Spring Preview: The best of what’s coming up on stages and in galleries







The most anticipated production of The Atlanta Opera’s 2022-23 season, and perhaps any season in history, is Das Rheingold, the opening salvo in Wagner’s Ring cycle. Many believe the complete work to be the greatest musical achievement in history. The original Atlanta production, directed by the opera’s general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun, was debuted in February by the Dallas Opera, a show that was critically praised. Zvulun has called the piece “the Mount Everest of the operatic canon” and is hopeful the opera will be able to stage the entire Ring cycle over the coming seasons. Das Rheigold opens April 29 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. 


Although Music Midtown has shut down and the Sweetwater 420 Fest has scaled back, the Shaky Knees Festival continues with three days of concerts May 5-7 at Central Park. This year’s version is headlined by The Killers, Muse and The Lumineers. Among the other artists performing is Cypress Hill, Suzi Waterhouse, Greta Van Fleet and Tenacious D.


Sir Donald Runnicles closes out his 20-plus years as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s principal guest conductor with a program May 4-6 at Symphony Hall that is entirely in his sweet spot: Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. The piece was the plot centerpiece in the Cate Blanchett film Tár, and Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan once said, “A great performance of the Fifth is a transforming experience. The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath.” Runnicles is known as a master interpreter of Mahler’s music and it is expected to be one of the ASO’s best concerts of the season. The ASO also has plans to celebrate Runnicles’ tenure with the orchestra. (Photo by Raftermen)


ALSO . . . Atlanta indie folk/rock icon Michelle Malone returns to her home base at Eddie’s Attic May 20 for two shows — one with a full band and the other a duo show with musical partner Doug Kees — to celebrate the release of her new album Fan Favorites Unplugged Vol. 1 . . . Atlanta’s own Okorie “OkCello” Johnson is a mesmerizing performer in concert, armed only with his cello and a looping box. He performs April 5 at City Winery . . . Singer/songwriter Kevn Kinney, the front man for Atlanta’s Drivin N Cryin, performs a solo acoustic show at Eddie’s Attic April 25 . . . The Georgia-born Larkin Poe returns to Atlanta April 1 at the Variety Playhouse with their unique and highly-praised roots rock.


Bruce Onobrakpeya: The Mask and the Cross, opening April 7 at the High Museum of Art, is the first solo exhibition at an American museum for this Nigerian sculptor and printmaker. Considered one of the fathers of Nigerian modernism, the 90-year-old artist has exhibited at the Tate Modern in London, the National Museum of African Art of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and numerous art spaces around the world. He continues to have a commanding influence on artists in Nigeria who have come to maturity in the post-colonial period. The Mask and the Cross includes work he created between 1967 and 1978, a period when he married Nigerian tradition, folklore and cosmology with Catholic images and stories from the Bible. He portrays Biblical characters as Nigerian and reimagines Biblical scenes in Nigerian settings, a key work being his Fourteen Stations of the Cross. The exhibit will consider religious “double belonging” as an exercise in subversion and cultural resilience. Through July 30. 


Black American Portraits
Ming Smith, Grace Jones, Studio 54 II, 1979, gelatin silver print, 12 × 18 in., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, promised gift of Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon J. Barrois, Sr. © Ming Smith, digital image courtesy of the artist.

ArtsATL critic Cinqué Hicks found much to admire in Black American Portraits at Spelman College Museum of Art, writing that it’s “one of the most intellectually ambitious and wide-ranging exhibitions of images of Black Americans in perhaps a generation.” The exhibit originated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where Spelman director Liz Andrews was executive administrator) and is Spelman’s first major exhibit since its post-pandemic opening. It features 113 works by artists as varied as Kara Walker, Elizabeth Catlett, Renee Cox, Genevieve Gaignard and more. Through June 30.


Leslie Dill, Wilderness: Light Sizzles Around Me, at Kennesaw State University’s Bernard A. Zuckerman Museum of Art, features work that emerged from the artist’s deep dive into the American past, particularly people’s fears of the wilderness “out there” and inside us. Activists like John Brown and Sojourner Truth inspire her. Divinity and devilry intrigue her. Dill has had more than 100 solo exhibitions and her work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and many other institutions. Through May 13. 


ALSO . . . Life and the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Art from the Senusret Collection continues through August 6 at the Michael C. Carlos Museum . . . The Lonnie Holley exhibit The Eyes Were Always on Us is up through April 29 at the newly opened UTA Artist Space on Peachtree Street . . . Ashlynn Browning and Austin Ballard’s show Veiled Spirits can be seen at Whitespace Gallery through April 22 . . . A diverse collection of works in the MOCA GA permanent collection are on show through May 27, including pieces by Lucinda Bunnen, Sheila Pree Bright, William Downs and more . . . The upcoming exhibit This Bridge Named Doris at Jack Sinclair Gallery at the ArtsXchange will honor the late civil rights photographer Dr. Doris Derby, May 6 through June 10 . . . Hammonds House Museum will launch its Paul Stephen Benjamin exhibit Atlanta Black on April 21.


The Alliance Theatre will close its 54th season with the world premiere of the musical Water for Elephants, on the Coca-Cola stage June 7 through July 9. Based on the novel by Sarah Gruen, Water for Elephants follows the adventures of Jacob Jankowski, who hops on a train and finds himself becoming part of a traveling circus. Water for Elephants is directed by Jessica Stone of the Broadway musical Kimberly Akimbo and is written by Rick Elice — author of Jersey Boys and Peter and the Starcatcher — with a score by the PigPen Theatre Company. 


Freddie Ashley
Freddie Ashley will direct “Prayer for the French Republic” at Actor’s Express.

Actor’s Express Artistic Director Freddie Ashley is looking forward to producing Prayer for the French Republic by Joshua Harmon and Jesus Hopped a Train by Stephen Adly Guigis  two of what he feels are some of the best plays written in the last two decades. “Both plays deal with questions of faith and security, though in very different ways, whether through the lens of a Jewish family navigating antisemitism or a young inmate questioning the nature of faith while incarcerated,” said Ashley. “They both offer Atlanta audiences opportunities to see work by two of the most gifted writers in American theater today.” Prayer for the French Republic, directed by Ashley, is on stage April 20 to May 14, and Jesus Hopped a Train, directed by Eric J. Little, is on stage June 18 to July 2. 


The regional premiere of The Humans, written by Stephen Karem, is coming to Theatrical Outfit May 31 through June 25. Praised as one of the best plays of 2016 by NPR and Time Out New York, The Humans is a provocative story about the state of the middle class, as told through main character Erik Blake and his family. “I am thrilled to be directing an all-star Atlanta cast for the regional premiere at Theatrical Outfit,” said Theatrical Outfit Artistic Director Matt Torney. “The play deals with the rising fear and anxiety that lurks underneath American life as all the institutions that we have trusted fall away. It is powerful, hopeful, poetic, will help us all make some sense out of the chaotic times we are all living through.” 


The 25th season for Synchronicity Theatre concludes with In the Continuum, on stage June 2 through June 18. Created by Obie Award winners Dana Gurira and Nikkole Salter, the play focuses on two women who face the growing AIDS crisis in Los Angeles and Zimbabwe. The limited three-week run is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition. “I’m attracted to the authenticity and rawness of this story,” said director Valeka Jessica. “These women and the people they encounter on their journey are not caricatures or statistics. They are real people with minds, souls and spirits who have experienced trauma.”


ALSO . . . coming up at Out Front Theatre May 4-20 is Ruthless! The Musical, a collaboration with Georgia State University about a would-be Pippi Longstocking who goes to, ahem, great lengths for the role . . . City Springs Theatre will present Cats, May 5-21, directed and choreographed by Tony Award recipient Baayork Lee . . . 7 Stages Theatre presents Mlima’s Tale, the story of a Kenyan elephant killed for ivory — and those haunted by the animal’s spirit May 4-24 . . . The Center for Puppetry Arts will perform Charlotte’s Web, based on E.B. White’s beloved novel, April 4-May 21 . .  The Horizon Theatre presents Support Group for Men April 21-May 21, a comedy by Ellen Fairey about shifting gender roles.


Film buffs should look forward to visiting some of Atlanta’s most storied movie theaters this season with the reopening of the Tara Theatre scheduled for May and the historic Rialto Center for the Arts’ recent addition of a brand-new projector and screen. These updates are just in time for the 2023 Atlanta Film Festival, April 20 through 30, and both theaters plan to host special events and screenings. 


Little Richard performs
Little Richard, who grew up in Macon, is the subject of a new documentary that will be screened by Out On Film.

Out on Film will present a special limited film festival April 3 through April 6 at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. The list of five films includes Lisa Cortes’ Little Richard: I Am Everything and D. Smith’s Kokomo City — both stars at Oxford Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, respectively — among others. “This series celebrates filmmaking and filmmakers from around the world, and two of our documentaries celebrate Georgia and Atlanta subjects,” said Jim Farmer, director of Out on Film (and an ArtsATL editor-at-large). “Coming so soon after our record-setting 2022 film festival, I believe our audiences will be quite impressed with this special series.”


Atlanta Ballet will close out its 2022-23 season with a mixed bill comprising two world premieres and a reprise of Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes. If resident choreographer Claudia Schreier’s previous works are any guide, we can expect another thoughtful, musically sophisticated contemporary ballet from her. The second premiere, Significant Others, is by Remi Wörtmeyer, an award-winning choreographer, filmmaker and designer who’s created works for companies such as Dutch National Ballet and Australian Ballet. Significant Others is set to music by Clara and Robert Schumann. The performances will be May 12-14 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. 


The in-person world premiere of choreographer Ana Maria Lucaciu’s “Long Ago and Only Once” for Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre will be in May. (Photo by T.M. Rives)

The pandemic put the Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre premiere of Long Ago and Only Once on hold in 2020; the company launched it instead as a dance film later that year. Now the Ana Maria Lucaciu work is going live at Kennesaw State University’s Marietta Dance Theatre May 6 and 7. Lucaciu is no stranger to Atlanta. She set Alexander Ekman’s Cacti on Atlanta Ballet in 2019 and performed her duet Slightly Off Stage with Nathan Griswold at Windmill Arts Center that same year. Long Ago includes spoken word and lots of humor. 


Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, the Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, Savion Glover — America has produced some of the world’s most singular, talented and innovative tap-dancing stars. The irrepressible Michelle Dorrance is unquestionably on the list. A driving force in tap’s 21st century renaissance, she founded Dorrance Dance in New York in 2011. The company will strut its stuff April 1 at the Rialto Center for the Arts. The work is set to live music composed by Aaron Marcellus who trained at what is now DeKalb School of the Arts in Avondale Estates. He taps too.


ALSO . . . Staibdance launched Atlanta’s first ever multi-cultural dance fest in 2021. It’s back this year with nine companies performing dance and music representing India, Latin America, China, Africa and more. June 2 and 3 at Windmill Arts Center . . . The flamenco festival La Feria ATLANTA takes place April 22 at the Madrid Spanish Taverna in Roswell and includes dance classes as well as performances . . . Italy’s Balletto di Milano brings its two-act ballet Carmen to the Ferst Center on May 2 . . . On April 29 and 30, the 21st Inman Park Dance Festival returns to the Trolley Barn in Inman Park with performances by The Georgia Ballet, Ballethnic Dance Company, Full Radius Dance and more. 

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