Milestones are nice. All of us hit them — 20th wedding anniversary, 50th birthday and so on. These dates give us the chance to look back, see how far we’ve come and give thanks for the journey.
April 2019 marks the 15th anniversary of Robert Egizio’s arrival as Stage Door Players’ Artistic Director. Those who have navigated that voyage understand just how far and how proud the trip has been. I asked some key observers to share with us their recollections about Stage Door prior to Egizio’s hiring, to tell us what has changed, to describe the challenges the theater now faces and simply to say, “Job well done.”
“Stage Door was founded in 1974 as a community improvement project of the Dunwoody Women’s Club,” explained Beverly Powell, Box Office manager for Stage Door Players. “While we did have a permanent meeting space at the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, we were still an amateur theater when Robert arrived.
“He came along to direct our production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” just before a planned move to Florida. But seeing some potential here, he stayed and took us from a small community theater to a well-respected professional theater,” stated Powell. “Under Robert’s leadership, Stage Door’s reputation has grown, and in 2016 we were named one of the top 5 theaters in Atlanta by CBS Atlanta.”
Over the last 25 years, Jim Redovian has served been a season ticket holder, Board Member, Treasurer, and Board Chair.
“During my time, we had many artistic directors, but we always struggled to get out from under the ‘little theater’ label. When Robert started, we were under-funded, over-staffed and in a very weak position. Robert has found a way to develop Stage Door Players into a respected regional theater that attracts the best actors and technicians in the area. And by improving the standards, he’s also increased the subscriber base, ad base and sought out private donors and grants to help with the budget.”
“Theater helps make a community great,” explained Dunwoody Mayor Denny Shortal. “A community is like a tapestry made up of many different threads. One of those threads is a good theater that helps to educate, entertain and engage members of the community. Theater should be thought-provoking and provide us an opportunity to use our imaginations in the company of others. We don’t live in a vacuum, and when our city can offer excellent theatrical productions, it enhances all aspects of our life here together. Stage Door Players is an integral part of what makes our community exceptional. Robert has brought a level of professionalism to our area that was lacking before.”
Sharon Clark, former board chair and liaison to the Dunwoody Woman’s Club, comments that “very few theaters give the patrons the feeling of being on stage with the actors. And Robert has done that while bringing the finest talent here, keeping the ticket prices competitive and increasing the subscriber base.”
Other perks she points out are the theater’s location — just a few minutes away from our homes — and no parking fees, not to mention the addition of comfortable theater seats that replaced the old dining room-type chairs formerly used.
Mayor Shortal pointed out the partnerships Egizio has sought with the community.
“One of the real perks for theater-goers is the restaurant partnerships he has helped to arrange. It’s nice to know we can visit many of our local restaurants, show our subscriber’s pass and get a discount on our meal there. Robert looks for ways to engage the whole community, which benefits everyone.”
Several people spoke to the challenges faced by any theater today. There’s competition from other forms of entertainment, obviously. But there are other challenges as well.
“Our current space has 125 seats, which obviously limits the income from ticket sales,” explained Redovian. “The potential to grow is there, if we had a larger space.” Others agree.
“As it is, every show sells out nearly every performance. While that’s great, it shows we need a larger auditorium. And a pit for an orchestra, and more space for stage construction would expand our possibilities of what productions could be offered,” stated Pam Tallmadge, former board member who now sits on the City Council.
Clearly, community members see a bright future for Stage Door Players under Egizio’s continued leadership.
It’s difficult to single out Egizio’s biggest contribution to the community. But Tallmadge offers an observation on the personal level.
“Robert takes the time to thank everyone who comes to a show. He greets you at the box office when you arrive, and he stands at the door to chat when you are leaving,” he said. “He listens to his patrons. His enthusiasm is contagious! His talent as an actor, producer, and director is second to none, and Dunwoody is fortunate to have him here.”
Added Redovian, “Robert showed up at a critical time for us. And through his love for theater, and this particular theater in the middle of Dunwoody, he has made Stage Door Players an asset all of us can enjoy and be proud of. I truly believe that without his commitment, this theater would have closed years ago. Every city should be a supporter of the arts, and our entire region is a beneficiary of this thriving theater, run by a person with the passion to keep it alive and well and moving into the future. We should all be grateful Robert showed up here 15 years ago to run a theater.”