20 People to Watch - Brian Clowdus

The Serenbe Playhouse artistic director can't sit still

No one could accuse Brian Clowdus of having a quiet 2015. The Serenbe Playhouse artistic director expanded the company's schedule to year-round for the first time with a spring production of Man of La Mancha and garnered national press for the outdoor playhouse's summer production of Evita. Clowdus starred as Dr. Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Greenville, S.C., and moved an hour from Atlanta's Westside to Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills be closer to his team. But he has no plans to sit back and rest in 2016. In addition to figuring out how to land a helicopter at the tranquil, pastoral Serenbe without blowing audience members out of their seats, he's also launching a new production company for private and corporate events.

"Quiet people don't get noticed," Clowdus says.

About that helicopter. Clowdus is bringing the musical Miss Saigon to Serenbe this summer and is using the opportunity to rent and land an actual Huey chopper on site. While the musical's original Broadway production featured a life-size helicopter in a theater as part of the Vietnam story line, it will be intriguing to see how Clowdus incorporates the craft into the outdoor production. Miss Saigon will be revived on Broadway in 2017, making the Serenbe production one of the last licensed versions preceding the New York show. Given the increasing amount of national press for Serenbe and the timing in advance of the Broadway revival, the production is likely to generate a lot of buzz for Atlanta's local theater community in Georgia and nationally. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, Clowdus knows that his "bold, crazy ideas" require careful planning and work. He began strategizing for Miss Saigon a year in advance.

In order to help with the larger scale of the 2016 productions, Clowdus and Serenbe are doubling their small but devoted staff, which Clowdus calls a "game changer." He's also developed a solid team of actors who repeatedly appear in his productions, including Austin Tijerina (Oklahoma, Man of La Mancha) and Randi Garza (Man of La Mancha, Evita).

"It developed organically," Clowdus says of his team. The challenges of working outdoors at Serenbe ensure that "divas won't last here," he says. "Actors need to see the unique opportunity to create art outside of the box, and I am really loyal to people I love and love working with." From actors to the team behind the scenes, lighting directors and costume and set designers, Clowdus enjoys the shorthand developed over a history of working together.

"They get it, they have bought into the brand, and they are ready to create cool art."

While his main focus remains Serenbe, with Miss Saigon and a spring production of Carousel that promises an actual carousel and Ferris wheel, Clowdus is also forming Brian Clowdus Productions. "Well, I'm so bored and have such time on my hands," he says, laughing. Brian Clowdus Productions will be a separate company for corporate and private clients who are interested in events with a theatrical and immersive atmosphere. "I just have entrepreneurial blood in my veins," he says.

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