By Jennifer Preyss

Standing backstage Saturday night, the cast of Act 3 Productions’ contemporary musical, “Striking 12,” paused for a moment of “awkward silence.” Donning black, green and red sequined costumes, the near-30 young actors beamed with excitement and attempted unsuccessfully not to laugh.
“Now do awkward animal,” Music Director Greg Windle snickered, while standing in a plastic chair, manipulating his fingers in the shape of an odd-looking hand puppet.
Intended to be “awkward,” the method was one of several exercises to free the young performers – ranging in age from 10 to 20 years old — from last minute pre-show jitters.
Feeling the fervor from an excited audience, Director Patti Mactas encouraged her pupils to have a good time, and make the performance their best yet.
“Let’s make the last night of our first show in [the new] Act 3 Playhouse the best we’ve ever performed,” Mactas shouted. “Broadway: Look out!”
Merely days previous, Act 3 Productions, located along Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, was still in the process of completing the conversion of turning a bland vanilla-hued warehouse into a colorful and stage-ready theater in time for the “Striking 12’s” opening night Jan. 7.
“It took God a week to make the universe, but we opened this theater in two days,” Mactas said in jest.
Act 3 organized as a non-profit two years ago, but has been producing theatrical productions for nearly a decade in conjunction with Cobb County Schools. They set out last fall to find the perfect home for a theater production company, and landed in a warehouse behind Trader Joes in the Sandy Springs Plaza Shopping Center.
Now separated from the school system, Act 3’s production team, including a corps group of five women including Mactas, Susan Anderson, Theresa Dean, Johnna Mitchell, and Lyn Taylor, has the freedom and authority to choose plays of their liking without having to seek approval from Cobb County. Risqué and more serious shows, such as “Hair” and “Columbinus,” for example, are both scheduled to run later this year.
But “Striking 12,” a light comedic musical about a grumpy young man purposely avoiding New Year’s Eve, and ultimately become inspired to live life again after meeting a comely salesgirl that reminds him of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Match Girl,” triumphantly kicked off the opening weekend for Act 3 Productions in the new location.
Faring icy roads and chilled temperatures, eager theater-goers poured through the doors last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and Act 3 staff were delighted to announce “Striking 12” sold out each of the four shows.
Sandy Springs resident Russ Dalba, 64, greatly enjoyed the performance and believes Act 3 found the perfect location for a new home.
“I thought the show was very good, it’s a bunch of young people following their passion,” Dalba said. “Coming here gives us an opportunity to support these kids. I would definitely come again.”
High school student and drama enthusiast Evans Taylor, also said he enjoyed the show and appreciates the creative opportunities Act 3 will bring to the area, and to fellow actors.
“I thought it was fantastic. It’s so great they can give back to the community like this, and it’s a lot of fun to watch,” Taylor said. “It tells kids my age and younger that being a part of the arts is important.”
But perhaps the most enthusiastic feedback came from Mactas herself, a consummate fan of her young cast members.
“They were so loose, and adlibbed a lot tonight. I always say that I’d rather these kids take risks on stage than behind the wheel with alcohol,” Mactas said. “It was the best show they’ve done. I’ve never felt this lever of pride from a group of young people ever.”