Curtain up

Actor’s Theatre in Charlotte has new home, big plans.

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. [03.12.04] — After 10 years as the resident theater at Spirit Square, the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has a new home and big plans.

The 15-year-old nonprofit troupe has moved into the former Reliable Music Building at 650 E. Stonewall St. near the uptown cultural district and is consolidating office, storage and rehearsal space that had been spread among several locations.

The group also is planning a $3 million capital campaign to buy its new quarters, which it is renting for up to three years from Wedgewood Properties, and to renovate the space and start an endowment.

And after seeing its annual budget grow to $354,000 from $190,000, and the number of season tickets increase to 314 from 266, the company plans to expand its productions and programs.

“Our mission is being embraced not only by season ticket sales but also by the larger audience in general,” says Dan Shoemaker, executive artistic director and a founder of the theater.

The group’s new 10,000-square-foot home includes a 199-seat main-stage theater, plus a 65-seat “black box” theater that will open this spring.

The number of productions on the main-stage theater will grow to grow from five productions in the current season to six this fall, when the company also will launch a director’s lab and a late-night series.

The director’s lab will function as an incubator, training four directors each season who will produce four productions for the black-box theater.

The late-night series will produce up to four experimental and off-beat productions that will be staged at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

In addition to those productions, the Actor’s Theatre on April 3 will host its fourth annual monologue contest for 11th– and 12th-graders at its main stage.

To finance the $1.5 million purchase and $650,000 renovation of its new facility, and create an $85,000 endowment, the group hopes to launch a $3 million capital campaign this spring.

First, it is conducting a feasibility study with the help of consultant Matt Olin, former managing director of the Charlotte Repertory Theatre.

The Actor’s Theatre will use that study to develop a business plan and launch its campaign.

Unlike many nonprofits, which raise a lot of their funds through one-to-one cultivation of individuals, the Actor’s Theatre has depended on special events and mailings, Shoemaker says.

On April 9, for example, it will hold its annual “Arty Party” at the theater, and aims to raise $25,000, up from $19,000 last year.

And Shoemaker says a key goal for the theater, which employs  two people full-time and three part-time and hires paid professionals for its productions, is to create a new fundraising position to generate more contributed support.

Another goal, based on a strategic plan the group’s board adopted in 2002, is to become a “fully professional theater” within five years, including possible membership in the League of Regional Theaters.

LORT membership, Shoemaker says, would “raise the bar” for the theater, making it more attractive to professional actors, stage managers and other professionals involved in theater.

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