Our theatre scene is growing by the second. New faces are gracing the stages, new venues are popping up around town, as premier Broadway shows and original, locally written works debut. It’s part of what makes Wilmington so artistically engaging: Its movers and shakers keep on moving and shaking.
2012 will be no different in success as many are culling their new seasons while others break ground on new spaces to house the talent. Local theatre guru Alisa Harris—who has played numerous roles across a large spectrum of Wilmington performances—is currently heading TheatreNOW, to be located on the corner of 10th and Dock streets, downtown. The space will be completed in May and will host ground-breaking new plays, including “Blue Velvet: The Musical,” written by Anthony Lawson with music by Bryan Putnam, later in the year.
“After a much hyped and well-received workshop [during Cucalorus], we are still awaiting word from David Lynch as to garnering production rights,” Harris notes.
However the building will not be vacant or static with activity when shows aren’t running. Harris has plans for its occupancy, including interactive comedy dinner theater, written by local thespian, playwright and director Tony Moore, cabaret-style entertainment, along with original murder mysteries written by Milo Shucavage, a children’s mystery series, jazz-and-gospel brunches and family-friendly dinner-and-movie dates. In fact, TheatreNOW will be fully equipped with a kitchen, bar, head chef and appropriate staff. “Paul Obernesser will serve as my food and beverage manager,” she says of the manna bartender. “He also brings a lively interest in local music.”
The center will be more than a cozy repose into arts enlightenment. It also will serve to educate. “There are plans for theatre arts classes for school-aged children, run by the nonprofit arm, Theatre Network of Wilmington,” Harris says. She will utilize local thespian, playwright and musician Zach Hanner as executive director. “We will host regular networking events for those involved in the theatre arts and plan to establish resources for other theatre groups.”
Folks can follow TheatreNOW’s updates and progress at www.theatrewilmington.com, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in kitchen management or chef positions.
Theatre companies across town are preparing their 2012 schedules as they come off another successful year of putting on more than 50 plays collectively. Thalian Association will continue showcasing highly revered entertainment, such as February’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. Just in time for Black History Month, Tom Briggs couldn’t be more proud of presenting the literary scholar’s story about a Depression-era Southern lawyer who fights for justice for an innocent black man facing an unwarranted rape charge.
“This important and inspiring play goes to the very heart of what it means to be an American,” Briggs says. “It’s an extraordinary story of racial injustice and the loss of innocence, told with great warmth and humor, and it has touched hearts and minds the world over for more than 50 years.”
Thalian Association also will produce the Tony Award-winning Best Musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “La Cage aux Folles” in the spring. “The theme of what constitutes a marriage and a family is extremely timely,” he continues of “La Cage.” “If you remember the movie ‘The Birdcage,’ with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, then you know the story.”
Tickets to Thalian plays run $22 to $25 and can be purchased at www.thalianhall.com.
Also exploring gay rights and its effects on society, a la the Marriage Equality Act (see page 6), Brown Coat Pub and Theatre, which houses Guerilla Theatre Company, will present “Torch Song Trilogy” by Harvey Fierstein next year. “This play is actually three one-act plays that collectively chronicle one man’s life, as he comes to terms with his sexuality,” Davis explains. The show will run May 10th through 13th, 17th through 20th and 24th through 27th, with tickets running $15.
Brown Coat will continue their roster of edgy live theater as they host plays far from shiny and bright Broadway musicals. “We’ve got an ambitious, envelope-pushing, politically relevant schedule for 2012!” Richard Davis, artistic director, says. “We’ve always operated under the belief that theater can and should both reflect and influence society.”
They will debut “Psycho Beach Party,” a spoof of Gidget-like surfer films mixed with the horror genre, on January 19th through 22nd and 26th through 29th. Plus, they’ll showcase the third installment in their Leonard Melfi series of premiere works, “Raggedy Anne Says Hello,” April 12th through 15th, 19th through 22nd, and the 26th through 29th. They’ll also show “A Beautiful Thing” by Jonathan Harvey in February, along with an as-yet-titled comedy written by Pineapple-Shaped Lamps in March.
Tickets to all shows can be purchased at www.browncoattheatre.com.
Perhaps some of the edgiest theatre Wilmingtonians are subjected to comes from the folks at City Stage, who happily bend expectations with every performance. “We choose plays we think the public would like to see,” Chiaki Ito, music director, says. “We are known for cutting-edge theatre, and we’re going to do our best to bring it to you.”
Next up is the raucous “Full Monty,” following New York steelworkers who are down on their financial luck and decide to take on stripping at a local club. Set to open just in time for New Year’s Eve, the cast will throw a gala to celebrate a prosperous 2012 on December 31st. Tickets are $75 and include the show, drinks and a buffet, along with desserts at intermission. After the bare ending, the party continues until 1 a.m. Other dates to catch the hilarity of the performance are the 29th through 30th and January 1st, as well as the 5th through the 8th, with all shows taking place at Thalian Hall.
City Stage has a ground-breaking roster on hand, too, for the upcoming year, including “Debbie Does Dallas,” mid January through the beginning of February, and “Spring Awakening,” a rock musical, which runs February through mid-March.
“The story in ‘Next to Normal’ is what gets my attention,” Ito continues about yet another musical City Stage will produce. “It’s about a woman with some mental issues. The rock medium is perfect for this type of story.” It runs end of March through April. All shows take place at City Stage unless otherwise noted, with tickets ranging from $18 to $22.
Opera House Theatre Company
Carrying on the musical frenzy will be Opera House Theatre Company (OHTC) who will showcase bold talent in “The Producers,” starting February 15th and running through the 26th on weekends only. The popular show takes on “a down-on-his-luck theatrical producer and his stage-struck accountant who hatch the ultimate scam: raise more money than you need for a surefire Broadway flop and pocket the difference,” according to OHTC. The musical’s madcap frolicking keeps audiences in stitches every time with offensive musical lyrics (“Springtime for Hitler”) and lots of fancy footwork.
Other shows Opera House will present throughout the year include “Lend Me a Tenor” in spring, “Legally Blonde,” “A Chorus Line” and “Hello, Dolly!” in summer, with “The Most Happy Fella” rounding out the run just in time for Labor Day. Visit www.operahousetheatrecompany.net for tickets and more information.
Big Dawg Productions
Big Dawg Productions will open their season February 2nd with “The Owl and the Pussycat,” a comedy following the hijinks of a prostitute who gets evicted from her apartment with no where to turn. “We chose this one as our first show because it has a cast of two, and should be easy and inexpensive to produce,” Ken Cressman, artistic director, says. Still, it will be molded with carefully beloved hands. “Director Tamica Katzmann brought us the show and has a real passion for it,” Cressman reveals.
After producing four more shows throughout the year, including “God’s Favorite” in April, “The Foreigner” in June, “The Dixie Swim Club” in August and “The Lion in the Winter” in October, Big Dawg will bring to life one of Wilmington’s most revered stories, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The Frank Capra script has local ties to his Wilmington resident grandson, Frank Capra Jr. and Screen Gems EUE, and will be a perfect wrap for the season. The American holiday classic is told through a live 1940s radio broadcast and, most impressively, it features five or six actors playing 25 roles! It’s an ambitious undertaking and an assured way to end 2012 on a high note.
Big Dawg Productions offer a $99 flexipass, allowing folks to choose six admissions in any combination during their 2012 season. Otherwise, tickets are usually less than $20.
Imaginary Theater Company
Imaginary Theater Company will bring a period piece to Red Barn Studio on February 16th, again addressing same-sex relationships, only set at the turn of the 20th century. “Boston Marriage” by American playwright David Mamet contends with desire, deception and bad manners among intimate female relationships. Directed by Mike O’Neil, it will feature a strong cast, including Barbara Weetman, Rachel Lewis Hilburn and Anna Stromberg. The show runs through March 18th.
Tickets range from $23 to $25 and can be purchased through WilmingtonTickets.com.
Shakespeare on the Green
As summer creeps in, we’ll be preparing once again for the Bard’s ever-lovely stories, as Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green celebrates 20 years in Wilmington. Its youth company will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in June, and the adult company will put together “Twelfth Night” at the end of May at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.
All performances are at 8 p.m. (bug spray a necessity), and they’re free!
“‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was the very first play produced in 1993 at the amphitheater,” Shakespeare’s artistic director, Cherri McKay, says. “We have chosen to perform the bard’s most popular play, a light-hearted, whimsical and romantic comedy which appeals to audiences of all ages and highlights our momentous 20th season milestone.”
For full details about all shows coming up in 2012, stay tuned to encore. We’ll have them covered as they take place.