Region’s Vibrant Theatre Scene discussed at LAF

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Each panelist helped attendees understand how their particular organization fit into this community. Each has their particular area of expertise and offers something special to the scene. ACT’s Susan Harper mentioned that The Asheville Community Theater, formed in 1946, is one of the oldest theatre groups and that their actors and actresses are all volunteers who live in this area. They do hire a musical director, a set designer, and a few others, but those on stage are volunteers, who have auditioned for the part performing remarkably well. Recently ACT has renovated their stage and seating for added comfort. In addition, they are starting a campaign to build a new Tanglewood Youth Education Center. Their current acting courses for youth are continually filled to capacity, so the ACT Board would very much like to build a larger facility to accommodate the demand. ACT offers 6 plays a season, usually 3 plays and 3 musicals with the classic, The Diary of Anne Frank, starting this week.

Rae Geoffrey spoke about the Diana Wortham Center at Pack Place with its intimate 500 seat capacity. Their presentations are balanced with well recognized professional performers from around the world in a variety of capacities, such as dancers, musical performers and singers. In addition the Center is a home venue for approximately 40 other organizations, such as the Asheville Chamber Music Series and Folkmoot. This coming week they will have the distinguished Irish musical group, The Alt, as well as Scrap Arts Music with their highly physical, wildly theatrical and entertaining next-generation performances. Diana Wortham offers a matinee series for young people as well.

Jim Julien spoke about the 4-day performing arts festival that is filled with fun and excitement. Jim Julien has been an organizer since the Festival was founded in 2002 and continues to watch it grow and thrive. The Fringe Festival, is held each January. Their performances are housed in a number of venues, such as Downtown Books & News and the LaZoom Bus. This cultural adventuresome festival covers the latest in the arts, the spoken word, installations, puppets, dancers, and musicians. It allows artists the opportunity to explore the edges of their work, to collaborate across genres and to bring new and innovative performances. Often the audiences are close and personal.

Charlie Flynn-McIver founded the professional regional North Carolina Stage with his wife Angie in 2001 after a stint in New York City. He spoke to the Leadership audience about having seen a need for professional regional theater on a visit to this area. With this in mind, they moved here and decided to bring theatre that is as consequential as it is entertaining. Currently the play Other Desert Cities achieves this goal. It is a riveting production with a timely and powerful story to tell —and with amazingly talented actors and actresses. With a small stage (U shaped, so almost in the round) some moving, as well as hilarious, plays are regularly presented. NC Stage offers summer camps and has an Arts in Schools program to further arts education.

John Ellis then concluded the luncheon forum, after mentioning how fortunate Asheville is to be able to support so much fine theatre. For more information on joining Leadership Asheville Forum and going to other meetings, go to They welcome new members.

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