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Atlantic Stage: Changing the 'Cultural Landscape' of Theatre

By Kelly Church

Founded in 2008 by a group of theatre artists from the Myrtle Beach, SC area and working all over the region, Atlantic Stage has become a hub for professional theatre in the area. Through offering professional theatre productions, Atlantic Stage works to improve the "cultural landscape" of the area. According to Producing Artistic Director, and founding member, Thom Penn, the reach of the company has expanded over the last seven years of production to have more than 300 annual subscribers and more than 5,500 unique visitors.

"As a professional theatre, we provide artistic opportunities not only to local community members, but we also regularly employ local, regional, national, and international professional actors, designers, and directors in order to offer the finest in enlightening and entertaining theatrical experiences to our audiences," says Penn.

The staff at Atlantic Stage is a small group of actors with decades of experience. Many of them have worked all over the country, not just in South Carolina, and have long resumes filled with musical theatre, Shakespeare and drama. Several company members have, and still do, taught theatre at schools and universities around the country.

"Theatre reveals the truth of the human experience," Penn says. "Film and television can do that, too, but theatre happens live. The actors and the technicians and the audience are all living, breathing people sharing the same space at the same time while extraordinary stories are being lived on stage."

To help spread their love of theatre, Atlantic Stage offers education programs to the community. Acting classes, playwriting courses and apprenticeships are available to community members and high school students. Teaching the tricks of the trade, these educational courses are taught by the Atlantic Stage professional theatre staff, giving students the best opportunity to learn with a passionate teacher. These courses provide insight into what the theatre staff puts into each performance.

"There's something powerful and irreplaceable about crying or laughing (or just feeling anything) communally and deeply with a roomful of fellow passengers on this journey we call life," Penn says. "Theatre asks big questions and opens dialogues about them. It becomes a forum for the public discussion and debate of ideas that matter to us all."

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