- Working Title Playwrights, Decatur, GA
- Gateway Performance Productions, Atlanta, GA
- Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, Atlanta, GA
- Theatre Gael's WORLDSONG, Atlanta, GA
Please note that all data below was derived from the collaboration's nomination for the Collaboration Prize. None of the submitted data were independently verified for accuracy.
The Academy Theatre’s collaboration was loosely created in April of 2005 when the Theatre opened its new theatre space in Avondale Estates, Georgia. Having just spent 15 years as a theatre without walls, creating a five-play mainstage season was a daunting task for the staff and board of directors of the Academy. So out of a desire to have quality work in our new space, we reached out into the community to arts organizations without a home. We thought we could rent the space to them solving the financial issues associated with a building and our need to produce work for the community. Unfortunately none of them had any money for rent, so we split the door 50/50 after costs. The Academy kept all concession proceeds, while our partners kept the proceeds from their merchandise sales. The collaboration had a natural progression into joint marketing and fundraising for all resident companies as well as the sharing of actors and staff members, sets, costumes, etc.
Our partners create work that is different than the Academy’s. Gateway Performance Productions is a mask and mine company that has worked with the Academy on and off for over 30 years. New plays are a big part of the Academy’s 55-year history, and Working Title Playwrights does a great job nurturing new playwrights and new work. Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s mission is to present radio theatre and they do it with new work as well as classics. Theatre Gael produces Celtic work and has a children’s program that works with the Academy’s Theatre for Youth Artists-in-Schools tour program. We also have arts organization in residence that are for profit and do great work, too.
In the beginning we had many group meetings, which included board members and leadership staff from all the organizations to decide how to structure the collaboration. The final outcome was that there would be a point person at the Academy who would be the liaison with each group and twice a year we would have a stakeholders meeting where folks could discuss ideas, problems, concerns, etc. The Academy Theatre’s Artistic Director is the point person and also previews upcoming work and discusses each group’s season. Strong, thoughtful, powerful artistic work is what he continually strives for in his job as liaison with the Theatre’s companies in residence. Many companies have improved with the Academy’s guidance and support. Knowing that you have a home base to create work, allows for a much more proactive approach to the creative process.
Technology is a beautiful thing. One of our most irritating challenges was how to communicate with all the member companies as to when the space was available. We solved with this problem by creating a yahoo calendar to which all partners have access.
Our next challenge was creating awareness about what each partner’s role was while working in the space and the staff necessary to pull off the production. Our partners have learned the value of having a professional crew and various partner companies often exchange technical staff and no how. We also now have professional front of house staff, which solves many accounting and ticketing issues. The Academy absorbs this cost as it is just easier for everyone.
The outcomes of our collaboration immediately stabilized the theater with a predictable revenue stream. With our resident companies, most every weekend throughout the year is booked. This helps with the general upkeep of the facility. It also lets us keep a paid staff for front of house and technical support. Another internal impact is the ensemble feeling in the space. This is vital to how the Academy does things. The Academy Theatre is home for many companies and we help each other out on a regular basis. The shared marketing and fundraising makes for much more successful runs and better sponsorships of productions. We also engage our partners in the idea of outreach to the community over mere presentation. When your community buys in to your process through participation, you get a better product and a more loyal following, the benefits of which flow to all partners. The Academy is mentoring some of our resident companies as they begin to address the learning curve of outreach.
The external impact of our collaboration on the community is a win-win. Instead of just seeing Academy Theatre work our audiences can choose from a Ugandan Orphan Children’s Choir touring company to a Mask and Mine performance about the great female philosopher, mathematician, martyr and healer Hypatia of Alexandria. Because of this collaboration, we are Atlanta’s most eclectic theatre company. Audiences of one group get to experience another’s situation right away.
We have learned so much through our collaboration! We’ve learned that collaborations do, in fact, work! Secondly we’ve learned that the attitude of leaders of each group are crucial to a successful outcome. They need to understand how to communicate and at their basic core they need to genuinely like people. Artists can both have egos and communicate and play nicely if they are respected.
While our collaboration model was created specifically to create programming and events for the community. The Academy has always believed in nurturing and working with artists in the community. Throughout the Academy Theatre’s 55-year history, the concept of ensemble has always been an integral part of the mission. We believe that an ensemble system, which takes as its basis the belief that, the most thought-provoking theatre is created by a group of artists working intimately over a long period of time towards the development of a specific and cohesive style. The current Academy Theatre collaboration has this concept at its heart. By sharing the Academy space with eight resident companies we more effectively use human and financial resources. They get to know each other and can draw on the strengths of each company to strengthen their own work as well as that of the Academy itself. We create for our constituents an incredible diversity of artistic work all in one location.
Our collaboration is young. We expect it to continue to grow and reach new heights of effectiveness in achieving social good for both the community and the collaboration partners.
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
The Academy Theatre’s collaboration currently includes seven (7) organizations. We provide a space and structure that lets our partners plan with us to develop programming a year to 18 months in advance. The security of knowing that resources, personnel, and space are guaranteed enables both the Academy and its partners to plan and present good work. Shared operations are the most effective aspect of our collaboration. These include front of house, technical, and marketing staff shared by the collaboration members. Shared IT services also help the partners. The Academy Theatre handles online ticketing, credit card purchases for both tickets and merchandise, and marketing to all online event websites. Social media marketing is coordinated between the Academy and our partners so that each group captures the benefits of the whole and their particular niche.
Our collaboration was founded in 2005, and after six years we believe that the most important financial aspect of our partnership is the 50/50 split. Costs directly associated with our partners productions are borne equally by The Academy and the Partner. Post cost revenues are then also equally split. This allows our partners to create and present work to the community without having to find upfront rent and focus what funds they have on the artistic product. Also the diversity of our partners makes the programming presented at the Academy some of the most varied in the metro-Atlanta area. The diversity of work and artistic quality of the work are a major benefit to the community.
We’re able to measure our success both through surveys that our audience fills out and the fact that partners consistently renew and we have more demand for partnerships than we can handle!
The Academy Theatre carefully chooses our collaboration partners. We seek partners who want to create something that our audience has yet to see. By bringing together Radio Theatre, Circus Theatre, unusually staged classics, improvisation, and mime and mask theater, in addition to our own provocative work, we provide the community a chance to both experience something new and to find the outlet most satisfying to them.
A natural evolution to our collaboration happened this season 2010-2011 in our Theatre For Youth outreach programs. Since 1961 the Academy Theatre has created original work to tour to schools throughout the southeastern United States. We talked with three (3) of our collaboration partners, inviting them to include their work for students in our tour. We have created a joint promotional flyer marketing all the programs. The Academy Theatre is acting as a booking agent and takes 20% of the booking fee to pay the staff member booking the shows and to cover marketing costs. So far the new outreach collaboration is working well. We hope to include additional collaboration partners in the future.
We believe that biggest benefit to our partners is that they continue to thrive and can still produce good work in this uncertain economic climate rather than merely fundraise. We’re helping our partners improve their shows, which have lead to several groups presenting successfully outside of the metro area. We believe having a home base in which various groups combine resources, knowledge, and people leads to better work that can be done with greater ease.
Each group has the ability to ask the others for all kinds of resources. Working Title Playwrights can get design services for their shows. Academy shows have used the professional wrestlers that train in our studios to choreograph fight scenes. The wrestlers get acting help and movement help from the directors and choreographers who work in the space. Every group occasionally borrows, lighting, projection, props, and sound equipment.
The audiences experience the benefits directly by having a wider variety of programs that are better executed. In this way, our collaborative efforts nourish not only the needs of the artists, but the craving of the public as well!
The current economic climate has had an impact on our immediate community of Avondale Estates. The partnerships have been a key to stabilize our operations. Now, we can face the challenge of medium and long range planning. We have annual meetings with all of our stakeholders and these will result in a more muscular and benchmarked plan of action. We can better incorporate best practices into our planning now that we are not worried about keeping the lights on.