Academy Theater in Stockbridge

Have you ever thought of drama as just a cluster of communication? I hadn’t until Robert Drake broke down the art of acting. When most of us go to the movies or theater for entertainment, we don’t realize we are listening to a mass of choreographed communications. From the writer of the screenplay, to the brightness of the stage lights, to the method of acting — we are interpreting an ensemble of communication.

Robert Drake is the artistic director of Academy Theater in Stockbridge. Drake has done extensive renovations on the theater, which is the former First State Bank building. The transformation has taken the corporate meeting rooms and turned them into a full stage with hundreds of seats. In the near future a café will be added – for after the play discussions and mingling. Academy Theater is a charming addition to Stockbridge.

Drake comes from a rather nontraditional background in the arts. He discovered his love for acting after he landed a job with Laughing Matters, a popular comedy group in Atlanta. He went on to apprentice as a sound engineer with the Freight Room of Atlanta and even worked at a concert for Ray Charles. But it was through improv that he found his favorite form of theater, one he describes as being dynamic with “the highest of highs and lowest of lows.” Watching him act on the spot was amazing. He is quick and witty and an enjoyable talent to experience.

The Academy boasts a wide range of shows. Since opening last year they’ve hosted:  a short play festival, a concert, radio theater, an improv festival and an opera — all covering traditional and issue oriented themes. Their senior ensemble recently did a play based on the rising costs of healthcare affecting senior citizens and there was a Hansel and Gretel Opera for children. They also have a bully prevention program with acts promoting anti-bullying for youth groups.

Drake is looking forward to introducing new and thought provoking works — dramas that “make you think.” He talked me through one of his favorite plays, Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, and explained the impact a play with just three characters can have on a person. He shared how powerful performances grab an audience and often present a completely different angle, taking common ideas and giving them a complex twist. On the comedy improv side there are routines to challenge the audience by exposing them to different forms of communication —

like interpreting and solving a riddle or murder mystery.

“Theater is a living experience. It brings us adventure, drama, comedy and  new and different presentations we have never imagined,” he says. Drake is eager to include the community and bring variety to Henry County. “We really want the participation of people here.  Come see what we do!”