This was the year that theatre artists learned even more broadly how to think outside the box. As physical theatres shuttered their doors, theatre as an art form expanded what it meant to see a show. From live online productions, to streaming content, to outdoor venues, theatre blossomed as it left the dark spaces we have become so accustomed to.
In Atlanta, many of the well-known and well-respected theatre companies found innovative ways for the show to go on. Alliance Theatre produced a drive-in production of their traditional holiday fare A Christmas Carol, bringing audiences outside to enjoy the live radio production. The theatre also launched a new streaming platform, Alliance Theatre Anywhere, to bring the best of their productions to the digital world. Streaming shows and exclusive content were available on demand, including Sit-In by Pearl Cleage, inspired by Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, The New York Times bestselling book by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney, and Data by Matthew Libby, winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition.
The ever-inventive Dad’s Garage founded Improv in the Park(ing Lot), a drive-in improv theatre in their own parking lot, where audiences can watch live improv from the comfort of their cars. Found Stages continued their tradition of innovative, site-specific work with their full online production of The Shift: An Immersive Post-Apocalyptic Zoom Play, written by Neeley Gossett, Annie Harrison Elliot, and Addae Moon, and Much Ado Over Texting, a play delivered in text messages directly to your phone, written by Neeley Gossett.
Theatrical Outfit developed Downtown Dialogues, a free four-part series of digital readings, each followed by a live video podcast hosted by journalist and writer Gail O’Neill in which a panel of experts and special guests dive deep into the play and its themes. The plays included The Children by Lucy Kirkwood, Flex by Candrice Jones, Eureka Day by Jonathan Spector, and Stew by Zora Howard. Actor's Express started a Virtual Threshold Readings program, with online readings of plays by Hank Kimmel, Anja Lee, Kayla Parker, Sofia Palmero, and Quinn Xavier Hernandez.
Festivals also found ways to continue producing work. The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival returned for another year, with Who Will Sing for Lena? (2019 AACT National Award Winner for Outstanding Production) by Janice Liddell, which won the festival’s Best Play Award, and The Gift Way Up in the Closet by S. Kristi Douglas and Dawn Anthony, which won the festival’s Best Short Play Award. The Eighth Annual Atlanta Fringe Audio festival presented “theatre for your ears” by such companies as Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and Not Ready for Drive Time Players and artists including Jessica Bodiford, Anthony Elmore, Monica "Nikki" Raymond, and John McDonnell Tierney.
As difficult as the past year was for theatres, the show not only went on, but also online and outside and over the phone and on the radio. The year was a testament to the fortitude and resourcefulness of Atlanta theatre companies and artists. As the world slowly returns to normal, the lessons learned during the year of the pandemic will likely feed the soul, minds, and imaginations of Atlanta’s theatre community.
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