Being an active member and supporter of the performing arts in and around Cobb County, I am troubled to find that Theater in the Square is experiencing financial difficulty. I am troubled, but not surprised. The current state of the economy has taken a heavy toll on the support of the arts, and community theater in particular.
In Cobb County and the surrounding area, casualties among true community theaters have been high this year. We have seen Kudzu Theater and Rosewater Theater, both in Roswell, forced to close their doors. Though they were not in Cobb County, my experiences with them indicated that they served a great many Cobb County theater goers. Though Theater in the Square is not a community theater, as the term is commonly used, it is an important anchor, and in many cases, sets the standards of quality the others emulate.
For those curious about the distinction, we generally do not refer to a theater which has a paid staff as a “community theater”. A community theater, as it is recognized, is normally staffed totally with volunteers and is mostly inactive, except during preparation for and presentation of a production. The drawback to having no paid staff is that it renders them ineligible for most grants.
Blackwell Theater, in Cobb County, a later version of the Little General Theater, of some years back, was forced to close this past year. Though others now occupy the building, it requires two separate theater groups to keep it open. There is the ongoing expense of rent on the building, as well as utilities, insurance, etc, to be contended with, and the only source of revenue is ticket sales.
It appears that the groups most able to survive are those with zero ongoing expenses. Two such examples, which also happen to be the two longest continually performing groups in Cobb County, are Polk Street Players, with a theater in the basement of St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Marietta, and CenterStage North, which currently rents performance space in The Art Place-Mountainview on Sandy Plains Road, behind the Mountainview Library. Both these groups have been performing for well over thirty years. They have virtually no expense except when presenting a play.
I ma not sure what the solution to the problem is, short of a sudden change in the economy, or a sudden increase in the number of people supporting the arts, by attending the performances, but I do know that the performing arts in Cobb County would suffer greatly were Theater in the Square to be forced to close, as it would be for any other theater to be forced to close.
I guess, what I am trying to say is, that if you appreciate live theater, and can see your way clear to help Theater in the Square, please do so. Failing that, or in addition to that, please continue to support them and community theater by your attendance.