Thursday, August 22, 2013

A crazy idea, for my theatre friends

This is for all my theatre friends in the Atlanta/Fulton County area.

Now if you know me, you know that I love theatre. I have been onstage, backstage, in the box office, on a theatre board, and many, many times just in the audience. I married a beautiful actress that I met while doing Shakespeare, and many of my dearest friends are theatre folk. I've been excited to support community theatre, professional theatre, educational theatre, puppetry, dance, and more.

This is about the news that the Fulton County Arts Council almost lost their funding from the county recently. At the recent County Commission meeting, it came down to a decision between supporting the actors or new beds for the women's prison, and it looks like some of those ladies are just going to have to sleep on the floor for a bit. So, if you're a woman in Fulton County, try not to go to jail, okay?

You know that I love and support the arts. At the same time, my wife and I have been listening to a lot of Dave Ramsey, and he's good for that tough love, telling people about the hard things they need to do in order to get to the place where they can do what they really want. "What they really want" may not be self-serving, it may be serving others. He's a big proponent of the idea that you can't help your neighbor out of the sinking sand unless you first get yourself on solid ground.

Let's be honest: Fulton County, Atlanta, and a lot of municipalities around the country are not exactly on solid ground lately. I won't get into the political ins and outs, but the bottom line is, tax revenues have dropped as home values have fallen and citizens have been struggling to keep their own heads above water, many of them unemployed or underemployed. Many of us have heard about Atlanta's recent "Drama-geddon", the crisis of all of the local theatres who just couldn't afford to keep the doors open and lights on. Blame Bush, blame Obama, blame the Easter Bunny, I don't care. It is what it is, and we have to live in the times that we are given and do great things. As my Avenger-fan friends might say, we are burdened with glorious purpose.

So, here's my question: What can my friends in the theatre world do to help their communities financially? Is there any way you can use your skills and gifts to help your neighbors, so that they might be better able to support the arts? Many of us have seen that the communities that get the most out of educational theatre have the least means to support it. What more can be done to help them?

Here's one idea that came to mind, just off the top of my head. We've got some great theatre programs out there for teaching children and adults about physical health, mental health and well-being, and even sexual health. But what about financial health? I know it sounds like a boring topic, but I have faith in anyone who can make "eat more veggies" into a cool topic. Besides, financial crisis can destroy a life and a family as surely as drugs and stress.

Can we work to put both predatory payday lenders and drug dealers out of business in bad neighborhoods, by attacking the demand for their services? Can we maybe get a community bank or credit union to sponsor a Financial Health Educational Theatre Program? This would be good for the banks, good for the people, and more work opportunities for the actors.

I'm just trying to put out an idea here. If anyone knows of someone that's already doing this, I'd be excited to hear about it. And if someone wants to take this idea and run with it, good luck!