Theatrical Outfit (TO) is the second-oldest non-profit professional theater in Atlanta. Our mission is to “produce world class theatre that starts the conversations that matter” and we are guided by a deep love for our city and a commitment to the amazing artists that call Atlanta home. We are located at the center of downtown in a historic building, The Balzer Theater at Herren’s, which the AJC called “the city’s best small performance space.”
Over the course of its illustrious history TO has evolved into a theater of exceptional storytelling, with a unique voice that promotes discussion, reflection, and public discourse. As well as producing a five-show season of exceptional productions on our Mainstage, we run a robust community engagement program that includes forums for dialogue around the content of the plays, and service and education programs that deepen the impact of our work in Atlanta. We also run the “Made in Atlanta” new work program dedicated to developing new plays and exploring the untold stories of our city and the region.
Our building is important to our identity in two key ways: first, it was the home for Herren’s Restaurant, which was the first white restaurant to voluntarily desegregate in 1962, risking violent backlash in pursuit of racial equity in Atlanta; and second, during the conversion of the building in 2005, we invested in environmentally responsible building practices and became the first theater in the country to receive LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). These facts embody our commitment to both a conscientious exploration of our history, and a sustainable and equitable future for our city.
At its genesis in 1977, TO was founded by an ensemble of young artists who performed in a converted laundromat in Virginia Highlands, often producing cutting-edge contemporary theatre. In 1981, TO renovated the Kress Five and Dime Store on the corner of 10th and Peachtree, creating a 200-seat black box theater where Artistic Director Sharon Levy produced over 40 plays and musicals, cementing TO as one of the most exciting theaters in Atlanta.
In the early 90s, TO relocated to the 14th Street Playhouse, and there was a shift towards more socially conscious programming, including work collaborations with The Carter Center, and a project with The Atlanta Committee for UNICEF that told the stories of Bosnian war children. This work expanded under the visionary leadership of Tom Key, who was Artistic Director of TO from 1995 to 2020, and oversaw the move Downtown, and the purchase and renovation of the Herren’s Restaurant building, creating our permanent home – The Balzer Theater at Herren’s.
To learn more about Herren’s, please watch this Emmy-award nominated documentary, and please enjoy this recipe for their famous Cinnamon Rolls!