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.”