Hot off the press and onto the stage

by Lenise Willis

Just before a great ice storm hit the Triad last week, Triad Stage hit their audiences with a season announcement, detailing what might be their biggest challenge yet: 10 plays for two cities.

Now that Triad Stage is a regular at Winston-Salem’s Hanesbrands Theatre, the company will have its hands full producing original plays for both Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

“They’re a company that’s not only producing great works by other playwrights, but creating their own great works that in many instances are centered on the South — that was definitely a draw for us,” said Richard Emmett, chief operating officer of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, back when Triad Stage first announced its new Winston-Salem season.

The new season, announced last Wednesday at The Pyrle Theatre in Greensboro, still lives up to that praise, with both original works by Lane, as well as the works of such Southern greats as Beth Henley (Abundance, as well as Crimes of the Heart, April 5-26 in Greensboro) and Carson McCullers (The Member of the Wedding).

“The 10 shows of our 2014-15 season will showcase the bold acting and breathtaking design that have been at the heart of our first 13 seasons,” said Artistic Director Preston Lane. “Producing in two cities also gives us the chance to spark new dialogue around playwrights, topics or time periods.”

For each play that was announced last week, Lane and Whittington considered their two very different audiences, as well as two unique performance spaces. “We’re going to have two very unique spaces,” Lane said at the close of last year. “Both of them call for very inventive staging and different ways of storytelling. So I’m excited about that — and the artistic challenges it brings.”

The first performance of the theater’s new 2014-15 Winston-Salem season will be Underneath the Lintel (Sept. 17-28). The play takes the audience on a mysterious journey in which a librarian finds a 113-year overdue Baedeker’s travel guide in the overnight book return. After reading the notes scribbled in the margins, the librarian turns detective in pursuit of unraveling a mystery yearning to be solved.

Afterward, Triad Stage will bring its adapted tradition, A Christmas Carol (Dec. 3-21), followed by Other Desert Cities (Feb. 11-22). The contemporary comic drama tells of an aspiring writer who threatens to disclose some painful family history in her memoir. The hopeful woman soon discovers that even secrets have secrets of their own.

The Winston-Salem season will close with Abundance, a wild western by Beth Henley, May 6-17, 2015. The play follows two mail-order brides who meet in 1860s Wyoming while awaiting their new husbands’ arrival. The funny tale of friendship includes adventures among Indians, a kidnapping, and the survival stories of dealing with natural disasters… and husbands.

Kicking off their 2014-15 season in Greensboro, Triad Stage will start with The 39 Steps (Aug. 31-Sept. 28), a hilarious and mysterious comedy adapted from an Alfred Hitchcock film. When a man sickened with boredom takes home a beautiful secret agent, he is cured with a racing adventure after the woman ends up dead and a foreign power called “The 39 Steps” is on his tail.

The actors performing in the play will be in for a racing adventure of their own, as four brave souls will portray more than 150 characters.

Continuing the fall season will be The Member of the Wedding, a classic tale about a small-town tomboy longing for adventure and romance.

For its holiday production in Greensboro, Triad Stage is returning Snow Queen, a Preston Lane original that debuted this past winter. The past performance of this show was absolutely delightful, filled with childlike imagination, folk-tale warmth, mystery and a bit of mountain humor.

The play follows a young girl who ventures into the snowy unknown in search of her best friend who has been captivated and captured by the Snow Queen.

Triad Stage will have a love story for February, Dirty Blonde (Jan. 25-Feb. 15), a musical about an aspiring actress.

And the last performance of 2015 in Greensboro is another Preston Lane original and world premiere, Common Enemy (June 7-28).

“Triad Stage is living up to our name in a whole new way as we re-define what it means to be a regional theater,” Lane said. “With 10 plays produced in two great Triad cities, we have more opportunities to create nationally acclaimed work.”

With the added performances and increasing popularity, this is sure to be one of Triad Stage’s most successful seasons, although only time will tell. !