(First published in the May 10, 2018 issue of City Pages)
Long-time local stage volunteer and performer Justin Evans takes the helm
Justin Evans says they recently tallied some numbers: Since the beginning of Central Wisconsin Children’s Theatre in 1979, the nonprofit group has involved 10,000 local kids. At any given time around 150 families are actively involved in general or for a specific show.
Those kinds of numbers are important, as Evans, CWCT’s new executive director as of May 1, gears up for a major capital campaign. Evans is taking over for Joelle Murray, who’s retiring from the job June 30 after 20 years.
Evans is a familiar face in Wausau area theater ever since his first role in CWCT’s 1994 production of Pinocchio. One of his most memorable performances was as the darkly flamboyant emcee in UW-Marathon County’s production of Cabaret in 2001. Except for a three-year break around when his children (now age 7 and 5) were born, Evans has volunteered in some kind of local theatrical production nearly every year since 1994.
A Wausau native, Evans attended UWMC and UW-Milwaukee, then worked in real estate in the area and most recently at West Business Services. He was on the board of CWCT, as its president, when he threw his hat into the ring for the fulltime executive director’s position. “I felt it was a perfect fit,” Evans says.
His immediate concern is a capital campaign CWCT will launch this year to add a building behind its new home, the former A.C. Kiefer school, which CWCT acquired in 2017. The building—with a stage in the gymnasium—is well suited to the organization, but currently much of its space is used for storage to house years worth of sets, costumes and equipment. A second building primarily for storage and a construction scene shop would “make our dream a reality,” Evans says.
Evans also steps in the year CWCT is ramping up for its biggest production ever, Newsies, the stage musical based on the 1992 Disney movie, which became a huge Broadway hit in 2014. “We’re making it as professional looking as possible,” says Evans, who had signed on as director before applying for the exec position. That show, with professionally constructed sets, will be CWCT’s annual Thanksgiving weekend production and involve Wausau Academy of Dance. Evans says he wants to “refocus on high quality productions so the audience is entertained and kids are excited.”
“I cannot to begin to express how thrilled I am to be able to pickup the mantle from Joelle and continue to help CWCT grow into the organization that I know it can be,” Evans says. “CWCT wouldn’t be the organization that it is today without her. Frankly, I am not sure that we’d even exist if she hadn’t taken the job 20 years ago.”