Marquette Wire

Alchemist Theatre gives local artists a fair shot

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There are all kinds of artists living in Milwaukee. From photographers to actors, poets to dancers, this city houses them all. Most of these talented people are 20-somethings with limited funds and credibility — just like college students.

So, as one can imagine, it’s difficult to find a place worthy enough to display these artists’ work without murdering their bank accounts.

No worries though. Three entrepreneurs, all artists themselves, heard the cry for a creative outlet suitable for the college wallet.

On Jan. 1, 2007, Erika Case, Aaron Kopec and Kirk Thomsen opened the Alchemist Theatre and Bayview Lounge, 2569 S. Kinnickinic Ave., a venue meant to support solely Milwaukee artists.

Initially, it was Kopec’s idea to convert the old building, owned by Case’s mother, into a modern, sexy lounge and theater.

Photograph compliments of Aaron Kopec.

Photograph compliments of Aaron Kopec.

“(Aaron) wanted to offer a little bit more in respect to the theater experience,” Thomsen said. “He’d make money at the bar, and the theater would have the ability to have performers use it.”

The theater offers extremely inexpensive rental fees as well.

“Small theaters are always begging for money,” Kopec said. “And that takes away from the shows, no matter what it is.”

Because of this belief, the co-owners do not acquire any profits from the theater.

“Any money that will be given to Aaron, Erika or myself come from the lounge,” Thomsen said. “The theater is there solely for the opportunity for artists to use.”

According to Thomsen, the fee to rent the stage is not even comparable to other stages in Milwaukee. Performers receive all profits from ticket sales — a nearly unheard of deal from a venue. This way, it’s up to the artists to market and organize their own shows, Thomsen said. It’s perfect real-world practice for career-seeking college kids.

Along with inexpensive stage-use, the Alchemist produces dramatic and comedic performances, sponsors art auctions for charity groups and holds private parties. In the past two years, they have held over 102 different categories of artistic events.

But still, comedy happens to be one of the most popular genres of art presented there.

“(The comedy scene) has grown a lot here,” Thomsen said. “We have a lot of different groups that have spawned off from when we first started.”

The Alchemist is not only home to multiple improvisational comedy troupes and sketch comedy performances, but it holds open-mic nights, open improvisational nights and educational classes in all forms of comedy.

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“It’s a good place to hang out with people with a wide variety of experience,” Kopec said.

Don’t fret if you’re an artist with something to show. The Alchemist is open to all artists’ work.

“It offers you the opportunity to excel in your artistic endeavor, rather than let it on the back-burner,” Thomsen said. “It’s a kick-start to opportunity.”

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