'Unite With UPAF Live:' Organizers hope to raise $15K by taking performances into artists' basements

Joey Chelius

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee theater scene is estimated to lose millions of dollars this season due to coronavirus cancellations. With more than 500 performances canceled, groups are turning to Facebook to try and keep theater alive.

It's difficult for Joey Chelius to find the words when asked how much the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the arts in Milwaukee.

"Things keep getting canceled, and keep getting delayed, so now, we’re all kind of sitting around, hoping that maybe the work we required for summer is still coming," said Chelius, a Milwaukee actor, director and teaching artist.

A full theater is something that hasn't been seen in months.

Deanna Tillisch

The Milwaukee Rep is one of 14 performing arts groups that are a part of the United Performing Arts Fund or UPAF. The groups are estimated to lose $8.3 million due to COVID-19.

"This is far-reaching across the community," said Deanna Tillisch, president of CEP UPAF.

UPAF is working to make sure that song and dance come back by taking the performances off the stage and into artists' basements. A fundraiser titled "Unite With UPAF Live" is set for Thursday, May 7 on Facebook.

"It’s really a rallying call to the community to use the arts to lift our spirits, which we need right now," said Tillisch.

They are hoping the event will raise $15,000 -- and raise people's spirits.

"We have survived worse than this, and we will continue to thrive, but we’re also looking for the generosity of others to help keep producing that joy and that empathy through theater," said Chelius.

The performances begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 7.