Holidays Away From Home

While there’s glamour and excitement in the theater life, there are challenges for our actors and creative team when they’re working so hard to make the holidays magical for our audiences that they have less time to enjoy the season with their own loved ones.

Some of the cast of Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity and A Christmas Carol shared some of their thoughts on the holiday season with us, and we thought we’d share them with you.

 

erin-burniston-headshotErin Burniston (Ethel Green | Beautiful Star)

“While in Greensboro and away from home during the holidays, to keep them special I try to keep up as many of my favorite traditions as possible.  My parents and I have quite a few movies that we like to watch during the holidays – instead of waiting until I return home to watch all of them, we pick days throughout December to watch the movies at the same time on our respective couches, and text throughout to share our favorite moments of them together.”

emmaclaire-johnson-headshotEmma-Claire Frances Johnson (Myrtle Ledbetter | Beautiful Star)

“The holidays are special to me because I get time off of school to be with my family and do what I want to do.  My family has a tradition of having fondue on Christmas Eve so I look forward to that time with my family and grandparents.  I love getting and giving presents and going to church with my family on Christmas Day.  When I’m not at TS I keep the holidays special by helping my family decorate the house, cooking/baking with my mom, watching TV with my brother and spending time with my family when they come into town for the shows!”

greg-brostromGreg Brostrom (Tidence Ledbetter | Beautiful Star)

“All the trappings of the holidays are symbols for the intangible parts of it: being together with those you love among others. So I always try to treat myself to one of the symbols in a small way to remind myself of that and connect to those I care about who may be far away. For example this Thanksgiving here in Greensboro I’m not going to cook an entire turkey just for me, but you better believe I’m going to have a little. No turkey matches my mom’s, but it’s the symbol of it that I care about when I’m away from home.”

david-sitlerDavid Sitler (Scrooge | A Christmas Carol)

“Not a Scrooge answer but being with family…be it my natural one or the one we have grown into while mounting and performing and ultimately giving the gift of ourselves and talents to the people who come to see us. I love watching the Macy’s day parade especially all the talented Broadway casts that perform before the parade kicks off…while the aromas of the turkey in the oven waft thru out the house.  For a couple of years I was in the parade as part of the Marvel Universe as Robo Cop and other super heroes…but that is another story.  When I am on the road for the holiday I like to help in a soup kitchen or food pantry and find a local church to become a part of their community and service.  “

*This year David found time to help serve lunch on Thanksgiving at the Samaritan Ministries in Winston-Salem. Way to help out, David!

camille-02Camille Varenne (Linda Green  Beautiful Star)

“At the holidays I like to:

  1. Eat lots of food, especially my Dad’s mashed potatoes!  #favorite  : )
  2. I try to give my love.
  3. I try to make sure nobody is sad.”

 

 

paul-gunterPaul Gunter (Beggar/Edward Cratchit/Boy on the Street | A Christmas Carol)

“Whenever I do have time I want to take advantage of it. It’s the small things at Christmas that can mean the most. Like family, my family always makes me happy on the holidays.”

 

 

 

Holiday Cheer: Spotlight on Nonprofits

spotlight-graphic

The holidays are one of our favorites times of the year here at Triad Stage. We’ve got our holidays shows Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity and A Christmas Carol starting up the day after Thanksgiving and running through Christmas Eve in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, and our downtown locations in both cities put us right at the heart of the Triad’s seasonal festivities and merriment.

We also know that the holidays are times of giving back and spreading thanks. We went through some tough times last year, and are so grateful for the support of our fans and the Triad community. So in honor of the season, we’re taking an opportunity to spread our arms a little wider and call our thanks a little louder with our new program Spotlight on Nonprofits.

At each holiday performance of Beautiful Star in Greensboro and A Christmas Carol in Winston-Salem, we’ll be highlighting a different nonprofit working right here in our community to make life better for the people who call this place home. We’re right in the thick of sign-ups, but here’s who has already agreed to participate:

Able Earth, Arts for Life, The Beautiful Exchange, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Creative Aging Network, Emerging Ecology, Family Support Network, First North Carolina, Greensboro Housing Coalition, HandsOn, IRC, Komen NWNC, Second Harvest Food Bank, SECU Family House, Reading Connections, Wheels 4 Hope, Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro

Each participating nonprofit will have a table in the lobby to display information before and after the show, and as a special thank you we’re all giving each organization four tickets to the performance they’re spotlighted at.

If you work at or know of a nonprofit in Guilford or Forsyth County that would be interested in participating, please contact Tiffany Albright, Marketing Manager, at tiffany@triadstage.org.

 

 

InSight Speaker: John Poole

john poole
John Poole, Associate Professor and the new director of the School of Theatre at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, (UNCG) will be the InSight speaker for Arms and the Man, the opening production of Triad Stage’s 16th Season which begins on September 11th.

Born in North Carolina, Dr. Poole attended the University of Georgia in Athens and earned a doctoral degree in theatre history in 1955. From there, he went on to become the Director of Theatre and Dance at the University of Illinois. Former students of Poole’s say his lectures are animated, and it’s obvious he has a passion for theater and teaching. While serving e as Director of Theatre and Dance, he also spent five years as  the Managing Director of the well-known annual Shakespeare Festival. He is published in several journals including Theatre History Studies, which highlights expressive articles on theatre history.

During this 2016-2017 academic school year, Arms and the Man is among the events featured in UNCG’s War and Peace Imagined series, a project dedicated to exploring themes of war and peace within arts and humanities while examining how factors such as nationalism, religion, geography, class, race and gender play a role in conflict. The series was inspired by the Centennial Anniversary of World War I. This is the second series to be featured on the calendar at UNCG, the first occurring in 2014, the Globe & Cosmos, focusing on the celebration of 450 years Galileo and Shakespeare. These series are community engaging events within the Triad. Don’t miss out on this lecture you are certain to enjoy!

Please join us directly following the matinee showing of Arms and the Man on September 18th, where Poole will share InSights and provide some fascinating context for  the production. InSight lectures are free and open to the public. Visit the Triad Stage website for more details.

What’s the alternative?

Dear Friends,

It’s night in Ireland and I returned to my hotel room to do a bit of writing.  I think this hotel is an ideal spot for working. Opened in 1845, the fading elegance suggests the ghost of any number of fabulous characters.  I’ve opened up a bottle of Writer’s Tears whiskey, the seagulls are crying outside, and I suspect soon it will rain.  Perfect writing conditions.

But first I wanted to take an opportunity to reach out to all of you in this lull between seasons.  Folks at Triad Stage are busy at work preparing for the season ahead.  Designers are working on the first two shows and our production staff are building sets and making costumes for Arms and the Man.

I’m in Europe because I was asked to join a group of UNCG students in London to guide them around the city and take them to a number of plays.  The students and Denise Gabriel, UNCG faculty member and Triad Stage Resident Movement Director, had spent a terrifically challenging couple of weeks studying theater in Wales.  I was pleased to meet them at Paddington Station last Sunday and begin an immersive journey through varied types of theater in London.

Shaw home - ext Shaw bust

From a 55 seat fringe theatre above a pub to a center for new writing to a West End auditorium to the wonder that is the National, the students saw a wide variety of new work.  We also visited some of my favorite museums, buildings and parks in the city.

As usual, any trip to London for me is an opportunity to experience new plays, new directors and to seek inspiration.  I was also able this trip to fit in a walk to the home where George Bernard Shaw wrote Arms and the Man and I was delighted to realize I was watching Headlong’s visceral and challenging 1984 in the theater where Arms and the Man had its world premiere in 1894.

Shaw home  Shaw home 2

One of the great pleasures of my artistic life in the Triad is that I get to work so closely with UNCG.  I’m honored to help mentor the MFA directing students, get to work with so many of the other students and am thrilled to get to work so closely with the faculty of the theater department.  Many of the faculty work with me at Triad.  Jim Wren provides the excellent fight choreography.  Chris Morris is our voice and dialect expert.  And Denise Gabriel works wonder with movement.

Because I was rather frightened of my movement teachers when I was an acting student, I was at first surprised that Denise and I work so well together.  But from the first time I experienced her coaching an actor, I realized that she is a kind of miracle worker.  With a few words and a touch, Denise can get an actor to break through any walls or resistance.  I’ve been privileged to see her work with students and professionals and I know that her tenacity and talent are an enormous boon to UNCG and Triad Stage.

Denise is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever seen.  She cares passionately for her students.  She works beyond the call of duty to help them, to create exciting opportunities and to build bridges between the university and the profession.  Her dedication to the Wales theater program is just one example of her constant striving to spur creativity at UNCG and in Greensboro.  This fall, Denise has arranged for an acclaimed South African company to travel to Greensboro and perform Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms in the UpStage Cabaret.

After the student program ended, Denise and I decided to travel to Ireland to begin to make connections to establish new international partnerships for Triad Stage and UNCG.  We’ve seen rough and tumble new theater, contemporary Irish classics and still have a few shows to go.  We also did a 15 mile walk through the country side where we were attacked by bats and cows, but we survived the wild beasts of the Irish jungles because I remembered that St Patrick had rid the island of snakes and that gave us courage.  Why St. Patrick didn’t also kick out the bats and at least the most violent of the milk cows is something I will never understand.

Violent cow

I’m surprised it has taken me this long to make my way to Ireland.  I have no Irish ancestors, but I have always loved so many of the great Irish writers.  Ireland is also a place where theater and the identity of a nation are so entwined.  The Abbey Theatre played such an instrumental role in the formation of the nation.  The idea that a theater could become a vital part of a community, engage in the conversations essential to its audience and belong wholeheartedly to its place makes the Abbey one of the touchstone theaters that provide inspiration to me as Rich, the staff, and I continue to create Triad Stage with you.

It was a little disappointing to find that the outside of the Abbey looks a bit like a Belks in a late 1970’s shopping mall.  But the inside lived up to all that I had imagined.  Not only is it a beautiful theater but I saw a risky and stunning production of Tom Murphy’s The Wake.  Annabelle Comyn’s direction was gorgeous and Aisling O’Sullivan’s performance as Vera was daring and true.

Abbey

The great thing I love about travel—whether to another world in a theater or down an undiscovered street in a new city—is that if one carries curiosity with them, wonders will be found.  I’ve not been able to stop thinking about O’Sullivan’s performance and the way it relates to risk.  The risk that an artist takes when they do the unexpected or try out a new way of expressing themselves or dares to create outside the established contemporary forms entails real danger.  And the reality is if one makes bold choices there will be many who criticize and mock.  But what’s the alternative?  To be safe?  To not try?

When I see a performance like O’Sullivan’s I’m reminded of the necessity to risk disapproval.  Art without bold choices accomplishes little.  I often tell students, professionals, and myself, that not making choices feels safe, but it doesn’t make great art.  I’m thrilled to return back to Triad Stage recommitted to our core value of “Artistic Risk.”  Without that “Artistic Risk” we could never hope to really engage with our community and belong to the Triad.

Preston Signature transparent

Preston Lane
Triad Stage Founding Artistic Director

 

InSight Speaker: Don Juan and the Philosophy of Comedy

JeffSeboJeff Sebo, Research Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Associate Director of the Parr Center for Ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill, will offer his InSights into the philosophy of comedy after this Sunday’s matinee performance of Don Juan, a world premiere comedy adapted by Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane.

Performance details: Sunday, June 12
2 p.m. @ The Pyrle Theater, 232 S. Elm Street
InSight Speaker event co-presented by Triad Stage
and The Parr Center for Ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill

Jeff previously held positions in Bioethics at the NIH and in Animal Studies and Environmental Studies at NYU, where he received his PhD in Philosophy in 2011, and among his many research areas of interest are environmental ethics, the ethics of activism, and the ethic of comedy.

But don’t let his academic accolades fool you. He’s got comedy street cred, too. In college Jeff co-edited a satirical newspaper and performed improv comedy. In the summer of 2004, Jeff interned at the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (may he rest on his farm with his children and his chickens in peace).

The Parr Center of Ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill is an incredible regional resource, offering hundreds of events and talks for students, faculty and community members throughout the year.

ParrCenter

In April, Jeff was a guest on The State of Things for a segment on the philosophy of comedy, which you can listen to here, as a preview of his Sunday conversation after the show.

If you don’t have your tickets for Sunday’s 2 p.m. matinee followed by a conversation with InSight Speaker Jeff Sebo, head on over to the Triad Stage website to reserve them today!

Building Community Through Story

Dear Friends,

As I sit down to write this to you, Technically Talking for Fences has just wrapped up in the theater downstairs. If you’ve never attended one of our Tuesday preview talk backs, I encourage you to stop by some time and meet the talented designers who create the world of the play.

The designers are not just sticking around till opening for a talk back. They’re all looking for ways to make things better. Previews are in many ways the most collaborative part of the process. The entire team is on deck, engaged and working together. This work together may be as simple as noticing a picture hanging crooked on a wall or as complicated as recognizing a costume or a sound cue needs to change. But the nature of the work is never just about their particular areas of expertise. By the time we are in previews, we’re all engaged in the common pursuit of telling the story the best that we can.

I’ve been thinking a lot about story recently. I’m embarking on a new writing project, and in between delving in to American history and current events for research, the characters and their actions and objectives are taking shape. It is an exciting time for me as a writer, because I have a plethora of possible stories and I get to indulge in each one of them. Many get discarded, others get put aside, and one ultimately becomes the story that becomes the play.

The stories that don’t get discarded are the stories that allows me to spend time with someone I would never otherwise know and in coming to know them, to learn something new about myself and my way in the world. I think good story doesn’t ask us to judge and frequently seeks to upset the apple cart of our conceptions of people, places and things. I also suspect that good storytelling gives us the freedom to discover and make up our own minds.

I believe that story builds community. Story transforms community. When we share the stories of those who may seem different than us, we enable ourselves to imagine the worth of all people. Story strengthens our community and our state by recognizing the intrinsic worth of each individual.

I’ve been asked a lot about how I feel about Bruce Springsteen cancelling his concert or the composer Stephen Schwartz refusing to permit his work to be performed in North Carolina. I think folks want me to either praise or condemn them. I don’t know that it’s my place to do either. I only know what I would do.

There’s a line I wrote years ago in a play called Brother Wolf that sums up my thoughts on how best to respond to moments of turmoil. The mother tells her frightened son: “Well. The way you got to do it is this. When you got a trouble, you tell a tale.”

I’m pretty much determined that for me the best course of action when things get bad is to keep following that motherly advice.

As a writer, I tell my own stories. I’m a product of the western part of this state and have lived in the Piedmont for a right long while now. So the people I know best are mountain folk and the grandchildren of mountain folk who came east looking for jobs. And yet I don’t just write about people I know. My imagination allows me to create the lives of others. And as a director I get to tell the stories of any number of people seemingly radically different than me — a 19th century Norwegian wife who wants to be her own person, a renaissance French orphan who falls in love with a nobleman, a mid-century African American actress who refuses to give up her truth, a dying patriarch in the Mississippi Delta. And as a producer I get to be a part of telling such wonderful stories as August Wilson crafts in Fences. On the surface, what do I have in common with a black garbage collector from the Hill District in Pittsburgh in the late 1950s? The glory of story is that — if we listen — we realize we have much to learn from every life we meet in story. And, if that’s true, is it so odd to imagine that we have much to learn from real people who seem initially to be so different?

I believe that making theater is a quest to honor the incredible and unique diversity of our community. Our stories, the people who tell our stories and the people who sit in the audience to experience our stories should reflect that diversity. I don’t always succeed but I am committed to continuing to make our stories represent our city, our state, our nation and our world.

I hope Triad Stage’s stories will continue to surprise you.

Preston Signature transparent

 

Preston Lane
Triad Stage Founding Artistic Director

Celebrating our Southern Voice

Dear Friends,

As we approach the halfway point of our 15th anniversary season, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Triad Stage’s Core Values.  I don’t mean to imply that I don’t think about these values all the time.  I do.  I try to examine every decision we make at Triad through the lens of these values.  But what I’ve been thinking so much recently in relation to these values is where they came from, how they were a key part of our original business plan, and why they keep me so creatively connected to the idea of making an artistic home in the Triad.

Younger days.

Younger days.

It’s odd to think that when Rich and I first decided that the Triad was going to be the home to our seemingly crazy idea of leading a next wave of regional theaters, the internet was in its infancy.  I didn’t yet have a mobile phone or an email address.  Rich was finishing up his MFA at Yale and I, for a few months, was working as a front desk clerk at the then-largest Holiday Inn in the world and living in a pretty dreadful apartment off of what was then High Point Road.  I worked odd hours because I’d never actually had a job outside of the theater and when they asked me what shift I wanted to work, my first thought was:  Costume history!  A shift is a ladies undergarment! And my second thought was:  Swing Shift starring Goldie Hawn!  So I blurted out swing shift and found myself working 8 PM to 3 AM.

Rich would come down to Greensboro and we’d work on the business plan together on my Brother word processor that seemed almost state-of-the-art with its five inch screen and floppy disks.  (I still have a box of those floppy disks and often imagine the horrible love poems and bad attempts at novels that might linger in some technological Neverland.)  It was on this word processor that I remember writing out those first 10 core values.  Now I can view them on a tablet, a laptop, a smart phone, a desktop, virtual reality goggles, and my watch.  In the years since the first of our dreaming, technology has certainly changed.  But our values haven’t.

Many things have come a long way since we started.

Many things have come a long way since we started.

We’ve refined them at times, but the heart of these core values remains consistent. I’m always thrilled when audience members stop me after a show and talk about how that particular performance seemed to relate to one of our core values.  In a world where theater is so frequently commoditized, I’m lucky to have found myself blessed with an audience that believes the WHY we do something is far more important than the WHAT we do.

And today—perhaps it’s because I’m drinking my coffee from my souvenir Andalusia: Home of Flannery O’Connor mug—I’m thinking quite strongly about our core value of A Southern Voice.  Some assume this core value means we only do work about the south.  That’s obviously not true as we’ve done work from all across the US, and from Europe, South Africa, and Australia.  But I would say that we are a Southern theater—geographically, there is no denying that—but in spirit and value we are Southern as well.  We are a regional theater that believes that the word regional doesn’t mean smaller or insular or provincial.

20160125_143450_resized

A space for contemplating A Southern Voice.

But what does being a Southern theater mean?  I know it doesn’t mean quaint, nostalgic, or chauvinistic.  I think it means being local, organic, and rooted.  I hope it means truly belonging where you are while engaging with others who are rooted elsewhere so you can share, learn and inspire each other.  I think being a Southern theater means exploring what the South can teach us about the rest of the world and, in return, what the rest of the world can teach us about who we are.

A couple of weeks ago Laurelyn Dossett and I, on the way the way to visit the self-taught artist Mary Paulsen, went on a two-lane road trip east and somehow discovered the beautiful Lake Waccamaw we’d zoomed past a thousand times on the interstate.  That is part of what exploring the South means.  On MLK day I had the honor of being on a diverse panel at the International Civil Rights Museum discussing concepts of truth.  That’s part of what exploring the South means.  And this December in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, I met a young Mexican woman whose brother had recently moved to North Carolina.  And that, too, is part of what exploring the South means.  For me, exploring the South means an ongoing quest of exploring who we are where we are so that we can make where we are the best it can be.

And for the next couple of months on both our stages in both our cities we’re going to be taking two more journeys in that quest.  Both are new plays about the south.  Both have a female as a key part of the creative team—Janet Allard as playwright of VROOOMMM! and Laurelyn Dossett as composer for RADIUNT ABUNDUNT.  Both feature all female casts.  And both are directed by the two southerners in the MFA directing class at Yale in 1996—myself and the constantly inventive and always hilarious David Karl Lee.

Thumbing our noses to the snow and ice, this past weekend our technical rehearsals for VROOOMMM! started and continue in spite of all the  inconvenience caused by the weather.  The actors and director are all housed in downtown Winston, but we got just about everyone else from Greensboro over on Thursday night and put them up in a hotel till the thaw of yesterday.  And while the weather was pretty frightening outside, the excitement was burning up the track at the Hanesbrands as six fantastic women race around the stage playing men, women, mad scientists, karaoke artists and Richard Petty in Janet Allard’s stock car racing comedy.

Janet went to school with me and is now teaching playwriting at UNCG.  I’ve long admired her work and especially this play because it is irreverent and surprising.  It is satirical but not condescending as it explores an upstart female driver in the world of NASCAR.  I love the way it pokes fun, but I also love the way it treasures the history.  In a sport where the tradition is as much under threat from commodification as theater, it’s great to find an anarchic comedy that roots itself in a real love of racing.

The director, designers and actors are creating a wild world of quick changes, pits stops and intrigue as they bring to life Janet’s play.  Director David Lee is one of kind and I can’t think of anyone better to drive this comedy to the finish line.  It’s a play that is far more than just an ode to racing.  It’s about women breaking barriers, about family traditions, celebrity, corporate shenanigans, love, and the drive to succeed.  It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done at Triad Stage and you don’t have to be a NASCAR fan to enjoy the ride.

JanetDavid

Janet and David at the New Winston Museum.

As a student at UNCSA, I used to drive back to Winston-Salem from the mountains on the weekends when I wasn’t in rehearsal.  My old Ford Fairmont only had AM radio and I could barely pick up a station from West Jefferson for much of the trip.  It was always a joy when I’d get to listen to a live broadcast of a NASCAR race.  And as I drove past the Wilkesboro Speedway, I’d toast the mother church of NASCAR with my Sun Drop (big Dale Earnhardt fan in my youth) before I’d lose the radio signal, switch over to a bluegrass show from Statesville and head back to school for a late Sunday Shakespeare rehearsal.

And, I suppose, that all of that, too, is part of what exploring the South means to me.

Thanks,
Preston Signature transparent
Preston

P.S. – One of the greatest thrills of producing VROOOMMM! has been the partnership with the amazing Victory Junction.  I’ve loved getting to find out about the incredible work this Triad treasure does for children and families.  Our first rehearsal was at the camp in their state-of-the-art theater and all of us came away so proud to be working with these fine folks making dreams come true. Check out photos of our first VROOOMMM! rehearsal at Victory Junction!

Process on Display

starletts_masthead

Dear Friends:

This past week was one of the busiest times I can remember at Triad Stage. As DEATHTRAP was finishing up its run on the MainStage here in Greensboro, and BEAUTIFUL STAR was well into its first week of rehearsal, A CHRISTMAS CAROL started rehearsals last Tuesday. Three casts and three plays stretched our housing and rehearsal space far more than usual. Our halls were filled with children, shepherds, Victorian misers and a murderer or two. And, suddenly, Christmas music filled the air, even as there were still screams drifting up from the theater downstairs.

We usually rehearse one play at a time or, more recently, one here and one in Winston-Salem. Both BEAUTIFUL STAR and A CHRISTMAS CAROL are big shows and we haven’t yet found a space in Winston Salem large enough for so many actors so I’ve handed over our third floor rehearsal hall to Bryan Conger and Ebenezer Scrooge. Rev. Roy Ledbetter and the members of his congregation and I have taken up residence, thanks to the generosity of our good friends at Lincoln Financial Group, in the former Bank of America on the corner of Elm and Friendly.corner photo

If you’ve ever walked down our third floor hallway at Triad Stage, you’ve passed the rehearsal hall. You probably didn’t know what it is. Like most rehearsal halls, it is secreted behind closed doors. So many don’t have windows. Ours, while perched on the top floor of our building, feels very much as if it is buried in some subterranean basement. The only light is from fluorescents, there are big bulky doors between the rehearsal and the real world, and unless it rains—in which case leaks spring in the most inconvenient places—the outside world seems inconceivably distant.

But this is not so on the first floor at the corner of Elm and Friendly. Two huge walls are all windows. From where I sit directing, I can see the ebb and flow of downtown and have an excellent view of Center City Park. And since I can see out, everyone else can see in. It’s a strange feeling to do something we theater folk normally do hidden behind walls and closed doors so absolutely in full public view.

At first, I worried about the cast and myself feeling self-conscious. Would we be able to take all the risks and make all the mistakes that are essential to the process of discovering the truth of a play? Would we be constantly checking over our shoulders to see who was watching and if they were judging us? Many of us in the theater are especially shy. The act of playing another is the distance we need to feel safe when encountering other people. I’ve battled shyness all my life. I’m definitely an introvert. Large crowds terrify me. I hate big parties, conventions, and conferences. I’m not very good at small talk. I battle this because I know it makes me seem aloof to some when in actuality I’m just plain ol’ terrified. But on stage, the fear isn’t an issue. At home writing a play, the fear isn’t an issue. And in the safety of an enclosed rehearsal hall, the fear isn’t an issue.

Surprisingly, we’ve adapted quite well to our new work environment. Occasionally a fender bender at rush hour will stop the work, but for the most part we just dance (and act and sing—and I turned a cartwheel once to prove to the kids I could) as if no one is watching. I hope there’s something of value for both the watcher and the watched about the fact we’ve opened the windows on how we work if anyone cares to see. All of us in rehearsal are downtown workers doing a job, playing a role in the economy and the life of our community. We make what we make handmade here for you. And for a few weeks our studio is fully visible.

I love the idea of our process being a fully visible part of downtown because I am so proud of playing a leading role in revitalizing our community. My view out the windows in the new rehearsal space and my walk down Elm Street reveals an exciting city center bustling with business 9 to 5, and coming to life with restaurant, arts, and entertainment patrons in the evening. It’s a far cry from the Greensboro I remember before Triad Stage opened our doors back in 2002. It’s a real treat to get to show so publicly the way we make the work that in its completed form has brought so many ticket buyers to Elm Street to shop, eat, and explore before a Triad Stage performance.

I can sometimes get too precious about protecting the secrecy of our process. I like that we’re letting Greensboro peek into something we’ve never really had the courage to show. And I hope if you do stop by and watch a bit, you’ll find it at least as interesting as the two northern women who once stood in front of me at Krispy Kreme watching the doughnut making process. One said to the other: “See, I told you they are healthy. Look, they’re boiled.”

And if you stop by for a look, please check out Urban Grinders, the great new coffee shop/art gallery just across Elm. The cold brew is fantastic and the space is great.

Thanks,

Preston Signature transparent

Preston Lane, Founding Artistic Director

A Good Month for a Little Mystery

DTHeader

Dear Friends,

This past weekend we said goodbye to the cast and crew of Wit and said hello to the first audience for Ira Levin’s fiendishly clever Deathtrap.  As expected there were more than a few screams as the evening progressed.  I’m happy to say the screams were from audience members and not the director.   We hope to keep audiences guessing, jumping, and screaming well into November.

October is always a good month for a little mystery.  There’s something about the chill in the air that seems to demand a chill to the spine.  Shorter days, early dark, and everywhere the dying of summer makes our minds turn to darker themes.  This is, after all, the month of Halloween and I noticed yesterday on my walk home from teaching a class at UNCG that skeletons were peeking out of a neighbor’s front yard and that a group of witches had taken up residence just down the street.

Truth be told, I think just about any month is a good time for a mystery.  I didn’t really discover this guilty pleasure that is my love for crime fiction until I was already in grad school.  Peter Jackson’s brilliant film Heavenly Creatures was playing at the York Square Cinema and since I was working a lot with Julie McKee, a great playwright from New Zealand, I decided to go over and check it out.  I was blown away.  The film is a bold, heartbreaking and visually stunning re-imagination of a brutal crime committed in New Zealand in the 1950’s.  I learned later that week that one of the teenage murderers, Juliet Hulme, had changed her name, was living in the UK and writing mystery novels under the pen name Anne Perry.  So, off I went– out of morbid curiosity– to Atticus Bookstore where I purchased The Carter Street Hangman.  I figured meeting Victorian sleuths Thomas and Charlotte Pitt in their first mystery would be a onetime thing but I’ve read 27 of the 30 books, and from Anne Perry I’ve made my way to any number of unputdownable writers like Ruth Rendell, Karin Fossum, and the granddaddy of them all—Wilkie Collins.

I mainly listen to them now as audiobooks.  After my stroke almost 5 years ago, I started walking much more.  I find that a desperate need to discover just exactly whodunit is perfect motivation to add steps to my daily routine.  I just downloaded Robert Galbraith’s (aka J.K. Rowling) new book last night at midnight and I may not stop walking for days to come.  All of these mystery novels are a true escape, but they also are expert lessons in the art of plot and craft.  Common Enemy was deeply influenced by the fact I was walking my way through Val McDermid’s Karen Pirie books.  They were a crash course in how to plot.

As a writer, I’ve never attempted a stage thriller, but I want to.  It’s an extremely tricky art form and common wisdom says that modern technology has made them nigh on to impossible.  You can’t dail “m” for murder on your cell phone and DNA tests would be rather boring on the stage.  But as a director, I love the art form.  Triad Stage has produced many of the great stage thrillers from Angel Street to Wait Until Dark and I hope there will be many more opportunities to scare you and perplex you.  Witness for the Prosecution anyone?  Or how about my favorite, the ever creepy Bad Seed.

Deathtrap is one of the best.  I’d love to tell you all sorts of secrets about how Bryan Conger and our wonderful company of actors, designers and production staff are putting it together, but I just don’t want to ruin the surprise.  The great joy of a good mystery is a delicate mix of chills, clues, red herrings, reversals, and unexpected events.  As I write this, the company is in rehearsal in the theater tightening the screws to make the tension even stronger.

I think there’s nothing more elemental to the incredible human experience that is live theater than the shared emotions that performance creates in an audience who have been united by their experience of the story.  Screams, tears, laughter and, yes,  even anger can remind us that we’re not so different from each other when we notice the people next to us—strangers, perhaps, until tonight—experiencing the same thing.  I think that’s what I love most about this thing I do.  At its best theater calls us to be human, to be fully alive, to be engaged with our self and with others, and to recognize how much alike we really are when we break through the artificial dividers and seek the essence of what is human.

Thanks,

Preston Signature black

Preston Lane, Founding Artistic Director

P.S. – There are so many wonderfully talented professionals working on every Triad Stage production. See what our resident fight choreographer Jim Wren had to say about the art of stage combat and working on this production in a recent video.