Fresh performances for a New Year

by Lenise Willis

There are many ways to celebrate the turning of a new year, including popping champagne and fireworks, eating black-eyed peas and even kissing a significant other at the chime of midnight. It’s exciting to look ahead and think about what the New Year will have in store. This year, 2016 will hold quite a few exciting productions to look forward to, and maybe even help some of us keep our resolutions””like spending more quality time with family, or trying something new. To kick off the year, Greensboro Coliseum is hosting a very unique theater experience for the very first weekend in January.

The Aquatic Center will be filled with mermaids for a meet-up led by world-renowned “mermaid” (Shannon Rauch). NC MerMania is a unique two-day event with activities for children, like “swim with mermaids,” in which youngsters can have one-on-one time with the mermaids on a giant inflatable clamshell. Adults can join in on the fun, too, and take a fitness class with the mermaids””who are notorious for their graceful figures and powerful core.

For anyone interested in becoming a merman, the event will host the first-ever merman class, in which Christian O’Brocki of the Maryland Mermaids, a professional tank performer, will be giving a presentation and advising those interested.

There will also be a few celebrity mermaids at the event, including actress and underwater model Hannah Fraser, the Halifax Mermaid representing Canada, Mermaid Shannon, North Carolina’s Mermaid, Venessa the Louisiana Mermaid and Merman Arion representing France. Of course, tails will be for sale, too.

For more details, including ticketing information, visit

Winston-Salem Festival Ballet will celebrate 2016 by first looking back and appreciating an important element of theatre: fairy tales. In honor of the 150 th anniversary of Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, choreographer Gary Taylor is bringing back his fairy tale series next Saturday, Jan. 9, at Hanesbrands Theatre.

The one-act production highlights Alice as she joins her fairy tale friends”” the Tortoise and the Hare and the Ugly Duckling”” for an adventure. The ballet is specifically designed for a young audience. Performances are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Before each show, audience members can participate in themed activities, and get their face painted, meet the characters in costume and take photographs.

It’s a sweet way to start the year with the little ones. It’s also a nice way to ease back into the school year and help dissolve that post-holiday sad slump.

Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem is performing Bent, a love story about a same-sex couple in 1930s Berlin, beginning on January 15, and then will continue their theme of love for Valentine’s Day with I Do, I Do. I’m excited to see the two-character musical, which features a 50-year long relationship and delves into the ups and downs of the couple’s marriage.

Speaking of romantic stories, Twin City Stage is kicking off its New Year with a tale of love, too. Proposals, a comedy by Neil Simon, will hit the stage February 5-14. The play takes place on a warm summer day in 1953 in a cabin in the Poconos, where a whole host of romantic entanglements ensue with an ex-wife, an estranged husband, an old boyfriend, and a very confused family.

Triad Stage’s first production of the New Year is certainly one that hits home. Vrooommm!, which hits the Hanesbrands Theatre stage January 27, is filled with fast cars, dirty talkers and the first female NASCAR driver. At its Greensboro location, the theatre will feature Radiunt Abundant, a Preston Lane original with music by Laurelyn Dossett, for its first show of the season. The contemporary drama weaves music, story and art as five women search for what they believe may be lost forever.

This year also marks a very special moment for Paper Lantern Theatre Company, which will be hosting its first fringe festival. The Ruby Slipper Fringe Festival is a new celebration of more than 100 female artists, aged 12-75, of all experience levels and backgrounds. Performances will be showcased throughout the weekend while crafts, visual and culinary arts will be exhibited around the performances space. Coming February 18, the festival will be an exciting demonstration of talent and a refreshing focus on female power, creativity and support””part of Paper Lantern Theatre’s founding mission.

These are only a few of the many opportunities in store for the year, so keep reading to find out more details as productions approach. !

LENISE WILLIS, a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill’s journalism school, has experience in acting and ballet, and has been covering live performances since 2010.