Debts threaten future of theater

By Mia Proli Gable

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The downtown business and art community in Tucson seems to be flourishing. With the recent surge of new bars and cafes and the increasingly popular Downtown Saturday Night, this approximately-one-square-mile of Tucson is taking off. But not everything downtown is on the up and up a.k.a. Theatre is in danger of closing.

The a.k.a. Theatre is a small experimental theater located in the heart of downtown at 125 E. Congress. It was founded nine years ago by Meg Nolan and her friends. Since then it has produced diverse plays that range from the classic to the slightly erotic, from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead to Jerker. The theater has survived in a business climate that isn't always friendly to its residents.

"It's pretty much survival of the fittest down here and I've seen a lot of places come and go. I hope we're not going to go too," said Nolan, now the theater's artistic director.

a.k.a. is threatened by debts and necessary building repairs and upgrades. They need to raise about $40,000 dollars by the end of the company's next production, Marvin's Room, which closes on April 23.

Nolan said that the debt is not astronomical, but the theater needs to pay employees, actors and create more paid positions. Shooting for a $40,000 goal will break the "hand-to-mouth cycle" the theater has been experiencing for the last nine years, says Nolan.

"I work my volunteers very hard," she said, "and they are very professional." But, sometimes they bite off more than they can chew and burn out. "It's difficult to manage volunteers in a stressful business and it would be easier to manage the theater if they were getting some kind of paycheck."

Nolan is optimistic. She has planned the next ten productions at the theater and talks as if it will still be there at the end of April. a.k.a. Theatre's Board of Directors has planned fund-raisers, including an open house.

Besides the financial needs, the threat of closure is not just about patron support. It's not just about Nolan, a woman who has two jobs, besides being artistic director. It's about freedom.

"It's about having a place available for a forum. People don't realize that their civil liberties are being taken away. Free speech is the basis of everything, the foundation of all our rights. If you take that away, what's left?" Nolan said.

Nolan truly believes in the experience of live theater and the important place art holds in society. "A culture without art is not a culture. Culture conotates art. It's what makes us more God-like. Without this uplifting experience, what are we?"

Anyone wanting to support the a.k.a. Theatre or make reservations for Marvin's Room can contact the theatre at 623-7852 for information.

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