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.
Want to make some memories of your own on our historic stage? Consider a Movie Pass for just $20 to see endless cult classic films in an elevated setting or subscribe to our Broadway Does Cabaret Concert Series to get a year’s worth of date nights for $30.