The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
Practice your own spit take with a mouthful of granddad's famous scuppernong wine and today's deal. Today's Groupon gets you two tickets to see an improv comedy show at Village Theatre for $8, a $20 value. Your Groupon is valid for any of Village Theatre's $10 shows, including Improv A**Hole, Comedy Live, and Longform Steakhouse. Check out Village Theatre at 8:30 p.m. any Thursday, Friday, or Saturday for unscripted hilarity with friends and your own bottles of brew. Help your straight-laced sister loosen up or bring your bawdy ballerinas to exceed your recommended daily value of funny and raspberry cookies dipped in gold from the sun.If your pants are around your ankles, revealing The Last Unicorn-themed boxers you were forced to wear that morning due to a laundry accident: They are laughing with you. Everyone adores author Peter S. Beagle's poetic, yet occasionally anachronistic musings on what it is to want and to be wanted in this beloved deconstruction of European folklore.
Dance 411 Studios' instructors pause from stints as featured dancers in Justin Bieber music videos and on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew to helm the studio’s range of dance classes. The schedule aims to incorporate something for everyone, from the youthful whimsy of children's tumbling classes to the practical firefighting experience of adult pole dancing. Vibrant orange and red walls add energy to the individual studios, and expansive windows reflect off gleaming hardwood floors that echo stomps of students and shadows trying to keep up.
Flush with cash during the Roaring Twenties, Atlanta's Shriners set out to build a magnificent monument for their headquarters, dubbed the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque. The structure was to feature grandiose architectural touches such as towering minarets and onion domes. When a teetering economy threatened construction, the Shriners sold the building to film mogul William Fox, who finished the space as a movie palace with virtually no changes to its extravagant design. As splendid as the exterior was, audiences were unprepared for the interior. After seeing it for the first time, one Atlanta Journal reporter breathlessly remarked on the "picturesque and almost disturbing grandeur" on display.
Crafted to resemble the courtyard of a Moorish castle, the main hall's decorations begin in the back with a faux canopy of plaster and steel stretching over the rear balcony. Stone parapets wrap around the sides, culminating in a towering proscenium arch illuminated by hanging lanterns and overhung with persian rugs. Above, a blue ceiling sparkles with hundreds of recessed light bulbs, which refract through three-inch crystals. Projected clouds drift across this simulated starry night and rain on anyone who texts during a show.
The final jewel in the theater's gilded crown is the The Mighty Mo Organ. The second-largest theater organ in the world, the Mighty Mo was custom-built in 1929 for the princely sum of $42,000 to accompany any movie or live production. The instrument’s richly textured sounds erupt from 3,622 pipes of varying length, with the smallest no larger than a pen and the largest spanning five feet in diameter. Adding to the Mighty Mo's sonic tapestry is an internal glockenspiel, marimba, and xylophone, plus a system by which the stage's grand piano can be played remotely. The Mighty Mo also mimics thunder, steamboat whistles, saxophones, and its parents' voices when they're not around.
Horizon Theatre Company is one of Atlanta’s longest-running small theaters, with a devoted following of season ticketholders. Located in the heart of Little Five Points, it is convenient to several local restaurants like The Vortex, but if you skip dinner before the show you can always indulge in one of the theater’s giant cookie-dough cookies. This company is known for comedic favorites like The Waffle Palace and David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries; these productions return year after year and are always popular. The shows also include offerings for the younger set like Madeline’s Christmas, as well as more adult-focused works by local writers, like Third Country and The Book Club Play. Seating is general admission, with certain sections reserved for subscribers. But the Horizon Theatre Company is intimate enough that there really isn’t a bad spot in the house.
One of the great surprises about Atlanta is its bustling local theater scene. Actor’s Express is one of the most reliable and innovative groups in town, always focusing on challenging, creative work. Located in the King Plow Arts Center in West Midtown, the theater itself is rather intimate. You can easily spot the actors in the lobby after the show to congratulate them on a job well done, but the quality is equal to that of Atlanta’s larger, haughtier venues. Founded in 1988, Actor’s Express has always believed in pushing the boundaries of the local theater scene, as evidenced by recent productions like the sexy drama Venus in Fur and the historical rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. They also incorporate classics like Equus and Kiss of the Spider Woman into their seasons. Annual subscriptions are available, which make for an inexpensive and interesting gift.