Congratulations, American Cabaret Theatre!

Erin Monahan, the Marketing and Public Relations Director for the American Cabaret Theatre (ACT) sent me an especially exciting press release yesterday.  ACT is getting…

Well, here.  Read for yourself:


 Lilly Endowment Gives $250,000 for

      American Cabaret Theatre Capital Projects 

      Funds help sustain theatre’s vision to reinvent itself; new chairs, tables and lighting will increase comfort and make space more flexible 

      Indianapolis, IN – The American Cabaret Theatre has received a $250,000 capital improvement grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to underwrite the cost of new furniture and equipment and help sustain the artistic refinement of the theatre, announced ACT Chief Executive Officer Mark Kesling. Located in the historic Athenaeum Building at 401 E. Michigan St., the 320-seat theatre has been a showcase for the cultural arts for decades.

      “The purpose of this grant is not just to update the theatre,” Kesling said. “It’s to make it viable for the future by creating a more flexible environment.” He noted the current café-style tables and chairs were purchased when the ACT opened 18 years ago and are not easily reconfigured for different artistic purposes. The Shakespeare in the Park program donated the light fixtures more than 20 years ago. The purchase of new equipment, including flexible lighting, will be phased in by the end of the year. The old equipment will be donated.

      Theatre’s New Vision

      As part of the ACT’s rejuvenation, Kesling — who was named Chief Operating Officer in October 2007 — has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer. He is now spearheading efforts to bring a new face and refined programming to the theatre.

      “We have been listening to our audience,” said Kesling. “They want a bit of the old and new — musicals and intimate cabaret — and to see upcoming, as well as seasoned talent. We want to update the entire infrastructure and use the theatre to enable the coexistence of a wider variety of artistic styles and performances.” The goal is to increase the use of the theatre on different days and times to create a new and refined set of artistic performances that will appeal to varied audiences.

      In addition to its year-round original concept musical productions produced by Artistic Director Bob Harbin and the artistic staff, the ACT has initiated a new music and poetry series, in association with Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf. Kesling is also working with vocalist Shannon Forsell, a longtime ACT performer, to create a “Small Cabaret” series for the 2009 season that will feature a small cast and band in a more intimate, cabaret setting.

      “The Athenaeum is an important anchor in the Mass Avenue Cultural District, and ACT is one of the principal tenants in the historic building,” said Lilly Endowment president, N. Clay Robbins.  “ACT’s arts programs add variety to the wonderful array of cultural opportunities available in the district and throughout the Indianapolis community.  Lilly Endowment is pleased to help enhance the experiences for ACT’s audiences and artists.”

      For further information, please contact Erin Monahan at 317-631-0334 x109, or

      # # #

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc., an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937, supports the causes of community development, education and religion. 

About the American Cabaret Theatre

The American Cabaret Theatre has been a showcase for the cultural arts since coming to downtown Indianapolis in 1990 as a partner in the revitalization of the historic Athenaeum Building. Located at 401 E. Michigan St. in the Mass Ave Arts & Theater District, the ACT presents year-round original concept musical productions based on American themes in an intimate, cabaret-style setting. For more information, call 317-631-0334 or visit


How cool is that?!  Mind you, I wish the press release said something about putting some of the money towards additional sound insulation in the wall between ACT and its noisy next-door neighbor, but the planned improvements as described above sound appealing, too. 

Congratulations again, ACT!

Hope Baugh –

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