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|Marietta’s Theatre on the Square was ground zero for anti-gay resolution|
|Written by Jim Farmer|
|Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00|
Theatre in the Square, the highly regarded Marietta playhouse founded by Palmer Wells and his late life partner, Michael Horne, closed its doors last week.
The theater — known for often staging gay-themed productions — had gone public last year when it found itself in a financial deficit. Despite raising money since that announcement, the board of directors released a statement March 19 that the theater is closing.
“After three days of board deliberations and financial analysis, we have decided that it is not feasible for us to finish our current season or launch a 31st season. We simply do not have the money,” Board Chair Mike Russell stated.
The board turned down an offer from the Marietta City Council for a contribution of $30,000, believing the financial gap was ultimately too large.
Wells and Horne founded Theatre in the Square 30 years ago and the company was critically and commercially successful. Wells, now 75, had contemplated retirement not long ago but stayed aboard to help try and keep the theater going.
When it came time to decide whether to close, Wells had only his one vote among the board of directors.
“Against my objections, they were all united in favor of (closing),” he says.
He feels several opportunities for funding were possibilities and there was a chance they could get more funding if they had announced their 31st season. The closing leaves him disappointed and frustrated. He still hopes for something of a miracle, that someone can step in and save the theater, although he is not sure if the board would invite him back. He admits there hasn’t been much communication between him and the board.
Theatre in the Square made international headlines when a Cobb County resident complained about their version of Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” which, ironically, had no gay content onstage.
It led to the infamous 1993 Cobb County Commission condemning the gay “lifestyle,” which prompted protests that eventually kept Cobb from hosting events for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Horne passed away shortly after in 1996 and Wells has always said he felt the stress of the situation contributed.
Since the resolution, the company produced several gay-themed dramas, including “Tru,” “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” and “The Little Dog Laughed.”
One of the biggest shows staged by Theatre in the Square was the Tony-winning “Take Me Out,” Richard Greenberg’s drama about a baseball player who has just come out of the closet. The show had ample frontal male nudity but didn’t cause a ripple, says Wells.
The company also produced lots of world premieres during its time. Their final show was Pearl Cleage’s “Flyin’ West.”
Wells says he is not sure what he will do next but that he enjoyed every moment of his time at Theatre in the Square, save for the stress of the politics and financial situation.
‘Miss Richfield’ returns
This weekend, the infamous Miss Richfield 1981 comes to town for a two-day gig at the 14th Street Playhouse. Last seen in the ATL a year ago, Miss Richfield is returning to kick off her new show “2012: We’ll All Be Dead By Christmas!”
“I simply adore that Southern pace,” says Miss Richfield. “Nothing makes me happier than repeating my material two or three times until everybody catches up! Not to mention how nice it is to be performing in a state best known for a fruit!”
According to the performer, the new show is about the impending apocalypse.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the world is ending this year. So I fashioned a multi-media extravaganza complete with upbeat music, informative videos and opportunities for the audience to get involved in the show,” she says. “And you know that’s where learning really starts.”
The current tour is taking her across the country and the world.
“Where am I NOT going would be an easier question. … It’s been so busy!” she says. “In fact, I just returned Sunday from the Third World, where I performed for my Mexican friends in Puerto Rico.”
Top photo: Palmer Wells founded Marietta’s Theatre in the Square with his late partner, Michael Horne. The theater closed this month after three decades that included being at the center of Cobb County’s 1993 anti-gay resolution. (via Facebook)
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