This fall’s must-see Atlanta arts events

Dance, theater, concerts, opera, art exhibitions, and more

Must-see Atlanta arts events 2021
The world premiere of Darlin’ Cory runs at the Alliance from September 8 to October 3.

Photograph courtesy of Alliance Theatre

This series on the fall arts season was produced in partnership with ArtsATL. The events below were selected by ArtsATL, and you’ll find even more events in their Fall Arts Preview.


Red Speedo
Actor’s Express
Through September 5

On the eve of Olympic qualifying trials, a performance-enhancing drug is found in the locker room. Freddie Ashley, artistic director of Actor’s Express, says, “As our first in-person production since the pandemic shutdown, we wanted to start out with something that would give audiences a jolt of adrenaline and energy. Red Speedo is full of rapid-fire dialogue and unexpected plot twists.” Covid distancing regulations inspired the company to build a large reflecting pool in front of the set.

Darlin’ Cory
Alliance Theatre
September 8 to October 3

Playwright and novelist Phillip DePoy wrote this world premiere based on an old Appalachian legend about an ambitious young woman, a backwoods pastor, and a mysterious stranger proffering tasty moonshine. Grammy Award-winning Kristian Bush wrote the music. Susan Booth directs.

An Iliad
Theatrical Outfit
September 15 to October 10

In this one-actor drama by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, Atlanta actor Lee Osorio revisits Homer’s tragic poem. “The Iliad is one of the most epic poems ever written,” explains director Matt Torney, also artistic director of Theatrical Outfit. “When looking for a play to reopen the theater to live audiences, we wanted to tell a story that resonated with the scale of what we have all lived through, and to celebrate the storytelling power of live theater.” Osorio will be accompanied by a live musician.

The Bluest Eye
September 23 to October 17

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye tells the story of an 11-year-old Black girl struggling because blond, blue-eyed children were considered the most beautiful. Rachel May, producing artistic director, says of Morrison’s first novel, “It is such a painfully beautiful portrait of the pressures on Black families and communities. Although the book just celebrated its 50th anniversary, it remains a powerful conversation around colorism, which has recently risen to the forefront of the national conversation.”

Art & Design

Pablo Picasso, Woman with Outstretched Arms, 1961, painted iron, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Esther Florence Whinery Goodrich Foundation. © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Photograph courtesy of the High Museum of Art

High Museum
Through September 19

Alexander Calder, an American, and Pablo Picasso, a Spaniard, reportedly met only four times. Yet the High Museum’s Frances B. Bunzl Family Curator of European Art Claudia Einecke notes, “their iconic sculptures, paintings, and drawings, when seen side by side and across from each other, as they are in the exhibition, show strong conceptual and formal affinities.” This traveling exhibition was conceived by the artists’ grandsons, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso and Alexander S. C. Rower.

Katherine Mitchell: Hearing the Trees, Chapter III
Through October 2

This series began when Katherine Mitchell, a retired senior lecturer in drawing and painting at Emory University, discovered that a white oak in front of her house had become diseased. She writes, “This series of paintings/drawings on paper were begun as talismans for the tree, and for me. As I worked, this tree began to symbolize all trees and our endangered environment. For some years I had tried to reconcile my concerns in visual art and my environmental concerns. This door opened for me with this body of work.”

Exhibiting Culture: Highlights from the Hammonds House Museum Collection
Hammonds House Museum
Through January 30, 2022

Hammonds House Museum’s new chief curator and executive director, Karen Comer Lowe, directs Exhibiting Culture, which features works from the musuem’s permanent collection. On display will be pieces by Benny Andrews, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Richard Hunt, Hale Woodruff, Jacob Lawrence, and more.

Lucinda Bunnen: Inward, Outward, Forward
Parade, 2015

Photograph courtesy of Atlanta Contemporary

Lucinda Bunnen: Inward, Outward, Forward
Atlanta Contemporary
September 18 to January 9, 2022

As the Atlanta Contemporary heads toward its 50th anniversary in 2023, the institution is celebrating its history. In 1973, Lucinda Bunnen helped found the museum, which was launched as a photography gallery called Nexus. An early proponent of the art form, Bunnen helped establish a renowned photography collection at the High Museum, which is named for her. Veronica Kessenich, executive director of the Atlanta Contemporary, says, “Lucinda had such an incredible impact on the arts and culture scene and ecosystem of Atlanta as a photographer, as a champion, and as a philanthropist. This exhibition celebrates and highlights her own work.”


Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
September 9 to 11

To celebrate the return to live performances, Robert Spano, ASO’s co-artistic advisor, will launch the new season with an opening night program of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and “Emperor” Concerto with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist.

Julius Caesar
Atlanta Opera
November 6, 9, 12, and 14

The torrid love affair between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra will be brought to stage when the Atlanta Opera kicks off its 2021-2022 season in November.

Atlanta Jazz Festival
Piedmont Park

September 5 and 6

One of the country’s largest free jazz festivals, sponsored by the City of Atlanta, returns. The lineup includes Patti Austin and Archie Shepp, Brenda Nicole Moorer, and Mike Phillips and will take place over Labor Day weekend as opposed to its usual Memorial Day spot. The festival kicks off this year’s Elevate, a two-month schedule of music, dance, art, film, and more by local artists. The theme will be “Reopen, Reignite, and Reconnect,” curated by artist and activist Charmaine Minniefield.

Shaky Knees Music Festival 2018
Queens of the Stone Age perform during Shaky Knees 2018.

Courtesy of aLIVE Coverage for Shaky Knees Music Festival

Shaky Knees Festival
October 22 to 24

Since its inception in 2013, Shaky Knees has featured diverse lineups of world-renowned indie musicians and up-and-coming artists. More than 60 bands will perform across four stages at Central Park, from Foo Fighters to Run the Jewels and the Strokes.


Atlanta covid-safer holiday activities drive-in
The Nutcracker

Photograph courtesy of the Atlanta Ballet

The Nutcracker
Atlanta Ballet
December 4 to 29

One year past its intended Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre debut, Atlanta Ballet will finally present Yuri Possokhov’s The Nutcracker on its home stage. This high-tech version features larger-than-life sets and bold costumes enhanced by striking video projections.

Marley Was Dead, To Begin With
Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre
December 10 to 13

Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre debuted this spin on the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol via a lush film treatment in 2020—the first time Terminus created a production specifically for film. Heath Gill, production choreographer, says, “It is an exciting challenge to present a new adaptation of such a well-known story. I feel the themes are timeless and lend themselves to the new imaginings of a modern audience.” This year, it will be performed live, and then, the film will be rereleased from December 17 to January 10.

Dance Canvas
Atlanta Contemporary
September 10 to 12

Atlanta Contemporary and Dance Canvas partner on the second year of Summer Choreographic Residencies, culminating in a live performance inspired by Danielle Deadwyler’s FOR(E)RUNNER, a multimedia installation that incorporates performance, video, and sculpture to tell the histories of the Atlanta railway corridor.

Parsons Dance
Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center
October 1

Known for its athleticism and stunning ensemble work, Parsons Dance fuses the gestures and movements of modern dance with the discipline and precision of a classical dance company. Signature works include the iconic Caught, which has a soloist soaring through the air as if caught in a photograph—with strobe lights. “Most people have dreamed of flying,” says choreographer and company cofounder David Parsons of the feat of light and movement. “It’s something we’ve all experienced in some form in our subconscious.”

This article appears in our September 2021 issue.