By BRITTANY MAHER
MARIETTA, Ga. — Acting as a landmark on historic Marietta Square, the Earl Smith Strand Theatre’s gleaming lights and flashing marquees illuminate Main Street as the smell of buttery popcorn wafts out into the noses of passers-by.
The vibrant theatre thrives with history and entertainment, and the atmosphere alone is enough to draw audiences in. But it’s the magic that takes place behind the red curtains that make theatre on the Marietta Square stand out when it comes to local performing arts.
What began as a major motion picture house in 1935, the Strand Theatre has seen its number of performances come to life both on screen and on stage. Today, local entertainment seekers get to enjoy The Strand in all its glory.
According to The Strand’s website, its mission is to do two things: entertain and educate. And by providing a unique, high-quality venue that lends itself to an assortment of performing arts, films, educational classes, programs and events – The Strand does just that.
Katie Gibson, box office assistant manager at The Strand, has always been enthralled by theatre and performing arts. She sees the arts and the theatre itself as a vital part of the Marietta community. From major musical theatre productions, to Thursday’s open mic night – there’s never a shortage of entertainment.
“I love the theatre, I think it brings people together,” Gibson said. “Arts and theatre are super important – it helps bring a sense of community. There’s always a ton of great events and shows going on to keep things exciting around the Square.”
It’s not just The Strand that keeps performing arts alive on the Square. Alan Kilpatrick is the associate arts director at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, whose studio theatre is also located on Marietta Square.
“We do smaller productions on at the Lyric studio theatre on the Square, things like workshops, children’s classes, children’s theatre, cabaret shows – KSU’s Improv Group performs there as well.”
Once named Best Local Actor by Atlanta Magazine, as well as recently being awarded the Cobb County Ovation Award for excellence in the arts, Kilpatrick is no stranger to local performing arts. As former director of education at Marietta’s Theatre on The Square, he served the community in a number of capacities.
From serving on advisory boards at Marietta City Schools and providing acting classes for at-risk students, to creating Theatre U! for local college students and even teaching performing arts classes to senior citizens – Kilpatrick has spread his knowledge of the arts to just about every corner of the city.
Outside of his extensive community work, Kilpatrick has been known to grace the main stages at The Lyric. He’s appeared in a variety of productions including “Anything Goes,” “Hairspray,” and “The Music Man.” The theatre’s larger productions are held at the Cobb County Civic Center.
“We put on five or six main stage shows a year,” Kilpatrick said. “They’re all big musicals with casts anywhere from 17 to 25 cast members. We’re quite literally the only theatre company in Atlanta that does nothing but musicals.”
William Webb is a seasoned cast member at both the Strand Theatre and the Atlanta Lyric Theatre. He was 23 when he was first casted as a featured soloist. Now with three major productions under his belt, including “The Motown Sound” and “A Christmas Tradition,” the theatre has given him professional opportunities the young actor and singer says he may not have been able to accomplish otherwise.
“They are willing to cast very young people,” Webb said. “Most theatres wouldn’t give kids that young the opportunities to do professional theatre. It gives them a chance that perhaps they wouldn’t get from other theatre groups.”
Aside from performing and working in theatre, Webb enjoys all that encompasses the local theatre on the Square.
“You can’t walk into the theatre and not feel the history,” Webb said. “With Marietta and Cobb growing so fast, it’s awesome to have a place that has been there for 80 years in your backyard. You go there, your mom and dad saw a band there in the’70s, and your grandparents watched movies there. It’s just the cool little piece of small town Americana that we get to call our own.”