2020 has been a year of opportunities—both lost and found. As seasons have been canceled, postponed, and reimagined, theatres in Atlanta have fought to stay active and relevant.
Synchronicity Theatre created its 4 × 4 series: four weeks, four women, four stories, four different one-woman shows by Atlanta artists. Lucy Smith performed her play A Chorus of Bears about the trials of parenting; Sherry Jo Ward performed her one-woman show Stiff, about her life with stiff-person syndrome, a rare degenerative disease that slowly inhibits mobility; Terry Burrell performed tales from Backstage and Other Stories about her life performing on Broadway and regional stages, accompanied by S. Renee Clark on the piano; and Jasmine Thomas performed Danielle Deadwyler’s play rip, a performance art and domestic drama play about the collapse of a young couple’s union.
7 Stages rebranded their Home Brew series as Home Brew @ Home, offering virtual productions of early-stage work. This year offered Tit created by Elizabeth Dinkova, Jesse Rasmussen, and the ensemble, Then They Tell You It’s All in Your Head by Theresa Davis, and True North by Lee Nowell.
Actor’s Express started their Virtual Downstage Monologues Series, commissioning three young Atlanta playwrights to create short-form solo performance pieces. The project birthed you are going to do amazing things, a solo play by QUINN XAVIER HERNANDEZ and starring Adrian Baynard about a young father who records a message for the newborn daughter whom he’s given up for adoption; Toward Joy by Amina S. Mcintyre and starring Stephanie McFarlane about the need for joy in the world right now; and Spongebob Spectrum Pineapple People by Avery Sharpe and starring Meagan Dilworth about a trip to Mellow Mushroom, drunk-watching “Lovecraft Country,” and that sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Many theatres took their productions online or outdoors.
The Horizon Theatre created the series Horizon at Home, offering sing-a-longs (Sing With Keena), cooking lessons (Cooking a la Fa La Lala), and virtual productions (Love, M. by CLARINDA ROSS, A Shot by GLORIA BOND CLUNIE, Completeness by ITAMAR MOSES, and Nope, That’s Just My First Name by Suehyla El-Attar).
Aurora Theatre produced a virtual production of This Wonderful Life, by Steve Murray as conceived by Mark Setlock and adapted from the screenplay It’s a Wonderful Life by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra, and Jo Swerling. The play starred Atlanta’s own Jeremy Aggers, who inhabited all of the characters from the classic film. Aurora also took their Christmas Canteen Holiday Cabaret written by David Rossetti to the Bowl at Sugar Hill and then offered a virtual encore presentation.
Alliance Theatre took its traditional production of A Christmas Carol out of the theatre to the corner of Georgia Avenue and Hank Aaron Drive in the historic Summerhill neighborhood, where it created a drive-in production of the radio play version of the holiday classic. Terry Burrell once again took the (virtual) stage, this time at Alliance, to perform a streaming version of her show A Very Terry Christmas in which she toured her favorite Atlanta destinations and shared her personal holiday stories and songs. Overall, this year has been a time of rethinking, re-envisioning, and reworking how we create and share art. With a focus on solo work, socially distanced and outdoor productions, and streaming shows, Atlanta-area artists rose to the challenges that COVID created.