In its 10th year, Orbit Arts Academy is one of several live performance theater troupes in Sandy Springs that is not only providing residents and visitors with exciting entertainment, it is also training new generations of thespians, musicians and dancers.

“We started with a handful of kids and now we’re teaching over 400,” said Shane Simmons, musical director and accompanist who has been with Orbit for nine years. “We cater to young people ages six through 20,” split between several “companies” and classes based on the children’s ages.

“This is for people who want to take part in all aspects of performing arts,” he said. That includes theater arts education, and training in film and television, tap and ballet, voice, and piano.”

In the fall, the children work on their skills, and in the spring, each company performs a musical. In the summer, there are more shows and camps “for kids who love to work.”

Orbit Arts Academy’s Senior Company performing “Red White & True” from Andrew Lippa’s “Big Fish”

Non-profits offer theater training

On Feb. 10, the non-profit Academy just held its Orbit Theatrical Gala, complete with a theatrical production and silent auction to raise funds for operational expenses, production expenses, outreach and scholarships.

Another non-profit theater company and arts academy in Sandy Springs is Act3 Productions, a 76-seat theater located at 6285 Roswell Road. The organization offers a variety of musicals, dramas, improvisations and original productions performed by professional and amateur actors of all ages. Its goal is to expose young people to drama, dance, music, visual arts, technical production both onstage and behind the scenes.

A semi-professional theater company, Act3’s mission “prides itself in offering local artists a professional-level experience through compensation for their work and opportunities to interact with industry professionals,” according to its website. Another goal is to “build a sustainable and vibrant cultural presence and continue to contribute to making Sandy Springs a vital destination for the arts.”

Although its first performance was in January 2010, because of the Covid pandemic, Act3 considers itself to be in its 10 season.

In February, it is offering “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” and in March, “Lend Me a Tenor.” More importantly, in the next 30 days, it will be announcing its lineup for the next season, according to Mary Sorrel, executive director.

According to Act3’s website, patrons can now bring their own wine bottles to their shows. “We’ll have cups for purchase at concessions,” it says, as well as “a cooler for white wines and corkscrews.” Sorrel said it’s the only theater in Sandy Springs that offers this option.

Orbit Arts Academy Senior Company’s cast of “Hot Mikado” by Gilbert & Sullivan.

City Springs Theatre Company was launched in 2017

The City Springs Theatre Company, formed in 2017 by Sandy Springs residents, performs musical theater productions and offers arts education programs in affiliation with the City of Sandy Springs in the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center.

In 2018, City Springs Theatre Company launched a conservatory program dedicated to training the next generation of performers and technicians in musical theatre. The conservatory offers private lessons, a pre-professional company, summer musicals for high school and middle school students, and it participates in the Junior Theater Festival. The pre-professional company trains students ages 12 to 18 who are interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts.

In its short history, the City Springs Theatre Company has served more than 174,000 patrons and 135,000 students through main stage musicals and educational programs.

And that number is certain to grow. In March, the organization will stage Walt Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast” in Byers Theatre. In May, it will present “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” and in from July 12 to Aug. 18, it will showcase “Jersey Boys”.

Some people complain about traffic congestion. Others do something about it. The City of Sandy Springs appears to be in the latter category.

A year short of celebrating its 20th anniversary, Sandy Springs can brag that its population has grown to 108,601, making it the state’s sixth largest city, and the second largest city in the metropolitan area. According to a U-Haul International study released a year ago, Sandy Springs is the No. 25 growth city in the country. Between 2000 and 2022, the population jumped by more than 20,000.

That has meant new houses, new condos, new apartment complexes, and more retail options to serve the growing community. And yes, it meant more cars.

There are more than 315 miles of roadways in the Sandy Springs local street network. Some of have become congested over the years.

But the city is in the midst of widening roads, and planning for the future. Since the beginning of this decade, Sandy Springs has been encouraging the public to participate in open house meetings to discuss and learn about proposed improvements to ease traffic congestion in the city.

City of Sandy Springs has focused on traffic problems for years

As far back as 2009, the city started concentrating on several notable traffic problem areas.

Four years ago, it was focused on Hammond Drive from Roswell Road to Glenridge Drive. The city noted that this portion of Hammond Drive lacked sidewalks and marked crosswalks, as well as insufficiently providing for MARTA — all of which led to an increase in neighborhood cut-through traffic, negatively impacting adjacent roadways.

According to the city, based on traffic data collected in 2019, Hammond Drive between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive carried approximately 17,500 vehicles a day, a higher volume of traffic than the capacity of the two-lane roadway.

To further exacerbate the traffic problem, the city understood that the area of Hammond Drive between Boylston Drive and Glenridge Drive is the narrowest section of Hammond.

In 2022, the city approved continuation of preliminary work on Hammond Drive between Boylston Road and Glenridge Road, to the tune of nearly $3 million.

Sandy Springs seeks funding to complete the Hammond Drive and Boylston Drive intersection project.

Requests for extra funding to finance plans

Then earlier this year the city council agreed to request $2 million from the State Road and Tollway Authority to complete financing of the Boylston/Hammond intersection. The funding would be in the form of a $1.1 million low-interest loan and a $900,000 grant. According to the city council, to be eligible for this funding, projects must enhance movement as well as drive economic development.

The city already has $3.5 million from its capital improvement funds, but the project is expected to cost $5.5 million, to cover the installation of sidewalks and paths and the readjustment of the intersection. The city expects construction to start this summer.

Public Works Director Marty Martin said, “The project will continue to spur economic development by creating a safer transportation environment.” The project includes the widening of Hammond Drive to four lanes. He added that the proposed sidewalk and pathways would contribute to the city’s goal to make the city better for pedestrians as well as bike riders.

Martin said that the city will know whether it will obtain the requested funds by early this summer.

Powers Ferry as city’s western gateway

Then, last August, Sandy Springs residents were apprised of the city’s Powers Ferry Transportation Study whose purpose is to improve pedestrian, bicycle, transit and vehicular travel in an area that “straddles I-285 at Northside Drive and serves as the western gateway” to the city, a report stated. “The area is home to a regional employment center and residential neighborhoods, is served by small scale retail, and provides access to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.”

According to the report, the study will develop an implementation plan “to move projects and strategies forward. It will further evaluate these improvements and determine the feasibility and costs association with implementation.”

The nine-month study that launched in May last year is supposed to be completed this spring. Throughout the study process, residents have been encouraged to share ideas and provide feedback on the proposed transportation improvements in the area. An open house for the public is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Residents and business owners may come to complain, but the city plans to take those complaints into account as it moves the city forward, both literally and figuratively.

In the wake of the deeply unsettling events that unfolded in Israel on October 7th, the global Jewish community and supporters of Israel have been profoundly affected. Local Sandy Springs synagogue, Temple Sinai, has strong ties to Israel and has swiftly morphed programming and support towards solidarity with Israel as well as educating people here locally. This war, coupled with a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents worldwide, has struck a personal chord within the congregation.

Tragically, the congregation mourns the loss of a 20-year-old family member of Temple Sinai congregants, who was killed while serving as an IDF border police officer in early November. This heartbreaking loss has only intensified the synagogue’s commitment to educating anyone willing to learn about the ongoing conflict, the history of Israel and the surrounding region, and the troubling rise of antisemitism across the globe.  Rabbi Natan Trief, the director of adult learning at Temple Sinai, emphasizes that there is so much misinformation and disinformation out there, it is paramount to all for people to have the true facts.

To achieve this mission, Temple Sinai has organized a series of informative sessions, which are open to the public and easily accessible through Zoom.  Each session offers a unique perspective. These sessions cover a wide range of topics, including “The Weaponization of Language,” “Israel’s Soul through Music,” “Denial,” and “Dialogue,” among others. One particularly poignant event hosted at the synagogue featured a survivor of the Reim music festival massacre on October 7th. Rabbi Trief highlighted the profound impact of hearing an eyewitness account of the tragedy, stating, “No matter how much you may think you have been made aware of what took place there, nothing compares to the horrors of an eyewitness account. It was a true miracle, that by an unlikely series of circumstances, she made it out alive.”

Temple Sinai leaders believe it’s paramount to organize ongoing trips to Israel to show solidarity, volunteer, and educate

In addition to these informative sessions, every rabbi at Temple Sinai has paid a visit to Israel since October 7th.  In early February, the synagogue organized a trip there with a multifaceted mission. The trip aimed to demonstrate solidarity with the Israeli people during a time when global support appears to be wavering.  Additionally, it allowed for participants to engage in volunteer work, and educational opportunities. Over the course of four intense days, participants met with police officers who were on the ground during the events of October 7th. They visited sites that had been targeted that day, including the music festival venue, private homes, and a bomb shelter. The group paid their respects at memorials, including the grave site of Rose Lubin, the local 20-year-old soldier who sacrificed her life while defending Israel.

The tour included a visit to Net Ivot where they volunteered in a special kitchen designed to serve thousands of soldiers engaged in the ongoing conflict. In Hostage Square, a memorial and advocacy point for those held hostage in Gaza, the group learned about efforts on behalf of the hostages. This location, marked by rallies, signs with photos of all who were taken, and a permanent Shabbat table that is perpetually set with empty chairs for those still missing, is a central hub for advocacy led by dedicated Israeli volunteers. Temple Sinai children also played a role, as they were encouraged to write prayers on slips of paper, which they placed in a replica of the Kotel (Western Wall) constructed at the synagogue. These heartfelt prayers were then transported to Israel and inserted into the Western Wall there.

“Hopefully, neighboring churches and organizations will have an interest in partnering with us in order to educate their members and offer meaningful assistance.”   – Rabbi Natan Trief

Temple Sinai has received calls from neighboring churches in Sandy Springs offering solidarity and hopes to foster partnerships with local churches and organizations. Rabbi Trief aspires to collaborate on educational initiatives within the religious community to support Israel and Jewish people worldwide.

In a time of adversity, Temple Sinai stands unwaveringly with Israel, striving to educate, support, and strengthen bonds to ensure that the hatred experienced in Israel on October 7th, which was so reminiscent of the Holocaust, does not happen again.