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Telling Great Stories with Big Heart in Uptown Marion

Article by Jodi Harris, City Revealed | Photography by VonPresley Studios |

Marion has a theater again, thanks to Heather and Richie Akers, owners of Giving Tree Theater. The business is unique in that they support local charities by donating a portion of proceeds from each show to a charity of the casts’ choice. They had dreamed of owning a business which incorporated their extensive experience in the performing arts “someday” and also wanted to give back to the community. But it was during an anniversary trip to New York City last summer that they visited some unique businesses, and envisioned owning one of their own. Soon after they returned, Heather lost her mother suddenly and unexpectedly, which prompted them to think seriously about their own future. Richie showed Heather a business plan which he had prepared to open a theater. She loved it and thought it was a great plan, and together they moved forward to make their dream come true. They leased the building at 752 10th Street in Uptown Marion on November 15, 2014 and began working day and night to transform the space from offices to a theater again. Built in 1914, it was originally the Garden Theater. Their first show was The Miracle Worker which opened in January of this year. They had no idea what to expect, but when the show sold out, Heather had to ask her dad to give up his seat for the show. “It was a labor of love, with the entire family helping right up until show time on the first day,” says Heather. “We were hanging pictures and putting the final touches on the space right up until we opened the doors on opening night!” The business features live theater performances and concerts with more events to come as the business grows.

Heather and Richie were elated when they recently won the Uptown Marion Open 4 Business Competition which brought a $500 prize. They will be competing in the Regional competition on June 25th in Mt. Pleasant, against six other businesses from Eastern and Central Iowa for an $8,000 prize. The winner will advance to the State Competition to be held on August 26th in Valley Junction and will compete for the grand prize of $20,000 to be used to further develop an Iowa business. The contest is hosted by Main Street Iowa and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Richie, who was formerly the marketing director for Theatre Cedar Rapids, is now working full time at the business directing, preparing sets, props, costumes and anything else that needs to be done. Heather works full time at Mercy Medical Center and works evenings and weekends at the theater helping Richie with everything from A to Z. Their children Zoey, age ten, and Harrison, age 13, also help with the family business.

“This just doesn’t feel like work to me and I’ve never been so happy to work so hard.” Richie Akers, Owner, Chief Storyteller

Upcoming Shows & Events

Babe, The Sheep-Pig, June 26 – July 5, 2015 – Sponsored by ImOn Communications and directed by Mary Sullivan. Children, ages 7 through 13 who are participating in a three week summer camp at the theater will be performing. As part of the camp, the kids will interview various non-profit organizations and choose the one they wish to receive a donation from the show. This is a fun, G-Rated family show which became the hit movie “Babe” and is a high adventure, show for kids and adults.

The Boys Next Door – July 24 – August 9, 2015 – Featuring a day in the life of four special-needs roommates and their caregiver, Jack. This heartfelt comedy will make you laugh out loud and is rated PG.

The 39 Steps – September 11 – September 27, 2015 – A fast-paced whodunit which has a mix of Hitchcock, spy novel, and will deliver non-stop laughs. Rated PG.

Dial M for Murder – October 16 – November 1, 2015 – This comedy/thriller by Frederick Knott is intense and will mesmerize you as Tony plans the perfect murder of his wife who he believes is cheating on him. Rated PG.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – November 27 – December 13, 2015 – A hilarious Christmas Classic features a couple’s struggle to put on their church Christmas pageant. Mayhem, humor, and fun will be delivered in the G-Rated show for the entire family.

They support local businesses by selling locally made snacks, specialty beers and wine for each show.

Giving Tree Theater does not solicit or accept private donations, but would welcome volunteers and sponsorship of upcoming shows. If you want to help local non-profits, just buy a ticket! Visit www.givingtreetheater.com or call 319.213.7956 to buy your tickets or volunteer to usher at the next show!

http://www.cityrevealed.com/pages/articles/jul15/givingtree.html

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