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Ghostly beginnings

by Lenise Willis

The Drama Center of City Arts is where many artists get their start. With numerous theatre and dancing classes, youth and adult performing groups and playwright forums, the center is a springboard for burgeoning talent and fresh works. Its Annual Fringe Festival fos ters that mission, and this week the 14 th annual festival is kicking off with another new, exciting original, Ghost Notes.

“The Greensboro Fringe provides two very important opportunities to artists wanting to create new work for the stage,” said Todd Fisher, City Arts Coordinator and Drama Center Director. “The first is pretty simple—a venue. It’s the biggest expense for performing artists and the Greensboro Fringe Festival is one of the few, if not the only festival of it’s kind that does not charge a single penny for artists to participate.

“The partnership with the Drama Center and City Arts allows us to provide this. The second is audience building. These are performing artists and they need patrons in seats to experience their ideas and hopefully talk about them afterwards, and ultimately return to support them again.”

Playwright Gabrielle Sinclair is one such artist who is gaining exposure from the festival. This week will be the premiere performance of her new, original play, Ghost Notes, a comedic drama about the conflicts, squabbles and rivalries in a dysfunctional Southern family.

“This is the play’s first big outing,” Sinclair said. “I’m super happy to have it happen here in Greensboro at the Drama Center with this incredible cast and crew.” Sinclair was the winner of the 2016 New Play Project and the Mark Gilbert Award, in addition to being chosen for the opening festival performance.

“It’s a real honor,” Sinclair continued about participating in the festival. “It’s very humbling and an amazing opportunity. These folks are good and they work fast; it’s a trip to have imagined these people and this place and these objects and the next thing you know there they are, designed and built and carved out and memorized and performed with a full heart. Theatre is the best kind of magic. I’m very grateful.”

Sinclair, a Greensboro-based playwright who has been writing comedies and drama for the past 10 years, said she completed her first draft of the play in grad school, and actually wrote it within just a few months. Of course, since then, it’s evolved, and Sinclair says she’s still fine tuning it. “I’m learning so much about it from this production,” she said.

Her inspiration for the play came from everyday life and “the experience of so many big joyous and tragic life events seeming to happen all at once.”

“Ghost Notes is a dreamy, fractured hospital story about a religious family grappling with the repercussions of a dying patriarch’s wish to donate his body to science, and a woman’s troubled lost spirit who refuses to leave,” Sinclair said. “It’s also, maybe, simply just another night at any rural hospital in the South.”

Actor Hannah Dobrogosz is thrilled to perform the new production with its “bizarre elements,” but profound message.

“I like the originality of Ghost Notes,” she said. “Its subject matter is definitely out there, but I think it can be relatable too. It discusses coping with grief, connecting with family, and coming to terms with death. Although the show definitely has its bizarre elements, its ultimate message is profound. We should love and accept our family members for who they are, and it is useless to fear the inevitable.”

Of course, the Drama Center is thrilled to be a part of not only a new production, but a local one at that. “The world of Ghost Notes is strongly rooted in the South with language, character, and family conflict, yet the action could be placed anywhere in America,” Fisher said. “When reading it, I was hypnotized by the imagery and atmosphere the play injected into my mind. The production team is working hard to translate that to the stage. Greensboro deserves to see more of this kind of theatre.” !

WANNA go?

The 14th annual Greensboro Fringe Festival runs select days Thursday through February 8. The first performance, Ghost Notes, runs Thursday through Sunday at the Stephen D. Hyers Theatre in the Greensboro Cultural Center, 200 N. Davie St. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10. For reservations or more information visit thedramacenter.com or call 335-6426.

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