The Suzi Bass Awards have announced Theatre in the Square, founded by Michael Horne and Palmer Wells, as the recipient of this year's Spirit of Suzi Award. The Spirit of Suzi Award recognizes a person or organization that demonstrates the long-term and consistent contribution to Atlanta theatre that embodies the spirit of the late and much-loved actress Suzi Bass, for whom the Awards organization is named.
Long a cultural staple of Marietta and north Atlanta, Theatre in the Square was founded in 1982 by Palmer Wells and the late Michael Horne. A partnership of business and art, the two men started by gathering a dedicated group of volunteers to help them produce plays in a small space next to the Marietta train depot. That original group also included long-time house manager Gene Bradley who stuck with Theatre in the Square throughout its 30-year run. When Michael Horne died in 1996 after a long illness, Palmer and core artists continued producing. By 1998, Theatre in the Square had added professional artistic staff to complement Mr. Wells’ continued work as producer, and expanded again to hire management staff as the size of the non-profit and its offerings grew. Building the Alley Stage as an alternate performance space for edgier fare, diversifying play content, and adding theatre classes and day performances for schools ensured that Theatre in the Square could reach as many in the community as possible.
Theatre in the Square hired its actors from the beginning, and quickly grew to
using member of Actors’ Equity in 1986. In fact Suzi Bass, for whom the Suzi Awards are named, was of their first Equity professionals. Theatre in the Square at its peak became the largest non-profit in Cobb county, utilizing a dozen staff members and hiring more than 140 theatre artists annually. Volunteers on the board of directors and in the Premiere Club gave countless hours to assist in the mission of the theatre throughout its thirty years. Most telling though is the impact that Theatre in the Square had on the community: a loyal audience base of 3200 subscribers were only a portion of the more than 50,000 people served each year, and Cobb County and the businesses on the Square saw additional tourism revenue of approximately $750,000 a year due to Theatre in the Square’s existence.
In voting to close down, the board of directors decided the theatre was unable to retire debt and maintain sufficient cash flow to finish the 30th Anniversary season. The news dealt a huge blow to the Atlanta theatre community of professionals and patrons, but Theatre in the Square staff focused their final days of work on tending to patrons by arranging ticket exchanges with other non-profit arts organizations. The Suzi Bass Awards is proud to recognize Theatre in the Square with the Spirit of Suzi Bass Award in honor of its 30 years of enthusiasm for artistic excellence, commitment to professional artists and responsibility to its audience and community.