In his eleven years as the Alliance Theatre’s artistic director, Leon pushed its subscribers beyond the safe, feel-good fuzzies of Driving Miss Daisy—the longest-running play there before he took over in 1990—to multiethnic stagings of bold dramas, comedies, and musicals, including the groundbreaking first run of the Elton John–composed Aida. Overall subscriptions may have dropped during that period, but nonwhite subscribers rose from 3 percent to 20 percent, and by his tenure’s end, the Clark Atlanta alum had beefed up the Alliance’s endowment and brought the theater national prominence. He left the Alliance in 2001 and in 2003 started True Colors Theatre Company to stage plays by minorities of all kinds. His commitment to diversity caught the eye of Broadway, and he began commuting to the Great White Way for his 2004 Tony-winning revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Last year the Vinings resident and avid golfer received a Tony Award nomination for best director for his revival of August Wilson’s Fences, starring Denzel Washington. He’s lately moved behind the camera to direct episodes of ABC’s Private Practice. Next up: directing Halle Berry’s Broadway debut in the MLK-themed The Mountaintop.
When Payne, a no-name former UGA defensive lineman and real estate lawyer, started pitching Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic bid, the city’s bold-faced businessmen presumably had the same reaction as the Atlanta Constitution: This man is a “screwball with a harebrained scheme.” Thanks to that screwball and unrelenting city booster—who strategically recruited former mayor and UN ambassador Andrew Young to charm International Olympic Committee members—Atlanta shocked the world by securing those centennial games in September 1990. Payne became president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, which sparked not only $3.5 billion in tourism and new construction but also massive repairs to infrastructure, a population boom, and a giant leap toward the laurel Atlanta had so long desired: true international city. In 2006 Payne took over as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, where he grabbed headlines last year for criticizing a disgraced Tiger Woods.
When Quatrano and husband/business partner Clifford Harrison moved Bacchanalia—their nationally renowned fine-dining restaurant—from a Buckhead cottage to uncharted Westside in 1999, foodies fretted over whether it would survive. Not only did it flourish, but it also sparked redevelopment that eventually made Westside the city’s hottest dining neighborhood. With three other restaurants (Floataway Cafe, Quinones at Bacchanalia, and the latest, Abattoir) and gourmet market Star Provisions to run, Quatrano tries to spend time at each every day.