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Theater Company Focusing On Experiences Of Black Youth Opens Space In Homewood

After 10 years without a permanent home, the Alumni Theater Company (ATC) is celebrating its new performance space at Washington Boulevard and Hamilton Avenue on the border of Larimer and Homewood.

ATC Executive Director Hallie Donner said Homewood is a great fit for the theater company.

“There’s so much creativity already happening here, and it felt like a great place for us to be lucky enough to land, so it’s a comfortable neighborhood for us, it’s an up-and-coming neighborhood,” said Donner.

Donner founded the company while working as a teacher at the former Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School. 

“The school was celebrating its 10th anniversary with a production and the principal asked me to call back some alumni to perform this production,” explained Donner. “It was such a great experience that we decided to continue to do work after that one show was over.”

Company members range from 11 to 24 years old. They write, produce and perform original works that focus on the experiences of black youth. Shakirah Stephens is an Arts Management Fellow and founding member of ATC and said the group helped her grow as an actor and young adult. 

“ATC always gave me a place to do what I enjoyed with people I enjoyed. Even as an actor, I am really, shy, so being able to perform with people I already know is in a way comfort, but in another way lets you grow with a group of people,” said Stephens.

Stephens is also a member of ATC’s professional ensemble, she recently performed Pain Killer a production written and directed by Shakara Wright.

“I didn’t always know that I was a writer on top of being an actor. Having a place where I can have an idea and have a vision and have all of these amazing artists around me to help me build that vision and create it is so amazing,” said Wright. 

Donner said the new 100-seat black box theater would allow the company to produce twice as much programming than in past years.

“We have so many ideas, so much work to produce, so many kids that want to put their work out on the stage, that now we are really able to do it without having to calculate which is best to perform,” said Donner. “It’s so expensive to rent theaters on a weekly basis like that. Now it’s just ours, we can do whatever we want, whenever we want."

The building is also home to the Bill Nunn Black Box Theater, named after the Pittsburgh actor and director. Donner said the grand opening would be a fitting way to introduce the company to Homewood.

“We found this place almost two years ago and we finally have it built. It’s gorgeous. It looks like ATC, it feels just right for us. The theater itself it’s a really nice black box, great size for ATC to just do their thing,” said Donner. 

ATC will continue its season next month with an original production by the group’s teen ensemble called Locked and Loaded, an ATC Murder Mystery.

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