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.
The sounds of jazz, hip hop, and other contemporary genres fill the four large studios at Gotta Dance Atlanta's 9,000-square-foot facility. Instructors describe the dance and fitness center as a "home away from home" for dancers of all abilities, and it's not hard to see why. Beginners can learn how to cut a rug or mow a hardwood floor in "Explore" classes that require no prior knowledge of dance terminology. Even dancers who have already worked up to the professional level can find a class to match their style, be it salsa or ballet. Students of all abilities benefit from classes such as Awesome Abs and Cardio Hip-Hop, which use dance as a jumping-off point for fitness workouts that tone and shape the body.
The 27-Grammys-and-counting ASO keeps the summer shows rolling with its outdoor presentations of Liza Minnelli, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and .38 Special. The symphony accompanies Liza as she sings American standards as well as a few intimate renditions with her quartet and Billy Stritch. The ASO hands the musical reins over for the next two concerts, allowing Mary Chapin Carpenter to sing folk and country hits from her two-decade career, including songs from the Grammy-nominated album, The Calling. Finishing the trio with its signature Southern-rock sound is .38 Special, whose string of decade-dominating hits in the '80s will be joined by songs from more-recent albums.
Synchronicity annually performs three contemporary plays for adults and two or three family-friendly musicals as part of its commitment to raise the local and national profile of Atlanta theatre. Kicking off its Bold Voices series is The Storytelling Ability of a Boy , which tells the dark story of an English teacher who gets overly involved in the lives of two of her students. Performances run at 7 Stages Theatre through November 21, when the play will be returned to a dramaturgical library to spend the holidays with its leather-bound family. The children's classic, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, will ensnare the hearts of cynical holiday audiences from December 11, 2010, through January 2, 2011, at the Balzer Theater at Herren's. See the calendar for all show dates and times.