Thursday, March 22, 2012


                LOSING A FRIEND

By Doc Lawrence

MARIETTA, GA--News of the closing of this lovely city’s Theatre in the Square felt like a kick in the stomach. This was where I took my kids to learn about life’s components: interpretation, the power of performance, music and dance, cultural heritage, risk and most of all the time-proven, soul-enriching gifts created on the live stage. I always believed that Tennessee Williams, Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller and Oscar Wilde haunted the theater building. Blanch and Stanley, Big Daddy and Maggie the Cat, Willie Loman, Truman Capote, Reverend Thomas Dorsey, Maria Callas and Patsy Cline were there in spirit.

During the 1996 Summer Olympics I took new friends from foreign countries to see the wonderful musical “Zion,” a tribute to things spiritual and an anthem of reconciliation. Later, I “met” Mahalia Jackson as portrayed by the incomparable Bernadine Mitchell, a singer/actress that we in Georgia proudly call our own.

Theatre in the Square spawned actors, set designers, musicians, playwrights, directors and producers that did the South proud. Never just another local community theater, it was at times on the level with some of the great stages in large cities: Miami, Washington, New York, Chicago, Houston and yes, Atlanta.

According to Atlanta lawyer Sarah Mallas Wayman, who is Greek-American, “the art of performing stories before audiences came from ancient Greece. How many realize that great Biblical stories were often performed in Greece by early Christians?”

Like all great theatrical companies, Theatre in the Square stayed on the edge, refusing to put a wet finger to the air. It lived according to a high standard. However, let it be said that they gave the community a healthy dose of diversity. “The 1940’s Radio Hour,” The Gospel of John,” “The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” had a good home there.

I am grateful for all the blood, sweat and tears, and pray this is not a harbinger of things to come. As Kenny Leon says, the magic in the live stage performance is that, unlike movies, we all breathe the same air.

My flesh and blood had the blessing of watching actors become so real they made them-and me- laugh and cry. That is part of the legacy of Theatre in the Square.

A society that relegates the arts to the trash heap temps triggering the law of unintended consequences. I didn’t say that, but a very prominent Georgia business leader did.

Enjoy a journey along Georgia’s Civil War Trail, following the path of “The Great Locomotive Chase” from Atlanta to just south of Chattanooga:

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