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Mother and daughter star on and off stage in Sandy Springs.

Jan Collins and daughter Courtenay Collins Eckardt have made their community and theater dreams come true at the City Springs Performing Arts Center.

Jan Collins and her daughter, Courtenay Collins Eckardt, have made matches between the arts and patrons in Sandy Springs, so it’s fitting Eckardt was cast as Yente the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof in October’s production at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center.

In an international career that began at 18 and finally took Eckardt to Broadway with Prom in 2019, Fiddler marked her debut for the City Springs Theatre Company that she and her mother helped launch.

“It is one of those full-circle moments,” Eckardt says. “I’ve been sort of on the outside, gawking as a fan, and now to just dive into this beautiful, healthy, vibrant arts community is just thrilling.”

The family’s theatrical circle has long combined performance, education and philanthropy.

Collins’ mother, Gladys Williams, was an English teacher who led the drama program at Atlanta’s Roosevelt High School and taught piano. She got Collins involved in music and theater, and Collins taught high school English and drama. More than 50 years ago, they all moved to Sandy Springs, where Eckardt attended Riverwood High School. Her husband, Michael, and two grown sons also are Riverwood alumni.

Eckardt says she was smitten around second grade by a high school production of Brigadoon her grandmother directed. A few years later, Mitzi Gaynor “mesmerized” her with a one-woman show at the Fox Theatre, and she never could wash the theater out of her hair. “I wrote notes in the program of things that I wanted to do when I was grown up.”

Ferrying her daughter across the metro area for lessons showed Collins the value of consolidating the arts close to home. While she served on the boards of the Atlanta Opera and the Alliance Theatre, she hoped to see musical theater in Sandy Springs someday.

Collins and Eckardt eventually became a fundraising tag team for that cause. A voice coach as well as an actor, Eckardt sang at gatherings where Collins persuaded friends to join her as $5,000 founding sponsors.

“The first time I walked into our theater, I just burst into tears,” Collins says. “It was so beautiful.”

That success hit home this summer as the two walked to the Byers Theatre for a show after dinner at The Select. Eckardt says, “We looked at each other and went, ‘It came true.’”

Beyond City Springs Theatre, mother and daughter continue to support Sandy Springs’ arts ecosystem through the boards of Act3 Productions, the Sandy Springs Arts Foundation and the Sandy Springs Society, for which Collins was a founder.

“I see everybody pulling in the right direction,” Collins says. “It binds our community together, and we are creating space for the betterment of lives and opportunities for families.”

They see opportunities for more in their city, such as art galleries and a dance program. “We’re just so thrilled with what’s going on in the arts in Sandy Springs,” Collins says. “We just see that it will continue to grow and elevate the lives of those who work, live and visit.”




PHOTO: Joann Vitelli

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