There's no perfect formula for staying sustainable as a small theater company. But in the case of Houston-based Obsidian Theater and Standing Room Only Productions, the idea is to become stronger as one. For Obsidian's Executive Director Tom Stell, the extra help from SRO's staff could increase productivity and opportunity. "Those people will be helping us on all the shows this next coming year, whether they be musicals or plays," Stell says. "So we'll just have a lot more bandwidth, artistically and businesswise."
Each company specializes in fringe theatre – which is usually less mainstream and more experimental. They're both about six years old, but only Obsidian has been non-profit. SRO has operated as an LLC, but that changes with the merger. "By merging with [Obsidian], we're going to be part of that non-profit," explains SRO's Artistic Director Rachel Landon. "And we're going to enjoy the benefits of being a non-profit." Some of those benefits include becoming eligible for other sources of funding, such as grant money. While the merger means Obsidian will lose revenue from renting the venue to SRO for their musicals, Stell is confident they can make up the loss. "I think we're hoping to leverage those larger audiences we get from the musicals to support the plays," he says.
The groups will call themselves Obsidian Theater in association with SRO Productions to assist in the transition for the first season. After that, the group will become known as Obsidian Theater.