Dad’s Garage kick-starts plans for its own home

After 18 years of performing in the same rented Inman Park space, the improvisational theater company Dad’s Garage was effectively kicked to the curb in the summer of 2013 by real estate developers with plans to renovate the property as part of a new mixed-use complex.

At the time, artistic director Kevin Gillese said the theater company had been talking for a few years about getting its own place and “something like this is probably just the push we need. Sometimes, it takes that kind of kick in the face to finally figure out it’s time to get real.”

Now, Gillese and company are kicking back with a vengeance. In a 60-day online fundraising campaign via Kickstarter that ended last week, they far exceeded their original goal ($116,000) by securing nearly $170,000 toward a down payment on the Atlanta Metropolitan Christian Church building in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

An anonymous local donor has agreed to match $150,000 of that amount, and Gillese said he wants to raise another $150,000 before the end of the year to “seal the deal.” The total cost of the project will be $2.2 million, he said.

As for Dad’s Kickstarter drive, “Ours is officially the most successful live-theater campaign in the history of Kickstarter,” Gillese said. “No other theater company has ever raised as much money as we just did.”

It was a nontraditional approach, he said, “but it probably made sense for us, too, because we’re not your traditional arts organization.”

“We’ve always had much more success in terms of community support than in terms of having a lot of corporate ties,” Gillese said. “That’s going to be one of our greatest challenges now, looking at ways to appeal to big foundations or business sponsors for financial support.”

Since losing its original Inman Park space last year, Dad’s has taken temporary residence at 7 Stages in Little Five Points, where the troupe continues to perform a number of its popular weekly improv shows (“Theatre Sports,” “Extreme Elimination Improv Challenge”), in addition to occasional productions of scripted plays.

Dad’s one-man comedy “Morgan Freeman Presents: The Magic Negro and Other Blackness” is running through Dec. 6. And, Nov. 21-22, the group will be presenting comedian Fred Willard in four performances of his own one-man show, “An Evening With Fred Willard.” (For tickets or further details: 404-523-3141,

In one sense, for the time being it’s business as usual for the company at 7 Stages — at least, until March 2016, when the Atlanta Metropolitan Christian congregation officially moves out of its church. Gillese said he anticipates a grand opening of Dad’s new “Garage” later that summer.

In another sense, though, “A whole lot will be changing for us between now and then, and all for the better,” Gillese said. “It’s going to be an incredible roller-coaster ride, and our feeling is like, ‘Hey, bring it on!’”

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