This start-up theater troupe aims to put women’s stories at center stage
STORY: H.M. Cauley
PHOTO: Stephen Payne
What Atlanta lacks in beachfront it makes up for in cultural arts. Across the city, comedy clubs, theaters, music venues, galleries and niche museums share the scene with a world-renowned symphony, art collection and, yes, puppet center.
So why does Rebeca Robles feel something’s missing?
“I’ve spent a lot of time auditioning for plays and movies where there aren’t a lot of complex and interesting female characters or stories driven by them,” says the 24-year-old. “I’d like to produce more of them and focus on female playwrights.”
To accomplish that, Robles launched the Atlanta Theatre Club last fall. While still searching for a permanent stage, the Club has mounted two productions, one at Seven Stages in Little Five and another at the Pinch ‘N’ Ouch Theatre in Kirkwood.
“I don’t think we can ever have too many people trying to create art,” says Robles, who lives in Old Fourth Ward. “The Atlanta theater community is very supportive, especially to someone who is very new and doesn’t have any following: At least, four theaters have reached out to us to do a marketing swap. It’s always good to have more people jumping in to make things happen.”
Like her club, Robles is fairly new to Atlanta, having moved here last fall from New York. The South Carolina native lived here for a short time after graduating from college in Kentucky and then heading to New York, and in that short time, she laid the groundwork for lasting theater relationships.
“I’m fairly connected with other companies; I’ve worked with Actor’s Express and was an intern at Horizon,” she says. “I also had a role on the Netflix show ‘Insatiable’ and have been auditioning for other roles. And I’ve been acting in the Club shows, which is exhausting when I’m also producing.”
The up side for the fledgling troupe is that Robles doesn’t pay herself and plows the proceeds back into the business. That’s helped cover some of the company’s start-up costs, but it’s not a situation she wants to go on for too long.
“I do prefer to be on the stage, I think,” she says. “Acting is my first love, and I wouldn’t want to stop completely, but it’s great to be involved in another aspect of theater. Right now, I enjoy being able to do all these things, but in an ideal situation, I’d hand over some tasks to someone else. Doing everything is very stressful.”
As co-artistic director with her boyfriend, Joshua Owen, some of that “everything” includes finding material that meets the Club’s mission of producing plays grounded in realism and driven by strong women characters. The first two shows, “Blackbird” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City,” dovetailed nicely with that goal.
“They’re fairly new works, but I’d also like to do some world premieres” Robles says. “I want to create new works that can be adapted, maybe filmed, to bridge the gap between theater and film that’s not been done successfully too often. I’m also looking to provide more opportunities for women. The directors of both our shows have been women, and we’d love to do that again. Right now, we’re growing and figuring out what we want to do next. One thing I’m sure of: With so many artists coming here because of the film industry, I’d like to find a way to make Atlanta a permanent hub for the arts.”