Message from Jeff Watkins: Letter for the 2014-2015 Season

A long time ago in a place far away (more specifically, Dallas, Texas in the early 1960’s), a group of ladies got together and decided kids like me should be exposed to the Arts. I say “a group of ladies” because I can’t imagine Texas men of that era coming to such a conclusion of their own volition. In any event, I was sent home with a permission slip and told to come back with $6 to pay for my trip to hear the Dallas Symphony Orchestra . . . and later for the Opera, and again for the Dallas Theatre Center.

It was the Theatre Center that fired my imagination more than the others, though I enjoy opera and still occasionally find myself in the pit orchestra for the odd musical.

The point is that the world we live in today is a better place because of those ladies.

Time and again, I wade out into the audience here in this room and chat up our customers. There are plenty here from out of town, but the younger ones— more often than not— have a story to tell about their first field trip to see a play at the Shakespeare Tavern® Playhouse.

I believe that what we do in this room is making a better world. No it won’t bring peace to the Middle East in our lifetime; it may not cause that critical moment of consideration the next time a law enforcement officer is facing a young black man on a darkened street, and it will not get a single bill through the US Congress in the next two years . . . but over time, the ripples of the work we do and the priorities we demonstrate to the young people in our community WILL shape the future.

Over the past four years, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company has spent $2.1M bringing live Shakespeare in performance to more than 80,000 young people from 54 Georgia counties and six states. I hasten to add that when we say “live Shakespeare”, we refer not only to our professional company performing core-curriculum Shakespeare titles for student audiences, but to full productions of Shakespeare plays performed by the children themselves . . . both in their home communities and here at our Playhouse (two such productions performed by Atlanta Public HS students occured Mar 7 & 8!).

Tonight, you’ve come to see a show . . . to be entertained, to have fun with friends, or perhaps to consciously engage with one of humanity’s towering intellects. Whatever your reason for being here, know that every time you buy a ticket to the Shakespeare Tavern; every time you put a few dollars into our Donation Box or participate in our Annual Fund, you are building a better world. It’s a world where beauty and grace are appreciated, a world where language matters; where ignorance and bigotry are not the last words on any subject.

Letters from Jeff