AUGUSTA MINI THEATRE, INC. COMMUNITY ARTS AND LIFE SKILLS SCHOOL
To provide affordable arts instruction and performances to develop the artistic and life skills for area youths, adults and senior citizens.
The Augusta Mini Theatre, Inc., Augusta, Georgia’s first community arts school to focus on multi-art disciplines, was founded on October 8, 1975, by Tyrone J. Butler as a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency. Prior to 1975, there were arts agencies offering one discipline, but no local agency offered dance, drama, visual arts, and music under one roof. Although offerings are relevant and open to the total community, the Mini Theatre, for the past thirty-four years, has filled a void by giving special attention to the artistic needs of the underserved. No student has ever been turned away from our classes or performances because of the inability to pay. Over the years, thousands of persons have benefited from our programs and services.
Free classes and performances, for the first five years, were conducted at the Wallace Branch Library of Richmond County and other venues. The arts school became very popular in surrounding rural communities, as well. A dance program was started in Burke County (Waynesboro, Georgia) and performances and workshops were presented to rural audiences, throughout our thirteen-county area. Also, our drama students toured youth prisons in Georgia for ten years.
Many of our performances are original plays. They target teens and youth dealing with such life skill issues as the importance of education, consequences of alcohol and drug use and pre-marital sex, moving beyond a negative environment, making positive choices, pre-employment and employment skills, anger management, self-esteem building, importance of education, etc.
Because of our arts and life skills instruction, some alumni have become professional actors and have worked and/or are presently working in national commercials (Burger King, Target, Nike’s, Toys R Us, Staples and Blockbuster), television shows (“Sopranos,” “In the Heat of the Night”, “One on One”, and “Kingpin”) and major movies (Drumline and Bad Company). Other former students are stage actors and singers in Hollywood. Presently, one former student is dancing with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC). But just as important, most of our alumni have become schoolteachers, lawyers, and marketing directors. Some have gone into the armed services, medical field, business, or etc. Furthermore, no student in the Mini Theatre for four or more years has dropped out of school, nor do they commit crimes, nor impregnate or get pregnant.
We produce two major performances a year. Some of the former plays have been Pickin’ and Last Chance, published plays written by Tyrone J. Butler about school bullying and importance of education, respectively, and The Wiz by William F. Brown, music and lyrics by Charlie Small. The Theatre also presented The Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, and has an impressive collection of visual art works by Georgia artists mounted throughout the school.
We raised more than $3,000,000 to build a 9,333 square foot community arts school (Phase I) at 2548 Deans Bridge Road in Augusta that sits on eleven acres, (706) 722-0598; www.augustaminitheatre.com. The construction was completed and we moved in September of 2008. The major partners were City of Augusta (SPLOST), State of Georgia, Community Block Grant, Procter and Gamble, Four Seasons Securities, Inc., David Karangu, Georgia Power, Mariah Butler, Quincy Robertson, Cleon W. Mauldin Foundation, SunTrust Bank and Mrs. Naomi Williams. The arts school includes offices, four studios (dance, music, art, and drama) including the James Brown Music Wing and media center.
Finally, the Mini Theatre and its staff have received numerous honors and awards: “Women of Excellence” (Girl Scouts of the CSRA) in 1991 (Judith Simon-Butler), and Greater Augusta Arts Council Artist Award in 2000 (Judith Simon-Butler); The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (Georgia Council for the Arts) in 1984; “Best Actor” (Georgia Theatre Conference) in 1989; Greater Augusta Arts Council Artist Award in 1993 (Tyrone J. Butler).