Group pulls plug on controversial bid for theater
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
May 03, 2012 12:28 AM | 6407 views | 27 27 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Just when the curtain appeared to be rising on a heated arts controversy, the group that raised the ire of former Theatre in the Square’s founder Palmer Wells has rescinded its $50,000 request to the Marietta City Council to open a new theater.

Councilman Johnny Sinclair said he is relieved it did.

“It had very quickly become a lightning rod for trouble and our Square doesn’t need any more trouble,” Sinclair said.

In related news, Councilman Philip Goldstein said on Wednesday he signed a 15-month lease with Next Stage Theatre Company for the 125-seat Alley Stage, the smaller of the two stages used by Theatre in the Square until it closed in March, awash in debt.

Earlier this week the Journal reported that Mike Russell, who chaired Theatre in the Square’s governing board until that organization closed, along with Susan Reid, a former Theatre in the Square employee, planned on starting a new theater company called Trackside Theatre in the same location, a plan denounced by Wells.

Russell and Reid requested a $50,000 grant from the city, a request Wells said he knew nothing about. Wells alleged their proposal “smacks of duplicity” since it takes a long time to lay the groundwork for opening a new theater, a plan he said he suspected the two had been working on even before they presided over the closing of the theater he founded with his late partner Michael Horne 30 years ago.

Following that article, Reid issued a memo to Councilwoman Annette Lewis, who chairs the Council’s Finance Committee, writing: “Please rescind our proposal based on your call to me this afternoon concerning our not-for-profit status. At present, we believe our not-for-profit status and start-up funding will be secured in the next calendar year.”

Reid went on to write that Trackside Theatre looks forward to reapplying for the grant at that time.

During Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting, Lewis said the city only awards its auto rental tax funding to nonprofit groups, so it was not appropriate to consider a request from Trackside Theatre until it achieved its not-for-profit status.

But City Manager Bill Bruton said state law doesn’t limit funding to just nonprofits. The requirement is that the groups have to promote tourism in the city, Bruton said.

While Russell could not be reached for comment, the Journal interviewed Reid on Wednesday, asking why Wells had not been included in the new theater company.

“We got together and came up with this idea and started talking about it, and we really haven’t taken it out to a lot of people,” Reid said. “We haven’t started discussing it with Palmer or really any of the other staff members or too many people. It’s sort of our dream, and something we’re pursuing, and it’s not Theatre in the Square. It’s not connected to Theatre in the Square. It’s something separate.”

Reid said she’s always had a great relationship with Wells.

“We could not be doing this right now if it weren’t for Palmer Wells and Michael Horne. Period,” Reid said. “They helped to establish the arts in Marietta: a city I live in ... have worked in and love. And I want to keep the arts alive for the city. That is the only thing this has to do with. I am living for the future. Not in the past. And I’m sorry for people who want to focus on the past, but I will not do it.”

Reid declined to discuss anything related to Theatre in the Square.

“I don’t think that talking about the past or what’s happened in the past is really going to benefit anybody,” she said.

She also said her group wasn’t set on the former Theatre in the Square building owned by Goldstein, although Goldstein said he’s had discussions with her group about leasing it to them.

“We’ve talked to lots of different people about spaces,” she said.

Theatre in the Square had two stages: the main 225-seat stage and the smaller 125-seat Alley Stage.

Rob Hardie of Marietta, owner of Next Stage Theatre Company, a theater company he founded two years ago, said he plans to hold his first play in the Alley Stage in August. Hardie’s company has currently been operating out of the old Blackwell Playhouse space off Canton Road by America’s Thrift.

Hardie said he intends to offer something for all ages, from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to “Cabaret.”

Moving his theater company to downtown Marietta made sense because the location is better known, he said.

If you say ‘Marietta Square’ everybody knows Marietta Square,” Hardie said. “It just makes sense. There are so many great restaurants. There’s just everything. The Strand. The Lyric has done such a fantastic job. Brandt Blocker (director of the Atlanta Lyric Theatre) and Earl Reece with the Strand, these are the guys I want to emulate.”
Comments
(27)
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Avid Theater Goer
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June 10, 2012
So what is going to happen to the theater on Canton Road? Is it just going to close?
Terry T.
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June 22, 2012
The Canton Road location is run by Young Actors Theatre. Next Stage was just renting a stage to put on plays. I drive past it everyday to work and they seem to still be doing plays.
Theatergoer
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May 10, 2012
I have to agree with "Yuck!" on at least one point. The last thing Marietta needs is a "Community/ Semi-Professional theatre" company. First of all, 'semi-professional' is an oxymoron of the first order, and even more so when coupled to the word community(theatre)!!!. Second, this next stage theatre company seems to be horning in on the same kind of Broadway rehash that the Lyric already has a subscriber base for (and what do you know they are right across Glover Park!...With a better history, and a bigger house, and longer runs, and a PROFESSIONAL staff!!!). Third, 125 seats?...that means good luck with revenue...which means good luck paying people...which means short runs..which means less revenue...which means good luck with that 15 month lease that Goldstein just put you over the barrel with!, which means you will have a hard time ever becoming "professional" w/o serious philanthropy.
Yuck!
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May 03, 2012
I don't mean to say that Next-whatever-Comunity-Wanna-bees wanting to take over the Alley stage is a bad thing for your tiny little community...In Fact I think that that's a good/great thing...

Blackwell will definitely have a void to fill that will not be easily filled!...Necessity is after all the mother of invention!..And after all Greater Marietta will appreciate the tax dollars as you flock to the new location!

But I must agree with "Doomed 2" on this one...apperentally "YetiDawg" has never worked in the business. It's not the size of the town, but what the theatre company is willing to pander to..or perhaps mere ambition....and further more if you think that any small theatre company in any town is exemtp from PANDERING! to its subscriber base?.....well you obviously don't know the theatre business.

In these fiscailly conservative times in this fiscailly coservative state you should just thank your lucky stars that there is any Theatre at all!!!!!

And rest assured...if there are any cuss words in any of their productions...They will definitely get angry emails from ticket holders...
Truth Be Known
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May 03, 2012
Just to clarify. I don't believe today's article meant to imply the Trackside folks have abandoned their plan for the new theatre. They have just postponed their grant request until a later date.

Forget the non-profit status for the grant. They simply reacted to the public's storm of disgust. About the only thing smart they've done. Let's hope they somehow "get it" and forget the entire scheme, at least in this town.

Turns out this should be a bonanza for any ethics professors seeking case studies. Note to professors: don't change the names to protect the guilty.
jdc1963
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May 03, 2012
I'm happy for Mr Hardie but now the Blackwell Theater will suffer. I live off Canton Rd. and have supported Mr. Hardie's Company and the others that used the Blackwell. However with their departure I'm not sure what will become of the Blackwell Theater. I hope it does not shut down as we can't bear another empty space on Canton Rd.
YetiDawg
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May 03, 2012
@Doomed 2: I'm sorry you feel like our town's not big enough to accommodate new artistic ventures, and that you think you're informed enough to pass judgement off a news story or two. I loved T-Square, but for whatever reason, they're gone, and empty land that isn't sacrosanct anyway, isn't doing anybody any good. I applaud Mr. Hardie for moving in to the Alley Stage and look forward to what I hope will be engaging and entertaining professional theatre.
Doomed 2
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May 03, 2012
And you make assumptions about my support for local theater...

I've supported TitS, and Cobb's CCCEPA with more than average financial contributions.

I am definitely informed enough to realize that the board chair that couldn't keep TitS solvent has NO BUSINESS trying to start up a new venture using the same resources. I want great theater like you, but am NOT willing to tolerate the obvious duplicity of the current situation.

Kudos to Mr. Hardie, I hope he enjoys great success in the square.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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May 03, 2012
Dear Russell & Reid, Kindly exit (forever) Stage Left!
informed bystander
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May 03, 2012
Russell can't be reached because he's at Dega.

Go Jr.
know it
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May 07, 2012
And Russell should stay in Alabama until he sobers up enough to realize that he's in way over his head. He's not doing this for anything less than personal gain. He likes the spotlight and will do ANYTHING to get it. Check out his Elite business, who's next door? Carceron. Check out his wife, where does she work? Across from the theatre. He's not equipped mentally or financially for theatre, unless he's the actor!
Tex G
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May 03, 2012
Yeah. There was definitely a plug pulled somewhere.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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May 03, 2012
Russell & Reid; Please exit, Stage Left...forever!

Just Wait
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May 03, 2012
Who really cares?
For one...
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May 03, 2012
Philip Goldstein...he'll be needing a new tenant
Simp...
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May 03, 2012
Apperently a bunch of folk care more than you do!
W. Bernstein
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May 03, 2012
Further proof that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Act II...
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May 03, 2012
The Russell & Reid show… when duplicity & collusion fail revert to distraction and denial
Doomed 2
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May 03, 2012
Why couldn't she say she made a huge strategic miscalculation and mistake in judgement?

Withdrawaing under the guise of her lack non-profit status is a copout.

Mariettans have long memories Ms. Reid and I don't think you have long enough to wait it out. You might want to try your luck in another town.

Good riddance and best of luck to you.
JP Peterson
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May 03, 2012
This is an idea destined for the dustbin of history.
Palmer's vindication
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May 03, 2012
The underhanded scam was exposed and “Russell could not be reached for comment”... guess he crawled back under his rock

West Cobb Resident
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May 03, 2012
All this news about these little theatres. You'd think we're talking about Broadway or something. LOL.
WCobber
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May 03, 2012
I know, its not like they are talking about canceling Jersey Shore or Real Housewives...
The REAL Facts
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May 03, 2012
Re: West Cobb Resident

I want to educate you and perhaps others about "these little theatres". "These little theatres" are where the Broadway actors, singers, dancers, playwrites, directors, set, costume, lights & sound designers, tech staff & others get their start. If there were no "little theatres", there would be no Broadway.

Regarding Theatre in the Square and other metro Atlanta Theatres; if you don't know the importance of the Arts in our lives, I shall not waste my keystrokes making it known to you. Additionally, many, many people lost income & health insurance due to the closing of Theatre in the Square. These people include staff that resigned or were booted out before the Theatre even closed, staff there at the time it closed, actors, directors, designers, tech staff...the list goes on & on. The Marietta Square businesses are affected greatly by the loss of the Theatre & some may end up being in danger of closing. Thus the loss of more jobs & tax dollars to the City of Marietta. It is a major ripple effect, per se, when just one business closes. Patrons and donors that have attended and contribted monies for 30 years have lost their beloved Theatre. Anyone that is involved in the Theatre community knows that when you work at a Theatre, it becomes your family. It is not just a job. It gets in your blood & becomes a part of you. This applies to not only staff but all the people I mentioned above that do work at Theatres, including Theatre in the Square. Many people lost a beloved member of their families: Theatre in the Square.

Theatre in the Square was not just a "little theatre" in many & very important ways that are noted above. It is a devastating loss that cannot be replaced and I hope this post helps you to understand that.

All you really did
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May 03, 2012
is confirm the type of arrogance and lack of living in reality that killed Theater on the Square.

@ WCobber
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May 03, 2012
You're tallying apples and oranges...

Stick to your muffing cable TV..I doubt you have ever seen a live theatrical production in you tiny little squirt of a lifespan...let alone PAID for the ticket...Have fun with your seriel television...

UHG...I wish i was allowed to call you names and use stronger language on this forum!!!

You must be a very!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! simple person!

WCobber
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May 04, 2012
It's called SARCASM you dolt. I was making fun of "West Cobb Resident".
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