Kids take over Newnan Theatre this summer
By Joan Doggrell
Special to The Citizen
The Taming of the Shrew: June 26 – June 29
William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” directed by NTC’s Managing Director Jennifer Dorrell, will be performed by junior high school students in NTC’s Black Box. You know the story. Bianca and Katherina are daughters of a rich Venetian merchant. The younger daughter, Bianca, is both beautiful and agreeable and has many suitors. But her sister, Katherina the shrew, drives away every man who seeks her hand. The father won’t let Bianca marry until his older daughter is wed. Matters stand at an impasse until Petruchio arrives in town. He needs a rich wife to repair his fortune and determines to marry Katherina “will ye or nill ye,”as he tells her. The wedding takes place, and thus begins the most famous “Battle of the Sexes” in literary history.
How will NTC’s talented young players interpret this conflict that has provoked controversy among scholars and feminists for over 400 years? In the end, has Kate really been tamed, or has she simply learned to play the game of “obedient wife” to her own advantage? You’ll have to see the play to find out.
All ticket prices are $10. Performance times are June 26-8 p.m., June 27-8 p.m., June 28-8 p.m., June 29-3 p.m.
James and the Giant Peach: July 17 – July 20
Donna Provencher is directing “James and the Giant Peach,” also taking place in the Black Box. Provencher directed “Bye Bye Birdie” in 2013. Newnan audiences will recall her stellar performance as Becca in “Rabbit Hole,” directed by Bert Lyons and performed at NTC in February of 2013. She currently owns her own production company.
“This is a really fun, fanciful story,” said Provencher. “The humor is very British. The story line is a classic tale of a mistreated child who, through magic, becomes a hero in a fantastic alternative world.” That world happens to be inside a giant peach, where he meets a variety of talking (and friendly) insects.
“These kids are just so passionate and enthusiastic: a wonderful group, very talented and worth watching as they morph into ladybugs, spiders, grasshoppers, and centipedes” said Provencher. “They all seem to be clicking well and having fun.”
The young players have varying levels of theatrical experience. Some have taken Academy lessons at NTC. Others have worked elsewhere, such as Horizon Community Theatre in West Point.
“Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ is staged much more often,” added Provencher, “but I think his ‘James and the Giant Peach’ is not performed often enough. The very novelty of seeing this other Dahl story come alive is a great reason to come out for it.”
All ticket prices are $10. Performance times are July 17-8 p.m., July 18-8 p.m., July 19-8 p.m., July 20-3 p.m.
Avenue Q: July 24 – July 27
“Avenue Q” is a fresh new musical still playing in New York.
Remember all those positive messages you got as a child watching “Sesame Street,” all about the limitless possibilities life offers, even to oddballs? Well, “Avenue Q” is a grown up parody of “Sesame Street.” The youthful characters live on Avenue Q, a long way from where the rich and famous live on Avenue A, because so far, none of those possibilities have materialized for them.
The majority of the Avenue Q residents are real puppets, hand held by live, visible puppeteers who speak and act for them on stage. Only three characters are human. One of them is the apartment house manager Gary Coleman. (Remember him from “Diff’rent Strokes?”)
“It’s a very funny show about life, a take on the traditional story of young people living in poverty while they struggle to succeed in the big city,” said Bruce Patterson, who is directing the music. “In the middle of conversations, the characters burst into song, just as they do on ‘Sesame Street.’ A lot of the melodic themes suggest those familiar motifs.”
Melanie Bruner, the director, retired from Northgate High School in 2010 for health reasons after 17 years as a drama teacher.
This will be her first show since her recovery. “This show is so funny I was crying at one point,” said Bruner.
This will be Bruce Patterson’s second summer with NTC. Last year he directed the music for NTC’s youth production “Spring Awakening.”
“Melanie and I did at least eleven shows together at Northgate,” said Patterson. “We’re each the other’s second half brain. I have a music degree with stage experience while she has a theater degree with music experience. So we speak each other’s language. Now old partners are getting back together.”
“The content is not always comfortable,” said Bruner. “For instance, one song points out that everybody is ‘a little bit racist.’ Kate Monster wants to have a monster school, a ‘Monstersori,’ but those who are not monsters can’t be in it. Somehow, through the puppets, what is being said becomes more acceptable.”
“This somewhat controversial musical gives high school students the opportunity to play roles that they would not ordinarily be able to do,” added Patterson.
“We are working hard to handle sensitive issues in a manner appropriate for this age group. Our staging will be a little more tasteful than that of some of the touring groups with adult actors.”
Nevertheless, the content is adult. “Avenue Q” is not appropriate for children – even though it has puppets.
“However, there are positive messages in the play,” said Patterson.
“The overall theme is sense of community. The residents of Avenue Q may get mad at each other, but in the end they come together and support each other. The last song is ‘For Now,’ which reminds everyone that things are going to change. In the real world many people never find their purpose; but life goes on, and everything — both good and bad — is ‘only for now.’”
“Audiences will love the music and the puppets,” said Patterson. “This is a very new show. We are one of the first to do this production with this age group.”
In July 2003 on Broadway the show won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
One of the longest running shows in Broadway history, Avenue Q ended its Broadway run on September 13, 2009, and then reopened Off-Broadway at New World Stages in October 2009. It has since been on two national tours and has played in Las Vegas and a variety of international venues.
All ticket prices are $10. Performance times are July 24-8 p.m., July 25-8 p.m., July 26-8 p.m., July 27-3 p.m.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through the NTC website, www.newnantheatre.org, or via phone by calling 770-683-6282.
If you have questions regarding the content of any show, email Artistic Director Tony Daniel at email@example.com.
[Joan Doggrell teaches English at West Georgia Technical College.]