Tag Archives: Jennifer Uphoff Gray

“Onward, Upward, and Forward!”

submitted by Carole Trone

Jennifer Uphoff GrayFounding artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray of Madison’s Forward Theater Company attributes their growth and success to the strong community involvement, much like the Rotarians gathered to hear about Forward Theater’s first decade. This has been a successful span, but their success was by no means a given in the early days. Gray noted the precarious economic climate in their founding days and how it confirmed their abiding commitment to a sustainable financial model for the theater and especially for the artists they employ.

“Mission-driven growth” for Forward has focused on four key priorities: support for local artists; arts advocacy; audience engagement; and community impact. Ninety-five percent of the hundred staff hired each season are from south central Wisconsin and are paid at least a living wage, inspiring standards for the broader theater community. This core priority strengthens the community and also the artists’ personal investment in it. These ambitious goals have a solid business model behind it, with a growing annual budget that has always operated in the black. Forward Theater incorporates multiple strategies to encourage dialogue, and their post-performance talkbacks have proven to be a favorite part of the audience experience. Finally, Forward Theater has woven multiple partnerships with area organizations around key themes in their plays. This has deepened the engagement among audiences and community members through collaborative outreach events, author talks, and even fundraising.

Gray promised more growth and partnerships to come as Forward Theater surges into its second decade of successful productions: “Onward, Upward, and Forward!”

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

Imagining to Remember

–submitted by Donna Hurd; photo by Jeff Smith

President Tim Stadelman and Jennifer Uphoff Gray

President Tim Stadelman and Jennifer Uphoff Gray

An enthusiastic, Jennifer Uphoff Gray, Artistic Director of Forward Theater Company presented a side of the artistic community that few know existed…its commitment to the community by educating, entertaining and connecting the community.  In its 5th season, the Company strives to connect the work they do as artists to the community.  Its latest endeavor tackles the subject of dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia) in particular.  Through its partnership with the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, the theater is taking on an integral part in the understanding, communication and ultimately addressing alternative treatments for this debilitating disease.

Example after example was presented to highlight the profound role the Arts play in Alzheimer’s treatment.  Clinicians and researchers alike are touting the benefits realized through music, art and story-telling therapy for patients and caregivers.

The Theater’s mission of connecting the work they do as artists to the community will begin on stage January 15 – February 2 with the presentation of “The Other Place,” an off-Broadway show about a research scientist on the cusp of the development of a new dementia drug as she struggles with personal hardships. Extending social conversations beyond the stage, the company offers talk backs (post-show discussions), pre-show lectures and the “Play Club” (in-depth discussions with the theater professionals) providing theater goers an opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussion about the subject matter at hand.

The culmination of this collaboration, will take place on Sunday, February 15, 2015, at Promega Corporation, 5445 E. Cheryl Parkway in Fitchburg from 1:00pm – 4:00pm.  “Imagining to Remember”  will be an interactive program for the general public, as well as caregivers, professionals, and others who work with people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This interactive event features Professor Anne Basting, Director of the UW-Milwaukee Center on Age & Community and Founder of TimeSlips Creative Storytelling. TimeSlips is a method of engaging with those with memory loss using imagination and storytelling. Attendees will have the opportunity to experience specific creative engagement practices including Poetry, Visual Art, Movement and Music. A moderated Q&A panel will follow, featuring Anne Basting and other leaders of this innovative approach to connecting to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We applaud the efforts of Forward Theater Company in addressing the social concerns of our community through the arts!