said Rowland.  A capital campaign is underway to raise the rest of the money including a special endowment fund that will cover ongoing maintenance and operating costs.

The four leaders who gave a spirited and tightly scripted summary of the new facility were: Allen Ebert, CTM executive director; Roseann Sheridan, CTM artistic director; Lynn Hembel, MYC managing director; and Michael Ross, MYC artistic/executive director.

The Center is a part of a larger proposal for the 1000 block of East Washington Avenue by Stone House Development that will include an 11-story building featuring apartments, commercial space, and a parking ramp.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.


Russia — Up Close & Personal

submitted by Sharyn Alden; photo by Mark Moody

Presenters 2

From left: Helen Bryan (chef of the Russian cuisine), Al Bryan, Majid Sarmadi, UW-Madison Professor Polina Levchenko & UW-Madison Professor Yoshiko Herrera

On March 28, Rotarians were treated to a bountiful buffet and an evening of programs when the Cultural Awareness Fellowship Group met at Heritage Oaks, Oakwood to explore Russian culture.

The marvelous buffet, prepared by Al Bryan’s wife, Helen, included such Russian specialties as borsch, chicken and beef in bread crumbs (otbivnaya) and Russian cabbage stuffed with ground beef in tomato sauce (golubtsy). After enjoying plates of pasties, the programs began.

Travel Highlights

The first portion of the evening, “Russia from a Tourist Point of View,” was presented by UW-Professor Polina Levchenko.  Before viewing a variety of hand-picked places of interest, we gained an overview of this vast country’s history, and a window into its art, architecture, culture and fascinating facts.

For example, the Russian Federation is comprised of a dizzying mix of 190 ethnicities, 21 national republics and nine time zones.

Levchenko’s tour was introduced as some of Russia’s most important places to visit. Yet these spots are often overlooked, off the beaten path or simply not available to those traveling via a guided tour.

We started with Moscow’s subway system. You could hear the audible gasp in the room when Levchenko’s photos showed what you might miss if you don’t journey underground. I can attest to the extraordinary sights seen below –massive paintings, sparkly chandeliers and art abound when you reach tunnels below.

First, we journeyed to the Veliky neighborhood Novgorod, the birthplace of literacy, Levchenko noted. We saw a setting where the Eternal Flame was the focus. Levchenko pointed out an Eternal Flame is found in every town in Russia so people can pay gratitude for the peace of today.

Before dinner I shared a few photos of my visit to mystical Kizhi Island in northern Russia with its rare collection of massive, onion-domed wooden churches and buildings. The story goes that one man with an ax created these masterpieces. Continuing the tour of memorable, offbeat places, it was wonderful to see Levchenko include this magical place in her itinerary.

Continuing the magic, we moved on to Lake Baikal in Siberia north of the Mongolian border. The massive, crystal clear lake, circled by hiking trails, is considered to be the deepest lake in the world.

Trending -Russian-U.S. Relations

Next, our evening transitioned to political science with UW-Madison Professor, Yoshiko Herrera, presenting the timely topic, “US-Russia Relations –Challenges and Opportunities.” She provided insight into political relations between Russia and the U.S.

In response to the question, “Are we seeing a new Cold War?, Herrera noted, “We no longer have a bi-polar world, and in fact, the threat of nuclear war is probably lower today.” Yet she went on to explain that distrust between the two super powers –U.S and Russia is very high.

As an example she noted that since 2014, the Department of Defense does not allow students to study abroad in Russia, which is especially discouraging for students including those at UW-Madison who have spent years learning to speak Russian and honing their knowledge about the country.

In conjunction with this point, Herrera said, “About 25% of offices at the Department of Defense are unfilled and this has been a factor in the breakdown of relationships between the two countries.”

Other areas of interest Herrera referred to as “underappreciated facts” is this one. Unlike what some may think, “Putin does not reside over a seamless, well-oiled regime.”  She went on to say there is a fragility in the region (Russia), economic decline, and an anti-Americanism sentiment.

Still, she ended the program on a positive note when she said, “There are opportunities to improve U.S.-Russian relations.”

WI Supreme Court Candidate Judge Brian Hagedorn

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Mark Moody

Hagedorn 3 27 2019

Judge Brian Hagedorn with Steve Walters

On Wednesday, March 27, Steve Walters, Senior Producer at WisconsinEye, moderated a Question and Answer session with Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn, a Court of Appeals judge who serves in the court’s Waukesha-based District II. While both Supreme Court candidates were invited to speak, Judge Lisa Neubauer had another commitment and declined Rotary’s invitation. Per our policy on inviting candidates to speak (see our March 8 newsletter for the policy), a person from Neubauer’s campaign was invited to attend and distribute campaign materials in the back of the room.

Rotary members were invited prior to the program to submit questions for Judge Hagedorn, and these were passed on to Walters for consideration. In addition to providing an opening and closing statement, Hagedorn responded to the following questions, including some that referred to his comments at a recent Milwaukee Press Club forum:

  1. You quoted Alexander Hamilton who said the judiciary should be the “least dangerous” branch of government, and then you said, “That’s not really where we are at nowadays.” Please explain what you meant by that.
  2. In several forums you have asked Judge Neubauer to cite specific examples where your personal beliefs influenced an opinion you wrote. At one event she said you “acted on your beliefs” by starting a school with a code or mission statement that discriminates. You have said there has been a “lot of misreporting” on the school, so please set the record straight.
  3. Given your blog statements on same-sex marriage and bestiality when you were a law school student, how you would convince members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters to vote for you?
  4. Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 60.03 governs the behavior of all Wisconsin judges and requires a judge to avoid the appearance of impropriety at all times, whether on the bench or off, as well as the appearance of impropriety as judged from the standpoint of a reasonable person. Given your previous statements about marriage equality and Planned Parenthood, can those appearing before you on any case involving either of those groups see you as impartial?
  5. You have said of your opponent, “I don’t have a problem with people having any kind of political background coming onto the court [but] she (Neubauer) has far more political background than I do.” Please explain what you meant by that.
  6. About your time working for Governor Walker, you have said, “I didn’t do politics. I did law. I was his lawyer. I didn’t make any decisions.” But you participated in the drafting of Act 10, restricting the role of public unions, as well as Act 2, making it more difficult to sue nursing homes for negligence or malpractice. If matters related to either of these or other laws you had a part in drafting were to come before the court, would you recuse yourself?
  7. Do you consider these cases to be settled law: Roe v. Wade, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing same sex marriage, and the Washington, DC, case affirming individual gun ownership as a 2nd Amendment right?
  8. How would you approach the constitutional question of “first impression”?
  9. If ethical complaints are filed against a Supreme Court justice, and all or most of the justices recuse themselves from the matter, what should happen to that complaint?
  10. You have said that one of the biggest challenges for the courts is fighting the opioid crisis. Explain how the Supreme Court can address that problem.

To hear Hagedorn’s answers in his own words, and to find other candidate interviews, go to Wisconsin Eye’s coverage on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.