As I hope many of you already know from the Bell Youth-in-the-Arts Grant page in the Community section of our website, https://bellinvest.com, the 2013 Bell Youth- in-the-Arts Grant was awarded to Oakland’s own Gritty City Repertory Youth Theatre. Gritty City Rep was selected from a group of 35 other impressive applicant organizations, all of which have emerged in recent years to augment the dwindling arts programs available in the Oakland public schools.
It is always painful to select one winner among so many worthy competitors, but in the end, the pain is offset by the joy of notifying the winner! It is part of my role in the selection process to notify the top ten finalists of their standing and benefits and then the winner, in this case the Executive Director of Gritty City Youth Repertory Theatre, Lindsay Krumbein. She was thrilled, of course, to be recognized and encouraged by this honor on behalf of and along with the many students whose lives are being transformed by their participation in this innovative urban theatre experience. She couldn’t wait to tell them at their very next rehearsal!
Next came the day for the actual delivery of the $5,000 check — an exciting and gratifying experience for all of us. It took place on a cold, rainy day in February at 1540 Broadway in Oakland where the brand new community theatre, Flight Deck, was already well under construction. Gritty City Rep has been selected by Flight Deck’s managing group, Ragged Wing Ensemble, to be one of a small number of resident companies, which means GCR will finally have a permanent home in which to house its administrative offices and to gather, rehearse, and perform.
In its earliest days, when Gritty City was just an idea, the “offices” were pretty much boxes, papers, a computer and phone at Lindsay Krumbein’s home. For the past few years, however, there have been several different places that have served as temporary homes. An irony exists here somewhere, as “Flight” Deck becomes the place where Gritty City finally “lands.” Our grant will help make this dream come true and will assist the group in mounting its first production there, Sharman Macdonald’s After Juliet, opening May 29 and running through June 7.
As you approach the theatre, you will realize that construction is also going on right next door, where a brand new “farm to table” restaurant, Township, is emerging. Both street fronts share the same orange slanted awning on the outside, which bodes well for both endeavors. When you attend one, you will connect with the other, a sort of “twofer” smack dab in the midst of our renaissance city of Oakland.
While the theatre appears relatively small at first glance, once inside, the innovative space opens up in unique and surprising ways, including movable risers to provide seating. The space can be arranged in a variety of ways, from proscenium, to thrust, to theatre-in-the-round, depending on the particular needs of each production. I could also easily imagine the space being used for a variety of community events, e.g., concerts, public school gatherings, and Oakland Chamber of Commerce meetings.
If you happen to poke your head in the door anytime soon, you will no doubt observe a variety of worker bees wielding hammers, pushing brooms, drilling holes, wiring wires, finishing up — all being done by a broad mix of professionals and volunteers, all happily at work completely transforming this former eyesore of a building (a warehouse uninhabited for over 30 years!) into something entirely new that hundreds of people will enjoy beginning in May.
On May 29, opening night of Gritty City’s first production at Flight Deck, Jim and I will be there along with many clients, colleagues and friends. Please join us! …and be sure to approach us to let us know you are there as well.