MARION — The Giving Tree Theater in Marion is under new ownership, but audiences can expect the same comfy seating options it’s known for.
Jamie and Andrea Henley, a couple who met through theater and have been involved ever since, officially took over the Uptown Marion theater last week from longtime owners Richie and Heather Akers, who are moving to Orlando for a job opportunity, according to an announcement posted on the Giving Tree’s Facebook page.
The Henleys hope to keep the same feel and name of the theater but increase youth programming. Andrea Henley, who is a Regis Middle School teacher, has served as a theater program director in the schools where she’s taught.
The couple imagines a year-round young adult program because some schools only put on a play once a year.
“In between there, there’s really not a whole lot to do to, to build up your skill set, if that’s really what you want to do,” said Jamie Henley. “We want to provide those opportunities to learn more about theater.”
Youth programming will include summer camps, semesterlong classes capped off with a showcase, and at least two shows a year with all-youth casts.
Jamie Henley, who is the chief operations officer at the Community Health Free Clinic, has been in a number of plays at the Giving Tree, including “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Our Town.” Their three children have also grown up in theater.
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“(Jamie has) always wanted to own his own business. And we had just talked about what would that look like at this point in our lives, and so we had just started talking about the possibilities of what could be available and then (the Giving Tree announcement) came out. So to us, it was almost like a like a godsend,” Andrea Henley said.
The Giving Tree is in a prime location in Uptown Marion, although Louie’s Scoreboard, the restaurant next door, recently closed to be renovated and change ownership.
The Henleys said they’re eager to work with a new owner of the restaurant and be part of the revitalization of Uptown.
“You can get people to come in for dinner, but then what, right? And if they want to do more than that they’re going to end up going somewhere else. So the theater gives Uptown that ‘What’s next?’ piece after dinner,” Jamie Henley said.
The Henleys have yet to announce what their first show will be, but the play “Puffs” takes the stage this weekend. That show is scheduled to open Friday. Tickets are available at givingtreetheater.com.
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