By Madison Ward
“I figured I’ll go back to school when I need and/or want to, and now, it’s that time,” says Mark Albin, theater studies student at IU South Bend, who owns his own nonprofit theatre company called Art 4, with his husband, Aaron Albin. It is one of the few professional regional companies that is able to pay musical theatre artists in the area.
Albin is a nontraditional student at IU South Bend, coming back to school after ten years of acting full-time in Chicago and working as an elementary teacher.
For Albin, his experiences at IU South Bend are directly helping him with running his company Art 4.
“My husband and I are Co-Founders. He is the Executive Director, and I am the Artistic Director. For each of our shows, we are both active in the process. I handle the stage direction and choreography, and his background is on the music side of things. He has his doctorate in orchestral conducting, so he does the vocal coaching and he handles the pit orchestra for all our shows. We also both share a background in arts administration and nonprofit management,” Albin says.
Art 4 hosts performances regularly throughout the local community. In November, Art 4 showcased Ghost Quartet, written by Tony Nominated Composer, Dave Malloy, which included a whiskey tasting and folk music mixed with jazz. Art 4 will hold a fundraiser at IRONHAND called Jingle Mingle, on Saturday, Dec. 21st from 2-5 p.m. In February, they will be performing another show at Langlab called Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown.
Art 4’s staff is comprised of Albin, his husband, and "a handful of really amazing volunteers."
“It is really just my husband and I who run things. So, we are the custodians, we are the business managers, we are the fundraising team. And for a non-profit, that’s where a lot of our focus goes, raising the funds. Anytime that someone donates, it makes a huge impact on the way that we operate, because the primary mission for Art 4 is to pay local artists.”
This year, the company was able to hire lighting and costume designers. All of the actors, stage managers, and instrumentalists are key components to the show, and some of them are even IU South Bend alumni. Stage manager/costume coordinator, Emily Chidalek, lighting designer, Nich Sikorski, and actor Mimi Bell have all attended IU South Bend and participated in showcases of Art 4.
“I am proud of a lot of what we are doing. I think it is really cool to be working with my best friend every day. I am really proud of the community that we are making. We are able to provide opportunities to people who have not had opportunities to work in a professional setting before and be paid for their work. And I think, when you are valued in that way, it is a very empowering thing that could inspire you to take larger actions within your life, so you advance your dreams and the direction you want to go.
“We had two artists who worked with us, in our first season, who, after working with us for our first two shows, they had this awakening within themselves and realized that they are good enough to go out there and give their dreams a shot. They both moved to Chicago, and both booked gigs almost instantaneously. I think that is the magic behind giving somebody an opportunity like this, is that they are able to see inside of them--what others see about them.”
Albin and Art 4 enjoy the opportunity to be a career-catalyst for the actors that come through the doors of their company. With this amazing opportunity, local actors no longer have to leave the area to begin a successful career.
In addition to his company, Albin also helps choreograph at Clay High School about twice a year for their musicals, and Aaron music directed Evil Dead the Musical at IU South Bend. His involvement within the community has been nothing but a great experience.
“It is just a cool dynamic that we are able to be saturated in the community from all angles and that the people around us have embraced that aspect of who we are and what we are able to bring to the table.”
Albin has been lucky enough to have touched so many lives through theatre, and he does not take that lightly.
“I think I just discovered things that I was passionate about and continued to say yes to them. I am a pretty lucky person, and I realize that I’m lucky to have found success in the things that I really love to do. It definitely took hard work, and it wasn’t a cake-walk or anything like that, but I just listened to my gut, and I think everybody has a gut instinct, an internal compass, that, when you are able to tap into it, it leads you into really fascinating directions.”
Now, Albin is continuing to learn and grow, from his classes at IU South Bend to the ins and outs of Art 4. Any obstacle that he faces is an opportunity to learn, and learning is always a constant thing for Albin. However, he’s learning about the things he enjoys the most.
“If we just spend more of our time and focus on the things that give us joy, then I think that you can’t go wrong in your journey to find success.” For more information about Art 4, visit art4sb.org.