March 06, 2017
By Angye Morrison
Patsy Cline died tragically at just 30 years old in a plane crash in 1963, but her story – and her music – has continued to shape country music and those who love it as much as she did.
A tribute to the legendary singer will be performed at Averitt Center for the Arts in Statesboro on March 10 and 11. “Always…Patsy Cline” is based on a true story about Cline’s close friendship with a fan from Houston, Texas, named Louise Seger, who befriended the star in a Texas honkey-tonk in 1961. The pair corresponded up until Cline’s death, and each letter from the singer was signed, “Love always…Patsy Cline.”
The play, created and originally directed by Ted Swindley, is filled with down-home country humor, true emotion and even audience participation, and includes many of Cline’s hits, like “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Walking After Midnight.” It stars Statesboro’s Brandi Harvey as Cline, and Metter resident Christie McLendon as Seger.
The play is directed by Helen Rosengart, who says this is her sixth time at the helm of an Averitt production.
“It’s an amazing show. The girls are amazing. They are absolutely outstanding in their interpretation of the characters,” she said. She added that she’s more excited about this show than any other she’s directed.
“I’ve never been more excited or enthused. It’s going to be outstanding,” she said.
Harvey says it’s intimidating to play Cline.
“She’s such an icon who has influenced so many people’s musical careers and tastes. As a performing musician myself, I’ve been strongly influenced by her music, so this was a big role to take on,” she said.
Harvey says she approached the role trying as much as possible to sound like Cline.
“I want the audience to feel as though they are getting one last chance to see Patsy perform. However, no one can get it exactly. There will always be a little of myself that slips into the performance, no matter how I try,” she said.
Harvey shares Rosengart’s excitement about the production, and says she’s eager to share the show with the audience.
“It’s a great blend of high energy and sweet moments. Christie… is such a fantastic actress and gives her character such energy and a fun, funny, southern, down-home quality. The band is fantastic as well,” she said.
Harvey added that Jerry Roberson has brought together some of the area’s best musicians, who carry so much of the show.
“Christie and the band really have the hard jobs. I get to just show up and sing,” she said.
All proceeds from the show benefit the Averitt Center for the Arts Creative Growth Capital Campaign. The campaign is a multi-year, multi-faceted fundraising campaign for the physical expansion of the Averitt Center.
In 2011, then-Executive Director Tim Chapman, along with the center’s Board of Directors, volunteers and staff, took community input and came up with a bold and dynamic plan to increase the center’s educational services across disciplines for children and adults in the local and regional area. Led by Sheila Stewart-Leach, planning consultant, the board approved a three-year business plan that mapped out increased arts offerings.
By the end of 2013, it was apparent that the original 15,000 square foot facility was full, after a successful increase in the center’s programming. There were waiting lists for almost all of the new offerings, including dance, ceramics, art after school and summer camps, and there was an increased demand for more, including the Youth Chorale, Youth Strings and Youth Theater. Averitt leadership began to plan an expansion of facilities to address the need for more space, and thus the Creative Growth Capital Campaign was conceived. The multi-phase project includes three buildings.
Phase I included the West Main Center for Performing Arts, including dance studios, a Black Box theater for small performances, rehearsals and theater classrooms and an expanded sales gallery to promote local artists’ work. Phase II, the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts, is an arts career incubator that provides studios and equipment for artists, and business support through Georgia Southern University’s Fab Lab and public classes for ceramics, drawing and painting.
Phase III, the Thurman Lanier Center for Arts Education, is a fine arts gallery, with support spaces for the gallery and the theater, as well as additional classrooms. It will also include a small stage for chorale and musical rehearsals.
Projected costs for Phase I were $450,000. In the end, costs were $565,000. The building opened March 21, 2015. For Phase II, renovations were at $100,000, with an additional $150,000 from a USDA grant shared by Georgia Southern University in a partnership agreement. The Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts grand opening was held in September 2016.
The combined funding need for Phase I and II is $650,000, and the Averitt has raised more than $450,000. Of that, $340,000 was from individual pledges.
The projected cost for Phase III is expected to be $1.2 million.
There are numerous opportunities to help provide the needed funding. Among these are permanent plaques that can be purchased as a legacy gift for $250 each, to be installed in the Averitt. Seats can also be purchased in the Emma Kelly and Mical Whitaker Black Box theaters. For a $500 donation, a plaque will be placed on the designated seat.
Special events have also been held to benefit the capital campaign, including the Legends Luncheon, “Dreamgirls,” and the Calendar Girls and Elvis dinner theaters. “Always…Patsy Cline” is the latest in the campaign.
Tickets for the show on March 10 and 11 are $20. The curtain goes up at 8 p.m. on March 10 and at 7:30 p.m. on March 11. On opening night, Dinner and a Show tickets are available. A table for eight may be purchased for $700, and includes a meal at RJ’s Grill from 5:30 to 7:30, followed by the show at the Emma Kelly Theater. Dress is casual or western attire. Purchase tickets online at averittcenterforthearts.org or by calling (912) 212-2787.