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Athens Community Theatre Lacks Support From Audience and State

By: Jennings Brooks

Graphic Courtesy of Athens Creative Theatre

 

ATHENS, GA - Athens Creative Theatre’s opening night of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” on Feb. 21 proved to be an underwhelming turnout.

 

In a preliminary telephone interview, Program Leader for the Athens Creative Theatre (ACT) Daniel Self hoped for a sold out show for the anticipated opening night of the 1960s production written by Edward Albee. In contrast, the Quinn Hall black box theatre, which seats 94, housed 12 audience members on the play’s opening night.

 

Of the 12 audience members, five attendees were covering the play for a project or media outlet, four attendees were family members of the four cast members and one audience member was the facilitator in charge of concession management. All in all, only two members of the audience were in attendance with the sole agenda of seeing the play.

 

When asked to comment on ACT’s marketing strategies, Self explained that ACT distributes physical playbills and postcards throughout downtown Athens and posts information on their Facebook page to spread awareness of their productions.

 

According to audience member Rebecca Crowe, she first learned of the play from a poster hanging in her everyday coffee shop, Sips Espresso Cafe.

 

Director and ACT Program Specialist Terry Powell wrote in her director’s note, which appeared in the programme,“For the first time in my directorial career I held callbacks to complete the auditioning process, so great was the talent that walked through this door.”

 

This is on account of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” being what Powell describes as an “actor’s show,” due to the emotional toll taken on actors’ ability to emulate manipulative relationships and psychological thrills in a static set.

 

Reacting to the play, University of Georgia student and theatre enthusiast Bennett Walker, Walker said, “It’s a sad fact that this is her first time having callbacks. It’s curious to me how Athens is considered to be such an incredible and thriving arts community, yet its theatre programs are extremely lacking.”

 

This lack in theatre support can be recognized at the state level. Georgia House Bill 956, The Georgia Musical Recording and Synchronization Act, was passed by the Georgia House Legislature on Jan. 1, 2018. According to the Georgia State website, the Georgia House Bill 956 provides “a Georgia income tax equal to 15 percent of a music company’s qualified production expenditures in the state.”

 

The credit only applies to two types of productions: touring musical or theatrical productions and recorded musical performance. Musical or theatrical performances not intended for touring do not meet these requirements.

 

The Athens Creative Theatre is a non-profit organization as part of the Leisure Services Department of the Athens-Clarke County government and is therefore not offered the same support by the Georgia House Bill 956 as traveling entertainment.

 

According to Powell, the Athens Creative Theatre receives a set budget for each year in which they can allot money for each production.

 

In her self-introduction before the show’s debut on Feb. 21, Powell claimed herself to be a “one woman show” as shown throughout the evening in her role as both director and sound design and light operator.

 

According to Powell, the props used for many of their productions are either homemade, bought from yard sales or vintage stores, or borrowed from the homes of actors in the production.

 

The Athens Creative Theatre puts on a number of productions each year including comedies, dramas and musicals. More information can be found on the Athens Clarke-County website.