Beautiful Star Director’s Note


One of the first things I learned about working in the professional regional theater is that Christmas comes early. While everyone else is still thinking about what to wear for Halloween, I’ve spent most of the last 15 Octobers of my life either in Victorian England with some guy named Scrooge, at Macy’s dressed up as an elf, searching a magical land for The Snow Queen or with the fine folks at a small Church in a fictional town someplace in the mountains I am proud to call home.

I have been fascinated by the English Mystery Cycles since I first discovered them in 1995. My first attempt to adapt them for the Appalachian region was in a play called Wondrous Love. It was long and unwieldy, and after the first and only reading of the play, I thought I was through with the Mystery Cycle.

But the Mystery Plays, full of faith and majesty, have stayed with me. The language, rich with alliteration and surprisingly real, has shaped all my subsequent writing. But I knew I wanted to do more with them than simply restage them. I had to find a way to make the plays my own with a framework allowing us to know the people doing the plays. The church and the congregation I imagined was a fantasy of sorts. It was the church I would like to stumble into on a winter’s evening. A spirit filled place, where everyone, wounded somehow, can be healed. And where everyone is accepted, believer or not, into a family. It gives me great joy to stumble into that church again, to find my old friends waiting, as joyous as ever with stories to tell.

Throughout the writing of the play, I thought a lot about my Aunt Shirley who decided in the mid-nineties that she would write and stage her own Christmas play in her basement. The cast was comprised of my family (all but me making their stage debut) and a few folks from her church. It was a three-year experiment in theatrical folk art. Every minute was crafted by Aunt Shirley with absolute love for the story she had to tell. And every year, there came a moment when the play transcended the basement of that 60s ranch house to become something bigger −something made out of faith. I imagine that moment happened sometimes, too, as the pageant wagons rolled through streets of medieval York and the fishmongers and shipwrights and carpenters performed their plays to celebrate their spirit. And it’s that moment I’ve come searching for again in this blending of Bible stories, medieval plays and contemporary Appalachia.

We’re thrilled to invite you back to the Open Heart Fellowship.
Welcome home.

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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.

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!

Two Triad Stage Designers Take the International Stage

hart-headshotTwo Triad Stage designers will be featured on the international stage at World Stage Design 2017 in Taipei. Finalists were announced today.

Natalie Taylor Hart, Assistant Professor at Elon University, has been selected as a finalist in the Professional Designers Exhibition alongside 120 other designers for her work on Fences (April 2016). Her design will be exhibited at the event and in the digital portfolio at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts at the Taipei National University of the Arts in Taipei from 1 July to 9 July, 2017. Natalie is also slated to design for Triad Stages upcoming production of Having Our Say (February 22 – March 5, 2017 at the Hanesbrands Theatre).

Natalie Taylor Hart's design for FENCES.

Natalie Taylor Hart’s design for FENCES.

large_avatar_496666_esguu_ohz3lpjevbbobxcvqom-2Josafath Reynoso, props master, chief scenic designer, and assistant professor at Southeast Missouri State University, will be featured in the Emerging Designers Exhibition alongside 60 other early-career designers for his work on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (September 2015). Josafath came to Triad Stage through the Southeastern Theatre Conference as a winner of the Ready-to-Work program.


Josafath Reynoso's design for CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

Josafath Reynoso’s design for CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

Since its launch in 2005, World Stage Design has attracted thousands of visitors and participants from across the globe. The event is produced every four years, and provides attendees and participants with an opportunity to experience the best in theatre design, performances, workshops, seminars, and thought-provoking exhibitions.

World Stage Design 2017 will exhibit jury-selected work from 120 professional designers and 60 emerging designers from 36 countries. The 2017 awards will be announced at World Stage Design 2017 on July 5, 2017.

Beautiful Star: The Mixtape



The Beautiful Star Mixtape is comprised of all the songs Artistic Apprentice Kamilah Bush overheard members of the cast and crew randomly sing in rehearsal.

Just the Two of Us – Bill Withers
I Want to Know What Love Is – Foreigner
A Whole New World – Aladdin
Rapper’s Delight – Sugarhill Gang
Tomorrow – Annie
Wade in the Water – Mavis Staple
And I am Telling You – Dreamgirls
Whip It – Devo
Move Bitch – Ludacris
Let’s Do it Again – Staple Singers
Kiss – Prince
Take the A Train – Duke Ellington
Folgers Theme Song
Keep on Truckin’ – Eddie Kendricks
Changes – David Bowie
White Christmas – Bing Crosby
She’s a Lady – Tom Jones
Mmmbop! – Hanson
Here I Go Again – White Snake
Move your Feet – Junior Senior
What a Friend We Have in Jesus – Aretha Franklin
I Want You Back – Jackson 5
Tipsy – J-Kwon
One Way or Another – Blondie
It’s All Over – Dreamgirls
Any Way You Want It – Journey

Most likely to burst into song: Nick Relos
Second most likely to burst into song (tie): Bryant Carroll and Lawrence Evans
Honorable Mentions: Ric Robertson and Danielle Hopkins

They also occasionally sing songs from the show, and if you haven’t caught a performance yet, get to booking! And Friday December 9th and 16th you can join the band and special guests in concert after the performance.

We’ll see you at the theater!

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


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



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.


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.

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Preston Lane
Triad Stage Founding Artistic Director