Triad Stage reaches out toward Winston-Salem

by Lenise Willis

More than a decade ago Triad Stage was just the bud of a long-dreamt plan for its co-owners Preston Lane and Richard Whittington. Now, in its 13 th season, the small professional theater tucked into an old, gutted department store on Elm Street will reach out beyond its Greensboro limits to flourish in Winston-Salem.

Triad Stage just announced Tuesday that it will be adding Winston-Salem shows to its programming. The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and Triad Stage, the professional not-for-profit company located in downtown Greensboro, have reached an agreement for three new productions in the Arts Council’s Hanesbrands Theatre over the next several months.

“When Rich Whittington and I conceived and founded our theater company 13 years ago, we named it ‘Triad’ Stage with the idea that it would be the premier professional theater serving the Piedmont Triad,” said Preston Lane, Triad Stage artistic director. “We honor the Triad in our name and welcome this opportunity to deepen our commitment to the region by creating professional theater for Winston-Salem audiences in Hanesbrands Theatre, one of the region’s premier performance venues.”

Jim Sparrow, Arts Council President and CEO, said the net effect will be to strengthen the Triad theatre community and increase opportunities for audiences to enjoy quality, professional theater in Winston-Salem.

During the holiday season, Triad Stage will bring to Hanesbrands Theatre the timeless Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol Dec.10-22. In February, Triad Stage will present Red, by John Logan, which gives a glimpse into the life of artist Mark Rothko set in his studio in the late 1950s.

Finally, in May, Brother Wolf will wrap up Triad Stage’s inaugural season in Winston-Salem. Written by Lane, with music and lyrics by popular Triad based singer-songwriter Laurelyn Dossett, Brother Wolf blends folklore, myth, music and mountain religion in an Appalachian adventure tale based on the story of Beowulf.

“I became an artist because of my time in Winston-Salem. Creating theater here feels like coming home,” said Lane, a graduate of UNC School of the Arts.

The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County is making approximately $730,000 in grants available to nine theater groups this grant year including Triad Stage. “We have a strong vested interest in theatre and seeing all the companies we support do well,” said Sparrow.

“Hanesbrands Theatre is a young venue, and its role in the Winston-Salem and greater Triad theatre community is still evolving,” Sparrow said. “There are things we want it to represent. First and foremost is quality. Second is diversity. We are doing a good job with both, but we still have nights when the theater is dark. This affects bottom line and viability. The Task Force has looked at a lot of options and concluded that this strategic alliance with Triad Stage is a rare opportunity to move forward the concept of ‘Triad’ in the arts community at large and strengthen the entire theater community in Winston-Salem.”

Sparrow noted that since Triad Stage made its appearance on the Greensboro theater scene 13 years ago, attendance has increased across the board at both professional and amateur productions.