The Art of Entertainment
Exploring Atlanta’s Cultural Hot Spots
By Avery Thibadeau
|The Fox Theatre ©1998 Kevin C. Rose / AtlantaPhotos.com
As fall approaches, the excitement builds. For many, the new season signifies a new beginning—and we’re not talking about the weather. In a city filled with original shows, world-renowned exhibitions and spectacular performing arts facilities, audiences are looking forward to another season of innovative arts and entertainment. This year, groundbreaking collaborative efforts between Atlanta artists and arts organizations will forge new paths of creativity, balancing the classical and the cutting-edge while increasing the artistic depth that Atlanta’s patrons experience. Here is a look at where you can find some of the best and brightest shows and exhibits—those that make the city’s A & E scene a show-stopping success. And although a smattering of shows from this season’s lineup are mentioned, be sure to contact each venue directly for its complete season. Get excited—there is much to anticipate this year in Atlanta’s arts and entertainment world.
|Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
|Ferst Center for the Arts
Although the cheers of approval at the Ferst Center for the Arts (404-894-9600, www.ferstcenter.org
) don’t resonate quite as loudly as, say, those from Bobby Dodd Stadium, it’s not for lack of enthusiasm. At this theater, located in the heart of Georgia Tech’s campus, audiences have been dazzled by national and international performers for over 15 years. This season promises to be one of the best, with a lineup that includes 10 Atlanta premieres and 12 Grammy winners.
This year, the Ferst Center will welcome all manner of musicians to its stage, from internationally acclaimed Keiko Matsui to retro swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, from the British Puppini Sisters to the African Children’s Choir. Other variety shows, featuring entertainers such as 2006 winner of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” Josh Blue and the mind-boggling dancers of Pilobolus, will round out this season’s slate of 30 shows.
With a cultivated eye for culture, Atlantans have always had an appreciation for dance. The city is, after all, home to the oldest professional dance company in America, the Atlanta Ballet (404-892-3303, www.atlantaballet.com). Applauded for classics such as Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet since it gained professional status in 1967, the Atlanta Ballet is now noted for its versatile and inventive repertoire. The company is becoming increasingly known for cutting-edge pieces and collaborative work, such as Shed Your Skin, The Indigo Girls Project and the visually and aurally stunning Requiem, performed in conjunction with The Michael O’Neal singers.
The 2007-2008 season will be no exception. In addition to classic family favorites such as Peter Pan and The Nutcracker, the lineup features new pieces that showcase modern repertoire and bridge artistic worlds. In The Upper Room opens March 13, 2008, bringing the choreography of renowned artist Twyla Tharp to Atlanta’s stage. And April 10-13, see history in the making when Big Boi from Outkast and other artists from Purple Ribbon Entertainment perform live on stage with the Atlanta Ballet dancers.
Kennesaw State University's College of the Arts
Like any other city, Metro Atlanta has its fair share of hidden gems. This is where those “in the know” go. Take, for example, Kennesaw State University’s College of the Arts (770-423-6650, www.kennesaw.edu/arts), which offers an all-year-round lineup, featuring an amazing array of professional and student talent. After years of attracting international artists and attention, the College of the Arts will at long last welcome audiences to performance spaces equal to the level of talent showcased there—this fall, a new 635-seat performance hall will open, along with an adjacent art museum.
From Aug. 29-Oct. 24, experience all this arts community has to offer at “AfroCuba: Works on Paper: 1968-2003,” a groundbreaking exhibition of 56 prints and drawings representing a cross section of Cuban society. From Aug. 23-25, enjoy Anton Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal. Get your tickets now to see jazz violinist Regina Carter on Aug. 12, and if you’re interested in student talent, check out the “Best of” student exhibition beginning Aug.15.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
With Robert Spano directing and Donald Runnicles conducting, the award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (404-733-4900, www.atlantasymphony.org) is tuned for its exciting 62nd season, with more than 200 concerts planned and a new 12,000-seat outdoor amphitheater scheduled to open May 2008. The 2007-2008 season will combine the best of classical work with newly commissioned pieces—the musical romance of Paris is thrown in for good measure. Held in conjunction with Louvre Atlanta and the High Museum of Art’s exhibit “Inspiring Impressionism,” a four-week festival will explore the City of Romance through music, visual arts and theatrical presentations, beginning with a concert version of Puccini’s La Bohème.
In addition to its classical work, the ASO hosts its SuperPops! and Family Concert series, reaching out to a wider audience. Celebrate Eartha Kitt’s 80th birthday as well as the life of Debbie Reynolds this year, and bring the family to a multi-media production of Peter and the Wolf.
High Museum of Art
|High Museum of Art ©2006 Kevin C. Rose / AtlantaPhotos.com
The High Museum of Art (404-733-5000, www.high.org
) has long attracted attention as the leading Southeastern art museum, but it wasn’t until the High formed a partnership with the Musée du Louvre in Paris that the art world really took notice. This unprecedented and groundbreaking will trace the history of the Louvre’s collections by bringing numerous exhibitions, comprising between 50 and 80 works each, to Atlanta—many of which have never been seen before in the United States.
Opening Oct. 16, “The Louvre and the Ancient World” will explore the rise of the Louvre and its collection of Egyptian, Near Eastern and Greco-Roman antiquities. “The Eye of Josephine” will include more than 60 works that once belonged to Napoleon’s wife. But that’s not all the High Museum has up its sleeve. Also opening in October, “Inspiring Impressionism” will be the first comprehensive survey to explore the influence of Old Master painters on Impressionist artists. The list of exhibitions goes on and on—keep an eye out in 2008 for an astounding collection of 20 complete life-sized warrior statues in “Terra CottaWarriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor.”
Atlanta History Center
Although the Atlanta History Center (404-814-4000, www.atlhist.or) may not be known for its art, it is known for its entertainment. With its permanent and temporary exhibitions; its hands-on activities, lectures and workshops; and its 33 acres of gardens, the opulent Swan House and the Tullie Smith Farm, there is more than enough to keep visitors engaged and happy. Permanent exhibitions explore Atlanta through many different angles—folk arts and the Civil War; events such as the Centennial Olympic Games; and people such as golfer Bobby Jones and architect Philip Trammell Shutze.
The Atlanta History Center is making headlines this summer with “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World,” which opened July 4 with more than 240 original artifacts and 40 hands-on activities in the largest collection of original Franklin materials ever assembled. Through eight different sections, visitors explore Benjamin Franklin in all of his varied roles—printer and statesman, inventor and diplomat, humorist and humanitarian. The Atlanta History Center is one of only five U.S. venues hosting the exhibition.
|A Christmas Carol/ Photo: Greg Mooney
In May 2007, the Alliance Theatre (404-733-4600, www.alliancetheatre.org
) at Woodruff Arts Center was awarded the 2007 Tony Award for outstanding regional theater. The award was an honor but certainly no surprise. Under the artistic direction of Susan V. Booth, the Alliance Theatre has become more visible in the theater world with new works, celebrated directors and shows that range from musical comedies to classic dramas.
The 2007-2008 season begins in September with the deeply emotional The Women of Brewster Place
and moves to the suspenseful thriller Sleuth
in October. The array of shows continues through spring 2008, with Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt
opening in April.
The Alliance also offers something for the kids. It is known for family-friendly productions such as Seussical the Musical
and A Christmas Carol
—a crowd favorite that will run for its 18th year. And in keeping with the High Museum’s collaboration with the Musée du Louvre, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
and Degas’ Little Dancer
will transport Atlanta’s audiences to the streets of Paris.
Students around the country read the plays of William Shakespeare every year, recognizing the literary value but perhaps not getting the full “picture.” Fortunately, for Atlanta students, experiencing Shakespeare’s work live and on stage is as easy as reading CliffsNotes—but is a whole lot more fun. With a permanent 509-seat theater located on the campus of Oglethorpe University, Georgia Shakespeare (404-264-0020, www.gashakespeare. org), a professional theater company of Atlanta’s finest artists, has been showcasing the works of this master dramatist since its founding in 1985.
This fall, reserve a seat ahead of time and bring a picnic—before the show begins, you’ll enjoy live entertainment and dinner on the terrace of the theater. Watch the tragedy unfold in the historical Richard III, showing Oct. 11-Nov. 4. And although the company specializes in Shakespeare, it does not limit itself to his work. Plays by Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and more are also in the repertory. From Aug. 2-19, laugh your way through Joe Orton’s Loot, a British comedy that centers on a bumbling bank robber.
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
||Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
The first major performing arts facility to be built in Metro Atlanta in four decades, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre (770-989-5035, www.cobbenergycentre.com
) is conveniently located near the intersection of I-75 and I-285 in northwest Atlanta. This new $145-million project will include a 2,750-seat theater and a 10,000- square-foot ballroom, making it an ideal venue for ballet performances and corporate meetings alike.
The Atlanta Opera has already made plans to make the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre its new home, taking up residency there with performances starting Sept. 29. The Atlanta Opera’s inaugural Cobb Energy season will include Puccini’s Turandot
and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro
, as well as the premieres of Hansel and Gretel
and Cold Sassy Tree
The centre’s grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 15 with an opening performance by Michael Feinstein and Linda Eder. On Sept. 17, celebrate Atlanta’s arts with performances from six of Atlanta’s arts organizations in a Jubilee Celebration. Tickets are only $5—a bargain price to see performances from Atlanta Ballet, The Atlanta Opera, Cobb Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Boy Choir and more!
Broadway, Baby: The Fox Theatre
Many an Atlantan is a Broadway baby at heart. For those who revel in the singing and dancing, the glitz and the glamour, Broadway Across America (404-817-8700, www.broadwayacrossamerica.com) offers yet another sensational season. For more than 25 years, Broadway Across America has brought blockbuster shows direct from the Great White Way to Atlanta, dazzling audiences with musical theater spectaculars. Beginning in September, Atlanta audiences will enjoy a blast from the past with The Rat Pack—Live At the Sands. Other favorites hitting Atlanta in 2008 include Tony Award-winning The Drowsy Chaperone and The Lion King.
Of course, the best of Broadway is also located right here at home with Theater of the Stars (404-252-8960, www.theaterofthestars.com), the resident theater company of the Fox Theatre that brings to life many of America’s classic musicals. This season, audiences will go back in time with favorites such as White Christmas, West Side Story, Dreamgirls and The Wizard of Oz.
Rialto Center for the Arts
Rialto Center for the Arts
The world is at your fingertips at Georgia State University’s Rialto Center for the Arts (404-413-9849, www.rialtocenter.org
), where international performers introduce Atlantans to art in all of its cultural manifestations. This season, find harmony with the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey, immerse yourself in the sizzling music and dance of Buenos Aires, and move to the beat of India’s drumming legends Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion.
The Rialto Center recently received a two-year grant from Atlanta’s Loridans Foundation to help put Atlanta on the dance “map,” and this season will bring some of the greats in contemporary dance, such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Garth Fagan Dance and David Dorfman Dance, exposing many of Atlanta’s audiences to some of the most innovative and critically acclaimed choreographers in the field.