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In As You Like It, the immortal bard penned the famous line  “All the world’s a stage,” which refers more to the countless roles each individual plays throughout the stages of their lives, but it also speaks to the heart of theatre and the actors and actresses who walk the boards, laying themselves bare to tell a story.

In Cumberland County, there are a number of stages and a number of extremely talented people who bring stories to life on the stage and several companies that give them not only the opportunity, but the wherewithal to make magic happen. In these hazy days of summer, our theatres go dark, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of work going on and a lot of preparation behind the scenes, readying the stage for the start of the 2015-2016 theatre season.

Sweet Tea Shakespeare

One of the newest, and definitely unique, theatre companies in the Cape Fear Region is Sweet Tea Shakespeare, which operates under the auspices of Fayetteville State University.  The company seeks to “celebrate the wonder of Shakespeare, other classic plays and new work in beautiful environments with family-style flare by providing simple, elemental, magical theatre experiences.”

In its fourth season, the company’s summer season is ongoing, with its first offering, The Cherry Orchard, currently running on the grounds of the 1897 Poe House, which is part of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex. The company presents most of its work in this unique outdoor setting, which actually makes the great outdoor its stage. Written by Anton Chekhov, the play runs through June 21, with shows at 7 p.m. Music, food and fun start at 6:15 p.m. The cast features Marie Lowe, Candace Joice, Nathan Pearce, Brandon Bryan, David Holt, Michael Carney, Jeremy Fiebig, Ja’Maul Johnson, Kaley Morrison, Liz Covington, Reagan Carstens, Joey Narvaez, and Katie White. Greg Fiebig, the company director,  is directing and Jacob French is music director.

In July, the second play of the summer season is a classic Shakespeare piece, The Tempest, which follows the survivors of a shipwreck as they explore and the island of Prospero. Opening July 16, it runs through the 19th, with shows also on July 23-26.

The cast features Ruth Nelson, Jessica Osnoe, Nicole Callaghan, Marie Lowe, Cerina Johnson, Malerie Goodman, Joyce Borum, Katie Wampler, Liz Covington, Medina Demeter, Jennifer Czechowski, Zec Williams, Brandon Bryan, Joey Narvaez, and Ja’Maul Johnson. Fiebig and French team up again to bring the story to life.

Audiences should bring their own seating, including camping or other outdoor chairs and blankets. Some quilt seating is available onsite on a rental basis. $12 general admission; $10 seniors and military member; children 6-12 are $6; and those under the age of 5 are admitted free. Tickets may be reserved at sweetteashakespeare.com/tickets and purchased onsite via cash, credit or debit card.

The Gilbert Theater

The Gilbert Theater, led by Artistic Director Robyne Parrish, has six shows lined up for its 2015-2016 season, with comedies, tragedies, feel-good and socially relevant plays on tap. Company members invite the community to come out and experience “theatre with a pulse.”

The season opens Sept. 18 with the classic Mel Brooks musical, Young Frankenstein. In classic Brooks style, the show centers around the work of Dr. Frankenstein who, following in his grandfather’s footsteps, tries to bring a corpse back to life. With help and hindrance from servant Igor, buxom assistant Inga and needy fiancée Elizabeth, his experiment yields success and unexpected consequences. The play runs through Oct. 4.

For the past several years, The Gilbert has brought the classic A Christmas Carol to the stage as a gift to the community. This year the company has elected to change things up and will stage It’s a Wonderful Life instead. The classic play chronicles the life of George Bailey, the “Everyman” from the small town of Bedford Falls. Bailey’s life has not turned out as he thought it would. He stands broken, dreaming of escape and adventure. Bailey, has given up hope, and it is up to his Guardian Angel to remind him that the life he is so disappointed in, is really very wonderful. The show runs Nov. 27 and runs through Dec. 20. 

In February, tragedy takes center stage as Shakespeare’s Titus Anronicus and Hedda Baler by Henrik Ibsen are performed. 

Women of Manhattan and The Vagina Monologues round out the season in April and June, respectively. 

Women of Manhattan by John Patrick Shanley chronicles the love lives of three women: Rhonda, who has just broken up with her boyfriend; Billie, a happily married woman who is afraid that she and her husband will never move past their honeymoon phase; and Judy, who is afraid she will never meet a good-looking guy who isn’t gay. 

In a series of sharply written, subtly revealing scenes, their situations change. Billie fixes up Judy with her ex-boyfriend, a debonair black executive who proves to be more than an adequate lover; Billie’s husband gives her a black eye (which delights her because it finally proves that the honeymoon is over!); and Rhonda, still alone, summons up the courage to dispose of her boyfriend’s sneakers. 

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler is fairly self-explanatory. It is a series of monlogues delivered by women that is designed to “break down the barriers of secrecy and shame surrounding both the use of the word ‘vagina’ (both in public and in private) and the violence perpetrated against those who have one. “

Tickets are $16 for general admission with military, student and senior discounts available. There are also special package prices for advance paid groups of ten or more. For more information or to buy tickets, email boxoffice@gilberttheater.com, visit www.gilberttheater.com or call 678-7186. Cape Fear Regional Theatre

Nestled in Haymount, the Cape Fear Regional Theatre will continue telling great stories during its upcoming season. Under the direction of Artistic Director Tom Quaintance, the theatre has an eclectic lineup featuring everything from classics like Man of La Mancha, to musicals like The Wiz and an original work, Downrange: Voices from the Homefront in its lineup

The eight-play season begins Sept. 17  with the musical, Man of La Mancha, which runs through Oct. 11. The musical tells the story of “The Mad Knight, ” Don Quixote, as a play within a play, performed by Miguel de Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. 

A new adaption of a timeless classic, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is on stage in October. The adaption by Todd Kreidler, tells the story of a progressive white couple’s proud liberal sensibilities that are put to the test when their daughter, fresh from an overseas romance, brings her African-American fiancé home to meet them. 

In December, the theatre stages it’s traditional The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as a special event, followed by The Wiz, which runs Jan. 21-Feb. 14. This beloved Broadway musical sets Dorothy’s adventures in the land of OZ to music in a dazzling, lively mixture of rock, gospel and soul! The Wiz is CFRT’s Classic Theatre Series production for the 2015-2016 season and is presented in partnership with Cumberland County Schools, providing an opportunity to engage, entertain and educate students. Free tickets will be provided to all 11th grade CCS students.

Downrange, written and directed by Mike Wiley, is the first original play commissioned by the theatre. It explores the impact of more than a decade of war on not only our nation’s warriors, but also their families. The show runs March 3-20, 2016.

Downrange is followed up with the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, which will open April 7. 

In May, theatre patrons can look forward to spending some time with The Man in Black when the musical Ring of Fire comes to the stage. With Hedwig and the Angry Inch rounding out the season May.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the story of a German transsexual who goes on a journey of self-discovery, has one of the greatest rock scores of any contemporary musical. From the driving rock of “Tear Me Down” to the heart rending “Origin of Love” to the country-pop brilliance of “Sugar Daddy,” this musical has struck a chord. Hedwig allows us to feel free to truly love ourselves and become the best version of ourselves and, ultimately, spread the love to others.

Season tickets are now available and options can be found at www.cfrt.org.


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