Catching Up with Atlanta’s Arts Community

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts have taken a severe hit. However, local arts organizations in Atlanta are fighting through. We sat down with some of Atlanta’s premier LGBTQ-friendly theater, music, and arts institutions to discuss how they’re handling the pandemic and what their plans are moving forward.


Alliance Theater

Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director


How did you make it through last year? What kind of struggles have you faced because of COVID-19?
Since shutting down our physical theatre in March of 2020, The Alliance has been in full tilt morph mode. We’ve become producers of digital theatre, streamers of animated film, explorers and exploders of all things Zoom, creators of drive-in theatre staged in shipping containers, and producers of PPE for medical professionals. You name it, we took a swing at it. And there have been some moments of terrific agility and innovation that made me exponentially more proud than I already was of the people with whom I get to work.

Like so many in our community, the non-profit arts world has been hit hard. This year, our earned revenue has been drastically reduced from previous years. Yet, owing to the amazing generosity of Atlanta’s philanthropic community – individual, foundation, and corporate – we are confident that we will weather this landscape.

What are your plans for 2021? What opportunities to enjoy the arts are you offering patrons?  

The Alliance Theatre just announced updates to the second half of our 2020/21 season. We are popping up a tent for the “Under the Tent” series of outdoor performances, and we are also continuing to build on our portfolio of digital content with Alliance Theatre Anywhere, including our new Spotlight Studio featuring new work by local artists.

Following the success of our drive-in production of A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play, the “Under the Tent” series will utilize enhanced COVID safety procedures including open-air performance space, socially distanced seating in two- and four-person pods, contactless entry, and required use of face masks. We have also hired a COVID Coordinator to oversee adherence to all CDC guidelines for our cast, crew, and audiences.

In addition, the Alliance Theatre will be offering both in-person and virtual summer drama camps this year. To promote the health and safety of students and staff, we are taking enhanced safety measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, including temperature screenings, required face masks, frequent hand sanitizing, social distancing, and more. We’re also looking forward to announcing plans for our 2021/22 season later this spring.

Why is maintenance of the arts important during a pandemic?  
There is something really special about artists and audience sharing a common space on a common pursuit to create human community.  The arts, and theater specifically, bring us together in real time to wrestle with the real truths and joys and sorrows of our shared time on this planet.  It’s a vital resource, and there’s not a more crucial time to maintain that connection than this time when we’ve all been separated and isolated for almost a year.

Our Under the Tent series offers inspiring entertainment, socially distanced seating, CDC recommended safety protocols, and – most importantly – a step back toward sharing theatre together as artists and audience. For reasons of emotional health as well as physical health, the entrances to this tent are WIDE open.


Atlanta Freedom Bands

Cliff Norris, Director of Marketing and Development


How did you make it through last year?

We are very grateful for the support of our member donors, patron donors, and the granting agencies from the city, county, and state for providing the funding needed to sustain the organization through the year.  This allowed us to retain our artistic staff and provide our members with ways to stay connected and playing through virtual rehearsals and some outdoor rehearsals in the case of our Color Guard.

What kind of struggles have you faced because of COVID-19?

We were two weeks away from our March 2020 concert and our first big parade of the year when everything shut down.  It has been difficult for our performers to not have that outlet through a year canceled events.  It took a few months to figure out how to rehearse virtually, learning from what our bands in other cities were doing.  In putting together our first virtual concert in December, we learned a lot about licensing very quickly.  Still, it has been a struggle to keep our band family together.  The emotional toll of the pandemic is just so great.  Every day that passes brings us closer to the day when we will have our first in-person rehearsal and concert again.  We just don’t know how many more days are left.

Even with the challenges of the pandemic, we have welcomed six new members.  We take that as an encouraging sign for our future.

What are your plans for 2021?

We are working on virtual concerts for March and June as we await the mass vaccination program.  We hope the fall will see the return of community events like the Beltline Lantern Parade and the Atlanta Pride Festival.  Then we hope to gather again in the concert hall in December.

What opportunities to enjoy the arts are you offering patrons?

Our March 20 concert, “Voices of Equality,” will feature “Unspoken,” a brand-new piece by Katahj Copley, a student composer from the University of West Georgia, that honors the memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others we have lost. The concert itself commemorates and celebrates the work toward equality in our country.

Our Color Guard is preparing several performance videos that we will release throughout the year.

We are reworking our June concert, which was originally planned with a theme of science fiction music.  It would be difficult to put that together in a virtual format, so we are looking at some alternatives.

For December, since it will have been two years since we were last in the concert hall, the theme is “Happy Holidays – All of Them.” We hope to celebrate all the holidays we have missed sharing together along with remembering and celebrating those we have lost.

Why is maintenance of the arts important during a pandemic?

A key reason is that we are all craving the experience of a live, in-person event. We need our arts organizations, performance venues, and artists so we all have something to go back to. The arts are a fundamental part of what makes us human beings. The arts create beauty, challenge our thinking, reflect our emotions, and tell our stories.  Our LGBTQ+ arts organizations and artists have a special role in representing our community to ourselves and the world. They have been a powerful part of our community’s advancement since Stonewall and continue to play a vital role.


Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company

Brandall C. Jones, Connectivity Director


How did you make it through last year? What kind of struggles have you faced because of COVID-19?

Our already innovative team quickly developed new ways to connect and engage with our loyal patrons, while welcoming new audiences. For us, this involved social media initiatives, such as #RealResponses, which provided a platform for artists to showcase creative works in response to the protests in honor of George Floyd, last summer. We also offered various programming virtually, including our Community Conversations series. We kicked off our Joy and Pain season in August of 2020 with “Out of the Shadows: Access to the Arts for Southern, Black LGBTQ,” a conversation in partnership with Counter Narrative Project.

The primary challenge for us, as an organization that has always offered live, in-person theatre, has simply been the inability to connect with our devoted patrons in the way that we have grown accustomed to. We love seeing and speaking with our patrons at our productions. We think of our patrons as family, many of whom have been with us since our founding in the early 2000’s.

What are your plans for 2021? What opportunities to enjoy the arts are you offering patrons? 

2021 will be an exciting year for True Colors Theatre, as we are focusing on amplifying the voices of emerging and mid-career artists for the continuation of our Joy and Pain season. The Next Narrative initiative is our key platform for implementing these opportunities, which includes the New Page Commissions, Dihvinely Konnecked Commissions, and Inside Look. For more information on Next Narrative, we encourage your readers to visit our website at and select the “Our Work” tab.

We are also remaining hopeful that we will be able to safely offer in-person productions starting in the Summer or Fall of this year. Stay tuned!

Why is maintenance of the arts important during a pandemic? 

At True Colors Theatre, we believe that the arts offer more than mere entertainment; the arts are healing and the arts offer a safe space to express and show up as our full selves. Especially in times like this, in which there has been immeasurable suffering and anguish, we need the arts to remain connected to one another, to help us understand one another, and to appreciate the contributions that we all uniquely offer to our communities. As an organization that tells Black stories, we consider our work necessary at this time, perhaps more than ever.


Out Front Theatre Company

Brady Brown, Associate Marketing Director


How did you make it through last year? What kind of struggles have you faced because of COVID-19?

Last year, like for so many, was incredibly hard for us, especially as a non-profit arts organization. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cease all in-person productions immediately. We were actually in the middle of a production that we sadly had to cancel. We also had to furlough a majority of our staff, because our income essentially cut off completely. We still haven’t been able to produce any in-person performances, but we were luckily able to bring our staff back on board and begin producing a variety of virtual offerings.

What are your plans for 2021? What opportunities to enjoy the arts are you offering patrons? 

We are continuing to offer virtual productions worldwide for our patrons! All tickets can be purchased at We have an incredible mix of cabarets, scripted performances, and much more to come! As for the remainder of 2021, we are hopeful and cautiously optimistic to open for in-person performances again at limited capacity. As always, we will listen to the CDC and other qualified organizations before making any sort of decision like that.

Why is maintenance of the arts important during a pandemic? 

The arts have always been a way for us to tell the stories of where we are today and where we are heading tomorrow. Queer art is especially important during this pandemic because it keeps us connected to other human experiences. This pandemic has shuttered a lot of businesses and organizations, so it can feel incredibly lonely and disheartening at times. The ability to continue a relationship with other individuals and organizations through art, even if it is virtual, is such a strong and necessary tool that we have. There is some exceptional queer art being produced all around us right now, and you’ll be amazed once you start to see it.


7 Stages Theatre Company

Heidi S. Howard, Artistic Director

Mack Hendrick, Managing Director


What kind of struggles have you faced because of COVID-19?

MH: We’re coming up on a year now since we’ve had an audience member in our building, which is insane. That alone has been a struggle. Financially, what happened on March 15 is that all of our earned revenue stopped overnight. That was incredibly daunting. We’re only a half-million-dollar organization, so about $250,000 stopped overnight. Thankfully, we have some incredibly generous funders in our community; the only reason we are here today is because of them. All of our artists are having to leave the city, though, because they can’t afford to keep living in the cities, and I’m very worried about that, especially with unemployment running out soon. It’s scary.

What are your plans for 2021? What opportunities to enjoy the arts are you offering patrons? 

HH: We’ve been hosting a service Saturday where we’ve had blood drives, food and clothing donations, and voter registrations. The next one is March 6. All year long, we have a program called Big Read where we have a book that we give out to the community and we hire professional artists to create artistic responses to it. Advice from the Lights is that book.  Stephanie Burt is a trans poet and released this book of poetry telling her coming out stories. We’re curating these artistic responses to culminate into some sort of season finale called Human Lights: A Curious Encounter, which is still planned for June. We have both a virtual and in-person idea of what that finale is going to be.

Why is art essential?

MH: What did people do immediately [after the lock-down]? They went to TV, Netflix, books, and music. That’s all art. If we didn’t have art, I shudder to think where we would be.

HH: If it was art that was holding us together with some kind of hopeful humanity before, just think about what the existence of our reality would be — definitely the fall of Rome! I collected a few answers to this question from our artists. One of the clearest perspectives I’ve heard from them is that art offers us the opportunity to explore instead of consume and make something that’s much better than we had before. We don’t plan on returning to the “normal;” it was not good. In times of change or upheaval, the arts are the only thing that helps us imagine alternative worlds and rebuild our world in the image of our boldest ideals. The arts feed clarity and sustain those ideals. The need for the arts is what our survival depends on.