The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and the local Act3 Productions theater company are among the latest arts organizations in talks to hold events at the City Springs Performing Arts Center, officials say. The lineup for a lengthy grand opening in August are expected to be announced later this month, with tickets on sale by June 1.

The grand opening arts lineup at Sandy Springs’ new civic center remains a secret work in progress. At a May 8 Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce lunch, PAC General Manager Michael Enoch teased that it will include a Grammy Award-winner, Tony Award-winner and “America’s Got Talent” winner. The overall program will include “concerts, performances, films and lectures,” Enoch said.

Act3 is “absolutely committed” to performing in the grand opening as well, according to Mary Sorrel, its executive director and board president. Act3, which operates its own playhouse nearby, is also in discussions to hold its youth theater performances in City Springs’ Studio Theatre, she said.

A regular season of PAC performances will be announced later this year, but more details are already known, including shows by the Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Opera. Enoch previously said the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra likely will perform as well, and on May 8 announced negotiations for an Atlanta Jewish Film Festival series. Kenny Blank, the festival’s executive director, is on the board of the Sandy Springs Foundation, which is raising money to subsidize PAC programming.

The City Springs Theatre Company, newly formed for the venue, has announced a season of Broadway musicals in the main Byers Theatre. The company has been selling its own season tickets since March 1 and has far exceeded a reported goal of 500 subscriptions. Natalie Barrow, the company’s managing director, said at the May 8 lunch that almost 3,400 season subscriptions had been sold, and 197 people had become “founding patrons” at a minimum donation level of $5,000.

Michael Enoch, general manager of the City Springs Performing Arts Center. (Special)

Also in the works, Enoch said, is a lecture series with 10 to 12 “regional and national speakers” on such topics as arts, business and politics. Overall, Enoch said, the PAC aims to book 300 events in its first year, which counts everything from a 10-person meeting in a rented conference room – many facilities are open for public rental — to musical theater shows.

Announcements about other performers have been delayed repeatedly from an original January timeline, apparently for various reasons ranging from establishing the ticketing system to coordinating the publicity.

One performer definitively ruled out so far from the City Springs lineup: Yuppie Scum, a rock band that counts City Councilmember Chris Burnett as drummer and vocalist. “I know you’re an excellent musician and I’ve been trying to contact your agent,” Enoch joked as Burnett asked him for more event details at the May 8 lunch.

Another aspect of City Springs with high public interest is donation opportunities. Emily Hutmacher, the executive director of the fundraising foundation, said there will be various opportunities, including naming bricks and a donor wall. However, details on timing remain scant. Foundation board members said in March, shortly after Hutmacher was hired, that they were significantly behind on a $7.5 million initial fundraising goal.

City Springs is a new, mixed-use civic center bounded by Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs Circle, and Johnson Ferry and Roswell Roads. For more information, see

Act3 and City Springs Theatre Company

Since the City Springs Theatre Company was announced late last year, many fans of local theater wondered whether it would be competition for Act3, a community theater mainstay for over 15 years. Sorrel said many patrons have asked her whether Act3 would be pressed into closing its playhouse in the Sandy Springs Plaza shopping center at 6285-R Roswell Road, virtually across the street from City Springs.

In fact, Sorrel said, the two companies plan to collaborate and cross-promote each other to develop an “arts district” in downtown Sandy Springs.

“We’re very, very different,” Sorrel said.

“We embrace what we are, a small, black-box theater” with intimate performances, she said, while City Springs Theatre Company will perform large shows. “They’re going to be all about the big Broadway stuff,” she said. The organizations share a key contact: Well-known community activist Jan Collins, who is on Act3’s board and is a founder of the City Springs Theatre Company.

“We have had great meetings with Act3” and hope to collaborate, Barrow said at the May 8 lunch. Sorrel confirmed that, saying the two companies will do “anything we can to promote each other.” And they hope to work together to get restaurants and bars to offer discounts or special menus to patrons with playbills or tickets from their shows.

Act3 will continue in its playhouse – a gift from the shopping center’s owner that was just reconfigured for better seating. The new season there will be announced next month. The youth performances in the PAC’s Studio Theatre is the one venue change Act3 might make.

Enoch said Act3 has been asked to join the grand opening performance lineup.

“We’re going to do something,” Sorrel said, adding that Act3 is attempting to get rights to a certain performance that cannot yet be revealed. “We’re very excited about it.”

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Education programs

A key part of the City Springs PAC is arts education programming for youths, though exactly what that means remains to be seen, as does the funding, which would largely come from the foundation. Mayor Rusty Paul has stumped hard for the educational component, describing it as cultural enrichment and a career path.

The City Springs Theatre Company already announced it would have its own educational programming, and at the May 8 lunch, announced it would help to coordinate the overall PAC program. However, there are still no concrete details about what that means, who will be involved, or what it will cost.

“We’ve had real problems in our schools preserving arts education,” Paul said at the lunch, saying that PAC programming will help fill the gap. He said his daughter Emily was involved in theater at Riverwood International Charter School, “so I know the transformative power of getting kids… involved in arts programs.”

Enoch said that PAC educational programs can go beyond the arts, including culinary lessons in its kitchens. He also said the arts education programs are more likely to involve locally based organizations, such as the Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Opera, rather than national touring artists who must move on immediately after a performance.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.