Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food for Fish & Cats & Dogs & save $5.

Bring a can or unopened bag of dog or cat food to Essential Theatre's production's of ICE GLEN, FOOD FOR FISH or JIM CROW & THE RHYTHM DARLINGS this weekend and save $5 off the adult ticket price. Collections will be distributed to the Atlanta Humane Society and Pet Rescue.

The 11th Annual Essential Theatre Festival closes this weekend, so don't miss out. And, please no FISH FOOD, we've got that covered already.

Want to know which show performs when? Click here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

People are talking about Ice Glen by Joan Ackerman

ICE GLEN by Joan Ackermann
Beautifully written, masterfully delicate direction by Ellen McQueen, precise, delightful and surprising performances all round. Go see it.” Joanna Daniel

“ICE GLEN is both one of the best scripts and best overall productions I've seen in the nine years I've been in Atlanta, and Ellen's direction is flawlessly nuanced. A true "must-see."" Evan Guilford-Blake

"It’s one of the best shows in Atlanta this year!” Leonard Pallats

Sunday, July 19, 2009

People are talking about "Jim Crow...."

WMLB Voice of the Arts' Larry Larson interviews playwright Vynnie Meli & director Betty Hart

And, In Print

“Directed by Betty Hart, Jim Crow & The Rhythm Darlings truly captures the love of jazz … the dialogue is quick paced and smart, the issues are diverse, and the acting is powerful. Not every day do you come across an intelligent play that explores gender roles, racism, and religion. Jim Crow & The Rhythm Darlings is a harmonious blend of talent, music, and discussion. Definitely a must see.” Kelechi Ubozoh, Atlanta Theatre Examiner

“Playwright Vynnie Meli’s Jim Crow and the Rhythm Darlings draws from a seemingly bottomless wellspring of drama. Director Betty Hart builds to some undeniably gripping confrontations … Essential Theatre offers an affecting homage to some of the unsung women of jazz.” Curt Holman, Creative Loafing

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FOOD FOR FISH: It's a wild strange smart play....compelling

“Following its tradition of introducing Atlanta to some of the edgier plays around, Essential Theatre opened its annual summer festival with FOOD FOR FISH, a lively take on Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS by rising playwright Adam Szymkowicz … One smart play …dark, droll dialogue … it’s a wild, strange trip, full of black humor, and something to really challenge the mind.” read the entire review James Paulk, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“This play by the brilliant young playwright, Adam Szymkowicz, is one strange work of art … it is compelling, humorous, and I would give it a 9 on the proverbial scale.” Robert Heller, Publisher's Feature Service

Playwright Steve Yockey "strongly suggests that folks in Atlanta check out the whimsically dark, touching and intoxicatingly performed production of Adam Szymkowicz's "Food for Fish" at Essential Theatre."

Audience comments:

Friday, July 10, 2009

ICE GLEN opens tonight

Two things have been running through my head like a song, since I've been working on this play, ICE GLEN. One is a line from a song that a friend wrote: "We're all gonna live like people in a book." The other is from OUR TOWN, when Emily asks the Stage Manager (I'm paraphrasing here) "Do human beings ever realize how beautiful life is, every minute?" and he says, "The poets and the saints, some."

ICE GLEN is about being truly alive in the place where you belong. About being in that special place, inside and outside yourself (in the woods, or in a poem, or in a circle of people you love) where, if there's a frozen part of your heart because once something hurt too much for you to feel it, you can allow the ice to melt and come to life. Of course, there is an element of danger to being truly alive. When parts that have been too cold for too long warm up, they burn. But one of the surprises, when you open and feel, is how much fun and laughter you find where you feared to find only pain. There's a lot of fun and laughter in ICE GLEN. And we've all laughed a lot working and playing in this production.

The theatre has always been the place for me where the ice melts and the heart comes to life, and I find it happening again with this lovely play.
Ellen McQueen Jim Crow and The Rhythm Darlings

Jim Crow and The Rhythm Darlings

What do you get when you combine a forties all-girl black jazz band with one Jewish member, and stir it up with a tour through the Jim Crow South? You get a recipe for disaster, but more importantly discovery. It's 1943...

To read the rest of this article, please click on the link below:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Become a Facebook Fan

The influence of Facebook in marketing the theatre continues to growth indicatinges how social media continues to enhance and re-define the way arts organizations reach out to audiences.

When we reach a fan base of 1,000, Facebook provides a series of advanced tools and analytics that will enhance our ability to reach those interested in theatre. We can easily achieve this by encouraging our friends on to Become a Fan on Facebook and recommend us to their friends. When you access our page you will see a list of options below the logo on the left. One is “Suggest to Friends.” When you click on this link a box with all of your friends’ photos opens. Simply click on the individuals you believe would be interested in the theatre (local residents, patrons of the arts, etc.). If they’re already a fan of ours their photo will be grayed out, so you’ll know by sight who is already with us. They will get an update from you suggesting they join us. It’s that simple. It’s a very soft ask that can make a huge difference in building relationships in time for the new season.

Clickon on the "Become a Fan" button then follow the link below to suggest that your friends join us. Thanks

Here’s a link to our page: EssentialTheatre Facebook Page and while your at it, please become a fan of Actors Express if you have not already done so.

If you’re not on Facebook and would like to be, please let me know and we’ll help you get started.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

JC Reilly, one of the Georgia Poetry Society members who will be participating in a poetry reading at 7pm on Saturday July 25th prior to the 8pm "Ice Glen" performance. JC would like to offer this poem for your consideration. We hope you will come a bit early to hear JC's poetry and the work of other GPS members.

    Fall, Star City by JC Reilly

    The blush has crept into the leaves,
    as sunshine, sanguine with the months
    of growing, cools its fire. The light
    that we get now is maizy, saturates

    everything with extract of gold, even
    the dogged verdigris of the Sower
    filling his bag, even the blacks
    of shadow and pavement.

    Mornings crisp, like new apples,
    glow with that rich, amber sheen,
    warm only in its hue. Along 13th,
    the maples and Bradford pears leaning

    over the walks, buckled with roots,
    gleam too, their discarded leaves
    like frenzied handprints. You could say
    that autumn in Lincoln is tumult

    gilded by late September sun, the leaves
    stabs of color in over-yellowed air,
    so much yellow concentrated here
    that spectrums everywhere else are bereft.

(previously published in
Stones Throw Magazine:

JC Reilly wishes everything could be written as a poem, including editorials, cereal ads, and weather reports. She is a displaced Louisiana poet living in Atlanta, with two strange cats and a quirky Socialist husband. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the
Xavier Review, the Arkansas Review, Cider Press Review, and three online journals, Ouroboros Review, Sweet: a Literary Confection, and Stone’s Throw Magazine.

National Black Arts Festival Around Town

We are proud to announce that the Essential Theatre performance of Vynnie Meli's "Jim Crow and the Rhythm Darlings" is to be presented during the National Black Arts Festival. For more information about National Black Arts Festival Around Town, click here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dexter Speaks Out

Sarah Falkenburg Wallace – Dexter (Food for Fish)
This is the fourth Festival I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in. I have always enjoyed being a part of the festival and have played a voice in the attic, a murderous college student, & a girl who turned into a horse. However, simply being cast as a man has turned into one of the most challenging roles of my acting career. I have enjoyed the process as one of the most truly involved roles I’ve worked to create since Dexter is the complete opposite of me in every way. I have enjoyed really observing and attempting to mimic the posture and movements associated with the male gender. I have also become very aware of how physically expressive I am naturally, which of course Dexter is not, so that has created it’s own challenge in itself. I have enjoyed working to embody and create the role of Dexter. I would like to thank Peter for allowing me this opportunity to grow as an actor and to continue to learn new things in this amazing craft.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Guest Poetry Readers

Come support our guest poetry readers as they share a brief selection before selected performances.
  • Flora Maria Garcia, Executive Director MACC July 10 8pm
  • Jeff Watkins, Artistic Director, Shakespeare Tavern, July 12 7pm
  • Bob Farley, Artistic Director, Georgia Ensemble July 20th 8pm
  • Georgia Poetry Society July 25th begins at 7pm
  • Charles Green, Fulton County Arts Council/Sunrise Bank. July 26th 7pm
  • Phillip Depoy, Clayton State, Drama Dept. Chair, July 31 8pm.

Food for Fish: "I wanted to direct it"

As soon as I started reading Adam Szymkowicz’s FOOD FOR FISH, I knew that I wanted to include it in the 2009 Essential Theatre Play Festival, and that I wanted to direct it. I’m not sure I could have articulated why I felt this way, except that found the script to be funny and weird and beautiful (a combination that I always like). There’s a lot of stuff in it about writing, which I’m drawn to, and it also looks at the differences between the way we often try to idealize ourselves into fantasy relationships, instead of dealing with the reality of the people we get close to (another fascination of mine, although it took me longer to recognize how important a part of the play this was.)

So, I didn’t start out the rehearsal process with a firm, fixed concept in mind – I told the cast that I responded to the play intuitively, not analytically, and that I could always explain why I felt that some things should be pla yed a certain way, and that they were all very much the right people for their parts. As a result, our rehearsals have been an evolving series of explorations and discoveries, with some ideas taken up and discarded, and new ones rising up to take their place.

I had the pleasure of meeting the playwright a few weeks ago, and he told me that the play had been written fairly quickly and then produced -- having gone through almost no development process. This didn’t surprise me, and I think he was lucky to have had things go that way – this is the kind of script that the group discussions and second-guessing of most development processes could not much help, and would probably hurt. This is not to say that many plays aren’t helped by such processes – I hope that the development work done by the Essential Theatre with some new plays, over the years, has been good for their writers. But, sometimes, it’s better to go with a writer’s unbridled, unchecked impulses.

What kind of play is FOOD FOR FISH? It’s a comedy, that’s often sad – rather like Chekhov. Which isn’t a haphazard reference – the play is full of Chekhov motifs, from the three sisters who long to return home to New Jersey, to the tormented young writer who throws a dead pigeon at the feet of his lady love. It’s also like a dream play, full of connections that work on the subliminal level rather than in the dramaturgical manner of a well-made play.

Men play women, sometimes, and vice-versa, all the while their characters are trying to figure out why people fall in love, and what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. When you’ve got a male character -- played by an actress, saying that he’s trying to figure out how men should behave -- it throws our whole notions of “how things are supposed to be” into a new, revealing and comic perspective. To the writer’s credit, he doesn’t just play this for laughs – he gives us insights into the ways we trap ourselves by trying to live up to the fantasies we see on television, and read in magazines – rather than trying to understand who we truly are, and how our realities can relate to one another.

I couldn’t ask for a better cast. I’ve worked with all of them before, which makes for a trust that you need when you’re delving into such original and unusual material.

Sylvia, the youngest sister, is played by Kate Graham, who dazzled everybody playing Sally the Homecoming Queen and Princess Sophia the Hunchback in our production of Paul Rudnick’s VALHALLA last summer.&nb sp; Since then she’s appeared in BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS at the Center Theatre, and she’s also the star of the cult horror-comedy film Poultrygeist – the Night of the Living Chicken. Check it out!

Alice, the middle sister, is played by Dad’s Garage favorite Eve Krueger, while Barbara, the oldest, is played by Charles Swint. I’ve known Charles for years, and directed him as Adam in our production of THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD a few years back (but he keeps his clothes on, this time – even if they’re mostly women’s clothes). He also appeared in our hit production of THE BOOK OF LIZ
(named one of the year’s best shows by the AJC).

The oldest sister’s husband is played by Sarah Falkenburg Wallace, who was nominated for a M etropolitan Atlanta Theatre Award for her performance in the Essential’s MRS. BOB CRATCHIT’S WILD CHRISTMAS BINGE, and played the title role in our World Premiere of Karen Wurl’s MISS MACBETH (which the AJC called “a doozy of a backstage farce … a delightful laugh-bath”). Having two skillful comic performers like Sarah and Charles play husband and wife (but with the genders reversed) is inherently funny … but not campy. We’ve been going for the heart of these characters, and have found that the more real we can make them, the funnier they are.
Brent Nicholas Rose plays the kissing-bandit-writer, coming of a year where he's worked with Synchronicity Performance Group and Dad’s Garage. Last summer he played the lead role in our Regional Premiere of Gina Gionfriddo’s AFTER ASHLEY, which has been nominated as Best Production of a Play by the Metropolitan Atlanta Theatre Awards. Rounding out the cast is Kelly Criss, having a great time playing (at last count) eleven different characters – both male and female. You may have seen her in THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED at Theatre In the Square’s Alley Stage.

We open up July 5, at Actor’s Express, and there’ll be eight performances between then and August 1. Check out our website at for information and scheduling. Hope you’ll come see us!