Fall Arts Guide: Race, religion and musicals take center stage

At long last, things are finally getting back to the old normal on Atlanta’s theater stages. Considering the number of productions scheduled to open this fall, it might be easy to forget (almost) what our local performing arts organizations have been through. Just check out this sampling of highlights from the diverse programming in the works for the next few months.

“Flex.” Plainnole High School’s Lady Train basketball players dream of “going pro,” but first they’ll need to navigate the pressures of being young, Black and female in small-town Arkansas. They learn what it truly means to be part of a team, where a mistake on the court can be a foul off the court and making a shot in the game can be a score in real life. Structured in four quarters (like the sport), the adrenalin-packed world premiere is co-produced here by Theatrical Outfit and the Arkansas-based company TheatreSquared. Sept. 7-Oct. 2. Theatrical Outfit, Balzer Theater at Herren’s, 84 Luckie St. NW, Atlanta. 678-528-1500. www.theatricaloutfit.org.

“Alabama Story.” As the civil rights movement brews in 1959 Alabama, a children’s book about the marriage of a black rabbit and a white rabbit sparks an ideological battle between a free-thinking librarian and a narrow-minded politician — while also posing personal challenges for two childhood friends. An ode to books and reading (based on actual events), the Georgia Ensemble rendition co-stars veteran actors Shannon Eubanks and Don Farrell, under the direction of Thomas W. Jones II, fresh off Horizon’s “Square Blues” and Dominion’s “Chicken & Biscuits”. Sept. 8-25. Georgia Ensemble Theatre, Roswell Cultural Arts Center, 950 Forrest St., Roswell. 770-641-1260. www.get.org.

“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” Inspired by roughly 70 pages (out of 1,200) from Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s historical epic “War and Peace,” this “electro-pop” musical depicts a tale of love and fate set in a romantic world of chandeliers and caviar in the salons and opera houses of 19th-century Moscow, where passions ignite as Napoleon’s war rages outside the city. The cast and musicians circulate among the audience during the show, mounted for Horizon by Heidi Cline McKerley, who worked wonders with a similar approach to the company’s more intimate “Once” (2020). Sept. 30-Nov. 6. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-584-1750. www.horizontheatre.com.

“In the Heights.” Before the phenomenon that was his Tony- and Pulitzer-winning sensation “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived and composed this musical, telling a universal story about the vibrant Dominican American community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. On the brink of change, full of hopes and dreams both realized and dashed, it’s a place infused with the rhythms of three generations, where the biggest struggle may be choosing which traditions you take with you and which ones you leave behind. Oct. 21-Nov. 6. Byers Theatre, Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. 404-477-4365. www.cityspringstheatre.com.

“Oh, to be Pure Again.” Religion and purity collide with rebellion and sex at a fundamentalist Christian summer camp in Texas. An idealistic counselor strives to shepherd the young residents of the girls’ cabin through a delicate phase of self-discovery, teaching them how to connect with something bigger than themselves — only to be confronted with questions about her own spiritual faith and beliefs. They all find themselves facing an uneasy tension between obedience and resistance in a cultural environment obsessed with their sexual virtue. Nov. 3-27. Actor’s Express, King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St. NW, Atlanta. 404-607-7469. www.actors-express.com.