Theatre Nova to Host Open House on December 12

As the excitement builds about the newest addition to Michigan's thriving theater scene, Theatre Nova will hold an open house, free and open to the public, on Friday, December 12, from 5-7 pm, featuring light refreshments, a meet-and-greet with the artists, founders, and staff, and a brief presentation about the theater and the upcoming season. The open house will take place at Theatre Nova's new space, downtown Ann Arbor's The Yellow Barn, located at 416 W. Huron, two blocks west of Main Street.

As the Theatre Nova team puts the finishing touches on its inaugural season of five (5) brand new plays, many in the community wonder what this newest addition will bring to Michigan theater's programming mix. With a vibrant community of professional theaters offering a range of shows and types of theater, from Shakespeare at The Michigan Shakespeare Festival, to musical theater at Encore Musical Theatre, to plays with a distinctly Midwest feel at The Purple Rose, Michigan's theater community has everything a theater-lover could want. Or does it?

Theatre Nova founding Artistic Director Carla Milarch says no. "There's a wonderful mix of works on offer in Michigan's theater community today, all of which are important items on the 'theater menu'. If you like steak, you go to The Purple Rose, if you like pastry you go to The Encore, but for those patrons whose tastes lean a little more toward the eclectic and offbeat - the Korean Barbecue lovers of the theater world, if you will - the offerings are few and far between. Theatre Nova is hoping to change that. I guess you could say we're Ann Arbor's theater fringe."

While Theatre Nova will focus on plays with a sense of adventure, not all of their works will be produced for the first time. Patrons will see a mix of Michigan Premieres and World premieres, pulled from stages across the country. Plays hot from New York will be included with new plays by Michigan playwrights, alongside Michigan premieres of shows picked up from the regional theater scene across America. Producing Director Dan Walker says "We intend to produce a season of exciting, interesting new plays, from around the country as well as from local playwrights. Along with presenting great new work to our own audience, we hope to act as a "launching pad" for local playwrights. We intend to help them be seen and build reputations outside the local area."

So, if Theatre Nova is exotic cuisine, will their prices be expensive? Managing Director Dave Wells laughs and runs with Milarch's metaphor "Maybe you should say we're like the Mark's Carts of theater. Affordable theater is our raison d'etre and we're going to take a radically innovative approach, by making all of our tickets pay-what-you-can." While the suggested ticket price for a Theatre Nova ticket will be $20, patrons will have the option to pay any amount they are comfortable with if they find the price prohibitive. Wells adds "We're hoping to be able to make this possible through the support of a strong membership base, but when we say membership, we're talking about a slightly different animal." Instead of selling traditional subscriptions, which include one ticket to every show in a theater's season, Theatre Nova will opt for innovation in this area as well, with a model they're calling "member-based admissions."

Milarch says "It's a model that's getting some traction in other theaters across the country. Basically, it means that when you make your membership donation at the beginning of the season, you gain unlimited admission to all of the events and programs for the entire year. Instead of buying a finite set of theater tickets, you're essentially joining a community of people participating in theater experiences, while at the same time, you're making the experiences possible. It's a new way of seeing theater, literally and figuratively."

While exotic cuisine sold at food stall prices may seem like a risky financial proposition, Theatre Nova has ways of approaching that as well. Their answer lies in the low-overhead of their unique "micro-theater." While some Michigan professional theaters wrangle with building and utility costs in excess of 25% of their annual operating budget, Theatre Nova will keep theirs low, just under 12% in their first year. "It allows us to put more of your donations dollars on the stage and directly into Michigan artists pockets" Milarch adds with a smile. "And that's what we call a win-win-win."

Theatre Nova is Michigan's only theater exclusively producing brand new plays. Its mission is to raise awareness of the value and excitement of new plays and new playwrights, and provide resources and outlets for playwrights to develop their craft, by importing, exporting, and developing new plays and playwrights. Its goal to create a sustainable theater for generations to come is built on the four cornerstones of accessibility, transparency, artist-leadership, and equality.

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