Story by ELISSA McCRARY/Photos by JASON GETZ
It’s been six years since Marietta’s original Theatre in the Square closed its doors after nearly three decades of bringing entertaining, thought-provoking stage productions to Northsiders. It’s perhaps fitting that a new incarnation of the playhouse under the same name would reflect today’s diversity and its relevance.
Father and son Raul and N. Emil Thomas are the new general manager and artistic director, respectively, with the intent of blending Latino, African-American and other cultures in with conventional stories.
“We’re now in our third season, and we want more people to know we’re back and to come get to know Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square,” Raul Thomas says.
Theatre in the Square’s October production, “Super Loser,” is the story of how an unsuspecting hero brings out strengths in others.
The show is by Atlanta playwright Winston Wilson.
“I have always loved comic books and super heroes, and that was the genesis for the story,” Wilson says. “I wanted to tell the story of a hero similar to what you’d see in the story of rock star or rap artist. In this play, the comic book artist, Jackson Hernandez, becomes the hero and helps to bring out the creativity in so-called nerds and geeks who read comic books.”
Thomas, a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, is a professional chef. Staging plays was not on his menu until recent years. He owned the now closed restaurant Raul’s Latin American Kitchen in Marietta, and has worked as executive chef for Georgia State University. But as his son was approaching graduation at Ball State University with a major in theater directing, Raul had a brainstorm: Why not buy Emil a theater as a graduation gift and make him artistic director?
“Emil was shocked when I told him,” Thomas recalls. “It’s been very rewarding to work with him and see his talent and passion at work.”
Thomas and his wife, Yvette, a front desk manager at a Marietta middle school, were mindful of the original Theatre in the Square’s loyal following, as well as its struggle to stay open. “It was definitely something to consider when making our decision, but we were optimistic,” Raul says. “We’re proud of what we’re doing. The theater has an amazing 30-year history, and we wanted to prove to the community that we were going to respect the history of its existence.”
In addition to a super hero tale at Theater in the Square, fall productions elsewhere include a nostalgic classic, as well as a one-woman show of heartbreak eased by good ol’ Italian cooking.
“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” opens this month at Georgia Ensemble Theatre and stars Jenny Levison, author, actress and the owner of Souper Jenny restaurants. The show is inspired by Giulia Melucci’s memoir of the same name. The Brooklyn native’s passion for cooking enticed new loves and helped heal her own wounds of relationships gone wrong.
During the play, Levison makes pasta from scratch in an actual working stage kitchen and serves audience members.
Local chefs and restaurant owners Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina and Linda Harrell of Cibo e Beve gave Levison cooking lessons and insight into the art of Italian cooking and pasta dishes.
“The role is a challenge because I have never made pasta from scratch, so I’m having to learn how to do it,” Levison says. “It has to be authentic. And I can’t fake it. l will be sauteing vegetables, making sauce, all kinds of real Italian cooking.”
Advance ticket sales for the show have been robust, according to GET marketing director Michael Van Osch. “We can’t wait for the show,” he says. “Jenny is a great cook and a great actress. This role is ideal for her.”
Nostalgia is on the menu this month at Act 3 Productions in Sandy Springs, with “The Graduate.” The play is based on the 1967 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft about the seduction of young college grad, Benjamin, by the older Mrs. Robinson, and his attraction to her daughter, Elaine.
Despite the adult subject matter, nothing overtly risqué takes place on stage. “There are scenes in the first act that take place in the hotel,” artistic director Michelle Davis says. “We don’t see anything on stage besides kissing, but [what goes on behind closed doors] is implied.”
Local actors Aaron Hancock and Madalayne Shammas portray Benjamin and Elaine.
“I love the movie and the play and have wanted to do a production of it here,” Davis says. “We have the perfect actress to play Mrs. Robinson, [which] makes this production an excellent fit for us. Johnna Mitchell just becomes Mrs. Robinson, with her sexy, in-control personality. We think we have the right show and the right actors to bring it to life on stage.”
Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square is holding October auditions for its 2019 season, which includes “Othello and “A View From a Bridge.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.