Uhry Prepares Ballyhoo for Atlanta's Olympic Arts Fest

Special Features   Uhry Prepares Ballyhoo for Atlanta's Olympic Arts Fest


Two shows unfold before the two million people attending the Olympic Games in Atlanta this summer and only one includes athletes.

The Olympic Arts Festival, running concurrently with the Olympic sporting events, showcases some of the South's best talent in dance, music and theatre, along with performances by internationally-known companies like Great Britain's Royal National Theatre and the Royal Thai Ballet.

In the past three years, as athletes trained for their events, festival coordinators planned their own weeding through over 5,000 proposals from potential performers before selecting 150 groups, which include five theatrical world premieres.

One, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, reunites Atlanta's Alliance Theatre Company with playwright Alfred Uhry (July 20-Aug. 3). Uhry also wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Driving Miss Daisy, which had its southeastern debut at the Alliance's theatre, playing for 664 performances to become the longest-running show in the history of the Company. After the Olympics Uhry's play will launch Alliance's 1996-97 fall season. Alliance also presents Pearl Cleage's Blues for an Alabama Sky (first performed in the spring of 1995) starring Phylicia Rashad (July 18-Aug. 3).

Choosing the Play: When Praying for Sheetrock, an adaptation of Melissa Fay Greene's award-winning novel, fell through in December, the Horizon Theatre Company scrambled for a new play before electing to present an encore version of Lynda Barry's The Good Times Are Killing Me. The show previews at their own theatre July 10-14 before moving five miles to the 14th Street Playhouse for their July 18-21 Olympic performances a beat-the-clock move that must be finished within 24 hours, including their dress rehearsal. The show then travels back to its own theatre for additional performances from July 23-August 4. The Good Times..., first performed by the 12-year-old company in 1993, tells the story of two girls' interracial friendship during a late 1960's summer.

For the 12 dance groups, selecting the right material wasn't always simple either. "The balance is between doing things that are Olympic in appeal that are physically impressive to people and new material," said Jonathan Wolken, founder of Pilobolus. Accordingly, Pilobolus's program varies, from Pseudopodia, one of Pilobolus's earliest pieces consisting of multiple rolling motions with little foot use, to The Doubling Cube, a physical, wide-open romp created about a year ago. Currently celebrating their 25th year, the troupe performs July 24 and 25 just days after their annual one-month engagement at New York's The Joyce Theater.

Olympic Odyssey: "Fly the Friendly Skies" to Atlanta with Delta the official airlines of the Olympics. For reservations, call 1-800-221-1212. For a full schedule of events or to order tickets for the Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad, call 404-744-1996. To make the Festival user-friendly, 37 of the 41 performance venues are in the Olympic ring; purchase of a festival ticket provides free public transportation for that day.

-- Sandra Mardenfeld

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