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Theatrical Outfit will return to the stage — live and in-person — in September with a five-show mainstage season that features a one-person adaptation of Homer’s Iliad, a holiday romp about Sherlock Holmes, titles by Black playwrights Tanya Barfield and Ike Holter, and a reprise of 2018’s popular Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.

Matt Torney, AD Theatrical Outfit, summer 2020

“We looked for stories that resonated with these complicated times,” says artistic director Matt Torney.

“We want to offer Theatrical Outfit as a space to reconnect with one another, and to process the challenging experiences we’ve lived through as a community during the pandemic,” artistic director Matt Torney said in a press release. “We looked for stories that resonated with these complicated times, and also celebrated the extraordinary diversity of our city and the amazing artists who call Atlanta home. From timeless tales of war and resilience to contemporary stories that tackle pressing issues, these plays will explore important questions as we heal and rebuild. All five of the plays are filled with brilliant theatricality that reminds us of the unforgettable power of live theater.”

The Outfit plans to reopen in a COVID-19 safe way that includes a new state-of-the-art air-filtration system and the latest CDC guidelines on a show-by-show basis. In what’s very likely a nod to the reality of the pandemic, the cast sizes of the five productions are small, ranging from one actor for one of the shows, to five in two others.

The Outfit’s 200-seat Balzer Theater at Herren’s downtown has been dark for 18 months, when the pandemic shuttered the run of Paula Vogel’s award-winning backstage drama Indecent.

Here are the 2021–22 details:

Mainstage season

TO 21-22 seasonAn Iliad. SEPTEMBER 15–OCTOBER 10. Creators Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare (the Tony Award-winning actor) reimagined Homer’s tragic poem with theatricality, dark humor and one actor. The Outfit calls it “a sweeping account of humanity’s unshakable attraction to war and the heroes that rise and fall in times of chaos.” An Iliad, which premiered in 2012 at the New York Theatre Workshop, is based on a translation by Robert Fagles. Torney directs, marking his live directing debut at the theater he joined in spring 2020, arriving shortly before the pandemic.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. NOVEMBER 17–DECEMBER 19. Five actors play 40 roles in this 2015 Ken Ludwig whodunit, which the Outfit originally planned to stage in December 2020. In typical Ludwig fashion (Lend Me a Tenor, A Comedy of Terrors, A Fox on the Fairway, etc.), it features clues, disguises and deceit. Atlanta theater artist Melissa Foulger directs.

Bright Half Life. FEBRUARY 2–27, 2022. Tanya Barfield’s romantic drama spans more than 40 years in the relationship of a lesbian couple, exploring the timeless and universal power of love. The New Yorker called it “a well-written, engaging portrayal of smart women finding themselves, and each other.” Bright Half Life isn’t about being gay, Barfield has said. It’s about being alive and in love. The two-actor piece premiered in 2015 at the Women’s Project Theater in New York. No director has been named.

TO 21-22 season

Ike Holter

The Wolf at the End of the Block. MARCH 30–APRIL 24, 2022. This 2017 neo-noir script from Ike Holter is one of seven plays in his Rightlynd Saga, set in Chicago’s fictional 51st Ward. The cycle includes Exit Strategy, which was seen at True Colors Theatre Company in 2016. The Wolf follows a man named Abe, who seeks justice after a mysterious, late-night attack at a boarded-up bar. No director has been named for the five-actor piece.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. JUNE 1–26, 2022. The Outfit’s 2018 staging of this play with music was a highlight of Atlanta’s 2018 season and, happily, Atlanta-based Broadway performer Terry Burrell returns as Billie Holiday (1915–1959). Also returning are director Eric J. Little and music director S. Renee Clark. Lanie Robertson’s 1986 piece takes a riveting look at the jazz and blues legend. It’s set in a seedy Philadelphia bar in 1959 and features 12 of Holiday’s iconic songs, including “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” “God Bless the Child,” “Strange Fruit” and “T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.” The show actually premiered at the Alliance Theatre before playing off-Broadway. It finally reached Broadway in 2014, with Audra McDonald, as Holiday, earning her sixth Tony Award.

TO 21-22 season

Terry Burrell returns as Billie Holiday in a reprise of Theatrical Outfit’s 2018 staging of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.”

The extras

The Outfit said it will continue its focus on new work and community engagement. Its  new-work development program, called Made in Atlanta, will announce two new commissions sometime this year. Its goal is to create a place downtown for artists to tell Atlanta’s stories.

The Unexpected Play Festival, a partnership with Working Title Playwrights, returns sometime in the winter with readings of new plays by Atlanta playwrights.

“One of the many lessons that the pandemic has taught us is the importance of nurturing established relationships and cultivating new ones,” associate artistic director Addae Moon said in the release.  

VIP packages ($100–$450) for the mainstage are on sale via the company’s website or by calling 678.528.1500. Single tickets will go on sale at a later date.

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