Theater Review - Randi Garza takes on Serenbe Playhouse"s first springtime play

Local stage star preps herself for the outdoor production of 'Man of La Mancha'

If you've always been tempted by the theater offerings in Piedmont Park in the summer but daunted by the heat and humidity, then the new production of Man of La Mancha at Serenbe Playhouse may be your perfect ticket. This is the theater's first attempt at a springtime musical, and actress Randi Garza is excited to be part of the team performing outside in Serenbe's labyrinth. On a clear night, the outdoor setting at Serenbe is truly idyllic, much like New York City's Shakespeare in the Park, but in a Southern farmhouse locale, where the environment becomes another character in the play.

This is Garza's first experience performing at Serenbe as she takes on the roles of a prisoner and Antonia in La Mancha, but later this summer she will be taking the stage again as Eva Peron in the theater's production of Evita. She has quickly learned that, given the outdoor setting of the performances, there is a superstitious silence regarding the possibility of precipitation. She notes that it began to sprinkle while cast members were having their publicity photographs made onsite for the show. "We all sort of observed that it was happening," Garza says. "I think it's one of those things that you just don't talk about."

Garza also trusts in the Serenbe team, and in La Mancha star Bryant Smith, who was outstanding as the villainous Jud in Serenbe's production of Oklahoma last summer. Garza explains that there will be a stage built in Serenbe's labyrinth for this production, and that it might have to compete with the elements.

"Depending on how the day goes and how it looks outside that day, our show could change completely," she says of the gritty-themed production, which is set in a prison. "If it is drizzling a little bit, that's only going to make it even more realistic."

Garza has quickly become a familiar face to Atlanta audiences, performing in five shows a year since arriving in January 2013. Recent highlights include performing as Janet in the Actor's Express production of The Rocky Horror Show and performing alongside Broadway hunk Will Swenson in the Alliance Theatre's Bull Durham. The baseball musical wasn't all fun and games, though. "I got a busted lip on closing," Garza says. "You get a little excited throwing a bat in the air, you know? You forget about gravity!"

Her performances have a delightful comedic quality in the vein of Broadway star Kerry Butler, and it will be interesting to see her in a more dramatic production like La Mancha, as well as taking on Evita in the summer.

Like other Atlanta-based actors, Garza praises the sense of community here. "I have offers to move to New York all the time, but I love being in a city where I can have my day-to-day life ... but still have a lot of hard-working, super-talented actors all around me," she says. "It's great to come to a show and it seriously feels like a big family."

Speaking of that big family, Garza's taken notice of the impressive crop of summer musicals coming up. "I heard that five years ago we didn't even do summer musicals here and now we've got Evita, and Mystery of Edwin Drood at Stage Door, and Rent at Actor's Express — everyone is doing summer musicals! There's a huge community of people here that are going to shows and supporting it."

Part of Garza's support team comes from her day job as a nanny for a voice teacher who helps her to prepare for auditions. Given the amount of film productions in Georgia, she encourages her friends in other places to move here, noting that it is possible to be a working professional actor in Atlanta. "I have friends that will drive up to work in a new car and when I ask, 'Where'd you get that?' they say, 'I filmed a Costco commercial that paid for it," she says.

The sense of being part of a vibrant, energetic community is particularly applicable to the La Mancha production "This show is magical," Garza says. "The entire theme is that life can be really rough, but you can make it magical if you want, you can believe what you want to believe."

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