HART reaches goal for new stage

art hartThe Haywood Arts Regional Theatre (HART) in Waynesville reached its fund-raising goal of $600,000 sooner than expected, thanks to John and Susie Harmon.

HART’s Stage II is a ticket to the future

art frI’ve always believed in the adage that success builds success. It’s one of life’s truisms that anyone with eyes wide open sees very plainly, and it holds true in business, education, politics and the arts. That’s why Haywood Arts Regional Theater’s State II project will succeed, and I can’t wait until it’s up and running.

The plan for HART — which has called its Performing Arts Center on Pigeon Street home since 1997 — is to construct another building that will house a second full theater, a full kitchen, apartments for visiting performers, dressing rooms and storage areas. The theater will be smaller than the 250-seat main stage venue but larger than the intimate Feichter Studio Theater that houses up to 75 spectators. HART supporters have embarked on a $1 million fund-raising campaign.

Italian love story warms up the HART

Bringing a little warmth to the impending fall weather, the Haywood Regional Arts Theatre in Waynesville presents “The Light In The Piazza” this month.

Taking place in Florence, Italy (circa 1953), the story unfolds as a Winston-Salem mother and daughter visit the picturesque country. From the beginning, there seems to be something emotionally off with the daughter (Clara), which is only magnified by the obsessively nurturing and protective mother (Margaret). 

Haywood theatre enters second act

art frIt may look like a grassy field to some, but to Steven Lloyd, it’s a window of opportunity.

Lloyd, executive director of the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville, is currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign to bring a second major theater stage to the beloved local theatrical institution. 

‘Too outrageous for words’: HART lands another smash hit with ‘The Bird Cage’

art frBy Shannan Mashburn • SMN Intern

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville will bring the French Rivera to life with its blockbuster summer musical “La Cage aux Folles.”

HART is taking a gamble with this play, which is among the more daring shows it has staged. Then again, HART has never been one to hold back.

‘Ah, Wilderness!’: Eugene O’Neill’s comedic counterpart to ‘Long Day’s Journey’ stages at HART

Set in the Haywood Arts Regional Theater, the cast of “Ah, Wilderness!” spent a rainy evening preparing for its impending opening night.

The actors practiced their lines and movements, making all the blunders of a good rehearsal. One of the crew sat stage left following line-by-line and interrupted to correct the actors or answer their call for “Line.”

Director Wanda Taylor sat several rows from the front with her rescue dog, Nora, at her feet, typing comments on her laptop and occasionally laughing at an amusing line or action.

“Every play that I have directed I just love directing,” said Taylor, who has been a part of HART since 1988 as both an actress and director. “It is always fun for me to watch the characters develop.”

A handful of others watched from various seats in the house.

“Ah, Wilderness!” is the only comedy written by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill, who is more commonly known for his dramas including “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

The play is set in New England on July 4, 1906, and focuses on life in the Miller family — particularly Richard. During the weekend, Richard, an almost 17-year-old boy, has his first experiences with love, alcohol and prostitution.

“There is an undercurrent of poignancy, sweetness to it,” Taylor said.

It is a “wish play,” she said. “This is his family the way he wished it was.”

“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is about the family he actually had.

O’Neill was born in 1888 to two actors and spent much of his early life traveling with his parents. His brother suffered from alcoholism and drank himself to death. O’Neill was a depressed alcoholic as well. He married several times and had three children. His two sons followed a similar path of depression and addiction. Both eventually committed suicide. His daughter married the famous silent film actor and producer Charlie Chaplin when she was 18.

O’Neill died in 1953.

The Process

Steven Lloyd, executive director of the theater, chooses the season and assigns a director to each play based on who expresses an interest. “Ah, Wilderness!” was slated as the theater’s final performance of the season.

The cast began rehearsing in late September after holding open auditions, Taylor said.

“It’s a nice mixture of experienced actors and inexperienced ones,” Taylor said.

There are 15 parts in the play, eight of which are filled by people new to HART.

Miles Rice, a 22-year-old from Weaverville, had auditioned for a production at HART once before but landed his first role with the theater. Rice will play Wint Selby, a college student who gets Richard Miller into some adult trouble.

“There is a lot of growth to (the play), but there is a lot of want and need for maturity,” he said.

Rice said he has enjoyed getting to know everyone, but he is also ready to perform for an audience and get their feedback.

Bryan Nicholls, a 24-year-old Sylva native, has performed in 11 shows at the theater. Nicholls has participated mostly in musicals, which are usually over-the-top.

“To really come down to earth and play something real … is a challenge,” he said.

Nicholls said part of the reason he keeps performing at HART is because of the bond the casts form during rehearsal.

“It’s a family,” he said

In fact, some of the cast is family. It includes a husband and wife, and father and stepdaughter. The father and stepdaughter actually play father and daughter in “Ah, Wilderness!”

Once the cast was chosen, the first couple weeks were spent blocking, or planning each character’s movements. About two weeks ago, set construction began — in this case, a white house that takes up most of the stage, a dinner table with chairs and a porch with a white wicker love seat, a couple chairs and forest green rocking chair.

Last week, the actors went off-book, meaning they would have to recite their lines from memory.

With their lines mostly memorized, the cast and crew will spend this week tweaking their performance and adding little touches that make the characters seem more realistic.

“It always comes together,” Taylor said.

The play will run for two weekends in the 255-seat auditorium.

 

What: “Ah, Wilderness!”

When: 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 11-12, Nov. 18-19; 3 p.m. on Nov. 20.

Where: Haywood Regional Arts Theater, Waynesville.

How much: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, $8 for students, and special $5 student tickets on Thursdays and Sunday.

828.456.6322 or www.harttheater.com

A gypsy at HART

This summer in Waynesville, it’s an unconventional rags-to-riches tale that will light up the Haywood Arts Regional Theater mainstage with song, dance and just a little more — or maybe less.

“Gypsy” is the story of Gypsy Rose Lee, the legendary burlesque dancer who rose to fame on the hopes and schemes of her show-biz mother.

Lee was well known for bringing a special brand of wit and sophistication to the world of high-class strip tease, and the musical adapts her own view of her meteoric rise to stardom.

While the show is a big-time Broadway musical in the tradition of “Hello Dolly,” “Guys and Dolls” and their ilk, Director Steven Lloyd said it eally hinges on its characters rather than its choral numbers.

“It really is about people that you come to care about,” said Lloyd, who is the executive director of HART. “It’s a good actor’s musical.”

But don’t be fooled, it’s also a major undertaking, the largest the theater has ever produced.

With 14 sets, more than 100 costumes and 50 people working in the cast and crew, it’s the largest and most expensive show that’s ever graced the stage at HART.

Lloyd said they chose this year to stage such a performance because he felt that it was about time for the regional amateur theater to get back into the big, Broadway staples, especially since no one in Western North Carolina has brought “Gypsy” to life in years.

“It’s an opportunity to kind-of pull the stops out and do something special,” said Lloyd.

In total, the show will cost around $30,000, more than the theater has shelled out on other productions, but Lloyd said he is confident in the show and in the fan base that has made HART’s summer musicals legendary.

Though the theater stages shows year round, it’s really the annual summer musical that has made HART a regional theater player.

This year, Lloyd expects 4,000 people to attend the musical’s 14-show run, which starts on July 8 and continues through July 24. Half of those, said Lloyd, will be out-of-town visitors, but half will be locals and season ticket holders.

Each summer, the troupe’s musical offering brings in 20 to 25 percent of the theater’s total operating budget, so Lloyd and his cast and crew are counting on Gypsy to draw the same crowds today as she did in her burlesque heyday.

The show is based on the memoirs of Lee, born Rose Louise Lee, which chronicle her life in show business in the 30s and 40s. Lee rose from upstaged older sister on the Vaudville circuit to world-renowned burlesque performer in only a few years, spurred on by her mother, Rose.

Mama, Lloyd points out, is really the heart of the show, at turns encouraging and exasperating, doing whatever it takes to make her baby a star.

“Mama is really the star,” said Lloyd. “It’s really her story.”

Telling that story is a cast of amateur players from around the region, some seasoned performers and some first-time thespians.

The show, said Lloyd, can be a challenge just because of its massive scope. On both the Vaudville and burlesque circuits, the troupe never travels the same place twice, making sets and scenes a production all their own.

But when the curtain finally closes on “Gypsy,” it will leave audiences celebrating the wit, talent and guts of one of the stage’s most celebrated performers.

 

‘Gypsy’ at HART

WHEN: July 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 29, 30 at 7:30 p.m.; July 10, 17, 24, 31 at 3 p.m.

HOW MUCH: Adults $22, Seniors $20, Students $10

WHAT ELSE: For tickets, call 828.456.6322 visit www.sellingticket.com/HART. For information, visit www.harttheater.com.

HART studio season begins with ‘Life in the Theatre’

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre will open its 2011 winter Studio Theater Season with a bit of backstage humor and some twists for the audience when “A Life in the Theatre” debuts on Jan. 7.  

The comedy by David Mamet will feature HART Executive Director Steve Lloyd and Asheville actor Casey Morris in the play’s two roles under the direction of Julie Kinter. Mamet, one of modern theatre’s most celebrated playwrights, is known for his salty language which is toned down in this play, but audiences should be aware that the show still contains some adult language.

“A Life” follows two actors, a seasoned veteran and a new rising star in a resident company as they prepare and perform in a number of scenes Mamet has created to poke gentle fun at some of theatre’s sacred cows. There is a Chekov scene, showcasing the tedious Russian dramatic style, a lifeboat scene, an operating room scene, a Civil War scene, and a French Revolution scene that is obviously taking a jab at “Les Miserables.” On stage and off things break down and the two actors grow together then apart. For “A Life in the Theatre” audiences should expect some surprises. The first when they enter the performance space.

The HART Studio Season features six plays in just 12 weeks and is one of the highlights of the winter arts scene. Productions regularly sell out and runs are often extended. The Feichter Studio is HART’s second performance space, seating only 60 people and reservations are recommended to insure patrons get a seat.

Make a reservation by calling the HART Box Office and leaving a message. Calls are not returned unless no tickets are available. The show will run Friday and Saturday, Jan. 7-8, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 9, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for all adults and $5 for students, general admission. To make reservations call the HART Box Office at 828.456.6322. All performances are in the Feichter Studio Theatre, 250 Pigeon Street, Waynesville.

Audition for next HART play, ‘The Little Foxes’

Auditions for the fall production of the classic Broadway play, “The Little Foxes,” by Lillian Hellman will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, and at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12. The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre production is being directed by Wanda Taylor and will open on Nov. 5.

The show has great roles for six men and four women of various ages. Set in 1900 in the Deep South, this is one of the greatest plays of the American stage. It is full of twists and turns that make every role a jewel. The play was turned into a major film in the 1940s starring Bette Davis in a role originated by the great Tallulah Bankhead.

Actors will be given scenes to read from the script. Anyone interested in working backstage on the production is also encouraged to come by during auditions to sign up. Auditions will be held in the Feichter Studio of the HART Theatre, 250 Pigeon St. in Waynesville.

HART presents the Southern comedy ‘Catfish Moon’

The Haywood Arts Regional Theater’s next play never played Broadway, or even New York, but it is one of the most popular comedies being done today.

“Catfish Moon” by Laddy Sartin tells the story of a group of close friends who have had a break up and are working towards a reconciliation — or trying to. The entire thing is set on a fishing pier complete with cooler, beer, rods, lawn chairs and a full moon and plenty of laughs — an appropriate way to spend a summer evening.

HART’s production is being directed by Allison Stinson and will feature Jessica Bachar, Tom Dewees, Jackie Webb and Jack Ross. This is a feel-good comedy that will leave you with some things to ponder, and a greater appreciation for a full moon on a summer night.

Laddy Sartin is currently a resident of Rock Hill, S.C., and a Mississippi native. She holds a BFA in Theatre from the University of Southern Mississippi. An actor and stage technician as well as a writer, Sartin has worked in theatre for the past two decades.

In the 1970’s and 80’s he appeared as an actor on a number of TV series including “Matlock,” but then he became a father and things changed. His wife had been the family’s principal moneymaker as a theatre technician working on “A Chorus Line,” but the family decided to leave the city and take a different direction. Sartin had been writing for years and he dug back into his trunk and found parts of what would become two celebrated plays, “Blessed Assurance” and “Catfish Moon.”

Sartin was the 1991-92 recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council’s Playwriting Fellowship, the state’s most prestigious individual artist award and then “Blessed Assurance” was selected for the Eudora Welty New Play Series at New Stage Theatre in Jackson, Mississippi, and was performed there in March 1995.

In the fall of 1992 “Blessed Assurance” was produced by Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., and was their entry in the American College Theatre Festival and received national attention. The play was also produced by the University of Southern Mississippi in September 1993 and by West Georgia College in February 1994.

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