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Theater Review - Onstage on the move

30-year-old theater company eyes new Decatur space

When Onstage Atlanta's Second Samuel opens Friday night at 14th Street Playhouse, it marks the beginning of a second chapter in the life of the 30-year-old theater. Scott Rousseau, Onstage Atlanta's artistic and executive director, will announce that the theater has officially found a new, permanent playhouse since losing its longtime home in 1997.

"14th Street Playhouse is a great place to put on shows, but it's not our home," says Rousseau, who was named to his current position last July but has worked with the theater since 1977. "Onstage Atlanta was incredibly successful in the 1990s, but when we lost our home on Courtland Street, we lost our base." Onstage Atlanta's landlord, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, reclaimed the space to build a homeless shelter, ironically leaving the theater homeless itself.

Following years of searching, during which the theater has seen financial troubles and turnover in its board of directors and creative staff, Onstage Atlanta has finally found a new space, to be built at the site of the old Belk's department store in Decatur's Suburban Plaza at the corner of Scott and North DeKalb. At nearly 16,000 square feet, the facility will have room for not only a 150-seat auditorium, but also a smaller space for Onstage Atlanta's Abracadabra Children's theater. Rousseau expects the theater to be refurbished and up to code sometime between May and the end of June.

Beginning June 20, the theater plans to present its final 14th Street Playhouse production (to be announced later). Then, July 5 the new space will be christened with Della's Diner IV: Blue Plate Special. Stephen Pearce's When the Devils Be Calling, a drama about 19th-century slavery and winner of Onstage Atlanta's Hometown Playwrights Series competition, follows in August.

On Friday Rousseau also plans to announce Onstage Atlanta's 2002-03 season, an ambitious slate of five children's shows and seven mainstage productions, including Parallel Lives, The Haunting of Hill House, the holiday show Nuncrackers, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Psycho Beach Party, Whoop-De-Doo and the next winner of the Hometown Playwrights competition.

Second Samuel runs Feb. 15-March 16 at the 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 5 p.m. $15-18. 404-897-1802. www.onstageatlanta.com.??



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