Humble Beginnings and Deep Roots

For over two decades Tanya Caldwell has been an integral part of the Norcross community. She moved to the city with a theatre degree from Georgia Southern University and has shaped the face of local theatre in Gwinnett. Doing so was never really her plan, however. It all started with the Norcross Presbyterian Church.

Humble Beginnings 

In 1993, Tanya found herself as a new resident of Norcross. She quickly found a welcoming community at Norcross Presbyterian Church. Soon, word got out that she held a degree in theatre, and she was recruited to direct the annual Christmas pageant. The church loved her work, and from there she directed all sorts of religious plays for the congregation.

She focused on these church plays for a few years before deciding to expand her scope by diving headfirst into local theatre. With her troupe from the church, Tanya founded the Norcross Presbyterian Players, and together they would perform at various churches and at Berkeley Lake. In 2000, a Player, who happened to also be a lawyer, helped the company incorporate and become the nonprofit Lionheart Theatre. But even as the head of Lionheart, Tanya never forgot what community theatre (should) be all about: making sure it stays an enjoyable hobby and not a chore. And desserts — a tradition carried over from the church days.

Her Role at Lionheart

Even with her job as a loan officer at Georgia’s Own Credit Union, Lionheart remains Tanya’s passion. In fact, if she isn’t at the bank, she is in the theatre. When Lionheart was first founded, this routine was necessary to keep the theatre afloat. She is the Producing Artistic Director, which is a fancy way of saying she oversees… well, everything.

In the early days, it meant she could be directing, running lights and manning the box office — all in one night. Nowadays, she simply makes sure everything continues to run smoothly. Or, as Tanya says, “Everybody answers to me.” She has the final say on what shows will be performed, who will be directing and other important factors. She also directs when she wants to, and she auditions for plays — though, just like any other actor, she deals with hurt feelings when she doesn’t get a part.

Deep Roots

Tanya says the most important aspect of Lionheart is its family feel. Her goal for the theatre is to make sure everyone feels welcome. During plays, rehearsals are only three nights a week so everyone involved can still spend time with their family and focus on their jobs. But the “family” aspect is also very literal.

In 2007, Tanya’s life changed forever. While Lionheart was producing the show Laughing Stock she found the love of her life, Jason Caldwell. They married in 2010, and since then, both they and their families have been integral to the theatre. Jason’s mother runs the box office and her daughters have grown up in the theatre. It truly is a family affair.

Perhaps the most bittersweet aspect of being part of Lionheart from the beginning is seeing their (young) veterans move on to bigger and better things. Two of their volunteers, who have been in the theatre since they were still in elementary school, are performing their final show soon before heading off to college.

If you are interested in volunteering, Tanya has one thing to say: “Come on!” She encourages you to come to the next show and introduce yourself. They’ll figure out what you are interested in doing and do their best to get you in that role. For more information, visit the volunteering page.

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