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Academy Theatre has a
new home in Stockbridge


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  Georgia’s longest-running theater group has moved its headquarters to Stockbridge and made its presence felt within the last two months, the beginning of what is expected to be a long-running engagement and relationship with the city.

The above photo is from Furniture, a recent sketch performed by the Thoroughly Modern Senior Ensemble at Academy Theatre.

Special photo

  The Academy Theatre, in operation since 1956, had been based in Avondale Estates since 2005, but a downtown redevelopment plan there fell through and the group was left without a home. While putting out feelers with other municipalities, they received a positive response from Stock-bridge officials and learned that the city had set aside $100,000 in grant funds for nonprofit organizations to utilize within the city.

  Having already purchased the Multiplex building formerly owned by the now-defunct First State Bank, Stockbridge leaders envisioned a community center there that could serve a wide variety of residents of all ages. The Downtown Development Author-ity eventually reached an agreement with the Academy Theatre to make the center its new home, where it has already staged some successful productions.

  The inaugural production in Stockbridge was “Tapas: Nine Short Plays about Rebirth and Renewal.” It was held over two weekends in October in conjunction with the city’s Bridgefest event. Nine playwrights, seven directors and 24 actors participated.

  “Hundreds of people came and saw it,” said Robert Drake, Academy Theatre’s artistic director. “It was a great show.”

  While already staging productions for the public, the leadership of Academy Theatre is working with the city to move forward with the development of the Multiplex. While the city is responsible for getting the building ready, it will not have to manage the facility, as the theater group has been charged with that.

  The current stage, which hosted “Tapas,” seats just over 90 people. The permanent configuration will be much larger, including a 42-inch-high stage with proscenium wall and orchestra pit area in front of more than 200 seats ramping upward stadium-style. All of this is in the old ballroom section of the building, and plenty of structural work will be needed to make the transformation complete.

  Elsewhere in the 22,000-square-foot facility will be a smaller black-box theater as well as dressing rooms and other ancillary spaces necessary for the theater’s operation. Eventually the building will house studio space, classroom space and a computer lab.

  Drake said he expects the first phase of development – the theater areas – to be completed next summer.

  The long-term goal is for the facility to be used year-round by a variety of organizations, and discussions have already begun with dance companies, teen theaters and others who might want to participate.

  The theater’s arrangement for management and operation of the community center is through the Stockbridge Downtown Develop-ment Authority and the initial agreement is for three years.

  “Because we are working with the DDA, I think that will provide some isolation from the machinations of day-to-day politics,” Drake pointed out.

  By its own admission, Academy Theatre does not produce what many people associate with traditional community theater and what is typically seen on high school stages.

  “We do not do populist theater, although we would love to be able to provide opportunities for other local groups to do that,” said Drake.

  The three most recent plays produced solely by the company are David Mamet’s “Oleanna,” Hank Kimmel’s “Divided Among Themselves,” and Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen.”

  Its mission statement, on its Facebook page, reads: “We are a nonprofit theater that specializes in creating provocative new work and new theater companies, and bringing issue-oriented plays to schools, seniors, and underserved communities.”

  But by combining what Academy Theatre does best with what other local organizations can offer in this space, Drake expects a wide variety of entertainment that the entire community can enjoy.

  “It’s really eclectic,” he said. “There is something for everyone.”

  There will eventually be a few city offices in the building, but the theater will manage the day-to-day operation of the community center.

  “Our goal is two-fold: to have an economic impact, and to improve the quality of life here,” said Drake. “A lot of new businesses and people are coming to Stockbridge, and we want to give them something to do on Friday night. We can provide a great community asset.”

  The Academy Theatre is teaming with the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company to present “An Atlanta Christmas” at the Stockbridge center Dec. 7-8. Shows are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

  The Stockbridge Improv Festival is on tap for Dec. 13-15, while the Capitol City Opera’s production of “Hansel and Gretel” is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 21, at 11:30 a.m.

  The center will host Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy’s production of “Steel Magnolias” in January.

  The Academy Theatre has an online presence at, where you can find the latest information on upcoming events and purchase tickets. The organization also has a Facebook page and is on Twitter.



©Henry County Times, Inc.