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Dad’s Garage Theatre’s BIPOC vow coincides with theater artists’ statement

David Pendered
Dad's Garage Theatre Dad's Garage Theatre has recommitted to uplifting Black, indigenous and people of color when it is able to safely reopen the theater's doors . Credit: Kelly Jordan

By David Pendered

Dad’s Garage Theatre has recommitted itself to expanding opportunities for Black, indigenous and people of color as part of a forward looking statement on the future of the popular intown stage.

Dad's Garage Theatre

Dad’s Garage Theatre has recommitted to uplifting Black, indigenous and people of color when it is able to safely reopen the theater’s doors . Credit: Kelly Jordan

The theater observed in a statement:

  • “Dad’s Garage remains committed to uplifting the work of Black and indigenous people of color. This includes producing shows by and about people of color, and connecting them with opportunities for professional growth. We know organizations run by or serving BIPOC individuals haven’t had access to the same capital we have, and we hope to see more funding opportunities for these organizations in our community.”

The theater’s vow comes as a fast-growing movement of BIPOC theater artists decries white supremacy and racism in the industry in a statement and a petition. The document is included in a broader movement outlined in, We See You, White American Theater.

An Atlanta connection to the statement appears in the form not of Kenny Leon’s signature on the document, but the signature of Blair Underwood – who was starring in A Soldier’s Play, which Leon was directing before the pandemic closed the American Airlines Theatre, on West 42nd Street in New York.

In Atlanta, Leon served as artistic director of the Alliance Theatre and founded True Colors Theater Co., the latter for the purpose of celebrating Black storytelling.

The BIPOC statement contends it continues the legacy of August Wilson’s famed remarks at Princeton University. The 1996 speech, The Ground on Which I Stand, observed, “We can meet on the common ground of the American theatre,” before reaching this penultimate paragraph:

  • “I believe in the American theatre. I believe in its power to inform about the human condition, I believe in its power to heal, ‘to hold the mirror as ’twere up to nature,’ to the truths we uncover, to the truths we wrestle from uncertain and sometimes unyielding realities. All of art is a search for ways of being, of living life more fully.”

Dad’s Garage Theatre’s statement also addresses the realities of a running a regionally significant stage in these unprecedented times.

For starters, the theater announced plans to partially reopen as early as October – pandemic permitting. The date could be in late Spring. When theater doors do open, they are likely to admit smaller crowds than in the past; patrons are likely to practice social distancing and wear masks.

Meantime, the theater has received federal financial relief that has enabled to retain its full-time staff, with no disruption of pay or benefits. The theater has scrapped together resources to pay part-timer workers, particularly creative types who have lost other paying gigs.

Dad’s Garage has used the down time for maintenance projects and the same types of cleaning projects that have kept others busy at home. The roof has been replaced, which is significant because this is the type of job that can’t be done when the building is open for business. A prop designer is organizing props, which the statement describes as, “a gargantuan task that we’ve needed to do for years.” To improve sanitation, a fogging system like that used in commercial airplanes has been installed, along with modifications to the ventilation system in order to better clean recirculated air. Touchless devices have been added in bathrooms and registers.

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David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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