To be or not to be.
Shakespeare penned these six simple words 417 years ago. Uttered by Hamlet, arguably his most famous character, these words have inspired actors, directors, and numerous artistic endeavours. Indeed, they have inspired our own company as we continue to grow.
Why is this simple phrase so fascinating, so inspiring? Because it leaves one with a choice.
Recently, for the first time, I encountered these words leaving me with a most profound sadness, prompting this post. Here I want to share with you two photos which embody what it means for a theatre community To Be or Not To Be.
In 2013, Chickspeare co-produced Twelfth Night with Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. Simply put, without Actor’s Theatre, this production would not have happened, or if so, certainly not with the level of grandeur that it did.
It is common knowledge in the Arts community that the amount of theatre space available for companies to share their Art with Charlotte’s public is limited, at best. Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has been one of these rare places; providing both rehearsal space and a voice for Charlotte area theatre, music and dance companies.
Over the past 12 years, this theatre has provided a space for Chickspeare, Playing For Others, Over The Counter Improv, The Groove Masters, Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works Dance Company, Epic Arts, Charlotte School of Rock, Four String Serenade and numerous others. They are recognized across the country as a conduit for new playwrights and new plays with Nu Voices. Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte enabled every artist that has come to their space…to thrive.
Recently I encountered a photo, seen here, with the caption, “To be or not…”. A truncated version of Shakespeare’s existential phrase, yes, but a caption that filled me with sadness. An empty stage with bits and pieces of the theatre itself strewn about. An empty stage, in a soon-to-be empty building, on a soon-to-be empty parcel of land. Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, a theatre company that provided a place for so many in the Charlotte Arts Community, now struggles to find a home. And as such, we – every company that was given a space to produce, and all those hoping to produce, on Actor’s Theatre’s stage – are now looking for a home.
These past few days I’ve encountered stories, articles, and posts across social media from local artists, audience members, writers, as well as a piece in American Theatre Magazine. All share the same thread of disbelief that a thriving theatre company cannot find a home in the city to which it offers so much.
We as a community need to look to those who are our city’s caretakers and to those who advocate for our Arts Community for hope. Hope that these leaders will help this theatre company navigate a path towards a new home. Hope that they will help ATC find a home we all so desperately need in Charlotte.
It is our hope that this theatre, our company or one of the many companies that graced Actor’s Theatre’s stage has touched some aspect of your life, be it as an artist or as an audience member. If so, we humbly ask that you reach out to our city’s leaders on behalf of this theatre in need.
Below you will find a sample letter drafted by Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. It can be copy and pasted into an email, letter, or post, and directed to our city’s leaders and decision makers. We have a choice.
Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte: To Be or Not To Be. For Charlotte, that is the question. A question that only you can answer.
I write to you today as a member of the great city of Charlotte, NC and as a concerned citizen of the theatre arts community.
I would like to bring to your attention that this city is in grave danger of losing yet another theatre company.
The property which has been home to Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has been sold (to make way for even more uptown condominiums). The company very much needs assistance in securing and relocating to a new building.
Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has been producing in the area for 27 seasons, the last 12 of which have been in the second ward area of uptown Charlotte. The company has afforded me and many other citizens the opportunity to either attend or be a part of over 135 professionally produced shows. The quality of work and the commitment of the company to the City of Charlotte and her peoples have been exemplary. Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has an honored and very well respected national image, which has done much to improve the national viewpoint of theatre in the region. And as a financial catalyst, they have injected the local economy with over $8 million over the last 12 years alone.
It seems to me that a theatrical performing arts company with an impeccable performance and financial record would be regarded as an asset to this city. And I would like to ask you to personally look into what can be done to prevent the City of Charlotte from losing its largest, most successful professional theatre company for adults. If Actor’s Theatre closes, it will be the third theatre company to close in this city in recent history and make Charlotte the only city of her size not to have an adult professional company.
I am a proud citizen of this city and all it has to offer, but losing yet another theatre company is not good for the arts, not good for the people, and certainly not an acceptable way to show the residents of this city, state and the rest of the country that we believe in and support a strong theatrical presence here in Charlotte.
I look forward to what you and your staff can accomplish in this matter.
Leave a Comment