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Upcoming performance season looks stellar for the Boro


August 03, 2018

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The stages at the Averitt Center for the Arts and the Center for Art & Theatre at Georgia Southern University will feature some exciting productions during the upcoming season, according to Averitt Executive Director Jamie Grady, and Lisa Abbott, associate professor of Theatre at GSU.

The 2018-19 Averitt season will feature some shows audiences will be familiar with, as well as some that will be a new adventure.

Kicking off the season this month on August 25 will be the Signature Series, featuring the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra. Based in Savannah, Jeremy Davis and Clay Johnson have formed a 17-piece big band which will light up the Boro stage with original arrangements and phenomenal musicianship.

The series will also feature Victor Wainwright & The Train on Sept. 21. The group is a four-man band that will bring the blues to Statesboro in a high octane, dynamic performance. On Oct. 29, the series will continue with The Devon Allman Project. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Devon Allman, son of the late Gregg Allman, founded the six-piece ensemble.

And on Nov. 1, Duo Romantico continues the series with Cathy Pescevich Kreplin, vocalist and floutist, with husband Gordon Kreplin. The duo will perform Spanish and Latin American romantic classics for voice, flute and guitar.  Tony Arata, a GSU alumnus, will be joined by Amy Ray on Nov. 9 as part of the series. Arata is a country songwriter that has written for some of Nashville’s greats, while Ray is one half of the folk duo Indigo Girls.

“This year I tried to keep a greater focus on artists from the Southeast,” Grady said. “I think I was fairly successful in that goal.”

Coming on Feb. 14 as part of the series will be “Close to You: The Music of The Carpenters.” Featuring Lisa Rock and her six-piece band, the performance guarantees a Carpenters experience like no other.  The Malpass Brothers will appear as part of the series on March 22. Christopher and Taylor Malpass bring a smooth vocal blend, steeped in the legacy of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr.

One of Broadway’s most unusual shows is The Addams Family, a musical comedy based on the characters created by Charles Addams, which depicts a snap-happy American family with an affinity for the macabre. The show, set for Sept. 13-15, promises to deliver a night of ghoulish fun.

“To be honest, I’m not the biggest musical theater fan, but when I read The Addams Family, I knew we had to produce the show,” said Grady. “It has a great storyline, it is clever and funny, and the songs and music are just delightful. As a community theater show, there are a lot of roles to try out for.”

Grady also pointed to the Rising Creek Music Series, which was born out of a column that appeared in Connect, penned by Brandi Harvey.

“In the article she stated that the Emma Kelly stage was out of reach for local musicians,” Grady said. “So I approached her and asked how we might change that. As the lead producer for the show, Brandi has been gathering information and materials for local groups performing all original work. We really wanted to showcase local talent and give them an opportunity to shine.”

Like the Signature Series, the Rising Creek Music Series will also feature local talent, and will be held on Sept. 27, showcasing three local bands from Bulloch County.

Also spotlighting local talent will be the ONE offerings, featuring Vivan Summers, Shaunta Ellis and Nora Franklin. Grady said the series is the brainchild of Mical Whitaker.

“He came up with this simple idea of a series of shows that showcase exceptional local talent. Through on-stage interviews and performances, audiences will get a unique and intimate experience,” Grady said.

Coming up in June 2019 is a show that Grady says he is particularly excited about — the play, Gin Game, winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

“This is a project that Carol Thompson and Mical Whitaker have been talking about ever since I arrived in Statesboro. I am very excited about this show for many reasons,” Grady said. “First, it is an incredible show that will speak to audiences today as it did when it opened on Broadway. Second, not only does the show have a great cast, being performed in the intimate Black Box Theater, but it will be directed by Chas. Floyd Johnson, a well-known actor and TV producer from California. I think Mr. Johnson has the potential to really step up the game here at the Averitt Center. Third, this play introduces a new series, Averitt Productions. I hope Averitt Productions will grow into a semi-professional project-based series in which the Averitt Center is producing work that may not be appropriate for the Averitt Stars. The show also contains adult language, which may not be for everyone, but will expand the reach of audiences served.”

Grady says that he has learned much about the Averitt audiences since coming to the Boro, and he hopes this is reflected in the coming season. But he also says it is crucial that the community support the shows.

“If the audience does not come to support these shows then the Averitt Center will not be able to continue with them.  Fortunately, through sponsorship from area businesses and the fact that we are a nonprofit organization, we are able to keep our ticket prices low.  But we are counting on the community to respond by buying tickets.  For some of these shows we will definitely be seeing people from surrounding towns and counties.  I would recommend that people not wait to get their tickets. It would be a shame if local people missed out,” he said.

Grady said that in 2017, improvements were made to the Averitt’s lighting system, and that this year, there will be improvements made to the sound system.

“In three years I hope when people walk into the Emma Kelly Theater that they will have a natural sense of excitement about being there.  This excitement will include not only the theater itself but the caliber of artists on stage. The Averitt Center will still have a strong educational and community involvement programs, but will also include the best regional artists performing and working with the community.  The more variety of art experiences we can offer, all the better,” he said.

At the Center for Art & Theatre, there will be four productions during the upcoming season: Emilie, Amen Corner, Bug, and Master and Margarita.

Emilie will hit the CAT stage Sept. 26-Oct. 3. Directed by Abbot and written by Lauren Gunderson, the play focuses on the debate between love and science, asking which is more important.

“I have fallen in love with Gunderson’s work and jumped at the opportunity to have it in our season,” Abbott said.

Amen Corner will be directed by Mical Whitaker, and the cast will take the stage Nov. 7-14. The play, written by James Baldwin, was selected to be GSU’s first black theater production.

Bug, written by Tracy Letts, will be directed by Abbott and performed Feb. 27-March 6, 2019. For adult audiences, the dark comedy centers around Agnes, a drug-addled cocktail waitress.

“I love this play! As you watch the story unfold you transition from ‘these people are nuts,’ to ‘OK, maybe they are on to something.’ By the end, you don’t know what to believe,” said Abbott.

And finally, Master and Margarita, to be performed April 17-24, 2019, will be directed by Nicholas Newell, assistant professor at GSU. The play is written by Mikhail Bulgakov, but this performance will have a new adaptation specifically for GSU by Stacia Saint Owens.

The CAT will also showcase one-acts directed by students Andrew Shepherd and Francesca Foster on Jan. 18-19, 2019. The one-acts have not been selected yet, Abbott said.

It is important for students at GSU to perform in these kinds of shows, Abbott said.

“Our seasons represent a broad range of genres. This allows students to gain experience in several forms of theater from Shakespeare to modern realism and everything in between. Our productions are a living laboratory that allows our students to hone the skills they work on in classes,” she said.

Having high quality shows is important for the community as well, Abbot added.

“I think that when you look at the range of plays available in Statesboro, from the Averitt productions, the PAC touring shows, and the theater program's productions, the community is served with a rich variety of theater. The theater program has more leeway in producing more cutting-edge, challenging productions while the Averitt celebrates the American canon and is a great starting point for theater-goers and performers.  The PAC provides the professional tours that engage all audiences.  All three venues produce amazing productions and I would love to see more members of our community at all of them,” she said.


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