The Academy Theatre, the longest-running professional theater in metro Atlanta — and Georgia — is moving to Stockbridge.
Stockbridge Mayor Mark Alarcon says the company will relocate as part of a three-year, public-private partnership and will provide cultural and leisure services, including mainstage theatrical work, a Theatre for Youth artists-in-schools program, a senior theater program, classes for youth and adults, an improv festival, a short-play festival and new play readings.
The Academy recently lost its longtime Avondale Estates space and is temporarily sharing OnStage Atlanta’s new headquarters on East Ponce de Leon Avenue in Decatur. Stockbridge is about 23 miles south of Avondale Estates.
A PLACE CALLED HOME
The Academy’s new home will be the 22,000-square-foot Community Arts Center, formerly the First State Bank operations center. It includes a 250-plus seat proscenium theater, a 99-seat black-box theater, two community spaces, a digital computer lab, special events space, a dance studio, art gallery, and a small cafe.
The company, led by artistic director Robert Drake and managing director Lorenne Fey, expects to begin work in Stockbridge in October.
The Academy Theatre was founded in 1956 by Frank Wittow, who became legendary in the metro theater community. Under his leadership, the Academy became the first professional theater in the South to be integrated, to employ an ensemble of actors and premiere the first Southeastern Shakespeare Festival (in 1960). It also was a leader in educational theater, with groundbreaking programs in the 1960s and ’70s. Wittow died in 2006 at age 75.
Academy alumni include such notable theater artists as Tony Award-winning actor Dana Ivey and stage/film actor Bill Nunn (Spider-Man 3); playwrights Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee (The Waffle Palace: Smothered, Covered and Scattered 24/7/365); and Alliance associate producer Jody Feldman. No fewer than eight Atlanta artistic directors worked there: Leon, who runs True Colors Theatre Company; Jeff and Lisa Adler of Horizon Theatre Company; Rosemary Newcott, the Alliance Theatre’s artistic director of Theatre for Youth & Families; Adam Fristoe of Out of Hand Theater; Mira Hirsch of Jewish Theatre of the South; John Stephens of Theatre Gael; and Adriana Warner, formerly of Stage Door Players.
Today, the Academy focuses on outreach work to people who don’t usually have a theatrical voice, incubates new theater companies and produces new mainstage works.