Wonder women guide Synchronicity’s ‘Lasso of Truth’

Show marks opening of theater’s new performance space


"Lasso of Truth."8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays. Sept. 26-Oct. 19. $20-$25. Synchronicity Theatre, Peachtree Pointe, 1545 Peachtree St. N.E, Suite 102, Atlanta. 404-484-8636. www.synchrotheatre.com.

She might lack the ability to pilot an invisible airplane or quickly change outfits by spinning herself around in circles like the famous DC Comics super-heroine, but Rachel May is very much her own kind of Wonder Woman.

As the co-founder and artistic director of Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre, May has guided the company through 16 seasons of proverbial ups and downs. The most recent among the latter being the sale of the Woodruff Arts Center’s 14th Street Playhouse to the Savannah College of Art and Design back in January, which prompted Synchronicity to postpone the opening of its spring show.

Now, some six months later, Synchronicity’s latest “up” is worthy of a comic-book exclamation. (“Wowee!”) When that postponed production of Carson Kreitzer’s “Lasso of Truth” finally opens Sept. 26, it will be from the stage of the group’s new permanent home in Midtown, the former Ansley Park Playhouse venue at Peachtree Pointe (where the popular comedy “Peachtree Battle” ran for many years).

“The Woodruff and SCAD folks were wonderful about the whole thing and incredibly gracious to us,” May says about the 14th Street Playhouse sale. “They were more than willing to honor our contract. That was entirely our decision, to put the show off,” May says. “It suddenly became a situation of needing to look at the big picture further down the road, instead of just living in the moment and trying to do the show anyway.”

Packing up shop and hitting the road again, as it were, was nothing new for Synchronicity. Over the course of its career, the itinerant troupe had always produced and performed its work in the rented spaces of other theaters around town – Actor’s Express, Horizon, Theatrical Outfit, 7 Stages, Aurora. That is, until now.

While having its own theater was not part of Synchronicity’s plan – “We didn’t really have a plan 16 years ago,” she admits with a laugh – May concedes it’s “definitely a dream come true” for the company.

“The mission has always been as much about building a community [among artists and audiences] as it’s been about building one company, and we always knew that we’d never have the autonomy we wanted or the ability to control the overall theater-going experience without a space we could call our own,” she elaborates.

"Our audiences varied with every show we did, depending on where we were. Some people love going downtown or to Little Five Points to see a show, and other people never go downtown or to Little Five Points. It isn't that they aren't discerning, but a lot of them are creatures of habit. They identify a company with a place, and we've never been a place before. We've always been a thing but, hopefully, now we can become a destination."

May describes the new location as “spectacular, safe, accessible [and] convenient.” Moreover, it will allow Synchronicity to “pay it forward” by providing other nomadic arts organizations with a rental space in which to perform – be they another theater group or a kids comedy troupe, chamber musicians or choral singers, or even a belly-dancing ensemble.

As she puts it, “The ideal would be that on any weekend night, there will be something happening here. It may not always be to this or that personal taste, but it’s going to be interesting and innovative.”

In just the three months since Synchronicity initiated a $475,000 capital campaign, the company has already raised more than a third of that ($170,000) through foundation grants, corporate sponsorships and individual donations. In addition to financing the renovation of the new space, the funds have enabled Synchronicity to eliminate a large portion of its debt (from roughly $120,000 down to about $40,000).

Since signing on with the company in late 2012, managing director Dee Dee Sandt explains, “My primary goals were to cut down on our debt, to get our attendance up and to find us a home.”

Working alongside a “dynamic” staff that also includes marketing and development manager Liz Hartnett and sales and communications manager Caitlin Thomas White, that mission has been accomplished on all counts. In the past two years, general attendance has risen from 20 percent capacity per show to 65 percent. In the past two months alone, group sales have quadrupled.

"It's pretty amazing how well Rachel has done and everything she's accomplished, especially considering that Synchronicity has been homeless for 16 years," Sandt says. "But you really need an actual brick-and-mortar facility to attract a lot of sponsors and contributors. Their being able to envision a theater, as opposed to just an idea, makes all the difference."

Overcoming Herculean odds to prevail in a worthy cause is something to which alter-ego Diana Prince – aka the Amazon princess Diana of Themyscria, aka the iconic Wonder Woman – could certainly relate. What a sweet irony it is, somehow, that she happens to be a central character in the troupe’s upcoming production, “Lasso of Truth.”

Playwright Kreitzer traces the origins of Wonder Woman through the life of her creator, William Marston (who also invented the lie detector). In fact, throughout the 1930s and ’40s, he lived in a decidedly kinky polyamorous relationship with two women, traits from both of whom inspired his famous character. Another subplot involves a contemporary couple, his-and-her comic-book geeks.

May, who directs the show, calls it a “sexy, fascinating, visceral, high-tech mishmash of styles and ideas, taking real people and actual events and throwing everything together in a blender.” The cast features Kevin Stillwell, Bryn Striepe, Tenaya Cleveland, Matthew Myers and Christen Orr.

“Parts of the story unfold live, but other parts are told through illustrated panels. Some of those video projections align with what you’re seeing on stage at that time, but others are removed from and comment on the action. Navigating between the alternating styles and storylines is challenging enough. But, just from a technical standpoint, the [rehearsal] process has been a little daunting,” May says.

True to Synchronicity’s form, however, “Lasso of Truth” also has a few relevant observations to draw — in this case, she says, “looking at and understanding the journey of Marston and these two women, the true love they found and the working relationship they had, all of which existed outside the box or the confines of what was considered to be socially acceptable.”

If nothing else, May offers with a laugh, "How could anyone not want to see a play about Wonder Woman? What a great message it sends to see her taking charge, not only saving people but doing it in a way that brings peace to the world, with gentleness and love. It's not just about kicking ass, although, on top of everything else, she does that, too."

She smiles and notes, “It’s sort of the perfect show to launch our new space and this next phase for us.”