Bad news for a Monona Terrace auditorium, two nights of radical theater, and an off-beat mayoral campaign. Just some of what was going on in Madison 50 years ago this week.
The third week of January, 1969
Hopes that the city would soon start construction on a 2,300-seat civic auditorium at Monona Terrace start to fade when architect William Wesley Peters reveals on January 15 that he’s had to eliminate elevators from the seven-story building to cut costs and has cut parking from 775 spaces to 361 to facilitate traffic movement. The performing arts palace will also lack a sound system; Peters says traveling shows provide their own light and sound, and he suggests the city buy a portable system for use during conventions.
Revolutionary dramatists Julian Beck and Judith Molina bring their Living Theatre to Madison for an intense two-night engagement, part of a national four-month tour. Actually, they come to Shorewood Hills, to the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, where Rev. Max Gabler welcomes them after city of Madison officials say their intended venue, Turner Hall, lacks the necessary theater permit. Promoter Morris Edelson, editor of the avant garde literary magazine Quixote claims political harassment when police step in to stop the performance, but he manages to move the production – and the audience – from South Butler St to University Bay Dr.
Once there, the 21-member troupe lives up to its radical reputation. Opening night, a turbulent and often discomforting performance of Malina’s translation of Bertolt Brecht’s Antigone of Sophocles, 130 minutes of menacing interaction, interspersed with moans and shrieks, building to an orgiastic frenzy. A very modern adaptation of the ancient Greek meditation on civil disobedience and honor.
On the 16th, the notorious Paradise Now, a confrontational and semi-improvisational attack on repression and hypocrisy which blurs the line between actors and audience. Performing in loin cloths and skimpy halters, the integrated cast is upstaged at one point by two women and five men from the crowd who disrobe entirely, while others swear, argue, spit, and form a pile of nearly nude bodies. Soon, the strident debate and anarchist-pacifist polemics devolve into so much chaos that the disruptive drama itself is disrupted. There are no arrests.
Two powerful aldermen declare for re-election. Former Council President Leo Cooper, a switchman for the Milwaukee Railroad, seeks a fourth term representing the Greenbush and South Campus neighborhoods of the Ninth Ward. Builder and developer James Devine, who is seeking a series of zoning variances for a student apartment tower his father wants to build on Langdon Street, seeks a third term representing the Vilas and West Lawn neighborhoods.
Most Madison parents and teachers want new rules in schools for student dress and grooming, a new survey shows, including a requirement that boys be clean shaven. The Board of Education, which killed just such a code in the spring of ’68, continues to grapple with the issue.
City Assessor Norman C. Poorman dies of congestive heart failure the day before his 57th birthday. A 32nd degree mason from Richland Center, Poorman joined the city treasurer’s office in 1942, and became assessor on the first day of the 1960s.
City employees should be allowed to strike, and police officers allowed dress as they choose, says mayoral candidate Edward B. Elson. “A spiritual revolution is taking place,” the practicing attorney and owner of the No Hassel headshop, says in a paid ad on WKOW-TV.
January 19-February 23
The Madison Art Center opens a month-long exhibition of 67 paintings, drawings, and lithographs by American regional realist painter John Steuart Curry, including the large Wisconsin Landscape, on special loan from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Curry, the university’s first artist in residence, died here in 1946, during the tenth year of his residency.
Ruth B. Doyle resigns as administrator of the Special Program of Tutorial and Financial Assistance she initiated and nurtured, becoming assistant to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Merritt Norvell. Doyle, vice president of the Madison Board of Education and wife of federal judge James E Doyle Sr. was forced out by black students who praised her as “a beautiful person” but insisted the program be run by a black director.
Ray Sennett, president of the Madison Board of Education announces he’s not running for re-election after 23 years to focus on his duties as chairman of the boards of Security and Randall State Banks. He is the second incumbent to retire, following the earlier announcement by UW baseball coach Arthur Dynie Mansfield, stepping down after 12 years. Following the April 1 election, Mrs. Doyle will be the most senior member of the board, and thus in line to become its first female president.