Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yes, it's Elvis!

ACT opens its doors January 8 for Lou Vuto's "Salute to Elvis."

A tasteful tribute to the musical superstar Elvis on the anniversary of his birthday. Lou Vuto has been doing this show at the Memories Theatre in Pigeon Forge and now he's taking it on the road. If you're an Elvis fan, it's a show you won't want to miss!

Friday, January 8, 7:30pm.
Tickets: $22.00.
Online or at the ACT box office: 828-254-1320.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let it Snow!

Well, we were excited when it started snowing ... but this December blizzard has now forced us to cancel Friday AND Saturday's performances The Santaland Diaries.

We've added a Sunday matinee at 2:30pm in an effort to give everyone a chance to see the show.

Therefore, all patrons with a ticket(s) to Friday's or Saturday's show can:

- Swap your tickets for Sunday's matinee. Simply bring your Friday or Saturday ticket to the door on Sunday and we will exchange it on the spot. Or you can call or visit the box office Sunday afternoon to swap your ticket before the show. The box office will open Sunday at noon.

If this does not fit your schedule, you can:

- Exchange your ticket(s) for a voucher(s) for another 2009-10 Mainstage production. Call or visit the box office for details: 828-254-1320.

- Make a tax-deductible donation to Asheville Community Theatre for the amount of your ticket(s).

We sincerely hope one of these options works for you. As a non-profit organization you can imagine how difficult it is to have to cancel a performance. If not, we will gladly offer full refunds.

From everyone at ACT, thank you very much for you understanding!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blast Off with The Big Bang!

The winter weather in Asheville will not stop Michael Cheek and Jerry Crouch from ONE FINAL attempt to sell their $83.5 million "history of the world" show to a group of would-be backers. That's you, the audience!

A trip to the theatre has never been so fun, as Feuer (Cheek) and Boyd (Crouch) use anything and everything possible in their commandeered NYC apartment to perform 18 side-splitting numbers portraying Adam and Eve, Attila the Hun, the building of the pyramids, and Julius Caesar and Columbus -- among others.

Douglas Keating of the Philadelphia Enquirer called The Big Bang the "funniest, most spirited, and downright goofy 80-minute survey of history (I've) ever seen."

Join us for the final performance to see why! Saturday, February 6, 7:30pm on the ACT Mainstage.

or call 828-254-1320.

Monday, December 14, 2009

ACT teams up with Biltmore

We are quickly moving through the holiday season, but ACT is going to extend the "giving spirit" a bit longer this year.

How? By teaming up with Biltmore to offer our patrons even more value for their tickets purchases.

It's called "Asheville Encore Ticket." And it's really easy. When you come to see one of ACT's great Winter/Spring shows (The Big Bang, Short Order Durang, or The Boxcar Children) -- your playbill will have a coupon for a FREE "Biltmore Audio Tour" or a "Buy One Get One Free Specialty Tour," -- with the purchase of an Adult Daytime Admission ticket to Biltmore.

Just another great reason to come see a great ACT show in 2010.


The Big Bang opens January 15 and runs through January 31 on the Mainstage.
Short Order Durang opens Feburary 4 and runs through Feburary 27 in 35below.
The Boxcar Children opens March 5 and runs through March 21 on the Mainstage.

2009-2010 Season.

Tickets available online or by visiting or calling the box office: 828-254-1320.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Boxcar Children" is looking for some ... children. And adults.

Go on a diet. Start exercising. Or start acting. ACT can't help much with the first two New Year's resolutions, but we're offering you a chance at the third.

Auditions for ACT's Mainstage March performance The Boxcar Children will take place Sunday, January 3rd from 4-6pm and Monday, January 4th from 6-8pm at the theatre.

Director Lori Beland Hilliard is seeking four students (8 and older) and ten adults (all ages) for the show. Families are encouraged to audition.

Perusal scripts are available for checking out at the ACT box office. Questions: 828-254-1320.

(See complete 2010 rehearsal schedule.)

Rehearsals for the show will begin January 14 and primarily will be held Monday - Thursdays from 6:30-8:30pm. Technical rehearsal will be all day Sunday, March 1.

The Boxcar Children runs for three weekends from March 5-21. The performance run also will include two school morning matinees.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Santaland" Top 10

David Letterman has done thousands of Top 10 lists, but we've never seen one about an ACT show? So we created our own. Here are the Top 10 reasons to see ACT's upcoming performance -- "The Santaland Diaries."

1. "Santaland" earned "Best Locally Produced Show" and "Best Live Show: Theatre" honors from the Mountain Xpress' Best of WNC, 2008. Translation: people love this show!

2. Who doesn't want to see Tom Chalmers in tights? (See, there he is.)

3. You've been too nice to be believable to Santa. Time to indulge in some naughty.

4. It's written by David Sedaris. That means it has to be funny.

5. It stars Crumpet the Elf, who is way funnier than Will Ferrell's "Elf."

6. Toys .... All the toys.

7. Every time a cynical man in an elf costume gets a laugh, somewhere a new child gets a puppy.

8. "Santaland" comments on the best and worst of people during the holiday season. It's fun to see if you can spot yourself somewhere along the way.

9. A perfect opportunity to become part of a great Asheville holiday tradition.

10. With your ticket purchase you get a free drink at Magnolia's, which is right across the street from ACT. Nice!

"The Santaland Diaries" stars Tom Chalmers and is directed by Josh Batenhorst. The show runs December 10 - 19, Thursdays - Saturdays, at 7:30pm. Box office online, or by calling 828-254-1320.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Buy-one-get-one-free" for Santaland

ACT is in the giving mood this season.

As a way of saying thanks to our social media fans, ACT will be offering a "Thankful for Thursday" buy-one-get-one-free promotion for "The Santaland Diaries" -- Asheville's hippest holiday tradition.

The promotion will be good for opening night of "Santaland" -- Thursday, December 10.

Getting a free ticket to a great show has never been so easy:

1. Visit our ACT Facebook fan page. Not a fan yet? Join up!

2. Check our Facebook page this Tuesday morning for a link to our "Santaland" promotional coupon. The coupon will be a replica of the one on this page, only it will have the special code. (It's a secret right now, but not for long.)

3. Visit or call the ACT box office. Recite the code, and you will be eligible for a free ticket with the purchase of a ticket.

See, we told you it was easy. Look forward to seeing you on opening night!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Asheville's hippest holiday tradition returns to ACT

Asheville Community Theatre proudly announces the eighth remount of its smash hit The Santaland Diaries, written by David Sedaris. The show follows a Macy's department store elf through the Christmas season as it highlights the best and worst behavior of the holidays.

Tom Chalmers returns to star in this year's production of The Santaland Diaries, which recently was voted "Best Locally Produced Play" and "Best Live Show: Theatre" by the Mountain Xpress. Chalmers has been described by the Citizen-Times' Jim Cavaner as "one terrific talent." The show is directed by Josh Batenhorst.

Sedaris rose to fame on NPR's "This American Life" and has published several volumes of hilarious essays. When he read his essay version of The Santaland Diaries during an installment of "Morning Edition," it generated one of the largest and most enthusiastic responses NPR had ever experienced.

Purchasing tickets in advance is strongly recommended, as the show has sold out in past seasons. Tickets are available online or by calling or visiting the ACT box office. 35. East Walnut Street, Downtown Asheville. 828-254-1320

The shows runs December 10 -19 and is recommended for mature audiences.

And....for those who follow us on Facebook, keep an eye out for a special opening Thursday night promotion. (Hint: free tickets!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Autumn Players presents An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls
- A tale of the unexpected -

When Inspector Goole arrives unexpectedly at the prosperous Birling family home, their peaceful dinner party is shattered by his investigations into the death of a young woman. His startling revelations shake the very foundations of their lives and challenge us to examine all our consciences.

Written by
J.B. Priestly

An Autumn Players Readers Theatre Showcase production; in memory of Bernie Hauserman, 1937-2009.

Presented by The Autumn Players and Asheville Community Theatre, in partnership with the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement - and with support from the Western North Carolina Jewish Federation.

Directed by
Margaret Sticpewich

When: Friday October 30, Saturday October 31, and Sunday November 1
Where: Friday and Saturday at ACT's 35below; Sunday at the Reuter Center at UNCA.
When: 2:30pm

Tickets: ACT Box Office: 828-254-1320 or at the door. $5.

The Big Bang wants you!

ACT's production of The Big Bang may not be until January, but the time to audition is right around the corner.

The Big Bang: A musical staged as a backers’ audition for an 83.5 million dollar, twelve hour stage history of the world from creation to the present. Eighteen side splitting numbers portraying Adam and Eve, Attila the Hun, the building of the pyramids, Julius Caesar and Columbus, among others, give potential investors a taste of the impending extravaganza. In the process, the opulent Park Avenue apartment “borrowed” for the occasion is trashed as the two snatch its furnishings to create makeshift costumes while singing and clowning their way through the show.

Audition details:

When: Sunday November 1 and Monday November 2: 7-9pm at ACT
Seeking: 2 Males
Details: Auditionees should prepare a 16 bar musical piece and bring sheet music for the accompanist.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Hallelujah Girls set for ACT in November

The Hallelujah Girls, a rollicking Southern comedy by the successful playwriting team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, is coming to Asheville Community Theatre in November and December.

Hilarity will erupt when the feisty females of Eden Falls, Georgia decide to shake up their lives. The action in The Hallelujah Girls takes place in an abandoned church-turned day spa where this group of ladies gathers every Friday afternoon. After the loss of a dear friend, the women realize time is precious – and if they're going to change their lives and achieve their dreams they have to get on it now! But Sugar Lee, their high-spirited, determined leader, has her hands full keeping the women motivated. Carlene's given up on romance, having buried three husbands. Nita's a nervous wreck from running interference between her problematic son and his probation officer. Mavis' marriage is so stagnant she's wondering how she can fake her own death to get out of it. And sweet, simple Crystal entertains them all, singing Christmas carols with her own, hilarious lyrics.

The comic tension mounts when a sexy ex-boyfriend shows up unexpectedly, a marriage proposal comes from an unlikely suitor, and Sugar Lee's arch rival vows she'll stop at nothing to steal the spa away from her. By the time the women rally together to overcome these obstacles and launch their new, improved lives, you've got a side-splitting, joyful comedy that will make you laugh out loud and shout "Hallelujah!”

Having enjoyed long and successful careers in show business, Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten’s work has been seen by millions of people across the U.S. and around the world. Four of their plays have been performed at ACT, including the world premieres of Dearly Beloved, Christmas Belles, Southern Hospitality, and ‘Til Beth Do Us Part.


WHAT: The Hallelujah Girls; written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten

WHO: Directed by Jessie Jones; starring LaNita Cloninger, Rick Sibley, Kerry Shannon, Susan Cain, Roger Magendie, Beth Heinrich, Rhonda Parker, and Joan Atwood

WHERE: Asheville Community Theatre – Mainstage. 35 East Walnut Street, Asheville, NC 28801

WHEN: November 20 – December 6. Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30pm; Sundays, 2:30pm

TICKETS: $22– adult; $19 – senior/student; $12 – children

ACT Box Office or online

Hope you will join us!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meet Chris Martin, ACT's volunteer coordinator

Today we get back to featuring a prime player at ACT who is working to create a great theatre experience for our guests. Chris Martin has long been an active member of the ACT community. This season he took over as Volunteer Coordinator, a big, fun, messy job. Chris, who has done a bit of everything at ACT, is more than up for the job. In our Q and A Chris dishes on how he got started at ACT, and how you can as well.

Part of your job is getting people involved with ACT? How did you get started with ACT?
In the spring of 2000 I was working as an interim 1st grade teacher at Claxton Elementary School. I met Cindy Baldwin, a fellow colleague and well-known director and stage manager at ACT. She encouraged me to audition for the musical Robber Bridegroom. I was cast in the ensemble and thus began my journey at ACT. It wasn't until I received a volunteer insert from Jenny Bunn in the playbill of Deathtrap that I really began my commitment to ACT as a volunteer. Her enthusiasm and positive relationship with other volunteers contributed to my high level of involvement with ACT. From that moment on I went on to act in four other shows and began volunteering and working in almost every capacity, including stage manager, box office manager, house manager, Tanglewood Assistant Director and drama teacher, light board operator, sound board operator, costume assistant/dresser, props/running crew, props designer, and director.

Talk about some different roles that volunteers play at ACT?
Well, volunteers are utilized in the front of the house as ushers, house managers, and box office volunteers; backstage in productions as assistant stage managers, dressers, running crew, props crew; on stage as actors, in the technical booth as follow spot, light board, and sound board operators; and behind the scenes on our build crew as set builders and painters and the costume crew as stitchers and sewers. We are in need of volunteers for special events as well, including the Diva Cabaret, Divalicious, costume sale, Bele Chere parking, and many others. As you can see, there are many ways for our volunteers to become involved at ACT that fit their individual skill levels and needs.

What if you have absolutely no experience with the theatre. Can you still volunteer?
Of course. We encourage anyone who wants to be involved at ACT to learn different volunteer roles. We provide training for each volunteer role, so our volunteers gain valuable theatre experience and feel comfortable in their volunteer positions. Some of our volunteers keep the same position as an usher or light board operator for each show, while others try out other positions on different shows. I did this as a volunteer in order to learn more about the theatre and to find roles that best suited me. So anyone willing to try new things, meet new people, and have fun while doing it should volunteer at ACT.

Along with your volunteer coordinator duties, you served as the Stage Manager for Peter Pan. You must have been a busy man during that time. How did you get it all done?
Well, it was busy, but it gave me an opportunity to multi-task and get to know our many volunteers on that production. I had such a positive experience with Peter Pan because of the very organized and efficient creative team and the outstanding cast. It made my job very pleasant as well as manageable with everyone on the cast and crew pitching in and doing their jobs to their best abilities. The technical aspects of this show were challenging with everything from flying, pulling curtains, costume changes, crocodile wrangling, moving multiple scenery pieces many times for lots of scene changes, plentiful lighting cues, and yes -- live animals on stage. However, we had a successful run of this show due to the dedication of everyone involved.

You've got many years of teaching experience, yes? How does running a classroom compare to running a volunteer program?
They are very similar as both jobs require a high level of organization, people skills, multi-tasking, excellent customer service, delegating, patience, and flexibility. Both of these tasks require positive recognition of jobs well done, which is one of my favorite parts of this job -- not to mention getting to work with people of various backgrounds, talents, and unique contributions to ACT. I love planning volunteer events just like I plan classroom special events that involve as many people as possible.

Tell us about some important volunteer dates we should be aware of?

What: New Volunteer Orientation
When: Tuesday, October 13th at 6:30pm
Where: ACT Lobby
Why: Take a tour of ACT and learn what every volunteer role entails as well as meet other volunteers and find a role that fits your interests!
How: Just show up -- and call me at 254-1320 ext. 21 with any questions!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bye Bye Maggie Hagen!

21 years, hundreds of costumes made, thousands of tickets sold.

Maggie Hagen began her tenure at ACT in February of 1988. She's done a bit of everything, including costume building for five years, set painting, and of course, managing the box office with expertise and grace. Today Maggie retired, so we celebrated and bid a fond farewell to a truly special member of the ACT family.

Maggie said she is going to sleep for a week, then take up her passion for knitting. We wish her all the best in her new endeavors!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Standing Ovation for Peter Tamm

I Am My Own Wife opened this evening in 35below at ACT. Based on the standing ovation from the audience, it's safe to say the performance was a hit.

"First performances are always interesting," said "Wife" director Andrew Gall. "You never know how an audience will respond, especially to a production that is as out-of-the-box as I Am My Own Wife is. However, we all felt a big sense of accomplishment and fulfillment at our first performance, and we are looking forward to having a great run."

Asheville's own Peter Tamm stars as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a real life transvestite and antique collector who survived the Nazi and Communist regimes. It's a one-man show, and what may be most striking about the play is Peter's ability to seamlessly transition from one character to the next. Shortly after the show a friend came up to me and said simply: "That was amazing." Yes it was. Great job to Peter, Andrew, and the entire production crew!

The show runs Thursday - Saturday evenings through October 24. Performance time is 7:30pm. Hope to see you at 35below.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Read what an Emmy winner has to say about "Angel"

The ACT blog specializes in bringing you bits and pieces of inside information about our theatre. But we don't know how to write reviews. So when it comes to giving expert opinions on performances, we turn to ... the experts.

Today we received a stellar review bit on ACT's upcoming show Return of an Angel from Patricia Green. Patricia has won three Emmys (yes, Emmys!) as a writer/producer for "L.A. Law," "China Beach," and "Cagney & Lacey." When we receive a review from an Emmy winner, we feel it's something we must share. Here's what Patricia has to say:

"Return of an Angel is a glorious play – funny, moving, thought provoking and enormously entertaining. The acting is first-rate, the direction flawless and the music an unexpected treasure. If you’ve ever passed the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and wondered what he was like, go see Return of an Angel. It will make you so proud of Asheville and the world-class writer our town inspired."

Return of an Angel is an Occasional Theatre production. It premieres on the ACT Mainstage on October 2 and runs through October 11.

Peter Pan "coloring contest" winners!

Last week ACT teamed with the Citizen-Times to host a Peter Pan coloring contest; we are now ready to announce the talented winners.

Drum roll please....

Rachel Tervo - age 6
Tajtiane Zarlenga - age 7
Summer Fuller - age 7
Francesca Hattaway - age 8 (featured artist)
Cecilia Dellasavia - age 8
Rebekah Fals - age 6
Ethan Thimme - age 8

Winners have been invited to the final performance of Peter Pan this Sunday, September 27, where they will have the opportunity to appear on stage with the cast!

Thanks to everyone who participated.

The final weekend of Peter Pan is almost here! Join us for one final magical performance.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Meet Brenda Lilly of Occasional Theatre

News flash: For the third straight year ACT is teaming with the award-winning Occasional Theatre to produce Return of an Angel, a powerful play by Sandra Mason that explores the "love-hate" relationship Asheville had with its most famous son, Thomas Wolfe.

Brenda Lilly and her husband Michael co-founded Occasional Theatre in Los Angeles in 1998. Their initial production, Elephant Sighs, earned several awards; since then they have produced plays all over the country. Now they have brought their theatre back to Asheville where Brenda grew up.

Brenda was nice enough to join me for breakfast last Thursday to discuss Occasional Theatre and "Angel." Check out the highlights from our Q & A.

You've produced plays all over the country. How did you settle on Asheville as a home for OT?

I grew up in Asheville and wanted to come back to be closer to my family. It was always 'home' even when we were living and working in L.A. and New York. And it's always been a theatre-loving community. From Tanglewood to ACT to a variety of acting troupes that would appear here every summer at the Flat Rock and Parkway Playhouses -- Asheville has always had a flair for the dramatic. And as a television writer, I can work from anywhere now, thanks to technology -- I even wrote a series for Russian television from here! So why not place our theatre in every blog's most 'desirable' place to live -- that also happens to be my hometown!

This is the third time you will team with ACT for "Angel," and there are obvious links between Asheville and Return of an Angel. What do you think makes this show so special?

Asheville has a really unique history and this play explores and celebrates that history. This play is not only about Thomas Wolfe, it's about this city, its people, the power of celebrity and gossip, and the difficulties of an artist's life. It also explores the relationship Wolfe had with his family, often in humorous ways. But there is a tenderness and a love for Asheville that permeates Sandra Mason's play. And that's very special. It's also important that Thomas Wolfe's work is honored as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Look Homeward, Angel.

Tell us about some of the cast members of the show.
Tom Dalton plays Thomas Wolfe. He's from the eastern part of NC and is a marvelous actor and a dead-ringer for Wolfe! Maggie Marshall is from Los Angeles and we knew her and her work from our days on the West Coast. Stephen Moore is from Greensboro and has worked with Michael on several plays and we were delighted that he came on board to play Fred Wolfe. We saw Carla Pridgen as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz at ACT. She was the first person we thought of to play Julia -- not that Julia was a wicked witch! I went to college with Joanna Beck who plays Margaret Roberts. And we had open auditions and found Tiffany Cade, who plays Lola Love, and Randy McCracken, who plays George McCoy. I met Diane LaSpada at All Souls and thought she would be perfect as the 'Book Club' friend -- and she is!

Can you share with us a Did you Know? fun fact about the show?
Sonny Bell plays Max Perkins, the acclaimed Scribner's editor who 'discovered' Thomas Wolfe and had the very difficult job of editing Wolfe's enormous manuscripts. Audiences may remember Sony as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

One of OT's goals is to seek out compelling plays to produce. How do you decide which shows to produce, and what's on the horizon for the rest of the year for you?

Michael has developed strong relationships with many writers and actors over the years at various theatres. He has a great respect for them and they love to work with him -- he's really gifted as a dramaturge. Now, we're fortunate enough to get first shot at their plays. If we feel we're in a position to produce it, we contact our actors who know how much fun it is to work on a new play with Michael and can't say no to him. We've got two pieces written by Jan Powell and Ken Stone, a children's musical and a dark tale of local interest -- also a musical -- that we're hoping to produce this coming year. We've also got a play by Patricia Green that's a new take on Shakespeare, a mystery by Peter Colley, and a family comedy by Sybil Rosen. Ed Simpson, who is 'playwright-in-residence' for Occasional Theatre, has a wonderful play about the Greensboro sit-in by A&T students that we're very interested in producing here. So we hope to have a full plate coming up.

Return of an Angel
premieres on the ACT Mainstage on Friday, October 2 and runs through October 11. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:30pm. Reserve your tickets today!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Peter Pan ... Did you know?

After a phenomenal first weekend of Peter Pan performances on the ACT mainstage, we caught up again with director Jerry Crouch for some "little know facts" about Peter Pan. Jerry, as usual, delivered in fine form. So here they are, straight from the "walking encyclopedia of musical theatre's" mouth ....

Peter Pan
... Did you know?

1. James Barrie "invented" the name "Wendy." It was a mispronunciation by a little girl whose father was a dear friend of Barrie's.

2. Charlie Chaplin was Barrie's first choice for the 1924 silent film version of Peter Pan, which eventually starred Betty Bronson.

3. The first time Cathy Rigby toured in the live musical version of Peter Pan in the early '70s, her singing was dubbed by another singer because she had never sung professionally.

4. In 1965, George Cukor and Audrey Hepburn, director and star of 1964's My Fair Lady, almost did a movie version of the musical Peter Pan, which co-starred Sir Laurence Olivier as Captain Hook.

5. Mary Martin's teenage daughter, Heller Halliday, was originally slotted to play Wendy opposite her mother (as Peter), but director Jerome Robbins argued nobody wanted to be reminded that Mary was a 40-something mother playing an adolescent boy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

6 hours, 44 minutes until Peter Pan premiere

After two nights of special performances, ACT's production of Peter Pan is set to premiere tonight at 7:30pm on the Mainstage. Peter Pan is ACT's biggest production ever: 20 adults, 20 children, one dog, special flying effects -- and one special director who probably knows more about Peter Pan than James M. Barrie himself, the man who created the iconic character more than 100 years ago.

You can't ask director Jerry Crouch a question about Peter Pan and expect a short answer. He is a self-proclaimed "walking encyclopedia of musical trivia," whose passion for Peter Pan stems from when he first saw the Mary Martin TV version of Peter Pan in 1955 when he was three years old. Jerry said his mother found him the next morning trying to fly out of the window! Yes, Jerry was "hooked" from the beginning.

With the premiere drawing near, we corralled Jerry for a special Q & A about the show.

So, how's Peter Pan coming along?

Peter Pan is right on target for opening night! This cast has been amazing - facing flying apparatus throw at them, fantastic set additions from Scott Allred nightly, and the wonderful costumes designs by Kate Russell. The 40 cast members are professionals, ready, willing and more than able to dazzle Asheville audiences with a record-breaking, historic run!

You've directed several musicals at ACT, but none as big as Peter Pan. What's the biggest challenge of this show, and what's going to make this show so special?

Big musicals always present a challenge in that you have three distinct disciplines going on at any one time: singing, dancing, and of course, acting. Peter Pan is universally known and is one of the most beloved stories in literature. What will make this production special is the uber talented cast making this story come to life on the ACT stage. Never has ACT offered such brilliant production values, coupled with award-winning special effects. The audiences will literally be enchanted beyond words.

You seem to know more about Peter Pan than, well, anyone! Tell us how you became so engrossed in Peter Pan?

Peter Pan and I share a special bond that started the first time I saw the Mary Martin TV version in 1955 when I was 3 years old. Music, dance, and the acting all spoke to me on a visceral level that immediately captured my toddler mind and has carried through to today. I have been introduced as "Jerry Crouch, the musical" -- and that is just fine by me. The Peter Pan trivia is a natural extension of my love of musical theatre - you have just been hearing more of Peter Pan since we are involved with it. If I was doing Oliver or Caberet, I would be just as involved with their specific histories. I'm just a walking encyclopedia of musical theatre trivia.

Peter Pan is the boy who doesn't want to grow up? How about you?

I am very much Peter Pan, having played him in this musical version many years ago. The character of Peter represents the wild, non-repressed child in all of us who refuses to bow down to societal pressures. That pretty much describes my life by anyone who knows me. My brother once described me to his perspective father-in-law like this: "Jerry is not like anyone else you will ever meet." That individuality has served me well and allowed me to straddle both the hard-line corporate world for many years while maintaining my wild "dramatic" streak too. Being a schizophrenic Gemini helps.

Will you please share with us five bits of Peter Pan trivia?

(You will have to wait for tomorrow for this....we need to let Jerry direct tonight's show!)

Tanglewood Theatre celebrates 50 years....Tonight!

It's been 50 years since Johnny Haber started Tanglewood Theatre in his own backyard. To celebrate a half century of excellence in youth theatre, ACT is hosting a Tanglewood birthday Gala at The Venue in Asheville tonight at 5:00pm. The event is significantly cheaper than going to a movie (hint: it's free!) and will be much more fun. All Tanglewood alums (21 and older) are invited to attend this celebration. Meet the man who started it all (Yes, John will be there!), enjoy the festivities, then pop over to ACT for the Peter Pan premiere.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Family and Friends" Night at ACT

Wednesday night the cast of Peter Pan performed for family and friends, just two days before Friday's official premiere. ACT managing director Susan Harper welcomed a nearly full house: "You are probably the most important audience to them. They really care what you think because you are their family and friends."

If the "Family and Friends" night performance is any indication of what we can expect when the show opens, it's going to be a special ride. The audience was wowed by Peter Pan's flying entrance into the nursery, humored by Captain Hook's musings on the alligator who took his hand, and delighted by the dancing and playful interaction of The Lost Boys and Native Princesses.

Check out Tiger Lilly and The Native Princesses in action on ACT's YouTube channel. These girls can dance!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Susan Harper Returns to ACT

We open the new ACT blog on a Wednesday, and Wednesdays mean a Q & A session with one of the folks here at ACT -- staff member, show director, actor, volunteer -- who is making things happen at the theatre. Nope, we aren't trying to reproduce the Frost-Nixon interviews. These are breezy "get to know you" sessions. We toss softball questions and wait for home runs.

Susan Harper, ACT managing director, boldly volunteered to be our first interviewee. (How's that for leadership?) Susan came to ACT in the spring of 2003 and spent three year running the theatre. After a short stint away she returned as director this past July.

Susan has been busy preparing for Peter Pan, ACT's 2009-10 Mainstage premiere. But we caught up with her and promised a candy bar if she would answer our questions before the Wednesday Q & A deadline. She happily obliged:

So, how's it feel to be back at ACT?
Leaving ACT was a big mistake and I'm happy I was asked to return. It isn't often in life that you get to rectify a mistake.

What are some of your short and long terms goals for ACT?
Our short term goal is to produce excellent theatre this year and balance our budget in a challenging economy. To produce excellent theatre, we put together artistic teams of the highest quality and support their work. We pay the directors and designers of our shows to make sure the quality is high but also to ensure that the volunteers (actors and production crew) have an absolutely stellar experience. To balance the budget we have to hit our ticket projections and keep expenses at or below our projections.

Long term, our goal is to secure this organization for the future with adequate facility reserves (to keep our building in good shape), cash reserves, and an appropriately sized endowment to provide us with earned income to support our work.

Tell us something special about ACT we may not know?
ACT is the oldest continuously operating theatre in Asheville, and one of the oldest in the country. All of our actors are volunteers; they have day jobs like being a dentist or running a bed and breakfast, teaching school or working in a deli.

You've just stepped in as managing director, and you are about to put on the biggest show in ACT history. How's Peter Pan coming along?
Peter Pan is a monster show! On every level. But director Jerry Crouch has it totally in hand and has made sure that it is a wonderful experience for all the actors. I'm very impressed with his work.

I know you were on the set painting last week. Is it safe to say you're a "hands on" director?
Everyone here does what it takes to get the job done. Generally I work up front, but in a crunch I'm happy to pick up a paint brush.

How does ACT set its season performance lineup?
We have an Artistic Selection Committee that meets in the fall to develop our season, both for the Mainstage and 35below.

You must have some history with acting/performing. Any good stories from your past?
I was in a play in high school but have totally blocked the experience from my mind. I have no desire to be on stage. My job is to make sure others have that experience. But I did play the violin as a child and I thought I was quite good, but I've been told after the fact that I was quite horrible.

So we shouldn't expect to see you on the ACT Mainstage anytime soon? Diva*licious perhaps?
You'll get all you want of me doing curtain speeches during the year. I guarantee you I won't be vying for time on the stage.

So, what type of candy bar to you want?
A Milky Way!

(Coming tomorrow: A video sneak peak of Peter Pan, taken at Wednesday night's "Family and Friends" performance.)