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HomeDanceStage Door Theatre’s new leaders look ahead to recent concepts and perspective

Stage Door Theatre’s new leaders look ahead to recent concepts and perspective

Within the wake of COVID-19 and the three-day City Corridor for Racial Reckoning occasions from summer season 2020, quite a lot of Atlanta space theaters look completely different nowadays. Maybe no firm has modified, nevertheless, greater than the Dunwoody-based Stage Door Theatre over the previous few years, not simply in identify however when it comes to personnel. 

Robert Egizio, who served as the corporate’s inventive director for 16 years, was furloughed in 2020, with the board citing a lack of income because of the pandemic. Then, Willie E. Jones III, whom the board employed in March 2021, resigned simply after Thanksgiving. Now Justin Ball is on the helm of the corporate, which modified its named from Stage Door Gamers in 2021 to replicate its new path. 

Ball began as the manager director simply over a 12 months in the past and is now the manufacturing inventive director. Earlier than shifting right here, he was concerned with Manhattan Theatre Membership in a number of capacities, taught theater administration and directing at New York College’s Tisch Faculty of the Arts and served as managing director for Connecticut’s Sharon Playhouse. After shifting to Atlanta in 2017 when his daughter was born, he began in search of a job when she was of faculty age. He likens his new gig to that of Sharon Playhouse. “What’s so unbelievable about Stage Door is having a direct influence on our neighbors and being an arts group that serves our full group,” he says. 

Stage Door’s growth director is Joey Davila, who has additionally been with the corporate for simply over a 12 months. A Horizon Theatre apprentice who has labored with different space theaters, he got here aboard in a part-time place, writing grants and advertising and marketing. Different tasks got here up, although, together with serving as an AD on some reveals.  “(For me), it turned a love for a constructing,” Davila says. “It’s a cool group. I virtually by no means see a theater with a historical past on this metropolis get a reboot.” Rounding out the full-time employees are Lilly Baxley, manufacturing supervisor, and Grace VandeWaa, director of schooling. 

Stage Door Directors
Stage Door’s growth director, Joey Davila, has been with the corporate for simply over a 12 months.

It’s been a busy final 12 months for the employees, together with choosing the 49th season. The objective with the choices, says Ball, was to have what he calls slightly one thing for everyone. “We’ve such a wide-ranging group right here in Dunwoody, and one factor that has been lacking from our programming has been reveals you’ll be able to carry youngsters to and household pleasant programming,” he says. 

Working by October 16 is Adam Gwon’s Strange Days, a feel-good, light-hearted musical about 4 younger New Yorkers whose lives intersect. It’s directed by Keena Redding. Additionally within the 2022-2023 slate is Ken Ludwig’s Twas the Night time Earlier than Christmas; Itamar Moses’ Completeness, a nerdy love story/romantic comedy directed by Davila; Eleanor Burgess’ The Niceties, about incidents that occurred at Yale in 2016 between a White professor and a younger Black scholar; and Rick Elice and Wayne Barker’s musical, Peter and the Star Catcher.

One other challenge, which started as a part of the corporate’s 48th season, has been launching the Performing Arts Academy. Response has been robust — final 12 months, 32 youngsters enrolled within the firm’s summer season camps, and this summer season noticed greater than 200, with each a junior and senior firm. Most reveals offered out. “In a single 12 months, we have now created a significant system that was missing in Dunwoody and has been obtained very properly by the group,” Ball says. Stage Door has additionally just lately gone into negotiations with Dunwoody Springs Elementary Faculty to create a bilingual pilot after-school drama program. Curriculum is being developed now and will likely be carried out subsequent spring.

Together with these new efforts has come a brand new mission. “Our focus earlier than was to placed on a high-quality important stage season, and the earlier administrations did a bang-up job of that,” says Ball. “A part of the explanation I used to be introduced in was to determine the best way to develop that programming to incorporate extra issues.” As such, his focus has been on three areas. First is the inventive season, which features a Highlight sequence with native artists and organizations and an inaugural partnership with Dad’s Storage, who will stage six occasions at Stage Door this season. The second is the aforementioned schooling component, and the third is to be a cultural arts heart. “Our constructing says we’re a cultural arts heart, however it hasn’t had a lot which means behind it. Internally, we wish to do extra cross-promoting and work with different organizations.”

Each Ball and Davila need the eye on Stage Door to be on the long run however understandably nonetheless get questions in regards to the previous. Egizio was the face of Stage Door for many individuals and is credited for the corporate’s development. When he was furloughed, patrons and native theater members voiced displeasure at how the scenario was dealt with. 

“As somebody who thinks it’s vital to know the historical past of the group, I’ve gotten to listen to some fantastic tales about Robert from ushers and patrons and longtime supporters. It seems like he was a unbelievable inventive director and did some fantastic issues, however I additionally suppose persons are actually excited in regards to the new packages and path.”

Stage Door Theatre
“Strange Days” director Keena Redding says Stage Door Theatre now feels extra welcoming.

Final 12 months, the board introduced in Willie Jones III, who was younger and shortly deliberate a season filled with classical theater, together with some Shakespeare. After his departure, Stage Door board chair Don Boyken instructed ArtsATL that whereas Jones’ September 2021 model of Romeo and Juliet “got here throughout OK,” it wasn’t a moneymaker. When the board determined to scrap Jones’ deliberate variations of The Miser, Twelfth Night time and The Tempest, Jones mentioned that he’d quite do extra Shakespeare than go along with the path the board needed and resigned.

Ball doesn’t wish to speak a lot about that scenario. “There’s a motive Willie was employed, and there’s a motive he’s now not right here, and I’m not going past that. What I hope [people] will take away is the intentionality wherein we’re approaching it — that we are attempting to indicate illustration by the artists we’re selecting to work with, each as administrators and playwrights, and by the employees and college we’re hiring. We can have an motion plan quickly and [our] present actions hopefully converse volumes to the path we are attempting to go.”

Like another space playhouses, Stage Door has been considered as a White theater — and Davila is working to handle that difficulty.

“In our talks with the board to evaluate that, to hearken to that scenario, we have been fortunate sufficient to have some people go to and lead a DEI panel — [Theatrical Outfit’s associate artistic director] Addae Moon, Redding [Horizon Theatre’s development manager] and a number of the Academy companions. Addae mentioned it’s important to begin admitting there are issues. Sure, we have been considered as a White theater for some time. When you pay attention and say the scary factor, it turns into a lot simpler to take sensible steps to maneuver previous that.”

The corporate is engaged on verbiage for an motion plan to have on the Stage Door web site, however for Davila, it’s equally as important to work internally to construct a safer and extra positively impactful surroundings for everyone. 

No White males will direct as a part of the brand new season, which Davila thinks is a crucial first step to re-integrate into the society of Atlanta and re-welcome individuals into the constructing. “Keena mentioned that when she auditioned at Stage Door 10 years in the past, she didn’t really feel welcome, and she or he says it feels completely different now,” says Davila. “I need each artist who walks into the constructing to really feel welcome and revered.” 

Subsequent 12 months will mark the 50th season for Stage Door. “Not many organizations make it,” says Ball, who admits an improve to the power is within the works. He and his staff are additionally growing a cell unit to carry arts schooling to senior facilities, hospitals and colleges. No matter has occurred up to now, he is able to blaze his personal path.  “Like most arts organizations, we stand on the shoulders of those that got here earlier than us. I really feel grateful for many who preceded me right here and the trail they’ve paved, however I’m excited for a brand new chapter and to place my stamp on the group.”


Jim Farmer covers theater and movie for ArtsATL. A graduate of the College of Georgia, he has written in regards to the arts for 30-plus years. Jim is the competition director of Out on Movie, Atlanta’s LGBTQ movie competition. He lives in Avondale Estates together with his husband, Craig, and canine, Douglas.



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