The Overtime Theater, San Antonio’s (quite aptly) self-proclaimed “theater for the people,” has played an important if often overlooked role in local arts and culture in its somewhat tumultuous first decade. Begun in 2007, the theater has, like no other in town, kept its spirit and talent local, while “specializing in the eccentric, the eclectic, the experimental, and the original.” Through the course of over 75 original productions — all of them never-before-performed — The Overtime has celebrated, challenged, and engaged San Antonio in a way that no other theater would be able to claim (or, probably, care to).
The Overtime does all this, and more, in an all-volunteer capacity, without city funding, without huge grants or endowments, and (largely) without the kind of big donor audience that some other local theaters enjoy.
Now, The Overtime is facing the necessity of a somewhat hurried move from its current location on Camden near the Museum Reach. The move, which will happen at the end of March, is the small theater’s fourth move in its relatively brief history and at least its second move spurred by rising rent. The Overtime’s executive director Nicole Erwin spoke to the Current last weekend, explaining that the theater is “in a bit of a time crunch,” nearly settled on a location in northwest San Antonio, and plans to still put on its scheduled shows for March, as well as April. “The show must go on,” Erwin chuckled.
The theater is currently accepting donations from patrons eager to help the move go smoothly, but Erwin insists that The Overtime “will go on, with or without funding.” Consider, however, what a worthy cause it is to support a theater that produces all original plays by (mostly) local writers, using local actors, directors and stagehands. The Overtime’s choice of plays to program is, compared to other area theaters who program safer, more easily marketable works, noticeably geared more toward ennobling the local community and addressing its issues. As such, we should not flee from it. (Plus, those who donate $100 to the cause receive a season pass, while anyone who donates $500 scores a lifetime pass.)
For Erwin, who worked in and patronized the theater long before she became its director, The Overtime is all about “giving a voice to local authors” and providing a space where all San Antonians can explore (or discover) their interest in theater. It’s this steadfast and consistent desire to partner with and uplift the local community that makes The Overtime so unique and so important.
One distinguished local talent who understands The Overtime’s value especially well is journalist, activist, teacher, poet, critic, filmmaker and playwright Gregg Barrios. Barrios, who sits on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle, told the Current that The Overtime, which happened to be the only local theater adventurous and culturally savvy enough to put on his (now celebrated) play I-DJ, is essentially “the only local theater that actually deals with issues that involve the community.” Barrios refers to the little theater whose main stage bears his name as a kind of “miracle” and sees its struggle to survive as an indication that “even in the arts, things aren’t equal for everyone.”
Barrios bemoans the lack of “Latino characters or LGBT issues and themes” in most local theaters’ programming, insisting that only a theater that addresses the actual concerns of the community around it can be a theater for the people. And, a theater for the people, is, perhaps, the only kind of theater worth having.
Thus, it is only fitting that, as I-DJ was the first play performed at The Overtime’s current location, Barrios’ newest play Seven Card Stud (a continuation of his Tennessee Williams trilogy) will be the last.