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Broach Theatre celebrates past and future with 25th season

by Lenise Willis


Before his passing in 2008, Broach Theatre Company’s Hall Parrish was said to have brought great joy, laughter and tears to his audience. It’s also been said that he was wonderful at playing rather large women. Last Saturday his spirit lingered as a crowd gathered to laugh, cry and honor his memory at Broach’s 25th season announcement. The season and celebration at Studio B on Elm Street was dedicated to both Parrish and his longtime business partner Stephen Gee, who has decided to leave the Broach family in pursuit of a career in counseling. “When Hall passed away, Gee said, ‘The future success of the Broach is his legacy.’ Now as the Broach Theatre Company begins its 25th season, Gee has decided to go in another direction with his career, and the Broach becomes his legacy as well. It [fills] our hearts with sadness to say goodbye to Stephen, just as it did when we were forced to say goodbye to Hall.” Gee and Parrish along with David Bell started the Broach Theatre Company in 1987, making the Broach downtown Greensboro’s longest-running professional theater company. Gee said the feeling is “bittersweet,” but his passions have changed and this is just the new phase he’s entered in his life.

When asked why he felt called to counseling, Gee said, “I’ve been deal- ing with human emotions all my life; they were just controlled [in theater].” Gee was given a framed print of William Mangum’s painting of the Broach for an honorary sendoff. Saturday’s festivities also included drinks and hors d’ oeuvres, live music from flamenco guitarist Ed Stephenson, readings and performances from Broach actors Wanda Steele and Betsy Brown, video segments from Parrish’s past performances and a silent auction to help raise funds for Broach’s first show Tuna Does Vegas in September. Steele, who has worked with the company for about 10 years, sang a song dedicated to Gee and shared memories of Hall. “Hall was a lovely man and he always made me feel good about the work I did,” Steele said. “I feel like Hall is looking down and seeing all the people who came to honor him.

“My association with Hall and all the wonderful actors and actresses at Broach enriched my life.” Attending the ceremony were season-pass holders Bill and Ivette Neese.

Bill, who has been a Broach Theatre regular for about 20 years, says what he loves about the Broach is its intimacy. “You get to know all the actors and the directors,” Bill said. And he fondly describes the Broach crowd as “like family.”

“I’ve never seen a show I didn’t like,” Bill continued.

The celebration attracted more than 75 people, including dedicated viewers as well as some new faces. “I think it’ll help [the theater] and make a difference,” Bill said. “You could just feel that the guests are really excited to know that the Broach Theatre Company is going to stay around,” said J. Allen Broach, benefactor. “Season 25 is perfect for our audiences. It’s mostly comedy.” Kicking off the 2011-2012 lineup is Tuna Does Vegas (Sept. 21-Oct.1) by

Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. “Everyone loves the Tuna plays and we have one starting and ending the season,” Broach said. Next on the list is Ira Levin’s Deathtrap (Oct. 26-Nov. 5), which Broach says is actually a comedic thriller.

Back by popular demand is the hilarious Christmas show The Farnesdale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Dec. 7-17) by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr. Broach said this will be the third time the theater has done this show and he does not fear any competition from the A Christmas Carol production of Triad Stage or NC Shakespeare Festival. “Farnesdale is a proven winner for our Christmas show,” he said. “It really has very little to do with the real [A Christmas Carol]. It is a crazy fun comedy.” And since Community Theatre of Greensboro is slated to buy the Broach building by early January, The Broach will partner with CTG to co-produce Driving Miss Daisy (Feb. 9-19) by Alfred Uhry. Afterward, Broach will present Social Security (April 11-21) by Andrew

Bergman, and closing the season will be Red, White and Tuna (June 20-30) by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. “All of these [shows] were selected because they are bringing back the ‘Broach style’ of theatre,” Broach said. “Well directed and acted, and light comedy.”

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