Aurora Theatre Looks to the Future

by Jody Key – Managing Editor — November 24, 2020

Aerial view of the Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center next to the existing parking deck and Aurora Theatre

Atlanta — While many theaters in the nation have taken an intermission, Aurora has been hard at work producing content for streaming, offering small masked and socially distanced live events, and most importantly, working with Carroll Daniel construction company to continue building the state-of-the art Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center. Speakeysie was fortunate enough to be invited to the construction site this week and see what progress is being made for this facility slated to open May 28, 2021. The new space will include a 500 seat theater and separate cabaret space which can open up to a courtyard with an additional outdoor performance space seating 250. In addition, the facility houses offices, classrooms, a rehearsal space, and costume shop.

Ann Carol Pence and Anthony Rodriguez, co-founders of Aurora Theatre

Aurora co-founders, Anthony Rodriguez and Ann Carol Pence were our guides along with Project Manager Mike Sims from Carrol Daniel construction. We were taken on a complete tour of this impressive facility, and while there is still much to be done (the build is 50% complete), we could imagine through architect renderings and the physical space that exists what the future of performing arts will look like. Even in the midst of the current pandemic, the future looks promising.

View from onstage –the pit and trap area will be covered. Looking out into the orchestra area and balcony.
There are also box seating areas on the right and left walls.

The marriage of Aurora, the City of Lawrenceville, and the county of Gwinett has brought in steady revenue to the area since Aurora’s arrival in 2007. The theater has been part of a successful revitalization effort between city government, private development, and a non-profit charity. Aurora has offered 850 events and brought 80,000 patrons annually to the area.

Anthony Rodriguez looks down from the catwalk to the theater below

The larger facility will allow Aurora to house their blockbuster musical productions, as well as offer a space that can be contracted out for performances such as The Nutcracker offered by local ballet studios in December. The original theater will continue to offer plays and allow Georgia Gwinnett College to move some of their productions from the existing studio space into the current theater as well.

The Cabaret Space will be a versatile space similar to the existing studio, but on a larger scale. Productions will either play indoors in the space itself, or the space can be opened up to the courtyard with seating outdoors. There will also be an outdoor stage in the courtyard as well. The courtyard is slated to seat up to 250 people and allow for social distancing. Once construction is complete, up to 5 events could be occurring at any given time, giving patrons a variety of live performance options to choose from all in the same location.

View of the orchestra pit and stage from the catwalk high above

As far as protocols for the health and wellness of patrons, the facility is being built with funds from the CARES act allocated by Gwinnett County and the city of Lawrenceville to ensure the space has proper ventilation, UV and ionization capabilities, and touch-less entry and bathroom facilities. As a result of COVID protocols, the outdoor courtyard was redesigned for outdoor seating and performance areas that would allow for social distancing. In addition, the existing theater and studio space will also be updated to ensure the health and safety of patrons.

In spite of the pitfalls of 2020, the continued construction of the LPAC inspires hope for the future of the arts in the greater Atlanta Metro area. Thanks to Aurora and Carroll Daniel Construction for inviting us to tour the site. We are looking forward to the opening of this space and the high quality arts experiences that Aurora Theater will continue to provide.

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