There’s much more to the Atlanta theater scene than just the work of established and long-standing companies like the Alliance, Theatrical Outfit or Actor’s Express. A number of lesser-known, under-the-radar troupes in the metro area are thriving from one extreme to another—geographically as well as artistically.
Here’s a shout-out to six of the most promising of them:
Catalyst Arts Atlanta
One of this year’s best shows was also one of its first: Catalyst’s January staging of the mountain-climbing drama “K2.” The itinerant company, co-founded in 2016 by the prominent young actor-director-designer Barrett Doyle (among five others), bills itself as a “multidisciplinary collective of theater artists seeking to foster exciting new works and rediscover the classics in inventive and immersive formats.”
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Indeed. Its environmental production of “K2” was mounted in a southwest Atlanta warehouse space. Audience members walked into a “lobby” that was done up as a base camp tent, utilizing space heaters, hot beverages and blankets to help fend off the chilly temperature outside. Doyle’s impressive set featured an abstract jungle gym of a mountainside, suitable for climbing and rappelling by co-stars Joel Coady and Dan Ford, as dictated by the script. The overwhelming atmosphere of the show was way cool, both literally and figuratively. Stay tuned for future plans.
825 Warner St. SW, Atlanta. 404-666-1624, catalystartsatl.com.
Located some 30 miles south of Atlanta in the Fayette County community of Tyrone, Legacy was founded in 2006 by Mark and Bethany Smith, who built the 196-seat facility from the ground up. The company specializes in family-friendly shows, predominantly of the musical variety—boasting solid production values, and frequently casting professional actors familiar to in-town theatergoers (e.g., Chase Peacock and Bryant Smith in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”).
Other recent Legacy outings include such mainstream titles as “Mary Poppins,” “Tarzan,” “Hairspray” and this summer’s “Matilda.” Of particular note was a 2015 world premiere of “Rocket Boys,” an original musical version of the popular movie “October Sky.”
Now playing (through Oct. 13) is the three-person comedy “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” The rest of its 2019-20 season will include “Sanders Family Christmas,” “Mamma Mia!,” the John Denver revue “Almost Heaven” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
1175 Senoia Road, Tyrone. 404-895-1473, thelegacytheatre.org.
Out of Box Theatre
Founded in 2012 and operating in a flexible black-box space at the Artisan Resource Center in Marietta, Out of Box artistic director Carolyn Choe compensates for comparatively low budgets with highly ambitious material—a definite cut above usual “community theater” fare.
In addition to occasional dark musicals (“Assassins,” “Fun Home”), the troupe’s previous credits include offbeat plays by the likes of Martin McDonagh (“The Pillowman”), Neil LaBute (“In a Forest, Dark and Deep”), Yasmina Reza (“Art”), David Lindsay-Abaire (“Kimberly Akimbo”) and Jon Robin Baitz (“Other Desert Cities”).
Its current season began with Atlanta playwright Topher Payne’s “Entertaining Lesbians,” and continues with a remounted “Evil Dead, the Musical” (opening this week). Also on tap: the futuristic fantasy “The Grown Up”; the irreverent “Santa After Hours”; the AIDS drama “We Are a Masterpiece”; the bittersweet romance “This Random World”; the musical comedy “Personals”; and the Woody Guthrie revue “American Song.”
585 Cobb Parkway, Suite C-1, Marietta. 678-653-4605, outofboxtheatre.com.
Out of Hand Theater
Founded in 2001 by co-artistic directors Adam and Ariel Fristoe, Out of Hand enjoyed early success with several original, company-developed projects. More recently, the group has created a unique niche for itself, foregoing traditional theatrical productions for a series of intimate one-person “salon” shows, performed to small audiences of 20 or so people who gather in private residences around metro Atlanta.
Beginning in 2014 with “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” (which employed a different actor each night, none of whom were allowed to read the script in advance), Out of Hand’s in-home showcases have featured notable local actors Minka Wiltz in “Shaking the Wind,” Matt Felten in “The Magic Chamber,” and Adam Fristoe in “Dogs of Rwanda.”
Currently, “Conceal and Carry” (continuing through Nov. 23) tackles the gun culture in America, with Lee Osorio playing the father of a school shooting victim, as he embarks on an all-night drive towards revenge.
675 Ponce de Leon Ave #8500, Atlanta. 404-462-8836, outofhandtheater.com.
New to Gwinnett County, and working out of the stylish 270-seat Sylvia Beard Theatre at the Buford Community Center (replete with a balcony and box seats), Theatre Buford made an auspicious debut last year, under the guidance of co-artistic directors Justin Walker and Julie Skrzypek.
The fledgling company’s inaugural season included the splashy musicals “Damn Yankees” and “Footloose,” in addition to the two-character romantic comedy “See Rock City” and a fine rendition of the classic drama “A Streetcar Named Desire” (directed by Daniel May and co-starring Walker and veteran actress Courtney Patterson) that proved well worth the roughly 35-mile trek from Atlanta.
Its second season commences next week with a four-person parody of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The 39 Steps,” followed by productions of “A Christmas Carol,” the Oscar Wilde comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest” and the musical “Grease.” 2200 Buford Highway, Buford. 770-904-2740, theatrebuford.com.
Vernal & Sere Theatre
Like Catalyst’s “K2,” another highlight of the theatergoing year that seemed to come out of nowhere was Vernal & Sere’s invigorating and innovative “Spirits to Enforce,” a fantastical performance piece involving a group of otherworldly telemarketers trying to raise money to finance a presentation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”—or something to that effect. The itinerant three-year-old company staged the show in May at the Windmill Arts Center in East Point.
Up next for the experimental troupe is a return to Windmill early next year with “Ubu,” a new adaptation of an obscure 1896 absurdist play by Alfred Jarry. As co-founding member Kathrine Barnes explains, “(It) places the action on an American schoolyard as we observe and overturn certain conventions … It will be violent, foolish, brazen, loud, physical and more demanding of our ensemble than anything we’ve ever done.”
Bring it on.
132 Mitchell Street SW, Atlanta. 404-WOW-ARTS (969-2787), instagram.com/vernalandseretheatre.
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