225 Years of Pure Imagination
Our Wilmington forefathers had imagination. They imagined a burgeoning community where the arts would be integral to its character. That was the year before North Carolina became a state and Thalian Association was established, in 1788. Our 225-year journey of captivating the collective imagination with live theater is what our new season is all about – the imagination and the journey.
|I’m always looking for a dynamic family show for the holidays, and if it’s a Wilmington premiere, all the better. Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka fills the bill on both accounts. Imagination: a poverty sticken boy imagines a better life for his family through winning a contest; a candy magnate imagines the contest producing a worthy heir. Journey: the Candy Man and the boy will change each other’s lives. Add a powerhouse score and you have a celebration of pure imagination.
I saw Big River when it opened on Broadway and found it extraordinary. The brilliantly theatrical adaptation of this familiar story made it new, and urgent. Imagination: an America where all citizens are free to pursue their authentic lives. Journey: up the Mighty Mississippi to self-awakening, freedom, and learning to say, “Goodbye.” Not incidentally, the “King of Country” Roger Miller’s award-winning score is an absolute delight from start to finish. The racial themes are, alas, as relevant today as ever which is why we’re celebrating Black History Month with this magnificent musical.
No playwright has so profoundly dug into the illusive nature of The American Dream as Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winner John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men is set in Depression-era California and follows two displaced migrant ranch hands, adrift in a hardscrabble world. Imagination: George and Lennie imagine raising enough to stake themselves to their own homestead where they can live off the fat of the land. Journey: George has to determine how best to protect his slow-witted friend from a world unwilling to accommodate his child-like sensibility. I have, somewhat selfishly, wanted to direct this benchmark play – to tell this exceptional story – since the first time I read it in high school. Perhaps surprisingly, it seems to me that not much has changed with regard to the human condition since then.
We’ll be closing the season with a fantastic classic from the Golden Age of Broadway – Wonderful Town. Imagination: two naïve sisters from Ohio imagine success and romance in NYC. Journey: moving from the homey comfort of their hometown to enlightenment in Greenwich Village. Ruth is an aspiring writer who can’t seem to get a man’s attention, while her younger sister, Eileen, is an aspiring starlet who has men falling at her feet. Their increasingly hilarious misadventures involving the colorful eccentrics in their neighborhood is accompanied by one of Bernstein’s most effervescent scores. Winner of five Tony Awards including Best Musical.
So there you have it. The imagination of outsiders and wannabes, and the journeys they will take us on. Of course these journeys will illuminate our own lives – our personal journeys – as only live theater can. Please join us for a season of pure imagination.