|National News: Atlanta|
by Pamela Turner
When I first came to Atlanta it surprised me. I'd expected something that was a slightly urban version of Deliverance with a little dash of Scarlett's Tara thrown in. My former husband and I moved from our native Pacific North-west because of his job promotion and my resulting chance to go to grad school. He didn't like it and returned, but I stayed, mostly because of school, but also because what I found was a city with an active arts scene and some pretty cool green spaces. This kind of misconception followed by pleasant surprise was revisited on me two times this summer. The first experience was as a "playwright guest" at the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) conference and the second was as an audience member at the Essential Theatre Play Festival production of Peter Hardy's Sally and Glen at the Palace
The more recent event at Essential was surprising because it is only the second time in their twelve-year history that Hardy, who is founding Artistic Director, has included one of his own plays. Written just before the birth of Essential, Sally and Glen received an award from The New Southern Theatre Festival at the Mockingbird Public Theatre in Nashville and was produced at Theatre Southeast in Tallahassee. After that, though, Hardy turned his attention to the support and promotion of other playwrights through his Play Festival. He produces two regional premieres each year along with a full production of the Essential Theatre Playwriting Award winner. The com-petition is open to playwrights residing in Georgia who submit new work. (The 2010 winner is Gabriel Jason Dean's Qualities of Starlight.) Even with all that good karma investment, Hardy had to wrestle with the decision to put his own work front and center, ‘Cause, y'all know, despite the new call to action over self-producing, there are still a whole lotta folks holding up big signs that read "Vanity Production." Fortunately, Hardy has gotten nothing but love taps over his move and may even have set the self-production rad meter over on the plus side. Hardy says that this comic drama about two college students navigating life while working at a movie theatre is a bit of departure from his usual more "highly theatrical, surreal work," even though it is based on his own experiences. And that leads to another little surprise, because this is a fascinating side of Hardy I never knew about. Imagine that. The best news is that he responded to my notice for the next regional DG meeting by saying he would probably come because "I'm feeling more like a playwright now."