Welcome to Atlanta
Earlier this year I was given a task of writing a 10 minute play in 24-hours with Working Title Playwrights. Then, I was invited to write 2 one minute plays for OMPF. As typical of Southern hospitality, I now owe a gift. So, in honor of the inaugural Atlanta One-Minute Play Festival, a proper introduction is in order. Consider this your official “Welcome to Atlanta”, as Jermaine Dupri would say.
Welcome to Atlanta – a Metropolitan City with a distinctly Southern small town ambiance. Here, peaches are the fruit of choice, grits are both a staple and “Girls Raised in the South” and the boiled peanuts will make you a believer. Housing the World’s busiest airport is as normal as the Soul Food we cook at home. Seeing Civil Rights icons and A-D list celebrities are about as common as sweet tea and getting pre-screening movie passes is a matter of walking into a grocery store at just the right time. Complete strangers can make you feel like a friend when they say “Hello” in passing on the sidewalk or embrace you with a familiar hug following a business meeting. The “Battle of the Bands” could be a showcase from your favorite 5 piece garage group, legendary jazz soloists who happened walk into the bar or a competition between 90 degree angle, high stepping Marching Bands. The summers are scorching hot and the clothing colors are just as bright. The suburbs, as long as they are only 20 miles out, are still considered apart of the fold.
Here, we have no problem driving 30 minutes to get somewhere…that is unless you get caught in rush hour traffic. Then, a GPS to show you the street way comes in real handy. Crossing class and racial lines is as easy as staying on the main road and waiting for the street name to change. You can see a Rolls Royce and a melon sorbet painted Cadillac Cutlass Supreme riding side by side down Northside Drive. Atlanta is where Peachtree is a city, Street, Road, Circle, Avenue – and every last one goes in different a direction. We have mountains, valleys, rivers, forests, battlefields and legendary bridges all within the city limits.
Old Atlanta is everywhere with bronze markers of Civil War battles and murals on sides of building preserving the memories of historical neighborhoods. There are homes like the Swan House (behind the Atlanta History Center), the Hammond House and Herndon Home and centers like the Jimmy Carter Center, Woodruff Arts Center (the home of the High Museum of art and Tony Award Winning Alliance Theater). The smaller towns like Marietta, Hapeville, Norcross, East Point, College Park and Roswell still have their own Main Streets and storefront restaurants, train depots – though many now defunct – and squares.
Finding a 20+ aged native Atlantan is an anomaly (fortunately for everyone reading this article, you’ve met one – me!). You’d have to look in the Speakeasys in old gas stations, in museums and back alley art galleries on Walker and Peters Streets at noon or downtown Decatur for dinner. We’ll pop up for any barbeques or Festivals – Decatur Book, Dogwood, National Black Arts, Renaissance, Jazz, Little Five Points, Halloween Parade, Sweet Auburn, Bronner Bros or Talijah Waajid Hair Expos. We love homegrown health food stores like Life’s Essentials and we’re crazy about the Dekalb Farmer’s Market. We also show up to churches on Sunday, and in some cases, Saturday, morning – just choose your corner. We’re die hard Hawks, Braves, Dream, Falcons fans and will often have a backup team in mind in case we get knocked out the playoffs early. The drawl may still come out if it’s not mixed company – if you listen carefully, a “f” may replace the “th” on the end of “truth” and a “shawty” or “sweetheart” may slip out.
Atlanta is what you make of “it”. And once you’ve found “it”, you’ll always be in the rotation. You can find the best of any variety of food and living spaces, often times in formerly macabre factories renovated to incorporate modern styles. The boutiques are affordable and you’re likely to get a glass of wine while trying on that new shirt or waiting for your wax. There is no failure here – you may get severely burned in the process, but there’s always the chance to rise up like the Phoenix and build a new opportunity on top of the old one. If you get real good at it, you’ll preserve that old idea and make it the Underground Mall.
If you want good theater, start in the community center, garages, at the Universities and the performance arts centers like Southwest, West End, Fulton County, and Porter Sanford with community theater companies such as New African Grove Theater Company. Then revisit your favorite restaurant and look around the corner for places like the Horizon, Buckhead Theater and Theatrical Outfit to Actor’s Express, Dad’s Garage and the Center for Puppetry Arts. And if you want to diversify your theatrical experience, go to a concert, dance recital or be an extra on a video/ movie shoot.
Atlanta’s not slow, she just takes a little longer to incorporate the contemporary works and ideas with her legendary tradition. She’s persistent and proud, straightforward with her disproval but still asks we respectfully pull over to the side for a funeral procession. In some areas she may seem like an oxymoron; it’s actually her way of finding a complete balance. We do sometimes teeter a little back and forth – it takes a little time to level it all off the right way.
So welcome to my home – just remember to “Eat More Chicken” and never mention the name of that other cola that starts with a “P”.
– Amina S. McIntyre
The First Atlanta One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with Actor’s Express will take place Sunday June 10th and Monday June 11th at 8PM. Tickets are $20 and availablehere. The Monday June 10th Performance will be livestreamed on New Play TV.