Four Atlanta Artistic Directors to Watch this Season
Audiences are filling into theaters, watching the creativity and professionalism our city cultivates.
With its iconic street art scene, historically rich musical tapestry, and affordable cost of living – Atlanta continues to attract a wealth of artistic and creative talents – including those in the theatrical arts.
Years ago, talented individuals inclined to a career in theater migrated north to New York, bypassing Atlanta’s arts community. But now- with the city’s exponential growth and opportunities – Atlanta is a hub of talent and welcomes back returning natives who spread their talents to other cities. Atlantans are now able to reap these rewards with new and invigorated theatrical and artistic offerings throughout the cities and in the suburbs. SocialAtlanta connected with the city’s top artistic directors to give you a look at what you can expect this season.
Tinashe Kajese-Bolden | Artistic Director the Alliance Theater
This season, directing projects at the Alliance Theater include the World Premiere of Furlough’s Paradise and the Broadway bound new musical The Preachers Wife inspired by the motion picture film starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington. “I am so excited about the diversity of Directors who are helming our stories,” says Kajese-Bolden. The artistic innovation spans a global aspiration from our Iranian director Shadi Ghaheri who opened the season with English to recent Tony Award Winner and Nominees Michael Arden, Stevie Walker Webb and Jess Stone. What’s more Atlanta is represented with local artists Cailtlin Hargraves and former Atlantan resident Leora Morris, while and Mark Valdez will delight audiences with the theater’s longest running family show Into the Burrrow. “Representation matters,” says Kajese-Bolden “and I am so proud to bring their staggering talent and experience to our stage.”
Originally from Zimbabwe, Kajese-Bolden combines her commitment to great art, deep education and community empowerment with an agile enthusiasm and unflappable, calm energy to inspire new possibilities. Kajese-Bolden honed her directing and producing skills as a freelance director working in regional houses across the country and as the inaugural BOLD Women’s Leadership Associate Artistic Director at the Alliance Theatre. As a director and actor, she fosters deep ongoing collaborations with playwrights, and has mounted many innovative and critically acclaimed productions that merge elegant, theatrical designs with complicated human stories.
Kajese-Bolden is a Princess Grace Award 2019 Winner for Directing, and Map Fund Award recipient to develop her devised new work ALL SMILES centering the experience of children on the Autism Spectrum. As a director and actor, she has worked On + Off Broadway as well as recurring roles on TV/Film Strays (currently in theaters) Guardians of the Galaxy: Xmas Special, Suicide Squad, Marvel’s Hawkeye, CW’s Valor, Dynasty, HBO’s Henrietta Lacks, Ava Duverney’s Cherish the Day among others.
She proudly serves on the ARTS- ATL Artist Advisory Council, saying “My mission is the pursuit of what connects our different communities and how we create art that liberates us to imagine a more inclusive future.”
Peter Hardy | Founding Artistic Director of The Essential Theater
Essential Theatre does not produce year-round, says Hardy, instead focusing its efforts on the annual Essential Theatre Play Festival, which is held in summer to feature all new work by Georgia playwrights. The 2024 Festival marks it’s 25th anniversary, and the theater has received over 100 submitted plays from writers all over the state — a record-breaking number. Those scripts are currently being read and evaluated. Meanwhile, the recently completed 2023 Festival, performing at 7 stages was well-attended, says Hardy Festival we’ve had in years, proving that audiences are really starting to come back to theaters again, post-Covid.
Hardy has been living in Atlanta, Georgia since 1986, working as an actor, director and playwright. He served as Artistic Director of the outdoor drama UNTO THESE HILLS in North Carolina during the summers from 1990 through 2005. His own plays have won awards from the Festival of Southern Theatre and the New Southern Theatre Festival and have been chosen for development at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, the Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival and Theatre Emory’s Brave New Works program.
Ariel Fristoe | Founder and Artistic Director of the Out of Hand Theater
In February, Out of Hand Theater is producing a world premiere about Georgia’s Divisive Concepts law in partnership with the ACLU, says Fristoe. This is about the law the teacher in Marietta just got fired over for reading a picture book about gender expression to her class, which she bought at the schoolbook fair. The theater commissioned Atlanta-native playwright Paris Crayton III to write it, and it’s one of the theater’s “Shows in Homes,” performed in a different living room every night, with a cocktail party and a community conversation with the ACLU.
Fristoe is winner of The New York Times Best Theater of 2020 and the Governor’s Award in the Arts and Humanities 2021. She uses the tools of theater to advance social justice through programs that combine theater and film with information and conversation. Ariel produces Equitable Dinners—city-wide conversations on racial equity over dinner, launched by short plays—and Shows in Homes addressing social justice issues. Through Creative Kids, she helps close the opportunity gap for low-income students through free school programs. Ariel is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, Regional Leadership Institute and Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta, and a LINK Trip delegate. The AJC named her an Everyday Hero in 2022. She teaches Arts Management at Emory.
Gennadi Nedvigin | Artistic Director of The Atlanta Ballet
Atlanta Ballet highly anticipates its North American premiere of Coco Chanel: The Life of a Fashion Icon on the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre stage; and hot on that show’s heels will be world premieres by choreographer-in-residence Claudia Schreier and company dancer Sergio Masero and exciting works by choreographers Juliano Nunes and Garrett Smith.
In 2016, Nedvigin was named Atlanta Ballet’s fourth artistic director in the Company’s then 87- year history. He was born in Rostov, Russia and began his training at age 5. At 10 years-old, he was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Upon graduating, he joined Moscow Renaissance Ballet, as a soloist, before he was invited to dance with Le Jeune Ballet de France in Paris.
In 1997, while on tour in the U.S., San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson offered Nedvigin a soloist contract. After three years, he was promoted to principal dancer. There, Nedvigin won the International Competition’s Erik Bruhn Prize (1999). He has also received three Isadora Duncan Dance Awards (2001, 2010 and 2017). Along the way, Nedvigin says he was fortunate to work with many world-renowned choreographers. In addition to his dancing career, Nedvigin also taught master classes and staged ballets in the U.S. and abroad before becoming an artistic director.
Recently, Nedvigin sat on juried panels at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, the International Ballet Competition held in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Youth America Grand Prix. Under Nedvigin’s guidance, Atlanta Ballet has established the Academy training program, which includes a top-tier performance ensemble, Atlanta Ballet 2 represents his commitment to training for the next generation of professional dancers.