Cup O Joy to reopen with Aug. 15 show
By Lee Reinsch
HOWARD – It’s been a long hiatus, but the Cup O Joy live music venue opens Aug. 15 to its first show in five months.
However, Cup regulars shouldn’t show up to the Broadway District.
The performance center’s new home is 525 N. Taylor St., the red brick former Northeast Wisconsin Masonic Center.
What started in 1989 as a few music families looking for a space to play their own music has crescendoed into a 25,000-square-foot locale with two stages and a combined seating capacity of 700.
It can accommodate three buses full of musicians and equipment, which is a good thing, as Cup O Joy draws dozens of nationally touring Christian musicians and comedians each year.
“It’s a huge move and it’s scary, but it’s a blessing for us,” said Jan Oettinger, Cup O Joy director.
The move to the larger venue opens many doors, including enabling its guest artists to meet demand with a single larger show rather than two smaller ones.
The larger site also gives Cup O Joy the opportunity to reach more people through dance and music classes.
Oettinger said Cup O Joy wants to become more of an arts collaborative, starting with a dance school which expressed interest in renting a studio on the lower level.
“This new place will let us do a lot more community events,” she said. “Eventually, when we’re up and running, people will be able to rent some of the spaces.”
In addition to studio space, the 10,000-square-foot lower level has a green room, dressing rooms, showers, kitchen and dining area for musicians and their crews.
The new Cup’s two theaters on the ground floor include one large enough to seat 500 people and the other up to 200.
But Cup O Joy won’t be filled to the brim until the pandemic has waned.
“We’ll social distance until it is no longer necessary,” Oettinger said.
Volunteers are following recommended safety guidelines with respect to masks and distancing, she said, and concessions will be limited to prepackaged snacks.
The artists performing Aug. 15 – Oklahoma City-based Christian singing duo Blake and Jenna Bolerjack – were slated to perform earlier, but COVID-19 altered that.
“Everything originally scheduled for March and April has slid into August and September, and now we’re hoping to keep to that,” Oettinger said.
The entertainment industry, like many others, is struggling, and its ripple effects include hotels, restaurants, suppliers, concessions and beyond, she said.
“I think everyone is scrambling,” Oettinger said. “Every touring artist is basically a small business, and just as we’ve lost a lot of great small businesses to this, we’re going to lose some of them, too.”
Although the organization is knee deep in its $3.2 million capital campaign, she said shows will continue to be free with the exception of annual fundraisers, as donations keep the Cup alive.
“We’re a 100-percent volunteer organization,” Oettinger said.
Over the years, more than 3,000 people have lent a hand, with the average volunteer serving once or twice a month.
Some volunteers specialize in lighting, sound or video.
“They come from all walks of life and are incredibly loyal,” Oettinger said. “Some of them have been with us over 20 years.”
At any one time, she said there are 50 to 80 active volunteers on the roster.
She said around two dozen companies have contributed funds or in-kind donations to the capital campaign.
“If there is a silver lining in this (hiatus), it’s that we were able to throw our attention and energy into the building and the move,” Oettinger said. “People are making the best of it.”