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Arts & Culture

San Antonio's Theater Scene is Long on Space, Short on Productions

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Brad Adams and Gloria Molina-Sanchez in AtticRep’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Photo: , License: N/A

Dru Barcus and Brendan Spieth in Classic Theatre’s Scapin

And some theaters, including the Cameo, Overtime, and Woodlawn theaters, operate with no grants at all. Relying solely on the box office, each maintains its own quarters. Cameo Theatre, located on the East Side near Hemisfair Park, like Woodlawn Theatre, runs a main theater and a second, smaller, space. Both are community theaters, putting out five-week runs for their big houses, producing musicals, and paying their staff. Actors at Cameo, however, receive only stipends, while actors at Woodlawn, at present, forego pay altogether. Both theaters are aggressive marketers, and add late night cabaret shows to their line ups. Woodlawn has recently become nonprofit, and though it will not qualify for grants until it has been so for three years, general manager Greg Hinojosa points to its Academy of Performing Arts, their educational branch, and the progressive work at Woodlawn’s Black Box Theater as signs that the Deco District theater is already on the road to fulfilling expectations of nonprofit performing arts contributions.

But what of the Overtime, forced to leave before the latest construction at the Blue Star Arts Complex? Operating in a new facility near the Pearl they built out with funds from a Kickstarter campaign, they now have two performing spaces and a lobby that is open to the public even during rehearsals. Operating on an entirely volunteer basis, they are getting by, but their success story is not primarily a financial one.

Producing entirely original material by local playwrights such as Scott McDowell, Rob Barron, and Gregg Barrios, the Overtime is a hive of innovation. Rather than using the rental model, Overtime depends on partnerships to fill their two stages. In addition to their own company, Proxy Theatre and short form innovators The Aesthetic of Waste are residents in The Overtime’s complex, once an office building. The Overtime has become its own micro-district for theater. Now, with the required three years under their belt as a nonprofit, they will be getting into the grant game soon. Let’s hope that if they become another contender, they don’t lose the hunger that has kept them alive despite adversity that would have finished a more traditional company.

While it’s still a hardscrabble existence for most local theater companies, opportunities for growth appear to be opening up, somewhat surprisingly. Lainey Berkus, public relations officer for ACE, the for-profit company that manages the Charline McCombs Empire and Majestic Theatres, points out, “When the Symphony moves to the Tobin, we are reaching out to the San Antonio arts community to fill those dates.” Whether the City, which owns the twin theaters, will ever raise the curtain on some sort of support to enable theater arts in San Antonio to take advantage of that promising, but costly opportunity is TBD: to be determined.

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