I first met Jonathan Perkins when he came back to town after graduating from Georgia Southern University. It was at the Liberty Theater.
I can't believe that was 10 years ago.
Last June, he was hired as the artistic director of the Liberty Theater after the theater was left floundering. Managing director Gayle Daniels had quit and no one seemed to know what was going on.
Now, just after 11 months Jonathan has been dismissed.
He said it was "creative differences" and wouldn't elaborate further. The actor/director/playwright said he was still in shock.
“That’s after 10 years, 20 productions and countless programs,” Perkins said.
He didn't say it bitterly. He went on to say, “I will always be part of the Liberty and will always encourage people to go to the Liberty. But at this time, it was in the best interest of both parties” that he no longer be there.
Robert Anderson, the president of the board of directors, said Perkins was hired as the administrative director as well as artistic director.
“Jonathan wasn’t able to do the administrative job as well as he hoped,” Anderson said. He said Perkins is a very talented man and can always present his shows at the theater.
“We’re surviving,” Anderson said of historically black theater. “We are planning some things in the fall but we’re not quite ready to disclose them.”
He did say the annual summer camp program will continue.
The first session is June 3-28 and for the first time, a second session, July 8-Aug. 2 has been added.
The end-of-camp play will be “Legacies of the Liberty,” which can be seen June 28-30 and Aug. 2-4.
This show will highlight some of the entertainers who have been on the Liberty stage like “Ma” Rainey, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Cab Calloway, as well as local supporters like Ga. Rep. Calvin Smyre and business leaders of companies like Aflac and TSYS. The children enrolled in the camp will play those roles.
After summer camp, the Liberty will actively look for another director, Anderson said.
In the meantime, he and his daughter, Shea, will be running the theater.
Before Perkins left the theater, he had planned a collaboration between the Liberty and the Chattahoochee Valley Writers, of which he is a member. They would bring in Columbus native Shay Youngblood, who is an author and playwright, for a project.
Anderson said that project is still in the works, but he’s not sure of the dates.
“We’ll be part of their (Chattahoochee Valley Writers) conference,” Anderson said. “We’ll do a gala production (of one of Youngblood’s plays) or she will do a reading.”
I do know that Robert was concerned that people weren't attending the showss at the Liberty. That's not Jonathan's fault. Since last summer, the street in front of the theater has been torn up for the street project. It has been difficult to get there and to find parking. And try to navigate that in the dark.
Trust me. I've had to do it to interview casts of shows there with the road construction. And I always prayed there wasn't something sticking up out of the ground that could flatten a tire. I know that's happened before.
Just before "Stimulous" earlier this year, we had torrential rains. Jonathan joked that he could have sold tickets to mud wrestling and got more people to come for that than see a show.
Once people get in the habit of not going to places, it's easy to say, "Oh, maybe next weekend." And next weekend is too late.
The Springer Opera House, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts and Columbus State University are much easier to find with plenty of parking.
I think we need to support smaller theaters like the Liberty and the Family Theater.