Three arts groups move into the Grand Avenue
Matt Kemple Q&A on Milwaukee Comedy, Pink Banana Theatre and Studio Kristelle's move to the Shops at Grand Avenue.
In April, Pink Banana Theatre, Milwaukee Comedy, Inc. and Studio Kristelle announced plans to move into the Shops of Grand Avenue, as part of the Creativity Works Here program. Our new neighbors – an established young theater company, the hub for all comedy news in the city, and an open studio headlined by artist Kristelle Ulrich – have been here for a month now, and we thought it was well past time to pay them a friendly visit.
The collectives’ new space is, in a word, huge. At 9,000 square feet, it gives all three the opportunity to spread way out, with studios and dancespace for Studio Kristelle and workshop rooms and performance space for Pink Banana and Milwaukee Comedy. The three groups will also share space as necessary. A month in, things are still in transition, with many of the walls unpainted and use of some rooms to be determined.
But to Matt Kemple, Pink Banana co-producer (with Juanita Schuelke) of Pink Banana and founder of Milwaukee Comedy, it feels like home. His excitement for the space is contagious.
Matt Kemple: Pretty good. There’s been a lot of excitement just from the people in the mall already. It’s interesting – the security staff seems to be the most excited, because they have to patrol this area, so they’re like “Oh, yeah, there’s something else!” But it’s been great – I mean, right away, people are excited there’s a physical location where they can go and see things and learn new things, and so far it’s been a great fit.
TCD: You’re involved with Pink Banana and Milwaukee Comedy. and Studio Kristelle. How did you get together with Studio Kristelle?
MK: The lease manager, Tracy Korpela, had shown the space to me and Kristelle on separate occasions, and neither of us could afford it on our own, and it was a little too big on an individual basis. So Tracy actually hooked us up. We met, took a tour together, and it just seemed to really work out as far as personalities, schedules – everything just seemed to line up really well.
TCD: And how are you negotiating the space use?
MK: We’ve been really fortunate because Kristelle’s mostly focused on things during the week and during the day, and it’s really great for us because we’re mostly nights and weekends. There’s certainly some overlap with office hours and things like that, but we both have really complementary ideas. We’ve already been able to trade services and help each other out. There’s some things that I’m a little weak at and need some help with, and Kristelle has some great resources for that, and vice-versa. So it’s really a good situation.
TCD: What are the elements of the space that make it a great place for you to work in?
MK: It has everything we need already here. There’s a box office, a little lobby area, a performance space, workshop and rehearsal space, and offices. It’s all right here and – it’s kind of interesting, it sort of feels like it was built for us this way. If we were going to build a space, there isn’t very much that I would have done differently.
TCD: Now that you’ve got this new space, what are your goals long-term for Pink Banana and Milwaukee Comedy?
MK: Well, for Pink Banana, we’re excited to be able to utilize the space for rehearsals on a regular basis, especially for our One-Acts, which is a huge undertaking. There’s seven different one-acts in The End of the World (Pink Banana’s 2012 One-Act Festival) and all of those groups, all of those plays, need time to rehearse. It’s virtually impossible to find one location to do that, but now we’re able to accommodate that. We’re also looking to offer some workshops down the line, and to actually do some more staged readings and more educational-based work, where we’re able to put on maybe not a full production. That’s the kind of thing where we could try out a play in a very structured environment, and then actually take that play and produce it as a full work.
As far as Milwaukee Comedy’s concerned, it’s sort of similar – we’re looking to do a lot more performances on a regular basis, but also still doing performances elsewhere. It’s important for us to have that combination.
MK: The Pink Banana One-Acts are the first two weekends in June. Those’ll be at the Next Act Theatre space, but it’s nice to have a central location where we can meet and have production meetings and things like that. So that’s exciting. And then our fall show, The Hothouse, by Harold Pinter, is going to be done here in the space in November, the first two weeks of November. So it’s really nice to have that balance. As far as Milwaukee Comedy, we’re going to be looking to do a show here as early as the end of June, and then the Milwaukee Comedy Festival will be at Next Act Theatre’s space in August.
Pink Banana’s One-Act Festival, The End of the World, runs June 1 through June 9, and the Milwaukee Comedy Festival is August 3 to 11.