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‘Jesus Hopped the A Train’ at Actor’s Express June 8-30

2023 May 18
by Susan Asher

Actor’s Express continues its 35th anniversary season with Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train  by Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. At Rikers Island, a frightened young inmate confronts complex issues of faith when he crosses paths with a charismatic serial killer, a sadistic guard, and a jaded public defender. This potent play will hit you where you live and make you question what happens when God’s justice differs from man’s. “Guirgis’ benchmark prison drama about faith and humanity remains as potent as ever in the two decades since its premiere, surely earning its place among great American classic plays” comments Artistic Director Freddie Ashley on why he chose to present this play.


Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train is a powerful drama that explores the crisis of faith, identity and the search for redemption. This play challenges audiences to reflect on forgiveness, resilience and the American Justice system.


Jesus Hopped The A Train premiered in 2000 at the LABrynth Theatre Company in a production directed  by Philip Seymour Hoffman, followed by a London production at the Donmar Warehouse in 2002 that was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best New Play of 2003. The Evening Standard  raved, “This pumping, pounding, pulsing play blazes.” The New York Times called Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train “Fire-Breathing…a probing, intense portrait of life behind bars.”

This ensemble cast features five Atlanta actors, including AE vets Luis R.Hernandez (The Crucible, The Motherfucker with the Hat and Six Degrees of Separation) and Cara Mantella (Angels in America, Significant Other and Mauritius). Making their Actor’s Express debuts are Sekou Laidlow (Alliance Theatre’s Toni Stone), Jacob York (Shakespeare Tavern’s Twelfth Night)and Cristian Gonzalez (True Colors’ Between Riverside and Crazy). Acting Apprentice Andrew Randolph rounds out the cast. The production is directed by Eric J. Little (AE’s Neat and The Brothers Size).


According to Artistic Director Freddie Ashley, “Stephen Adly Guirgis is a giant among American playwrights. He weaves vivid language with muscular storytelling, creating plays that pack a huge emotional wallop. Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train is one of his very best and has become a modern American classic while still feeling very much of the present moment.”



ABOUT Stephen Adly Guirgis


Stephen Adly Guirgis is an American playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor. His play Between Riverside and Crazy won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He is a member and a former co-artistic

director of New York City‘s LAByrinth Theater Company. Guirgis has produced plays both on an Off- Broadway as well as in the UK.


Guirgis’ play The Motherfucker With the Hat was nominated for seven TONY Awards and premiered on Broadway in 2011. Produced at AE in 2012, this production featured Luis R. Hernandez who will be playing Valdez in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train.


Previews: Thursday-Friday, June 8-9, 2023 at 8:00 PM

Opening Night: June 10th, 2023 at 8:00 PM

Regular Performances: June 8- July 2nd, 2023

Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8:00 PM (Sunday, June 11th, additional evening performance at 7:30 PM)

Sundays at 2 PM


Purchase tickets online at or by calling 404-607-7469.

Group pricing is available. For info, email


‘Prayer for the French Republic’ at Actor’s Express Through May 14

2023 April 30
by Susan Asher

Prayer for the French Republic by multi-award-winning playwright Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews/Skintight) at Actor’s Express is “not one to miss,” according to Broadway World, Atlanta.  And I look forward to seeing it this weekend.

On the eve of the 2016 French presidential elections, a Parisian doctor fears for the safety of her family amid the rise of antisemitism in France. As she considers relocating to Israel, we flashback to her great-grandparents anxiously awaiting the return of their loved ones who have recently been liberated from the concentration camps. Making its regional debut, this emotionally rich family saga introduces us to five generations of a Jewish family yearning for the safety of home in this award-winning landmark play about Jewish identity and navigating antisemitism in today’s world.

Prayer for the French Republic was a hit in its January 2022 World Premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club, winning the 2022 Drama Desk Award for Best Play and the 2022 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play. The New York Stage Review raved, “FIVE STARS! A brave, articulate, and necessary new play.” The New York Theatre Guide called Prayer for the French Republic, “A breathtaking work that skillfully balances the humanity of its characters with sprawling history.”

This ensemble cast features Carolyn Cook, Ross Benjamin, Jared Simon, Susan Shalhoub Larkin, Barry Stoltze and Aliya Rose Kraar, Clayton Landey, Shaun Maclean, Faina Khibkin, Israeli-American actor Adire Lev Mann, and Jacob Sherman.

Joe Alterman (Neranenah Jewish Music Festival) composed original music for the production. Other creative members include Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay (Scenic Design), Jen J. Madison (Costume Design), Joseph P. Monaghan III (Lighting Design), Kate Hoang, (Sound Design), Nick Battaglia (Props Design and Set Decoration) and Amy Levin (Dramaturg).

Performances run Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM.

Purchase tickets online at or by calling 404-607-7469.

Group pricing is available. For info, email

‘Support Group for Men” at Horizon Theatre

2023 April 21
by Susan Asher

“Support Group for Men” has received glowing accolades in Chicago and Washington, so I’m looking forward to seeing this play at Horizon Theatre.

Written by Ellen Fairey, a writer/producer on “Nurse Jackie” and “Masters of Sex,” the play follows a diverse group of four everyman-type guys who gather on Thursdays to vent over glasses of rosé – with a “No Ladies” policy strictly enforced. Passing a baseball bat as a “talking stick,” this motley crew supports each other through stalled careers, dashed romances and a fast-changing world. When an unexpected visitor crashes the party, their notions of what it means to be a man in today’s America are suddenly upended. Set in 2017 as conversations on #MeToo and gender issues captured public attention, this comedy captures the voices of a group of friends as they graciously reconcile their worldviews and ideas of masculinity with an ever-evolving social landscape.

The cast includes many faces new to Horizon. Brian (Louis Kyper, long-time member of the Blue Man Group) is the support group founder who gathers the guys at his Chicago apartment each week to pass the talking stick. He’s a career Apple Store worker in an oddly “perfect” relationship with a much younger woman. Brian’s high school friend, black executive Delano (Marcus Turner-Hopkins*, Hands Up and A Christmas Carol, Alliance Theatre) is happily married and living in the suburbs but is looking for something more. New to the group is Brian’s younger, “hip,” Latinx co-worker Kevin (Sariel Toribio, Romeo at Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern) who is their window into his more youthful world of YouTubing, music and sexual fluidity. Roger (Atlanta newcomer Evan Bergman, MFA, U of VA), Brian’s unmarried blue-collar friend from his softball league has the farthest to go in understanding the new expectations of 21st century men. He never pictured himself drinking pink wine and talking about his feelings, but now he’s trying to muddle through a mid-life crisis. Then Alex, a young stranger (Roberto Mendez, City Springs’ Spamalot), suddenly turns the support group on its head.  The Chicago cops who show up to investigate a crime and up the stakes are the tart and tough Officer Caruso (Kelly Criss Morningside and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Georgia Ensemble, and Horizon veteran Suehyla E. Young sharing the role) and her macho partner Officer Nowak (Brad Brinkley, Horizon’s How to Use a Knife).

Recommended for teens and adults, Support Group for Men contains some adult language and themes. Performances run until May 28.  Tickets start at $30 on weekdays and $35 on weekends (plus taxes and fees). Prices are subject to change and prices rise as performances fill up, so patrons are encouraged to order early for the best prices and availability. Students under 25 can purchase $20 tickets with valid student ID by calling the box office. Single ticket seating is general admission, with a reserved seating section for season subscribers. For ticket sales and more information on single tickets and subscriptions, visit or call the Box Office at 404.584.7450.

Regular show times are as follows:

  • Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 8 p.m.
  • Saturday: 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. (no matinee on April 29)
  • Sunday: 5 p.m.

Hershey Felder as George Gershwin Alone: A Play with Music

2023 April 14
by Susan Asher

April 22, 2023    8:00pm

Presented in association with Neranenah Arts, the international hit comes to Sandy Springs on its final world tour! As the only artist ever permitted to create the role of George Gershwin on the stage by the Gershwin heirs, Hershey Felder illuminates the composer’s short but extraordinary life and performs A Rhapsody in Blue in its entirety.

Felder’s exploration of George Gershwin’s short but extraordinary life has played to audiences worldwide for over 3,000 performances from Los Angeles to South Korea, and spotlights Gershwin’s work as a master tunesmith whose work shaped a distinctly American style of music.

Illuminating this brilliant composer’s prolific partnership with his brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin, Felder incorporates beloved songs ranging from “Fascinating Rhythm,” “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” to excerpts from groundbreaking musicals Porgy and Bess and An American In Paris, and a complete performance of Rhapsody In Blue.

Prices INCLUDE taxes and fees.

Series: Presented by City Springs

Venue: Byers Theatre

Cost: $48.5-$75.4

Get tickets here.

Musical Performance and View of Atlantic Records, Saturday Jan. 28

2023 January 26
by Susan Asher

In a tribute to Atlantic Records, Neranenah (formerly the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival) is partnering with ATL Collective to bring a unique look behind-the-scenes of the record company through song and spoken-word storytelling.

This concert will be delving into the label behind voices such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding. This is the second version of this type of event. The first told the story of Chess Records.

The show will include music performances interwoven with spoken word-like monologues from poet and rapper Adán Bean. The performance includes music and storytelling to transport you to a moment in American history. On & Off The Record presents classic music designed to honor tradition, peek behind the scenes of cultural movements, and ask fundamental questions about our nation’s history and identity.

Conceptualized by jazz pianist Joe Alterman, Executive Director of the Neranenah – Concert & Culture Series, the show will be feature Atlanta musicians, hand-picked for their individual artistic strengths and talents.

Musicians are listed below:

The show will be held at the Atlanta History Center’s McElreath Hall, Saturday, Jan. 28 at 8 p.m.

Presented through a collaboration between Neranenah (formerly the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival) and ATL Collective, “On & Off The Records: The Music of Atlantic Records” is set for Jan. 28 at the center’s at 8 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Melissa Rivers to speak at MJCCA on “Lies My Mother Told Me”

2022 October 15
by Susan Asher

Joan Rivers, one of the most famous comics of the last century, was known for her acerbic barbs, her TV talk- and reality-shows, commercials, sales pitches on QVC, movies, books, and–according to her daughter Melissa Rivers in her memoir “The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation”–for her more than 300 cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures.

In her latest book, “Lies My Mother Told Me,” New York Times best-selling author Melissa Rivers dishes up a comedic look at the lies people tell their children. While the stories in this book aren’t actual lies that Joan told Melissa, they are stories that may have ever the slightest basis of truth built into them based on their lives.

Melissa worked alongside her mother for years, producing TV shows and working as a comedy duo. She will speak with CNN editorial producer Nadia Bilchik about the book and her life with Joan at the 31st Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $38 and can be purchased here.

The talk will be held at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta5342 Tilly Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 30338.

Learn more about the various celebrities and authors who will be presenting at the Book Festival Nov. 3-19.

World Premiere of Water for Elephants at the Alliance Theatre

2022 September 21
by Susan Asher






Tickets are now on sale for the Alliance Theatre’s upcoming world premiere musical, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.  Based on the critically acclaimed and best-selling novel by Sara Gruen, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is an adventure filled with romance, deception, and a little bit of magic, all under the big top of a traveling circus.  Closing the Alliance’s 54th season, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will premiere on the Coca-Cola Stage June 4 – July 9, 2023.

In WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, Jacob Jankowski is running towards a new life when he hitches a ride on a mysterious train.  He finds himself in the heart of a traveling circus, the Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show On Earth, with a new job, a new home, and a new family. When charismatic ringmaster August brings Rosie the elephant on as the new star attraction, Jacob and August’s wife Marlena join forces to train her.  As Jacob and Marlena’s shared compassion develops into love, August’s cruel nature surfaces, threatening to derail Jacob’s life once more.  Brought to theatrical life by an internationally acclaimed and innovative creative team, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will reignite your dreams of running away with the circus.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is helmed by an exciting creative team led by Director Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo), with a book by Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher), and a score by the award-winning PigPen Theatre Co.  Additional casting and creative team information for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will be announced in early 2023.

Tickets for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS are available now at

‘The Outrage Machine’ at The Essential Theatre

2022 August 11
by Susan Asher
Evrett (Mattthew Ferro, left), Rina (Hannah Morris, right) photo by Elisabeth Cooper

 “The Outrage Machine” looks at today’s media – newspapers, magazine, social media posts – and the way readers and publishers react to so-called journalism. It’s an excellent play that is making its world premiere at The Essential Theatre, and it deserves to be performed on many more stages.

Rina (Hannah Morris), an Uber driver, picks up a passenger, Marlen (Jeff Hathcoat), who offers to give her $50 to drop him off at a bar, keep the meter running and stop the meter two blocks away. He’s planning to avenge the death of a leopard who died in a hunt at the hands of a tycoon. Rina has to choose: ethics or money, and that’s the crux of life in “The Outrage Machine.”

Living with her sister Ellie (Ellie Styron) to make ends meet until she finds a full-time job, Rina goes out on a blind date to cheer herself up. She meets Neil (David Soyka), an entrepreneur who runs a website known for its sensational headlines and outrageous stories created to capture readers and clicks. Only at the very bottom of the story does he disclose the truth: the story is a lie. Rina is appalled at the lies and says this type of writing is deceitful.

Soon thereafter, Rina writes a social media headline that gets lots of clicks and receives an offer from a publisher, Henry (Ajejandro Guitierrez) to work as a freelancer creating sensational headlines for his new alternative newspaper, The Centurion. Her headlines attract an inordinate amount of clicks, bringing her notoriety and increasing her drive for telling stories that aren’t being told. But in time Rina, realizes that even the alternative newspaper out to tell the truth about stories that typically never get written in traditional newspapers, won’t publish stories that might be contradictory to environmental activist points of view.  

However, the superstar headline writer discovers that there can be bad consequences to telling the truth as organizations can fight back and fight dirty. Interspersed throughout the play on the screen behind the actors are real news headlines that strike a reader like a thunderbolt and hail from both yellow journalism newspapers and reputable ones like Vox, the New York Times and BuzzFeed.

While the overall acting may be lacking from this production—except from Guitierrez who is believable in his scenes—the writing and storyline make this production worthwhile. This is a smartly written play that deserves to be performed in well-known theaters around the country.

Written by Daniel Carter Brown, directed by Peter Hardy, “The Outrage Machine” was the co-winner of the 2020 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and runs through Aug. 27. Due to COVID, it is just now making its premiere. Festival tickets are now on sale at


Daryl Patrice (Val Moon)
Matthew Ferro (Ari, Evrett, Host)
Anna Fontaine (Blair)
Jeff Hathcoat (Marlen, Jude, Whit)
Kelly Nguyen (Tay, Corie, Kennedy)

Clear Instructions on Buying I Bonds: How to navigate the worst website and actually buy I Bonds without spending an hour trying to figure out how to do it

2022 June 19
by Susan Asher

Everyone is talking about it. Up until October 2022, you can buy I bonds at the current rate of 9.62%, which is good for six months.

But navigating the Treasury Direct website is a nightmare. I and others I know have spent hours trying to navigate it, inputting in a ton of information, only to have it say at the end, the system isn’t working now and try again later. You can’t get anyone to answer the phone there or answer an email.

So tonight, I finally was able to open an account. Finally! I must have been attempting it for an hour.

The website is one of the worst websites. There are dozens and dozens of links on a page. And when you click on “How to Buy an I bond,” you don’t see a link that says anything like “Buy an I Bond.”

I don’t normally write about finance, but I want to help you navigate it relatively quickly. Without clear instructions like I’m going to give you, it’s hard to do because the links you need to click on are tiny and they may be in light gray! Other links are in blue, but the link you’re going to be looking for may be in light gray, so you can barely see it. And it doesn’t even say “Buy an I Bond.” To be fair, perhaps the link at one time was in blue, but maybe because I clicked the link at some point before, it is now and has been for the past weeks, in light gray as if the link is grayed out. If the link turned purple once you have clicked on it just once within any time frame, that would be fine. But this link is barely perceptible. OK, enough of my gripes!

Before you try to open an account, have your checking account and routing number and your driver’s license with you as you will need that information to open an account.


On the Treasury Direct homepage, on the left-hand side of the page under the column titled Individuals, click on How to Buy Series I. The new page that pops up is a beast. There is a link there that says “How Can I Buy Bonds.” Click that link. Scroll about half-way down and it will say:

How can I buy I bonds?

Two options:

Click the first option: Buy them in electronic form in our online program TreasuryDirect.

Once on the Treasury Direct page, about midway down the body of the text, to the right of a bullet point there are four tiny links–all the links are tiny. You want to click on either “Log in Now” or “Open an Account.” Of course, if you’re trying to open an account, you’ll click Open an Account. A new page will open and at the very bottom of the page, click Apply Now. If you already have an account and want to purchase I Bonds, click “Log in Now.” That will take you to a new page titled TreasuryDirect Login. Under that title, is an orange button that says Login. Click that Login button.

With these instructions, this will be very easy. Without these instructions, people have spent more than an hour trying to navigate this unruly website.

This blog post was written on June 19, 2022. As of this date, the instructions above are accurate.

‘The Wake’ at the Shakespeare Tavern May 8, 15, 22

2022 April 17
by Susan Asher

“The Wake,” a new play by one of my favorite most creative playwrights, Vennie Meli, premieres Sundays this May.

Finneas O’Conner has died, and his old cronies gather together to celebrate his life. They share laughs, sing songs and settle old scores. A woman competes with the funeral director for attention, a brawl erupts and while singing the song “Tim Finnegan’s Irish Wake,” when they get to the part about whiskey splashing on Tim Finnegan, he is brought back to life and appears. This song about the celebration of life, death and resurrection, is just one of many that crowds will know and sing along with. The friends get rowdy and compete and argue while singing familiar songs, as well as new ones written by Scott Depoy and Venni Meli. It’s a fun, lighthearted and touching show about the loss of loved ones and the memories they leave behind.

The show’s playwright, Vynnie Meli, has written plays that have been produced across the U.S., and her short-form operas have played in Australia and Germany. Twice selected for the New York Musical Festival, her musical A Cappella received numerous NYMF awards, the SteeleSprings Stage Rights Publishing Award and Alliance Theatre’s Atlanta Artists Reiser Lab. A semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Award and Finalist for Theatre Resources Unlimited/TRU, she’s received ATHE and Jane Chambers Awards Honorable Mentions; and Poets & Writers Magazine and Anna Sosenko Grants. Locally, she’s received the Essential Theatre and Metropolitan Atlanta Theatre Awards for “Best New Work” and the Atlanta branch of the Nat’l League of Pen Women Award for Playwright of the Year.

Musical director Scott DePoy sang on the soundtrack for the film Cold Mountain and at the Academy Awards with Elvis Costello and Alison Krauss. He has written songs for Kaiser Permanente, Imagine it! The Children’s Museum, and has composed and performed the music for several shows, including A Child’s Garden of Verses at The Alliance Theatre and Phantom of the Opry at Upstairs at Gene and Gabe’s. He has been a musician for Cotton Patch Gospel at Theatrical Outfit and Ring of Fire and Almost Heaven; The John Denver Story at Georgia Ensemble Theatre.

Director Mira Hirsch was the founder and artistic director of Jewish Theatre of the South for the whole of that company’s thirteen-year history. She is currently a secondary school theatre teacher at Atlanta International School and an educational consultant and workshop leader with the National Jewish Theatre Foundation’s Holocaust Theatre International Initiative. Professional and university directing credits include: Indecent (Suzi Awards – nominee Outstanding Direction Play), A Little PrincessThe Best Of Enemies and My Name Is Asher Lev at Theatrical Outfit; Camelot at Atlanta Lyric; The Last Night Of Ballyhoo at Stage Door Players; The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane (Suzi Awards – nominee Outstanding Direction – TYA) at Synchronicity; The Visit and Arcadia at Oglethorpe University; Falsettos (concert production) at Souper Jenny Atlanta; and Anne Frank: Within And Without at the Center for Puppetry Arts. 


The Wake, A New Play With Old Irish Songs, by Vynnie Meli, includes additional music by Scott DePoy with lyrics by Vynnie Meli. It runs at The Shakespeare Tavern, 499 Peachtree Street, NE; Atlanta, GA 30308, 7:30pm Sundays on May 8, 15 and 22. Dinner and drinks are available from 6:15 until 7:20. The show runs 80 minutes with no intermission. Tickets on sale now – $25 for General Admission and $20 for Students, Seniors, Educators & Military. or call the Shakespeare Tavern Box Office 404-874-5299 x 0. Parking is available across the street at Emory University Hospital, Midtown.