Author Archives: jennifer

We’ve been named Best New Play Incubator of 2018 by Atlanta Magazine!

“Celebrating 20 seasons of developing new plays by Georgia playwrights, Essential Theatre has launched the careers of some of the nation’s most important contemporary writers.” -Atlanta Magazine


We’re so proud to have been named Best New Play Incubator of 2018 in December’s issue of Atlanta Magazine! It’s a heartwarming and inspiring way to round out an already pretty incredible year!



7 Stages opens 40th season with iconic Waiting for Godot

“Every time I see Godot, I become more convinced that its secret stars are Pozzo and Lucky (Bart Hansard and Matt Baum), the indelibly weird master and servant…Hansard makes a delightful comedic meal of the role, with dainty body language, infantile mood swings and puffed-up prideful moments.”
-Curt Holman, ArtsATL

Running now through October 14,  catch Essential family member Bart Hansard as Pozzo in 7 Stages’ 40th season opener, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Lots of other Essential friends have worked behind the scenes to bring this production to life as well: Efrem Whitaker (2010 Darker Face of the Earth and 2017 BeltLine & Beyond) and Jennifer Kimball (Essential Managing Director) make up the stage management team, and 2018 Festival designers Kacie Willis (sound design, Woke) and Josh Oberlander (Festival set design) also lent their support in the creation of the show.

The 2018 GODOT team on opening night at 7 Stages!

And there’s more Essential goodness in store in 7 Stages’ 40th season: Topher Payne’s Angry Fags returns to their stage in March 2019!



Lots of Essential Faces in Nick’s Flamingo Grill on the Hertz Stage

SEP 29 – OCT 28, 2018
Now through October 28 on the Hertz Stage, Nick’s Flamingo Grill by Atlanta’s own Phillip DePoy and featuring a host of familiar faces from Essential’s stage throughout the years, including Robin Bloodworth, Dan Triandiflou, Cordell Cole, and from our most recent festival, Fred Galyean (WOKE) and Asia Howard (Bare Essentials reading: BABY SHOWER FOR THE ANTI-CHRIST).

Essential Theatre fun at the 2018 Decatur Book Festival

Essential Theatre was graciously hosted by Georgia Humanities, in the Humanities Pavilion of the Decatur Book Festival, for the second year in a row, and we had a great time! We got visits from several familiar faces throughout the weekend, and we made lots of new friends too!


FCAC visits the 2018 Festival

Today we had some special guests in the audience: Lionell Thomas and Emmitt Stevenson, directors of long-standing Essential supporting organization, the Fulton County Arts Council.

What a great way to close out the Festival! Today FCAC Directors Lionell Thomas and Emmitt Stevenson joined us for our closing performance of WOKE. (pictured L to R: Essential Artistic Director Peter Hardy, FCAC Director Lionell Thomas, WOKE director Ellen McQueen, WOKE playwright Avery Sharpe, and FCAC Director Emmitt Stevenson)

The Fulton County Arts Council grant is actually the first grant that Essential ever applied for – and the first grant we ever received, back in 2005. Since that time, Fulton County has been a steadfast supporter of Essential’s work – and since 2014, we’ve partnered with a Fulton County Performing Arts Center to produce the festival, in addition to receiving a grant from the FCAC.

Fulton County has been a vital part of the fabric of our support network over the past almost 15 years, helping us to grow and remain true to our commitment to bring Atlanta what’s new and give Georgia playwrights a voice.  With their continued support, we look forward to bringing the best new work by Georgia playwrights to life for years to come.


Meet the Playwright: Ben Thorpe

Ben Thorpe is the man behind the final Bare Essentials reading in this summer’s festival, Baby Shower for the Anti-Christ, happening this Wednesday August 22 at 7:30pm.

Hi Ben! We’re looking forward to your upcoming reading. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a local Atlanta actor and playwright, originally from Snellville, GA. I went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA and lived in New York City before moving back to Atlanta in 2015. I’ve acted in productions around town including ‘Hand to God’ and ‘Candide (Alliance)’, ‘Titanic’ (Serenbe), ‘Nobody Loves You’ (Horizon), and ‘Big Fish’ (Theatrical Outfit). I’ll be in the Actor’s Express production of Steve Yockey’s ‘Reykjavik’ this fall. I recently wrote the book for ‘Red: A Crayon’s Musical’ with music and lyrics by John Burke (based on the book by Michael Hall) that had its premiere reading at Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival earlier this August.

Can you tell us a little about the play we’ll be seeing on Wednesday?
A small, unstable cult in the suburbs of a southern town is prepping for a celebration of the birth of the Antichrist. When an outsider is invited for the evening, secrets about the past come to light and threaten to ruin everything the group has built.
Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?
It was a weird series of ideas that kind of crashed in my head at the right time. I was re-watching ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at home and had the thought- I wonder what that baby shower would look like? Not a week later, I had a conversation with my best friend, a female actor in NYC, about darkly comedic roles for women in their 20’s. There aren’t a ton. I started writing the opening scene to ‘try it out’, to see where it went. Fast forward to months later and I had the shape of the play. In the years since, it’s been worked and edited and is now more about friendship, trauma, and talking goats. The characters have taken on lives of their own and the relationships between them have been what’s really interested me.
How did you get into playwriting?
I’ve always written in private, and only in the last few years have I let anyone see my stuff. I took a course with local playwright Neeley Gossett in 2015 and have been writing pretty steadily since.
What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?
It’s INCREDIBLY important for any new work, but especially this one. It’s a comedy that delves into some pretty dark subject matter. It’s invaluable to get feedback from artists that can view the play with fresh eyes and give honest feedback. I did an informal reading of this play a couple of years ago and got to working on it with new eyes. I’m excited to have the opportunity to do this next reading with Essential.
What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?
I’m hoping to learn from what others see in the play. I’m an actor most of the time, and feedback is invaluable in that field. I view writing the same way. It’s a vital part of the journey.
What has your experience with this reading been so far?
Natalie Fox (who’s sooo awesome!) has been working and talking with me about the play, which has been fantastic. We did an informal table read in late July with the cast for this Essential reading and I got some great feedback. The cast of women that will be reading on the 22nd is reason enough to come out- trust me!
Where else can we see your work, either recently, currently or in the coming year(s)?
As of now, ‘Red: A Crayon’s Musical’ is looking at a full production for this upcoming Spring.
How did you find out about Essential and the playwriting contest?
I saw a bunch of shows (while in high school) that were produced by Essential and I loved seeing stuff Essential produced in town. When I moved back to Atlanta, I wanted to try my hand at letting others read my writing and Essential is such a great platform for the incredibly rich talent pool of writers in Georgia.

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Baby Shower for the Anti-Christ will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center this Wednesday night at 7:30pm. Directed by Natalie Fox. All readings are free and open to the public, donations gladly accepted.


August 23 post-show conversation with Unitarian Universalist Revs. Duncan Teague and Jonathan Rogers, and playwright Avery Sharpe

Join us after the August 23rd performance of Woke for a post-performance talkback featuring Rev. Duncan Teague, Rev. Jonathan Rogers, and playwright Avery Sharpe!

Unitarian Universalists have explicitly committed for over 20 years on a national level to the work of anti-racism. One of the ways Unitarian Universalists honor this commitment is when we heed the voices of non-male, non-white, disabled, poor, and queer leaders within and beyond our faith movement in answering the calls of love and justice.

WOKE by Avery Sharpe is a story that follows two young men who are best friends. Even though one is black and the other is white, they have always lived and loved each other like family. However, after the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, they both arduously discover how to navigate their different world viewpoints with justice, patience, and love. Through family, romance, and their own friendship, they painstakingly and comically explore what it truly means to be woke.

Rev. Jonathan Rogers is an accomplice to the work of dismantling white supremacy. He has been a Unitarian Universalist for 26 years, and completed 8 years of ministerial service, and he is currently Interim Minister at Northwest UU Congregation in Sandy Springs. Jonathan grew up in New England and graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 2012.

Rev. Duncan Teague enjoyed a career in HIV/AIDS education, advocacy, and research coordination when he accepted this specific call to lead the establishment of Abundant LUUv Congregation. Teague is certain that at this time The West End community of Atlanta is ready for and has been waiting on the Abundant Love Unitarian Universalist (UU) Congregation.