The American Globe Center – The Next Evolution of Theatre
By: Tom Edmond Evans, Executive Director
And: Jim Warren, Artistic Director
American Globe Center
As we grow the vision for the American Globe Center (AGC), we are frequently met with this response. And though we are aware that Kevin Costner is not waiting in a cornfield to play catch with his ghostly dad, let me explain why WHEN we build it, they WILL come.
The American Globe Center is unique in its approach on every level – no one has ever conceived of, or constructed, a project of its kind. If someone had come to you in 2003 and said “I want to build a device that combines your cell phone with your laptop with your digital camera with your VCR with your calendar with your rolodex” – most people would have scoffed. And now today, imagine trying to invent a smart phone WITHOUT any of those features. Like Apple and other companies who developed a smarter phone, it is our goal to create a smarter theatre:
- A theatre integrated deeply into its community, but with international reach, renown, and draw.
- A new organization, alive, engaged, and aware, built on integrity, equity, and inclusion for all, which also reinvents and reinvigorates a classic past.
- A place where one can see the work of the world’s greatest playwrights, past and present, brought to life in a living, participatory, shared, rock concert style of show – a “back to the future” experience where the audience will re-learn what theatre can be, by experiencing it the way Shakespeare and his original audiences would have.
- A campus anchored by a re-creation of the premier “must-see TV,” “water cooler conversation”-generating venue of 1614; next door to the most cutting-edge arts and education facility ever built.
- A destination for not only those who love the arts, but those who love the art of the constructed destination itself – historians, scholars, architects, builders, and more.
- A cultural non-profit run with the acumen and management of for-profit business, future-proofed by the experience of 2020 to build better, do better, be better.
- And lastly, the “Netflix” of live theatre, a company where you can see everything from “globe-stylin” Shakespeare to the best of Broadway to dance, visual art, and live music – all in one weekend.
We ARE building it. And they can’t WAIT to come.
We know the world is already in line for the AGC “Smart Theatre.” Both within the industry and from the arts consumer, everyone has been looking for a new arts paradigm. The AGC will deliver experiences unlike anything out there, taking the best of the best, and then raising the bar – and the smarts. Like those smarter devices, the AGC will have a range of features and benefits – to both the local community and to cultural tourists.
Locally, the AGC will provide nearly 100 jobs, purely within the business model of the theatre. Additionally, supporting businesses which will grow around the success of the theatre will add hundreds of additional jobs in service, tourism, and hospitality. Economic development indicators show that even if the theatre averages half capacity, businesses in Stratford would gain nearly $40 Million annually in increased revenue.
In addition to serving the town from a financial perspective, the AGC will also reinvigorate education in Stratford. “The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic… music, dance, painting, and theatre are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.” ~ William Bennett, Former US Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan.
Part of the job as a company member of the American Globe Center is being an educator – not just through time spent in schools but in time spent in the community. Stratford teens will once again be proud of their town’s theatre and its presence in their life, and at the AGC, the arts will be the cool option to burn off extra energy. Stratford’s children will grow up with unparalleled access to art and theatre. We will provide the benefit of supplemental arts education despite frequent funding cuts suffered by the school system, and we will engage the minds of students from pre-K through post grad programs.
The AGC will thrive in the heart of Stratford – our artists will both come from the community and move to the town to join the community. This enterprise will not be a commuter workplace for New Yorkers, but instead a connected and vibrant group of citizens, working constantly to make Stratford an ever-improving place to live.
And to visit. The AGC at capacity will draw over half a million visitors to Stratford. And if those numbers seem somehow impossible, look at the three venues most like the American Globe Center, and how the combination of the best of their offerings will make our numbers obtainable from year 1.
The Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario is in a small town in rural Canada – two hours from the nearest large city. From its humble beginnings as a small railroad stop incorporated as a town in 1859, the inception of the Festival grew Stratford into a thriving city today. The primary reason for the city’s growth and success? The Stratford Festival, which draws nearly 500,000 attendees annually, and drives nearly $140 million in yearly economic impact. The model of the theatre is similar to one aspect of the AGC – they present classic and modern works in repertory, creating a year-round community of artists with a lifelong bond to the town. While their classic and Shakespeare work is well produced, it does not share the unique performance style of the AGC and it doesn’t have the allure of a historically accurate Globe theatre.
These promises are not without precedent and proof. The American Shakespeare Center (home of the Blackfriars Playhouse re-creation) was built on the backbone of Jim Warren’s approach to Shakespeare.
Presenting the works of Shakespeare (as well as other classic and modern playwrights) using Shakespeare’s staging conditions creates a shared, “watching your favorite band in a club,” energetic and alive experience. The actors and audience share the same light, and the audience is a part of the show – they are Macbeth’s army, Juliet’s best friend, Hamlet’s confidant, and co-conspirators planning to assassinate Julius Caesar. It is a public, shared experience, where we invite you to eat, drink, and party with not only your friends and family, but the entire ensemble. The Blackfriars has proven the commercial success of this style, touring in 47 states and five other countries while annually drawing over 50,0000 visitors to its 300-seat theatre, and doubling the economic impact of tourism in Staunton, VA, within ten years of opening.
Thirdly in alignment with the American Globe Center, is Shakespeare’s Globe in London, England, which is a historic re-creation of Shakespeare’s first Globe, built in 1599, and re-created and re-opened in 1998.
The Globe welcomes 1.25 million visitors annually, many of whom travel to London specifically to experience the re-created theatre. And while the London Globe does exist in a major urban center, it is as an educational destination that it most thrives, rather than from incidental tourism associated with general trips to London. The Globe derives 25% of its revenue from educational programs and tours of the building, and a large portion of ticket sales are dedicated to these groups as well.
Which brings us back to the AGC. To stay well in the black across a 30-year pro-forma, the AGC need only reach a 45% capacity average, or welcome 233,511 guests annually. If one examines both the number of current theatrical tourists visiting CT today – roughly 1 Million – and then extrapolates the potential draw of a theatre destination which combines the best of the Stratford Festival, the London Globe, and the ASC Blackfriars, then the potential for the American Globe Center is clear.
“This is not Field of Dreams.” The American Globe Center is an ocean of possibility.
A few short years from now, we and our chosen partners will sit back and say “We DID build it. And they are HERE.” Our goals are infinitely “do-able.” The size of this vision is not motivation to back away, but rather an opportunity to dive in all the deeper. Every great innovation has faced its naysayers and challenges. It is those who are willing to swim against the tide, to push back in the face of that adversity and continue to create the new, unexpected, and unique who will reach their destination.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune…”
We are at the flood, and it is time for the American Globe Center to sail.