128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville
• Open since: May 2007
• Owner: Aurora Theatre and the city of Lawrenceville
• Location: The theater is located two blocks away from the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in downtown Lawrenceville
• Atmosphere: The Aurora Theatre is a majestic building decorated with bold, rustic colors. The building was originally the First Methodist Church of Lawrenceville, and the renovators did their best to maintain the building’s original charm. The main lobby contains a long concession stand made from the former pews of the church with long tapestries of the upcoming shows displayed above. There are two theaters, each with a different atmosphere and purpose.
• Venue offerings: The Aurora Theatre hosts more than 500 events a year. From the theater’s productions to comedy nights, workshops, concerts and children’s theater, there is always something going on at the Aurora.
The Harvel Lab Series is presented in the Peach State Federal Credit Union Studio, which seats about 90 people and has a very intimate atmosphere. The Harvel Lab Series is supported by Georgia Gwinnett College and plays are chosen to entice college students to attend.
“We choose (the plays) to try and speak to the students at GGC about the topics that interest them or to get them used to coming to theatre,” said Anthony Rodriguez, company founder and producing artistic director for the theater. “We often choose a classic show that they have not been exposed to before.”
The studio can be rearranged for various types of shows, including stand-up comedy nights with table seating and bar service. There have also been shows done in the round, with seats on all sides of the stage.
The main theater, which seats 250 and is more formal than the studio, is where the Aurora Theatre’s main programming is performed. The Aurora is currently working on finishing up its 18th season with “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” a comedy that runs from May 1 through 25. The 19th season will being with a production of the family classic “Mary Poppins.”
“We really want to make sure that what y’all are seeing is the same quality as what you’d get at the Fox or the Alliance and for half the price,” said Ann-Carol Pence, company founder and associate producer.
In addition to the plays, the theater also has comedy nights and swing nights. The theater also promotes learning in the arts through its Aurora Children’s Playhouse and the Aurora Learning Library. The Aurora Children’s Playhouse puts on entertainment for children and families, while the Aurora Learning Library performs for local elementary school classes.
The Aurora Theatre also has classes for theater students through the Aurora Theatre Academy. Students are able to learn and rehearse in one of two rehearsal rooms. The camps are offered during major school breaks.
Season tickets begin at $84 and include tickets to all six of the season’s main productions.
• Things you might not know: The city of Lawrenceville really worked with the founders to ensure the Aurora wouldn’t be like every other community theater. Organizers wanted to stand apart and be a professional, unique theater for the region.
“That’s one of the great things about the city of Lawrenceville, they let us pick the décor, they let us pick the seats,” Pence said. “There were lots of things that they thought about cost-cutting (but didn’t) because Anthony and I had such a day-to-day conversation about the building.”
The founders also tried to keep as much of the original building intact and worked with builders to make the new additions, including the main stage, blend with the existing building as much as possible. There are a number of small details throughout the theater that hearken back to its time as a church.
“We tried to leave as much of the old building as we could that was still functional,” Rodriguez said.
The Aurora Theatre has more than 62,000 people pass through its doors each year, and with this year’s ambitious upcoming season, they plan to have even more.
• Upcoming Events:
— May 1 through May 25: “Don’t Dress for Dinner”
— July 17 through August 31: “Mary Poppins”
— Saturday mornings: Aurora Children’s Playhouse