Talk of the Town - Staging Plays and Throwing Pots May 18 2005

Husband and wife have a passion for more than Shakespeare

To look at Richard Garner's resume, one might expect his list of personal and professional interests to solely include theater. He is co-founder and producing artistic director of Georgia Shakespeare, housed at Oglethorpe University. Garner studied theater management at the Double Image Theatre in New York and has since gone on to direct the main stage and the educational tours for Georgia Shakespeare. Though it does focus on Shakespearian plays, Georgia Shakespeare's lineup also includes contemporary options such as the upcoming A Streetcar Named Desire. His wife, Karen Robinson, is also steeped in the theater community as a professor with Kennesaw State's theater program.

Despite their impressive list of accomplishments, the couple does have an interest or two outside of ol' Billy Shakes. Garner is also a pottery maker and collector, an activity that he picked up in college and eventually made into a minor. The house is lined from top to bottom with clay pots, plates, antique jugs and even an eerie pot loosely inspired by a Buddha head. Even deeper still among their vast menagerie of pottery is a stunning collection of work by folk artists and artists with special needs, including autism and other mental disorders.

Creative Loafing: How did you become the director of Georgia Shakespeare?

Garner: I was one of the founders, actually, and the other two went on to do other things.

When did pottery step in?

Pottery-making was a great escape from my theater major. Theater is a very intensive study and pottery was a break for me. I took so many pottery classes that I ended up just minoring in it.

Do you still make pottery?

It's one of those things that I just do, so it comes and goes when it wants to.

Karen is a professor in theater at Kennesaw State University. Do you two collaborate?

Robinson: He actually hires me.

Garner: And since she's my wife, I don't have to tiptoe around her.

Your art collection is impressive. What is your fascination with artwork by special needs people?

Garner: A lot of these people just have a knack for this one thing and it is all that they do. They don't, and in some cases, can't do anything else but this.

Any favorite spots in your home?

The living room. I can look at our pottery collections, books and art and just relax. My favorite painting is on the living room wall as well, and sometimes I just stand and take it all in.

Anything bizarre about your home that you would like to share?

Robinson: There used to be a separate room that we've been renovating. It sort of turns the whole house into a circle now.