There was a time, in years past, when I really looked forward to our summer activities. The major ones were theater and baseball. Georgia Shakespeare Company had 3 or 4 plays that were worth a look and the Braves played, often, an outstanding brand of baseball. Life was good, we had tickets and we enjoyed ourselves.
No more. Georgia Shakespeare ran out of cash and disbanded, while the Atlanta Braves decided there was not enough cash where they were so they moved (or soon will) across the river to Cobb County.
Georgia Shakespeare Company
In the beginning Georgia Shakespeare held their performances in large tents on the campus of Oglethorpe University. Each performance would begin with a vocal or instrumental piece of some kind of early music from the Bard’s time. There was no air conditioning but high above the stage were several large circulating fans. Ushers also provided fans as patrons entered.
Occasionally storms would come in to the area, accompanied by loud claps of thunder and by lightning. The stage manager would then announce an intermission and the audience and perfumers would wait for the tempest to pass. No one seemed to mind this, though it added to the unpredictability it also added to the fun and the intimacy.
We purchased season tickets often enough that for several years we were in the second row, just behind a group of lawyers and their families who were sponsors.
Eventually, Oglethorpe found a patron and the funding and built a theater, the Conant Performing Arts Center which the company occupied. The new facilities allowed the company to do multiple plays performed in repertory, but this was to turn out to be a very mixed blessing. In 1997 there were 3 performances, but by 2012 there were 6 which included Shakespeare in the Park, a musical , a children’s production and a fall performance.
Starting in 2011 there was a ‘Save Georgia Shakespeare’ campaign that raised about half a million dollars, but it was not enough.
We attended a Sunday matinee of the first production, As You Like It, in 2014 and the theater was only about 30% occupied. The end was near.
Their next and final performance was “One Man, Two Guvnors”, a British comedy. I continue to be angry to this day that they were unable to do Henry V. Their historical Shakespeares were always outstanding and I loved seeing them.
The company did very good work but could not self enough tickets or generate enough in grant money to sustain itself and in 2014 it went out of business.
The Atlanta Braves
In the late 1980’s the Braves lost quite a lot more than they won and were perpetually rebuilding. The Wall Street Journal once noted that the Braves would do anything to sell seats, but win. The team was initially purchased to fill time slots on Ted Turner’s Superstation WTBS, which it did rather well. Maxine and I became fans when we were in Kansas City and continued our interest when we relocated here.
We would hop on the MARTA train, then a bus and be in our seats in less than an hour from home. At the end of an inning you could get yourself a hot dog and beverage and be back in your seat before the next pitch. Crowds were not a problem.
Then, over the next several years some remarkable things started to happen. Some of it was luck, some was astute trades and the efforts of talented baseball executives that were brought in to run the operation.
So, to the delight and surprise of nearly everyone in 1991 the Braves won their division title and qualified for the playoffs. We wanted to see a playoff game, but since we were not season ticket holders we would have to queue up outside the stadium when individual game tickets were sold.
So, we did just that. After my morning class, I lined up outside the stadium in what turned out to be a fun, carnival-like atmosphere. About 7:30 pm Maxine, carrying a bedroll she had borrowed, relieved me and would stay the night to get our tickets. I returned home since I had a class the following morning.
When the stadium ticket office did open scalpers and others rushed the line and bought all the tickets. We and our friends in line had followed the rules but had nothing to show for our efforts.
In 1992 the Braves won the division again and Maxine and I were allowed to buy 6 strips of playoff tickets which included the World Series.
We offered 2 strips of tickets to one of the fellows who queued up with us outside the stadium and had helped Maxine get home. We flew my Mother in from Illinois for 2 World Series games.
Although we would get playoff tickets often in subsequent years we never had access to that many tickets again.
We were indeed fortunate to be a baseball fan in Atlanta when we were. We were at the park when the team clinched division titles in ’91, ’92 and ’93. We saw Nixon’s catch and Bream’s slide. We saw some of the best pitching Major League Baseball has ever offered.
One wonders if the Braves’ move to newer, fancier facilities will allow the team to do grander things on the field, or will it, as for Georgia Shakespeare Company, encourage activities that turn out not to be sustainable.