All across Nashville, community arts leaders are shouting their economic hardships from the rooftops. A rare exception is Jeff Obafemi Carr, director of the Amun Ra Theatre at 2508 Clifton Ave. He's actually climbed down from his.
After a week of taking everything an unseasonably rainy September could pour on him—torrents, drizzles, mists, downpours—the noted local actor/playwright left the donated tent pitched atop his North Nashville playhouse. Late Monday afternoon, he descended the metal ladder he'd eyed with caution for several stormy days and declared to a live radio audience that he'd indeed made it rain, spurring friends, neighbors and sympathetic patrons to donate more than $30,000 to keep his theater company going.
Amun Ra Theatre Playhouse debuted its first season of plays in 2009. But Carr, like many arts administrators, found the going tough in a recessionary economy. "I heard about people on the West Coast living on roofs, so I said, 'I'll go up there and do it,' " Carr said last Saturday, as passers-by honked their approval and waved. "People said, 'That's crazy.' So I'm living up here until we get $30,000. With this fundraising drive, we can do our academy for youths ages 8 to 18 year-round."
With three children at home and his wife eight months pregnant, Carr launched his stay in the donated tent on Sept. 21. He armed himself with minimal bedding, a cooler of snacks, a laptop and a few technical creative tools for making videos (and digitally wiring in some TV feeds).
He also brought various plays and movie scripts to help pass the time on the roof. There he intended to stay until he raised his goal, enough to support the activities of ART's community-rooted theatrical endeavors.
From the start, though, nature plainly intended to make him work for it. Almost immediately, he found himself bedeviled by near-constant rain. Lightning streaked overhead. Asked what life had been like on the roof, Carr's answer was forthright: "Hell."
But for every dousing Carr took, something else would raise his spirits. For the past week, he led a Swiss Family Robinson existence atop the building, lowering a bucket to receive mail, goodies and donations from well-wishers. Neighbors from the brick-and-concrete apartment complex across the street kept him company, shouting across from their balconies whenever visitors came by.
Folks stopped by daily to check on Carr's status, to see how he'd held up after the latest downpour or just to say hello. The ladies at the Caribbean restaurant Jamaicaway in the Farmers' Market would deliver vegetarian dishes twice a day, while the Starbucks at Metro Center dispatched Carr's wife with morning java.
Another recent visitor was noted Southern historian, author and civil rights activist John Egerton. He eschewed a trip up Carr's reliable but rather bouncy ladder, instead choosing to shout up his good wishes.
By day six, Carr had raised more than 70 percent of his goal, with monies coming in the form of cash, checks and credit cards. Meanwhile, Carr's blog, Twitter updates and YouTube videos were keeping faithful followers informed both about the cause and tent life. Facebook activity helped donations arrive from as far away as Atlanta, New York, D.C., Florida and elsewhere.
Perhaps his biggest boost came from author and motivational speaker Michael Baisden, who publicized carr's efforts on his nationally syndicated radio show, airing locally on WQQK-FM 92.1. It was to Baisden's loyal listeners that carr made his jubilant announcement Monday afternoon. But the fight is far from over.
"Realistically, we'd love to get $100,000 of support," Carr said on Saturday, "and that would be phenomenal. Any arts organization in Nashville knows that $30,000 is relatively a drop in the bucket. But $30,000 will get me off this roof."
Once ART is in the black, Carr plans to announce a season of activities and plays, including a big initiative with the kids that will provide scholarships plus salaries for working artists brought in to teach acting, dancing and fine art. For now, though, he's basking in proof that one man can literally put the city at his feet.
It is this subtle dimension of understanding that marks the southwestern Indian peoples from other…
When the healthy nature of man acts as a whole, when he feels himself to…
Who in their right mind would try to please everyone. It is accomplished in all…
Human beings are making such extraordinary demands on the environment that the natural cycles can…
I dunno--I thought of it as Wrath of Khan meets Groundhog Day, writ over 300…