Tag Archives: Atlanta

TONIGHT AT ACADEMY THEATRE: Shirlene Holmes’s Pathways, performed by Brenda Porter

The Academy Theatre’s been up to some pretty exciting things since their move from Avondale Estates last year. With two new homes, one in Stockbridge and one in Hapeville, the iconic Atlanta theater is growing so fast it makes your head spin.

This weekend, they’re hosting a long-time Essential family member, Brenda Porter, as she performs the one-woman show, Pathways, written by Shirlene Holmes. Pathways takes audiences on a journey through the lives of some of the most engaging, dynamic and successful African American women in our history, women who have often been overlooked or marginalized by history text books. Sometimes funny, always daring, these stories are exciting, fun and inspiring for people of all ages.

You’ll get to know the engaging characters in this story when you see the show tonight or Sunday afternoon — which, having seen it, I highly recommend. Let’s take a moment now to hear Brenda’s story, bringing Pathways and Essential Theatre together.

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Essential Director Ellen McQueen Chosen for First Atlanta Artist’s Lab

Longtime Essential Theatre director Ellen McQueen was one of the three artists chosen by the Alliance Theatre for the first Atlanta Artist’s Lab (AAL) program, through which she will be able to further develop The Projects Project, a multi-media theatre piece about the experience of people growing up in Atlanta’s housing projects. The Projects Project began as part of the 2012 Essential production of The Local, a collaborative theater project about the City of Atlanta, developed and directed by McQueen, a citywide portrait of Atlanta that Ellen conceived and directed, working with dozens of Atlanta writers, artists, photographers, and storytellers.


“First,” states Ellen, “let me say a huge thank you to the Alliance Theatre for creating the Atlanta Artist’s Lab, and another huge thank you to Peter Hardy and the Essential Theatre for taking a chance when I made the crazy proposal of a project called The Local.”

The Essential production of The Local was created collaboratively by a number of Atlanta artists, she says. “Included were pieces chosen from submission, pieces that were commissioned, and pieces created from interviews with different Atlantans. The idea of The Projects Project began with two pieces from The Local—a monologue and a dance—developed from and inspired by interviews with folks who grew up in the Atlanta housing projects. I was very interested by what I learned talking with those folks and wanted to know more. Then, the strong response from audiences to the material made it apparent that here was a story that ought to be told and was ready to be heard.”
“Atlanta has long been in the forefront with public housing. Construction on the first housing project in the United States began here in Atlanta in 1934. Techwood was dedicated by President Roosevelt in ’35 and officially opened in 1936. Now we’ve torn the projects down and are experimenting with new models. The Projects Project is looking at what life in the housing projects was like, how it shaped people and our city as well as the rest of the country. There’s a phrase attributed (probably apocryphally) to Mark Twain: ‘Atlanta’s a great city—if they ever get it finished.’ This phrase often comes to mind when I’m sitting in traffic stalled by construction. But an essential thing about Atlanta is that it is never finished, that it is, as its symbol suggests, a phoenix born again from its own consuming fires. I want this project to give some Atlantans a way to share their stories and give others a way to learn something new about our home, this great, complicated Southern city that is always making itself anew.”
“Happily for the city,” she adds, “the Alliance Theatre has instituted the Atlanta Artist’s Lab to support the development of projects that Atlanta artists are dreaming up, providing a way for all kinds of ideas to move from inside our heads out into the world. And happily for me, The Projects Project was chosen as one of the first three projects to be developed. The goal of this project, within the Lab, is not a full production, but a presentation in early August of what we will have created by then. It’s wonderful to have the freedom to experiment and explore (hey, that’s what you do in a lab, right?) Working with me already are James Knowles, photographer, Oliver (OT) Turner, rapper, and Meagan Dilworth, choreographer, all of whom I met while working on The Local. Other wonderful folks will be joining us. By August, we’ll have plenty of good stuff to show. I look forward to getting feedback from all of y’all who come to see what we’ve made, feedback that will guide us in continuing the ‘construction’ of our ‘Project.’ And who knows, maybe we’ll end up back at the Essential with it when it’s completed!”
This new program at the Alliance Theatre intends to do for metro artists what its renowned Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition does for playwrights on the cusp of professional careers across the country. It will provide financial support, a home base and space in which to develop new work. It is expected to be an annual event. The AAL attracted more than 60 proposals from 200 artists.
“Watching The Local come to life as part of the 2012 Essential Theatre Festival was an inspiring experience,” states Essential Managing Director Jennifer Kimball. “It was an epic endeavor, especially as part of a larger festival, and there were so many great stories that we got to share! I’m thrilled that Ellen has the opportunity to develop one of these stories more fully through the Atlanta Artists Lab. She has such a powerful and multifaceted vision. I can’t wait to see the end result!”
Congratulations, Ellen! We’re proud of you, and it’s just one more example of new work that began with Essential moving on out into the world — that’s a big part of our mission!

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Congratulations to Karla Jennings and Theroun D’Arcy Patterson, Winners of the 2014 Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition!

ESSENTIAL THEATRE ANNOUNCES TWO WINNERS FOR THE 2014 PLAYWRITING CONTEST
Atlanta, January 2014 – Essential Theatre has just announced Theroun Patterson and Karla Jennings as co-winners of the 2014 Playwriting Competition.  “It’s taken us a long while to come to a decision this year,” observes Peter Hardy, Founding Artistic Director of the theatre, “because of the large number of strong submissions we received.  But we feel that both of these plays are worthy of the prizes and will be excellent contributions to our Festival this summer.” Both playwrights will receive a $600 cash prize and a full production in this summer’s Essential Theatre Festival.
Having two contest winners in one year is not unprecedented, as this was also the case in 2006, when both Valetta Anderson’s “Leaving Limbo” and Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee’s “Charm School” shared the prize.  Since that time there has continued to be an increase in both the quantity and quality of plays submitted to this competition.
Karla Jennings’s play, Ravens and Seagulls, is a heartfelt story about four sisters going through the process of losing one of them to illness. “It’s often painful,” says Hardy, “but also has a lot of humor and some hope at the end.”
That Uganda Play, by Theroun Patterson, was written in reaction to Ugandan Parliament Member David Bahati’s “Kill the Gays” bill of 2010. “With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati,” states Patterson in a 2013 interview. “My hope is that [this play] provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after it’s over.”
Both plays were previously workshopped by Working Title Playwrights, and That Uganda Play was also featured in the Bare Essentials Reading Series during the 2013 Essential Theatre Festival. Both Karla and Theroun have had other plays produced by Essential, Images in Smoke by Karla in 2000 and A Thousand Circlets by Theroun in 2011.
About Essential Theatre
Essential Theatre has been supporting Georgia playwrights and presenting new plays to Atlanta audiences since 1987. Since 2011, the Essential Play Festival has presented all world premieres by Georgia playwrights. Dates and venue for the 2014 Festival will be announced soon. For additional information about the festival, the contest or Essential Theatre, visit www.EssentialTheatre.com.
# # #
For media inquires
Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director
jennifer@essentialtheatre.com

(404) 587-3853
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Thank you, Daniel Burnley

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but every time I sit down to write, I get lost in the photos, my own memories and the Facebook posts from friends of Daniel’s. It’s been almost a month, and I still can’t believe we’ve done our last show together, that I’ve seen Daniel’s amazing talent onstage for the last time. This Thanksgiving, there’s a lot to give thanks for. And through the tears that still well up for a man that, let’s face it, I worked with once a year at most, I suppose it’s fitting that it took me till Thanksgiving week to be able to say it. Thank you, Daniel. There aren’t words enough, so just — thanks.

On October 25, 2013, the world lost a wonderful actor and human being, Mr. Daniel Burnley. The Essential Theatre was blessed to have him on our stage and in our family for many years, and our world will not be the same without him. He was an unforgettable man to those who knew him, and the characters he created onstage were unparalleled in my experience. 

Here are some thoughts that our artistic director, Peter Hardy, shared with me around the time of Daniel’s wake, which fittingly enough was held at Manuel’s Tavern, a longtime haven for the Atlanta theatre community.

“Most people in the Atlanta theatre community knew Daniel Burnley — over the past few decades he’d worked with most of the companies in town, at one time or another, along with a bunch of film work.  I got to know him in 2005, when I directed him in the Essential Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s THE LATE HENRY MOSS, which is a play I loved and really wanted to do, but don’t think I would have had the courage to take on if Daniel hadn’t been willing to do the title roll.  Which he was, and without really knowing me much at all, for which I’ll always be grateful.  He was splendid, and that show is still one of my proudest memories with the Essential Theatre, and Daniel went on to do exemplary work for us in four more productions — CHARM SCHOOL, JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS, THE DARKER FACE OF THE EARTH and QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT.  In just about every case, Daniel was taking on a role for us that no one else (that was available to us) would have been willing or able to do — or, at least, not nearly as well as he did them.  Daniel told me repeatedly how much he believed in the work Essential was doing, and how he’d give up the chance to get (much) better playing work in films to do one of our projects.  Which was an honor for us, but also just a testament to the generous and committed person that he was.  All that being said, he was also just a good guy, a good friend, and someone that all of us will miss a lot.”

Thank you, Daniel, for your crass humor, your quick laughter, your generous spirit, your belief in the work we do at Essential, and for making that work better with your involvement. We love you, and we miss you!

Daniel Burnley (July 29, 1956-Oct 25, 2013)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1388682/
photo courtesy of Valerie Weaver

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“Connecting with Deaf Audiences” Final Report

In 2013 for the first time, sign language interpretation was offered as part of the Essential Theatre Festival. This was a pretty big undertaking for us – there’s a lot of work and a lot of money that goes into making this happen smoothly and well – and we were very excited to be bringing this new aspect into our festival.
To help fund the project, we participated in our first ever power2give crowdfunding project. If you’re not familiar with power2give, it’s actually pretty awesome, and you can learn more about it here. We’d started out hoping to raise money, but through our power2give project, we gained so much more. The outpouring of community support and enthusiasm was touching, encouraging and absolutely inspiring to all of us. People we’d known for years contacted us thanking us for the work we do every year, for our years of support of Georgia artists, and for our commitment to sharing quality theatre with anyone and everyone we meet. People we’d never realized had an interest reached out to say thank you for bringing new theatre to Deaf audiences, and thank you for engaging us in conversation. And the support we received from members of Atlanta’s own Deaf community was heartening and inspiring as well. The video you see if you go to our project page would never have been possible without two of our most committed Deaf collaborators, Amy Cohen Efron and AJ Wooddall. And the geographic extent of the response was impressive too: Terp Theatre in Detroit, MI, contacted us and said,  

“You are embarking on a wonderful project, which will greatly enhance your local theatre community’s ability to better reflect the diversity of our world…Your community-centered approach is to be lauded…Our heartfelt congratulations to you, from your friends in ‘The D’.”

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Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

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Learn more about actor and playwright Theroun Patterson, winner of the 2011 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and author of this Wednesday night’s Bare Essential play, That Uganda Play

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therounAbout That Uganda Play: I originally wrote the play in late 2011-early 2012 with a staged reading of the original draft with  Working Title Playwrights and Academy Theatre in January 2012.  The play started as a sort of knee jerk reaction to reading an NPR interview with David Bahati , a Ugandan Member of Parliament that introduced his Anti-Gay Legislation, causing an uproar with Gay Rights groups because the Bill essentially criminalized homosexuality and would have allowed for unprecedented governmental persecution of gays. The article simply made me angry. I started writing to try and understand that type of hatred, to know where it came from, and perhaps to feel better about a my own frustrations about a prejudice that I can’t control; that I can’t stamp out on my own. With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and a sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati. Not only that, but I wanted to ground the play within two families and show how a global problem works its way down into our most personal relationships. Honestly I hope a theatre with an interest in starting a community dialogue about social issues will produce this play. My hope is that it provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after its over.

About Theroun: I started as an actor, working for eleven years on Atlanta stages. I started seriously writing plays in 2005, producing and directing my own readings with the help of generous peers that donated their time and talents. In 2009, I joined Working Title Playwrights and wrote the first of four plays that year. I’ve written a dozen full lengths since 2006. I’m pleased to be working with Essential again after the production of my play A Thousand Circlets.

On the Bare Essentials Series: The reading series allows me the opportunity to refine the play and find new audiences for it to continue a dialogue generated by art.

What is it like to transition from acting to writing? As an actor, there was always an underlying anxiety about performing, but as a writer I have absolutely no fear. I’m willing to learn in front of others, to continue to grow and experiment with story and structure. Playwriting is the form of expression that fits me best as an artist. Acting is secondary to that.

Next for me, is a production of fugitive:EROS and The Chemicals Between Us with Out of Box Theatre next season, as well as the production of Origin Story with Academy Theatre in their new home. I’m also about to start on a new commission with Pinch N Ouch Theatre as well as Mad Hope Theatre Project.

The Bare Essentials series is free and open to the public. Donations graciously accepted. Complimentary wine before and after the show. For more information on all the readings as well as the other plays in the festival, visit www.essentialtheatre.com

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What do you do when you simply can’t sleep?

Julia Fracassi can’t get to sleep. Her insomnia has ruined the relationship with her boyfriend and has made her miserable. With guidance from her friend Dr. Midge, she embarks on a hilarious journey to Venice to find answers. Come along for the journey. Learn More.
Dr. Midge’s recommendations are anything but orthodox. So, we’d like to ask for your help. Please post comments with your suggestions. Dr. Midge will consider all your suggestions and offer two free tickets to any Essential Theatre Festival performance for the best advice. We need your advice prior to July 4th, so we can help Julia get a good night’s sleep.
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Support Essential Theatre – Buy Your Essential Flex Pass Now


If you are anything like me, you wait until the last minute to decide when to see a theatre production and expect to find a discount ticket as well. We’ve figured out a way to offer just that. Essential Theatre’s new Flex Pass gives you flexibility and discounted ticket prices while helping us raise funds before the summer festival opens. What’s more, the earlier you purchase, the larger the ticket package, the greater your savings will be. Each week as the festival opening approaches, these packages will cost just a tiny bit more. Just a small twist of the arm so that you might please consider buying your tickets now. So, how does this work, keep on reading.

When you purchase a three, six or ten ticket Flex Pass you can to use those tickets however you wish. You can even have a big party or bring a small group of friends to any performance of any of the three festival plays. To redeem your FlexPass got individual tickets, you simply visit OvationTix online and you may choose one or more tickets to any performance for any of the three shows until you use up your Flex Pass tickets. And, you will not need to select all your tickets at a single visit. You just use them when you need them. For example, if you buy a ten seat Flex Pass, you can see one performance, and select to use your remaining tickets come back with eight friends on another night. Or, whenever you want simply go online and choose up to your remaining number of tickets for whichever show you want to see. There are no blackout dates or restrictions. The earlier you purchase, the greater your savings, and you can even wait until a few hours before a performance to get your tickets online.

Simply sign in at OvationTix to redeem your Flex Pass. Flex Pass tickets can only purchased online and can not be redeemed at the box office. For more information, please contact mperloe@essentialtheatre.com

Buy your Flex Pass early, you’ll help Essential Theatre and save more.

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2010 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award Winner

The Essential Theatre is proud to announce that the winner of the 2010 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition is Gabriel Dean’s Qualities of Starlight, a modern southern family comedy. Gabriel Dean has been working for some years on the Atlanta scene as an actor and playwright, and is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in the Playwriting Program at the University of Texas in Austin. His play Buy My House – Please! Is currently running at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville. Mr. Dean will receive a cash prize of $600.00 and Qualities of Starlight will be produced as part of the 2010 Essential Theatre Play Festival, running at the Actor’s Express space in July and August of next year.
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