Theatre Gigante (formerly Milwaukee Dance Theatre) was founded in 1987 by Isabelle Kralj, who served as the sole Artistic Director until 1999, when Mark Anderson joined the company as Co-Artistic Director. In 2006, Therese Philipp began stage managing, and in 2009 joined the company as Administrative Assistant.
For its first 12 years the company was known for its wildly eclectic programming, producing popular and critically-acclaimed performances of movement-theatre and pure dance; commissioning work and supporting established local artists, and bringing nationally known artists to Milwaukee. Among the highlights of this period: securing a work by David Parsons, touring to Dance Theatre Workshop (NYC), and critically acclaimed productions, ESCAPADES OF KURENT, A SOLDIER’S TALE. and others.
In 2000, the company began to shift away from pure dance and focus solely on movement-theater work, fusing text, movement and music in inventive ways, creating its own style of “hybrid” theater. In 2008, the name was changed to Theatre Gigante. Today, Gigante is the only company of its kind in Milwaukee, generating and presenting original, innovative interdisciplinary work that pushes the boundaries of conventional theater in challenging ways. Highlights of this new work, acclaimed adaptations and interpretations: PETRUSHKA, MY DEAR OTHELLO, THE MUSEUM OF LIFE AND DEATH (“Everyman”), THE BEGGAR’S OPERA, WOYZECK, and THE LEARS.
Kralj and Anderson are the creative team behind these projects, with key artists from the local community (e.g. Ed Burgess, Janet Lilly, James Butchart, Rick Graham) and from elsewhere (NYC, Boston, Ann Arbor, Slovenia EU) contributing to the work. Highlights of this period include: the only theater company in Milwaukee to have sets designed and painted by late Milwaukee artist Schomer Lichtner; one of few companies in the world to get rights to Tom Waits’ music (for WOYZECK); and the first company to perform SPALDING GRAY: STORIES LEFT TO TELL after its NYC premiere in 2007. Gigante has worked with all of the major arts organizations in Milwaukee (among them: Present Music, Theatre X, First Stage Milwaukee, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Pabst Theater) and with all the major Universities and Colleges in the area (UWM, Alverno, Carroll, Marquette), as well as U. of Michigan, Suffolk University (Boston), and James Madison University (VA). Gigante has offered and taught countless classes and workshops on various subjects relating to the performing arts to students of all ages, races and abilities in all areas of the city.