Horizon Theatre Blog

Horizon Welcomes New Managing Director

Thomas Fowlkes joins the Horizon Theatre Company

Headshot 3-8-12 Low Res

ATLANTA –After three years of searching, Horizon Theatre Company is proud to welcome Thomas Fowlkes as the new Managing Director. Thomas is an Atlanta native with a vast experience in arts administration and community building.  “He had a persistence about him that is critical to the job,” notes Co-Artistic Director Lisa Adler. “I am very confident he is the right person for the job.”  Managing Director is a critical position to the executive branch of Horizon, and the board and staff were deliberate in their search for the right candidate. “I would rather have the position open than give it to the wrong person,” Adler stated, and that mindset was evident in her evaluation of each candidate.  With Thomas joining the staff, Horizon is excited about the possibilities for 2016 and beyond.

Thomas was most recently Creative Manager at Jamestown, LP where he was a key member in the creation of the rooftop experience opening soon at Ponce City Market. Prior to joining the development initiative, he was the Director of Production for the Atlanta Ballet. This allowed this Atlanta native to reintegrate into Atlanta after a successful career in New York with Charles Cosler Theatre Design, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and Barbizon Electric Company. Before his time in New York, Thomas worked with the Tony Award-wining Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago as their Director of Production where he helped orchestrate their move into their new home on Michigan Ave. In Chicago, his lighting design won him acclaim at the Chicago After Dark Awards, but his designs have been seen in New York, Houston, and on tour across the country.  Thomas received his education from Rice University, along with specific training for Nonprofit Management from the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. With a proven track record of joining an organization and bringing innovation and growth, Thomas was the natural choice for Managing Director.


Review: When Bibliophile Met I-Pad


Atlanta Theatre Buzz

4/3/2016       SEX WITH STRANGERS                                      Horizon Theatre

****½  ( A )


Olivia is snowbound in a writer’s retreat with popular blogger Ethan.  #SexEnsues  #BlizzardsRule

Ethan’s blog is about Sex With Strangers, chronicling anonymous hook-ups and inevitable abandonment.  #OMG  #CreepAlert

Olivia is the author of a single novel, well-received but basically unread.  She loves books, their feel, their smell.  Is skeptical of E-Books.  #OMG  #BibliophileAlert

Ethan loves Olivia’s book and posts it anonymously on-line.  It rides the coat-tails of his popularity and makes Olivia’s pseudonym a hot commodity.  #OliviasHot

Olivia’s second book is even better than the first.  A movie of Ethan’s Book of Blogs will probably be as bad as expected.  #ItsAllAboutCasting

A prestigious publisher wants Olivia’s book, but only as an E-Book prototype.  Olivia wants a hard-bound physical version.  But there’s incentive.  #BigBucksRule

A plot complication remains unsaid.  #SpoilerPolice  But it does strike at the heart of the E-Book vs Physical Book debate.  #CantBurnAnEBook  #CantButtDeleteAHardCover

What About Love?  Can words on a page lead to love?  Or hate?  #Duh

The delectable Megan Hayes returns as Olivia.  She’s Perfect.  And there are no Mutt-Monkeys to fight (Ethan excepted).  #MeganCatchingFire #HayesOnFire

Michael Shenefelt is Ethan.  Charming.  Creepy.  Also Perfect.  #ItsAllAboutCasting

Two Sets by Moriah & Isabel Curley-Clay.  One Snowbound Cabin.  One Apartment.  Both Filled with Personality. Both Perfect.  #DetailDevils

Jeff Adler directs.  Also Perfect.  #AdlersAlwaysDeliver

Summing up?  Words are Foreplay.  Words are Process.  Words are Climax.  Words matter more than Sex.  And Sex matters.  IMHO?  Words need to be touched. And smelled.   #ElectronicSensuality #Oxymoron

IMHO?  Reading an E-Book is an empty experience.  Like sex without touch or smell or taste. Like Sex With Strangers,  But, as empty experiences go, it’s not bad.  #WoodyAllenJoke

Laura Eason’s “Sex With Strangers” at Horizon?  A Not-Empty Experience.  It touches the heart and the mind and the libido.  #KeyWord  #Touches

— Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com    @bk_rudy    #HorizonTheatre  #LauraEason  #SexWithStrangers)

Raising Awareness for Atlanta Arts

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Collins Goss.

Where do you work and what do you do? I work as the Development Manager for the Horizon Theatre Company. I am in charge of all of Horizon’s fundraising efforts, including the annual fund, major gifts, foundation grants, government contracts for services, and special events. I also work closely with our Board of Directors, and I do a chunk of the project management work for Horizon’s community-based projects.With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Collins Goss.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Honestly, I never really had a set goal. Most kids would list teacher, nurse, vet, doctor, but I never had a specific thing that I knew I wanted to do.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? I loved to read growing up, so most of my favorite artists were writers. I could not get enough of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series as a teenager. I really, really loved classic lit like Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, Peter Pan, Little House on the Prairie, etc.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? I have been so lucky to have had several wonderful influencers and mentors. I had two teachers in high school who blew my world wide open: one was from South Africa and one was from Queens. They somehow ended up teaching in South Georgia where I grew up, and they exposed me to a world much larger than I had known. My biggest influences, though, are definitely my parents. In my completely unbiased opinion, they are the greatest people on earth who give and love unconditionally and who get up every day to make the world better even when it is really hard and no one says thank you. They taught (and still teach) me so many things, but “thank you” was a big one. Everyone is worthy of your attention and gratitude no matter who they are.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work? I took dance lessons from preschool through high school. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it and still enjoy being a dance patron. I got into theatre the way a lot of kids do: my friends in high school were in the one act play and spring musical. I wanted in on the fun too. The alternative was playing basketball or jumping hurdles, and no one wants me to do either one. Yikes. I think I started unofficially working in some aspect of arts admin in high school and just never stopped. I am still not quite sure how that happened.

How is art a passion for you? Art is something that you can enjoy all of your life, and there is always a new show, art form, or artist to discover. The ability to keep discovering is what makes art a passion for me.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts? I work in an office of all women, and this has been the norm in most of my jobs in arts admin. I don’t know if that is typical or not, but I think it is awesome. Working in the arts full time is not easy. The hours can be long and the days frustrating, but women get stuff done and totally defy the odds. :)

Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park

Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park

What in your profession has  given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again? The first thing that comes to mind is working on Theatre in the Park last summer. Horizon produced Avenue Q in Piedmont Park for a five night run in June 2015. That’s right. We produced a full scale Broadway musical outside in the middle of Atlanta in June with 28 puppets, a band, and 11 actors. Most of the tickets were given away for free, and we had more than 7700 people join us in the park that week. Moments like this are the reason I got into this business. All these people from all over the Atlanta area left their houses and Netflix to come outside, sit on a blanket, eat a picnic, and watch puppets sing about growing up and finding their purpose. Would I do it again? Heck yes.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta? Atlanta artists and administrators just make it happen in Atlanta, and their work is amazing. No one seems to take no for an answer, and I think that is pretty cool. There has been a lot of talk about Atlanta’s public art scene, and I am really excited to see what comes out of this. We have tons of space that could benefit from an art intervention: the Little Five Points plaza (Horizon is tackling this one starting in April, so stay tuned!), MARTA stations, and so many more.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community? I would really like to be a part of raising awareness of all the arts offerings in Atlanta and the impact the arts have on our communities. There are several individuals and arts organizations that are committed to advocating for the arts whether it is on the government level, among business leaders, or with individual patrons. I am really excited about an audience development project I am working on with theAtlanta Intown Theatre Partnership (AITP). AITP is made up of Horizon, 7 Stages, Actor’s Express, the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and Theatrical Outfit, and we are committed to pooling resources and doing things together that we could not do as individual theatres. Currently we want to raise live theatre going as a top of mind thing to do among 20-40 year olds who live/work/play along the Atlanta Beltline. We are still in the very early stages of the project, but I see tremendous potential for success.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?


Twitter: @horizontheatre

Facebook: Horizon Theatre Company

Instagram: @horizontheatre

Little Five Arts Alive Program launching in April 2016: http://www.littlefiveartsalive.com/


Collins Goss (Development Manager) joins the Horizon Theatre Company after working for the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance. At UA Theatre & Dance, she served as the digital communications, marketing, and patron services managers throughout her three years. She has also worked for the Texas Shakespeare Festival and Rose of Athens Theatre in Athens, GA. No matter the location, audience development and communication have been the focus of her work, and she is excited to be a part of the staff and community at the Horizon Theatre. Collins completed her MFA in Theatre Management from the University of Alabama in December and has BA degrees in English and Theatre from the University of Georgia.

Review: Superhero+ Badass+ Lover=The Toxic Avenger

Superhero + Badass + Lover = The Toxic Avenger

 by Travis S. Tayler
March 2, 2016
I’ve seen The Toxic Avenger at Horizon Theatre THREE TIMES already! And will very likely go see it again.

I’d seen all five of the stars in other performances last year, so I knew it was going to be phenomenal. This quintet masters more than 30 costume changes during the show, performing more characters than I could count. It’s a fast-paced, raucous musical comedy that anyone with a sense of humor will absolutely love.

Julissa Sabino and Nick Arapoglou, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre

The Toxic Avenger is based on the 1984 cult classic movie of the same name. The film was wholly ignored by the Academy, however the stage version won an Outer Critics Circle Award for “Best Off-Broadway Musical“!

The show is about a nerdy-geek (I can relate) who is in love with a beautiful blind librarian. When he announces that he will save the city from a growing toxic waste problem, she totally falls for him. Later, the song “Thank God She’s Blind”…well, just look at what happened to him when a government official’s nincompoop puppets drop the ball…rather, drop him into a vat of toxic waste! He’s not entirely disappointed with the results.

Nick Arapoglou and Julissa Sabino, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre

The song list alone speaks to the fun that is this show. Songs like “Kick Your Ass”, “My Big French Boyfriend”, and “All Men Are Freaks” are hilarious and fantastic, but nothing compares to “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore”, a rapid-fire lyrical battle between Melvin’s motherAND the Mayor of Tromaville—who are BOTH performed by the amazing Leslie Bellair. This is perhaps my favorite scene of the show!

How can two characters performed by one actress be on stage at the same time, you ask? Brilliantly! That’s how. This you must see live and in persons!

Austin Tijerina, Julissa Sabino, Michael Stiggers, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
I attended the pre-opening Sneak Peek at which we got to meet the cast, the crew and all of the theatre staff…what a magnificent, insightful treat that was!

I’d seen Nick Arapoglou (Melvin/Toxie) and Leslie Bellair (Mayor/Ma/Nun) last year inAvenue Q, the first time I’d ever seen that show…they were fantastic and both won Suzi Bass Awards for their respective roles in that show!

I saw Julissa Sabino (Sarah), Michael Stiggers (Black Dude) and Austin Tijerina(White Dude, and holder of at least two Suzi Bass Awards) all three in Rent last year at Actor’s Express. I’d seen the movie a number of times, but that was the first time I’d seen a stage performance of Rent…it too was amazing!

I was super excited to learn that The Toxic Avenger was by Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and David Bryan (music and lyrics), the same guys who brought us Memphis, which I saw at Aurora Theatre last year. The two shows are not even distant cousins, but I love each for what they are and the theatrical mastery they bring to the stage.

The third time I saw The Toxic Avenger, Julissa (Sarah) had taken ill, so her understudy was standing in. Actress Rose Alexander was brilliant! That was the first time I’d seen her perform, but I hope not the last.

Nick Arapoglou, Leslie Bellair, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
I’m totally a huge fan of Nick Arapoglou and Leslie Bellair. Having seen them perform together in Avenue Q was awesome enough, but in The Toxic Avenger, they went to a whole other dimension…fun, vengeful and lovable.

Lislie said, quite modestly, during the Sneak Peek event that this was the first role where she was tasked with playing “sexy”. As Melvin’s mother, if the Golden Girls is what gets your motor running, she nailed it. And as the Mayor of Tromaville, she’s totally smokin’ hot! I mean that respectfully, Leslie. In fact, I would venture to say that there’s not a role you couldn’t perform brilliantly!

Michael Stiggers, Nick Arapoglou, Austin Tijerina
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Nick’s transformation from Melvin to Toxie is lightening-fast! The costume designers,Isabel Curley-Clay and Moriah Curley-Clay, who are also scenic designers, we got to meet during the Sneak Peek event. You figure out pretty quickly why they’ve received four Suzi Bass Awards!

Nick Arapoglou and Julissa Sabino, Photo by Amanda Cantrell
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Surprisingly, many aspects of this ooey, gooey, eyeball-won’t-stay-in-its-socket superhero story are true to life…people who care about the environment, corrupt government, egotistical criminals, a disappointed parent, a sex-crazed doctor and a published author wannabe included! Most of all, it’s totally a love story! I think you’re going to fall in love with this show and many of its characters.

Sluggo (Micheal Stiggers) and Bozo (Austin Tijerina), by Greg Mooney with Daryl Fazio
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Michael Stiggers, “Black Dude”, and Austin Tijerina, “White Dude”—seriously, those are their character’s names in the program—are constantly in and out of costume, all over the set and a different character seemingly every other minute. To name a few, these two alone portray thugs, a folk singer, a doctor, illiterates, and salon technicians. They’re awesome!
Jaquetta, Toxie, Nikki | The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre
Jaquetta, Toxie, Nikki | The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor

I love getting to meet the actors as much as I love seeing them perform. Following the show, theatre-goers are invited to stick around to meet the cast and make photos with them! When was the last time you had your photo made with a superhero?

One of the times I saw the show, four friends joined me…it was a laugh-fest! Jaquetta(above left) and Nikki (above right) posed with Toxie, and friends Cameron and Jameswere along, too. Yes, that’s a Doctor Who phone case in Nikki’s hand…she’s a fellow sci-fi enthusiast!

The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor

On another visit, my best friend Barry came along. We’ve seen a lot of shows together at Horizon Theatre and we love this one, too! Pictured with Barry is ‘Ma‘, Melvin’s mother (above left, performed by Leslie Bellair) and ‘the cop‘ (above right, performed by Austin Tijerina).

The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
The Toxic Avenger | Horizon Theatre | Photo by: Travis S. Taylor
I am so beyond impressed with this production…the actors, the set design, lighting, choreography…everything about it makes for a super fun evening out. I highly, highly recommend this show! The run wraps up on Sunday, March 13, so don’t waste time…get your tickets here and go see how to save a city and fall in love at the same time!

A pre-show dinner recommendation: Each time I’ve been to see The Toxic Avenger, I and friends have dined at the recently opened El Bandido Mex Mex Grill…I personally have been SIX times already! It’s that amazing and it’s very close to the theatre. Their calamari is some of the best I’ve ever had!

Up next at Horizon Theatre: Sex With Strangers! No, no, it’s (probably) not what you’re thinking, but it is provocative! Check it out at Horizon starting April 1…no joke!

ArtsATL can’t wait to see The Toxic Avenger again!

Review: Horizon’s “The Toxic Avenger” is one of the unsung super heroes of this theater season

February 10, 2016

Leslie Bellair steals the show with dual roles in The Toxic Avenger. (Photo by Amanda Cantrell)

Leslie Bellair steals the show with dual roles in The Toxic Avenger. (Photos by Amanda Cantrell)

Oftentimes theater gems can be found when least expected. It’s not the splashiest show around, or even the highest profile musical in town, but Horizon Theatre’s The Toxic Avenger is arguably the most fun to be had at a local theater right now. Running through March 13, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable piece of musical theater.

Based on the movie of the same name, The Toxic Avenger boasts books and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, and music and lyrics by David Bryan. It’s the same team that brought Memphis to life, yet this is a much different creature, a show not likely to worm its way into highbrow patrons’ calendar books.

In the city of Tromaville, a toxic waste dump off the New Jersey Turnpike, Melvin Ferd the Third (Nick Arapoglou) is a mild-mannered, nerdish guy who wants to be an earth scientist. He also naively wants to clean up the area. While investigating the city’s problem at the library, with an assist from Sarah (Julissa Sabino) — the blind librarian he secretly loves — he discovers some secrets involving Mayor Babs Belgoody (Leslie Bellair).

Out one night, he is attacked and pushed down a drum of waste by the mayor’s goons. He lives but emerges from the waste a green monster, with a deformed face but a superhero’s physique. And he has an axe to grind.

Sarah is pretty hot for the avenger after he rescues her one evening; she affectionately nicknames him “Toxie” and tells her friends about him in the number “My Big French Boyfriend.”

Nick Arapoglou as Melvin Ferd the Third with his true love, played by Julissa Sabino.

Nick Arapoglou as Melvin Ferd the Third with his true love, played by Julissa Sabino.

The musical, which won an Outer Critics Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical, doesn’t stray far from the cult 1984 movie. It’s campy and too-thinly plotted, but it’s made with exuberance and a tongue-in-cheek tone. It’s also full of zingers, with jokes about Michele Bachman and Mother Teresa, and an air of political incorrectness.

It’s a little perplexing how this musical, which bowed in 2008, has never gone on to much mainstream attention. What really elevates it is a score that is bouncy, addictive and clever.

The material may not seem like it would make a musical, but it does — and Heidi Cline McKerley directs the hell out of this. Mckerley has become one of the city’s most reliable, versatile directors, bouncing back and forth between musicals and drama, and she really delivers here. She and her husband, Jeff McKerley, handle the choreography, and the musical numbers have a crisp flair to them.

The director get great assists from Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay’s industrialized set, which is appropriately run down and — yes — overflowing with waste, as well as music director S. Renee Clark, conductor/keyboardist Bryan Mercer and musicians Andrew Cleveland, Kent Osborne, Lorenzo Sanford and Joel Saidi.

The five-person ensemble cast is delightful. Arapoglou gives Melvin a decency while his Toxic Avenger becomes a reluctant superhero. The actor is expertly suited for the role, especially a chase sequence where he hauls out a harmonica and plays it. Sabino, a standout in Actor’s Express’ Rent last year, is a warm presence who can also belt her heart out, while Austin Tijerina and Michael Stiggers — who play multiple supporting roles — are as appealing as they’ve ever been, fleshing out a lot of different characters, from thugs to hairdressers to a folk singer.

As adept as they all are, however, this is ultimately a showcase for Bellair. She is in top form, with a rangy vocal vocabulary and superb comic timing. Besides playing the mayor and capturing her in all her sordid, Joisey-accented glory, the actress also portrays Melvin’s mother, who has long been disappointed in him, even before he turned green and toxic.

In her number “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore,” both of Bellair’s characters face off at the same time and it’s one of the giddiest, most creative musical moments in recent memory. The song is a showstopper with catchy lyrics (“You’re a bitch, you’re a slut, you’re a liar, you’re a whore / Did I leave something out, let me think some more / You’re a tart, you’re a tramp, you’re as cheap as Demi Moore”) and Bellair nails it.

If she doesn’t win a Suzi Award for this, it will be a Tromaville injustice.

The second act seems a little anticlimactic and at times Toxie become a secondary character in his own musical. Nonetheless, even when the narrative stalls, the score doesn’t. Another engaging number is “Choose Me, Oprah!” with Sarah and her vampy back-up singers, Diane and Shinequa (Tijerina and Stiggers), detailing an idea for a memoir.

Anyone looking for high art or a message should look elsewhere, but musical junkies and those with an adventurous streak will eat this up. Aurora Theatre’s Wit moved me, and the Alliance Theatre’s Disgraced made me think (and think), but The Toxic Avenger is the production that slapped a goofy smile on my face.

I simply can’t wait to see Horizon’s version again.

– See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2016/02/review-horizons-the-toxic-avenger/#sthash.m5TCiV60.dpuf

AJC Review: Horizon unleashes campy kicks in ‘Toxic Avenger’

Toxic Avenger - 131 of 401


To how high a standard can you really hold something like “The Toxic Avenger”? It is what it is – a campy, lower-brow musical parody based on a cheesy, low-budget cult movie of questionable merit. The less you expect from the show in terms of basic originality or theatrical sophistication, the more likely you’ll be to give in to and go with the pure nonsense of it all.

(P.S. If you loved last year’s notably smart and stylish production ofthe musical “Memphis,” don’t even think about the shocking fact that the script and score for “The Toxic Avenger” is co-written by the same creative team, Joe DiPietro and David Bryan.)

Our hero is a nerd named Melvin Ferd the Third, an aspiring earth scientist and environmental activist of little self-esteem, who runs afoul of a corrupt gang of politicians and corporate types bent on turning his hometown of Tromaville, N.J., into a haz-mat dumping ground and wasteland. Left for dead in a vat of toxic goo, he emerges as a mutant monster with superhuman strength to take the wrongdoers to task.

But it’s not easy being green. When he isn’t persevering as an angry pacifist, literally ripping the bad guys limb from limb, he’s a hopeless romantic struggling to conceal his true identity from the woman he loves, Sarah, a blind librarian who affectionately nicknames him “Toxie.” As though that weren’t enough, during a couple of the musical numbers, he’s even compelled to play a mean harmonica, too.

In Horizon Theatre’s “Toxic Avenger,” Nick Arapoglou, the exuberant and engaging star of its “Avenue Q” a few seasons back, is a real kick in the title role, reuniting with “Q” director Heidi McKerley. Cast as his sweet love interest is Julissa Sabino, who shone in Actor’s Express’ recent “Rent.”

The industrious – and tireless – supporting ensemble features Leslie Bellair, Austin Tijerina and Michael Stiggers in a quick-changing multitude of other parts, ranging from a mad scientist and sassy hairdressers, to surly street thugs and a hippie folk singer, to a maniacal mayor and a meddling mother. They’re infectious fun to watch, especially Bellair in one terrific scene requiring two of her characters to be in the same place at the same time.

Under the music direction of S. Renee Clark, Bryan Mercer (on keyboards) leads a live four-piece band. The dozen or so songs — including “Hot Toxic Love,” “You Tore My Heart Out” and a pair of others that can’t be reprinted here — are more diverting than memorable.

Perhaps befitting of the source material, and for better or worse, the show’s production design is suitably tacky. At best, lighting designer Mary Parker occasionally uses black lights and glowing green slime to trippy effect.

However boisterously staged and performed it is, high art “The Toxic Avenger” ain’t. Get over it already, and then just enjoy.

A Monster of a Musical Comedy Off-Broadway Hit opens Horizon’s 2016 season!

ATLANTA –Kicking off Horizon’s 2016 season, The Toxic Avenger, winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical, is a hot toxic love story and laugh-out-loud musical that has it all — an unlikely hero, his beautiful girlfriend, a corrupt New Jersey mayor and two guys who play… well, everyone else … bullies, mobsters, old ladies, and stiletto-wearing back-up singers. Melvin Ferd the Third turned Toxic Avenger is here to save New Jersey from toxic waste, clean up his neighborhood, and win the love of the blind librarian. It’s a toxic love story with an environmental twist! The Toxic Avenger will leave audiences laughing in the aisles as it rocks the house.


Featuring a wailing rock score and based on the campy cult classic movie, The Toxic Avenger is by the award-winning writing duo behind the hit musical Memphis, with book and lyrics by Broadway veteran Joe DiPeitro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) and music and lyrics by David Bryan (keyboardist and founding member of Bon Jovi).   Horizon’s Co-Artistic Director, Lisa Adler notes, “The Toxic Avenger is a perfect fit to open our 2016 season of contemporary plays–an ensemble musical comedy that’s a ton of off-beat fun and a tour de force for five powerhouse actor/singers.”


Performances are Wed., Thurs. and Fri. at 8 PM, Sat. at 3 PM and 8:30 PM, and Sun. at 5 PM at Horizon Theatre in Little Five Points/Inman Park (1083 Austin Avenue NE Atlanta, GA 30307). The play contains strong language and adult content, and is not recommended for children.  Tickets start at $25 Tickets and information are available at horizontheatre.com or 404.584.7450.


More About The Toxic Avenger: The Musical and this Production

Everyone needs a hero and New Jersey is in trouble! The mayor and her thugs are selling space for toxic waste and poor Tromaville has turned into one smelly stop. Who or what will rescue New Jersey? Enter Melvin Ferd the Third, a wannabe earth scientist with a crush on the lovely blind librarian, Sarah.  His attempts to save the city without resulting to violence are foiled when the mayor’s thugs dump him into a vat of toxic goo. Don’t lose hope though- The Toxic Avenger, Toxie for short, emerges. Melty green skin, a traveling left eye, and pecs to die for, Toxie is a wall of masculine waste wrapped around a heart of gold. With his new found strength and his love for Sarah fueling him, Toxie muscles his way through one obstacle after another.  With snappy songs, a casting that requires a duet with only one person on stage, and two guys playing 27 characters combined, this musical is sure to become a fast favorite of Atlanta as they root for the ‘goo guy.’


When asking about what makes this production special for Atlanta audiences, Adler points out, We’re bringing back our award-winning creative team from our mega-hit Avenue Q led by Horizon artistic associate Heidi Cline McKerley and her long-time musical director collaborator S. Renee Clark.    And for our ensemble, we are mashing up the casts from two recent powerhouse Atlanta productions, Horizon’s Avenue Q and Actor’s Express’ Rent.”


Writers, Cast and Creative Team

Book and Lyricist writer Joe DiPietro, along with Bon Jovi’s own David Bryan writing music and lyrics, had such success with Memphis that they decided to step up their game, give homage to their home – The Garden State of New Jersey – and created a rocking success with The Toxic Avenger.  When watching the musical preview for their first audiences, DiPietro joyously noted that “Somehow each night, the Toxic Avenger reduces three-hundred adults to giddy children.” DiPiertro’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was one of Horizon’s most loved musical productions, having enjoyed three long runs at Horizon after its multi-year Off-Broadway run, and his The Thing About Men was another popular hit for Horizon.


The Toxic Avenger musical is based on the Lloyd Kaufman 1984 film of the same name. Originally released as a low-budget superhero movie, the film developed a huge cult following, generating three movie sequels (with a fourth planned for future production), along with a comic book series, a cartoon series, novel, graphic novel, and ultimately the hit musical.


Horizon’s production will be in the steady hands of Heidi Cline McKerley who will direct this fast-paced romp with S. Renee Clark guiding the rocking score as musical director.   After winning the Suzi Award for Outstanding Direction, Musical Direction and Musical Production for Horizon’s Avenue Q, they have now mounted Avenue Q three times for Horizon in three different Atlanta venues, including Theatre in the Park at Piedmont Park last summer.   They also teamed up on two of Joe DiPietro other musicals (I Love You, Your’re Perfect…, The Thing About Men) as well as three productions of Cowgirls at Horizon.  Around town, their work has been seen at every professional theatre, including Aurora, Theatrical Outfit, the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Actor’s Express.


A cast as strong as our hero helps bring Tromaville alive as a combination of Horizon’s Avenue Q and Actor’s Express Rent actors come together. Nick Arapoglou (Princeton-Avenue Q, My Name is Asher Lev and The Gifts of the Magi at Theatrical Outfit) transforms Toxie from a green mess into the lovable good guy while he chases Sarah, played by Julissa Sabino (Actor’s Express’ Rent and Rocky Horror Picture Show; Alliance Theatre’s Lizard and El Sol), the lovely blind librarian. Leslie Bellair (Christmas Eve in Horizon’s Avenue Q, Aurora Theatre’s Les Miserables) brings in the evil as our villainous (but sexy) mayor and also plays her own rival, Toxie’s mom, getting to relish a duet with – herself!  The 27 other characters are an actor’s feast and a riot of quick changes covered by Rent alums Michael Stiggers (Aurora’s Les Miserables, Alliance Theatre’s A Christmas Carol) and Austin Tijerina (winner of a 2015 Suzi Bass award for Outstanding Feature Actor for Rent, as well as the 2014 for Oklahoma at Serenbe Playhouse). Between the costume changes, character voices, and stunning songs, this cast is sure to prove it can withhold the toxic fumes.


Back for another season, Horizon’s resident designers, the multiple Suzi Award winning Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, are tackling the set and costumes for the comic book world with resident lighting designer Mary Parker lighting their way.  Rob Brooksher (Avenue Q) will help create the audio atmosphere with his wicked sound design, while the Alliance’s own Kimberly Townsend props up the prop department with everything from toxic sludge to a mutant fish to fake limbs.


Tickets and More


The Toxic Avenger runs at January 29 through March 13, Wed, Thurs and Fri at 8 PM, Sat at 3 PM and 8:30 PM and Sunday at 5 PM at the Horizon Theatre in Little Five Points/Inman Park. (1083 Austin Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30307, corner of Euclid and Austin Avenues).  There is a special early bird show time of 2pm on Super Bowl Sunday February 7.


Tickets start as low as $25 (plus 8% sales tax) and are on sale now.    Prices change based on availability and demand, so buy early for the best prices!  Four and five play subscriptions also available to get your tickets for as little as $15 each.   And don’t forget to stay after the show for your photo op with The Toxic Avenger.  Tickets and information are available at or 404-584-7450 or www.horizontheatre.com.

The Santaland Diaries enchants Sedaris fans and Scrooges alike

Creative Loafing’s review of our Holiday Tradition

The Santaland Diaries enchants Sedaris fans and Scrooges alike

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:13 AM

REIGN IN: (From left) LaLa Cochran, Harold M. Leaver, and Enoch King 'sleigh' in The Santaland Diaries. - COURTESY HORIZON THEATRE COMPANY

  • REIGN IN: (From left) LaLa Cochran, Harold M. Leaver, and Enoch King ‘sleigh’ in The Santaland Diaries.

Expectations can weigh heavy on experiences. It isn’t particularly fair, but it often applies when approaching art. So was my struggle when ascending the Horizon Theatre Company’s lavender stairs to catch a showing of David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries. The show is based on his essay of the same name, chronicling a seasonal gig as a Macy department store elf called Crumpet. It’s an essay I’ve known and loved since my teen years from a writer I’ve known and loved just as long. I did my best to settle into a back row, plastic cup of wine in hand, with as few expectations as possible.My sister and I, regardless of sharing a zodiac sign, grew up and continue to be very different people. We let those differences cancel each other out, allowing respective prowesses fill in the others’ cultural cracks. Most holidays I gifted her music and she gave me books. In high school, I peeled pages from our local daily off the David Sedaris compilation, Me Talk Pretty One Day. “He’s got a funny way of telling stories,” she said. “Ones that might otherwise be boring.” I took zero pause before consuming the entirety of his published works. It kickstarted a worship transcending into college when I cobbled together meager paychecks from the record store to hear him read at the posh Florida Theatre. He spoke with ringing clarity and ease, cruising through personal narratives just as I’d heard him do countless times before on public radio.

I first encountered his “The Santaland Diaries” essay in the seasonal collection Holidays on Ice(1997) after the aforementioned gifting. Deep into my first job as a burrito shop counter girl, I knew the complex feelings that come with working a service industry job. But that was at 17. Later on, as an adult, I’d be subjected to a string of humiliating gigs — yes, often involving uniforms — and only then would I actually get the struggle Sedaris details with charming hindsight.

In its 17th iteration, Horizon’s spin on The Santaland Diaries is presented with the same ringing clarity Sedaris likely intended. Harold M. Leaver takes on the role of Crumpet, also for the 17th time. Leaver breathes animated life into Crumpet, a disgruntled, hypersexual writer desperate for a buck while living in New York City. I’ve lived this reality — it’s dark — however, like Sedaris, Leaver’s Crumpet takes crummy circumstance with winking stride. After all, it’s a job — a fact Crumpet trumpets throughout the 90-minute work. It’s a cadence many of us are familiar with.

FLAMENCO CAROLS: Cochran and Leaver nail on-stage harmony. - COURTESY HORIZON THEATRE COMPANY

  • FLAMENCO CAROLS: Cochran and Leaver nail on-stage harmony.

LaLa Cochran (2014’s Suzi Bass award recipient for Best Featured Actress, Theatrical Outfit’s Best of Enemies) and Enoch King (Santaland vet, Metrostage’s Uprising) act as at least 30 characters each, rounding out the main trio taking stage for the production. Together Leaver, Cochran, and King work as a hilarious cocktail, serving up a dose of seasonal spirit so potent even the most cynical Scrooge could get tipsy. The play is stuffed with vignettes of Crumpet’s holiday hell, sprinkled with plenty of cameos from cartoony customers who may come off as too real to anyone who’s ever worked retail. There’s music, including a few snippets of Crumpet himself performing, but make no mistake — Santaland is not a musical, thankfully. It’s more like a medley, perfecting the balance between inner monologue, people-watching epiphanies, and wisecracks.Cochran channels intense The State-era Kerri Kenney vibes while taking on roles like a foul-mouthed elf manager, peak Vegas Cher, a vodka-soaked soap star, and a scrapbooking racist. Her comedic timing and easy sleuthing through potentially touchy characters (seriously? A scrapbooking racist) make her performance especially a treat.

SNOWBALLIN': Leaver and King do killer crowd work. - COURTESY HORIZON THEATRE COMPANY

  • SNOWBALLIN’: Leaver and King do killer crowd work.

Leaver and King also do great work, especially in the tricky territory of crowd participation. As a rule, I regard crowd participation the same way I do skateboarding: it looks fine from far away and I don’t mind it, as long as it’s not me doing it. The way Santaland and these two specifically pluck folks from the audience helps personalize the performance and make it a more authentic experience. (Poor Chris. Those pink cheeks sure looked bona fide.)

Despite “Santaland’s” 22-year-old roots, director Jeff Adler does a bang-up job keeping the script and performance current. Snapchat jokes aren’t forced, instead, references to iPhone 6s and Cecil the lion come up infrequently and unforced. The modernization act as sugar coating to help viewers swallow other big pills that come up in grim examples of xenophobia, racism, and sexism.

Ultimately, Horizon’s The Santaland Diaries does what most holiday plays hope to do: conjure more than a few jolly laughs from bah humbug viewer — Sedaris fan or not. And frankly, that alone is pretty damn magical.

The Santaland Diaries continues at Horizon Theatre Company through December 31.

Reposted from: Creative Loafing

Playwright’s Point of View: An interview with Gabrielle Fulton

Gabrielle Fulton, UPRISING playwright.

Gabrielle Fulton, UPRISING playwright.

Q. You’ve said that Uprising is very much inspired by family. Could you talk about how those relationships and stories impacted Uprising and the characters?

A. Sal, the main character in Uprising, is derived from stories my grandfather, Freddie Gordon Sr., shared about his mother whose name was Sally Lawrence Gordon. With great pride he reported that she could pick two hundred pounds of cotton. My grandfather also spoke of how his mother’s cotton-picking prowess allowed her to claim a prize over male counterparts. It was his admiration for her work ethic and strength that helped shape this character.

Q. Uprising has already been such a journey for you as a playwright. What has the process been like from your first reading to now?

A. All love … which is to say, painfully challenging at times and yet completely fulfilling. Being connected to the characters in this play and allowing my imagination to live in the world in which the play is set has been incredibly stimulating and oftentimes consuming. From the first reading to now my passion for this work, as Ossie would say, burns the same bright. Witnessing the emotional connection many had to the work early on was especially gratifying. It strengthened my commitment to continue delving deeper into the world and interior lives of the characters to unearth more, provide greater clarity, and heighten further still the entertainment value of the work.

Q. The play is set before the Civil War, but the themes are still relevant today. What do you hope audiences will take away from the play?

A. Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

~ Toni Morrison

As evidenced today by #blacklivesmatter and the reproductive rights movement, the reality of progress and freedom is not simple. It takes courage. Civil liberties are susceptible to erosion when the human drama of self-interest that undermines freedom persists. I hope audiences will take with them the desire to investigate their own experience of freedom. Not just on a societal or political level, but personally. The play hopes to inspire a positive, deep and meaningful conceptualization of black identity and the human significance of self-determination.

Q. Uprising has touches of magical realism such as Red Bird and Wind. Why was it important to you to include these elements and what do they represent?

A. Redbird and Wind have been there from the beginning. They were conceived at the same time as Sal. It was important to include them as elements in the play because as I contemplated Sal, I began to wonder how my ancestors made it through torturous labor under insufferable conditions. Redbird and Wind came to represent the connection to something greater than self, which I imagine helped my ancestors survive. Sal’s ability to connect with Redbird and Wind is what makes her special. It allows her to thrive. And dazzles Ossie.

Q. Although your work is on stage now at Horizon, your short film Ir/Reconcilable, which was an official selection at the 2014 American Black Film Festival in NYC and was honored as a finalist in the HBO Short Film Competition, is currently on HBO as well. What are the differences for you between being a stage and a screen writer? And what is next for you as writer?

A. I enjoy writing for the stage and screen. Not sure if it’s because I grew up in theatre, but the process of developing a play definitely feels more organic. Though character is the driving force for both, when writing plays I find myself starting with dialogue and structure comes later; whereas with screenplays I lead with structure and dialogue gets in where it fits in. Currently I’m writing the book for an exciting new musical and I have two plays ready for development. Uprising’s next stop in its Rolling World Premiere is the D.C. Women’s Voices Theater Festival September 20th– October 25th at MetroStage in Alexandria, VA. As for the Ir/Reconcilable short, it was so well received that audiences wanted more. A feature film is in the works and we’re in the process of fundraising right now. Connect with me:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uprising.atl

Twitter: @blueskyclouds

AJC calls UPRISING “hauntingly beautiful”

Cynthia D. Barker (Sal) and Anthony Manough (Ossie) in Gabriell Fulton's UPRISING. Photo by Jay Bowman.

Cynthia D. Barker (Sal) and Anthony Manough (Ossie) in Gabriell Fulton’s UPRISING. Photo by Jay Bowman.

AJC Theater review: ‘Uprising’ meditates on nature of human bondage

By Wendell Brock – For the AJC

With “Uprising,” Atlanta-based playwright Gabrielle Fulton delivers a hauntingly beautiful study of the nature of freedom, love and the chaos of the human heart.

Though it reflects on choices made in a world held ransom by racist brutality, terrorism and the looming shadow of war, “Uprising,” at Horizon Theatre through Aug. 23, is not a play of the present day.

A history-based drama set in 1859, it imagines the repercussions felt by a community of freed slaves when white abolitionist John Brown decides to storm the U.S. military arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown, who loses his bid to start a slave revolt, never appears, but the wages of his politics take a devastating toll on Fulton’s central characters.

Directed by Thomas W. Jones II, “Uprising” employs music, dance, poetry and video to tell the tale of Sal (Cynthia D. Barker), a former slave who tries to earn a living and raise her nephew (Jaden D. Robinson) by picking cotton. As she goes about her work, Sal talks to the birds and shrugs off the comical advances of Bo-Jack (Enoch King), a country bumpkin who can’t carry a tune but has the sweetest intentions.

Enter Ossie (Anthony Manough), a handsome and articulate Oberlin College philosophy student trying to recruit supporters for Brown’s insurrection. As luck has it, Sal falls for Ossie — at some great cost. She then spends the rest of the play trying to undo the tragedy that befalls her. “Uprising” gains its considerable emotional impact from her near-undoing.

As directed by Jones, the ensemble — which includes Margo Moorer, LaParee Young, Brian Kurlander and Chisom Awachie — engages in some lively call-and-response spirituals that evoke the parallels between the slaves of America and those of biblical times. Playing the Tuneman, Theodis Ealey sets the tone with terrific acoustic guitar riffs.

Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay contribute an all-purpose set of rough-hewn boards that functions for various locales, from Philadelphia to Georgia. Robbie Hayes’ videos are nicely designed, but in the end, it’s not always clear (to me at least) where we are on the map exactly.

Fulton’s play — which will soon get a second production at MetroStage in Alexandria, Va. — is a deeply moving story brimming with ideas about emancipation and bondage, past and present. What good is freedom when the ones you love can be ripped from you by the white man, as if from your own flesh? It’s one thing to have a piece of paper declaring you a freed slave, quite another to stand your ground in the white man’s world.

That said, “Uprising” feels a bit clunky and confusing at times, and the author seems to struggle to find her way out of it.

With its feminist theme, the story brings to mind the work of Lynn Nottage; and it may be the best play since Carlyle Brown’s “Pure Confidence” to evoke the awkward horror of a people who live with one foot in bondage and the other in freedom. In uprisings of race, religion, body and soul, there are bound to be casualties. That is what Fulton dissects so thoughtfully here.



Grade: B

8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays. Through Aug. 23. $20-$35. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-584-7450, horizontheatre.com.

Bottom line: An intensely moving, history-based play.