For many years now, GAC colleagues have enjoyed Milwaukee's rich cultural life. We have attended plays and concerts and frequently visited the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University. Several of us attended our first opera at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts when we saw a production of "Aida."

Thanks to a wonderful United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) program that benefits non-profit organizations, since 2019 GAC colleagues have enjoyed a
Danceworks Stretch and Relaxation class, a Milwaukee Chamber Theatre Comedy Workshop, a First Stage production of "Wrinkle in Time," the Skylight Theater production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater production of "A Christmas Carol."

With no reason to believe that these outings would cease, we looked forward to many more plays, concerts and opportunities to learn directly from performing arts professionals in our community.

Then came the closing of our Clubhouse for 10 weeks from March 18 until May 31, 2020. Upon our re-opening on June 1, we adhered to critical pandemic precautions. Our Work-Ordered Day resumed full-force and so did our Employment Program, but our evenings at the theater and our visits to museums felt like things from our past.

And so, our first visit to the theater since the start of the pandemic was a thrill for us. It happened last Friday evening, November 5, 2021. Fifteen GAC colleagues-- members and staff-- attended a performance of "STEW" by Zora Howard and directed by Malkia Stampley. The play focuses on three generations of African-American women cooking together in order to preserve their family ties and traditions.

It was a terrific evening. We not only appreciated the play itself, but were exhilarated by our night out on the town. A group of us prepared a dinner for everyone of pizza and salad and enjoyed it at GAC before the show.

The entire evening contributed to our growing optimism and our very strong sense that downtown Milwaukee is coming back to life.

Here is what GAC colleagues had to say about the evening:

"I loved going to the play! It's not something I would have sought out on my own. I'm glad I shared this experience with my friends. Thank you to all who made it possible. I had a great time!" -Nikki Jay

"I never even knew that there was a theater close to GAC- and it was my first time going to a play in my life. I enjoyed being there with my colleagues and experiencing something new." -Ricardo Hernandez

"It was my first time going to a play and I really enjoyed it. The actresses were very good. I was happy to be there with a group of my friends. On Friday nights, I usually go home and watch TV and movies, or sit and listen to music, so it felt good to break up the monotony." -Michael Anderson

"The play "Stew" was engaging, immersive, and entertaining. It was enjoyable to experience it with my GAC friends and family and I felt a real sense of community. I'm very glad we were able to enjoy it together." -M.J.

"I was excited to go to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and enjoyed being there with GAC colleagues. For many, it was their first time going to a play and I have a new appreciation for UPAF providing these opportunities for people to experience the theater who might not otherwise get to go. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve taken my mom to see musicals at that theater, so I have fond memories of being there. It was also nice seeing the busyness of the Third Ward at night which makes you forget about the pandemic. That evening, it felt as if Milwaukee was coming back to life." -Mary Heyrman

We are deeply grateful to UPAF and to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre for the opportunity to experience live theater once again.
As they waited to walk to the theater, GAC colleagues passed time in the Culinary Unit having dinner and enjoying each other's company.
GAC colleagues eagerly waiting and proudly showing off their tickets outside the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
GAC colleagues posing in front of the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre backdrop after the show, an exciting new experience for many, which was made possible by our relationship with the United Performance Art Fund.

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club