`Friends' groups boost programs in music, theater, film and dance

Bette Midler told us in a song that we "gotta have friends." Probably nobody is more aware of this sentiment than the Emory arts programs, where "Friends" are providing much needed additional aid through donations of their time, talent and financial support.

And like all good friendships, the benefits of these relationships go both ways. Members of the Friends of Dance, Friends of Film, Friends of Music and Friends of Theater are treated to such perks as special screenings, receptions with performers and guest artists, and behind-the-scenes tours of works in progress. In some cases they receive discounts for performances, priority ticketing and free parking.

"The various friends groups were organized to promote and build support for dance, film, music and theater programs both within the Emory community and the greater Atlanta community," explained Michele Duncan, associate director of arts and sciences development. Each Friends program is different in that it responds to the structure and needs in that particular educational area.

While the Friends of Theater and Friends of Music have been around for many years and are well established, Friends of Film and Friends of Dance are relatively new. Friends of Film was formed last spring, and Friends of Dance was started in 1994.

The Friends of Film group was organized to increase the quality of programming, says David Cook, director of the film studies program. Before that, Cook says the film program could only offer course-related events because of budget limitations. Now they are able to sponsor events such as the recent Irish Film Festival and last spring's special showing of four films by women about women in history with introductions by members of the film studies faculty and discussions afterwards.

Friends of Film is "virtually unique in the metro area," said Cook, "because it is literally a society of friends who not only want to view films, but also discuss them and learn about them." Cook hopes to see an ongoing film series evolve that will run throughout the academic year.

Recent additions make Emory's film facilities among the finest in the Southeast with two 35 milimeter venues, one of which is convertible into 70 milimeter with Dolby Sensurround sound. "We are now capable of showing any film made anywhere in the world," said Cook. "And the Friends of Film are helping us bring these films here." For information on becoming a Friends of Film member, call 727-6761.

The Friends of Dance group was started to meet the needs of the growing dance program. "We wanted to reach many different audiences to fulfill the interest being generated in the program and help it continue to grow," said Sally Radell, associate professor of health and physical education and dance instructor.

"Also, several of our students were getting accepted into summer dance programs and sometimes they weren't able to go because of finances," explained Radell, "so one of the things that Friends of Dance does is raise money for a summer dance scholarship."

A recent performance by the Emory Dance Company of "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" benefited the Summer Scholarship Fund. The performance of five works focused on the inherent joy of movement that the human body possesses at birth.

"Participation in the Friends of Dance offers an exciting opportunity for those interested in dance to become intimately involved and play an important role in shaping dance at Emory," said Radell. Special events, such as dinner with guest artists and lecturers, will be planned for the Friends group each year. For information on becoming a Friends of Dance member, call 727-2835.

The Friends of Theater, now in its 10th year, annually offers members three events, such as a behind-the-scenes look at the Renaissance theater set now being constructed and a gathering last month of Friends and the author of the play being presented, along with other experts on the topic of the play. "By participating in such events, members gain a closer understanding of the theatrical process," said Pat Miller, managing director of Theater Emory.

The Friends of Theater provides what Miller terms "leap" (of faith) support, which allows the theater group to take on initiatives that otherwise wouldn't be possible, such as collaborating on the Olympic Arts Festival last summer. For information on becoming a Friends of Theater member, call 727-0524.

Dating back to the early 1970s and with 400 members, Friends of Music is both the oldest and the largest of the friends groups. "All of the funds derived from the group go to supplement the academic program at Emory," explained Bill Baites, director of the University Concert Series. For example, money raised from the Friends of Music allows Emory students to participate in a week-long workshop at New York City's Metropolitan Opera each year. Special benefits for Friends of Music vary from year to year but may include private receptions or backstage intermission gatherings to meet guest artists or autographed photos of guest artists. Friends also get the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance of the public for musical events. For information on becoming a Friends of Music member, call 727-5050.

Contributions to any of the four Friends groups are tax deductible. Contributions start at $35 for the general public, $30 for Emory faculty and staff, and $10 for Emory students. There are also special categories and benefits in all the Friends groups for those contributing above the basic membership category, but they vary with each group.

--Bob Keaton

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