Farmers Alley Theatre Becomes Professional

Farmers Alley Theatre became southwest Michigan's only year-round Actors' Equity Association theatre Jan. 12, by achieving Small Professional Theatre (SPT) status.

Earning the status gives the professional theatre more standing room in the union, which represents live theatrical performers and gives them more opportunities to expand their talent within West Michigan.

"It's a big honor," Executive Director Adam Weiner said. "It gives us more of a reach to the members of the association."

It also gives actors the choice to earn points toward their Equity card and to enter into the Equity Membership Candidate Program that leads to more work and recognition within the business.

Achieving Equity status has been a goal since the theatre's opening in the fall of 2008, which it reached much sooner than planned because of its success.

The Equity union is helping them slowly transition into the full process of operating as a SPT.

"We're able to slowly get our feet wet, without just jumping right into the deep end of the pool," Weiner said.

Weiner said the location in downtown Kalamazoo sets them apart from other theatres because of the "wonderful arts scene."

He said the theatre acts as a companion to young actors and students from the Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University theatre programs.

Although they have more access to professional union actors, Weiner said they will most likely continue to operate at about the same union-actor level as in previous productions, providing a professional place for new talent to perform.

The theatre recently leased the former Brown & Brown Recording Studio located across the street on Farmers Alley for storage. The large space doubles as a rehearsal studio, which reduces wear on the main stage and provides freedom for the creative set builders to work.

The small theatre only has one stage and 100 seats, allowing them to present each show in a more intimate way. Weiner said they are expecting to grow as a business from the SPT status, but there are no plans for seating expansion, just that "we are growing and we are excited for the future."

Photo from left to right: Founders Jeremy Koch, Denene Mulay Koch, Adam Weiner, Robert Weiner