When temperatures in the fall begin to cool down the Athens theatre community heats up as they begin their main seasons of productions. Our “Theatre Community” is just that, it’s a large mass of similarly-minded people giving and then giving some more – and we’ll keep ourselves going into future Seasons as long as we all keep giving…participating, experiencing and experimenting, donating funds and expertise, receiving all the joy and having lots of fun – it’s a live, group experience, this “Play” thing! There’s lots happening under the lights, so let’s hit the boards!
The Circle Ensemble Theatre Company is thrilled to have just kicked off its first full season in the historic Winterville Auditorium with Shakespeare’s timeless A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other shows this season include A Christmas Carol, The Glass Menagerie, and Fiddler on the Roof. Their Second Sundays New Play Reading Seriesbrings together playwrights, directors and actors to encourage new works. All are welcome to come to the free monthly gatherings to listen and give feedback, as well as volunteer and perform with them. It all began in 2010 when three local professionals – Lisa Mende, Kathleen Hogan, and Joelle Ré Arp-Dunham – came together to create artistically satisfying productions that challenge and engage audiences, educate our community and create employment opportunities. This group hopped all around town for years, performing without a home base, breaking the boundaries of age, gender and race, and focusing on new voices as well as beloved classics. Now you can be a part of what they do in the newly renovated Winterville Auditorium at 371 North Church Street – just 13 minutes from the UGA arches. Their motto? “Theatre to Re-awaken the Soul!”
Rose of Athens Theatre lives its mission to create vibrant professional theatre that inspires audiences and transforms communities – “Professional Theatre, Community Spirit.” Like Circle, their productions have also taken place at a variety of venues since being founded in 2006, from Seney-Stovall chapel to the Morton Theatre. Now in its thirteenth season, Rose’s productions include familiar and beloved stories with fresh approaches. New artistic director Helen Demott says this year’s theme is “Classics in the Classic City.” They do like variety, and this season they have fairy tales aimed at little kids all the way to Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. They also excel at incorporating music and stage combat into their shows. This December you may opt for an exciting twist on an old favorite asA Christmas Carol–A Live Radio Play returns to Rose of Athens. Then comes Robin Hood and in June “Shakespeare under the Stars.”
Town & Gown Players is the “granddaddy” of local theatre, with high production values and longevity. They’ve been welcoming newbies to the theatre world as well as professionals into their wonderful little playhouse at 115 Grady Avenueever since they beganproducing live theatre for the Athens community in 1953. Season number 66 starts with Nunsense. The other shows are Sweat in December, Starstruck in February, Ripcord in April, The Secret Garden in June, and in August we see A Midsummer Night’s Dream again but unlike you’ve ever seen it before. The group also has a Second Stage series, which is an exciting opportunity for smaller or more experimental productions – quality shows for just five bucks a seat.
UGA Theatre, part of the University of Georgia’s Department of Theatre & Film Studies, has an innovative season featuring a wide-ranging selection of both new works and timeless classics, and you may only recognize a couple of them. The season begins with “The Tall Girls,” a play set in the Depression-era dustbowl of the American Midwest. After that, “Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again,” a new and daring work by Alice Burch takes the stage. And, to finish the Fall semester, Peter Shaffer’s classic “Equus” will exhilarate and challenge audiences. Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” is one of the shows slated for next semester. “This season will be thrilling, fun, challenging and, as always, reflective of the incredible talent we have here,” said department head David Z. Saltz. UGA Theatre began in 1893 when a student group began producing shows on campus, but it wasn’t until 1939 that the Department of Dramatic Arts was created. The 86thseason is now underway, with performances on either the intimate Cellar Theatre, Seney-Stovall Chapel or the main stage in the historic Fine Arts building. www.ugatheatre.com
Athens Creative Theatre (ACT), a program of the ACC Leisure Services department, usually focuses on kids and arts education. Their first show this season will be Newsiesat the Morton TheatreNov. 1-4, but older adults can audition for shows, too, such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? this January. If you enjoy comedy, then be sure to audition in March for their Reader’s Theatre production. It is geared right to our age group and is a wonderful collection of Carol Burnett sketches and skits from the beloved comedian’s career on stage and television. Performances are scheduled for May 10-12 at Memorial Park.
Want to try your hand at writing a play script? The Athens Playwrights’ Workshop meets on alternating Mondays during the academic year. University affiliation is not a requirement, community members are welcome, and there is no charge. Each week, members are invited to bring in selections of works they are writing. Feedback is given, and donuts are served. John Patrick Bray, Assistant Professor in Dramatic Writing, says, “There is no secret handshake to join; you may be asked to read a part for someone else as we share our work, and your feedback is always welcome.” The group meets Oct. 22, Nov. 5, and Nov. 26 this semester at 7 p.m. in Room 201 of the UGA Fine Arts Building.
It takes many people in all sorts of roles to have a robust theatre scene. One way to get involved is go to a few different shows, then seek out a group that clicks, pick out a little something to do or buy a season ticket. For Boomers, theatre has many health benefits—physical, mental, psychological and cultural. The social factor, though, helps develop a remarkable esprit de corps. Folks start to overlook each other’s oddities and quirks and begin to see the value and richness of those quirks.Volunteers are needed in so many aspects, from the box office, various technical aspects, carpentry and costumes, promotions, ushering, refreshments, finding props – there’s something you’re good at! And don’t forget acting – stretch yourself!
All these groups have a real need for donations so consider supporting your favorite theatre group by joining Amazon Smile and Kroger Community Rewards which offer them kickbacks on your purchases. They all have wish lists that include office supplies and equipment, interesting props and costumes, especially vintage/antique items. Most of all they need you! Soon you’ll understand why they say “there’s no business like show business!”