Acorn Theater connects community, offers opportunities
THREE OAKS — The mission of the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, has long been to provide a venue for fans to experience high quality performance and for artists to cultivate their talents. By transitioning to a non-profit status in March of 2015, the theater is evolving to further that undertaking.
According to board member and founder, David Fink, the change was necessary to give the theater the freedom to make “decisions based on mission, not finances.”
Moving forward, the theater should not appear any different to the audience. Theater leaders still plan for the Acorn to be a destination for traditional theater, comed, and music ranging form rock to opera to jazz. If any differences are noticed, it is the hope of Executive Director Sandra Thompson that it is that of more quality and diversity in local and affordable live entertainment.
The Acorn’s weekly open mic night is one of many projects that is hoped to benefit from the non-profit status. Thompson’s desires for the Tuesday night event are lofty, with her desire for it to be “the most phenomenal open mic anywhere.”
The popular, free event provides a professional sound engineer and a space where artists are listened to and nurtured. The theater works to include artists of a higher caliber into the evening, giving both audiences a guarantee on entertainment quality level and the newer artists the chance at being mentored by those more experienced. According to the Acorn Theater, the event regularly brings in close to 15 performers and an audience of around one hundred people.
The Acorn Theater is also known for its work in finding and promoting emerging artists. Each year, they host the Singer Songwriter Competition, in which musicians are invited to submit music, with the chance to perform on stage before a live audience and judges, some from the entertainment industry. They can win cash prizes and garner attention for their work. Thompson refers to the event as a “real value for aspiring musicians.”
Maintaining and expanding these programs and finding other methods to provide value for artists and the community was the main motivator for the change to non-profit status. These events, while beneficial creatively, didn’t provide profit for the theater and, in many instances, were not financially sustainable.
The theater hopes to sustain itself going forward with assistance from the community. Crowdfunding and membership programs will provide supporters with special benefits, such as reserved seating and access to special events.
Thompson explains that different contribution levels will receive different rewards, comparing it to public broadcasting fundraising.
“You get the coffee cup!” she explains.
The comparison is apt, as an Acorn Theater coffee mug is one of many rewards available to participants in their IndieGoGo campaign.
Designed to cover the annual expenses of the open mic night, the fundraiser offers a number of rewards in exchange for theater supporters helping to cover what it costs to open the doors and produce the event each week. The event’s popularity is exemplified in the positive response the campaign has already received.
“I’m very excited,” Fink said. “It’s a sustainable model. If the community continues to embrace us financially as they have artistically, we’ll have a long solid future.”
The specific open mic campaign continues until Oct. 17, and regular memberships for general support of the Acorn Theater will be coming soon. Information on those, volunteer opportunities, and upcoming events are available at acorntheater.com.
Justin Flagel is the founder of the web magazine and podcast Anywhere the Needle Drops, where he and others showcase their interest in music, pop culture, creativity and life. Follow their work at anywheretheneedledrops.com. Feedback can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.