Performing Art Series: The Show Goes On

Adapting and working with in-person restrictions and online format

Every year, the Office of Event Services hosts the Performing Arts Series, an arrangement of plays, performances, concerts and everything in between for which students and the Platteville community can purchase tickets and enjoy.
In order to follow recommended guidelines and to ensure the greatest degree of safety, the Performing Art Series 2021 season has been designed for an all-virtual, in-home experience.
Ian Dreger, Interim Director of the Office of Event Services, drew in the roster with this particular goal – and challenge – in mind.
Every September, Dreger attends the Arts Midwest Conference to find some of the next year’s performers.
The conference, headed by the Arts Midwest organization, serves as a platform for artists to showcase and display small snippets of their performances.
Dreger commented about the normal format of the conference, saying, “the conference has sessions during the day and starting about 6:00 p.m. to midnight every night are showcases where artists present … once I see a show I think would be nice in Platteville, I speak with the artist and/or agent during the following day and work out details to bring them to campus for the following year.”
However, in September of 2020, the conference operated on different terms.
The Arts Midwest organization teamed up with the Western Arts alliance, another not-for-profit performing arts organization, to host a virtual conference with the goal of bringing a full and hearty experience during the pandemic.
According to the Arts Midwest website, 346 artists attended with 459 agents and managers, 671 presenters and 348 administrators and creatives to collectively bring the total to 1,824 individuals.
The conference addressed four themes spanned over four days: Coming Together Again and Anew, Motivations – Calls for Changes, Inspiration – Response and Innovation and Reimagination – Building a New Future Together.
The daily programs, though similar to the typical experience, were compressed to be more palatable for the online format. The showcasing process operated with shorter hours, too, but was still able to function.
“You can get a fairly good idea what the show is like with that short timeframe [of 15-30 minutes],” remarked Dreger. “Once I see the showcases, I think about the audience we have here in Southwest Wisconsin and think about whether the show will ‘sell’ or not.”
He continued, “I meet up with colleagues in the Wisconsin Presenters Network to attempt to do block booking. Block booking helps keep contract costs low as the artist will ‘tour’ Wisconsin, rather than, for example, performing all over the U.S. and hopping from Boston to San Diego, to Chicago, to Denver, to Platteville. The typically in-person conference makes for long days, but it’s worth it. I will add that I certainly missed the in-person conference. I am hopeful that by September 2021 we will be in a better spot so I can attend the conference in person.”
But, before adapting to the pandemic for Spring 2021, Dreger had to handle Spring 2020 when the university shut down.
“Physically it wasn’t possible to have these shows due to the pandemic, but I was fairly sad to have to ‘turn off the lights’ of the CFA for the remaining season,” Dreger admitted.
During the summer of 2020, Dreger worked to reposition the remaining shows from the early closure with the hopes that Spring 2021 would return to safe, secure normalcy.
However, the pandemic did not improve, and in early Fall 2020, Dreger reworked his initial amendments of the 2021 season to bring the current online lineup of performances.
The season began on Jan. 28 with a personal, historical performance of “Harry Truman: A Grandson’s Portrait,” a personal recapturing and summary of the former president’s life told by his grandson, Clifton Daniel.
Dreger had originally scheduled Daniel and the play “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” for April of 2020. But, the rescheduling and reworking to an online format caused some controversy. The estate of Samuel Gallau, the original writer of “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!,” prohibited online performances of the play.
Therefore, Daniel crafted “Harry Truman: A Grandson’s Portrait” from scratch using his experiences with his grandfather, his mother’s accounts (daughter of Harry Truman), memoirs and letters.
The second performance of the Performing Art Series faced fewer obstacles than the first.
On Feb. 9, Panchromatic Steel, a Madison-based steel drum band, performed a live concert in Brodbeck Concert Hall streamed to viewers at home.
In total, the band consisted of nine musicians, eight of which were on stage. The ninth band member, the bassist, opted to set up his equipment in a side room off of the stage to limit the number of musicians on stage.
After all that had transpired, Dreger concluded, “It was challenging at times, but I’m pleased with the solutions we came up with.”
Looking forward, the Performing Art Series will continue with two recorded shows from artists and one livestreamed performance from the artist’s studio.
The series will continue on Feb. 26 with the appearance of The Big Payback, a Madison-based jazz-rock band.
Then, on Mar. 8, the Maxwell Quartet, a string quartet based out of Glasgow, Scotland, will perform.
To conclude the spring semester for the 2021 Performing Art Series, the historical and renowned Pro Art Quartet will perform on Apr. 29.
The schedule of the Performing Arts Series may be viewed at In order to purchase tickets, call (608) 342-1298 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the University Box Office, located in the lower level of Ullsvik Hall.