Around Town: Loss at the Lyric - Bumpy ride for city’s theaters continues
by Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby
Around Town Columnists
October 20, 2012 02:46 AM | 5723 views | 3 3 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE MOST TURBULENT YEAR in the history of downtown Marietta’s theater scene got another splash of unexpected news this week with the unexpected departure of Dianne Butler, who since 2008 has been director of marketing and community relations at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, which calls the Strand Theatre on Marietta Square home.

Butler announced her departure via an emailed press release that read, in part, “The Lyric now needs someone with new energy, a different range of skills, and a fresh vision and enthusiasm to take the company through the next stages of growth. Transitions … for The Lyric, and also for me. My devotion remains the same, and I will continue to serve and invest myself in the company, just not as a staff member.”

She added she did not “have a plan as yet” for herself, and said she would be indebted to Lyric artistic director Brandt Blocker.

Strand officials told Around Town they knew nothing of why Butler was leaving.

“On and off the record, we had no idea,” Strand executive director Earl Reece said. “I asked Strand staffers — Cassi Costoulus, Andrew Cole, Chuck Polasky and Catherine Rhodes if they had heard anything at all about this situation ... unanimous reply — not a clue. I just received a ‘mass’ email from Diane informing us that she was moving on. We definitely didn’t see this one coming.”


BUTLER WILL BE REMEMBERED for catching local officials off guard by announcing at a Feb. 16 town hall meeting that other communities were trying to lure the Lyric to move after its contract here expires. But after she and Blocker held a lunch powwow with Marietta Mayor Thunder Tumlin they announced they wanted to stay at the Strand.

Butler also will be remembered for managing to survive a 10-foot fall off the Strand’s blackened stage onto the concrete floor of the orchestra pit. She had just concluded her welcoming remarks prior to a performance of “The Music Man” in September 2010, then became disoriented trying to make her way offstage. She broke an arm, leg and knee, fractured her pelvis and dislocated her shoulder and hip. All told, she spent nearly a month in WellStar Kennestone Hospital.


DOWNTOWN MARIETTA HAS THE RARE DISTINCTION for a city this size of being able to boast of having not one, not two, but three stages on which professional-level theater is presented on a regular basis. But this year has been a rocky one.

Financial woes caused the curtain to fall for good at the venerable Theatre in the Square back in March during its 30th anniversary season. Then in May, Next Stage Theatre Company signed a 15-month lease with Philip Goldstein for the Alley Stage — the smaller of the two stages formerly utilized by Theatre in the Square at its former 11 Whitlock Avenue home just off the Square. Next came the Oct. 4 announcement that the main stage in that building would be utilized by the new Marietta Theatre Company. Its debut production, “The Summer of Daisy Fay,” will open Nov. 1 under the direction of Ed Howard, best known as creator of the hit play “Greater Tuna.”


THE LYRIC is a separate entity from the Friends of the Strand (which operates the theater). It produces five Broadway-style musicals annually and books the Strand for around 100 nights per year, according to Friends Chairman Bob Ash.

“We’re comfortable with the number of dates they have,” added Ash, retired director of Public Services for Cobb County.

Rather than relying just on the Lyric and various concerts and movies and to keep the theater full, the Strand has begun producing its own revenue-generating shows, such as Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” and Broadway reviews featuring homegrown talent that have been big hits. It also raised $75,000 in pledges via a call-a-thon in June. Turnout was good for another fundraiser, “STRANDelicious,” on Thursday. And it has a Halloween musical revue, “Strandemonium,” lined up Oct. 26-28. For ticket info, contact (770) 293-0080 or go to


THE CURRENT five-year contract between the Strand and the Lyric expires in August.

“But the lead time involved in setting the schedules for our productions would require us to have the new contract in place earlier than the expiration date,” Ash said. “The (current) contract says we will begin negotiations at the beginning of January. We have a negotiation committee set up. I will be part of it, along with (board member) Steve Imler and possibly Earl and a few others.”

“We want to try to keep them here,” Ash added of the Lyric. “Their shows and our work complement each other pretty well.”


MEANWHILE, Ash and his board are working hard to try to raise funds to pay down the remaining $1.6 million in debt for the renovation of the Depression-era movie theater, which like the Theater in the Square building, is owned by Goldstein.

“We’ve never been flashy with money by any means, but I’m optimistic that we’re going to have a positive balance at the end of the year thanks to some of the productions we’ve put on,” he said.

If Ash is proven correct, it will mark the first time the Strand has finished the year in the black since its reopening in January 2009. And he notes that even though it was not breaking even in the past, the Strand still was (and is) managing to keep whittling down the debt and paying its taxes, staff and bills. In the meantime, as the saying goes, “the show will go on.”


POLITICS: The Kermit Sanders Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 13, headed by retired Cobb deputy police chief Bill Mull, has voted to endorse incumbent U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren over their Democratic opponents in the coming Nov. 6 elections, according to Lodge VP detective Bob Pierce. … A fundraiser for Southwest Cobb Commissioner-elect Lisa Cupid took place Thursday at Canoe. Among the hosts were Jim Croy of Croy Engineering, former state DOT Commish Tom Moreland, Metro Ambulance President Pete Quinones, and Jim Rhoden of the Futren Corp. Cupid defeated incumbent Woody Thompson in the July 31 Democratic Primary. … Cobb Democrats have their choice of two debate-watching parties on Monday as President Obama and Mitt Romney meet for the final time. The East Cobb Democratic Alliance will host a party at the Delkwood Grill on Delk Road. The other will be at Varner’s Restaurant in Smyrna.

Cobb Republicans will be at Tijuana Joe’s Cantina on Johnson Ferry Road; and El Nopal Mexican Restaurant on U.S. 41.


LOOK FOR A Q&A with attorney Jason Treadaway in Monday’s MDJ. You might remember Treadaway as the “standby” defense counsel during last month’s high-profile murder trial of Waseem Daker.

Treadaway and his father and law partner, Michael Treadaway, spent much of the year preparing to defend Daker, but Daker prevailed in his insistence on representing himself. Judge Mary E. Staley appointed Jason Treadaway as standby counsel. MDJ News Editor Kim Isaza asked how his trial strategy differed from Daker’s and about Daker himself.

He has visited Daker in the state prison at Jackson, where he is expected to remain in solitary for up to two years.

“He probably did the best he could,” Treadaway said. “I think he’s satisfied with the job he did, but he’s unhappy with the verdict. I don’t think he regrets representing himself. He’d probably do it again.”

Another interesting tidbit: Jason and the lead prosecutor in the case, Jesse Evans, ran track together at North Cobb High School. Treadaway is a 1994 Harrison High grad.


ONE OF THE FIRST C-130 Hercules cargolifters built by Lockheed has been “loaned” to the Marietta Museum of History’s Aviation Wing by the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

It had been in storage at Dobbins Air Reserve Base since its retirement in 1995 and was moved on Friday to another area of the base where Air Wing volunteers — mostly retired Lockheed Martin and USAF and USN personnel, will temporarily remove the wings and two of the engines to enable its eventual move to the museum property at the corner of South Cobb Drive and Atlanta Road, where it will go on public display, according to Wing spokesman Bill Paden.

The plane in question was the tenth C-130A manufactured and rolled out of the Marietta plant in 1957. It was converted to an AC-130A gunship in 1968, was named “Ghost Rider” by its crew and saw service in Vietnam and Thailand.

With guns capable of firing up to 34,000 rounds of ammunition per minute, it served as a night armed reconnaissance and close air support aircraft; and as a truck, tank, and personnel destroyer. One of the Ghost Rider’s pilots during that period was Marietta native Glenn Owens. The Herk was also deployed in Desert Storm and Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti).

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Keynesian Economics
October 23, 2012
"Butler also will be remembered for managing to survive a 10-foot fall off the Strand’s blackened stage onto the concrete floor of the orchestra pit."

Is it possible there was an insurance settlement?
October 22, 2012
Once the rent becomes due, the Friends of the Strand are all but finished unless a major contributor steps up.

If they can barely make a profit now, then there is no way they are going to make up the $10,000/month rent.

Without the Lyric - if that happens - they are left with a mediocre event space, abyssmal movie theater and self-produced shows on par with those at Pebblebrook.
October 20, 2012
Just a wild guess but I would bet she must have done her research on the landlord and seems smart enough to get out before the negotiations and subsequent finger pointing after they, in all probability in my opinion, get legitimately r-ped on their new lease.

And good luck to them hiring ANYBODY to work on that... People already know why everything around here fails, and nobody wants a part in it.
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