By: Jessica Clifford
For many of us, the year is halfway over. For Greensboro and Winston-Salem’s Triad Stage, however, late September is just the beginning. With its 17th season to date, this 2017-2018 production season is sure to be anything but boring, with plays and musicals ranging from locally written to award-winning American classics.
“From the sheer joy and power of Rodgers and Hammerstein to the provocative and powerful drama of Paula Vogel,” said Preston Lane, the artistic director and 15-year-veteran at Triad Stage. “We want to make theater that makes you laugh, makes you think and makes you talk about it.”
According to the media release, Triad Stage has a line-up of eight local productions, with half of the shows taking place the Pyrle Theater and half at the Hanesbrands Theatre. Both theaters will tackle various genres including classical musicals, comedies and dramas.
This season was met with some controversy after the theater reduced their usual show-count. “We were sometimes producing shows that we didn’t actually have an artistic reason for producing,” Lane said. “We were only doing them to fill the quota demand by our calendar.”
However, the change in Triad Stage’s calendar was not a bad move for the directors, Lane said, instead it gave most of them a break to collect new creative energies.
This upcoming season kicks off on Sept. 17, with the 60-year-old Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, South Pacific, the largest production ever produced at the Triad Stage.
This Rodger and Hammerstein musical takes place at a layover station on an island in the South Pacific as WWII ravages on, forcing marines and navy sailors to await their call to the front lines. During the wait, young romance blossoms between a lieutenant and army nurse.
“[South Pacific is] a real story about real people, “ Lane said. “[It shows] a pivotal moment in our history. It is a celebration of young life and imminent death, making it so interesting.”
Though Lane has worked on a production of South Pacific in the past, Lane said he still worries at night about how the production will fit on stage, but he remains hopeful for its success.
No matter his fears, Lane is excited to bring this musical to Greensboro considering the recent political upheaval. “The musical is an attack on closed-mindedness and racism,” Lane said. He went on to say it is a musical with a much-needed message after the riots in Charlottesville.
Rodgers and Hammerstein began a revolution of the American theater industry with South Pacific, and since its creation, it has spoken timelessly and relevantly. The musical is in collaboration with University of North Carolina Greensboro’s 2017-2018 Concert and Lecture Series and will run from Sept. 17 to Oct. 18, at the Pyrle Theater.
While the less serious and comedic play, Buyer & Seller by Jonathan Tolins will be at Winston-Salem’s Hanesbrands Theatre. This play features Alex More, an unsuccessful 30-something actor who lands a job at a shopping mall in the basement of a Hollywood actress’ mansion. More continues to live his life, aspiring to be a renowned actor, when suddenly he meets the actress that owns the estate. This 2013 Drama Desk Award-Winning show runs from Oct. 11 to 22.
Other American classics will be performed, including two of Lane’s favorite productions – Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.
A Raisin in the Sun will take place at Greensboro’s Pyrle Theater starting Jan. 28 and run until Feb. 18. This play is about an underprivileged family living on the Southside of Chicago, awaiting the life insurance check that will help each family member to fulfill personal dreams.
While Lena, the mother, wants a beautiful house in a safe neighborhood, her daughter dreams of applying to medical school, and her son wants to own a liquor store. A Raisin in the Sun captures the struggle to reach the American Dream while fighting the racial tensions and economic challenges of living in one of America’s most impoverished urban areas.
After A Raisin in the Sun, Hanesbrands Theatre will present Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town. This three-act-play is set in the small town of Grover’s Corners, in which the residents live average lives, working regular jobs in the early 1900s. Our Town is a tribute to the everyday American trying to find happiness in their lives. This play will be running from Feb. 14 to 25, 2018.
Besides these American favorites, seasonal shows will be performed including Lane’s Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity and the fifth anniversary of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, both directed by Lane. Common to Triad Stage, the Pyrle Theater will also present a new play by Preston Lane, entitled The Passion of Teresa Rae King premiering April 29, 2018.
Lane noted that the Triad Stage is continuing their engaging pre-show activities including food and mingling.
“[Triad Stage] wants to become part of the community dialogue,” Lane said. “By allowing people to meet fresh faces that have similar theatrical interests.”
With the most ambitious and highly anticipated season ahead, it is best to try a three-play pass at both Greensboro’s Pyrle Theater and Winston-Salem’s Hanesbrands Theatre for $45 or a six-play pass for $63. As 2017 carries on for most us, it is best to take time for a play or musical at the Triad Stage.