First Person: Losing Georgia Shakespeare marks the loss of a way of life

Martha Nodar in the lobby of the Conant Performing Arts Center.
Martha Nodar in the lobby of the Conant Performing Arts Center.

By Martha Nodar

As a long-time Atlanta resident, I recall Georgia Shakespeare’s early beginnings and its arrival in the late 1990s at the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University. Conant hosted Georgia Shakespeare’s theater productions and administrative offices, and it continues to serve the university theater programs and academic events.

In the summer of 2000, I joined Georgia Shakespeare’s volunteer corps at the suggestion of a friend. I had my first volunteer meeting in a little room nestled between the doors leading to the lobby and the doors leading to the theater where we used to gather before each performance.

As a volunteer usher, I helped patrons with their tickets and with finding their seats. Sometimes I also helped in the concession stand. During performances, we had to listen for a cue — a sentence in an actor’s speech — to know when to quietly leave our seats in time to return to our posts before intermission.

I witnessed the festival provide young actors with an opportunity to gain further experience with their craft while the community supported their professional development. Known for its modern versions of Shakespeare’s plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Georgia Shakespeare tried to highlight themes of love, loss and struggles in relationships which are quintessentially human and are relevant in today’s world.

Having Georgia Shakespeare at the Oglethorpe campus meant having a convenient place for Oglethorpe students and the nearby community to enjoy a top-level theatrical performance in the neighborhood at an affordable price.

I cherish the time I volunteered at the festival. I miss the chatting of patrons coming to the lobby for intermission. I miss sitting in the theater, absorbed in my own thoughts and enjoying the performance. The lobby is quiet now. Everyone is gone.

Shakespeare said it best: “All the world’s a stage.” We enter and exit experiences and each other’s lives, sometimes for a moment and sometimes longer, but everything is temporary.

Gone are the festival’s actors and staff. I grieve the loss of an era, the loss of continuity, the loss of memories of younger days. Losing this nonprofit neighborhood theater marks the loss of a way of life.

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