The Gilbert Theater. The Gilbert Theater is set to open A Street Car Named Desire — its third play of the season — on Feb. 13. Following the smashing success of the season’s comedic opener, Nunsense, and a warm welcome for the traditional favorite A Christmas Carol, the Gilbert tells an intense tale with this classic.
Artistic Director Robyne Parrish sets the stage. “Blanche DuBois (Amanda Brooke Lerner), a fading, though attractive Southern Bell — a troubled woman trying to find her place in the world. Blanche arrives at the doorstep of her polar opposite sister, Stella (Staci Sabarsky) and brute of a man brother-in-law, Stanley (Chris Daftios),” explained Parrish. “Blanche is shocked by her sister’s low-class lifestyle of living and Stanley’s aggressive behavior. Blanche’s efforts to impose herself between them only enrages the animal inside Stanley. Mitch (Nathan Pearce), Stanley’s friend, himself alone in the world, sees Blanche as a beautiful and refined woman. Blanche’s secrets slowly catch up with her and the world she knows and lives in rapidly falls apart.”
Sabarsky is no stranger to the Gilbert stage. She played Maureen in Rent. This season she carries the role of Stella.
“What I love about Stella is how well-rounded and multi-dimensional she is,” said Sabarsky. “At times she is strong at others she is weak, but she is always interesting and integral to the storyline. It’s easy to say that this is Blanche’s story, but really it’s about the dynamic between the two sisters and Stella’s husband, Stanley. I always love delving into the relationships between the characters in a play and Williams’ characters are so rich and never boring. That’s one reason why I believe this piece of American theater is still so relevant today.”
A performing arts teacher by day, Sabarsky also directs. When it comes to acting though, it is all about making a connection.
“I love that theater, in particular, is a shared experience with the audience. For those few hours, we take a journey together. It’s magical … it’s never the same. And, for those few hours, you get to step into someone else’s skin and experience what their life is like,” she said. “Tennessee Williams is one of America’s best playwrights. He understands the dynamics of relationships and his work is still touching and relevant more than 60 years later.”
Sabarsky could not have said it better. In many ways, having a shared experience is what the Gilbert Theater is all about. Since its early days in Lynne Pryer’s (the founder of the theater) home, then moving from one location to another, people who make the Gilbert Theater the place the community so dearly loves have worked tirelessly to reach out to and train performers, playwrights and directors and engage and entertain the community.
“The Gilbert is a place to come and grow as an artist. We are a very inclusive, open community. One of our main goals of late is diversity. We create more opportunities for actors and other artists who have been historically underrepresented on and off the stage,” said Parrish. “And while we do welcome guest artists occasionally, for example the two New York City actors in Streetcar, we are very much a community-minded organization that showcases local talent. Ninety percent of our artists annually are made up of locals.”
Director Brian Adam Kline is eager to open the show.
“We have a brilliant cast and look forward to affording the opportunity for the community to experience Tennessee Williams live and in color. If you love any of the films you will love the play,” said Kline. “Travel back in time with us and experience this legendary piece of theatre.”
“We cannot tell you how excited we are to present this breathtaking story as our feature classic this season,” Parrish added.
The cast includes two Equity actors, Amanda Brooke Lerner as Blance and Chris Daftios as Stanley.
Other performer are:
Stella: Staci Sabarsky (Rent, Maureen)
Mitch: Nathan Pearce (Carol, Company)
Yudor Forbes, Deanna Robinson, James Merkle, Brandon Shane Bryan, Michael Carney, Kaley Morrison, Justin John, Maria Forte and Joanne Mason represent on stage as well.
In addition to stage performances, the theater hosts The Gilbert Repertory, a resident repertory company of a 12-14 actors who call the Gilbert Theatre their artistic home. Artists are admitted to the program by audition only and the repertory only accepts new members every two years.
The Repertory has its own show every season and members also direct and write.
Gilbert Glee is the Gilbert’s youth company. Through the Glee initiative, the Gilbert aims not only to entertain, but also to educate young people by engaging them with timeless literature through expressive theatre and music. Glee runs September through June and culminates in a performance in June 2014.
Parrish has big plans to connect with the community this coming year in new ways, as well.
“We plan to partner with Cumberland Peace to bring a staged reading of VESPA which deals with end-of-life challenges in April,” she said. “We will also partner with the Cape Fear Museum on the annual Poe House Halloween event in October. Our season is only halfway through and next season is going to be the best yet! A hint about our fall opener — it involves monsters.”
To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.gilberttheater.com or call 678-7186.
Photo: he cast of the A Street Car Named Desire, on stage at the Gilbert Theater, are deep in rehearsals as they prepare to bring an American classic to the stage.