New gig for Aurora Theatre’s Anthony Rodriguez

Anthony Rodriguez and Ann-Carol Pence inside the new Aurora Theatre facility.

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Anthony Rodriguez and Ann-Carol Pence inside the new Aurora Theatre facility.

The theater’s co-founder will lead a new urban design project.

In one of the biggest surprises of an Atlanta theater season that has had more than its share, Anthony Rodriguez is stepping down as Aurora Theatre’s producing artistic director to become the first executive director of the HUB404 Conservancy.

Rodriguez will lead a $270 million campaign to bring the nonprofit’s mega urban design project, HUB404 Atlanta GA, to fruition. The long-in-the-works project seeks to create a half-mile-long park that would be home to public art, arts programs and other events. It would cap GA 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads.

Along with his life partner and fellow Aurora co-founder Ann-Carol Pence, Rodriguez opened the $40 million Lawrenceville Arts Center in the Gwinnett County seat’s downtown late last year.

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Aurora Theatre's new $31 million theater complex in downtown Lawrenceville is under construction Monday, March 8, 2021. The theatre's co-founders Ann-Carol Pence, left, and Anthony Rodriguez, right, tour the area above the smaller second theater, the cabaret space, which has folding glass walls opening the space to the outdoor courtyard and available as a rented venue. The project is a partnership with Lawrenceville, the development adds two new public performance spaces, creates outdoor green space for the community and provides technical and backstage options significantly increasing the theater's capabilities. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Aurora Theatre's new $31 million theater complex in downtown Lawrenceville is under construction Monday, March 8, 2021.  The theatre's co-founders Ann-Carol Pence, left, and Anthony Rodriguez, right, tour the area above the smaller second theater, the cabaret space, which has folding glass walls opening the space to the outdoor courtyard and available as a rented venue.    The project is a partnership with Lawrenceville, the development adds two new public performance spaces, creates outdoor green space for the community and provides technical and backstage options significantly increasing the theater's capabilities.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Aurora Theatre's new $31 million theater complex in downtown Lawrenceville is under construction Monday, March 8, 2021. The theatre's co-founders Ann-Carol Pence, left, and Anthony Rodriguez, right, tour the area above the smaller second theater, the cabaret space, which has folding glass walls opening the space to the outdoor courtyard and available as a rented venue. The project is a partnership with Lawrenceville, the development adds two new public performance spaces, creates outdoor green space for the community and provides technical and backstage options significantly increasing the theater's capabilities. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Assuming the title of Aurora producing artistic director, Pence will run the theater with managing director Katie Pelkey, a longtime Aurora staffer.

“Aurora Theatre celebrates this exciting next chapter — both for Anthony, as he brings his vision and community leadership to a vibrant new project — and for our organization as we forge ahead under the dynamic direction of co-founder Ann-Carol Pence and managing director Katie Pelkey,” according to a statement from the 26-year-old troupe. “Anthony’s passion and guidance have helped Aurora Theatre establish its reputation as a preeminent arts destination, shaping the regional theater and its programming for continued success in the decades to come. We look forward to his continued involvement and inspiration on the board of directors.”

A 59,500-square-foot complex, Lawrenceville Arts Center boasts a 500-seat, state-of-the-art Grand Stage (with a fly loft and automated orchestra pit), a Cabaret Theater with a courtyard event space, public areas, rehearsal space, a green room and a costume shop.

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Patrons experience the VIP experience in the Grand Theatre for the Lawrenceville Arts Center's grand opening. Photo by Bruce Johnson

Credit: Bruce Johnson

Patrons experience the VIP experience in the Grand Theatre for the Lawrenceville Arts Center's grand opening.
Photo by Bruce Johnson

Credit: Bruce Johnson

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Patrons experience the VIP experience in the Grand Theatre for the Lawrenceville Arts Center's grand opening. Photo by Bruce Johnson

Credit: Bruce Johnson

Credit: Bruce Johnson

The edifice is owned by the city of Lawrenceville but operated by Aurora. Aurora is continuing to run its longtime adjoining home, renamed the Bobby Sikes Fine Arts Center, as well.

After preview tours of the expansive Lawrenceville Arts Center for supporters and the public last October, Rodriguez told ArtsATL that he and Pence were both proud and a bit dazed that the project had finally come together, COVID-19-related delays and all.

“Overwhelming was an understatement. It was a culmination of so many things that probably should never happen,” he said. “Cities don’t partner with small professional theaters. They might build one theater but they don’t go out of their way to build two — and they don’t go out of their way to create a management agreement under which this operates.”

That very experience shepherding projects in partnership with business and political leaders made Rodriguez a prime candidate for the HUB404 Atlanta GA role.

“Bringing this park to life will depend on funding and partnership from a range of public and private sources,” interim board chair Court Thomas, of Atlanta Property Group, said in a press release. “Anthony’s experience makes him well-suited to secure the support needed for a project of this scale and turn it into a reality.”

After a transition period between the two organizations, Rodriguez is to start full-time with the HUB404 Conservancy on August 1.

Aurora, meanwhile, is amid the launch of a big project of its own. On May 19, it opens the farce “Swindlers,” with unabashed ambitions to help send it to the Great White Way. Aurora is partnering with Broadway Factor, whose partners claim a track record for hit musicals including “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Kinky Boots” as well as the acclaimed revival of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.”

“With the opening of Lawrenceville Arts Center,” Pence said, “we can now commit to being future contributors to Broadway and commercial theater.”


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Credit: ArtsATL

ArtsATL logo

Credit: ArtsATL

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ArtsATL logo

Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL

MEET OUR PARTNER

ArtsATL (www.artsatl.org), is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about metro Atlanta’s arts and culture. Founded in 2009, ArtsATL’s goal is to help build a sustainable arts community contributing to the economic and cultural health of the city.

If you have any questions about this partnership or others, please contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams at nicole.williams@ajc.com.