Georgia Ensemble Theatre And The Stories They Tell

As many of you know, Georgia Ensemble Theatre (GET) had a huge loss last year when Bob Farley, their Artistic Director, passed away quite suddenly. During my interviews for this article, it was obvious that the loss is still felt quite deeply, but the whole company is determined to carry on and expand on his vision for the future of their theatre that is based out of the Roswell Performing Arts Center.

Farley’s legacy will be a lasting one on the local theatre community to be sure. There is no better way to sum up GET’s purpose than by looking at their mission statement: “Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s mission is to provide excellent professional theatre experiences to captivate the current generation of theatre-goers and nurture future generation. We fulfill this mission through the selfless ensemble collaboration of our artists, audiences and students.”

This is obviously more than just a theatre company. Farley’s vision was always bigger in that he wanted to reach new audiences. Their goal goes beyond putting on excellent shows for their attendees, but also to educate and nurture the public about the experience of theatre. To accomplish this goal, they offer many different ways to engage our community by doing five seasonal main professional stage productions. They also do summer productions in an outdoor setting such as the Chattahoochee Nature Center. The outreach to expand their audience is accomplished by their Family Stage Productions that are geared to entertain families and children alike. They also have their GET Conservatory, which encompasses summer camps for kids and they do over 150 Arts in Education shows each year at various schools throughout Metro Atlanta. And lastly, they have an Apprentice Company for emerging artists who can study for nine months to hone their theatre skills as profession.

It takes a talented team of directors, supported by top-notch board members, to carry out such a wide range of performances and programs. I was lucky enough to interview some of their team to find out their feelings about GET and the upcoming season.
James Donadio is a founding member of GET and will be the new Associate Artistic Director. He will also be directing the comedy, Moonlight and Magnolias this coming season. When I spoke to Donadio, he explained that it’s important to engage and develop an audience and challenge them with great works and stellar performances.
“Theater is a singular, personal experience between the actors on stage and the audience,” Donadio stated. “It’s meant to be provocative and to provoke thought and discussion.” He wants the audience to leave the play needing to discuss issues, characters, and feelings that they experienced. He also believes that a good Artistic Director will want to shape a season and have a vision for the future and what they aspire their theater to become. I’m looking forward to seeing how he will shape the future of GET.

Bob’s widow, Anita Farley, will be working closely with Donadio, as she will be the Producing Artistic Director of GET. She has been the Managing Director since the theater started in 1992.

“I’m finding right now that I’m having so much fun with the artistic end of it,” Farley stated. “I believe that every single night there is a moment and there is a communion between the artist and the audience and every night is different and it’s always magical.”
She is excited for the future because the first part of the new season is very female-centric with interesting roles for women as they work toward more diversity in their shows.

Another team member is Laurel Crowe, Farley’s daughter, who is the Education Director. Under her auspice their Theater for Young Audiences had over 32,000 students in attendance this year. She also explained that she was excited and proud to direct Driving Miss Daisy in the coming season.

There is symmetry in that performance because Bob Farley made his mark in the Atlanta area when directing this show for the Alliance Theater. It played for over two years and now it’s his daughter’s turn to helm this production as her directing debut for the main stage. It’s a 90-minute show with three actors and is about brevity and simplicity.

“What we do (in theater) opens conversation,” Crowe explained. “Driving Miss Daisy is about what it means to be human and to care for one another, even if you don’t come from the same background or same point of view. It’s an important idea, especially in today’s world.”

A NEW BEGINNING
The 2018-19 season theme is “The Stories We Tell” and it begins in September with the hit 9 to 5, The Musical, which will run Sept. 13 through the 30th. Dolly Parton wrote the music and lyrics for this show, which is based upon the movie version in which she starred. Yes, I’m old enough to remember it. It’s refreshing that this musical has three good, solid female leading roles and a huge hit as the theme song.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti is the next performance and it runs October 25 through November 11. Spaghetti is a comedy based on the memoir of Giulia Melucci and will star Jenny Levison (Founder of Souper Jenny, a collection of four cafés in Atlanta). She is a wonderful actress and a fantastic cook and will be preparing a three-course meal (with pasta from scratch) on stage. Don’t miss this one!

In the new year Moonlight and Magnolias runs from January 10 through the 27th. This play is based on actual incidents that we know about during the making of the movie, Gone With the Wind. It’s a hilarious comedy about the producer, David O. Selznick, director, Victor Fleming and playwright, Ben Hecht. James Donadio will be directing this show and says that one of the themes he will explore will be the “stages of exhaustion.” Intriguing, eh?

In February, the aforementioned Driving Miss Daisy will run from the 28th through March 17. According to the late Bob Farley this is “the perfect play.” It’s written by Alfred Uhry and is all about relationships. The Farleys’ daughter, Laurel Crowe, will be directing this show, passing the torch to a new generation. Let’s go see it

The season ends with a bang in Bullets Over Broadway, The Musical, which runs April 11 through the 28th. Bullets is a 1920s flapper-style musical, written by Woody Allen. With showgirls, gangsters, singing and dancing, how can you go wrong!

While the passing of Bob Farley left a big gap in the local arts community it is nice to know that people touched by his lasting legacy are filling it. In my opinion, after 25 years of performances, theater education and audience outreach in our community, GET has truly become part of the fabric of Roswell and the surrounding areas. Let’s support them by attending their shows this coming season and participating in their many educational programs. For more info on GET and all their programs and performances visit www.get.org.