In Arts & Entertainment

The partners of Ampersand Theater Company: James Boland, Lee Rowley, Erik Koconis and Joel Zawada.

Ampersand Theater Company finds permanent home in historic church

Ampersand Theater Company celebrated its grand opening last weekend at its new location, 628. N. 10th St. The space, which is in the lower level of the 150-year-old Calvary Presbyterian Church, formerly housed In Tandem's Tenth Street Theater.

Relocation to an inspired space of their own was a long time coming for Ampersand, which started out in 2015 at Mojo Dojo Comedy.

The company spent its first 16 months in the Farina Arena of CSz – The Home of ComedySportz Milwaukee – before moving to the 50-seat theater inside of Urban Harvest Brewing Company. The group performed in myriad other venues as well.

"We were literally putting on shows anywhere that would let us: bars, coffee shops, even an eyeglass store," says creative director Joel Zawada.

The new space provides the company with stability, independence and the ability to set their own hours of operation.

"We can schedule as far out on the calendar as we want without worrying about getting bumped for another event," says Zawada. "We can build out the space and set the lights and know we won't need to break them down to store at the end of every weekend."

After four years of trying to find the right location, Zawada says it's really like a dream to finally be in this space.

"It's still surreal for me to walk through the lobby and pass the Ampersand Wall. I'd had that in my head for years, and never thought it would actually be a real thing."

For now, the company is focusing on the nuances of running a larger business in a larger space with new staff. Once that's under control, they will start to schedule regular shows and events. They plan to host guest instructors from around the country for weekend workshops, late-night shows on Saturdays and possibly family-friendly performances on Sunday afternoons.

"We've been doing the best we could to grow and innovate within a series of constraints. Right now, all possibilities are open, which is really exciting," says Zawada. "We could not have gotten where we are today without an amazing community of supporters. We started out trying to build a comedy community, and were amazed to see the community built through comedy."

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