Dear Charlotte: Actor’s Theatre — and the whole theater community — needs you

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Wednesday?s ?Pay What You Can? night on June 17 People started lining up at 5:00pm! Tickets went on sale at 6:30pm, and we sold all 199 tickets by 6:45. We had to turn away more than 50 people. We did offer $10 tickets to the people we had to turn away. Robert Robert Touchstone Director of Marketing and Development Actor?s Theatre of Charlotte 650 E. Stonewall Street Charlotte, NC 28202 P 704.342.2251 x1 M 704.616.0732 E robert_touchstone@actorstheatrecharlotte.org

Dear Charlotte,

I’ve been in a bad mood all week and I can’t seem to shake it. The truth is, I’m sad. I watch the money spent in this town on more of the same in the arts scene while one-of-a-kind places like Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte struggle, and I just don’t know what to do anymore. After 12 years on Stonewall, ATC has lost its home and, right now, it has nowhere else to go.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some good times, you and I. I’ve made some amazing friends and worked with some of the most caring and talented people I may ever meet. But it’s not enough. You have become the civic equivalent of that guy I always fall in love with. The one I see so much potential in, but who never quite opens up and makes a girl feel loved.

Sure, I can be difficult, but isn’t that why you love me? When everyone else is telling you how beautiful you look, I’m the one who lets you know you have spinach in your teeth. I’m not your biggest fan; I’m the one who loves you.

People have been telling me for years that being in Charlotte was a waste of time and talent. I told them they were wrong. Look at all the potential. So many empty buildings. So much talent. So many great ideas. So many amazing people. Any day now, someone with money and vision will get word from their buddy in another city that theater is a smart investment. They’ll see that investing in companies who pay their actors and produce new work leads to an influx of talent and the resources to develop creative thinkers.

“If only you could see her like I do,” I’d tell them.

Right now, the theater community needs you. One of the last two remaining professional theater companies in Charlotte is in danger of becoming the next in a line of professional theaters that we’ve lost due to inadequate funding and fearful decision making.

Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has lost its space on Stonewall. There was a new home in the works at the Kellogg Plant, but that fell through. ATC needs a home. It needs a new space and it needs it now.

Artistic Director Chip Decker, from left, General Manager Martin Kettling, Director of Development Bennett Rich and Executive Director Dan Shoemaker inside what was supposed to be the theater new space.
Artistic Director Chip Decker, from left, General Manager Martin Kettling, Director of Development Bennett Rich and Executive Director Dan Shoemaker inside what was supposed to be the theater’s new space.

Investing in ATC isn’t just about keeping high-quality art and artists in our city, it’s also good for the economy. The arts attract talent, especially young talent. World-class cities are cities with strong art scenes. Do think New York would be what it is without the theater? If you won’t do it for altruistic reasons, do it for selfish ones.

ATC is a smart investment. ATC is known nationally for its performance work, and new plays developed here. It’s attracted national attention with the NuVoices Play Festival, part of the National New Play Network. It has hosted workshops for new plays like “Born for This” with Bebe Winans, which has since moved to Atlanta and D.C. Its regular season is consistently exciting and diverse. It hosts fundraisers to help other nonprofits like UMAR and Queen City Soup raise money for their own organizations.

ATC is designing its new space with community in mind, designing the floor plan to accommodate outside companies who would be able to rent space, perform or utilize tools for construction of shows. 

I don’t want to live in a city of more than 800,000 people that doesn’t have a professional theater for adults. I also can’t figure out how my small theater company, TAPROOT, could possibly survive doing new work if several theaters (some with national reputations) who tried the same thing — Charlotte Repertory Theatre, Bare Bones, Off Tryon and Carolina Actor’s Studio Theatre — have folded.

If you want Charlotte to be the kind of world-class city it could be, we have to keep companies like ATC alive.

How can you help? Write letters to Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Arts and Science Council President Robert Bush. Tell them we need to invest in arts spaces the way we do in sports arenas and street festivals.

Donate to ATC. Even small amounts help. More than anything, ATC needs a champion. It needs someone who will step up and take a vested interest in the survival and growth of this local company that has become a home for so many different artists and arts organizations in the area.

Those of us in the theater community love you and we want to be a part of making you great. Please, Charlotte. Give us a reason to stay.

Photos: Charlotte Observer file; David T. Foster III

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