interACT and the state of Milwaukee theater

Pink Banana Theater's Matt Kemple, ART Milwaukee's Jeremy Fojut speak of their interACT evening, involving six theater groups.

By - Feb 8th, 2013 04:00 am

You probably already know this, but Milwaukee is bursting at the seams with the arts. We have an incredible local music scene, skilled and vastly inventive dancers, beautiful art galleries, creative independent restaurants, and a thriving theater community. The opportunities to do something fun—and to see something new—are nearly boundless. Milwaukee is on the verge and people are starting to take notice.

ART Milwaukee and several local theaters are attempting to immerse the city in the performing arts. Friday night’s interACT at the Underground Collaborative in Grand Avenue Mall is an opportunity to soak in theatery to make some new discoveries about Milwaukee’s verging arts scene.

“It’s like when you decide to go look around in your attic, and you’re like whoa! Where’d all this cool stuff come from?” said Matt Kemple, artistic producer of Pink Banana Theater Company and the interACT event.

Jeremy Fojut, President of ART Milwaukee, had a similar viewpoint. “It’s important to open your eyes to everything—you can’t just do the same things in a city over and over. Don’t become stagnant. You have to move from place to place; immerse yourself. That’s how you get to know a city and call it home.”

The general idea behind interACT is to provide access to Milwaukee’s diverse and collaborative theater community.

“Collaborating with other theaters is always a good idea, but especially in Milwaukee,” said Kemple. “We have a good mix here of professional and semi-professional, and we’re just the right size that a collaboration isn’t a colossal undertaking. It was awesome to get the Rep involved in this—they’re such a huge and recognizable entity. But then you also have Pink Banana. And Quasimondo, who are just getting started. There are so many dedicated people working. It’s a community that’s supportive of itself and others. We’re happy to share resources and lessons learned. It’s not ‘see our play, not their play,’ it’s ‘see as many plays as you can.’”

Participating theater companies also include Skylight Music Theatre (providing music on the second level of the mall), The World’s Stage Theater Company and Renaissance Theaterworks. Each troupe has chosen a one-act from David Ives’ All In The Timing, and will perform each 15-20 minute act on loop over the course of the evening, in various rooms of the Underground Collaborative.

This is how you get to the Underground Collaborative! Pretty!

“Each theater kind of chose based on their unique aesthetic, so there wasn’t a lot of overlap or fighting when it came to choosing a one-act,” said Kemple. “We hope to show a wide range of style. Everyone was really excited; this is a popular and well-loved work among theater groups. And it fits with the venue—it’s within the circular theme of time.”

interACT is also an opportunity to bring attention to Grand Avenue Mall, and the artistic community forming within. ART Milwaukee, Pink Banana, Milwaukee Comedy, MiKE (Innovation in Milwaukee) and Third Coast Digest all share the budding space, where two years ago it was considered dead. In fact, part of Friday night’s events will be the space itself—the restored Mr. John Plankinton Statue and new fountain are smack in the middle of the rotunda leading to the Underground Collaborative. “I think there might even be fish arriving,” said Kemple.

[Late Wednesday, mall manager Tracy Korpela said that fish are on the way.]

The nature of the event calls out to young Milwaukeeans. Almost all of the actors are just getting started and most of the organizers behind ART Milwaukee are young professionals, trying to get the word out.

“We definitely had young Milwaukee in mind,” said Fojut. “We wanted something different, something where you can move around, drink beer, immerse yourself. We want to move away from the 120 minute play format of just sitting. Let’s stand, right? We all have short attention spans, let’s try to cater to that.”

interACT is a one-night only event, taking place 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. this Friday night February 8th in the Underground Collaborative in Grand Avenue Mall (Plankinton Building). Tickets are $15 online or upon arrival. Jake’s Deli and Potbelly will provide complimentary samples, and there will be free Point Beer tastings. Visit the website for more information.

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