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Centre Stage Brings Innovative Approaches and Theatrical Integrity to Greenville, SC

By S. Mathur

If the function of theater, like all art, is to hold a mirror to society, a recent production of The Addams Family at Centre Stage does this admirably. Created by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa, the show has been a musical comedy, a TV series, a film and a play that turns all our assumptions the wrong way around and upside down, revealing some startling truths in the process.

Taylor Marlatt, Marketing and Development Director, says that the production was a big hit with audiences, because of, not despite, its strangeness: "The Addams Family believe life revolves around death. Strange is normal and sad is happy. But a dinner with Wednesday's boyfriend's "normal" family turns out even stranger!"

Thought-provoking theater is the Center Stage hallmark. It was founded in 1983, with a mission to "support local artists, produce diverse theatre, and provide dynamic educational outreach opportunities." It is now one of the fastest growing theaters in the US. The handy downtown location and cozy atmosphere contribute to its popularity. But it's the quality of the production and the acting that keep the audiences coming back season after season.

The Fringe Series is part of the theatre's innovative approach, showcasing obscure and new plays. Marlatt explains that "Plays featured in the Fringe Series break from the mainstream, and are selected for their subject matter, be it focused on the human experience, historical meaning, or the absurd. The shows are produced minimalistic with a focus on the storytelling."

The subject matter of Fringe Series plays cover issues of current concern, such as "economic survival, racism, addiction, and sexuality and the church," says Marlatt, "Our 2015 New Play Festival Winner, The Volunteer, opened the 2016-2017 season and addressed issues in the prison system and sexual abuse."

Centre Stage partners with local non-profits working on issues connected to the plays. The performances provide an opportunity for marketing and publicity for the nonprofits, a discussion forum following the show, free tickets and awareness.

As part of the mission to support local and regional artists, the theater's annual New Play Festival (NPF) receives hundreds of entries from playwrights. Finalists' work is presented during he week-long festival.

The theater relies on volunteers and welcomes new ones. Volunteers get a foot in the door of the theatrical world, and learn new skills through hands-on theater experience. They can work in ushering, concessions, will-call desk, 50/50 sales, wardrobe, lighting, props scenery building, painting, and the production team.

Coming attractions include Centre Stage's original rock show, Jukebox Heroes, and Sister Act: The Musical. The theater also hosts other events like art exhibitions, chamber music concerts, independent film screenings, guest lectures, and galas.

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