'Passing the Script' ... and the baton
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
August 02, 2014 04:00 AM | 6974 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ONE STRAND “STAR” exited stage left and another made her grand entrance at the Earl Smith Strand on Thursday as the landmark Marietta Square theatre celebrated the retirement of founding director Earl Reece and saluted the promotion of his successor and protégé, new GM Cassi Costoulas.

Reece has been at the helm of the Art Deco jewel since its reopening in 2009 and along with Strand Board namesake Earl Smith has been instrumental in transforming the once-derelict building into the Square’s entertainment powerhouse. More than 800 events took place last year in the theater

“Every time I drive by I’m proud of this building and of you,” Reece told the 100 or so well-wishers who had crowded into the fourth-floor reception room at the Strand.

He took the microphone at his reception to the strains of the theme from the TV reality series “Survivor,” adding, “That song fits for me and for Earl Smith but it also fits for our theater.”

The Strand gig was a second career for Reece, who had already retired from the Cobb School System after heading the Cobb County School for the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School. His second retirement was hastened after he fell sick on Christmas Day, was given a dire prognosis by doctors and had to undergo emergency heart surgery. But that led to a rebirth of sorts. His heart surgery took place on Jan. 6, which coincidentally is Earl Smith’s birthday.

“So I refer to that as the ‘rebirthing’ of Earl Reece,” Reece said. “It was meant to be that Earl and I were born on the same day!”

Indeed, Reece told AT although retired, he has agreed to direct three special shows or events a year.


BUT THURSDAY’S GET-TOGETHER was more than just a fond send-off for Reece. It also marked the official “passing of the script” to Costoulas, 29, who has been a key player both on- and off-stage at the theater for years and who before that was a student of Reece’s at Pebblebrook.

“From the bottom of my newly enhanced heart, I couldn’t be more proud,” declared Reece, who then presented her with a “Wonder Woman” apron.

The respect was mutual.

Costoulas presented him with a “retired” spotlight that had been mounted on a plaque “so you will always be part of us.”

The plaque bears the inscription, “Devoted to the Best in Music, Photoplays and the Theatrical Arts.”

Sound familiar?

It should: Those words have graced the facade of the Strand since its opening in 1935.


NOTES: Georgia Symphony Orchestra director Michael Alexander will step down at the end of the 2014-15 season after 11 years, AT has learned.

Alexander has been a busy man of late, serving not just as conductor of the Cobb-based GSO but as interim director of Kennesaw State University’s School of Music.

Does his departure as GSO conductor signal he’s soon to be named as permanent head of the KSU music school? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile GSO executive director Susan Stensland tells the MDJ’s Sally Litchfield her group plans a nationwide search for Alexander’s replacement, possibly of up to two year’s duration. BTW, the GSO will have a new home in the coming season: the Marietta High School Performing Arts Center.


IT ALSO was announced at the Strand reception Marc Patterson, until this week the director of operations at the Strand, will take over as director of the Marietta Performing Arts Center at Marietta High School.

“Marc is a visionary who is passionate about the arts, but equally as important, he is passionate about having a positive impact on our students and our community,” MHS principal Leigh Colburn told AT.


POLITICS: This morning’s Cobb GOP breakfast will be swarming with state party brass. The main speaker will be U.S. Senate nominee David Perdue, but also scheduled to be there are Gov. Nathan Deal, state Attorney General Sam Olens, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Ag Comish Gary Black and Labor Comish Mark Butler. Attendees are being asked to stay and help with phone banking after the 8:15 a.m. event at the party HQ at 799 Roswell St. …

Cobb Democrats will hold their monthly “Second Saturday Breakfast” on the third Saturday of the month this month, Aug. 16, from 9 to 11 a.m. at 3 Amigos Mexican Bar & Grill on Whitlock Avenue in Marietta.


THIS YEAR’S CLASS of Leadership Cobb kicks into gear at its orientation on Monday. More than 330 people were nominated for the year-long Cobb Chamber-sponsored program.

Chosen were: Lance Askildson of KSU, Stefanie Box of Holland & Knight, Wendy Brantley of JE Dunn Construction, Amber Burckhalter of K-9 Coach, Kelly Bush of Manhattan Associates, Jennifer Cain of The Center for Family Resources, Meral Clarke of EngAGE Senior Advocacy Inc., Amanda Cook of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Heather Corbin of Unified AV Systems, Meredith Davis Zonsius of the Georgia Chamber, Mike DeWitt of Smith & Howard Wealth Management, Jude Dooley of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Cheryl Draa of Cheryl Draa Interior Designs, Jeff Drobney of the City of Kennesaw, Steven Ellis of the Cobb Solicitor’s Office, Smyrna City Councilman Ron Fennel of Georgia Capitol Associates, Allison Giddens of Win-Tech Inc., Kari Hackett of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Mike Hebdon of Edward Jones, Marty Heller of Freeman Mathis & Gary, Jennifer Hernandez of Marietta City Schools, Laura Higginbotham of The Bottoms Group, Kevin Hyland of Sweetwater Financial and Ann Keller of East-West Psychotherapy Associates.

Also, Kristen Lord of Mauldin & Jenkins, Betsy Madrerohon of Georgia Commerce Bank, Stephen Matthews of The Home Depot, Wayne McGary of Croy Engineering, Beth McMillan of Cobb EMC, Jackie McMorris of Cobb Government, Lisa Olens of Georgia Power Co., David Persson of The School Box, Michael Peterson of Brookmeade Healthcare, Sandi Peterson-Cooper of Comprehensive Health Concepts Inc., Kevin Rogers of Wells Fargo, Patti Schoettler of AFLAC, Amy Selby of the Cobb Chamber, Greg Shenton of Shenton Law, Gwen Skinner of the Devereux Georgia Treatment Network, Ellen Smith of Holt Ney Zatcoff & Wasserman, Robert Stephens of CFO Navigator, Matthew Teague of Walton Communities, James Touchton of the Council for Quality Growth, Lauren Tuten of Gas South, Seth Tuttle of MUST Ministries, Gus Villanueva of Lockheed Martin, Derrick Vincent of Jacobs Engineering Group, Andrew Walker of Colliers International, Monte Wilson of WellStar Kennestone and Bill Yates of Velociteach.

Co-chairs are Bonnie Buckner Reavis with Zenith Design Group and Stewart Carlin with Accounting Consultants of Cobb, with vice co-chairs Chris Rideout of Croy Engineering and Dena Rodrigues with Excalibur Home Management.


STRAND board member Kim Gresh told the crowd at Reece’s retirement she had visited that same fourth-floor room of the then-decrepit Strand with Earl Smith before it was renovated and that it was filled with pigeon droppings, or as she put it, “poo.”

Reece, when he got to the mike a few minutes later, quipped, “Those of you who know Kim know that’s the first time she’s ever said ‘poo.’”

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