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Capitalist Sage: Brennen Dicker on the Business of Film Festivals [Podcast]



Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

In this episode of the Capitalist Sage podcast, Brennen Dicker, board member of the upcoming Atlanta Jewish Film Festival shares with hosts Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini all the ins and outs of how this fantastic film fest got started and details about the exciting events to come in 2020.  


Website: AJFF.org

“…What I really enjoy about this festival is that it is a time to get people together and converse and talk about issues that a lot of times people don’t… want to talk about, or they just haven’t had the time to actually sit down and talk to each other. You find so many more similarities through a cinematic experience… or you learn something new about an individual or a particular community.”

Brennen Dicker
Atlanta jewish film festival, Board Member

Podcast Transcript

Karl: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, and my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets, Digital Marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corner Magazine. Hey Rico, how’re you doing today?

Rico: [00:00:47] Hey, Karl. Excellent. Thank you.

Karl: [00:00:49] Why don’t we introduce our sponsor for today?

Rico: [00:00:51] Sure. Atlanta Tech Park here in the city of Peachtree Corners, actually in Tech Park Atlanta. Kind of fun of the way that wraps that one, but we’re in this place they let, the Tech Park is an accelerator different from an incubator. But it’s a great place to think of. We work in an acute, better environment, so lots of tech companies here. This podcast studio that we’re working out of as well as, as events that they put on here, like big technology showcases, film festivals, all sorts of different activities. The Asian film festival kickoff here, launches in the Southeast. They had the FinTech event that happens here. So just, you know, and more and more. Lots more to come. So a great place to network, meet entrepreneurs, people. And the local business community, and if you go outside, you can flash your phone and get a ride on Ollie, the driverless shuttle that takes you up right now in Peachtree Parkway. So just, it’s a great place to stop by and visit, especially if you want to get into the entrepreneurial business community in Peachtree Corners.

Karl: [00:01:55] Right. Absolutely.

Karl: [00:01:57] Well, today we are excited, to, to talk about film festivals (and) the business of film festivals and what that’s like. And we’re honored to have our guest today, Brennan Dicker, who was a board member of the Atlanta Jewish film festival, which is coming up in early January, or May actually.

Brennen: [00:02:17] Start is February 10th. Tickets go on sale January 27

Karl: [00:02:22] And so we’re going to talk a little bit about what it’s like to put on a film festival. How it helps the community, some of the business of that. But why don’t we start off by you telling us a little bit about yourself.

Brennen: [00:02:33] Sure. My name is Brennan Dicker. I, my day job is the executive director of Creative Media Industries Institute for Georgia State University. And that’s where I teach approximately 900 students. Media entrepreneurship in game design in four year programs there. And I’ve been very fortunate just to be a member of the film intelligent community here in Atlanta for the last 15 years. I started in film and television 30 years ago at 16 as a running in as an intern, getting coffee for producers and I was fortunate enough to make a career out of that. And I spent some of my time in Chicago creating my own production company and doing a lot of
work there in sports and Commercial work as well as a PBS documentaries. And then was fortunate enough to come down here to Atlanta and get tied into more of the post production world of the business and production. And then, you know, just all of what I was doing on various boards. I sat on the board of Savannah College of Art and Design, the advisory board for them, and shared their advisory board as well as Georgia Production Partnership, which does a lot of work shared with them. And then I got a call one day to join a JFF 10 years ago, and it was just a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful community to work with.

Karl: [00:03:52] Fabulous. I noticed, you know, you’ve been along the ride as in Georgia, the film industry has exploded. How does that help the Atlanta Jewish film festival, you know, gain people and improve over the years?

Brennen: [00:04:11] Well, I think, you know, from my perspective and with the Film Intelligence Senate that happened in 2008 that brought in a lot of people from Hollywood and New York and all around basically all around the country to come in. And so people are looking for things to do. And you know, in the film community, a lot of people that are, you know, directors of photography, various crew members, you know, it gives them an opportunity to actually go and see some of their friends films. And I’ll be at an AA, JFF or one of the other film festivals in the state as well. But it’s just a wonderful opportunity to bring those people into our community and show them, you know, really find works and that we’ve got great, a great film festival here, and via one of the largest film festivals, Jewish film festivals in the world. Also the largest largest film festival in Atlanta.

Karl: [00:04:58] Oh, wow. So why don’t we tell people a little bit about the history of the film festival so people get a kind of context.

Brennen: [00:05:07] You know, this was, this is 20 years in the making now. This is our 20th year. I can’t imagine, you know, when, when they started, it was a little less than, I think 800 people that showed up to do a Jewish film festival for a couple of days. It was nothing like it is now at 18 days. Festivals started, that in itself was, you know, as it grew through the years. It was you know, a very slow growth process. But I will tell you that Kenny Blank is the executive director. Kenny had a goal of wanting to make JFF, one of the largest film festivals, not only in the state in Georgia, but also the largest Jewish film festival in the world. And he told me this 10 years ago, and, you know, I thought, you know, this guy has a plan. And he had a plan with this committee. A steering committee to make it work. And so he moved in that direction and we were able to, a couple of years ago, say that we were the largest Jewish film festival in the world. Now we compete with the San Francisco Jewish film festival, and it’s always seems to be going back and forth on numbers. But just to have that growth, that phenomenal growth and also a community that backs it is so important. And you know, we just, we were able to get the right people involved. And I think the right people have been involved from the beginning. Of you know, making, creating a foundation for the festival and creating awareness about the festival because really the half is really a cinematic exploration of the Jewish experience. And I, you know, first and foremost, and I think that, you know, with a strong Jewish community that we
have in Atlanta, that’s one thing. But then what we’ve tried to do, especially in the last decade, is branch out into other communities because it’s all about storytelling. You know, whether it’s a comedy, a drama, and people can associate with the films. And I think that’s why it’s been so successful because over we, I think we have 25% now that are non-Jewish and they’ve come to the film festival. They see something there and they, they see stories and they see good storytelling. You had films and so there are so many people drawn into this film festival every night.

Rico: [00:07:11] Absolutely. One of the things that, that I know has been a positive experience for me. I’ve enjoyed film festivals for years. I grew up in New York and they had a lot of film festivals, but it was one of the great ways to explore other cultures and stories and see it in a creative way. Here in the Metro Atlanta area, I don’t know, if plenty of people realize that they have this access to storytelling and art. That’s, that’s here. What would you say for folks that have never visited there, what would that experience be like when they come and visit the film fest?

Brennen: [00:07:46] Well, I think that it’s one of, you know, obviously a traditional film festival. We have the speakers that come, we usually have a producer, director tied to a lot of the films that are coming, or an actor or an actress. And so that in itself is, is great to have a Q&A when you actually have a personal experience going on. But one of the things that we’ve prided ourselves, especially in the last couple of years, is making it an experience at the theater. So you may have a, you may have a film, like we did last year called Judaism, which was a taste of Montreal where a documentary on these two Jewish guys that went around talking about various places to eat in Montreal. And then after the screening, we all had bagels. We all had, you know, various foods that they were talking about, which was a fantastic way to tie it together. But you have to make in many respects now. We don’t do that with every film, obviously, but there are many things that we try to tie in with the, with the festival, be it music, food, culture, great speakers, just people that come in because you have to really make this an experience for your audience now because your audience has many choices as to where they, where they, where they can get their entertainment. And so it’s not like, let’s say in the 90s. When in the Indies were so big and festivals were so big where you would go out because you couldn’t see these films on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon because there were no Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. So you had an experience where you knew people were going to come out, but now you really have to really be savvy with your audience and make sure that you’re targeting the right people for this and making it an experience.

Rico: [00:09:24] How does, Netflix has the streaming work with that because, I mean, are all the films not online or some films online, but then they’re at the festival also?

Brennen: [00:09:33] Yeah, I, you know, it depends year to year, but you know, obviously we’ve had, I think over 30 world premiers. I think that that was it as far as what we were looking at. And so with that, there’s going to be some films that are better that are already streaming, but for the most part, we’re trying to get films that are, you know, first run, or at least that year that
this their first run. But there are films out there that will stream and you know, people could go see them. Obviously, we’d like to have them come to the festival and have that experience like with the food or people talking to those. You know, you’d like to hear how the director got to that story. That’s one of the beauties of, you know, coming to the festival is, you know, after the, after the film is done and to have an app, a Q&A with the, with the producer or the director, or the actor, that actor or actress that was a part of that. That’s a huge, huge deal for us.

Rico: [00:10:23] I think some people don’t even understand that the Jewish film festivals that, you know, they might think Jewish Israel. Films come from all over the world, all different languages.

Brennen: [00:10:33] Exactly. And it’s amazing, all different themes. I mean, we have films that are, you know, from South America, from Africa, from Asia. It runs the gamut and, and that, and I think that what I pride myself in on specifically with the festival is. We’ve had such a good job of film selection over the last couple of years, and it gets stronger each year. That you just, you’re blown away by all of the films that are there. I mean, it’s not, you’re not just talking about two or three films out of 60 or 70 that are good. You’re talking about all of them have been selected out of, I think we had, I think 700 films last year that out of 70. So you only a 10% that were actually submitted. It was, it was a ridiculous amount of films that actually gets submitted. But that that has really given us a quality that we just have never seen.

Rico: [00:11:27] Are there film fees that people have to, that are paid for the submission for entries? Or, no, it’s not, it’s not an entry like. It’s not, there’s no awards at the end. There’s no fan awards or anything.

Brennen: [00:11:38] We’re trying to get to that. I think that’s one of the things we’re trying to do. We do have, and we do have an award as far as the audience award, and we have a jury prize award for that. So there is, as far as entry fees on the films themselves, I’ll have to look into that to see what that, what that is. If there is any it would be, it would be minimal at most if we were to do that, but it is something that we’re now looking at, you know, getting a jury. We had a jury together last year and a student jury as well. So that, that in itself again, and to see who the audience award winner is, we usually try to replay that film later on after the festival.

Karl: [00:12:14] That’s what’s great about film festival. So, new and young filmmakers have an opportunity to get their work shown by more than the traditional Hollywood machine that would dictate. So I could see young people that are interested in film and interested in entertainment being a really strong, big demographic to go after they get there. What are some of the things you do to outreach to younger folks and the families to get them to come to the festival?

Brennen: [00:12:42] We are a JFF. Obviously we have the film festival, which is, you know, our brand there, but we’re really trying to make a year long, you know, experience out of that. And one of the things that we offer as a JFF on campus, and specifically we’ve been working with Emory university the last couple of years to premiere some films on campus at Emory. Now
again, we’re going to branch out to other institutions or colleges and universities around the state to make that even more accessible. But we’ve found it very successful to get, you know, a younger generation of coming into. Just to experience it as some of the, you know, lineup that we’ve had. So that’s one of the areas. And we have a specific group within our steering committee that are really focused on the younger generation, you know, the millennials of getting them and getting them to come out specifically to either one or a couple of our films during the festival, but then have parties during the year that make it an annual all around experience. Because one way that a festival, film festival will survive is to create your own programming. And that’s something that we, along with other festivals that are, you know, that are larger, are seeing that you need to keep it, you need to keep the brand out there and a presence out there. And so how you do that can be through the on campus, what we were talking about. We have Seanna bash, which is more of an art and music exploration in Jewish culture and history with that and where we’re doing art and showing in that way, which is a phenomenal event that we’re looking at continuing this year. And there’s a number of other events through the year that we’re looking at. The just will, it’s touchpoint, so people see what we’re doing throughout the year on its head.

Karl: [00:14:34] So we’ve got a couple of questions around, kind of the process. So you mentioned selection committee. How did that work and how do, what criteria it used? Who are the people that select? How did that part work?

Brennen: [00:14:46] There’s a committee on the steering, the steering committee that’s a selection committee of three or four folks that get together and they will then branch out. There’s a whole group of people who have been doing this now for 20 years now. Again, we’re talking about hundreds of volunteers that come in to this space. And they’re the age, the age ranges, you know on the thirties to seventies, eighties of people that will take the time to actually watch these films. So you have got a broad age range, a broad diversity of people that will take the time to do it. It’s, it is a commitment. You know, they’re watching films on the weekends and they have some, they break it down to where it’s manageable. But even, I think my mother was a part of this and she had to watch 20 or 30 films I think, you know, during this time. Which she loves. But I, you know, having the time to do that is a challenge. But we do have committed volunteers in a community that really is active in narrowing down, you know, the films. But it had, but they have to be watched.

Rico: [00:15:50] That’s similar to the Atlanta film festival, but that’s a side thing. You could actually volunteer to be part of that group that watches, but you have to commit to a certain amount of time.

Brennen: [00:15:59] Yeah. That’s how, that’s how it works. Unfortunately, we’ve just had a lot of people that enjoy the experience and also just getting a chance to see the first run.

Karl: [00:16:08] Can someone volunteer to get the shirt?

Brennen: [00:16:10] Sure. Yes. They can go to AJFF.org and volunteer. Definitely.

Karl: [00:16:15] And then the criteria that would be for next year.

Brennen: [00:16:17] Next year, of course. Yeah.

Karl: [00:16:21] Why? What are some of the things you look at for films that might help influence?

Brennen: [00:16:26] Well, obviously it’s films that are seen through a Jewish lens. And so there’s a, you know, an aspect of having that incorporated within the film is the most important. And it can be, I mean, we’ve done the storyline, but obviously that’s something that has to be a part of who we are. Aside from that, we take every kind of film. We had a horror genre last year, which is a horror film there. That was, you know, just, it was great. But made in Israel, I mean, obviously there are certain films that are coming to us, with different, the different themes. But, it’s a very wide range of films that we would, you know, look at selecting. And we have one from Georgia this year. It was selected as well, a short. Our shorts, by the way, we get, we’ve had a lot of ’em. Really dynamic shorts from younger people as well, just people that are, that are going to come in. And so the short film category, at least from last year, was fantastic. And I look forward to seeing what we have on docket for this year.

Karl: [00:17:24] It may seem obvious, but describe the difference between a short and a feature film.

Brennen: [00:17:29] You know, if you think of a short film you’re looking at probably no more than 20 minutes long. You know, shorter narrative or shorter documentary. Feature films, we always kind of look at them. You know, between, I would say 75 to 90 minutes or over 70 over 75 minutes could, could be a length of a feature. You know, there are exceptions to that rule, but I would say that really kind of tells, that tells the tale as far as what it is. It’s all storytelling. But obviously feature films are a longer, longer length.

Karl: [00:17:59] So a lot of film festivals, there’s a lot of distributors come to find films to distribute. Do that, how does that process work? How do they get involved in that?

Brennen: [00:18:11] Well, we have a number of, obviously we have a number of relationships with distributors worldwide, and that’s how we get the selection of films that we do. You know, I think that in the future with all of the films that are being shot here, you know, the methodology or we’re hoping that we can see more distributors actually be, you’re coming to Atlanta to recognize some of the filmmakers that we have locally here. So it, it’s not, we really have, we reach out to a lot of district distributors worldwide, but I personally would love to have them come to the festival and find films that are, that are being looked at as well.

Rico: [00:18:47] This is less than like, the film festival on the one in Denver. I mean, Sunday, or Sundance rather. Yeah, so you’re not going to find a film where someone’s going to buy 2 million, paid 10 million for.

Brennen: [00:18:58] It’s really the audiences really for the Atlanta and Georgia community, Atlantic community in general. And so that, that’s kind of, I mean, our focus. I mean, when you think of Tribeca, and when you think of Sundance or South by Southwest, there are few, or even Toronto with TIFF, Toronto International Film Festival. Those specific festivals are really for the distribution side of things. And, and quite frankly, a lot of the, you know, the first run films are trying to get in there so they can get distribution. But it’s really, you know, that model is changed quite a bit, you know, with Netflix, with Amazon, with just streaming services in general. So you don’t have a, I mean, we’re seeing a transformation as to how films are being distributed and on various platforms that we don’t even know exist yet. So it’s, indie film is going through a transition right now with distribution, and I think that they’re, not as reliant on Hollywood per se. I mean they are going to these, they are going to the Amazons, the Apples, and trying to see if they can get distribution deals separate from that. I think that we’re seeing that happen right now.

Rico: [00:20:03] There’s so many streaming services with Apple coming out. Then you have Amazon Prime and Netflix. And the smaller ones that do like horror movies only

Brennen: [00:20:10] That’s right.

Rico: [00:20:11] And the streaming that way.

Brennen: [00:20:13] I want to understand that they’re all looking for content. I mean, that’s there. They’re all trying to vibe for that, those eyes. And so it’s important for them to try it. Find that content anywhere they can and if it’s cheaper for them in some respects than actually producing their own content.

Rico: [00:20:26] And what’s interesting, what time was on video at one point, and they don’t just show other people’s like major releases. You can be a producer of your own small little indie film if you are a high school kid even, and you can actually put it up. And people will pay. There’s a process to be able to pay for that viewing of that video inside.

Brennen: [00:20:44] We see that with Georgia state students and students that are going on YouTube, creating their own content, and if they’re getting so many eyes, then eventually they, you know, YouTube will pay them for that. Now again, that you have to be in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of views. But that’s the, these are the models that we’re seeing coming out of this. And it’s a quite, it’s quite a disruptor.

Karl: [00:21:06] What did the impact on the community that you’ve seen the film festival have?

Brennen: [00:21:11] You know, I have seen in the last 10 years, obviously it’s a, you come together with the Jewish community and I, and it’s so well supported, like I said before. But what I’ve also seen is conversations with other organs, with other groups, organizations would be at, we’ve had specific talks with the Muslim community that have come out and shared it in films that we’ve done. And we also have the Hispanic community has been strong as well. So there’s, there’s all these, what I really enjoy about this festival is that it is a time to get people together and converse and talk about issues that a lot of times that people don’t, either want to talk about, or they just, they just haven’t had the time to actually sit down and talk to each other. And there’s a, you know, you find so many more similarities through a cinematic experience, you know, that I think some, or you learn something new about an individual or a, you know, particular community.

Karl: [00:22:20] Do you get a sense of the economic impact? And some of the theaters. Can you tell us a little bit about the theaters in the area that, that host this and the impact that that has meaning?

Brennen: [00:22:30] Yeah, it’s well, obviously we have over, you know, close to 40,000 that come to see the festival in an 18 day period. So that alone, as far as the economic impact of them coming out to the theaters, we currently in 2020, we have five different theaters that we’re going to be showing, and we try to be as strategic as possible with that. Having so many theaters inside the perimeter and outside the perimeter. We are currently, this year we’ll have Landmark Midtown, which is a great, great spot for us. The Plaza theater, what another wonderful theater to have in the lineup, a perimeter point outside. And then Tara cinema, which has been a stable for us for years as far as showing and Sandy Springs performing arts center. Who came on last year, and that’s been a great home for us, for the larger films that we want to bring in because it just, you can bring in so many hundreds of people in that, in that venue. It’s a beautiful venue to be at. So we’re excited about all of those theaters. We do our opening February, February 10th at the Cobb Performing Arts Center, and that’s always a huge draw. I’d say we had, I think we had over 2,000 last year. It was, it was between, I think 1,500 to 2,000 alone, just for the opening night. Which is very exciting and it really kicks off everything. And then we close on the 27th at the Sandy Springs performing arts center.

Rico: [00:23:56] I got my two tickets.

Brennen: [00:23:59] So that, to me, I think the opening is always the most exciting time for me because of all the people that are there, the energy that’s there. And if there’s an opportunity for you to come to the, we have a gala or something before and there’s a tasting of different restaurants and they bring in chefs from not only here in Atlanta, but also from Israel that come in and it’s just, it’s, it’s…

Rico: [00:24:22] I’m looking forward to that. That’s wonderful. I got that pass.

Brennen: [00:24:26] There you go. There you go. Exactly.

Karl: [00:24:27] What do you do if local businesses wanted to get involved with this in some way? Are there ways for them to do that?

Brennen: [00:24:33] Yeah, I think, you know, from my perspective. And now being off the steering committee, I would say that the best thing is to go to a AJFF.org and look into the point of contact. But we certainly have a number of contacts that you can reach out to there on the development side and on this, on the sponsorship and Dillon side, but also just inquiring about a JFF. And what we’re all about is to, as to see more of the history and also seeing the lineup. I know we have six films that are lined up right now that just came out, but clearly we’ll have a number of more coming out in the next couple of weeks and it would give people a better idea as to where to go.

Karl: [00:25:13] What, when would that website, well, one of the things that, film festival allow is for people to continue to learn and come outside and get out of home. When you see this, this trend around Netflix and staying at home on one end. And you have blockbusters like Avengers and Marvel. I’ve noticed this trend of these movies that used to come out that would get these followings, but they don’t seem to have a space. I don’t know if you remember years ago, a movie like the featured in with that do what it did back then when that came out with Harrison Ford, it was a big movie. No special effects per se, just the story that was told but now you see, you see a lot of the big blockbuster and in between, I don’t know that you can name five or six movies. It’s the biggest blockbusters.

Rico: [00:26:01] It’s like Frozen two, right? Let me see, next week. You have young girls that will want to go see that. And my daughter, who’s 22 wants to.

Karl: [00:26:12] But it seems to me that every time the film industry talks about how, or, you know, they talk about no one’s coming to the theaters and I look at it and sign it. There’s no movies to come to the theaters to see.

Brennen: [00:26:29] Right. And the challenge with that and the challenge that the theater industry has with that is because they rely on those blockbusters now entirely. But what’s happened and what’s changed is that you have, again, you have the Netflix, you have the Amazon, you have HBO, you have these various networks and streaming platforms that are putting billions of dollars into content and they’re doing a great job of telling the stories. And so really, if you go back to the Sopranos, as one of the first series that really started looking at creating a series that would be feature like in each episode, and now think about all of the shows that we can stream that have that type of caliber of talent and storytelling ability. There are, there are so many. I mean, I’m always being inundated to see certain things or when I was working in the industry to watch certain shows that I was associated with all the time, but there’s so many out there. So yes, there is a challenge with that as to how do you draw people in when they can see those particular shows on their, in their theater at home.

Karl: [00:27:43] So what do seeing films alive in theaters with a community of folks, what does that really offer people that’s different?

Brennen: [00:27:54] So you have to educate people to that. And what I mean by that, I think from my age, which I, I’ll date myself now, but someone that’s in their mid forties to mid fifties and up. You know, we went to the theater. That’s where we, that’s where you would go to see the latest movie that, there was a community there. And I think that we’re, our demographic is fine. We get it, and we’re the ones that are actually going out and participating. Not only I’m going to the theater on a regular basis, but also just going to film festivals, going to JFF. That’s a, that’s a crowd that we, we know that we’ve got them there to come out to see that. But with millennials, with the younger generation, again, the choices, and I see this with my daughters, they’re on an iPad cause they’re, and they don’t need to watch a movie on a large screen right now. The experience I’ve seen Frozen two, they want to see that at the theater. So there are, there are exceptions to that rule, but I think that you have to, again, you have to emphasize, you have to show that there’s an experience with that to get people out. And to have the shared community as I think all of us that have been to festivals see the benefit of that. Because at home, they’re not going to be able to ask a question to the producer, director or get a backstory and they may not be able to experience all there is with seeing friends and just getting to meet new people. But it has to be something where it’s community driven and it’s something that makes sense for them to get out and go to a theater.

Karl: [00:29:27] And especially making it into an event where people, we get excited going out to see. And even when you used to go to a movie before you knew if it was good or bad or, you knew how many tomatoes go in, you’d roll the dice. And you’d be surprised when it was better and sometimes you’d like, you’d wish you had that two hours back.

Brennen: [00:29:49] That’s right.

Rico: [00:29:49] But wasn’t that a great experience? You’re out with your family and your friends. I remember him leaving the Avengers, it was the first one, I think it was the first one. Where, you know, everyone, half the world disappears. Is that the first sentence from the first world war and we’re walking at the theater and it’s like thinning their hurt. They did. And it was a lottery. It wasn’t like, ah, we’re just going to choose people to, and my kids are listening to them talking. One of them says, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe the resources of the world would be saved, you know? So you get into those conversations, those conversations after you see the movie.

Brennen: [00:30:22] Exactly. And it’s something that’s, it’s great. It’s great a thought. It’s just, it’s a great opportunity just to talk to your family, you know, to have an end. We still do that with our kids going out. But again, it’s also a question of, you know, resources and going, okay, staying home at night. You’re working all week. You know, the last thing you think about doing is going to the theater. But again, if you can create an experience with it, one that’s positive and one that
makes sense and can lead to these discussions, then it’s something that we’re trying to do at JFF was get them out.

Karl: [00:30:59] There would be a time when you’d go and see a Woody Allen movie and it would lead to a series of conversations at dinner, at the word. Then it would extend, evening beyond, and so people went to movies to make them think more and to have that conversation where, you could still watch it at home on a streaming service. Sure. But do you have that same conversation with yourself after you watch it on your iPad? And that might be why film festivals like the Atlanta Jewish Film festival is, is really needed.

Brennen: [00:31:29] Oh yeah, definitely. And I, it’s one that, and I think that as long as you can, and again, we kind of own that space in February so people know it’s coming. I mean, it’s now, now we have 20 years of history. It’s a, it’s a time where you can then, you know, generate even we have phenomenal sponsors of the festival that had been with us for years, but they see that and they see the 40,000 people that are coming to it, and we’re you know, it’s just remarkable to see all the various groups of people in the community that it affects during that.

Karl: [00:32:03] Well, I’d love to, for you to remind us on how can folks get some more information about the festival and some of the key dates.

Brennen: [00:32:09] Of course, of course. And I would say that again, the festival starts February 10th. That runs 18 days, and ends February 27th or 28th, I believe. 27th of February of 2020. We will start selling tickets to the public January 27th online at AJFF.org. And you know, we just hope to have, we’re looking forward to having another great year and especially being the 20th, you know, that’s such a marquee year to have. So I, I know that we’re going to have a lot of various parties going on during the festival and there is, it’d be a quite a celebration for us.

Karl: [00:32:49] I love that. That’s around Valentine date. So it’s really great, a night out with the significant other.

Brennen: [00:32:57] And I’m sure we’ll program, you know, a Valentine’s day, you know, movie to go with that we’ll be thinking about.

Karl: [00:33:02] That’d be fabulous. And for the business owners out there to sponsorship opportunity, if you go on there and look for volunteering opportunities as well. And if you really love films for next year’s cycle, you could. You could be a volunteer at watching some, we’d love to have you. So we’d like to thank our guests, Brennan Dicker, the chair of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, one of the board members of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival for his time. And just telling us a little bit about the film industry and what some of the great things that are going on here in the local Atlanta community and all the different ways that people get could explore different cultures and connect. And if you want to give yourself a treat or a, probably even a great Christmas gift for somebody, inviting them out to a movie where they could explore
something different, might be a wonderful gift that gives them an experience more than just something that they can enjoy at home by themselves.

Brennen: [00:33:58] No doubt. And I do that every year with friends and family and new people that I meet just to get them out to show them what we’re doing or they JFF and, you know, and that it runs the gamut as far as the community and the family that I have in friends that participated. And they all come away with something positive from this family.

Karl: [00:34:19] Well, I want to, I’d like to thank Atlanta tech park for hosting our capitalist Sage podcast. If you’re looking to start a business or just want to network with like minded folks that are being entrepreneurial, as you see here, we talk film, we talk technology, we talk business, we talk finance. We bring all of these different aspects of the community together and just create an environment that supports entrepreneurs, business owners, here. So Atlanta Tech Park in Peachtree corners is, we’re just grateful to have this room and space to be able to do this. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, in Atlanta Peachtree. Our business advisors are available to consult on how they can grow their business. Or when they’re ready to exit their business. So if they’re looking to start a new venture and get into a business, we have a team of folks that are dedicated to support that business community here in the local area. And Rico, thank you. Tell me a little bit about what you’ve got coming up

Rico: [00:35:17] Quite a few things. I think we were working on the next issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine. There’ll be on February, March, the end of January, but it’s the February, March issue. It’s about technology companies. So that I believe is the cover story on that one. We’re also a sponsor of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, which is exciting. That’s how I got the passes. So that, that’s cool. Can’t wait to see them. I know there’s at least six movies I probably want to see. But even knowing, well, no, without even knowing which ones they are. I mean, last year there was a dozen, I’d like some good stuff there. If you go to living in PeachtreeCorners.com we just did our 20 under 20 in the city and it’s gone really well. I mean, we had a photo shoot here in Atlanta tech park that we shared with everyone. We did many interviews with the kids. 20 kids that are, have lots going on.

Karl: [00:36:11] Fabulous. Great.

Rico: [00:36:12] It’s got a lot of play on that. So the kids are wonderful. It was tough to pick. Those two were almost as tough when you pick those movies, more submissions. And just to pick 20 of them was, was kinda tough. But, so we have that going. And of course, if you’re looking to do product videos and stuff, I had a chance to do a stop motion animation for a product video. Yeah, the first time I did it though. So it was kind of interesting when we have to pull it off. It was, it was cool. So check out MightyRockets.com. That’s my website for that type of work. And I used to be a film production major. That’s why when I was in college and in Brooklyn college. So that’s why I love this festival. Mary’s food and, and in a film, so, my locks and my Jewish. I was up in New Jersey and we had great bagels up there.

Karl: [00:37:05] Yeah.

Rico: [00:37:06] Yeah, absolutely. That’s what we have going on, but, I’m sure I missed something on there.

Karl: [00:37:10] Oh, no, nope. Yeah, he did a great job. So, stay tuned. We’re coming to the end of the year, and we’ll continue to bring you great episodes talking to folks in the community about businesses, about our organizations that are doing great things like the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. And so we look forward to continuing to give you great episodes. Thank you everyone.

Brennen: [00:37:33] I want to thank both of you for your time. It’s great. I appreciate it.

Karl: [00:37:36] Thank you very much as well for being a guest today.

Rico: [00:37:40] Thank you guys.

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Fall and Holiday Concerts Return at Gas South Arena



Trans Siberian Orchestra.

It was back on August 17 that Gwinnett had its long-awaited 2021 return of live music for large audiences. Then for the first time since March 2020, I attended with friends a full-house concert—there were more than 13,000 fans, starved for big-time entertainment. For about 18 months, the COVID pandemic had shut down concert venues nationwide. Our live music indoor quarantine was first lifted at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth 30097, only minutes from Peachtree Corners. Masks were recommended by management but not required. The tunes took place in an older, familiar building that has assumed a brand new name.

Gas South Arena.

James Taylor & Jackson Browne inaugurated the Gas South Arena

The newly named Gas South Arena, the scene of this happiness, was formerly known as the Infinite Energy Arena. A bit of a curve ball, new corporate sponsorship. (Gas South is based in the ATL, serving more than 425,000 natural gas customers from all sectors throughout much of the southeast, also NJ and Ohio.) The building name change had been legally complete. However, all of the Infinite Energy Arena signs were to be removed from the Gas South Arena District campus.

In the inaugural Gas South concert James Taylor, 73, and Jackson Browne, 74, lived up to their reputations as enduring 1970s-80s music hits icons. Because they both were backed by an All-Star band, they also offered long, bluesy jams. Their songs, separate and together, were terrific.

The newly named Gas South Arena can hardly be called a startup operation. But the pandemic’s interruption has been so long, it made fans and performers appreciate a wonderful new re-start. In September there were scheduled two big shows, led by country music star Blake Shelton and also legendary British guitarist and blues & rock singer Eric Clapton. As we move into October this fall, Gas South Arena is set to hit stride during the winter holidays.

Except for new signage at Gas South Arena, the popular building is seemingly the same—fans and performers have long appreciated the charming former Infinite Energy Center arena. It’s comfortable without the nosebleed seats of stadium arenas and it attracts top acts. Easy outdoor parking is in an adjacent lot. Convenient location in Gwinnett off I-85 with a surprisingly intimate concert hall for 13,500 makes the scene fan-friendly.

Under the old Infinite Energy Arena brand the venue has long represented the ATL on major popular music tours. Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, for example, gave a memorable performance there in 2017. The building is energized with its new name. All systems are go for the concert season at Gas South Arena.

Fall and Holiday 2021 Concerts at Gas South Arena

Following is a schedule of the impressive, eclectic array of musical events scheduled this fall from October-December, going into Christmastime:

Oct. 8:  Mexican music star Pepe Aguilar.

Oct. 10: Contemporary Christian band MercyMe.

Oct. 30: Dominican recording artist El Alfa.

Nov. 6: Cumbia (Latin traditional rhythm folk singers) Los Angeles Azules.

Nov. 13: Mexican singer and 3-time Latin Grammy winner Christian Nodal.

Dec. 2.  Two female-fronted rock groups joining forces, Evanescence & Halestorm.

Dec. 3. Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Farruko.

Dec. 12 (afternoon and evening performances) Heavy metal rock symphonic Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays a classic winter holiday show and also their new program, Christmas Eve and other stories. They rocked the old Infinite Energy Arena in 2019 but of course took last year off for the pandemic. This group is so popular and associated with Christmas so much that it employs equally accomplished East and West Coast ensembles when they tour, always in December. They routinely offer 2 shows per concert date. So if you want some great musical entertainment, then visit the Gas South District site for more info. Schedule can be subject to change.

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High Museum of Art Announces 2021-2022 Advance Exhibition Schedule



The High Museum of Art presents a rotating schedule of exhibitions throughout the year. Below is a list of current and upcoming exhibitions as of Aug. 30, 2021. Note: The exhibition schedule is subject to change. Please contact the High’s press office or visit high.org for more information or to confirm details.

Upcoming Exhibitions 

“Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe”
Sept. 3, 2021-Jan. 9, 2022 

Nellie Mae Rowe (American, 1900-1982), Real Girl, 1980, color photograph, crayon, pen, and pencil on cardboard, 14 x 11 inches, gift of Judith Alexander, 2003.212. © 2021 Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe/High Museum of Art, Atlanta

For the last 15 years of her life, self-taught artist Nellie Mae Rowe (1900-1982) lived on a busy thoroughfare just outside of Atlanta and welcomed visitors to her “Playhouse,” which she decorated with found-object installations, handmade dolls, chewing-gum sculptures and hundreds of drawings. Featuring nearly 60 works drawn from High’s leading collection of Rowe’s art, “Really Free” is the first major exhibition of her work in more than 20 years and the first to consider her practice as a radical act of self-expression and liberation in the post-civil-rights-era South. Rowe began making art as a child in rural Fayetteville, Georgia, but only found the time and space to reclaim her artistic practice in the late 1960s, following the deaths of her second husband and members of the family for whom she worked. The exhibition will offer an unprecedented view of how she cultivated her drawing practice late in life, starting with colorful and at times simple sketches on found materials, and reveal their relationship with her most celebrated, highly complex compositions on paper. Through photographs and reconstructions of her Playhouse created for an experimental film on her life, the exhibition also will be the first to put her drawings in direct conversation with her art environment. “Really Free” marks the Museum’s first partnership with the Art Bridges Foundation, an organization dedicated to expanding access to American art, which will allow the exhibition to travel nationally into 2023. This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“Picturing the South: 25 Years”
Nov. 5, 2021-Feb. 6, 2022

Launched in 1996, the High Museum of Art’s renowned “Picturing the South” series supports contemporary photographers in creating new bodies of work inspired by the American South for the High’s collection, which is among the nation’s leading photography programs and has strength in work made in and about the region. To commemorate the series’ 25th anniversary, the High will bring together for the first time nearly 200 works from all the past commissions by artists including Dawoud Bey, Sally Mann and Richard Misrach and will debut new work by the latest photographers selected for the series, Sheila Pree Bright, Jim Goldberg and An-My Lê. Taken as a whole, the photographs amount to a complex and layered archive of the region that addresses broad themes, from the legacy of slavery and racial justice to the social implications of the evolving landscape and the distinct and diverse character of the region’s people. This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Dec. 3, 2021-March 27, 2022

One of the world’s most acclaimed artists, KAWS (Brian Donnelly) brings the same level of complexity and skill to his printmaking as he does to his painting, sculpture and editioned works, which unite the worlds of design, popular culture and fine art. Since his groundbreaking solo show at the High in 2012, KAWS has taken the world by storm with major exhibitions across the United States, Europe, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. At the same time, his monumental sculptural installations, augmented reality sculptures, design collaborations, toys, editioned objects and related works have seized the attention of a massive and diverse audience. KAWS’s work is grounded in a deep and sustained involvement with graphic art and printmaking, from his early “subvertisements” to the sumptuous, painstakingly crafted screenprints of the last decade. Drawing exclusively from the High’s collection, this exhibition features all the artist’s editioned silkscreen prints in the Museum’s holdings along with a selection of drawings, color charts and rare early prints. This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900-1940″
Dec. 10, 2021-April 24, 2022

Though not precious or unique, the poster is the ultimate design object—it disseminates ideas and images that reflect a time and place. As an object of design history, the poster can comment on social or cultural shifts, but it is probably best known for its most prominent role—selling commercial products. This exhibition surveys the origins of modern poster design featuring works from the collection of Merrill C. Berman, who focused on 20th-century radical art. Berman’s collection represents a complex history of modernism, as avant-garde artists actively produced fine and applied art for commercial and political aims. Starting in the early 1900s, these designers revolutionized typography and the graphic image, creating poster designs that changed artistic perspectives, as well as the hearts and minds of people. The works on view demonstrate the origins of modern graphic design, as practiced in Europe, and how the medium could be marshaled into service for social change. This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“The Obama Portraits Tour”
Jan. 14-March 20, 2022

From the moment of their unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in February 2018, the official portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama have become iconic. Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of the former First Lady have inspired unprecedented responses from the public. The High will present both portraits as part of a five-city tour organized by the National Portrait Gallery. In addition to the portraits, the gallery will feature an approximately eight-minute video providing background on the commissioning of the paintings by the Portrait Gallery and putting them into the context of the national collection of presidential portraits. This exhibition is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. Support for the national tour has been generously provided by Bank of America.

“André Kertész: Postcards from Paris”
Feb. 18-May 29, 2022

In 1925, photographer André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) arrived in Paris with little more than a camera and meager savings. Over the next three years, the young artist carved out a photographic practice that allowed him to move among the realms of amateur and professional, photojournalist and avant-garde artist, diarist and documentarian. By the end of 1928, he had achieved widespread recognition, emerging as a major figure in modern art photography alongside such figures as Man Ray and Berenice Abbott. During this three-year period, he chose to print most of his photographs on carte postale, or postcard paper. Although this choice may have initially been born of economy and convenience, he turned the popular format toward artistic ends, rigorously composing new images in the darkroom and making a new kind of photographic object. “Postcards from Paris” is the first exhibition to bring together Kertész’s rare carte postale prints. These now-iconic works offer new insight into his early, experimental years and reveal the importance of Paris as a vibrant meeting ground for international artists, who drew inspiration from each other to create new, modern ways of seeing and representing the world. This exhibition is organized by The Art Institute of Chicago.

“What Is Left Unspoken, Love”
March 25-Aug. 14, 2022

Is love intrinsic, or is it a habit? What is the difference between love and friendship? What is the relationship of love to truth, freedom and justice? These are just some of the questions to be explored in “What Is Left Unspoken, Love,” featuring contemporary artworks from 1987 to 2021 that address the different ways the most important thing in life — love — is expressed. Organized during a time of social and political discord, when cynicism often seems to triumph over hope, this exhibition will examine love as a profound subject of critical commentary from time immemorial yet with a persistently elusive definition. As poet and painter Etel Adnan wrote, love is “not to be described, it is to be lived.” “Love” will feature more than 70 works, including paintings, sculpture, photography, video and media art, by more than 35 international artists based in North America, Europe and Asia such as Rina Banerjee, Patty Chang, Jeffrey Gibson, Tomashi Jackson, María de los Angeles Rodríguez Jiménez, Rashid Johnson, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Ebony Patterson, Magnus Plessen, Gabriel Rico, RongRong and inri, and Carrie Mae Weems. This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“Oliver Jeffers: 15 Years of Picturing Books”
April 15-Aug. 7, 2022

Born in Australia and raised in Northern Ireland, Oliver Jeffers is an award-winning artist and author working in painting, bookmaking, illustration, collage, performance and sculpture. This retrospective exhibition showcases nearly 100 artworks, some never seen, including original line drawings, sketches and finished illustrations, from 16 of Jeffers’ picture books, including the wildly popular “The Day the Crayons Quit” and its sequel, “The Day the Crayons Came Home,” “Here We Are,” “The Incredible Book Eating Boy,” “This Moose Belongs to Me” and “Once Upon an Alphabet.” This exhibition is organized by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. 

Currently on View  


Through Sept. 19, 2021 Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso are two of the foremost figures in the history of 20th-century art. This touring exhibition, which debuted in 2019 at the Musée national Picasso-Paris, presents more than 100 paintings, sculptures and works on paper from all phases of Calder’s and Picasso’s careers that reveal the radical innovation and enduring influence of their art. Conceived by the artists’ grandsons, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso and Alexander S. C. Rower, the exhibition focuses on the artists’ exploration of the void, or absence of space, in representations ranging from the figurative to the abstract. Calder’s wire figures, paintings, drawings, and revolutionary nonobjective mobiles and stabiles are integrated throughout the exhibition with profoundly inventive works by Picasso in every media. The juxtapositions are insightful, surprising and challenging, demonstrating the striking innovations these great artists introduced through their ceaseless reexamination of form, line and space. This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in partnership with the Calder Foundation, New York; Musée national Picasso-Paris (MnPP); and the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte (FABA).

“Electrifying Design: A Century of Lighting”
Through Sept. 26, 2021

Since the invention of the first electric light in the 1800s to the development of ultraefficient lightbulbs in the 21st century, lighting technology has fascinated engineers, scientists, architects and designers worldwide, inspiring them toward new creative expression. The High is the exclusive Southeast venue for this exhibition, the first large-scale show to consider electrical lighting over the past 100 years as a catalyst for technological and artistic innovation within major avant-garde design movements. The exhibition features nearly 80 rare lighting examples by leading international designers including Achille Castiglioni, Christian Dell, Poul Henningsen, Ingo Maurer, Verner Panton, Gino Sarfatti, Ettore Sottsass and Wilhelm Wagenfeld, among many others. The works on view demonstrate how these innovators harnessed light’s radiance and beauty, resulting in designs that extend beyond or challenge the functional nature of lighting. This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

“Outside the Lines” 

Through Nov. 28, 2021 

This immersive maze of accessible, sensory environments by award-winning design and research practice Bryony Roberts Studio is the seventh site-specific installation on The Woodruff Arts Center’s Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza, continuing the High’s multiyear series of inclusive and inviting commissions to activate the Museum’s outdoor space and encourage community engagement. “Outside the Lines” emerged from conversations between Bryony Roberts Studio and self-advocates with disabilities and their allies throughout Atlanta, with the goal of creating a space that is engaging for all. It provides an environment that is accessible and playful for those with physical, developmental and/or intellectual disabilities, supporting discovery and connection. The gently curving steel structure supports thousands of hanging strands, along the rise and fall of the frame, that form both small enclosures for quiet relaxation and open environments for social interaction. Emulating a forest-like atmosphere, the tactile materials, designed in collaboration with individuals who are blind and visually impaired, invite safe engagement and enable dynamic navigation through touch. The variety and height of the materials provide a spectrum of exploration within reach of all people, including those who use wheelchairs and mobility devices, and produce a range of intensity and stimulation, offering choice for people with sensory sensitivities. This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America”
Through Dec. 11, 2021 

After World War I, artists without formal training began showing their work in major museums, “crashing the gates” of the elite art world, as the newspapers of their day put it. This touring exhibition organized by the High will celebrate more than a dozen early 20th-century painters who fundamentally reshaped who could be an artist in the United States and paved the way for later generations of self-taught artists. “Gatecrashers” will highlight three painters who became the most widely celebrated self-taught artists of the interwar period — John Kane, Horace Pippin and Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses — and present their work alongside paintings by others, including Morris Hirshfield, Lawrence Lebduska and Josephine Joy, who represent the breadth of the art world’s attraction to self-taught artists in the first half of the 20th century. Despite their lack of formal training, these artists’ paintings of American life in the cities and rural communities where they lived, as well as fantastical scenes derived from their imaginations, were celebrated by fellow artists, collectors and taste-making museums such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art, especially in the 1930s and early 1940s. This exhibition will demonstrate how that recognition foreshadowed the increasing visibility of self-taught artists in today’s art world. Following its presentation at the High, the exhibition will travel to the Brandywine River Museum of Art (May 28–Sept. 5, 2022) and The Westmoreland Museum of American Art (Oct. 30, 2022–Feb. 5, 2023). This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. 

“Pioneers, Influencers, and Rising Voices: Women in the Collection” 

In observance of the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting some women the right to vote, this installation is drawn from the High’s collection and features artworks made exclusively by women. Artists represented include some of the most influential voices of the past 50 years, such as Kiki Smith, Lorna Simpson and Shirin Neshat; midcareer artists such as Won Ju Lim and Chantal Joffe; emerging artists such as Jamian Juliano Villani and Ella Kruglyanskaya; and Atlanta-based artists Annette Cone-Skelton and Rocío Rodríguez. Whether exploring the multidimensionality of installation art, refashioning Minimalist forms and strategies, or challenging male-dominated social hierarchies, the selected works are inspired by or related to feminist concerns, which were advanced by the women’s movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Concerns that still persist today include voter suppression strategies that seek to disenfranchise people from participating in the democratic process. This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. 

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Alliance Theatre’s 2021-22 In-Person Season Calendar



The 53rd season will feature eight productions including the previously announced HANDS UP  and TONI STONE, and four world premieres including the musical DARLIN’ CORY  by Phillip DePoy and Grammy Award winner Kristian Bush, plus, a world premiere musical directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon to be announced later this summer, & the 2021/22 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition winner, DREAM HOU$E

The new season will also introduce the Alliance’s elaborate new adaption of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, featuring a new script, set, and costume design.

Atlanta’s nationally acclaimed Alliance Theatre, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director Susan V. Booth, and Managing Director Mike Schleifer, are pleased to announce the productions of the Alliance’s 53rd season.  After a year that saw the Alliance produce a variety of new works for streaming platforms, an animated film, a drive-in production, and an outdoor tent series, the Alliance is excited to announce a return to in-person performances on its Coca-Cola Stage and Hertz Stage beginning in September 2021.  The new season will feature eight productions including four world premieres, two musicals, and an elaborate new staging of its annual production, A CHRISTMAS CAROL

“As a theater, we’ve been able to do a lot in this past upside-down year. The same commitment which helped us continue inspiring thousands of Atlantans (and beyond) while our stages were dark will enable us to do more innovative, equitable, and uplifting work as we come together in-person for our 2021/22 season,” said Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director.  “After the past year of pivoting with speed, agility, and yes, humor that we might never have imagined, it is thrilling to be announcing today our plans for the productions of our 53rd season.”

The 2021/22 season will begin in September on the recently renovated and award-winning Coca-Cola Stage with DARLIN’ CORY, a haunting new musical inspired by local lore with an original folk-country score by Grammy Award winner and Sugarland front man Kristian Bush (Troubadour), book by playwright and novelist Phillip DePoy (Edward Foote), and direction by Susan V. Booth. 

Opening the Hertz Stage in October is THE NEW BLACK FEST’S HANDS UP: 7 PLAYWRIGHTS, 7 TESTAMENTS.  HANDS UP depicts the realities of Black America from the perspective of varying genders, sexual orientations, skin tones, and socioeconomic backgrounds.  This production of HANDS UP is co-directed by Spelman Associate Professor Keith Arthur Bolden and Spelman alumna and Alliance Spelman Fellow Alexis Woodard.

In November, the Alliance will unveil the new adaptation of its annual production A CHRISTMAS CAROL by David H. Bell with direction by Leora Morris.  This reimagined version features a new scenic design by Tony Award winner Todd Rosenthal, costume design by Mariann Verheyen, lighting design by Greg Hofmann, sound design by Clay Benning, original music by Kendall Simpson, and puppet design by Tom Lee and Blair Thomas. 

Next up for the Hertz Stage is CLUB HERTZ LIVE – a music series that will host some of Atlanta’s most exciting performers and musicians in a relaxed lounge atmosphere.  CLUB HERTZ LIVE will feature a new act each night and a variety of genres during the month of December.  Bands and performers will be chosen by a panel of music-industry professionals.  Performers are invited to apply to be a part of the series on the Alliance’s website here.

In January 2022, the Alliance will produce the world premiere of this year’s Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition winner, DREAM HOU$E, by Eliana Pipes of Boston University.  In DREAM HOU$E, two sisters go on a reality tv show to renovate and sell their childhood home.  The show quickly drives a wedge between the sisters as they come to terms with how much of their family’s heritage they are willing to sacrifice in this funny and touching look at the truths of gentrification.     

On the Coca-Cola Stage, the Alliance will present TONI STONE, the “must-see play” (TheatreMania) by Lydia R. Diamond based on the true story of the first female athlete to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues.  Toni Stone is a heartwarming and fascinating story of race, gender, and raw ambition.  This production will be directed by the Alliance’s BOLD Artistic Director Fellow Tinashe Kajese-Bolden and is a co-production with Milwaukee Rep.

In March 2022, the Alliance will produce the world premiere of BINA’S SIX APPLES by Lloyd Suh and directed by Obie Award winner Eric Ting.  Set against the backdrop of the Korean War, BINA’S SIX APPLES is a harrowing and uplifting story of courage and finding home.  BINA’S SIX APPLES is a co-production with Children’s Theatre Company.   

Closing the season on the Coca-Cola Stage, the Alliance will produce a world premiere musical with direction by Tony Award winner, Kenny Leon.  Leon is known to Atlanta audiences as the former Artistic Director of Alliance Theatre and as the Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre. The details of the new production will be announced later this summer. 

In addition to the Alliance Series on the Coca-Cola Stage and Hertz Series on the Hertz Stage, the Alliance will produce five productions for the Kathy & Ken Bernhardt Theatre for the Very Young – two for streaming and three in-person productions in the Selig Family Blackbox at Alliance Theatre.  The titles in the Theatre for the Very Young Season are SOUNDS OF THE WEST END (streaming); THE CURIOUS CARDINAL (streaming); KNOCK, KNOCK; IN MY GRANNY’S GARDEN; and DO YOU LOVE THE DARK?.  This season marks the 10th anniversary of the Kathy & Ken Bernhardt Theatre for the Very Young program, which commissions and produces new works designed for children five years old and younger. 

To prepare for audiences to return to the theater, the Alliance has replaced all HVAC units with HVAC ionization systems, which provide a 99.4% reduction of COVID-19 within 30 minutes.  HVAC ionization is more effective than other air-cleaning methods and helps kill other types of viruses, such as the flu, and air pollutants.  The Alliance has also increased the cleaning schedule of surfaces in the theater, modified the ticketing process to eliminate physical tickets, and increased the number of hand-sanitizing stations across the campus.  The Alliance will continue to closely monitor local, state, and federal policies regarding indoor activities and plan our safety protocols accordingly.  

When possible, live performances of the 53rd season will be filmed for streaming on the Alliance Theatre’s streaming platform, Alliance Theatre Anywhere.

DARLIN’ CORY (World Premiere Musical)​
September 8 – October 3, 2021
Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre​

Book by Phillip DePoy

Music by Kristian Bush

Lyrics by Phillip DePoy and Kristian Bush
Directed by Susan V. Booth​

Set against the backdrop of 1930s Appalachia, DARLIN’ CORY is a haunting new musical by playwright & novelist Phillip DePoy (EDWARD FOOTE) and Sugarland’s front man & Grammy Award winner Kristian Bush (TROUBADOUR).  In a tiny mountain town with no road in – and no road out – a community carries secrets of all sizes.  But when a young woman with ambition and intelligence collides with a pastor deeply committed to preserving the status quo, cracks begin to form in the town’s well-constructed façade. And when a stranger appears with a mysterious backstory and the best moonshine anyone’s ever tasted – some of those secrets threaten to spill.  With an original folk-country score, this modern-day myth inspired by local lore promises to leave audiences on the edge of their seats.  For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/darlin

A CHRISTMAS CAROL​ (new adaptation)
November 12 – December 24, 2021
Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre​

By Charles Dickens​
Adapted by David H. Bell​
Directed by Leora Morris​

The Alliance Theatre’s beloved production A CHRISTMAS CAROL will return to the Coca-Cola Stage this year with an exciting new adaption, including a completely reimagined set design and stunning new costumes. Audiences will be transported to the streets of London to revisit the timeless story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey to redemption, told with beautiful live music and an all-star cast. Join the Alliance Theatre for one of Atlanta’s most treasured holiday traditions.  For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/carol

February 10 – 27, 2022​
Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre​

By Lydia R. Diamond​
Directed by Tinashe Kajese-Bolden​

Considered a pioneer, Toni Stone is the first woman to play baseball in the Negro Leagues, also making her the first woman to play professionally in a men’s league.  Against all odds, Toni blazes a path in the male-dominated sports world, breaking through the limitations others placed on her, and creating her own set of rules. Follow Toni’s journey as she fights for love, equality and a chance to do what she wants the most — play some world class baseball. Declared the Best New Play of 2019 by The Wall Street Journal, TONI STONE is a funny and fascinating story of race, gender, and raw ambition… and an unheralded superstar you will never forget.  ​For tickets and info, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/tonistone

BINA’S SIX APPLES (world premiere)
March 11 – 27, 2022​
Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre​

By Lloyd Suh​
Directed by Eric Ting​

Bina’s family grows the finest apples in all of Korea. But when war forces her to flee her home, Bina is alone in the world with just six precious apples to her name. Can these meager possessions help her find her family?  Join Bina on her spirited journey that ranges from the heartbreaking to the humorous. Encountering new challenges at every turn, Bina is forced to rely upon her apples and their important legacy as she begins to discover the power of her own resilience. Often mesmerizing, always heartwarming, Bina will discover that she’s not the only one on a difficult quest for a place to call home. For tickets and info, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/binasapples

A World Premiere Musical, to be announced later this summer
May 25 – June 26, 2022​
Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre​

Directed by Kenny Leon


October 8 – 31, 2021​
Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre​

By Nathan James, Nathan Yungerberg, Idris Goodwin, Nambi E. Kelley, Nsangou Njikam,
Eric Holmes, and Dennis Allen II​
Co-Directed by Keith Arthur Bolden and Alexis Woodard​

Across seven monologues written by seven Black playwrights, HANDS UP depicts the realities of Black America from the perspective of varying genders, sexual orientations, skin tones, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The play was originally commissioned in 2015 by the New Black Fest in response to a police officer fatally shooting an unarmed Black teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. The themes and stories it tells still ring true today. HANDS UP is produced in association with Spelman College.​  For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/handsup


December 8 – 24, 2021

Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre

Experience a special concert series featuring some of Atlanta’s most exciting performers and musicians in a relaxed lounge atmosphere.  CLUB HERTZ LIVE will feature a new performer each night and a variety of genres during the month of December.  Bands and performers will be chosen by a panel of music-industry professionals.  Performers are invited to apply to be a part of the series on the Alliance’s website.  For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/clubhertz

DREAM HOU$E (world premiere, winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition)
January 22 – February 13, 2022​
Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre​

By Eliana Pipes

DREAM HOU$E follows two Latinx sisters on an HGTV-style reality show who are selling their family home, hoping to capitalize on the gentrification in their “changing neighborhood.”  As they perform for the camera, one sister grapples with turmoil in the family’s ancestral past while the other learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the family’s future. What is the cultural cost of progress in America — and is cashing in always selling out?  DREAM HOU$E is the winner of the 2021/22 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition.  For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/dreamhouse



August 17, 2021 – May 31, 2022

Streaming on Alliance Theatre Anywhere

Conceived and Directed by Ameenah Kaplan

Inspired by In the West End written by Will Power and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, commissioned by the Alliance Theatre in partnership with the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club
This aural adventure will immerse you in the sounds of the historic Atlanta neighborhood.  From the talk on the sidewalks to the whoosh of the Marta trains, join us for a rhythmic and tasty trip through the epicenter of vegan cooking in Atlanta.  For tickets or information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/sounds.  


October 12, 2021 – May 31, 2022

Streaming on Alliance Theatre Anywhere

Written and Directed by Mark Valdez

A Palette Production
Original composition by Eugene H. Russell IV

Created in partnership with the Fernbank Museum of Natural History
As the seasons come and go in this GA forest, so too do all of the varied wildlife. Except, of course, for the curious cardinal, who stays put the entire year, curiously exploring all of the changes that the seasons bring. Join our cardinal as he bickers with the blue jays in spring, outwits the mischievous squirrels in summer, and bids a fond farewell to the friendly otters in the fall. This animated short celebrates the majesty of the natural habitats of GA and the daily adventures of an everchanging world.  For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/cardinal


December 2 – 23, 2021

Selig Family Blackbox Theatre at Alliance Theatre

Created by Olivia Aston Bosworth & Samantha Provenzano

Directed by Samantha Provenzano

Come in from out of the cold and celebrate community, family, and warmth this holiday season! Welcome to The Apartment Building. Below us, above us, and beside us, the residents are preparing for the holidays and trying to stay warm. Join us on a floor to floor adventure, meeting and celebrating with a variety of friends who all call The Apartment Building home. Surprises hide behind each door — all you need to do is (Knock, Knock). For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/knock


March 16 – April 24, 2022 

Selig Family Blackbox Theatre at Alliance Theatre

Directed by Rosemary Newcott

Based on In My Granny’s Garden written be Pearl Cleage and Zaron Burnett Jr. and illustrated by Radcliffe Bailey, commissioned by the Alliance Theatre in partnership with the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club

In My Granny’s Garden invites our youngest audiences to explore the glory of growing your own food. Watch a tiny seed become a field of corn, green beans, collard greens, and bright red tomatoes. Step into a visual feast inspired by world renowned artist Radcliffe Bailey’s original paintings, and discover the one superpower that fuels Granny’s garden. This play promises to leave you nourished in body and soul.  For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org/garden

DO YOU LOVE THE DARK? (world premiere)

January 20 – February 27, 2022 

Selig Family Blackbox Theatre at Alliance Theatre

Based on Do You Love the Dark? written by Maya Lawrence and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie commissioned by the Alliance Theatre in partnership with the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club Inspired by the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club original book by Maya Lawrence and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Do You Love the Dark? follows a young girl during a sleepless night trying to conquer her biggest fear of all: the dark!  This interactive play invites the audience on an unforgettable journey to not only conquer the fear of the unknown, but to transform it into love. Join us for this humungous hug of a play and discover all the good love glowing in the dark! For tickets and information, visit alliancetheatre.org/lovedark

Source: Alliance Theatre Press Release

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