My Favorite Patron by Sarah Deckhttps://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/DSC03666-scaled.jpg60004000Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Sarah Deck is our new Director of Patron Services and Rentals for The Grand Opera House. Check out her perspective on what it’s like to give service to a historic institution:
For better or worse, patrons are what make the job interesting. If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, than you know exactly what I mean. When I was college student, I worked in the box office at The Grand as a Box Office Clerk. I answered the phones during my shifts, meaning I was interacting with our patrons directly on a regular basis.
On this particular day, I received a phone call from an older man looking to buy tickets to see Gregg Allman play. As I helped him pick out his seats, this kind man regaled me with his tales of the past. He told me about how he had also went to Mercer University, lived next door to Gregg when he was younger, saw the Allman Brothers play at a small club downtown where he talked with the band, and so on.
Before he got off the phone, he told me how much he appreciated me taking the time to listen to him. He said that it was important to tell these stories to keep Macon’s history alive. I couldn’t have agreed more! As a lifelong Maconite (and Allman Brothers fan) it was such a special treat for me to take his phone call and learn his history.
For the first time since I had started working at the Grand, I felt like I was a part of something larger than myself.
Just by answering that call and being willing to listen, I was able to create a great experience for this patron. We made a connection that truly made me love working at The Grand Opera House and interacting with patrons. Nearly six years later, my love for The Grand and our patrons has only grown as I have moved up from Box Office Clerk all the way to the incoming Director of Patron Services and Rentals.
As I settle into my new position, I hope to continue to create amazing patron experiences for each person who walks through the door. If there is anything I can do to help make your experience GRAND don’t hesitate to let me know!
She does more than sell tickets. Want to plan a special event – like a birthday private movie screening, a historic downtown wedding reception, or the perfect community concert? Contact Sarah here to stop dreaming and start doing.
Overheard at The Grandhttps://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/IMG_8065-scaled.jpg40323024Joe PattiJoe Pattihttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/03401aa2173878ced48e14765e318635?s=96&d=mm&r=g
We hear lots of chatter in The Grand lobby when working events. Here, Executive Director Joe Patti explains some of the phrases that come to mind from patrons.
I have lived here all my life, but never been inside – This is the most common phrase heard at theaters and arts organizations across the world. It’s fine if you haven’t been inside before. Often, our lives and interests aren’t aligned with everything going on in our community — then suddenly you want to be part of it all and enjoy it so much you can’t imagine why you didn’t start years ago. This doesn’t just apply to the arts, it could be discovering an appreciation for local walking trails or a type of cuisine.
Many times people are proud to live in a community where places like The Grand Opera House, The Douglass Theatre, the Tubman Museum, Museum of Arts and Sciences, cool downtown life and businesses exist. They may not go to these places often, but they will brag about how great their town is to their friends. It all contributes to a sense of excitement and vitality.
WOW! So we have heard that a lot in the last couple years when people first walked into the renovated restrooms. People were really suffering under the old building configuration, and we were happy we were able to remedy that. More frequently, we hear some version of “Wow” when people walk into the theater. Sometimes it is visitors from out of town, but last week it was local scouts for film and TV productions looking to film in Macon. We had two different productions come in to look on consecutive days last week, and they both seemed to be excited by what they saw.
I never knew The Grand was a safe space. This was a specific comment made to me over lunch. And my response was that maybe it wasn’t prior to the last few years. Since I started as executive director three years ago, we have been working to make The Grand more welcoming to everyone in the community. As bad as Covid was, one benefit it provided was that people’s expectations and perception of The Grand began to change. As we offered different types of programming than we had in the past and received a good response, the idea of what The Grand should be and who it should be has shifted.
This has happened before in our history. When The Allman Brothers first started playing here, there was grumbling that people were wearing jeans and t-shirts to The Grand. Now, like so much of Macon, it is hard to imagine The Grand not being a part of Allman Brothers history. Not only does that history continues today with performances of Allman Betts Band or Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association’s annual festival, but back in the ’70s, Gregg Allman and Cher bought a house called “The Grand Topper” whose proceeds went to support saving The Grand.
I didn’t know that about The Grand! With 116 years of history, there is a lot that has happened here, like horses racing on a treadmill for a production of Ben-Hur, Harry Houdini cutting a trap door in the floor, ghost tales, and the long relationship with Nutcracker of Middle Georgia and Macon Civic Club performances.
The staff knows a lot of the stories, but even we learn new things. Up until about five years ago, we were claiming the Grand was built in 1884. This assumed our building was constructed on the foundation of the Academy of Music building which preceded it. Only to find out in our most recent renovation that The Grand probably doesn’t even have a basement wall in common with the older theater.
Outdoor Pop-Up Theatre and Film Event at The Grand Highlights Georgians Living with Disabilitieshttps://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/204801266_1437532169917461_3923503468572140782_n.jpg19731409Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
June 23, 2021 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Julia Rubens, firstname.lastname@example.org or 478-301-2933
Outdoor Pop-Up Theatre and Film Event at The Grand
Highlights Georgians Living with Disabilities
MACON – A free outdoor film and pop-up theatre event called Treasure Maps: The Georgia Storytelling Roadshowwill take place at The Grand Opera House this Saturday, June 26 at 7:30 PM. The event includes local celebrity hosts, food trucks, and storytelling that will feature 10 Georgians living and thriving with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
The feature of the roadshow evening will be a screening of Treasure Maps, a film collage of experiences with an up-close and personal viewpoint into what it’s like navigating the complex webs of life in our communities as a person with a developmental disability. Themes include starting your own business, friendship, going to college, alienation and acceptance, dealing with the physical aspects of disability, and how transformative living a full inclusion life can be.
The show is touring in six cities across Georgia, and chose Macon as one of the spots to advocate and present the free performance. Appearing alongside StoryMuse Founder/Creative Director Shannon Turner is local co-host George McCanless, President/CEO of United Way of Central Georgia with show marshal Tamika Woods of River Edge Behavioral Health.
Before the show, there will be food trucks serving barbecue, shaved ice, and snacks, as well as music from BluePrint Productions and a moment honoring local music legend Newton Collier. Gates open at 7:30 PM with the show starting at 9 PM.
Irene Turner of the Treasure Maps team notes, “Watching these stories all together is so fun; they create a gorgeous patchwork quilt, revealing pieces of the beautiful complexity of what it’s like to live with a disability in this state.”
Treasure Maps is proudly presented by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities and L’arche Atlanta. Free tickets can be reserved here.
The Grand Opera House is a vibrant community-assembly resource for all residents of Macon-Bibb County, as well as a draw for cultural tourism that significantly impacts the success of Macon’s downtown and corresponding economic vitality. It is our mission to nurture an appreciation of the arts in all citizens of Central Georgia, especially its youngest citizens, through attracting the presentation of quality productions as well as an immersion into a treasured architectural artifact that reflects 133 years of Macon’s history. And finally, as a performing arts center of Mercer University, the Grand Opera House seeks to champion excellence as the premiere theatrical venue in Central Georgia.
Nikki’s Last Nugget (of Wisdom)https://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/IMG_3697-scaled.jpg40323024Nikki VincentNikki Vincenthttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/b891c0a84675a2a5c492408f87408243?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Nikki Vincent has been with The Grand Opera House for almost 10 years, starting as a student ticket clerk while attending Mercer University before moving steadily up to run the entire box office and front of house operations. Today is her last day and we will dearly miss her!
I have considered The Grand Opera House my home for quite some time. Heck, even my iPhone thinks the Grand’s address is “home” because I am here more often than I am at my actual home. I have had the amazing opportunity of coming to work in this beautiful venue for the last eight years, and so next week when I drive past it to a new work home, it will be bittersweet.
Throughout my time here I have been able to meet and interact with so many individuals and organizations and they have had a significant impact on my life. In fact, if it were not for The Grand Opera House, I would not have recognized that a passion for the arts and entertainment can turn into a career. I shudder at the thought of where I would be now had I not had the opportunity to step into the box office and dive head first into the world of arts and venue management.
So at the risk of sounding all sappy, I wanted to leave you all with a couple of thoughts.
To my patrons: You will never know how much you mean to me. You are the reason why I looked forward to coming to work each and every day. You made 14 hour long event days worth it. Seeing your joy when coming through the doors and getting to know you on a personal level is what dreams are made of. I’ll miss our conversations at the box office and hanging out with you in the lobby at intermission, but don’t think you’ve seen the last of me. I may be your seat neighbor one day.
To my student clerks, past and present: Thank you. Thank you for your patience with me when I first stepped into the role of Box Office Assistant. Funny enough, some of you (looking at you Bos) have been with me for a very long time. Many of you witnessed the creation and development of a manager and a leader. Some of you saw my great days. Some of you witnessed chaos. Many of you were my guinea pigs as I was navigating those first few years. You aremy rock stars. Thank you for letting me grow and learn, and thank you for being willing to grown and learn with me. You all are going to do amazing things, and I cannot wait to see you flourish!
To my staff: I love you dearly. I don’t think I can say enough how much I truly value your friendships in and outside of the office. You all have been a second family to me. You have seen me on my best and worst days, and loved me through it all. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to serve alongside you. We may have been a small crew, but together we were mighty. I’m going to miss having you all around and I fully intend on maintaining my gif queen status in group texts.
While I may be leaving my office at The Grand, I will not be leaving my beautiful hometown of Macon, GA. I will still be here, supporting the arts, entertainment, and other organizations here in Macon. Feel free to reach out to me (comment on this post if you would like my personal email or ask one of our current staff) if you ever need an event buddy.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where I am going… I will be stepping into the role of Director of Ticketing for Spectra, overseeing ticketing at the Macon Centreplex, Macon City Auditorium, and the Flint River Entertainment Complex in Albany.
Film and Cabaret Packages on Sale Now!https://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/blogcover-1.png1080720Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
OUR 2021-2022 SEASON IS COMING UP Looking for some arts and entertainment events to liven up your routine? We want to get on your calendar early. Picture yourself at The Grand: A beautiful historic venue that livens up any date night or family outing into an instantly memorable experience. We have the return of several Grand favorites and put tickets on sale for yearly packages you won’t be able to pass up. We’re also announcing an exciting new family-friendly program that hopes to expand the reach of arts and culture in Macon.
The Grand 2021-2022 Film Series
There will be something for everyone in the 2021-2022 Film Series, which features classic films and nostalgia trips you won’t want to miss – including our Viewer’s Choice film that our fans have been voting for all month. As usual, movies will be just $5 and you get one admission totally free with our Movie Pass, which gives five mix-and-match passes for $20! This pass can be redeemed any film, any way. We also have a Family pass for $60 – this includes 20 admissions for when the kids need a night out or the whole family is in town, and breaks down to a 40% savings per ticket! The Movie Pass is the only way to get early access to The Rocky Horror Picture Show with LIVE shadow cast!
10/15/2021 – Hocus Pocus
10/30/2021 – Rocky Horror Picture Show (with live shadow cast)
12/17/2021 – The Princess Bride
1/14/2022 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
2/25/2022 – Monty Python and The Holy Grail
4/16/2022 – Brat Pack Double Feature (St. Elmos Fire/Pretty in Pink) ($10 admission)
The Movie Pass includes 5 flexible admissions redeemable at any time throughout the season. The Brat Pack Double Feature will use up two admissions on the pass.
Next, we’ll have the themes for our upcoming Broadway Does Cabaret Concert Series. Combine the spellbinding vocal power of Broadway with our casual lounge-style atmosphere and an eclectic mix of popular music genres. A brand-new subscription this year will create an amazingly affordable flexible redemption package for all four Broadway Does Cabaret concerts for just $30 – for the price of many single-night events, you’ll be able to enjoy a whole year’s worth of entertainment!
9/20/2021 – Broadway Does Pride Kickoff (Service Industry Night)
9/23/2021 – Broadway Does Pride FREE Concert on Poplar Street featuring McKinley Starks and Yutoya Leon
11/13/2021 – Broadway Does Holiday
4/1/2022 – Broadway Does the 80’s
5/6/2022 – Broadway Does Soul
Each concert will have early show, 6:30 PM and late show, 8:30 PM. The Broadway Does subscription package includes four admissions redeemable for any show (either the early or late show). Admission will be limited, reserve your tickets soon.
6/26/2021 – Treasure Maps: The Georgia Storytelling Roadshow: Show at 9 PM, house opens at 7:30 PM. Outdoors in parking lot, picnic-style. Free and open to the public.
Treasure Maps is a pop-up, interactive, outdoor theatre taking place in six cities across Georgia!The Treasure Maps show will include live-local hosts, film screening, installations, and interactive activities, all under safe social distancing practices. The roadshow feature is the film screening of Treasure Maps on the big screen. Treasure Maps showcases a collage of ten (10) Georgia storytellers’ experiences with an up-close and personal viewpoint into what it’s like navigating the complex webs of life in our communities as a person with a developmental disability.
10/23-10/24, 2021 – Macon Art Explosion: Event happenings all day. Tickets are $5/day general admission (wristband) and children under 12 are free.
Macon Art Explosion (MAX) wants to push the envelope in an all-day weekend extreme art festival. There will be Maker Merchant Booths to both showcase your wares and to perform interactive art activities. There will be Stage Shout-Out Spots where you can hear a sneak peek to what’s going on with performances, creators, and classes in the region. Finally, Guerrilla Grand Spaces ask what can YOU do to activate a unique space with your mini-concert, gallery show, play, or interactive performance. We present six spaces on the fringes that are ripe to be turned into a creative paradise. And it’s not just the locations that are meant to be edgy – we want your weird, wacky, and wonderful ideas. Macon Art Explosion is radically inclusive, family-friendly, and for artists, by artists.
The “Kings and Queens” of Our Stage are in Maconhttps://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/storytellers-photo-copy-scaled.jpg25601920Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
If, like us, you are working in live events and performance, it seems like a bleak year. COVID-19 made it clear that the essence of performance as we understand it in a common tradition, gathering closely in a space with your community in real time, is not advised in the same ways. An artist I greatly admire, Ping Chong, once said at a talk, “Theatre is what happens when you set up chairs to watch.” And it’s not just the front-of-house operations that are impacted. The essence of creativity that exists for artists from garage bands to Broadway musical casts to make their work happen requires closeness for collaboration. Sure, some of that essence can happen digitally, but there’s a lot that falls in the cracks – just look at the frustration in every Zoom classroom.
We light up our stages with stars. Whether it is the thrill of John Berry crooning a holiday family tradition straight from Nashville, the breathtaking dancing of Diavolo from Los Angeles, or the excitement of triple-threat Broadway stars beautifully narrating from The Great White Way, The Grand’s identity has relied on making the best talent in the nation available to Macon. As the performing arts presenter of Mercer University, we are proud to widen the cultural offerings available to Central Georgians.
Like all venues, our routine has changed in the pandemic. Our executive director’s phone is no longer ringing off the hook with agents trying to sell him on the phone. Our director of rentals is no longer wondering whether a certain set piece will fit onto our historic stage. Our technical director is not coordinating load-outs with a dozen plus crew members late at night. The kinds of shows that we “normally” do, even beloved community productions like The Nutcracker, just aren’t available.
It’s National Arts & Humanities Month (NAHM)—a coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America—which asks how #ArtsCreateHope. In this environment, how do we hold onto this hope?
For us, presenting the stories that are all around us – the people who are the stars in our grocery store lines as we still smile under masks six feet apart – are the way that we continue to provide the best of arts and culture in this turbulent time. If we can’t bring the stars to you, we can shine a spotlight on the ones living in your neighborhood. And with “Kings and Queens” our next event with Storytellers Macon: Live at The Grand Opera House, we certainly have a regal presence. Enjoy the incredible local faces that will be gracing our stage November 7th:
Ansley Booker, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at Mercer University, Macon Magazine 5 Under 40. Dr. Booker is a native of Eatonton (her story talks about being the first Dairy Queen of Eatonton!) and here is her TEDx talk about Unhidden Figures: Uncovering Cultural Biases in STEM, a topic where Dr. Booker has long been an advocate and storyteller.
Elliot James-Fernandez, Web Media Manager of Visit Macon, Elliot is also a writer, journalist and performing artist. As a Southern storyteller, his multimedia and journalistic work is committed to telling stories with a focus on depicting the American South in an accurate and historical manner. Here’s a story he wrote about a person utilizing Daybreak’s services. Elliot recently hosted the Historic Macon Foundation’s Hidden History video series about LGBTQ+ Macon History.
Charvis Harrell, visual artist. “”My art comes from a desire to talk about the little know people that sacrifice to make the world a better place, and to give a deeper understanding of what it means to be Black in a society where race is rarely talked about but the disparity between them are overwhelming and devastating.” He is a Macon native who began painting in 2004 and has been exhibited around the country. He tells stories of Black history and identity through portraiture, cartooning, and more.
Angel Colquitt, a senior Journalism major with a minor in Southern Studies at Mercer. They are a Macon native who recently interned with Macon Newsroom. After graduating, they hope to pursue a Masters Degree in Public Health so that they can tell the stories that are currently facing Georgians living in rural areas as a reporter. Here’s an article they wrote about telehealth access in rural Georgia.
Erin Keller, Vice President for Development, NewTown Macon. Erin is a proud graduate of Mercer University where she played basketball and later worked as a staff member. As a passionate community member, Erin serves on the Workforce Development Board and is a member of the Downtown Macon Rotary Club. In all these activities, Erin tells the stories of Macon as the city she grew to love.
“Searchin’ for a Rainbow” amidst tough timeshttps://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/IMG_1849-scaled.jpg35201980Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
When you serve Broadway fans and Broadway has been shut down, how do you solve a problem like Maria a global pandemic?
We don’t have all the answers, but we’ve started trying with Broadway Does Southern Rock. This was our first fire escape concert that utilized our parking lot as audience seating, with “pod” squares drawn out for social distancing. The show was a Broadway-style cabaret with community performers that adapted Southern Rock songs. Why Southern Rock? This genre was born in Macon, Georgia and The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Wet Willie (who were all represented in the song choices) all recorded at Capricorn Records downtown, which has been recently restored as Mercer Music at Capricorn.
It takes a lot to turn an indoor venue outdoors, and in fact, many indoor venues don’t quite have the space to do it. We were assisted by several factors that were assets we didn’t know we had.
Executive Director Joe Patti stands on our multi-level fire escape as we plan the outdoor stage.
Though we are in the heart of downtown Macon, the building is attached to a large parking lot built for city employees (we share our space with the Bibb County courthouse). This lot is available to the public on weekends.
We have an epic fire escape on the side of our historic building. This is a really sculptural area with multiple levels and staircases – it literally looks like it was created by a set designer.
All of this space is adjacent to the theatre. So we can run out lights, sound, power, and there are doors that bring you directly in the building to a backstage area.
With all this, there is still a lot of maneuvering that takes place and Bob Mavity, our technical director, had to figure out an appropriate setup that would allow for sound (on a metal fire escape, not so easy of a task) to reach out into the parking lot and lighting choices that would be fun while allowing you to see a performer that is far away and high up.
The plan maintained social distance through seating pods – these made sure that people felt comfortable with the distance while getting the seat of their choice. In these pods, you could enjoy yourself how you chose – whether that was with takeout from a local restaurant or your favorite lounge chair.
You could also choose to sit further away on the fringes, instead of a pod. This ensured that your comfort level was met if you wanted to distance even MORE than the pods allowed. On the left is an example of a group that did this, along with a drink in the new clear plastic cups that allow us to drink outdoors in downtown Macon thanks to Newtown Macon.
Nikki Vincent, Director of Rentals and Patron Services, made a volunteer setup that scanned the perimeter to make sure that everyone knew where to go to get in and out of the concert. This flow allowed the space to be maintained and to preserve the event for ticket holders.
It was casual, but still felt like “togetherness” – you could see and hear the crowd while still being with your group.
The results were a lot of fun – for us and for our patrons. The event sold out on the morning of the performance. When asked about their experience…
What part of the experience made the deepest impression on you and your group, and why?
Creative solution – first event we have attended since March. Very well done!
People trying to overcome such an unusual situation
how un crowded it was/felt
The music was wonderful and being outside the Grand was exciting, new and different.
It was just nice to be together with other theatre/music lovers. We’ve been starving for something to do!
The desire to provide entertainment in Macon for those of us starved for it!
Bring back the arts!! It brings people together.
Bringing back the arts. It brings us together and lifts us up.
Hearing the performer tell why the song was meaningful to them.
We were told that the weather was going to cancel the show . So we didn’t go.
The friendliness and efficiency of the staff/volunteers/bartenders.
People trying to overcome such an unusual situation
For a brand new program that took place in an entirely different production environment than our staff is used to, this encouragement has been great to hear. We want to continue being able to serve the community in difficult times – to search for rainbows, as The Marshall Tucker Band says.
Right now, we aren’t sure how long the pandemic will last or what shows will be available. So we’ve been sticking to programs that showcase local stars – your friends and neighbors – and in the safest capacity available. You can read our safety plan here. Our next show has eight of the most interesting Macon residents in town appearing safely (one at a time) onstage telling stories for a live podcast recording. You will hear from a man who played backup with Otis Redding, one of your county elected commissioners, the architect of the College Hill neighborhood revitalization in Macon, a woman who claims to have the best front porch in town, and even more. Buy tickets now.
By opening our doors in whatever ways we can, we want to honor our mission as a vibrant community assembly resource. Now is a time of isolation, so we are hoping to provide connection – however we can reach you.
Is there a way The Grand can serve your needs in 2020 that we haven’t thought of yet? Comment below to let us know.
Grand Memories: DRUMLine Live!https://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/drumline-scaled.jpg40323024Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Back in January, we hosted DRUMLine Live! at The Grand. But… the party didn’t end in the theatre. Watch this Grand Memory from after the show, when the dancing beat led all the way out to Mulberry Street! Getting the crowd laughing, clapping along, and even impromptu drum lessons for kids by the band capped off a fantastic evening.
Our Mini-Commission Winner is Chloe Shelton!https://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/minicommissionsmall.jpeg864876Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Congratulations to Chloe Shelton of Macon, GA for winning our Grand Mini-Commissions submission. In the tough times we’ve been facing, Chloe’s video gave a huge amount of sunshine and hope for brighter days. Here’s a little more about our winner:
Chloe is 12 years old and just finished the 5th grade. During the shelter-in-place, we watched several Broadway favorites and she fell in love with the music of The King and I, humming, singing, and whistling the tunes for days.
We’ll be sending Chloe’s family her prize soon. Have a great weekend!
Taking a “bite” out of boredomhttps://www.thegrandmacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Screen-Shot-2020-05-18-at-3.20.27-PM.png18841076Julia RubensJulia Rubenshttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/cca55f6a9f951a4b7354029a7571c731?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Since the two months of the COVID-19 emergency have hit The Grand, we’ve missed seeing you here. After our recent performance of Alash Ensemble featuring Shodekeh, I had a patron come up to me in a local brewery afterwards, itching to talk about the performance. Our GrandKids were walking out of the house trying to imitate the throat-singing pitch with their voices. These are the moments that make The Grand special, and the essence of the electrical energy of live performance.
And so when the change into staying safer at home occurred, we were faced with a question – with the doors to the theatre closed, how do we best serve our audiences? To answer that question, we went back to the core of who we are – our mission as an organization.
Our mission is “to nurture an appreciation of the Arts in all citizens of Central Georgia, especially its youngest citizens, through attracting the presentation of quality productions as well as an immersion into a treasured architectural artifact that reflects 133 years of Macon’s history.”
Can that be accomplished while preserving social distancing?
It isn’t the same as being in our historic halls and watching an artist practice their craft firsthand, but we believe we have taken these months to try and create experiences that live up to what Maconites expect from The Grand. Most importantly, we didn’t just want to move stuff online. We wanted to use this time as an opportunity to create value for our patrons.
1. Nurturing an appreciation of the arts in the citizens of Central Georgia:
For this, instead of looking outwards to great performers across the nation, we looked inwards to the great performers living next door — literally. Knowing how much our audiences love musical theatre, we teamed up with talented citizens here in Middle Georgia ranging from seventh graders to retirees, professional musicians to small business owners, college students to professors for Bite-Sized Broadway.
With miniature performances from home or on The Grand stage, your friends and family rocked the house and reached more folks around the area than any show in our space could hold – because of the short and engaging format and since our patrons were the stars, Bite-Sized Broadway videos have reached over 15,000 viewers. Some of these folks are outside Central Georgia and can’t attend The Grand in person. Others may not have heard of us or knew we presented performances until seeing their loved one on their feed. A different kind of impact, to be sure, but an important impact.
2. Especially its youngest citizens, through attracting the presentation of quality productions:
For me, the cornerstone of this experience is arts cultivation – we are looking to not just show art to our audiences, but to create a thriving arts ecosystem in Central Georgia. This is one of the tenets of the exciting Macon Cultural Plan. Giving our youngest creators a voice helps to increase the breadth and depth of their participation down the line, and centers the arts at the core of their identities.
3. An immersion into a treasured architectural artifact that reflects 133 years of Macon’s history:
Behind these walls are hidden traps set by Harry Houdini, where Gregg Allman found his home, and vestiges of darker times in Macon’s history. There are stories everywhere within The Grand — but how do we tell them when we’re here and you’re at home? Bob Mavity has over a quarter of a century’s worth of experience giving tours of this building. He knows it forwards, backwards, sideways, and up and down many spiral staircases. And we’ve heard from so many people who once lived in town and are homesick. So we created a super in-depth Virtual Tour of The Grand, including spaces that can’t be accessed by the public! Several parts of our cool (and occasionally creepy) building aren’t quite safe to show in person.
So in many ways, this particular experience would only be able to be possible with social distancing. We are going to release a follow up to this video with bonus content. Amongst the 2,200 viewers, I received a message from a former volunteer who had moved away from Macon and said they felt like the video was a reminder of home, as well as from a technician on one of our tours who learned a new fact about John Tesh from our concert. So the video didn’t just reach people’s feeds, it made an impact.
Even though we’ve been working hard to figure out the best ways to keep you safe while gathering together, we’ve been trying to still reach you and make The Grand a part of your life. In my next blog, I’ll show just how many folks we’ve reached near and far, and our final video tidbits.
While not all news coming out right now is good news, we hope you are well and safe, and that these activities can provide just a bit of the jolt to the senses that gathering together to share our stories, poems, dances, and beats normally does. Part of the appreciation of the arts is the ability to change the course of our quotidian existence, transcending the daily grind into sharp colors and sounds that are all the more meaningful during challenging moments in history.
In the dark times Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.” ― Bertolt Brecht