It’s all about openings in this week’s curated column, including the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival; the East by Southeast Festival for Asian-American Voices; the award-winning “Blackbird” at the Robert Mello Studios Blackbox; and the world premieres of  “On the Third Day” at Windmill Arts Center and “Woke,” joining the Essential New Play Fest. Pictured: Greg Kamp (center) as newsboys’ strike leader Jack Kelly with his cronies in Aurora Theatre’s “Newsies.” Photo by Chris Bartelski.

Recommended

Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival. BEGINS MONDAY. One of the more enjoyable events of the year. The AMTF, now in its third year, offers four brand-new musicals. They look at family and faith, fairies in Britain, a confused crayon and Wonder Woman’s origin story. The schedule: Wonder Women by Greg Becker at 8 p.m. Monday; Red — A Crayon’s Musical by Ben Thorpe and John Burke at 8 p.m. Tuesday; Sundays at Four by Brittani Minnieweather, Jamie Walker and Jonathan Peacock at 8 p.m. Aug. 13; and The Fairy Hoax by Tom Diggs and Jay D’Amico at 8 p.m. Aug. 14.  Festival pass $50 plus fees. Single show: $17 ($12 for Red — A Crayon’s Musical). Out Front Theatre, at 999 Brady Ave. in West Midtown, plays host. Details, tickets HEREDiscounted full festival pass at PoshDealz.com.

Avery Sharpe. Photo: Dad’s Garage

Black Nerd. CLOSES SATURDAY. Tough ticket. We’re hearing good things about this original dark comedy at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company.The story concerns a black kid who prefers listening to Weird Al over Kendrick Lamar, attending Dragon Con to seeing Jay-Z, or watching Star Wars instead of Tyler Perry’s Madea. Black Nerd follows this young man as he navigates the expectations of his black family and his white friends, where race and geekdom collide. The script is the first solo effort from Dad’s company member Jon Carr, who collaborated on the earlier Wrath of Con. The cast: Mandy Butler, Candy McLellan, playwright/actor Avery Sharpe and Jon Wierenga. $15.50-$29.50. Dad’s is at 569 Ezzard St. SE. Details, tickets HERE (you’ll save money if you buy online) or at 404.523.3141.

Blake Burgess (from left), Shannon McCarren, Jessica De Maria. Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

Titanic. THROUGH AUG. 19. Tough ticket, but seats have been added to sold-out performances. The outdoors-only Serenbe Playhouse tops its Carousel (performed with a real carnival) and Miss Saigon (featuring a genuine Huey helicopter that took flight) with artistic director Brian Clowdus’ ambitious staging of this Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. The time: 1912. The place: aboard the RMS Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean. Clowdus employs a cast of 40 (including regulars Niki Badua, Blake Burgess, Jessica De Maria, Chase Davidson and Robert Wayne) and a four-story Titanic replica that sinks nightly in the Inn Lake at Serenbe. But, as Clowdus says, “It’s not about the boat sinking. It’s about people on a voyage or quest for joy, hope and change.” All Serenbe shows can require a walk along a muddy path. Appropriate footwear recommended. There is seating for this show. For mobility assistance (parking, accessibility cart, etc.), contact the box office. $35 and up. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Serenbe is at 9110 Selborne Lane in Chattahoochee Hills. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110.

Opening this week

Jayson Warner Smith, Heather Rule. Photo: Jamie Maciuszek

Blackbird. OPENS FRIDAY. Scottish playwright David Harrower’s 2005 drama follows a 27-year-old woman (Una) who surprises a 50-year-old man (Ray) at his office. Fifteen years earlier, Ray was convicted of sexually assaulting Una. He served his prison sentence, changed his name, moved and started a new life. When Una stumbles upon a recent photo of Ray, she decides to confront him. Jayson Warner Smith (TV’s The Walking Dead and Rectify) is Ray, Heather Rule is Una. Marc Gowan directs. The staging comes from Right On Productions and Frat Pack Productions. Blackbird won London’s Olivier Award for best new play in 2007 and had a critically acclaimed Broadway run in 2016 with Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams. It earned three Tony Award nominations. $20 plus fees. Through Aug. 19. Robert Mello Studio Blackbox, 4048 Flowers Road, Suite 210, Doraville. Tickets at Brown Paper Tickets HERE.

East by Southeast: A Festival of Asian-American Voices. OPENS SUNDAY. Free admission. Dozens of Asian-American artists from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines showcase their art over four nights at two venues. The lineup includes traditional Chinese dance, Bengali music, spoken word by Korean-American artists, an original devised piece of theater and staged readings of new plays. The festival’s goal is to engage Atlantans in a conversation about how the American story includes the Asian-American experience. Co-presented by Aurora and Horizon theaters. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday performances are at Horizon, 1083 Austin Ave. N.E., 404.584.7450. Aug. 19 performances are at Aurora, 128 E. Pike St., 678.226.6222. Aurora offers free, covered, attached parking in a city deck at 153 E. Crogan St. Performance details and reservations at Brown Paper Tickets HERE.

On the Third Day. OPENS FRIDAY. A world premiere by Atlanta playwright Amina S. McIntyre. Meet the Lansings. Three years ago their eldest son and oldest brother was killed. Now family members must come together to decide the fate of the two men who shot him. The drama, an examination of grief, ritual and family, is set in Atlanta and inspired by events in McIntyre’s life. Presented by Los Angeles/Atlanta-based VanguardRep. Matthew Kellen Burgos directs a five-person cast. $20. Through Aug. 19. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 2:30 + 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Windmill Arts Center, 2823 Church St., East Point. Details, tickets HERE.

Woke. OPENS FRIDAY. World premiere. This prize-winning drama by Atlanta actor/playwright Avery Sharpe (the same artist in the cast of Dad’s Garage’s Black Nerdbegins its Essential New Play Festival run (in repertory with Built to Float). The script follows two close friends from different backgrounds who are already trying to navigate the high school-to-college transition when a calamitous event captures national attention. They’re forced to face their conflicting understandings of social awareness as they painstakingly and comically search for what it truly means to be “woke.” Ellen McQueen directs. The 20-year-old Essential fest is dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights. It includes a third world premiere Aug. 16-17 and three Bare Essentials staged readings. As can happen with new work and smallish budgets, quality can vary. $25. Through Aug. 26. Usually 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 + 7 p.m. Saturday but check dates and times before you go. West End Performing Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. Details, tickets HERE.

Still running

Rachel Graf Evans

Built to Float. THROUGH AUG. 25. World premiere. Atlanta-based playwright Rachel Graf Evans’ surrealistic family drama, part of the 2018 Essential New Play Festival, asks: “Is Tess fine?” Tess tells her sister she is, but strange things keep happening in her home. The two women try to keep from drowning in the legacy of their troubled past. Essential founder Peter Hardy directs. Note: Woke, a world premiere by Avery Sharpejoins the repertory Friday. The Essential fest, in its 20th season, is dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights. It includes a third world premiere Aug. 16-17 and three Bare Essentials staged readings. As can happen with new work and smallish budgets, quality can vary. $25. Usually 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 + 7 p.m. Sunday but check dates and times before you go. West End Performing Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. Details, tickets HERE.

Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, Gilbert Glenn Brown. Photo: Brenda Nicole Photography

Dot. THROUGH AUG. 12. At True Colors Theatre Company. This gentle comedy by Colman Domingo uses humor to look at issues surrounding aging parents and midlife crises. The setting is Christmastime in urban West Philly. The playwright, says Variety.com, “sees the absurdity and human comedy in a messy, volatile, all-too-real family dynamic.” Atlanta-born, New York-based stage/film actor Denise Burse is Dot. Also in the cast: such familiar faces as Gilbert Glenn Brown, Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, Rhyn McLemore Saver and Lee OsorioTrue Colors co-founder and artistic director Kenny Leon directs. Contains adult language, situations. $20-$35. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 2:30 + 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. True Colors performs at the Southwest Arts Center915 New Hope Road SW. Details, tickets HERE or at 877.725.8849 (Ticket Alternative).

Newsies. THROUGH SEPT. 2. The 2012 Disney musical tells the real-life story of New York City’s Newsboy Strike of 1899, when publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst tried to take advantage of the newsboys to increase profits. The newsboys’ response: Strike! Aurora Theatre uses a cast of 31 to tell the story, which features a Tony Award-winning score by Jack Feldman and Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid). Justin Anderson directs, with musical direction by Ann-Carol Pence and choreography by Ricardo Aponte. $30-$65. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2:30 + 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. 10 a.m. matinee (tickets start at $20) on Aug. 7. (Note: The show, a co-production with Atlanta Lyric Theatre, plays the Lyric’s Marietta space Oct. 19-Nov. 4.) Aurora offers free, covered, attached parking in a city deck at 153 E. Crogan St. Details, tickets HERE or at 678.226.6222. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

Peter Pan. THROUGH AUG. 26. Serenbe Playhouse calls this a “world premiere musical pirate adventure.” If you’re so inclined, sail to the second star on the right and straight on till morning to revisit J.M. Barrie’s 1904 tale about Peter, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and Neverland. Complications arise when the Lost Boys get homesick and Captain Hook returns seeking revenge. The story is by Roger Q. Mason, the score by London-trained, New York regular Ella Grace. Michael Alvarez, who works largely in Britain, directs. Serenbe, which does outdoor, site-specific shows, sets Peter Pan at its Mado Hideaway. All shows take place in the woods and require a walk along a sometimes muddy path. Appropriate footwear recommended. For mobility assistance (parking, accessibility cart, etc.), contact the box office. $13-$30. 11 a.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Serenbe is at 9110 Selborne Lane in Chattahoochee Hills. Details, tickets HERE or at 770.463.1110. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com.

About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich, Encore Atlanta’s editor, is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

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