Curtain Calls 

From modern classics to new productions, Nashville’s local theater companies offer a wide range of choices

From modern classics to new productions, Nashville’s local theater companies offer a wide range of choices

Nashville’s fall season of theater offerings is the usual mixed bag of worthy programming. But it’s hard to approach the arts at this time as the first anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks looms upon us. BroadAxe Theatre, brainchild of noted Nashville singer-songwriter Steve Earle, is doing its part with a one-night performance on Sept. 12 of Conversations in a Time of Terror, a unique collection of monologues which strive not only to show respect to all affected by the tragedy, but also to create a forum for open political debate. With Mockingbird Theatre’s Rene Copeland, BroadAxe artistic director Sara Sharpe co-directs a cast of fine local actors, including David Alford, Bill Feehely and Brian Niece, among others. In addition, Ken Swanson of Christ Church Cathedral will be on hand to assist in facilitating the post-performance discussion group. Continuing its commitment to issues-oriented dramatic fare, BroadAxe will later debut its long-awaited production of Earle’s play Karla, a meditation on the life and death of convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Darrell Larson directs the cast of five, with Sharpe starring in the title role. The show runs Oct. 24-Nov. 2. The Belcourt Theatre will host both events. Tickets may be purchased by calling BroadAxe Theatre, 391-3626, or online at www.BroadAxeTheatre.org.

The always interesting People’s Branch Theatre continues its pledge to produce provocative local theater with two fall presentations. First up is a reprise performance of My Own Brother, Vincent, artistic director Brian Niece’s one-man show about Vincent van Gogh and his devoted brother, Theo, which was the company’s inaugural production back in 2000. This original piece will be performed Oct. 2-5 at Zeitgeist Gallery in Hillsboro Village. Next, performed Nov. 14-23 at the Belcourt Theatre, will be Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a classic of modern drama, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Though the play is often presented as a bleak existential treatise on human despair, PBT will attempt to uncover the absurdist master’s distinctive humor and oblique view of the human need for faith, companionship and hope. For more information, phone 254-0008.

Actors Bridge Ensemble joins in the local feast of serious drama with bash, a collection of three short plays by Neil LaBute, a noted screenwriter who authored the films In the Company of Men and Nurse Betty. This script, which probes the complexity of evil in everyday life, was an Off-Broadway hit of the 1999 season, with LaBute being hailed by the New Yorker as “the most important playwright to emerge in a decade.” Up-and-coming Nashville actor Dusty Shaffer is set to direct. Oct. 4-19 at the Darkhorse Theater. Phone 228-4970.

It would hardly be fall in Nashville if there weren’t some dramatic acknowledgment of Halloween. In this case, one of our town’s best, Mockingbird Theatre, will do its part for spookiness when it presents Spirit: The Authentic Story of the Bell Witch of Tennessee. This original production, written and directed by David Alford, will be presented in both Adams, Tenn.—the home of the Bell Witch—and in Nashville, at the Cooney Theatre at Nashville Children’s Theatre. The legend of the Bell Witch is one of the best-known ghost stories, and Mockingbird’s version reclaims a fascinating chapter in our regional heritage. Performances in Adams are Oct. 19-31, including Halloween Night, and in Nashville Nov. 2-9. Call 242-6704 for more information.

Tennessee Repertory Theatre opens its 2002-2003 season—the first under its new operating arrangement with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center—with the popular and silly two-man comedy Greater Tuna, starring creators Joe Sears and Jaston Williams. This daffy portrayal of small-town Texas life, celebrating its 20th anniversary, will be performed Sept. 10-22 at TPAC’s Polk Theater. The Rep couldn’t get more serious, however, when it later presents Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, also on the Polk Theater stage, Oct. 30-Nov. 10. Under the direction of David Grapes, a cast of notable locals, including Nan Gurley, Jeremy Childs and Denice Hicks, will tackle Williams’ groundbreaking drama of personal torment and passion set in steamy New Orleans. For theatergoers who like their drama a little kookier, The Rep’s Off-Broadway Series will offer Becky Mode’s Fully Committed, Oct. 3-12, at TPAC’s Johnson Theater. A single actor, Bill Bowers, takes on 39 different characters in a comical look at life in a trendy restaurant. A versatile stage veteran, Bowers is also a disciple of the modern master Marcel Marceau, and he brings his well-honed mime skills to bear in this tour de force. Call 255-ARTS or see the Web site at www.tnrep.org.

After last season’s surprisingly successful debut production, Women of Manhattan, Big Bawl Baby Productions returns to the stage with John Murrell’s Waiting for the Parade, which opens for a three-weekend run on Sept. 13 at Religious Science of Nashville. Michael Killen directs this World War II-era drama, set in Canada, which comprises 24 vignettes exploring the lives and feelings of five female characters. The talented cast includes Stacey Shaffer-Bishop, Holly Butler, Sheri Lynn DiGiovanna, Amanda Bailey and Arita Trahan. Waiting for the Parade contains adult language and subject matter. Call 385-2266 for more information.

ACT I remains one of the Nashville area’s more interesting community-theater endeavors, offering a solid mix of classics and thought-provoking modern pieces. The company will open its 2002-2003 season with The Royal Family, George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s witty 1927 send-up of a famous theatrical clan by the name of Cavendish. (Shhh! It’s really the Barrymores, though the authors always stalwartly denied it.) Brian Hill directs a cast that includes Rachel Parker, Anne Tonelson, Lisa Dunaway and Danny Proctor. The show runs Sept. 13-28. From Oct. 25-Nov. 9, ACT I will mount Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan-era blank verse masterpiece based on the story of a brilliant man who makes a cataclysmic deal with the devil. All performances are at the Darkhorse Theater. Call 726-2281 for reservations.

Circle Players, another community theater, has opened its 53rd season with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, which runs through Sept. 22. Wilde’s acknowledged gifts for clever wordplay and sardonic humor are well on display in his 1895 comedy of class, love and confused identities. David McGinnis directs a cast that includes Stephen L. Garrett, Jeff Strickland, Kendra Carter and Jane Stoub. The show takes place in TPAC’s Johnson Theater. Call 254-0113 for tickets and information.

Lest the kiddies be left behind this fall, Nashville Children’s Theatre opens its 71st season with The House at Pooh Corner, adapted by Bettye Knapp from A.A. Milne’s beloved children’s stories. Producing director Scot Copeland will direct a top-flight cast that includes Evelyn Blythe, Jeff D. Boyet, jeff obafemi carr, Henry Haggard and Misty Lewis. Incidental music is by Paul Carrol Binkley. Sept. 16-Oct. 11 in NCT’s Cooney Playhouse. Call 254-9103 for tickets and info.

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