Ensconced in the magnolia trees and trap music lies the Black theatre community in Atlanta. A small group often overlooked because they do not secure the bigger funding margins and often do not have even nonprofit status, these theatres are the highest producers of new Black work in the area. There is a fractured legacy, a gap between the days of Jomandi, Just Us, Proposition Theatre, and Atlanta Street Theatre active between the 70s and 90s, and current companies. We recognize and celebrate that the city of Atlanta’s theatres are committing to more diverse works and seasons, yet these companies should also be acknowledged, supported, and sustained so that they thrive for years to come.
The more widely known is the Equity house, Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company, Artistic Director Jamil Jude, who has focused on musicals this year, as well as a new play reading series around their production of Raisin. New African Grove Theatre Company, Artistic Director Keith Franklin, a community theatre company, is the second oldest in the city. They are currently producing The Coping Mechanism, a new play by Lori Sinclair Minor. Marietta New Theatre in the Square is an Afro-Latinx theatre company with a season mixed between dramatic plays, comedies, and musicals. There are also the companies with the annual staples including the Toni Henson-led Atlanta Black Theatre Festival and Robert Connor’s Dominion Entertainment who produces Black Nativity (and this year is branching out to do a mid-year musical, Mahalia).
One of the more recent companies to come forward is the two-year-old Hush Harbor Lab, a new play development company specializing in cultivating the work of Black artists in Atlanta. Using the idea of a hush harbor, spaces during enslavement where people would gather to perform rituals, transfer culture, and provide catharsis, co-founders Addae Moon and I focus on play labs and reflections on the craft of theatre on the Blue Bottle Series. HHL Responds to the need for more opportunities for Atlanta’s Black Artists to create and test new work, to fail forward, work with artists they may not otherwise, and experience a director, dramaturg, and cast invested in an early draft of the work. Most importantly, HHL centers new work from Atlanta-based and connected playwrights including Mia Kristin Smith, Minka Wiltz, and the upcoming labs for Terry Guest, Tramaine Brathwaite Dowell, Kelundra Smith, Jordan Ealey, and Malcolm Tariq.