Erin Debel and the rest of the cast of “All Shook Up” rehearse dance moves Feb. 13. The performers include, below from left, Lauren Young, Clay Sasser and Rachel All.

By H.M. Cauley

When it comes to casting a show, Patti Mactas has a hard time saying no. The latest challenge for the artistic director of the Act 3 Playhouse in Sandy Springs was turning away talent for a show that required only 10 leads.

Mactas couldn’t do it. So the upcoming production of “All Shook Up” will have its 10 leads — and a supporting cast of 40. But it’s the best way she knows to foster genuine community theater.

“We add in ways that everyone can feel they’ve been featured,” Mactas said. “In this case, we decided not to take anyone under age 10, but there were some 7-year-olds who were really good. So we’ll have a scene with kids at a bus stop, and the male lead will chat with them. It’s truly community theater.”

Mactas first encountered the crowd problem when she was staging a middle school production, and 140 kids turned up to audition for a show that had just seven parts.

“We ended up with 55 and started looking for ways for each one to have their moment,” she said with a laugh. “But the largest cast I ever handled had 93.”

Since Act 3 took up residence in Sandy Springs Plaza a year ago, the numbers have had to be more manageable. The company’s “black box” theater, with no windows, ceilings or support beams, made an ideal but small playhouse where the troupe rehearses and stages its shows. Depending on the production, there’s room for 80 to 140 audience members.

“Since we got the black box, things have really exploded for us,” Mactas said. “It’s a great location for people from all over the area. “

The theater’s success has been thrilling for Mactas, who started the company by teaming with three other middle school moms who wanted to promote drama classes in their children’s schools.

The performers include, from left, Lauren Young, Clay Sasser and Rachel All.

“There were four of us who wanted to put on shows, so they called us ‘the Drama Mamas,’” she said. “It made acting cool and really changed the way kids thought of acting. Since then, we’ve had improv groups and workshops for younger kids, and this summer, we’ll be doing summer camps again.”

Act 3 has also gained a following in the community by staging a mix of dramas, comedies and musicals. Its latest offering,“All Shook Up,” is a musical production that blends classic Elvis numbers with themes from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” It is set in 1955.

“The lead shows up on a motorcycle and tries to turn a dreary town upside down,” Mactas said. “There’s a lot of Elvis music. But it’s also a takeoff on ‘Twelfth Night’ – a young woman falls for this guy who’s in love with someone else in town, so she dresses up as a guy to spend more time with him but manages to get him to fall in love with her, even though he thinks he’s fallen in love with a man.”

Don’t worry, says Mactas. As with most Shakespearean love stories, all’s well that ends well.