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Blockhead hits the stage

by Lenise Willis

Just as soon as the ghosts and goblins took their final bow last weekend, the Drama Center of City Arts wasted no time jumping into a more cheerful mood with a more Thanksgivingthemed production.

The center’s youthful performance of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a feel-good musical based on Charles Schultz’ famous Peanuts cartoon strip.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is classic because it deals with universal truths in a fun and simple way,” said Rosina Whitfield, director. “I saw the play when I was a teenager””a long time ago””and although it has been somewhat revised, it holds up beautifully. The situations, humor and dialogue are not dated at all, but have the same relevance they did decades ago.

“I distinctly remember much of the show and that I really liked it, which is why I chose it for the season. The characters are children so they question and philosophize as children but with a perspective adults will recognize.”

Whitfield also mentioned that because they have worked to expand the center beyond a teen theater, she wanted a show that could be enjoyed by a wide variety of ages. “This show can be enjoyed by all ages and by those who know the cartoon strip and the characters, as well as those who don’t,” she said.

The drama center’s black box theatre is also the perfect space for a more intimate show. The audience will feel more apart of the production, simply because of their closer proximity. They’ll enjoy reminiscing over the familiar set pieces: Snoopy’s dog house, the psychiatrists’ bench, the mailbox and Schroeder’s piano. “They are all cartoony and colorful, and the set ably adds to the fun,” Whitfield said.

As for the characters, the whole gang will be there. The most interesting character on stage is sure to be Snoopy, which will be performed by actor Joey Upper.

“It’s not easy being Snoopy,” Upper said. “You say the name, and everyone knows who you are referring to. Snoopy is, additionally, one of those characters that doesn’t have a ton in the way of speaking,but he has to be present nonetheless. It’s a challenge.”

As one would imagine, Upper says that getting into the character of a dog is difficult, much less, a half-rational, halfdog like Snoopy.

“I actually could really see having a lot of freedom in this, diving into instinctive basic wants and thoughts, but it often is checked by the fact that Snoopy has a very certain character.”

“Playing an icon is actually a terrifying proposition; ask any actor,” Upper continued. “You have to conform to them. You can’t ‘make them your own’ as you would any other character. It’s often confining, having everything spelled out for you by your iconic predecessor. The trick is to find the freedom of character within that mold, which is where I find myself at this point in rehearsal. Hopefully, you all will enjoy when you come see.”

Whitfield said audiences can expect to, “Go ‘awww’ when Charlie Brown strikes out, laugh when Snoopy makes a big production out of suppertime, and will certainly identify with each of the characters at some point. They will see themselves and certainly someone they know.” !

WANNA go?

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown runs November 6-8 and 12-15 at the Stephen D. Hyers Theatre at the Greensboro Cultural Center, 200 N. Davie St., Greensboro. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Tickets and season tickets can be purchased at the door. For more information visit thedramacenter.com or call 335-6426.

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