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Farmers Alley co-founders Jeremy Koch, Denene Mulay Koch, Adam Weiner and Robert Weiner.
By Donald V. Calamia
What is your theater's mission statement?
Farmers Alley Theatre is a non-profit professional performing arts venue dedicated to producing quality productions to a supportive arts community while stimulating economic growth in our central city. Through ensemble collaboration and guest artists, audiences of all ages are able to enjoy the talent the greater Kalamazoo area has nurtured.
What are your theater's short-term goals and objectives - such as for the current season?
Short term, I would say that our main goal is to continue the success we had in our inaugural season. Originally we budgeted our attendance at 60-percent capacity overall for the first season, and ended up at 81 percent. Emboldened by this figure, myself and the other founders strive for excellence by bringing in professional artists and continuing the traditional AND unique programming.
This season also brings a number of new and provocative works to our season, so it will be interesting to see the public reception of these shows.
Ultimately, we want our audiences to come see a show at Farmers Alley not because of the title, but because Farmers Alley is putting it on. That trust in quality professional programming is paramount to our success.
What are your theater's long-term goals and objectives?
Our long term goals revolve around becoming a leading professional small arts organization in Kalamazoo, and eventually, the region and the state.
Another main long term goal (that we are already fulfilling) is to establish Farmers Alley as a venue for home-grown artists who have gone on to do national work to return to their roots and share their developed talent with the community.
We are still in the infancy of what we hope will be a long history, so we also have to realize that things will grow organically, and goals and objectives may change, yet the dedication to high professional quality theater will remain the same.
What makes your theater different from any of the others in Michigan? What is it about you that is unique?
Operating in a black box, 100-seat theater has been both a blessing and a challenge, in that it provides unprecedented intimacy, but gives us a limited ceiling as to how many tickets we can sell. That said, we knew we had to offer unique configurations to our space to make it attractive to new audiences.
Our Cabaret Series definitely meets that goal. With desserts and coffee in a non-traditional theatrical setting, audience members are able to experience a myriad of music stylings all in one evening. One of our favorite audience quotes has been, "It's like going to a cabaret club in Chicago or New York, but you can be home in 10 minutes."
That's exactly the kind of atmosphere we want to achieve here in Kalamazoo.
What is your programming philosophy? What type(s) of shows does your theater produce on its main stage - and why?
Farmers Alley aims to break new ground in two ways: First, to take popular work that normally would seem challenging to perform in a small space and breathe new life into the piece by giving the audience a new take on a classic show (i.e. our inaugural performance of A Few Good Men; our first musical, Jane Eyre, back in April; and our production of She Loves Me back in October).
Secondly, Farmers Alley is always looking to challenge itself and its audiences by bringing new work, both big and small, that other local theaters would either deem not suitable for their space or too challenging. With productions like Jane Eyre and the forthcoming Speech & Debate in April and the musical Parade in June, we are looking forward to presenting these local premieres in a unique and provocative way. We want to go beyond what is written on the page, and get the community involved in a dialogue regarding some of the social issues these works bring to light.
What other types of programming, if any, does your theater offer - such as theater for young audiences, educational outreach, etc.?
The Children's Series at Farmers Alley is dedicated to providing a full family experience. Part of our mission is to educate young theater-goers by producing fun, stimulating pieces selected especially for youth and performed by adults.
This past summer we put on a production of Blue's Clues Live! All parts were performed by adults, an aspect that is unique to Farmers Alley in our area.
It was such a rewarding experience to see these children with their parents experiencing theater for the first time.
Does your theater offer any classes or workshops - either to the general public or to industry professionals? If so, what are they?
Not at this time. However, the four founders all come from extensive educational backgrounds. Our future plans include branching out our educational opportunities for private scene work, audition coaching, acting techniques, etc.
Is your theater an Equity (union) company?
Not at this time.
What is the philosophy you use to cast your shows? From what talent pool(s) do you draw from?
Farmers Alley Theatre always looks to find the best actor for the role. If we don't get what we need at an initial audition, we will continue to search for someone who is right for the part.
Our first season mainly drew from local non-union actors. We did have a few special appearance Equity contracts, however.
In our second season, we have expanded our search by finding a local Equity actor with Broadway experience for our opening musical, She Loves Me, and bringing in guest artists from around the country for our December production of Plaid Tidings, as well as for the musical Parade in 2010.
How does an actor go about arranging an audition?
Currently, we are holding open call auditions for each production. Information can always be found on our Web site and on our Facebook page.
Does your theater offer an apprenticeship or internship program? And if so, what is the criteria - and how does someone apply for such a position?
We are in the process of establishing a formal internship program, perhaps in conjunction with local universities. However, we have had informal internships in our first season.
Does your theater accept new play submissions? If so, how does a playwright go about submitting a script for your consideration?
While we haven't yet put up a premiere of a new work, we are always accepting submissions to read and determine it as a possibility.
What else should we know about your theater, the current season, etc.?
Farmers Alley Theatre wants to bring professional theater to the next level in the Kalamazoo area and beyond. Using theaters like Steppenwolf and The Purple Rose as models, we want to continue the strong tradition of the arts in Kalamazoo and ultimately grow into an established Equity theater here in West Michigan. With a season that intrigues both audiences and performers, I believe we're well on our way to achieving that goal.
Theater name: Farmers Alley Theatre
Business & performance address (including zip code): 221 Farmers Alley, Kalamazoo, MI, 49007
Web address: www.farmersalleytheatre.com
Facebook fan page: Farmers Alley Theatre
Business office phone (including area code): 269-343-2727
Business office hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Box office phone (including area code): 269-343-2727
Box office hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 90 minutes before the curtain
In what year was your theater established? 2008
Company's founders and current management team: Adam Weiner - executive director; Jeremy Koch - artistic director; Denene Mulay Koch - educational director; Robert Weiner - deputy director"
Is your theater a non-profit, tax-exempt organization? Yes
Is your theater wheelchair accessible? Yes
During which months of the year does your season run? We operate year round, mostly from October to August.
How many main stage productions do you offer each season? Six to seven
How many OTHER productions or programs do you offer each season? We have offered special poetry slam performances in the past that adhere to our New Work/Spoken Word category. We also aim to provide some ancillary new work programming that will continue to grow as we expand our reach into the community.
At times we will also have special Broadway guest performers do concerts in our space, as demonstrated by our recent production of An Evening with Lauren Kennedy. This was a special cabaret event, showcasing a Broadway singer/actress in our intimate setting. We hope that this will become a tradition of nationally known performers traveling to Kalamazoo to do small engagements.
How many seats does your theater have? Anywhere from 90 to 120 depending on the configuration for the production.
What type(s) of seating is offered to your patrons (ex: general admission, reserved, etc)? We offer reserved seating for most productions.
In general, what is the price range for your non-discounted main stage tickets (exclusive of service charges and other fees)? Our plays are $22, musicals $25, and cabaret shows $29 which includes dessert and coffee.
Are there service charges or other fees added to the price of the tickets? And if so, what are those charges and fees? There are no service charges.
In general, what is the price range for your OTHER programs and services? New Work and Spoken Word shows are priced by event. Children's Series productions are $15 for adults and $10 for children.
Do you offer subscriptions to your main stage season? Yes
Do you offer discounts to senior citizens (and if so, what are the details)? Yes, seniors (65 and up) get a $2 discount.
Do you offer discounts to students (and if so, what are the details)? Yes. Reserved student tickets get a $2 discount. We also offer $10 student rush tickets an hour before each performance.
Do you offer group discounts (and if so, what are the details)? Yes, any group over 13 people get a negotiated discount.
For ticket purchases, does your theater accept personal checks? Yes
For ticket purchases, does your theater accept credit or debit cards? Yes, we accept all credit cards, including American Express and Discover.
Can tickets to your shows be purchased online - and if so, how? Yes. We operate through Pay Pal, and one can purchase tickets by going to our Web site.
ABOUT ADAM WEINER:
Adam completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in Film Studies. After working for MGM Studios in Los Angeles, Adam completed his Masters at Carnegie Mellon University in Arts Management, interning at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago during his studies. At Farmers Alley, Adam directed the inaugural production of A Few Good Men and the hilarious prequel Escanaba in Love. He was also seen on stage in the summer hit-production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical. He is thrilled to the community's response to this venture, and has high hopes for the theater's vision in the near future.
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