• Cathy Burroughs

AQ Travel - Amazing, Magical Serenbe

At the Amazing and Magical Serenbe Playhouse – Take to the Woods – Literally! Don’t miss “Charlotte’s Web” for all ages through July 31 staged in Serenbe’s real Animal Village, followed by the John Steinbeck’s poignant “Of Mice and Men,” in The Hay Barn at Serenbe June 9 through June 26 as the 7th Season of Surrender Continues

As one of the only outdoor, site specific theatre companies in the country, Atlanta's completely magical Serenbe Playhouse ( is both the brain child and realization of the wildly creative and imaginative vision of artistic director Brian Clowdus. On a lark, Clowdus visited the New Urban Village of Serenbe, a semi-rural community located in the city limits of the Chattahoochee Hills of Fulton County in the rolling hills on the edge of metro Atlanta area, not far from the airport, one July 4th, more than seven years ago.

Following his visit he was inspired to write an email requesting permission to launch a theatre company - a company that, as it turns out, would be conceived as one of "the most intrepid and fearless of theatre companies, one that would produce its reinvented productions in the never ending expanse of the great outdoors." The answer was a resounding Yes! Ask and ye shall receive - and the rest, as the saying goes – was, and is still – history and history in the making!

Next up on their ambitious and whimsical docket is "Charlotte's Web" directed by Artistic Associate and Media Rep Ryan Oliveti. This production will be for all ages and is a new take on E.B. White’s unforgettable tale of an articulate and compassionate spider and an adorable pig who wants nothing better than to simply survive. The show will be staged, appropriately enough, in the heart of Serenbe’s live Animal Village running May 27 through July 31; following this will be the James Steinbeck heartbreaker “Of Mice and Men,” June 9 through June 26; then the powerful musical “Miss Saigon” July 21 through August 7. Expect the unexpected with Serenbe Playhouse. Spoiler Alert: For “Miss Saigon,” a love story based on Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” set during the Vietnam War, an actual WW II helicopter will land nightly. The Season of Surrender will culminate with their annual fall thriller “The Sleepy Hollow Experience” September 29 – November 6. Purchase tickets fast for this one as it has sold out for the past three seasons and American Theatre Magazine has called it one of the top 5 Halloween plays in the country. Winter at Serenbe will be celebrated and made complete with “snowfall” in “The Snow Queen,” the Hans Christian Anderson’s tale that was the original “Frozen,” December 1 through 23.

Since its inception seven years ago, Serenbe Playhouse has presented in a vast array of bucolic settings, visually stunning productions that both revel in and capitalize on the natural surroundings and seasonal themes. Such much loved productions newly envisioned as “The Secret Garden,” “A Streetcar Named Desire," “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and “Oklahoma” have drawn their audiences literally into the woods – in droves.

Their newest venture will be their “Black Box” series of intimate indoor installations staged in alternative interiors. Their current show "Buyers & Cellar," for example, is being staged in the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture gallery on Peachtree Road. As we scan their web site our theatrical curiosity just gets more and more wetted with each gorgeous image of past shows. Each season has a theme. For example the last season was the Season of Transformation; before that Journeys. I just want to sign right up - retroactively! How could I and we be missing all these fantabulous confabulations? It just gets better and better as the Playhouse is also hosting a New Territories Playwright Residency with three playwrights in residence annually that help create the outdoor, site-specific plays in conjunction with AIR Serenbe.

Oliveti explains "Every show is a full immersive experience …and because the shows are never in the same spot, we always send patrons an email with details and make sure to always have signs pointing them to the magic!"

For the Serenbe team, their critically lauded production of the 70's iconic rock musical "Hair" in Season 4 was a turning point, attracting a dramatically increased fan base and catapulting the company to new levels of achievement and recognition. In an article by reporter Paul Milliken on the Fox 5 Atlanta site, he calls the company “one of the innovative and acclaimed companies in the country.” They have been endorsed by such impressive funding sources as the NEA, Fulton County, Georgia Council for the Arts and many others and awarded a covetted 2015 National Theatre Company grant as well. The Playhouse has taken the local, regional, and even, national theatre world by both surprise and storm with fresh reinventions of “The Man of LaMancha," “Evita,” and recently, “Carousel,” and many other highly original recreations of classics, musicals and beautifully crafted literary adaptations with this summer being their biggest yet.

Season 7 is taglined “It takes COURAGE to follow your DESTINY.” Artistic Director Brian Clowdus, Managing Director Gretchen Butler, and the dedicated, talented and passionate team at Serenbe Playhouse should know! Watch for Season 8….its the announcement is coming in the next few months.

Here Ryan Oliveti takes time out of “Charlotte’s Web” rehearsals to tell us more:

Tell us about your background and why and how you connected to Serenbe Playhouse?

I moved to Atlanta fresh out of college with a degree in theatre almost 5 years ago for an internship with Actor's Express. Towards the end of that internship year, I was connected with Brian Clowdus to assist him on the very first year of “The Sleepy Hollow Experience.” The partnership worked well and before I knew it I was on staff and have yet to turn back! I get to play and make art in the woods ... what could be cooler than that?!?!

What can we look forward to with your production of Charlotte's Web? Well, for starters, we have picked a stunning location for our production - The Animal Village at Serenbe! The audience will be surrounded by real live pigs, goats, bunnies, and chickens! We are also adding in a real musical element to the show! Giving is a true bluegrass feel for the whole family to fall in love with!

Tell us about your latest plans for indoors installations and alternative venues for your shows?

We are so excited to announce our brand new series - Intimate Indoors! Staying true to our site specific nature, we are taking to Atlanta for two exciting productions – “Buyer & Cellar” at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and “Art” at Atlanta Contemporary. It is the Playhouse version of a black box series, and we could not be more excited!

What are you most proud and excited about regarding the Serenbe Playhouse?

I feel so honored to get to work for a company that tears down walls (literally) to create an immersive theatre experience! We love to say that your time with us starts from the second you get out of your car and won't end until you get back in. I am able to create worlds like no other - and I just LOVE that!

For tickets, call the Box Office at 770-463-1110 or visit the web site: or all forms of social media includng Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. Parking varies for each production, and you will receive detailed instructions prior to each production via email. Serenbe can be reached at 10950 Hutchesons Ferry Road, Chattahoochee Hills, GA 30268 and is approximately 40 minutes from downtown Atlanta from I 85 S. Once there, follow the green Firefly signs down the rabbit hole to the mysterious, mystical and magical world of the Serenbe Playhouse.

#atlantaartsculture #cathyburroughs

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