The Stage Door Players, Dunwoody’s professional theater company, closed its celebratory 45th season just a few weeks ago. Now it’s heading straight into Season 46, which debuts Sept. 20 with “The Savannah Sipping Society,” the story of four women from different parts of the South, who are thrown together by fate and a hot-yoga class. Plenty of laughs are in store with this opening production and with several more during the season.

In November “A Nice Family Gathering,” a prequel to last season’s holiday hit, “A Nice Family Christmas,” finds the Lundeen family on Thanksgiving Day and the first family gathering since the patriarch died. Family dynamics and Dad’s return as a ghost keep the laughs coming.

The classic drama “The Glass Menagerie,” a memory play by Tennessee Williams, comes to the stage in January. The narrator, Tom, leads the audience through the story of his family: his fragile, disabled sister Laura who spends much of her time with her collection of glass animals; his mother Amanda and his own role in their lives.

“The Outsider,” a regional premiere of a sharp satirical, political comedy about an unlikely gubernatorial candidate follows in March.
In May, the musical, “The 25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee” sees six quirky adolescents compete in the bee, run by three equally quirky grown-ups. Audience members, take note: You may be tapped to help out in the bee.

The season closes in July with “The Fox on the Fairway,” a madcap farce set in a snobbish, upscale country club. A parody and tribute to man’s love affair with golf, it will be directed by Egizio.

First up on the playbill is “The Savannah Sipping Society.” The humor and one-liners keep the laughs coming throughout the play. And no wonder.

The playwrights, Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, were the writers for the TV series “The Golden Girls.” The play made its debut in Buford, Ga. in 2016.

“It’s a play for everyone,” said Producing Artistic Director Robert Egizio. “A lot of the women in our audiences may recognize themselves; both women and men will recognize someone they know. And men may get some insight about how women talk about them.”

Stage Door Players has a small theater with 125 seats in a half-round configuration of low-rise, red, comfy seats. Egizio noted a big plus is that all the seats have great stage views. “The joy of an intimate theater is authenticity,” he said. “Audiences really can feel like they are part of the story rather than watching from a distance, and, at times, they actually become part of the story.”

The size of the stage – 36 feet by 22 feet –dictates what can be performed as does backstage space. Actors and stage crew slip by each other in a narrow corridor behind black curtains surrounding the stage. “In choosing productions, we have a long list of considerations in addition to the physical space of the stage and backstage. Most important are our audiences and the actors who perform here,” said Egizio.

Founded in 1974 as a Community Improvement Project of the Dunwoody Woman’s Club, Stage Door Players performed in various locations until 1988, when it found a permanent home in the North DeKalb Cultural Center in Dunwoody.

The transformation of Stage Door Players from a small community theater in 1974 to an award-winning professional company can be attributed largely to Egizio’s arrival on the scene in 2004.

Robert Egizio, the producing artistic director at Stage Door Players.

Egizio was bitten by the theater bug early on and graduated from Temple University Theater School in Philadelphia. Over the years, he has worked and performed around the country and he has called Atlanta home for more than 20 years. His network is extensive. He was worked as director, choreographer and actor in most of Atlanta’s theaters.

What drew him to Stage Door Players? “I saw so much potential in this theater when I first came here in 2003 as director and choreographer for ’Dames at Sea’ and returned the following year to direct and choreograph ‘Ain’t Misbehavin,’ which won the theater’s annual Woodie award for Best Show of the Year,” he said.

That success led to an invitation to join Stage Door Players as its first full-time producing artistic director. “When I signed on, we gave each other a season to see if we were a good fit. And here I am in my 16th season. It’s been a long steady growth,” Egizio said.

“I don’t have a formula, but I love shows that are character-driven, family-driven and friendship-driven. We build our season with a combination of popular, new and lesser-known shows and include comedies, classic dramas, musicals and a premiere,” he said.

When Egizio came on board, the company had a loyal following of about 238 subscribers. By his tenth year, it had grown to more than 1,200. In its 45th anniversary season, the players counted nearly 1,400 season ticket subscribers.

About 10,000 people come to the six-play season, said Debbie Fuse, executive director of Stage Door Players. “Keep in mind that we’re a 125-seat theater, and that number pretty much maxes out our space.” In total some 12,000 visitors come to the theater each year with all events, such as readings, cabarets and special shows.

Stage Door Players is presenting several special events during October for Dunwoody’s Art & Culture Month, orchestrated by Discover Dunwoody. A Playwright Works in Progress Play reading is scheduled for Oct. 2, as part of a series throughout the year, and on Oct. 8, actor Elliot Folds of “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” takes the stage for a one-man show.

Stage Door Players
2019-2020 season
5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody

The Savannah Sipping Society
Sept. 20 – Oct. 13

A Nice Family Gathering
Nov. 22 – Dec. 8

The Glass Menagerie
Jan. 24 – Feb. 16

The Outsider
Mar. 20 – Apr. 12

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
May 22 – June 14

The Fox on the Fairway
July 17 – Aug. 9

–Judith Schonbak