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Serenbe Playhouse Connects Art, Nature, and the Community

By S. Mathur

"I think all forms of art have the power to truly speak to audiences and look at the ways of the world - both good and bad," says Ryan Oliveti, Artistic Associate at the Serenbe Playhouse, "Theatre has always seemed to be a leader in connecting artists and audiences because there is such an instant connection. We instantly know what the audience thinks about our work - no delay - and, that is a powerful thing."

The mission of the Serenbe Playhouse is to produce "bold new works and reinvented classics that connect art, nature and community." That makes it the perfect fit for the Serenbe community, which is oriented to nature and the arts. Playhouse founder Brian Clowdus, an accomplished actor, educator, director and producer, recognized this when he visited eight years ago. Oliveti says that he "visited Serenbe on a whim and just had a good feeling about the place." Emails were exchanged and in just about one year, Serenbe Playhouse was born.

Of Mice and Men

Serenbe is a sustainable and progressive community located in South Fulton, GA. It has an organic farm, four hamlets with complementary commercial centers, health and educational facilities and a walkable layout. Community events include culinary workshops and festivals, music events, films and lectures, boutique shopping, art galleries, a spa and trail riding, and an Artist in Residence program with dinners and talks.

It was the ideal location for a theater. In fact, a portion of the real estate sales go towards direct support for the arts. Oliveti says that "Having a theatre was such a natural fit! And, the Playhouse ties into the Serenbe mission of producing art that connects community and nature."

Both the community and the theatre are designed in accordance with the principles of environmental stewardship. Existing structures are repurposed, natural or 90% LED theatrical lighting is used, sets are constructed using reclaimed and recycled materials. The theatre's symbol is a firefly, representing nature, the quest for ecologically sound practices, and the whimsical, magical, changing nature of a play.

Charlotte's Web

How does the Playhouse choose which works to produce? Theatre forms an immediate bond between artist and audience, explains Oliveti, leaving no doubt about what the audience wants to experience: "We think about the full experience when we choose a piece. We are now in our 7th season and producing work on such a grand scale - it is truly amazing!" The audience want full worlds recreated for them, and that's what they find at the Playhouse.

Some of the worlds created by Serenbe Playhouse this season include "an old world farm for Charlotte's Web, a turn of the century work house for Of Mice and Men, and soon a full Dreamland for Miss Saigon - complete with a real helicopter landing every night!" The highlight of the season was the real fair set up for Carousel, with pre-show games, a ferris wheel, hot dogs and cotton candy.

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