Just four years after the opening of the UUCA building on Cliff Valley Way, then Senior Minister Eugene Pickett approached Mary Nell and Dante Santacroce about starting a theatre in the church. Dante agreed to direct the first play, the Clifford Odets classic, Waiting for Lefty. Because the only available space for the theatre was below ground level, Mary Nell suggested it be called “The Underground Theatre.” Fred Dixon constructed the light board, using four household dimmers at a total cost of under $45. With that magical box, a few par 150 lights, miles of extension cords and some nervous would-be-actors, the first show was born. As the last scene closed on opening night, the thunderous applause assured Dante that the show was a success. Applause to Dante and everyone who helped make The Underground a lasting success: the actors, stage managers, technicians, set and prop donors, salespeople, refreshment servers, spaghetti supper chefs, ministers, and office staff, and especially those who have supported the theatre over so many years.
The Underground Theatre Company, 1970-2014
After 44 seasons, 85 productions, and 270 performances, The Underground was Atlanta’s oldest avocational theatre. Under the direction of Underground founder Dante Santacroce, the theatre presented significant comedies and dramas that enlightened as they entertained. These outstanding plays were performed twice a year, in fall and spring, over two weekends. The theatre’s cozy underground venue, sporting just under 100 seats, created an intimate setting for highly accessible performances of quality plays—usually revivals of Broadway’s “golden oldies.”Exceptions included David Auburn’s Proof, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Play, Edward Albee’s modern classic A Delicate Balance, and acclaimed contemporary writer A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters. Harvey was The Underground’s 85th and final production. A grand celebration of the Theatre and its founders was thrown on Friday evening, April 11, 2014.
Dante Santacroce was the founder and director of The Underground Theatre. In addition to occasional appearances in Underground plays, he performed with the Academy Theatre, Theatre Atlanta and DramaTech, where his interest in theatre began. Mr. Santacroce last performed with The Underground in the 2006 hit production of Sidney Kingsley’s Detective Story. When not directing or acting, he is a consultant architect who enjoys sculpting in clay and limestone and sketching in pen and ink.
Reborn Underground Theatre, 2015-
After the closing of the spring 2014 production, the Underground Theatre “rested” for a year, while the future of performance arts at UUCA was considered. In September 2015, the Underground Theatre (UT) was reborn with the production of The Hundred Dresses, based on the 1945 Newbery Honor book by Eleanor Estes’s book and directed by Liz Bigler. The newly reinvigorated UT looks forward to another 44 seasons and more, with a broader scope and special emphasis on contemporary works that relate to the interests, work, and values of UUCA.