Don Goodner, who opened the Young Actors Playhouse at the Theatre in the Square in March, said their incredible growth will continue with a second company at the location called the Marietta Players.
After having difficulty finding a place that was a reliable spot to rehearse and perform, Goodner approached Councilman Philip Goldstein about renting the vacant theater at 11 Whitlock Ave. near the corner of Church Street, on a month-to-month basis.
The theater was sitting empty after the previous theater troupe decided to draw the final curtain on their history in the space due to lack of funding.
Goodner said the business side of the Young Actors Playhouse has been great, mostly due to their all-volunteer staff, including his wife Stacey, who runs the ticket office, their 15-year-old son Jacob, who works the concession stand and their 12-year-old daughter Jessica, who appears in many of the plays.
“We are real good at controlling cost,” Goodner said.
Goodner said having productions that almost exclusively feature children means there is a “built in audience of family and friends,” but that the packed house is also starting to get walk-ins who have no relationship to cast members.
Despite their success, city officials have seemed cautious in their support of the new company, Goodner said.
Their reservation, according to Goodner, could be to ensure the new theater group can stand on its own.
Young Actors Playhouse is not only seeing a boom at the box office, but it was recently nominated for six Metropolitan Atlanta Theatre Awards. The winners will be announced at ceremony Sept. 29 at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center.
The theater is also growing not just by audience numbers, but by the amount of talent making its way onto the stage.
“Young Actors Playhouse is the largest children’s theater organization in Georgia in terms of enrollment and number of productions we perform each year,” Goodner said.
Goodner writes most of the productions, including many musical numbers, which are a remix of classic fairy tales.
“They are very fun performances …and it is a chance for a family to do something together on a Saturday afternoon besides seeing a movie,” Goodner said.
Each production features child actors. Their next play, “Goldilocks and the Curse of the Porridge,” has a cast ranging in age from 4 to 14.
The casting process is more like workshops that introduce the play to the young actors and it allows Goodner to scope out the talent. The rehearsal period can be two months, with two or three meetings a week.
“It takes time for kids to get comfortable in a situation to see what kind of talent they have,” Goodner said.
He even writes a specific part or musical number for a young actor he thinks should be featured, and said it is not about finding one lead but many stand-out parts.
Each production typically has two casts. For Goldilocks there are 40 children total, but 20 kids at a time will alternate through eight performances.
Kids are about fun, which is why it can be hard to keep their attention, Goodner said. They do not have the “deep-seeded passion” of older actors.
That is why Theatre in the Square will now present plays by the newly formed Marietta Players, which will consist of adults from the community.
Their season will begin in September with “You Can’t Take It with You,” about a hectic family living in New York in 1937.
Beth Hale, who works at Chattahoochee Technical College and has been an actress for over 20 years, said being in this latest cast has allowed her to see life on the Square, which she claims is never empty.
She described the downtown area as “eclectic and an interesting place,” which might be the reason why there are two other stages just a couple of blocks away: The Earl Smith Strand Theatre at 117 North Park Square and The Alley Stage at 11 Anderson St.
Another actor in “You Can’t Take It With You,” Zac Phelps, 22, and who has acted since high school, is also in the professional production of “Footloose” at the Strand that opened this weekend.
Hale said she plans on cheering for Phelps at the competing venue.
Each Marietta company tries to present the best show in Cobb County in a supportive rivalry, Hale said.
But Hale said the Theatre in the Square is a prime venue that has elevated seats, which means there is not a bad seat in the house
“It’s intimate, but it’s not small,” Hale said.
Want to go?
* WHAT: ‘Goldilocks and the Curse of the Porridge’ by the Young Actors Playhouse
* WHEN: Saturday afternoons at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Oct. 19-Nov. 9
* COST: $7 for children, $10 for adults
* WHAT: ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ by the Marietta Players
* WHEN: Wednesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Sept. 12-28
* COST: $18 for children and seniors, $22 for adults