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art frBy Shannan Mashburn • SMN Intern

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville will bring the French Rivera to life with its blockbuster summer musical “La Cage aux Folles.”

HART is taking a gamble with this play, which is among the more daring shows it has staged. Then again, HART has never been one to hold back.

Set in the Haywood Arts Regional Theater, the cast of “Ah, Wilderness!” spent a rainy evening preparing for its impending opening night.

The actors practiced their lines and movements, making all the blunders of a good rehearsal. One of the crew sat stage left following line-by-line and interrupted to correct the actors or answer their call for “Line.”

Director Wanda Taylor sat several rows from the front with her rescue dog, Nora, at her feet, typing comments on her laptop and occasionally laughing at an amusing line or action.

“Every play that I have directed I just love directing,” said Taylor, who has been a part of HART since 1988 as both an actress and director. “It is always fun for me to watch the characters develop.”

A handful of others watched from various seats in the house.

“Ah, Wilderness!” is the only comedy written by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill, who is more commonly known for his dramas including “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

The play is set in New England on July 4, 1906, and focuses on life in the Miller family — particularly Richard. During the weekend, Richard, an almost 17-year-old boy, has his first experiences with love, alcohol and prostitution.

“There is an undercurrent of poignancy, sweetness to it,” Taylor said.

It is a “wish play,” she said. “This is his family the way he wished it was.”

“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is about the family he actually had.

O’Neill was born in 1888 to two actors and spent much of his early life traveling with his parents. His brother suffered from alcoholism and drank himself to death. O’Neill was a depressed alcoholic as well. He married several times and had three children. His two sons followed a similar path of depression and addiction. Both eventually committed suicide. His daughter married the famous silent film actor and producer Charlie Chaplin when she was 18.

O’Neill died in 1953.

The Process

Steven Lloyd, executive director of the theater, chooses the season and assigns a director to each play based on who expresses an interest. “Ah, Wilderness!” was slated as the theater’s final performance of the season.

The cast began rehearsing in late September after holding open auditions, Taylor said.

“It’s a nice mixture of experienced actors and inexperienced ones,” Taylor said.

There are 15 parts in the play, eight of which are filled by people new to HART.

Miles Rice, a 22-year-old from Weaverville, had auditioned for a production at HART once before but landed his first role with the theater. Rice will play Wint Selby, a college student who gets Richard Miller into some adult trouble.

“There is a lot of growth to (the play), but there is a lot of want and need for maturity,” he said.

Rice said he has enjoyed getting to know everyone, but he is also ready to perform for an audience and get their feedback.

Bryan Nicholls, a 24-year-old Sylva native, has performed in 11 shows at the theater. Nicholls has participated mostly in musicals, which are usually over-the-top.

“To really come down to earth and play something real … is a challenge,” he said.

Nicholls said part of the reason he keeps performing at HART is because of the bond the casts form during rehearsal.

“It’s a family,” he said

In fact, some of the cast is family. It includes a husband and wife, and father and stepdaughter. The father and stepdaughter actually play father and daughter in “Ah, Wilderness!”

Once the cast was chosen, the first couple weeks were spent blocking, or planning each character’s movements. About two weeks ago, set construction began — in this case, a white house that takes up most of the stage, a dinner table with chairs and a porch with a white wicker love seat, a couple chairs and forest green rocking chair.

Last week, the actors went off-book, meaning they would have to recite their lines from memory.

With their lines mostly memorized, the cast and crew will spend this week tweaking their performance and adding little touches that make the characters seem more realistic.

“It always comes together,” Taylor said.

The play will run for two weekends in the 255-seat auditorium.


What: “Ah, Wilderness!”

When: 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 11-12, Nov. 18-19; 3 p.m. on Nov. 20.

Where: Haywood Regional Arts Theater, Waynesville.

How much: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, $8 for students, and special $5 student tickets on Thursdays and Sunday.

828.456.6322 or www.harttheater.com

A gypsy at HART

This summer in Waynesville, it’s an unconventional rags-to-riches tale that will light up the Haywood Arts Regional Theater mainstage with song, dance and just a little more — or maybe less.

“Gypsy” is the story of Gypsy Rose Lee, the legendary burlesque dancer who rose to fame on the hopes and schemes of her show-biz mother.

Lee was well known for bringing a special brand of wit and sophistication to the world of high-class strip tease, and the musical adapts her own view of her meteoric rise to stardom.

While the show is a big-time Broadway musical in the tradition of “Hello Dolly,” “Guys and Dolls” and their ilk, Director Steven Lloyd said it eally hinges on its characters rather than its choral numbers.

“It really is about people that you come to care about,” said Lloyd, who is the executive director of HART. “It’s a good actor’s musical.”

But don’t be fooled, it’s also a major undertaking, the largest the theater has ever produced.

With 14 sets, more than 100 costumes and 50 people working in the cast and crew, it’s the largest and most expensive show that’s ever graced the stage at HART.

Lloyd said they chose this year to stage such a performance because he felt that it was about time for the regional amateur theater to get back into the big, Broadway staples, especially since no one in Western North Carolina has brought “Gypsy” to life in years.

“It’s an opportunity to kind-of pull the stops out and do something special,” said Lloyd.

In total, the show will cost around $30,000, more than the theater has shelled out on other productions, but Lloyd said he is confident in the show and in the fan base that has made HART’s summer musicals legendary.

Though the theater stages shows year round, it’s really the annual summer musical that has made HART a regional theater player.

This year, Lloyd expects 4,000 people to attend the musical’s 14-show run, which starts on July 8 and continues through July 24. Half of those, said Lloyd, will be out-of-town visitors, but half will be locals and season ticket holders.

Each summer, the troupe’s musical offering brings in 20 to 25 percent of the theater’s total operating budget, so Lloyd and his cast and crew are counting on Gypsy to draw the same crowds today as she did in her burlesque heyday.

The show is based on the memoirs of Lee, born Rose Louise Lee, which chronicle her life in show business in the 30s and 40s. Lee rose from upstaged older sister on the Vaudville circuit to world-renowned burlesque performer in only a few years, spurred on by her mother, Rose.

Mama, Lloyd points out, is really the heart of the show, at turns encouraging and exasperating, doing whatever it takes to make her baby a star.

“Mama is really the star,” said Lloyd. “It’s really her story.”

Telling that story is a cast of amateur players from around the region, some seasoned performers and some first-time thespians.

The show, said Lloyd, can be a challenge just because of its massive scope. On both the Vaudville and burlesque circuits, the troupe never travels the same place twice, making sets and scenes a production all their own.

But when the curtain finally closes on “Gypsy,” it will leave audiences celebrating the wit, talent and guts of one of the stage’s most celebrated performers.


‘Gypsy’ at HART

WHEN: July 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 29, 30 at 7:30 p.m.; July 10, 17, 24, 31 at 3 p.m.

HOW MUCH: Adults $22, Seniors $20, Students $10

WHAT ELSE: For tickets, call 828.456.6322 visit www.sellingticket.com/HART. For information, visit www.harttheater.com.

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre will open its 2011 winter Studio Theater Season with a bit of backstage humor and some twists for the audience when “A Life in the Theatre” debuts on Jan. 7.  

The comedy by David Mamet will feature HART Executive Director Steve Lloyd and Asheville actor Casey Morris in the play’s two roles under the direction of Julie Kinter. Mamet, one of modern theatre’s most celebrated playwrights, is known for his salty language which is toned down in this play, but audiences should be aware that the show still contains some adult language.

“A Life” follows two actors, a seasoned veteran and a new rising star in a resident company as they prepare and perform in a number of scenes Mamet has created to poke gentle fun at some of theatre’s sacred cows. There is a Chekov scene, showcasing the tedious Russian dramatic style, a lifeboat scene, an operating room scene, a Civil War scene, and a French Revolution scene that is obviously taking a jab at “Les Miserables.” On stage and off things break down and the two actors grow together then apart. For “A Life in the Theatre” audiences should expect some surprises. The first when they enter the performance space.

The HART Studio Season features six plays in just 12 weeks and is one of the highlights of the winter arts scene. Productions regularly sell out and runs are often extended. The Feichter Studio is HART’s second performance space, seating only 60 people and reservations are recommended to insure patrons get a seat.

Make a reservation by calling the HART Box Office and leaving a message. Calls are not returned unless no tickets are available. The show will run Friday and Saturday, Jan. 7-8, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 9, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for all adults and $5 for students, general admission. To make reservations call the HART Box Office at 828.456.6322. All performances are in the Feichter Studio Theatre, 250 Pigeon Street, Waynesville.

Auditions for the fall production of the classic Broadway play, “The Little Foxes,” by Lillian Hellman will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, and at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12. The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre production is being directed by Wanda Taylor and will open on Nov. 5.

The show has great roles for six men and four women of various ages. Set in 1900 in the Deep South, this is one of the greatest plays of the American stage. It is full of twists and turns that make every role a jewel. The play was turned into a major film in the 1940s starring Bette Davis in a role originated by the great Tallulah Bankhead.

Actors will be given scenes to read from the script. Anyone interested in working backstage on the production is also encouraged to come by during auditions to sign up. Auditions will be held in the Feichter Studio of the HART Theatre, 250 Pigeon St. in Waynesville.

The Haywood Arts Regional Theater’s next play never played Broadway, or even New York, but it is one of the most popular comedies being done today.

“Catfish Moon” by Laddy Sartin tells the story of a group of close friends who have had a break up and are working towards a reconciliation — or trying to. The entire thing is set on a fishing pier complete with cooler, beer, rods, lawn chairs and a full moon and plenty of laughs — an appropriate way to spend a summer evening.

HART’s production is being directed by Allison Stinson and will feature Jessica Bachar, Tom Dewees, Jackie Webb and Jack Ross. This is a feel-good comedy that will leave you with some things to ponder, and a greater appreciation for a full moon on a summer night.

Laddy Sartin is currently a resident of Rock Hill, S.C., and a Mississippi native. She holds a BFA in Theatre from the University of Southern Mississippi. An actor and stage technician as well as a writer, Sartin has worked in theatre for the past two decades.

In the 1970’s and 80’s he appeared as an actor on a number of TV series including “Matlock,” but then he became a father and things changed. His wife had been the family’s principal moneymaker as a theatre technician working on “A Chorus Line,” but the family decided to leave the city and take a different direction. Sartin had been writing for years and he dug back into his trunk and found parts of what would become two celebrated plays, “Blessed Assurance” and “Catfish Moon.”

Sartin was the 1991-92 recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council’s Playwriting Fellowship, the state’s most prestigious individual artist award and then “Blessed Assurance” was selected for the Eudora Welty New Play Series at New Stage Theatre in Jackson, Mississippi, and was performed there in March 1995.

In the fall of 1992 “Blessed Assurance” was produced by Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., and was their entry in the American College Theatre Festival and received national attention. The play was also produced by the University of Southern Mississippi in September 1993 and by West Georgia College in February 1994.

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre is pulling the stops out for its production of the smash hit “Chicago,” which opened July 9.

“Chicago The Musical” has become the longest-running revival in Broadway history, with more than 5,600 performances, along with inspiring an Academy Award-winning film.

The usual rule of thumb is that if a show is running in New York, the rights are restricted and no other theatre can produce it. Because of “Chicago’s” extraordinarily long run the rights have been released, and HART is one of the first theatres to be granted permission to do the show.

The musical is based on a play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who had been assigned to cover the 1924 trials of murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner for the Chicago Tribune.

Annan, the model for the character of Roxie Hart, was 23 when she was accused of the April 3, 1924 murder of Harry Kalstedt. The Tribune reported that Annan played the foxtrot record “Hula Lou” over and over for two hours before calling her husband to say she killed a man who “tried to make love to her.” She was found “not guilty” on May 25, 1924.

Velma is based on Gaertner, who was a cabaret singer. The body of Walter Law was discovered slumped over the steering wheel of Gaertner’s abandoned car on March 12, 1924. Two police officers testified that they had seen a woman getting into the car and shortly thereafter heard gunshots.

Julie Kinte, who rocked the stage as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret,” returns as Velma Kelly, and Candice Dickenson, who blew everyone away last summer as Ulla in “The Producers,” is Roxie Hart. The production is being choreographed bymCord Scott and Music Director Chuck Taft will conduct the orchestra. “Chicago” is being directed by HART’s Executive Director Steve Lloyd.

“Chicago” will have performances at 7:30 p.m. July 9, 10 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 30, 31 and at 3 p.m. July 11, 18, 25 and Aug. 1.

$22 adult, $20 senior, $10 student/child with special $5 discount tickets for Students for Thursday and Sunday performances.

Box office hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 828.456.6322 or www.harttheatre.com for reservations.

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre kicks off summer with a hilarious backstage romp “Falling in Like” an “almost romantic comedy” written and directed by the playwright Jerry Sipp.

This performance is a unique opportunity to have a playwright come into the community as a guest artist to oversee the production. Sipp has had a long association with HART and its executive director Steve Lloyd.

“Falling in Like” premiered a few years ago in Raleigh and opened to rave reviews. It went on to win the North Carolina New Play Project Award and was awarded “Best New Script” by The Independent in Raleigh.

The show tells the story of leading man Frank who helps Abbie go from intern to ingénue when the leading lady pops a kneecap in rehearsal. The good deed leads to a romantic pursuit, and Frank has to fend off Abbie’s increasingly insistent attempts to get to know him. The show crackles with one liners and backstage antics.

Lloyd and Sipp met in 1983 when both were studying theatre at UNC-Greensboro. They were cast opposite one another in “Deathtrap” and became close friends almost immediately.

While living in L.A., Lloyd wrote a play about brothers Edwin and John Wilkes Booth and sent it to Jerry. The two-character piece was intended as a vehicle for the two of them. Sipp liked it and so did the head of the UNC-G professional summer theater, who agreed to hire them as guest artists and produce the premier. “The Actor and The Assassin” was picked up by an agent in Atlanta then later New York, and Lloyd and Sipp toured in the show for the next 17 years, performing in Europe, at the Kennedy Center and in New York.

Lloyd became a Visiting Artist at Haywood Community College which brought him to HART. Sipp became a Visiting Artist at Catawba Valley Community College and later the Executive Director of the Playhouse Theatre in Rocky Mount, NC.

The Playhouse and HART became sister theatres for several years, trading productions each season. Then came Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The storm completely destroyed The Playhouse Theater, ending that collaboration. Sipp became the Executive Director of Temple Theatre, a professional company in Sanford and a playwright. “Falling In Like” offers an opportunity for Lloyd, Sipp and the folks at HART to reunite for the first time since the destruction of the playhouse.

The show has a great cast including Jennifer Sanner, David Dvorscak, Jeff Messer, Allison Stinson, Preston Tinsley, Shanda Jacobs and Christopher Martin.

“Falling In Like” has performances at 7 p.m. June 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12; and 3 p.m. June 6 and 13.

$18 adult, $16 seniors and $8 for students with $5 discount tickets for students for Thursday and Sunday performances. Box Office Hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 828.456.6322 for reservations.

Steve Lloyd, executive director of Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville, has been honored with The Herman Middleton Distinguished Service Award, given by the North Carolina Theatre Conference for service to the state’s theatre community.

Lloyd has worked as an artist, director and performer in North Carolina and has served the theatre community at large through many years of dedicated service, including chairing the state’s Community Theatre Festival. Lloyd has been the driving force of this festival, reaching out to other theatres across the state, encouraging participation and shared resources. He has served on the NCTC Board of Directors and is a past President of the organization. Lloyd is one of the field’s most articulate and passionate advocates for community theatre funding and development.

The North Carolina Theatre Conference is a statewide organization whose mission is to improve and enhance the environment for quality theatre in North Carolina through service, leadership, and advocacy.

The Herman Middleton Distinguished Service Award is named after one of the founders of NCTC and is one of the organization’s highest honors.

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre, founded in 1985, is a volunteer-based community theatre showcasing the talents of the people of the region. HART, under the leadership of Executive Director Steven Lloyd, has grown into one of the most active theatres in the Southeast, producing a year-round schedule of plays and musicals from its home, The Performing Arts Center at the Shelton House in Waynesville.

Any actor or director at Haywood Arts Regional Theater will tell you there’s nothing wrong with “The Sound of Music.” Or “Oklahoma” for that matter.

But that doesn’t mean they want to spend all season shuffling through seasoned classics, singing songs everyone already knows by heart.

Each year, HART gets a whole winter season to experiment and explore, bringing plays that have long intrigued actors and directors to its more intimate, 75-seat Feichter Studio Stage.

Feichter plays in recent years have included “Equus,” a story of a young man who is sexually fascinated by horses; “Wit,” in which an English university professor grapples with a terminal case of ovarian cancer; “The Full Monty,” involving six unemployed men who resort to becoming strippers; and “Coyote on the Fence,” which tells the tale of a racist skinhead on death row.

HART’s latest play, Pulitzer-winning “Doubt: A Parable,” is about a priest suspected of sexually abusing a boy in the ‘60s.

Despite an ending that leaves audiences with more questions than answers, “Doubt” sold out its first weekend and was held over for a second weekend of showings.

A sizeable segment of HART’s audience is clearly enthused by the community theater’s daring spirit. It’s not unusual for the theater to turn away people at the door during its winter season, which has raised the bar for theater-lovers in the area.

“Our audience has come to expect us to not do the same thing,” said Steve Lloyd, HART’s executive director. “Lots of theaters underestimate their audiences and want to play it safe by doing ‘The Sound of Music’ again.”

Audiences aren’t the only pleased party. Community actors and directors are delighted to have the opportunity to tackle more serious projects.

“It’s a great theater for letting actors experiment,” said Suzanne Tinsley, one of the founding members of HART and director of the recent “Doubt.”

Art O’Neil, who has acted with HART for a decade, said he’s had his share of traditional plays.

“I’m beyond it,” said O’Neil. “If I’m going to put the energy into it, pick something that’s going to challenge me.”

O’Neil said he has witnessed a shift in HART’s standing over the years, one that he applauds.

“I think there’s a fairly long line now of plays that are not the traditional small-town community theater plays,” said O’Neil. “Ten years ago, we probably could not have done a play that had a curse word in it.”

Since then, the theater has tackled topics like homosexuality and racism and even the raciness of “Cabaret,” where scantily clad thespians greeted theater-goers right at the door.

But HART isn’t choosing these plays just to stir up controversy. A sincere desire to challenge itself and audiences is at the root of HART’s motives. Plays worthy of city stages are the result.

“I don’t have to go to New York, I don’t have to go to Atlanta to see it,” said O’Neil. “It’s not professional theater, but it comes darn close at times.”

While HART isn’t afraid to go on the cutting edge, it’s not going to force the entire community into joining the journey. Whenever the theater publicizes potentially controversial plays, it affixes a warning about adult content.

And it’s not like HART totally ignores it settings, a few modifications here and there are made.

For example, at the culmination of “The Full Monty,” HART actors actually went through with the striptease, ending up completely naked on stage — but a blinding bright light behind them completely concealed them from the audience.

The play was a huge hit.

In preparing for the stunt, Lloyd and others actually moved through the auditorium, ensuring that the view would only entail a bright light and nothing else, no matter where one was seated.

“It ended up being funny,” said Lloyd. “The audience laughed .... They realized we weren’t going to take people off the deep end.”

For upcoming plays at HART, look no farther than what’s already on Broadway. Lloyd frequently picks up plays that have just become available, like “Chicago,” which was just released to community theaters six months ago.

“I want us to be leading the bandwagon, not following it,” said Lloyd.

For that hard work, HART has won numerous awards, all of which have been handed to plays originating from its smaller stage.

Although its Feichter stage has been successful, there will continue to be a diverse mix of plays at HART with, hopefully, something for everyone.

Lloyd says he compares the theater’s offerings to a dinner menu, making sure to include both hearty and delightful offerings.

“There’s going to be puff pastry, but I’m not going to serve you seven courses of that,” said Lloyd.


Upcoming plays at HART

• “Beyond Therapy” – March 5-7

• “Seussical” – April 23-May 9, weekends

• “Falling in Like” – June 4-13, weekends

• “Chicago” – July 9-Aug. 1, weekends

• “Catfish Moon” – Aug. 27-Sept. 7, weekends

• “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”– Sept. 24-Oct. 17, weekends.

• “The Little Foxes” – Nov. 5-14, weekends.

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