By John Schaffner

“I am absolutely thrilled,” said Mayor Eva Galambos reacting to the new 200-seat community theater that will open in January in the Sandy Springs Plaza shopping center. “It is the beginning of performing arts in Sandy Springs—something we have been sorely lacking.”

The mayor’s reaction to the 4,000-square-foot theater, which will be run by Act 3 Productions, is typical of other city officials and members of the local arts community who feel it shows the city is growing up.

“I think the community theater is a wonderful addition to Sandy Springs,” said City Council member Tibby DeJulio, who fought side-by-side with Galambos for some 30 years to make Sandy Springs a city.

“It shows how Sandy Springs is maturing as a first-class community,” DeJulio added. “It will help the city gain more culture and arts. It is wonderful to have a positive thing like this take place in the heart of our city.”

The new theater—which is scheduled to host its first production, the musical, “Striking 12” on Jan. 7-9—will be located on the north end of the shopping center, directly behind the Henri’s Bakery and Pier 1 stores, according to the shopping center owner Jan Saperstein.

Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins echoed the sentiments saying, “I am ecstatic to have a community theater in Sandy Springs. It is a wonderful thing to have in the middle of the city.”

Jenkins said that she was approached by Saperstein, who lives in Cobb County and is a board member with Act 3 Productions. He told Jenkins that the theater company, which has nurtured student talent, needed to move out of Cobb. “He said he wanted to give them a home in a black-box theater at Sandy Springs Plaza,” Jenkins explained.

Act 3 Productions is a two-year-old 501 C-3 organization which is the outgrowth of a team that has produced 13 sold-out musicals in East Cobb over the past 10 years. It started when the Dickerson Middle School PTSA approached a couple of students’ moms to see if they would consider directing the school’s first play, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

That brought together the team of Artistic Director Patti Mactas, Musical Director Lyn Taylor, Choreographer Hohnna Mitchell, Producer Susan Anderson and Technical Director Theresa Dean with the goal of finding ways to feature as many students as possible on and behind stage “to achieve excellence in performance, production quality and team work.”

“Act 3 has been doing great theater work in East Cobb County for years working with the area schools,” Saperstein said.

“I have never seen anything like the community support this opportunity has created,” he added, referring to the reaction he received to suggesting moving Act 3 to Sandy Springs.

Jenkins explained that she approached fellow City Council member Diane Fries Kim Hughes of Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism, and the leadership of the Sandy Springs Society, that oversees Arts Sandy Springs “which ties in well with the community theater,” Jenkins said. “They all have gotten behind the project.”

The shopping center developer is paying most of the cost for building out the theater in what had been a metal building used primarily for storage.

Saperstein said he understands the facility also will be used for open-mike nights and some improvisation theater events.

“Striking 12,” a witty pop/rock/jazz musical that weaves together three New Year’s stories and settings, features a cast of students from 16 different schools. It premieres at 8 p.m. on Jan. 7 and will show on Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 9 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Act 3 also plans five additional productions from late February through mid-July.

Galambos said she hopes to be able to attend the opening-night performance.

Asked if the city is investing any money in the new theater, Galambos said funding of the arts is the responsibility of the county government.

However, she added that if the county wanted to relinquish that responsibility to the individual communities and roll back the taxes proportionately, “I am sure most of the communities would love to have the opportunity to decide on their own funding of arts and culture.”