Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Young Philly theater companies in need of a place to call home take matters into their own hands.
The economy stagnates, unemployment increases, and government, corporate and foundation arts funding shrinks, while our leaders focus on mutual destruction in the next election. Not a great time to open a new theater space, right?
"The planets really aligned on this one," Azuka Theatre artistic director Kevin Glaccum explains of the kitschily named Off-Broad Street Consortium — a group of six small professional theater companies, including Azuka, 11th Hour Theatre Co., Brat Productions, EgoPo Classic Theater, Inis Nua Theatre Co. and Mauckingbird Theatre Co. — and its rise from a humble idea to an ideal home.
Glaccum says Off-Broad Street was formed "basically to do marketing" for the six homeless but increasingly successful companies, which all hire union actors, raking in rave reviews and Barrymore Award nominations. Then last spring, A. Robert Jaeger of Partners for Sacred Places, which matches arts organizations with churches looking for partners, contacted the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Were any of the Alliance's 140 member companies looking for space?
Soon, the match was made: First Baptist Church at 17th and Sansom streets will convert a large, high-ceiling room into a 100-seat theater, and all six companies will have office space in the building. In October, Azuka makes the first move, baptizing the as-yet-unnamed space with Jordan Harrison's Act a Lady (Nov. 3-20), followed by local playwright Genne Murphy's Hope Street and Other Lonely Places in March. "We're first, so we go in and face all the kinks," jokes Glaccum. "I'm so excited, I'm probably overlooking how horrific the move will be."
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