University of South Carolina

What I Did This Summer: Open a professional theater

"What I Did This Summer" follows a number of University of South Carolina students this summer as they work, travel, and explore the world. Many of them are blogging about their adventures. This is the second story in the series.

Check out Brian Clowdus' blog at


The New York Times calls Serenbe, Georgia, the “Sonoma for the New South.” Brian Clowdus calls it the home of his new theatre.

“Serenbe is part of the Chattahoochee Hills community, and it’s just a 40-minute drive from midtown Atlanta,” said Clowdus, an MFA in acting student.

“It’s a wonderful town. There’s an organic farm, lots of shops and galleries, and acres and acres of green space that will remain undeveloped.

Brian Clowdus
Brian Clowdus

“Serenbe Playhouse is located outside for now, with its main stage in an intimate space in a courtyard, where people can enjoy an outdoor experience in the heart of the town,” he said. “Another stage will be located on the outskirts of nearby woods.

“With my graduate student schedule, I have my summers free and I didn’t want to wait to fulfill my dream of starting a theatre,” said Clowdus, who has an impressive list of professional acting gigs on his resume, including commercials, films, and the Broadway National Tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

“Our first production, The Jungle Book, opens June 11.”

Just one month before their opening night, Clowdus and other theatre students had finished up their spring semester coursework and were in the University’s scene shop, surrounded by tons of new lumber. They were using saws and nail guns to build a massive outdoor stage.

“The theatre department allowed us to use the scene shop to create the stage and set. Otherwise we would have had no other place to build our sets. We trucked the stage pieces to Serenbe ourselves.”


The inaugural season of Clowdus’ theatre is full: The Jungle Book, part of his mission to provide good children’s theatre to the area; John and Jen, a musical; and Shakespeare’s R&J, a new adaptation of Romeo and Juliet where four young men play all the roles.

“Another part of my mission is presenting new work, so I have invited all my fellow graduate students to perform their solo shows at Serenbe,” said Clowdus, who is originally from Hokes Bluff, Alabama.

Ready, Set, Glow!
Ready, Set, Glow!

The people involved in the growth and first season of Serenbe Playhouse include many Carolina students and alumni. They are Clowdus, executive/artistic director; April Brown, costume designer, costume design MFA student; Aaron Pelzek, lighting designer, recent MFA in lighting design graduate; Kimi Maeda, set designer, MFA scenic design graduate who is now a freelance set designer and recipient of the 2005 Rose Brand Award from the U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology; Alison Hogue, drama coordinator and assistant stage manager, MAT in theatre education graduate; Sandra Dietel, production stage manager, M.A. in teaching theatre; William Shuler, actor and musical director, BA in music and theatre; Amy Boyce Holtcamp, professional writer and director who lives in Columbia; Melissa Goodfellow, actress, senior theatre major; Samuel Traquina, actor, senior theatre major; and Holly Wood, business manager, recent graduate from USC's Moore School of Business.

With the firefly as its mascot, and "Ready, Set, Glow!" as its mantra, Serenbe Playhouse is poised for growth. Thanks to a fundraiser in March and the efforts of a board of directors, it's off to a good start. 

Clowdus hopes to have a bonafide theatre building in the future.

“Even then,” he said, “I’ll always want some kind of outdoor element in the performances.”


By Web Communications

Posted: 05/19/10 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 12/09/10 @ 3:35 PM | Permalink