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At Dad's Garage, the Laughter and Entertainment Never Needs Repairs

By Pamela Sosnowski

Dad's Garage sounds like the name of a place you'd bring your car to for repairs but in fact, it happens to be the name of the Atlanta area's most popular improv comedy theater group. (The name pays homage to the non-profit's first performing space, which was formerly an auto shop.) For over 20 years Dad's Garage has been bringing off-the-cuff improv nights, original and classic plays and musicals, children's entertainment, and more to the Atlanta community, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

"Founded in 1995, Dad's Garage is an award-winning non-profit theatre company that brings in over 30,000 people a year at our new Ezzard Street home in Atlanta's historic Old Fourth Ward, public events across the continent, and festivals around the globe," communications director Matthew Terrell said. "Each season features original plays and world premieres created by our performers; this creates the backbone of our programming."

The group was formed by a group of Florida theater and improv comedy college students that decided to bring more theater to the Atlanta area. Their productions became so popular that when their original space in Inman Park was designated for demolition to make way for mixed use development they were able to raise over a million dollars in donations to help them find their second and permanent home in a converted church in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. The new space seats up to 210 patrons and enables the group to produce over 400 shows a year.

But Dad's Garage is not just in the business of entertaining the masses; its mission is to provide outreach to young aspiring thespians and make their shows more widely accessible to those that have limited exposure of the arts.

"Dad's Garage serves a younger demographic not typically served by traditional arts organizations," Terrell said. "We introduce them to other arts organizations such as The Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Opera, and Atlanta Ballet through strategic programming collaborations. We have established ourselves as a 'gateway drug to the arts' and are dedicated to building a new generation of arts consumers."

Their programs include high school outreach, where actors and instructors bring improve education directly to high schools in the Atlanta area, helping to boost confidence and teamwork. This arrangement is free to high school students in metro Atlanta, who eventually show off their comedy and acting chops by performing a show on the Dad's Garage main stage. Through its Pay It Forward ticket program, Dad's Garage collaborates with local schools, nonprofits and other community groups to provide their staff and students with complimentary tickets to enjoy their shows.

Eight week-long improv classes are also taught in several levels at the theater for adults, and earlier this summer the group ran its first ever teen and kids summer camp in improv. It was such a success that the program plans on making a return to summer 2018. The Dad's Garage team can also be hired for team building events and private shows, and theater is available to rent for fundraisers and private parties.

Dad's Garage sells wine, beer, and cocktails at its performances as well as light complimentary snacks. Ticket prices average $15 for most shows. You can see what's currently on stage and purchase tickets online at https://dadsgarage.com.

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