Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre
When it comes to community theatre, size does matter. Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre is proof of that, as it’s become home to a tight-knit artistic community devoted to its audience.
“The audience is a big part of what you’re doing because it’s so small,” says Amy Tillotson, who played a role in One Man, Two Guvnors last year and also handles costuming. “Because it’s so small we use the aisles and entrances, and walk inches from the audience. Because it’s so intimate, it brings a different aspect to what you do. You just get drawn in right away.”
Dave Alan Thomas, director of Blood Brothers, which opens March 13, agrees.
“The actor is keenly aware of the presence of each audience member and it requires artists to present their most truthful work,” he says. “The audience is therefore rewarded with experiences that a less personal performance space could not provide.”
Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre, also known as ABET, is now entering its 23rd season. Working out of the Adele Grage Community Center at 716 Ocean Blvd., it has never had to pay for land or buildings. The city of Atlantic Beach rents the building to ABET for a nominal fee.
“Our success depends on volunteers and loyal guests,” says Managing Artistic Director Celia Frank, noting some people drive to ABET from South Georgia.
Success also comes in the form of scholarships, funded by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, for children who could not otherwise afford ABET’s popular after-school theatre program.
Tillotson says she loves the friendships she’s formed with other actors and theatre fans, who get together several times a month to see plays in St. Augustine, Jacksonville, the Beaches, and Fernandina Beach.
“There’s a group of people that watch, and those that perform, and a lot of cross over between the two,” she says. “You get feedback from other actors and support one another.”
Thomas, a high school teacher for 15 years, is jumping at the chance to teach adult acting classes with ABET.
“The chance to work with adults and their artistic growth is something that I value highly,” Thomas says. “My happiness is directly tied to how much I can contribute to the growth of the artistic community.”
For more information about ABET visit abettheatre.com.
Amelia Community Theatre
At Amelia Community Theatre, spontaneous audience interaction can be as much a part of the play as the actors on stage.
The audience “broke the fourth wall” in a recent performance of The Lady with all the Answers, penetrating the imaginary “wall,” or stage boundary facing the audience, says Director Ron Kurtz.
“We make it viable by inviting the audience in,” Kurtz says.
Breaking barriers suits the edgier plays with more adult themes in Amelia Community Theatre’s smaller venue, Studio 209.
Amelia Community Theatre, also known as ACT, was founded in 1981 by Ellen and Ed Green, and 81 charter members who donated $10 each to cover the first play’s royalties and performance at the Woman’s Club of Fernandina Beach.
The theatre eventually bought the former school board property on Cedar Street, near the Amelia Island Museum of History and CSX Railroad in downtown Fernandina Beach.
Studio 209, named after the street number, is the original 88-seat theater. Five years ago, the theatre group opened the $2.1 million Main Studio, which contains 170 fixed theatre seats and a technical booth with computerized lighting and sound.
“We’ve always enjoyed wonderful community support,” says Executive Director Linda McClane. “We feel we make a real difference in the community, not just in entertainment but also in outreach that includes ACTeen, a troupe for youths age 13-18 and a summer camp program for teens and elementary age children.”
At least one performer has gone on to make her mark in the film industry. Elisa Hurt Carlson, who performed in Amelia Community Theatre’s very first play, Butterflies Are Free, was the dialect coach for the movie Selma – helping actors inhabit the voice and spirit in the biographic film about Martin Luther King, Jr.
Approaching its 35th season, Amelia Community Theatre hosts six main stage shows a year.
For more information about ACT visit ameliacommunitytheatre.org.