For Serenbe's 'Titanic,' It's Sink and Swim


Serenbe Playhouse isn’t afraid to think big when it comes to its site-specific, outdoor musicals: They built a fully operational carousel (and Ferris wheel) for Carousel and landed an actual helicopter for Miss Saigon.

But for its production of the musical Titanic, running July 11-Aug. 12, Serenbe takes “immersive theatre” to new heights, and depths. The production will sink a ship into the Inn Lake nightly—or, at least, portions of the four-story structure representing the titular luxury liner, as the cast of 40, mostly non-Equity actors find themselves in the water fighting for their characters’ lives.

“I had no idea how I was going to do it when I announced it,” admitted Brian Clowdus, founding executive/artistic director of the theatre company for the past nine years; he also directs Titanic. The company presents shows at various locations of this 10,000-acre, “new urbanism” community, located about 30 miles southwest of downtown Atlanta.

Titanic is by far the most elaborate production of the company’s “water-themed” season, which also includes The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, and The Seagull. The company upped their regular budget for a show to $350,000, with $100,00 from the Home Depot Foundation. (The company, with an overall budget of $1.5 million, is a self-sustained operation presenting five productions a year.)

Building a structure that could float and sink in real time was a challenge for set designer Adam Koch. “I wanted to acknowledge Brian’s vision for the spectacle of it,” he said, “while at the same time respecting the intention of the creators because they didn’t envision it being on the actual water when they wrote it. But that also doesn’t mean we can’t do it.”