Lenise Williams

Yes! Weekly– November 23, 2016

With the final bow of Dorothy and the munchkins last Sunday, theatres are now just as ready for the upcoming holiday break as the rest of the Triad. The thriving Greensboro and Winston-Salem arts scene has a lot to celebrate this year, and a few of the theatres take pause to say thanks, before gearing up for the winter holiday line-up.

Mitchel Sommers from Community Theatre of Greensboro certainly has a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, including 22 years as the executive director, as well as 22 faithful productions of the theatre’s annual tradition: The Wizard of Oz.

Here in the Triad, the family-friendly production has become as much of a holiday tradition as the turkey itself.

“I most definitely see it as a Thanksgiving celebration and the beginning of the holiday season in the Triad,” Sommers said. “What I love most about it is the tradition that it has created. It is so wonderful to greet people in the lobby that tell me they have been coming every year for the last 10 years, or they used to come as a child and now they are bringing their children—it’s so, so sweet.”

But Sommers says what he’s most thankful for is the collaboration of the community, “to come together at CTG and create something beautiful as a family.” Well, that and the fact that its Junior Theatre Festival, under the direction of education director Rozalynn Fulton, was also awarded top honors at a national competition in Atlanta.

Triad Stage has become a part of the Triad’s holiday tradition, as well, with its long-time winter production of A Christmas Carol.

“Thanksgiving is a very busy time for Triad Stage,” said Rich Whittington, co-founder. “We are busy putting the finishing touches on A Christmas Carol in Winston-Salem and Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity in Greensboro – both of which start performances the day after Thanksgiving. But even with all of the activity, we find time to do things together as a staff and to take time on Thanksgiving to be with our family and friends.”

Helen Simoneau Danse, a small dance company based in Winston-Salem, has had a big year, as well. “This year has absolutely been a success,” said Tori Westcott, managing director. “We achieved so many milestones: being featured in Dance and Dance Teacher magazines, winning the Choreographer XX competition, producing Land Bridge in NYC, and being listed in the NY Times as a must-see performance. Locally, we worked with amazing people to produce the pop-up dance festival, OnSite/InSight, and are so excited to see our Phuzz Phest collaboration with Must the Be the Holy Ghost and Weapons of Mass Projection revived as part of our March residency performance.”

Helen Simoneau Danse has been choreographing across the country throughout its seven-year history, and this year Helen’s piece, Land Bridge, premiered right here in Winston-Salem last March and made its NYC premiere in October. Helen also recently won the prestigious Choreography XX competition, allowing her to create a piece for Oregon Ballet Theatre next summer.

Rosina Whitfield, director of artistic development for The Drama Center of City Arts, mentioned that she’s thankful for the art scene in general.

“I am thankful that we live in a city that provides theatre for its citizens at a reasonable cost,” Whitfield said. “The founders of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department understood we need sports but we need the arts too, in a form available to everyone. We produce shows and conduct classes for all ages.

“As one of the founders of the NC Triad Theatre League, a coalition of area theatres, I am thankful for all of the vibrant theatre companies in our community. We have 17 member theatres so far and each us has something unique to offer. It makes the Triad a great place to participate in live theatre.”

Jamie Lawson, director of Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance, is grateful for another successful year of providing theatrical opportunities to the community.

“It is a privilege to create art—one that becomes progressively more competitive and necessary in this national climate, as well as in our hometown,” Lawson said. “Each year that we stay solvent is a gift.”

Lawson said that his proudest accomplishments this year are, without a doubt, the theatre’s productions of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and Chicago. This was also the theatre’s first full year in its new renovated space.

And, as for me, I’m thankful for having been given this wonderful opportunity, seven years ago, to cover the arts in the Triad. I’ve met so many wonderful, passionate and motivated people through the years, and it’s been a joy helping to spread their word.