After eight years in business, The Underground Collaborative has closed.

Since opening in 2012, the versatile 110-capacity venue located in the basement of the Shops Of Grand Avenue has hosted an eclectic range of events including plays, concerts, one-off events, and—most notably—comedy shows. Though the years, owner/operator/producer Matt Kemple has booked an abundance of his Milwaukee Comedy shows in the space, including performances by the likes of Todd Barry, Joe Pera, Nick Thune, Hari Kondabolu, Emily Heller, Johnny Pemberton, Josh Fadem, Jackie Kashian, Eddie Pepitone, Matt Braunger, Joe Mande, as well as a wide variety of local and regional comedians. Recent installments of Milwaukee Comedy Festival (which Kemple co-founded) also featured shows at “The UC.”

The multi-use space—which also featured an art gallery, a recording studio, a dance studio, and a play rehearsal area—obviously felt the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, as it hasn’t been open since mid-March. Kemple noted as much Monday in a press release announcing the venue’s closing.

Even though The Underground Collaborative has closed, Kemple—along with comedians and Milwaukee Comedy Festival co-producers Kaitlin McCarthy and Greg Bach—continues to own and operate The Laughing Tap (706B S. 5th St., 414-885-0129). The new Walker’s Point comedy club remains temporarily closed, but will reopen when it’s able to safely and legally do so. You can help Milwaukee Comedy and The Laughing Tap now by purchasing discounted tickets to future shows. You can also keep up with Milwaukee’s comedy scene by watching The Laughing Tap’s “Quaran-Teeny Tiny Comedy Show” series here.

Read The Underground Collaborative’s press release below:

MILWAUKEE, WI  – The Underground Collaborative (161 W. Wisconsin Ave, L1100), Milwaukee’s unique creative venue, art gallery and rental space on the Lower Level of the Plankinton building in the Shops of Grand Avenue will close permanently due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Founded in 2012, The UC featured over 8,000 sq. ft of space including a 100+ seat theatre, art gallery, recording studio, dance studio, rehearsal and practice rooms, administrative offices and creative work spaces.

Founder Matt Kemple issued a statement to theatre groups and artists over the weekend; “The pandemic has affected all of us in big ways. The Underground Collaborative being an arts-based business that relies on public gatherings to operate has been hit harder than we could have anticipated. Unfortunately this means we have to close The UC permanently.”

The decision was financially based, as funding for The UC is via ticket sales and rental fees from local arts groups.

Over it’s eight year history, The Underground Collaborative has been a home to theatre companies, visual artists, dancers, and nonprofit organizations.  Upwards of 15,000 people visited The UC each year, with more than 140 different events taking place annually, including theatre and art gallery events, live comedy and music shows, fundraisers, workshops and meetings.

Kemple concluded an emotional email to supporters by stating “I hope in some way The Underground Collaborative has fulfilled its purpose to provide resources for performers, artists and creatives, and been a hub for live performances that brought the community together to laugh, cry and feel inspired by the amazing talent we have in Milwaukee.”

The venue had become a staple to the local arts scene by renting unique and affordable space for shows, events, rehearsals, meetings and classes. Milwaukee Comedy, the region’s premier independent comedy production company utilized The UC for monthly stand up comedy shows along with the annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival. The UC walls were home to an art gallery curated by Sue Berce and 8 resident artists along with rotating guest artists with a range of mediums including oil and acrylic paintings, pen and ink, watercolors, photography, raku and more.  Dozens of different theatre groups began or grew at The UC including Voices Found Repertory, The Constructivists, Outskirts Theatre, Company of Strangers Theater Co. and many more.

Farewell, Underground Collaborative. Thanks for all the laughs.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.