Atlanta theater group Found Stages is changing the way Atlantans enjoy theater, embracing unconventional performance spaces and technology and eschewing traditional sets and costumes.
Founder Nichole Palmietto believes performing outside of the typical theater model exposes new people to theater. “A lot of people who are drawn to the work don’t identify themselves as theater patrons,” Palmietto said. “We hope that we can be that theatrical home for people who don’t already have one and to grow the Atlanta theater audience even more.”
This summer, Found Stages will return to the Dunwoody Nature Center where they performed their first play in 2014. The nature center’s new glass enclosed pavilion will be transformed to a stage for the Wine and Reading series held on the first Sunday of each month June through November. At 2 p.m., wine will be served, listeners will take their seats and plays by nationally recognized playwrights will be read by professional actors. The hour-long plays have never been read or performed in Atlanta, and with stage directions guiding their imaginations, many audience members will try their hand at directing and set design for the first time.
“Listening is fun because you get to use your imagination more. You don’t have light or sounds or setting,” Palmietto said. “It’s an opportunity to get a preview of what a production would look like because you are meeting embodied characters, but there is a lot of room for the audience to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.”
Texas native Palmietto moved to Atlanta for a directing internship with Actor’s Express and quickly joined the city’s theater community. After Palmietto kept bumping into Found Stages’ co-founder Neeley Gossett at local productions, the two had coffee, discovered they had a similar goal to create unique plays and began Found Stages. Since then, the duo has partnered with artists who work professionally at theaters and educational institutions all across Atlanta, including the Atlanta History Center and Georgia State University-Dunwoody Campus.
“In Atlanta, people are so willing to give you a chance. I’ve never had anyone say no to coffee, even if they didn’t know me, and people are genuinely supportive of each other. You can be friends with the theater community and feel like you have a home here. I don’t know if you’d get that many other places,” Palmietto said.
Found Stages is embarking on a new digital platform for their plays and is currently researching the technology needed to produce a play that will be delivered through text messages. Palmietto participated in a text message play by Physical Plant Theater in Austin and was hooked. The six-month long play unfolded as characters texted back and forth and audience members received messages from different characters.
Found Stage’s own Gossett is writing a digital play inspired by Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” in celebration of the book’s bicentennial. The play, A Year Without Summer, refers to the year Mary Shelley penned the book, the same year a volcano erupted and the ecology of the world took a shift.
“Even though you are going on the adventure alone, you are all the same character and have the same lens into it,” Palmietto said. “Our hope is that this theater experience will inspire new conversations with people.”
For more information, visit foundstages.org.