By Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, Alliance Theatre
Arthur Schopenhauer, speaking of Leonardo Da Vinci, said that while “talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one else can see.”
I love that.
I love that because hitting a target that no one else can see – yet – is a critical part of the mojo of a successful artist. And a successful arts organization as well. And it is and was a pretty accurate capture of how the Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre came to be. Think about the origin story:
Over 60 years ago, Robert Woodruff said that Atlanta ought to have a world class Arts Center. A target nobody else could see. Yet. And lo and behold, it came to be.
A few years after that, the members of the Atlanta Arts Alliance, dreaming about what that soon to be built Arts Center would hold, suggested that there be a theatre. An Alliance Theatre. Something that didn’t exist until it was willed into being.
Twenty-five years after its founding, the Board of Directors of the Alliance Theatre named an African American artist as their next Artistic Director. It was – inexplicably and wildly belatedly – the first major American theatre to do so. Again, the genius of hitting the as yet unseen target.
And then, some 6 years ago, a collection of artists, staff leaders, board leaders and philanthropists wrapped their arms around the idea of a new Alliance Theatre. A stage whose hand-crafted beauty, democratic welcome, and transformative embrace would reflect the mission and the programming of this soon-to-be fifty years young theatre.
We opened the Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre on Saturday, January 26th with a new musical called EVER AFTER. It is a Cinderella story with Leonardo Da Vinci taking the role of the transformative fairy godmother. And it is also a story in which the heroine saves herself, thank you, as well as everyone around her – mostly by eschewing the traditional understandings of what is, in favor of what could be. In retrospect, it was really the only story we could have chosen. Cinderella stories share the common denominator of a person or a group people experiencing a wholly improbable transformation – always for the better – and typically facilitated by some kind of magic. Leonardo Da Vinci’s magic (and his genius) lay in asking endless questions. “Why not?” “What else?” What could be?”
Theatre in and of itself asks those same questions. It requires imagination and curiosity from both artists and audience in order to succeed. Our beautiful new theatre (and by “ours,” I mean Atlanta’s) was born of imagination, curiosity, a belief in a target we couldn’t yet see, and a ridiculous abundance of generosity.
I hope you come see it. It was built for you.