This week, we talk with the founder and Executive/Artistic Director of the Serenbe Playhouse, Brian Clowdus. Brian is known for building immersive, site-specific productions using the “playhouse” of the grounds of Serenbe, a small curated community just outside of Newnan, Georgia. We talk about how outdoor theater both inspires innovation and provides for more accessible theater in the U.S. South and beyond and how Brian’s productions have created room for outdoor drama to grow.
Like many professional theater artists, Brian went to school in the northeast and moved to New York to pursue his career. After a revelation that working in New York wasn’t for him, Brian moved back to the south to be close to family and to have the space to pursue the type of theater that he wanted to create. And then he visited Serenbe.
Serenbe is described “a wellness community connected to nature on the edge of Atlanta... a neighborhood full of fresh food, fresh air and focused on wellbeing.” Serenbe’s Playhouse has over 50,000 visitors a season and only a small percentage are Serenbe community members. People travel from all over Georgia and beyond to see famous titles including Peter Pan and, recently, Titanic — each produced with inventive design and directorial choices. Brian discusses how the unique challenges of the outdoor play space both inspire and encourage the whole team at Serenbe Playhouse to think big, often announcing new ideas before they’re entirely sure how to make them reality.
Since founding Serenbe Playhouse, Brian has gone on to share his process with other locations as Brian Clowdus Experiences. Having theater outdoors allows companies of all sizes to mount productions fit for their budgets, artistic goals, and cast. Brian shares the value of theater uninhibited by space with areas all over the country as an option that is both financially and creatively more accessible for theater makers. By focusing on connecting with audiences -- for if it weren’t for audiences, there would be no show -- Brian understands how to produce theater that everyone can experience.
Each season has six productions, including annual shows The Sleepy Hollow Experience (running September 26 to November 4) and The Snow Queen (running from November 28 to December 30). You can learn more about Brian and the Serenbe Playhouse by visiting their website, www.serenbeplayhouse.com. If you’re in the Atlanta area, we encourage you to check out The Edgar Allan Poe Experience, which will run at The Wren’s Nest from October 17-31.
We would like to thank Brian for taking the time to talk with us and share more about his incredible work and Ed Thrower for assembling sound clips for the episode.