Passing her love for musical theater down through the generations
For Sue Okas of McFarland, Overture Center is a special place, the source of many happy family memories. She held her first job at Capitol Theater, starting at age 16 as a popcorn maker and progressing to a role at the ticket counter. She met her husband, Jim, while working at the theater in 1966.
“I worked at Capitol Theater all through college. When I quit, my sister took over my position,” said Okas. “One day when my sister was scheduled to work, she wanted to go to a basketball game in Milwaukee, so I filled in for her. Jim was working at the theater, and he asked me ‘Is that Ambush perfume you’re wearing?’ That was the popular perfume back in the day, and I was wearing it! We started dating and have been married now 54 years.”
Capitol Theater is truly part of Okas’ history, and she has been seeing shows at Overture since it opened in 2004. Over the past five decades, she has shared her love of musicals and theater with her sisters, friends, children and grandchildren.
A few of her favorite performances include Wicked, Hamilton and Lion King as well as Seinfeld. She recalls a wonderful day taking her grandchildren to see The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in Playhouse Theater. She has enjoyed Lord of the Dance and Riverdance performances, and she’s seen all the Forward Theater Company productions for the last three years.
“I was raised on musicals and theater and love sharing the performing arts with my grandchildren,” she said.
With seven grandkids, ages 14 to 31, it has become tradition for Okas to take the kids to shows at Overture Center. As a teacher for 33 years in Mineral Point―12 years instructing kindergarten and 21 years teaching third grade―she is familiar with children’s stories and understands what shows kids will like.
Her grandkids affectionately refer to her as “Grandma Seuss” after Okas’ adventures traveling Southwest Wisconsin with “Cat in the Hat,” a group of retired teachers who read Dr. Seuss books to elementary school children during Read Across America Week.
“I visited all my grandkids’ classes over the years,” Okas said.
In April 2020, Okas had plans to attend My Fair Lady with her granddaughter Alexis, who was at the time about to graduate from Abundant Life Christian School in Madison.
“I purchased two tickets to take my granddaughter to see My Fair Lady as a grandma-granddaughter memorable moment,” said Okas. “We were really excited, but the play was canceled as was our special bonding time.”
Since Overture’s closure in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Okas has missed sharing her love of the theater with her family. She describes the Overture experience as educational and wonderful, an opportunity to expose her grandkids to live performances and new groups of people beyond their peers.
“Overture is absolutely fantastic for those of us who don’t like to travel to Chicago to see a show,” she said. “I love going to Overture. I can conveniently drive there, and I know my way around. I’m so thrilled we have Overture Center in Madison.”
This next season, Okas plans to see Hamilton again, and she hopes to reschedule her night out with Alexis when her granddaughter comes home for a break from the University of Montana, where she now goes to college.
“My grandkids are great,” said Okas. “I love spending time with them and hope I’ve passed on my love of theater and musicals.”