Milwaukee is a long way from Broadway, but for many of people in the theater Milwaukee community, there is a hidden gem tucked into the 5th floor of Kenilworth Square on Milwaukee’s east side.
Located at 1925 E. Kenilworth Place in Milwaukee, a building owned and operated by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee houses Kenilworth FIVE-0-EIGHT, a small black room lined with theater seats. The theater hosts a multitude of UW-Milwaukee theater productions as well as events not affiliated with the school of arts or even UW-Milwaukee.
“It does allow for flexibility for rearranging seats, props, scenery etc. It is also smaller than many of our other performance venues affording patrons the ability to be up close to the actors and become immersed in the production,” said Lisa Dickson the operations Manager at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts (PSOA).
The theater seats 100 people and can be outfitted for all sorts of events including film screenings, according to the PSOA website.
Last weekend, Blue Lantern a Russian play put on by UWM students was in Kenilworth FIVE-0-EIGHT. The show featured a large number of props for an area that small, but it did not faze the actors.
“My first time in the space, two years ago, was daunting. Having the audience so close was intimidating, because it’s possible to see everyone’s facial expressions,” said Tessa Larson an actress performing in the show.
Larson has gotten used to the space over the years and now the challenge of performing in a small area is a welcomed practice for a lot of PSOA students.
“The biggest pro for me in 508 is how close the audience is to the performers. From their seats, I feel like they are even more immersed in the show,” said Larson.
UWM has multiple buildings not directly on its main campus including three dorm buildings, the Urban ecology center and many other buildings, but Kenilworth Square is a unique building because it helps the UWM community to engage in the Milwaukee community more.
“I think it’s nice to have a theater off campus. It helps in the sense that other companies can rent it out and grow familiar with the space,” said Rachel Meldman a House Manager and PSOA student at UWM.
This space is unique because of its location and proximity to the nightlife around the area such as bars on Brady Street, a popular nightlife district on Milwaukee’s east side.
The PSOA is one of the largest colleges at UWM and is one of US News’ best fine arts programs.
“The challenges we face are that it often sells out and that directors all do different things with it so we never know how a shift is going to go,” said Meldman.
The Crowds are often a mix of the Milwaukee theater community and students, but the variety of shows that the space allows is what keeps the crowd unique and diverse, explained Meldman.
There are drawbacks to the area, according to Larson, but, overall, she enjoys the experience of Kenilworth FIVE-0-EIGHT.
“Once we had the set and everyone on stage, we had to adjust some of the positions so most everyone could be seen. However, in a space like 508, you’re never going to be able to see everyone from everywhere,” said Larson.
The next production in Kenilworth FIVE-0-EIGHT is Stupid F**king Bird but wont be showing until late February because of UWM’s Winter Break but tickets can be bought anytime at UWM Box Office.