When Paul Conroy’s job as a public school performing arts teacher disappeared during the economic downturn, he decided—almost on a whim—to move from his hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts, to Atlanta. He found work in Atlanta-area theater—as artistic director of Newnan Theatre Company, a marketing assistant at the Alliance, and general manager of Serenbe Playhouse.
But when his theatergoing gay friends asked him to recommend new shows, his suggestions often fell flat. “They’d say, ‘That doesn’t sound like it speaks to us,’” Conroy says. It occurred to him that the city had an unmet demand for material that explored LGBTQ experiences.
Soon after, Conroy began to lay the groundwork for Out Front Theatre Company, which arrived last fall with an ambitious production of the Broadway musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This month the company closes its three-show season with Paul Rudnick’s Old Testament re-do: The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (April 27-May 14), in which Adam partners with Steve, not Eve. Although Rudnick’s comedy debuted in 1998, long before the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, Conroy, who is gay, argues that the play remains vital. “I think it’s very relevant in a state like Georgia,” he says, which has some of the country’s weakest legal protections against LGBTQ discrimination.
In the coming years, Conroy plans to produce a mix of comedies, dramas, and musicals at Out Front’s Westside space, but he stresses that it is not a vanity playhouse. “I don’t like being the center of attention,” says the founder and producing artistic director. “I keep telling people, ‘If I get hit by a truck tomorrow, then the mission of the theater needs to be strong enough that it carries on because it’s not about me.’” He’s just the guy who had the nerve to follow his instincts.
This article originally appeared in our April 2017 issue.