Duluth's Red Clay Theatre debuts first show tonight

Live theater is back in Duluth starting tonight.

The Red Clay Theatre and Arts Center, which moved into Duluth after the Aurora Theatre left the city for new digs in Lawrenceville, will debut its first show, "Educating Rita," at 8 p.m. tonight.

The City of Duluth renovated the old Calvary Christian Church building on Main Street to create the new arts center, which will eventually be home to not only theater productions but concerts, comedy nights and maybe even an independent film festival, said Red Clay director Mark Pitt.

The cozy theater, with brick red walls and red upholstered seats, was designed around the elegance and glamour of a night out at the theater. The seats have drink holders, so patrons can purchase beer and wine to drink during the show. Eventually, Pitt said he'd like to rent space at the end of the theater building to a bistro-style restaurant.

"It's about the whole experience. People want to come out and be entertained," Pitt said.

The new building includes a 280-seat auditorium, a concessions area and a rehearsal space, as well as dressing rooms and office space.

"The theater has a nice, intimate feel, but it can still seat a lot of people," Pitt said.

While the Red Clay Theatre company is producing the inaugural show, "Educating Rita," the rest of the season will be filled with productions from visiting theater companies, Pitt said.

Atlanta's Horizon Theatre Company will offer the arts center's next production, "Bad Dates," marking the first time a downtown theater company has traveled all the way out to Duluth to perform, Pitt said. That show runs Nov. 17 through Dec. 10.

Other area theater groups, such as the Atlanta-based Georgia Ensemble Theatre and local community theaters, may eventually perform their shows in the space as well. The model is based on theaters in Pitt's home country of England.

"In England, if you have this successful show, you don't keep it at one theater. You tour it," Pitt said.

And the theater's large projection screen, which is perfect for screening movies, could also become a great resource for local companies. Pitt said he hopes to start attracting local companies to hold retreats at the arts center.

"This is probably the best PowerPoint screen you'll get in Gwinnett County," he said.

n What: Red Clay Theatre presents "Educating Rita," a "Pygmalion" update written by British playwright Willy Russell. The play tells the story of a married woman who signs up for a university course. She ends up learning more than she expected from the instructor, a washed-up, cynical writer.

•When: Tonight through Nov. 5. Shows are at 8 p.m. tonight, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee shows are at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

•Where: Red Clay Theatre and Arts Center, 3116 Main St., Duluth

•Cost: Tickets range from $22.50 to $30.

•Info: Visit www.redclaytheatrearts.com or call 770-622-1777.