Triad Stage

Posts by Triad Stage

Triad Stage is a North Carolina theater company that produces and performs live, professional theater in the Piedmont Triad region. With local and national talent, a focus on artistic excellence, and a distinctly Southern voice, Triad Stage offers a wide sampling of quality theater, including original works and re-imagined classics. You can see Triad Stage’s work at two world-class performance venues in the state: The Pyrle Theater in Greensboro and Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston-Salem.

WWII Comes to the Cast of South Pacific

Lieutenant Colonel Franklin B. Montgomery had the glint in his 94-year-old eyes of his much younger self. Frank was in fact channeling his 18-year-old self, describing how his life and the lives of all Americans changed after Pearl Harbor.

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“It exploded my family,” said Frank. “High Point, my hometown. North Carolina. Our nation. The world.”

Frank was standing in front of a packed room, speaking to a rapt audience – the 30 cast members and assorted creative team and staff of our production of SOUTH PACIFIC. Frank was invited to speak to them because he’s a bit of an expert in this area. He served in the South Pacific during WWII.

But that’s telling the story in the wrong order. Frank graduated from High Point High School in 1944 and enrolled in NC State with the intention of studying engineering and continuing to run track. He’d been a track star in high school. He had a promising future. And then war reared its ugly head, and like so many young Americans Frank pivoted to meet it.

In early 1942 Frank dropped out of college and volunteered for the Army Air Corps.

“I choose the Air Corps because it seemed exciting,” Frank said. “Just 20 years before I was born the Wright Brothers flew the first plane off the coast of North Carolina.” He described himself as “not militaristic, most of us weren’t”, but rather driven by a sense of duty and the thrill of new experiences.

He got on a bus in High Point with seven other people, but they all went their separate ways. [Check out this News & Record article for more of Frank’s history and to hear how he met up with one of those same young men he left with, so many years later.]

Frank graduated flight school in 1944 and shipped out. Eighty percent of the personnel and equipment in WWII went to Europe, but Frank went to the South Pacific. Not his choice.

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“I knew how to fly an airplane, but that’s about all I knew,” said Frank of his younger self. Prior to leaving for the war, the furthest he’d been from home was Myrtle Beach. He wound up on Oahu flying a P51. He’d sometimes be in the air for 7 hours a stretch with only the most rudimentary navigation instruments. The enemy was not the only threat.

“Watching that fuel gauge go own and down, you begin to wonder if you’ll make it back.”

He described the state of endless waiting that the characters of SOUTH PACIFIC are engaged in – waiting for orders, for battle, for news from home. Frank spent more than an hour sharing his candid memories and answering questions from the cast – large and small.

“How long would it take to get an answer when you wrote letters?” asked one cast member.

“Forever,” said Frank. “Weeks. Or never.”

Frank returned home in early 1946. He later went back to Southeast Asia to serve in Korea and Vietnam. He spent time living in Okinawa with his wife and sons. His experiences living and fighting in the South Pacific didn’t leave him bitter towards the people there.

“No Japanese person ever hit me or short changed me. I’d shoot down their planes and boats but I couldn’t sit there and say I hated them. But a friend of mine just hated them from his guts. Explain that.”

It’s hard to fathom Frank hating anyone. He’s just about the most congenial person you can imagine. But that difference of feeling is at the heart of South Pacific, and our production is better because Lieutenant Colonel Franklin B. Montgomery shared his experiences with our cast during the rehearsal process and helped bring the characters to life by filling out the world they inhabit.

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*If you happened to notice Frank wearing three hats, you are not mistaken. Frank likes his hats.

We are proud to be honoring Lieutenant Colonel Franklin B. Montgomery as part of Triad Salutes at the Opening Night performance of South Pacific on Friday, September 22. 

Summer at The Shop

For every Triad Stage production, there’s a story behind the spectacle. Whether it’s the set design, props, or costumes, no detail is left unaccounted for. At the Triad Stage production facility in Greensboro, there is a constant frenzy of creativity, planning, and construction that takes place to make sure that every show brings magic to the stage.

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This off-site location is home to our set design and construction team, prop storage and rental facility, as well as our costume shop. The facility houses offices for staff, as well as storage, sewing spaces, and work rooms for large construction projects.

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During the summer, life at the production facility slows down just a bit as staff take a moment to reflect and regroup after a busy season. Often, this time is used to effectively organize the space before the whirlwind of show production begins again. In storage rooms, items are strategically grouped for simple management. Every item has its place; from chairs, to chests, to checkered prints.

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But none of these things are just laying around getting dusty. The production facility also operates as a rental company, and anything your theater heart desires can be borrowed. Triad Stage additionally supports local universities such as UNCG with collaborative rental partnerships with academic theater departments. This system ensures that many of the props and set designs from old Triad Stage productions continue to have a life after the show.

As we head towards the start of the 17th season, things are falling into place for the set of our first production of the season, South Pacific. On a visit to the facility, I got a sneak peek at some of the first projects that our set design team is working on to bring the World War II era to life. Speakers are being repurposed to imitate old radios, collections of army personnel items are stacking up, and miniature models exemplify the future directions for Bloody Mary’s mobile street shop.

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The costume department is also well on its way towards getting ready for the show. Upstairs, racks of uniforms are being prepped for fittings this month. To develop the design of each character costume, the team has relied heavily on historical readings and personal photos from a Colorado based woman who served as a nurse in the South Pacific during World War II. The details of every garment are designed to be as historically accurate as possible.  Each costume has been slowly acquired piece by piece over the course of the summer, and continues to be finalized as the last shipments of vintage tops and sturdy boots arrive to the door. On a dress form, the final look for South Pacific’s female lead character Nelly is almost ready to go.

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Be sure not to miss all of the hard work paying off this fall. Catch South Pacific at The Pyrle theater in Greensboro September 17 – October 15! Visit the Triad Stage website or call our Box Office at 336-272-0160 to reserve your tickets today.

Reflections on the NCTC Producing Gathering

As my time at the NCTC Producing Gathering comes to an end, I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this conference. With session topics ranging from marketing strategies, to assessing the realities of diversity and inclusion in theater arts, there was no shortage of great ideas. As an undergraduate student, I came to the NCTC Producing Gathering with the expectation that I would learn more about the theater profession, and the type of work it takes to make art a reality. But more than that, over the past two days I have also learned a great deal about myself as a young professional, and what action steps I can be taking now both within the arts world and beyond.

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One of the highlights of Ben Cameron’s opening address was his remark that an organization’s core values are more important than the mission statement. This idea inspired the discussion of the first session that I attended, “Prioritizing Values Over Mission”. The major takeaway for me during this conversation was that while the mission statement might define what you do, it should not be the single guiding force of an organization’s work. In truth, it is the core values that spark people’s passion and motivation towards the work that needs to be done. Core values show who you are, why you care, and determine what needs to be done. For me, this concept is true for both my professional and personal life. It’s not just what you do; it’s how, and why.

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Moving into the second day of the Producing Gathering, there was a lot of focus on community. In a morning session, “Assessing Where We Are Now: Diversity & Inclusion”, participants shared personal stories from past successes and shortcomings of bridging various sociocultural divides in our communities. While ultimately there were many ideas on how to attract audiences, diversify casting, and create accessible productions, it was realized that the first and arguably most important step we all need to be making towards these professional goals is in our personal lives. It is impossible to authentically and effectively meet articulated goals of inclusivity unless we make the effort to personally build relationships and engage in communities beyond those that we comfortably interact with in our everyday lives. This session really inspired me to break out of my daily routines, and actively seek activities that allow me to build relationships across cultural boundaries.

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Overall, my experience at the NCTC Producing Gathering was incredibly worthwhile. I made connections with theater and arts professionals from all over the state, learned more about my field, and gained valuable insights on my role as a young professional in the arts. Many thanks to Triad Stage and the NCTC staff for making this opportunity possible!

 

– Alyx Bean, Triad Stage Summer 2017 Opportunity Greensboro Fellow

 

NCTC Producing Gathering: Day 2

The second and final day of the North Carolina Theatre Conference Producing Gathering at Triad Stage has ended, but the buzzy excitement of new ideas and new relationships is going to be buoying the work theater companies across the state in the weeks to come.

We jumped straight into workshop sessions, with early sessions on marketing, building great staffs, and weathering change. Participants in conference block two tackled board engagement, diversity and inclusion check-in, and bridging the urban/rural divide.

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Trickling into The Pyrle Theater this morning.

Digging deep to solve the problems of our time. #nbd

Digging deep to solve the problems of our time. #nbd

NCTC arranged a second excursion to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, and an excursion to Elsewhere, a living museum and artist residency housed in a former thrift shop on Elm St. As always a huge shout out to ICRCM, frequent collaborators and longtime partners, for hosting us. The Elsewhere tour was a first for many, including members of the Triad Stage staff, and was an inspiring experience for those who attended.

Thanks Guido for leading such an excellent tour!

Thanks Guido for leading such an excellent tour!

Triad Stage Associate Artistic Director Sarah Hankins on her first Elsewhere tour.

Triad Stage Associate Artistic Director Sarah Hankins on her first Elsewhere tour.

Look at all those inspired smiles!

Look at all those inspired smiles!

And what is a good conference without closing remarks that lay out where the group has been and where we’re all headed in the next year? Vivienne Benesch, the new(ish) Producing Artistic Director of Playmakers Repertory Company, gracefully rose to the occasion.

A self-avowed quoter, Vivienne had some of her own beautiful reflections and pearls of wisdom to share. Growing up in London and New York, Vivienne had this to say about her first year and a half in NC: “I have never encountered the kind of pride North Carolinians have for their home and what is possible here.”

At a conference where authenticity was a recurring theme in sessions, Vivienne reminded us all that these conversations “are better when you’re not talking to yourself.” In dialogue with each other, and with our communities, we endeavor to celebrate our successes and improve on our shortcomings in the year ahead.

We’re still processing some of the big questions and ideas from the conference, but as part of that process, we’re going to be putting together some of the best and most inspiring nuggets uncovered during those conversations with all of you later on this week. Stay tuned!

One of the best least-noticed pieces of art at Elsewhere - inspiring words for artists of all kinds, visible from Freeman Mill Rd.

One of the best least-noticed pieces of art at Elsewhere – inspiring words for artists of all kinds, visible from Freeman Mill Rd.

Photos and content from Opportunity Greensboro Fellow Alyx Bean and Marketing Manager Tiffany Albright. 

NCTC Producing Gathering: Day 1

Triad Stage and the North Carolina Theatre Conference are pretty tight – which maybe isn’t surprising, considering NCTC’s state headquarters are embedded in our administrative offices on Elm St. in downtown Greensboro. But we are thrilled every time we get to welcome the entire NC theater community to Greensboro for the annual NCTC Producing Gathering. This year’s two-day conference (July 17 & 18, 2017) is our fifth time hosting the gathering of almost 100 theater practitioners, from companies of all sizes to board members, independent producers, educators, and volunteers from all over the state.

Coffee before deep thought, please.

Coffee before deep thought, please.

This year we kicked off in The Pyrle Theater with an opening keynote from Ben Cameron, a titan thought leader in the arts world and a native of the Triad. He shared ten meditations on theater in NC and the way forward. His “Zen Ben” presentation seemed to key up the audience more than calm the fears, which is exactly what you want at the start of your conference. Big takeaways: Change is already here, and theaters that can’t adapt are in trouble. Also, we could all stand to take a hard look at our values and how we’re reflecting them in our work and our wider actions in the community (more on that late this week in our reflection post).

Photo courtesy of NCTC. From left to right: Triad Stage Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane, Triad Stage Board Chair Dabney Sanders, Keynote Speaker Ben Cameron, and Dennis Quaintance (President, Quaintance Weaver).

Photo courtesy of NCTC. From left to right: Triad Stage Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane, Triad Stage Board Chair Dabney Sanders, Keynote Speaker Ben Cameron, and Dennis Quaintance (President, Quaintance Weaver).

After the keynote, NCTC Executive Director Angie Hays spent some time leading us through the process of generating unconference topics (for those who have never attended an unconference, it’s basically a giant brainstorming session where we share all the problems we’d like to solve and things we’d like to talk about, and then whittle that down to our sessions). Today’s sessions spanned a range of topics that included Creativity & Collaboration, Allowing Our Communities to Define Our Values, Sensory Friendly Performances, and Engaging Millenial Donors.

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The afternoon carried us out into the communities for tours of The Forge, Greensboro’s burgeoning makerspace, and The International Civil Rights Center and Museum, a cultural touchstone for our city and state.

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The Forge tour with Executive Director Joe Rotondi.

Day one is wrapping up with an extremely chic party at Proximity Hotel, which will still wind down early enough for us all to be back fresh-faced in the morning for what is guaranteed to be another challenging and rewarding day.

Tomorrow we’ll share the best news from Day 2, and later in the week we’ll also share some of our top line takeaways from our favorite sessions, and favorite general moments from the conference. Until tomorrow!

Photos and content from Opportunity Greensboro Fellow Alyx Bean and Marketing Manager Tiffany Albright. 

Professional Development at Triad Stage: Opportunity Greensboro Fellows Program

With the theater being dark during the summer, you may be wondering what we have been up to here at Triad Stage. Don’t fear! We’re in full-on planning mode for the season ahead. Our building may look quiet from the outside, but the staff are working hard behind the scenes preparing eight high quality productions to be delivered to the Triad region in the coming year.

To help us out this summer, we’ve been thrilled to welcome Elon University student Alyx Bean as our first Opportunity Greensboro summer intern. Alyx is an Arts Administration student with a passion for community development. This season is the perfect time for Alyx to work with us. She’s getting the opportunity to assist in the rapid expansion of our Learning Program, and the preparation for our 17th Season.Here at Triad Stage, lifelong learning is a shared and fundamental value. We support programming that inspires new and creative ways of thinking, and promotes personal and professional growth. In collaboration with the Opportunity Greensboro Fellows Program, we seek to bridge the gap between academia and theater arts professions.

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Alyx Bean and Justin Nichols at our pop-up photo booth for SOUTH PACIFIC on Fun Fourth.

Alyx Bean and Justin Nichols at our pop-up photo booth for SOUTH PACIFIC on Fun Fourth.

The Opportunity Greensboro Fellows Program is an initiative of Action Greensboro. The program launched last year with its inaugural student cohort. This program addresses the need to attract and retain young professionals in Greensboro from local colleges and universities. Accepted Fellows are given the chance to gain valuable work experience, develop critical skills at the Center for Creative Leadership, build a strong network through exclusive mentorship, and engage in the community through living and working in the city throughout the summer.

Beth Manella, Fellows Program Director with Opportunity Greensboro, shared some of the benefits of this 10-week internship program:

“Prior to the Opportunity Greensboro Fellows Program, there was no centralized program for finding a paid summer internship in Greensboro. This program benefits local college students, local companies seeking local talent, and the greater community at-large who wants to see our community continue to grow with regard to economic development and keeping more young professionals here.”

In 2017, Triad Stage become one of the collaborating organizations to offer a professional paid internship opportunity to local college students. This summer, our summer Fellow Alyx has been working alongside Triad Stage’s Development Manager Justin Nichols and Marketing Manager Tiffany Albright to support the development of fundraising and marketing plans for the season, and assisting with general office administration. She is also getting the opportunity to observe and foster relationships with our staff, and to learn more about a profession in theater arts.

We’re so pleased to be a part of this exciting new program that will support both Alyx in her professional development, as well as Triad Stage in our season preparation. We look forward to continuing our collaborative relationship with the Opportunity Greensboro Fellows Program, and can’t wait to see the benefits that this initiative will bring to our city.

Triad Stage receives two national grants

The National Endowment for the Arts announced $82 million to fund local arts projects in every state and jurisdiction. Triad Stage will be the recipient of a $20,000 Art Works grant. Triad Stage also recently received $50,000 from The Shubert Foundation, the nation’s largest funder dedicated to unrestricted funding of not-for-profit theaters.

The Art Works award will support  a new play commissioned by Triad Stage and written by Mike Wiley about the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins and the Greensboro Four. Wiley is a NC playwright whose play The Parchman Hour about the Freedom Riders has been performed at theaters across the country.

The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. Nineteen grants were awarded in North Carolina to groups including The North Carolina Theatre Conference and the National Black Repertory Company. In previous years Triad Stage has received the Art Works award to support the development and production of five shows, including a revival of Tobacco Road (2007) and four original works by Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane examining life in the South: Brother Wolf (2006), Bloody Blackbeard (2008), Providence Gap (2010), and Radiunt Abundunt (2016).

RADIUNT ABUNDUNT (2016)

Radiunt Abundunt (2016)

The Shubert Foundation Grants Program awarded a record $26.8 million to 533 not-for-profit performing arts organizations across the United States in 2017. Seven grants were awarded to theaters in North Carolina. Triad Stage’s $50,000 grant is the second highest grant in the state. It is also the highest grant Triad Stage has received from the foundation.

For more information about how you can support the Triad Stage visit http://triadstage.org/support.

Meet Dr. Cynthia Greenlee, InSight Speaker for ACTIONS AND OBJECTIVES

Greenleeheadshot1Dr. Cynthia Greenlee, North Carolina native and historian, has been announced as the InSight Speaker for Actions and Objectives, a World Premiere North Carolina drama from Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane. Dr. Greenlee specializes in the post-Civil War legal history of African-Americans and the U.S. South.

Performance details: Sunday, April 9
2 p.m. @ The Pyrle Theater, 232 S. Elm Street
The InSight lecture is free to all, and will begin immediately following the matinee performance.


About Dr. Cynthia Greenlee
A proud graduate of Greensboro’s James B. Dudley High School, Dr. Greenlee is a former Morehead Scholar who earned a master’s in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a PhD in history from Duke University. She works as an independent scholar and also the senior editor at Rewire, the leading online publication for news and commentary about reproductive health, rights, and justice.

Check out Dr. Greelee on Twitter @CynthiaGreenlee.

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

 

About Actions and Objectives
Just when things had seemed to calm down in Hawboro (Providence Gap, Common Enemy, Radiunt Abundunt) after the recent unpleasantness concerning the Zebulon Zebras, a theater company announces plans to develop a play to celebrate the town’s sesquicentennial. As they probe the official story and rehearse the drama, the contemporary concerns of the artists and the community begin to parallel the struggles of the city’s first citizens. From Reconstruction to Black Lives Matter, the line between the present and past, rehearsal and reality begins to blur as new truths emerge and tempers flare. In the tradition of Common Enemy, this world premiere drama returns Triad audiences to the town of Hawboro for a bold exploration of the contemporary South. Contains adult language and themes.

Triad Stage’s 2017-2018 Season Revealed!

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On a balmy February morning in Winston-Salem, and again on a balmy February evening in Greensboro, we announced our next Season of producing world-class professional theater in the Triad.

We won’t lie, we were pretty excited. And once our gathered guests in both cities heard the titles we’ve lined up, they were even MORE excited.

Our Founding Artistic Director Preston Lane had this to say about his hopes for Season 17:

“We want to make theater that makes you laugh, makes you think and makes you talk about it.” 

So that’s exactly what we will aim to do. Over the coming weeks you’ll hear all the ways you can join us for our biggest season ever, but without further ado, we give you the lineup:

2017-2018 SEASON

SOUTH PACIFIC
A grand musical
Composed by Richard Rodgers with Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan
September 17 – October 8, 2017 at The Pyrle Theater (Greensboro)
Triad Stage, in partnership with UNC Greensboro, brings to life one of Broadway’s most iconic musicals. The world is at war, and on an island in the South Pacific the U.S. has created a military stopover for young men on their way to the front lines of battle. But love is also in the air. Emotions run high as a Midwestern nurse and a young lieutenant each navigate the treacherous waters of unfamiliar cultures and new romances. Winner of the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific will sweep you away with the delightful cast of characters and unforgettable songs like “Bali Ha’i”, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” and “Younger Than Springtime.” Triad Stage invites you to be part of its most ambitious production to date.

 

BUYER & CELLAR
A hit comedy
By Jonathan Tolins
October 11 – October 22, 2017 at The Hanesbrands Theatre (Winston-Salem)
Alex More, a not-so-successful actor somewhere north of 30, finds himself in the basement of one of Hollywood’s biggest icons. Hired to operate the shopping mall – complete with stores and a food court – in the basement of one of the houses on the star’s estate, Alex spends most of his days alone dusting and dreaming – until one day a bell rings, a door opens and he’s standing toe-to-toe with the celebrity herself. Jonathan Tolins’ hilarious 2013 Drama Desk Award-winning one-man show tackles the luxury and loneliness of celebrity.

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL
A holiday classic
By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Preston Lane
November 24 – December 24, 2017 at The Hanesbrands Theatre (Winston-Salem)
Ebenezer Scrooge’s last chance is one night and three spirits. It’s a life-changing ride through past, present and future as he learns what it means to be human. Triad Stage brings Dickens’ classic story to life in a dazzling production brimming with bold acting, daring design and spine-tingling special effects. Returning for the 5th year to The Hanesbrands Theatre, A Christmas Carol is a ghostly tale of Yuletide cheer, gracious redemption and heart-warming hope for the whole family.

 

BEAUTIFUL STAR: AN APPALACHIAN NATIVITY
A seasonal celebration
By Preston Lane
Original music by Laurelyn Dossett
December 3 – December 24, 2017 at The Pyrle Theater (Greensboro)
This winter Triad Stage invites you to come home again for the holidays. We take you to the peaks of the Blue Ridge where Reverend Roy Ledbetter and all the members of the Open Heart Community Fellowship have been working hard to fill your holidays with joy. Starting with Genesis and going all the way to the Nativity, they spin a holiday story with down-home laughter, toe-tappin’ music and a tug at the heartstrings. Come experience the joy and wonder that has made Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity the biggest hit in Triad Stage’s history. Presented by The Carroll Companies.

 

A RAISIN IN THE SUN
A groundbreaking classic
By Lorraine Hansberry
January 28 – February 18, 2018 at The Pyrle Theater (Greensboro)
In a cramped apartment on the south side of Chicago, a struggling family awaits a life insurance payment that could change their circumstances. Matriarch Lena dreams of a nice house in a nicer neighborhood. Daughter Beneatha has her eye on medical school, while son Walter is scheming to buy a liquor store. Lorraine Hansberry’s searing drama about the struggle to achieve the American Dream in the face of racial tensions and economic disenfranchisement changed the face of American theater, and remains no less relevant today.

 

OUR TOWN
A beloved classic
By Thornton Wilder
February 14 – February 25, 2018 at The Hanesbrands Theatre (Winston-Salem)
For the citizens of Grover’s Corners, life is sweet. The doctor makes house calls, the teenage boy delivers the paper and the Boy-Next-Door meets the Girl-Next-Door. Set in an All-American small town at the turn of the century, this 80th anniversary production of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a heartwarming and deeply moving reminder to appreciate life while one has it and to relish every moment – no matter how mundane it seems – for it is those small moments that are truly miraculous. A partnership production with UNC School of the Arts.

 

HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE
A family drama
By Paula Vogel
April 4 – 15, 2018 at The Hanesbrands Theatre (Winston-Salem)
Navigating time and place as one would a winding highway, Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play takes its audience on a complicated and surprisingly funny journey through the life of Lil Bit as she learns the rules of the road and the facts of life behind the wheel of her Uncle Peck’s car. How I Learned to Drive explores the dark side roads that families sometimes go down, and how what we learn and the experiences we have along the way drive us. This contemporary classic tackles the aftermath of sexual abuse in a powerful story of survival.

 

THE PASSION OF TERESA RAE KING
A scandalous thriller
By Preston Lane
April 29 – May 20, 2018 at The Pyrle Theater (Greensboro)
Triad Stage returns to Hawboro, this time to the wrong side of the tracks. A young woman beleaguered by her husband and terrorized by her mother-in-law finds comfort in the arms of another man. They carry out a plot meant to free Teresa, but the repercussions of their actions haunt them and threaten to drive them to madness. Join Triad Stage for this World Premiere loosely inspired by Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin.

 

And there you have it, folks! Season 17.

Will we see YOU at the theater?

An Interview with Olivia Trees, Costume Designer for ‘The Price’

Olivia Trees

Olivia Trees

Each year, Triad Stage hosts a designer through the Southeastern Theater Conference’s Ready to Work Awards, a competitive program that places them at professional theaters early in their careers. This year’s award winner is Olivia Trees, a costume designer and MFA Graduate Candidate in her final year at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. We stole a few minutes of her time to ask her about the Ready for Work Award and her design process just before rehearsals for Arthur Miller’s The Price (January 29 – February 19) began earlier this week.

 

Triad Stage: What was the SETC Ready to Work Award competition process like, and how did you feel when you were awarded the designer position at Triad Stage?

Olivia Trees: The award sponsors looked through all the design competition entries, and SETC then posted a list of who the theatres wanted to interview. Everyone signed up for a time to meet with their theatre representatives. I met with Preston Lane and Bryan Conger. I showed them my resume and website and had a very pleasant conversation. I felt sad when our 10 minutes were up. They strongly hinted about giving me the award, but were unsure at first because I was still going to be a graduate student this year. They have only previously given it to graduating students. So, when the award was announced later that evening, I was incredibly excited for the opportunity. I had heard so much about Triad from the previous award winner, Josafath Reynoso, who also happened to attend the University of Tennessee with me, that I couldn’t wait to work with Preston and the rest of the team.

'A Shayna Maidel' photo by Brynn Yeager

‘A Shayna Maidel’ photo by Brynn Yeager

TS: When was the moment you realized you wanted to be a costume designer?

OT: I think it was senior year of high school. I had been competing in the Thespian Society design competitions since 8th grade, and I loved working on the annual school musical, but makeshift high school theatre left me feeling very disillusioned about the whole thing. Then, I was given a ticket to see the touring production of Camelot. It was a beautiful, professional production that seemed so incredibly magical. I realized the potential theatre had to be an experience that could deeply affect audiences in any number of ways. It certainly moved me into a great career that I love.

 

TS: What has been your favorite costume you’ve designed so far?

OT: I think that would have to be Elizabeth Proctor from my recent thesis production of The Crucible. It was a fairly simple costume, but she looked great and the actress was fantastic. We were going for a rougher, more “real” look than many other productions, so I was using a lot of textured fabrics and natural fibers. I gave her a blue wool skirt and a blue gray linen peplum bodice which combined with her apron, cap, and fichu supported this demure yet strong character.

'The Crucible' photo by Brynn Yeager

‘The Crucible’ photo by Brynn Yeager

TS: What are your favorite materials to work with?

OT: I would say natural fibers in general: silk, wool, linen, cotton. They drape well, they look amazing on stage, and in my opinion, they feel much better to wear than synthetic fibers. I try to use them whenever possible.

 

TS: Can you walk us through the process of working on a new project?

OT: When beginning a new project, you always begin and end with the script. If your designs don’t support the play, then it won’t be a very successful production. After a read, you’ll meet with the director and hopefully the design team to discuss what he or she wants the audience to get from the play and what the general vision is. After some more reading and a lot of research, the designers come back to the table with preliminary sketches and ideas. The refinement process continues between the designers and director until he or she approves the final designs. This might take two meetings, it might take twenty; it depends on the production and the people involved. Then, the designs move to the shops. As the designer, clear communication and trying to be on top of purchasing fabrics or pulling stock garments is vital to a smooth process.

'A Lesson Before Dying' photo by Olivia Trees

‘A Lesson Before Dying’ photo by Olivia Trees

TS: What are the rewards and challenges of collaborating with a team who is responsible for bringing your vision to life?

OT: In a shop, it can be a challenge to work with so many different minds and personalities. Sometimes you meet someone that you don’t get along with very well, or there are clashing ideas about how to solve a problem, but the work has to get done, so you find a way to work through it. Theatre is a collaborative art, and everyone is there to create something hopefully moving and memorable. So, that opening night is always rewarding because whether or not everyone is best friends, the group is what makes theatre happen.

 

TS: What are you most looking forward to during your time here at Triad Stage?

OT: Apart from getting to meet a wide group of great new people, I am curious about the experience of being an out-of-town designer. Until now, I have always resided in the place where I am working on a show. It’s easy to go into stock for 10 minutes here and there to find a new piece to the puzzle, but this time I have to rely on a shop that is several hours away instead of in the next room. This experience has emphasized to me just how important clear communication is.

Costume sketches for 'The Price'

Costume sketches for ‘The Price’

TS: What play or movie would be your dream design project?

OT: I really don’t have a specific project in mind. I love history and reading about how people of the past lived, so for me, any kind of period movie or play would be interesting to work on.

 

We’re so excited to see Olivia’s work come to life in our production of Arthur Miller’s The Price (January 29 – February 19). Be sure you get your tickets early!