Theater gets award months after closing
by Noreen Cochran
October 25, 2012 12:31 AM | 2460 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Palmer Wells <br>(MDJ file/Jon-Michael Sullivan)
Palmer Wells
(MDJ file/Jon-Michael Sullivan)
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MARIETTA — Although it shuttered in March, Theatre in the Square scored an arts award this week.

The Suzi Bass Awards organization announced Wednesday the theater will receive a tribute during its eighth annual ceremony Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts and Community Center in Decatur.

“The Spirit of Suzi Award recognizes a person or organization that demonstrates the long-term and consistent contribution to Atlanta theater that embodies the spirit of the late and much-loved actress Suzi Bass, for whom the awards organization is named,” the organization said in a press release published on the Broadway World website.

Theater cofounder and producing director Palmer Wells said he wasn’t sure if he will wear a tuxedo to the black-tie affair, but he is certain of his feelings about the accolade.

“I’m very honored,” he said. “I hear that at the ceremony they’re planning to ask for a show of hands of everyone who’s worked there over the years, and I think there will be quite a number.”

The theater closed its doors March 19 during a run of Pearl Cleage’s “Flyin’ West,” citing a deficit of nearly $400,000.

“We ran out of cash,” board chair Mike Russell told the Journal at the time.

Since the theater opened at Sept. 10, 1982, in an 85-seat venue at 35 Mill St., now the site of Cool Beans Coffee Roasters, Wells said it has earned many a Suzi.

“We got as many as 11 or 12 one year. We were nominated for one this year. Of course, we didn’t complete the season. Who knows if we had?” he said about their chances for a win.

Wells said the list of awards won, along with photos, videotapes and other memorabilia, is now housed in a local research collection.

“I turned that over to the Kennesaw State University archives not long after the theater closed. I’ve been trying to filter through some of the records from the theater and get to Kennesaw what they need,” he said. “It’s very kind of them to want to preserve the 30-year history.”

One of the exhibits may be a program from the very first show, “On Golden Pond,” which starred then-Journal writer Plu Tribble.

“We paid actors even then, and she earned a whopping $25 a week,” Wells said. “She was wonderful in the part.”

He said he was looking forward not only to the Nov. 5 awards but also the Nov. 1 reopening of the venue at 11 Whitlock Ave. under the new name Marietta Theatre and the artistic direction of playwright Ed Howard.

“I’m certainly rooting for them. I made one of the initial contributions to their startup,” Wells said. “I’ve met with (Howard) on several occasions and offered whatever information I could.”

Also wishing well for Wells is his friend and colleague Earl Reece, executive director of the Strand Theatre, also on the Square.

“It is an outstanding recognition of their long service in our community,” he said. “When Michael Horne and Palmer Wells opened Theatre in the Square, I watched how they could adapt a small place with no dressing rooms into a theater. They were the theater pioneers in Marietta.”

Their former spokeswoman, Andrea Gardenhire, now the marketing campaign coordinator for the San Francisco Symphony, said the honor is well-deserved.

“Over the years there was a great deal of wonderful work that came out of there and wonderful people who strove to make it what Marietta needed and, ultimately, what greater Atlanta needed,” she said.

Previous recipients of the Spirit of Suzi Award include the Center for Puppetry Arts in Midtown and Jerry’s Habima Theatre in Dunwoody.

Tickets to the awards ceremony start at $20.
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