With two musical stage productions a month, a comedy night
with the country's top comedians, a Saturday children's theater, a monthly
10,000-subscription newsletter and an occasional appearance onstage, Al Stilo's
calendar is full. But the marketing and sales director for the Aurora Theater in
Lawrenceville is not complaining.
Since graduating from DeKalb College (now Georgia Perimeter College) in 1989, Stilo has forged a name for himself in Atlanta theater circles, working for the Soul-stice Repertory Theater, the Actor's Express and the Georgia Shakespeare Company before coming to the Aurora in 2004.
He has developed a marketing strategy for the 250-seat Gwinnett theater, helping to increase ticket sales by 1,000 and growing the annual budget to $1 million. Recently, he was named vice president for the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Coalition of Performing Arts and wan named Unsung Hero of the Year by the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Stilo credits his success in all aspects of theater--from box office sales to stage lights--to the hands-on instruction he received while a theater student at DeKalb.
As a teen he was one of two students at Avondale High School who were selected for a six-week theater studies program at Governor's Honors in Valdosta. Stilo had choices--he had a scholarship offer from the Webster Conservatory in St. Louis and one from DeKalb College.
"I took the scholarship for DeKalb--I didn't have to pay for anything but books," he said. Staying close to home enabled him to develop his professional career while taking classes--and "grow up a little," he said. "I think I wasn't mature enough to take that step away from home." But he also saw opportunities at the college to flex his acting muscles.
"Jon Downs [retired theater instructor] stressed to me that there were a lot of performance opportunities at the college for students," he said. "He was very aware that students were there to learn. I participated in the work study program and learned the technical aspects of producing a show. I became really proficient at developing those skill sets."
Downs recalled Stilo as "one of our outstanding students. He won the award for outstanding drama student of the year."
During his years at DeKalb, Stilo acted, stage-managed an opera, worked in the technical theater department and designed lighting for a show.
While directing a play for the DeKalb Literary Arts Festival, Stilo received invaluable advice from a festival adjudicator and keynote speaker Alfred Uhry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Driving Miss Daisy."
"He was very encouraging to me. He told me to get involved in all aspects of theater, to do everything--from designing the posters to sewing the costumes to selling tickets. That stuck with me. When you look at my career onstage, backstage and managing, it all ties together."
Stilo has managed to bring his experiences full circle with the Aurora Theater. As he learned in the college theater program, he stays in touch with the Gwinnett County community and now considers it a standard part of his job. recent outreach efforts have included Aurora's annual Toys for Tots campaign and a fundraiser for the Society of Humane Friends, a local free stay and neuter clinic.
"We always want to give back," he said. "We're part of the community."