Jul 24, 2020 | Atlanta, GA
Although many businesses have reopened following the spring shutdown, performing arts venues mostly have not. Because of this, people working in the arts have been among the hardest-hit workers during the pandemic.
Workers in Atlanta’s theater community have certainly had to face this challenge as well. Shuttered box offices, canceled productions, and darkened stages have meant little to no work for thousands of people who make their living through the performing arts in venues across the metro area.
“Very little is being done in Atlanta. Everyone from stagehands to actors to parking attendants and all of the others that help make a performance happen are having a really tough time right now,” said Atlanta photographer and GT Computing alumnus Michael Boatright (BS ICS 82).
“Some stages have grant type support, which is helping to make rent, but the entertainment industry as a whole is struggling.”
To help rally support for Atlanta’s theater community, Boatright has launched a new photographic exploration called Dark Houses Atlanta, which is now available online.
The visual story documents darkened theaters across metro Atlanta including the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Actor’s Express, and Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Performing Arts. Boatright photographed each stage location as it was, with the set that was in place when the performers and crew left.
“There’s nothing like seeing 4,000 empty seats to help you realize how much you miss being there with a full house,” said Boatright.
He added that it’s important to spotlight the issue for people that are not directly impacted.
“While the theater has survived plagues, social upheaval, and economic hardships, it will need lots of support from the community to survive all three at the same time.”
Boatright began the Dark Houses Atlanta project by first shooting the main stage at the Ferst Center because of his Georgia Tech connection. Along with being an alumnus, he has also been photographing preview performances for DramaTech – Georgia Tech’s student-run theater – for the past six years.
DramaTech is the longest continuously running theater company in the southeastern United States. In March, Boatright emailed asking about the troupe’s upcoming show.
“Of course, they were all very bummed, especially the graduating seniors, it would have been their last show,” said Boatright.
However, rather than canceling altogether, the students decided to put on the show with half-built sets and incomplete technical elements.
“I shot the performance but it was tough; I was crying the whole time because the students played their hearts out. I have never been more proud of a group of people, and I know our future is in good hands with graduating students like that,” said Boatright.
As part of his continuing effort to bring attention to the economic plight of Atlanta’s theater community, Boatright is being interviewed July 27 at 11 a.m. as part of TECHnically Creative: GT Alumni & the Arts. The virtual conversation is being live-streamed on Georgia Tech Arts’ Facebook Live page and viewers can register in advance to submit questions.