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The best 10 for the best summer

The golden nuggets in a season of treasured choices


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The 22nd season of the mostly Shakespeare-based theater company features a staggering quantity of programming between May and August. Following the Shake at the Lake production of Twelfth Night in early May, the company begins its summer season at Oglethorpe University's Conant Performing Arts Center with a remounting of last year's luminous hit show, Metamorphoses (May 23-June 3), in which the myths of Ovid unfold around and within a 24-square-foot swimming pool. Then clowning takes center stage starting June 13 with Carlo Goldoni's commedia dell'arte romp, The Servant of Two Masters, starring Chris Ensweiler as the title role. Beginning June 28, the show runs in rotating repertory with Shakespeare's rarely performed epic romance, Pericles, starring Joe Knezevich. After the repertory ends July 27, Joe Orton's cheeky 1960s comedy, Loot, involving two brothers (Knezevich and Daniel May), stolen cash and a dead body, will run Aug. 2-19. And if that weren't enough, Georgia Shakespeare's Family Classics Series features a world-premiere adaptation of Robin Hood (July 11-28). $15-$40. 404-264-0020. www.gashakespeare.org.


Where most music festivals come and go before you know it, the 30th annual Atlanta Jazz Festival is a virtuoso at the buildup, with its monthlong series of jazz-master workshops, competition-winner performances and more leading up to the Memorial Day weekend crescendo of jazz in Piedmont Park. From May 26-28, the park is open to the public for headlining performances by the Herbie Hancock Quintet, Ron James, the Pete Escovedo Orchestra, Ken Ford, the Laws Family and William Green. Other special events include a gospel jazz brunch, a 30-year photography retrospective exhibit and festival-sponsored shows around the city. For jazz cineastes, REELjazz Film Series features programming including two of the most critically acclaimed jazz-themed films: Clint Eastwood's Bird and Bernard Tavernier's Round Midnight. Piedmont Park and various locations. www.atlantafestivals.com.


Just after the sun sets over the horizon, the meadow of Piedmont Park turns into possibly the most versatile screening event of the year. So attractive is Screen on the Green, sponsored by Turner Classic Movies, that lovers and families and youngsters and grown folks and uptown and downtown denizens flock to the five-week run that also features prescreening live music and refreshments. Crowds grow to as large as 20,000 for this event, now in its eighth season. The 2007 lineup: Casablanca (May 31), Car Wash (June 7), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (June 14), Funny Girl (June 21) and E.T. the Extraterrestrial (June 28). One sad note: For the first time, there won't be the Silver Grill's fried chicken to-go for the picnic (it closed!). May 31-June 28. Piedmont Park. www.turnerclassicmovies.com.


ADD-addled fair-goers may have problems at the Virginia-Highland Summerfest, since the event features a little of everything, including the traditional fair food and music, in two days. The artist's market features exhibits by more than 200 artists, while the all-day music lineup features headliners Drivin N Cryin and Marc Broussard. The Summerfest 5K is one of the season's most popular road races, while the KidsFest (Saturday) in John Howell Park is a family favorite. Free admission (donations for the Virginia-Highland Civic Association are accepted). Virginia Avenue. www.vahi.org.

CLASSIC CHASTAIN -- June 20-aug. 29

When Atlantans think of watching live music in an outdoor setting, they often think of Chastain Park, and when they think of summer concerts, they often think of Classic Chastain. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra serves as the presenter for the series featuring some of the most popular music acts in the nation, but it is only on those very special occasions that the ASO teams up with a visiting artist to make the evening truly classic (or classical). The regular lineup features serious red-letter dates such as Diana Krall and Chris Botti (July 18), India.Arie and Dave Koz (July 25), and the B-52's (Aug. 1); special ASO collaborations feature Natalie Cole (June 27), the Decemberists (July 13) and Clay Aiken (Aug. 15). Table settings for picnics will be provided for all shows but Travis Tritt (Aug. 22). Ticket prices vary. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive. 404-233-2227. www.classicchastain.com.


Gay-pride celebrations in major metropolitan areas in general and Atlanta in particular have become huge weekend festivals that not only celebrate diversity but also provide a seemingly endless array of entertainment and economic impact. More than 300,000 people fill up Piedmont Park throughout the day and afternoons of June 22-24 for music on both the Friends of Pride and Coca-Cola (or main) Stage. Area nonprofit organizations are encouraged to serve brief volunteer stints throughout the day and then take advantage of the opportunity to solicit donations for the rest of the day. The music lineup includes local faves Three5Human, Morgan Rowe and Mosadi Music as well as the big national coup, Deborah Gibson (as in Debbie Gibson). Highlights include the parade kickoff from the MARTA Civic Center Station at 1 p.m. and Dyke March at 6 p.m. (beginning and ending at the park). www.atlantapride.org.


There is no single "best" way to celebrate Independence Day in Atlanta, which seems to lead the nation in ways to light the sparkler and a candle for our nation's birthday. But everyone agrees that the best way to start the day is with the nationally known Peachtree Road Race, which features 55,000 runners launching at 7:30 a.m. for the 10K race. There are at least four significant ways to get fired up on the Fourth, starting in downtown with Centennial Olympic Park's post-"Salute 2 America" parade display. Lenox Square mall always does it up with a variety of live entertainment capped with what is boasted as the Southeast's largest fireworks display. Those feeling encumbered by the city limits can venture out east for the Fantastic Fourth Celebration at Stone Mountain Park or the Light up the Lakes Fireworks at Lake Lanier. Hours and locations vary.


Of all the multidisciplinary events of the summer, the National Black Arts Festival hits all the right notes, representing some of the best in African-American music, visual arts, theater, literature, dance and film. This year's lineup features some familiar faces and performances: Stanley Crouch, Les Nubians, Valerie Boyd, Marc Anthony Thompson, Radcliffe Bailey, Julie Dexter, Vinx, the Dells, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lawrence Jackson, Russell Gunn, Abdullah Ibrahim, the musical Dreamgirls (starring Jennifer Holiday) and the annual programming from the Pan African Film Festival. The Great Atlanta Music Festival, which is presented July 20-22 during the NABF, will feature Harvey Scales, Willie Hill, Stoni Taylor and Tracy Hamlin. Various locations. www.nbaf.org.


In just one year, the Decatur Book Festival went from a great idea hatched by some book geeks to one of the most celebrated book events in the nation in 2006. With 50,000 attendees and 125 writers (including three Pulitzer Prize authors), the festival already is a major player on the literary circuit, one of only two book festivals to receive the 2006 James Patterson PageTurner Award. This year's disturbingly varied lineup is superior to last year's impressive debut, including: Charles Frazier, Ferrol Sams, Lee Smith, Billy Childish, Robert Olen Butler, Peter Kuper, Chris Raschka, and some chick named Natasha Trethewey. (Heard of her?) Decatur Square. www.decaturbookfestival.com.


Perhaps the best way to describe Dragon*Con is the fantasy lover's fantasy event. Throughout Labor Day weekend, the convention is filled with programming surrounding everything from science fiction and Goth culture to gaming, anime and comics – with panel discussions, film, music acts and dances, and celebrity appearances. Brent Spiner, Peter Bagge, Jonathan Frakes, Bill Fawcett and Cruxshadows are just a few of the guests already confirmed for this year's Dragon*Con, which celebrates its 20th anniversary. Which is fitting, considering that the celebration has grown from 1,400 attendees in that first year in 1987 to 20,000 in recent years. $70 advance (until July 13), $85 door. Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis and Hilton Atlanta hotels. www.dragoncon.org.

If you think this number should go to 11, you're probably right, because we have our own special little pick: CL's Beer Fest on June 9, in which beer connoisseurs sample more than 100 top labels while playing interactive games, munching on food and listening to live music in Woodruff Park.

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