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Culture notes: Botanical Garden light-show designer’s low-watt approach to own home; OnStage plots move; rave for Hensley; ask an art expert

Last Christmas, some 106,000 people stopped by to see Tres Fromme’s holiday lights.

OK, not at Fromme’s home exactly, but at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where he had led the design team that created the first “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights,” an unusually arty Christmas light show featuring 1 million LED bulbs.

Fromme, who lived in Dallas at time but had done freelance design work for the Atlanta garden, moved here from Texas this year to work full-time at the Midtown attraction. As the garden’s landscape design and planning manager, he made many additions (including an another 500,000 LED lights) and enhancements for the second edition of “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights.”

People are again pouring into the garden to view all those festive fuchsias and groovy greens, among a rainbow of handsome hues.  All that attention leaves inquiring minds to wonder what sort of fantabulous spectacle he strung up at his own abode.

Fromme laughed at the question.

“Oh, I don’t do holiday decorations at home any more,” he said. “At a certain point, it’s, ‘I don’t want to see another colored light, another swag!’ It’s great that everyone can come and see (‘Garden Lights’), but not at my house!”

If that sounds a little like Ebenezer Scrooge, Fromme, who’s chipper and appreciative of all the holiday love, doesn’t want you to get the wrong idea.

“My partner decorates a tree, which he loves, and then he puts various knickknacks he likes around, and then we call it a day. Really after this,” he said, motioning around the 30-acre garden, “nothing I do at home is going to compete.”

If you’re considering a visit before the popular show closes Jan. 5, here’s the skinny: In the week leading up to Christmas, many potential customers without reservations — including some unhappy ones who had bought discounted Groupon vouchers back in October, thinking they constituted reservations – had to be turned away as the garden reached the capacity it set of 4,500. To make amends, the garden has raised capacity to 5,500 and is allowing Groupon holders to redeem (in person in advance or by calling 1-855-454-6849) for any night in which tickets are still available.  

Garden officials suggest the best availability is early in the week (bonus: “off-peak” admission is cheaper). If you attend on a “peak” night later in the week, they advise arrival around nightfall, to ensure you snag a parking deck space.

“Garden Lights” continues 5 to 10 p.m. nightly. Admission Thursdays-Sundays: $20; $14 ages 3-12; free under 3. Mondays-Wednesdays: $17; $11 ages 3-12. Parking: $5. 1345 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 1-855-454-6849, www.tickets.atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

THEATER
OnStage on to its next stage
If you could send cigars via e-mail, OnStage Atlanta should have attached one to a recent press release.

“Congratulations are in order,” proclaimed the headline. “We are expecting … a new theater!”

Indeed, the “semi-professional” (as it refers to itself) theater founded in 1971 will be departing its home of more than a decade in Decatur’s Suburban Plaza strip mall for an 18,000-square-foot facility at 2969 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. (close to Kudzu Antiques and Your DeKalb Farmers Market).

By spring, it hopes to move into the facility, which is being remodeled to include two performance spaces, a rehearsal hall, a gallery/second lobby, offices and storage. While the footprint is a bit smaller than at Suburban Plaza, the new theater will present better traffic flow for patrons and performers and better space for special events, parties/receptions, classes and workshops.

The announcement said that the troupe had been looking to relocate late last year when plans were announced to redevelop Suburban Plaza, where a Walmart store is now planned.

There will be one reminder of the old place, where the Suburban Lanes Bowling Center has been a neighbor, however. Onstage plans to record the sound of crashing pins and play it on a loop in its new lobby several miles away.

“We are thrilled to be taking this new step in our growth,” the announcement said. “Of course, we will need help from our community, supporters, and volunteers as we move, build, and create. … And when we say help, we mean people and trucks and money.”

Information: www.onstageatlanta.com.

Hensley praised by New York magazine

Marietta-based actor Shuler Hensley’s off-Broadway turn as a 600-pound recluse trying to reconnect with his teen daughter in “The Whale” was recently honored as stage performance of the year by New York magazine.

“Making this guy more than a stunt, and moving him beyond the merely literal, takes something approaching genius,” the magazine said. “Hensley’s Charlie — an online English-composition tutor steadily eating himself to death in an Idaho edge city — is both a compendium of insatiable American emptiness and an utterly honest, entirely non-bathetic hero. That’s no small thing.”

Samuel D. Hunter’s play, directed by Atlanta native Davis McCallum, closed at at Playwrights Horizons earlier this month.

VISUAL ART
Art questions to be answered by expert
The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center’s innovative “15 Minutes” program has afforded many metro and regional artists a free feedback session on their work and career path by artistic director Stuart Horodner. And now the Contemporary plans to take its leader’s advice viral.

ACAC is seeking questions on the minds of artists, dealers, collectors, patrons and others in the visual art world that Horodner will respond to on the center’s blog, www.atlantacontemporary.blogspot.com. To submit a query, email info@thecontemporary.org.

Meanwhile, “15 Minute” sessions, open to ACAC members only, continue this winter on Jan. 16, Feb. 13 and March 13. To schedule an appointment, contact membership and outreach coordinator Melanie Beal, mbeal@thecontemporary.org or 404-688-1970, ext. 213.

A basic artist membership is $25; students, $15; individuals, $40; dual, $65. Information: thecontemporary.org/support/membership.

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