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Little Theatre and Black Repertory Company plan shows

by Mark Burger

It’s a fresh new year, and the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem’s Youth Production Series has a fresh new production on tap: The Outsiders, adapted from SE Hinton’s best-selling novel by director Gesh Metz.

The production opens Thursday in the Mt. Tabor High School Auditorium (342 Petree Road, Winston-Salem), and runs through Sunday. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.

Now here’s the nice part: Admission is “pay what you can” – which is just what it says. A couple of bucks… some spare change… come on, anyone can afford that!

Reservations aren’t required, either. Just show up, sit down and watch the show. There’s a bit of salty talk and violence, as there was in the book, so the production is not recommended for very young children.

Hinton was merely 15 when she started writing the book, and was 18 when it was first published in 1967 – to instant acclaim and to instant controversy. Some people, it seems, didn’t think it was suitable for youngsters to be reading about teenagers from broken homes, who smoked and drank and fought and sometimes used foul language.

Yeah, back in the ’60s, teenagers never did that. And they sure don’t now, do they?

Not surprisingly, the book was – and remains – extremely popular with teen readers. Besides, it’s awfully nice to know that they’re reading something.

Set in Tulsa, Okla. during the 1950s, the story focuses on a group of teenage boys (the “Greasers”) from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, and their repeated clashes with the town’s rich kid (the “Socs”). A series of events only serve to heighten the rift and tension between the two groups, culminating in an act of violence that will have – as acts of violence so often do – tragic repercussions for some.

More than a decade after the novel’s publication, a high-school class sent filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola a copy of the novel and a petition stating that they’d like to see him make the movie. So he did.

Coppola, still smarting financially after the bomb that was One from the Heart (1982), rebounded with The Outsiders – which was a financial success. Coppola was so enamored of Hinton’s work that his very next film was an adaptation of Rumble Fish. Alas, box-office lightning did not strike twice – although the film was critically acclaimed.

Back in the good old days of 1983, when I was ducking the nuns at Immaculata High School – some days more successfully than others – both the book and the movie versions of The Outsiders were big favorites among my classmates, especially the girls. The movie, after all, featured early appearances by such up-and-coming screen hunks as Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe and C. Thomas Howell – and let’s not forget Diane Lane (very hot) and Tom Waits (very cool), with quick appearances by young Sofia Coppola and author Hinton (as a nurse).

Well, maybe one of these days, I’ll finally catch up with it. Back then, however, I was busy sneaking into stuff like 1990: The Bronx Warriors. I’m not proud of that, but it is the truth.

For more information about this production, or about the Youth Production Series in general, call 336.748.0857 ext. 204.

As for the Little Theatre itself, its next mainstage production – Larry Shue’s award-winning comedy The Foreigner – will open Feb. 1 at the Arts Council Theatre (610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem). You can find more details about that at littletheatreonline.com.

The Arts Council Theatre is not only the headquarters for the Little Theatre, but also for the North Carolina Black Repertory Company, which presents the National Black Theatre Festival every other year in Winston-Salem.

On Jan. 15, the NCBRC will mark yet another important event with its 24th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at the Arts Council Theatre beginning at 6 p.m.

Hard to believe that 2008 will mark the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. Whether or not the world is a better place since he left it is debatable, but it’s certainly a better place because he was here – and his legacy continues to reverberate to this day.

The annual celebration is a way to commemorate Dr. King’s work and, as the name implies, to celebrate him. The event will feature a showcase of local talent and is free to the public. The only “ticket price” is three non-perishable food items. All food collected will be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank to help the less-fortunate – a nice nod to the sort of brotherhood that Dr. King spoke so eloquently and passionately about.

For more information about the celebration, just give the NCBRC a ring at 336.723.2266.

For questions or comments email Mark Burger at Marksburger@yahoo.com.

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