Bring community theater back to Fayette

Michael Boylan's picture

Back in the day - we’re talking before I had kids, so at least eight years ago, if not more, I was fairly involved with the local arts scene. I was handling the Names and Faces section, like I am today, and I knew the heads of the local community theaters and the players that were trying to get a theater built in Fayette County. I attended meetings, talked with people on the Endowment Committee for the Cultural Arts, and really wanted to help make a push for Fayette County to recognize the efforts of these groups and individuals.

There was enthusiasm all around but it petered out. Plans for several types of theaters in a variety of locations fell through. There were festivals but they were not in the heart of the community (literally and figuratively, I suppose) and several local theater groups disbanded because there was no established place to perform and the places that were available were cost prohibitive.

A few things stepped up in their place - Legacy Theatre in Tyrone, Twilight Theatre, A Company of Friends - but there is still a lack of a true community theater space, one that is open to use by all groups. I think this is a tragedy because you can look around Fayetteville, either downtown or down Georgia Highway 85, and see plenty of open spaces that could be used or converted into usable theater space - spaces that have been empty for years and years.

A community should have a place for the arts and I think theater has to be a centerpiece, but the fine arts tend to get short shrift around here as well. There are two venues for music and they are dark for most of the year. There are a few art galleries, but most art gazing takes place at a few festivals in the spring and summer. In an area known for its plethora of recreation spaces and activities, it astounds me that we have no space in the community to perform or showcase these works and talents.

I’m not proposing a tax or any kind of handouts, but I do think that interested parties need to gather and start to hammer out a solution. If resources are pooled, rent for some of these spaces can be paid (a discount from the landlord would be welcomed, especially since some of these locations haven’t been making a dime for years on end anyway) and a plan for success can be plotted. I think the key is to start small and keep working towards a bigger goal. Put on several shows that cost nothing (Shakespeare) or almost nothing and sock all the money from admission, etc. away to keep the organization growing.

It’s nice that we can see professional theater at The Legacy and we can see a show or two at The Fred each summer, but the goal should be year round opportunities for youth and adults to perform or work crew, build friendships and learn about the theater and arts while doing it. There has been such a void in this county for so long that we forget that a mere presence of a community theater does wonders to promote the arts year round. It is also an asset to a community that is trying to attract families to move here and businesses to locate here.

It’s not going to happen over night but it will happen if all of the people who were involved before get reinvigorated and use the power of social media (something that didn’t even exist last time there was a push for building a theater or creating an arts group) to come together and get started.

If you’re one of the people interested in bringing community theater back to Fayette County and trying to establish a permanent space, send me an e-mail at mboylan@thecitizen.com and we’ll get started.