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Upcoming Theater Performances, Sketch Comedy, Ethnic Nights

Photo Credit: C. Adron Farris III

Abraham Johnson as Linus, Wynelle Studdard as Lyra, Dameco Young as Gabe, and Jamie Ascher as Kairi in “Phantom Tone Syndrome” by Alex Cornell.

New Play Festival: UGA students have been turning out an astonishing amount of dramatic writing in recent years, not simply in quantity but in quality of an impressive level. Clearly it’s high time to feature a sampling of some of the best work by current students and recently graduated alumni.

There are seven playwrights and four directors. The whole thing is overseen by executive director John Patrick Bray, a UGA professor who is also a notable playwright himself. It’s an eclectic collection of plays, but Bray has noticed an emerging theme of the supernatural, family connections (and the lack thereof), and babies both born and unborn. He’s joined by two PhD students (Geoffrey Douglas, Seth Wilson) and an MFA acting student (Ami Sallee) in directing the seven plays with a strong ensemble of student actors.

Blue Light features two lesbians-to-be, waiting in the ether and hoping to find each other once they are born. It’s written by Molly Pease, who was an award-winning playwright before she graduated and is now in the MFA screen and stage writing program at Northwestern. In Phantom Tone Syndrome by alumnus Alex Cornell, people are finding it hard to connect thanks to technology that is supposed to keep them connected. They’re so reliant on their phones they can’t handle eye contact, so two gods make a wager about what will happen when a phone breaks. Alice Captured by current student J. Grace Cole features a pair in a complicated relationship. One of them is pregnant, the other is not the spouse or the child’s father, and the discussion gets deeply personal.

Magnolia Blossoms: A Civil War Melodrama promises to be a sharp and hilarious satire of popular perceptions of “the black experience” as portrayed in what the playwright thinks of as “black” plays. Expect a plantation and outrageous Antebellum Southern accents in this comedy by MFA student and firmly established playwright Angela Hall.

With A Little Magic, playwright and alumna Lara Sheridan asks: What would a witch do with herself if she lost her powers? The witch in this story tries to supplement her loss by taking up baking, but she can’t even do that right. I.B. Hopkins, another recent graduate whose work tends to be powerfully cerebral and ingeniously original, had a play produced off-Broadway before he graduated. That one was a musical about Jimmy Carter’s alleged UFO sighting (Jimmy! A Musical Fable with Almost No Historical Basis).

A person is trying to communicate with someone from the “other side” in What’s My Spirit Animal, Mama?, a play that executive director Bray describes as “ethereal and bizarre, a Southern Gothic with the feel of the epic of Gilgamesh.” Finally, the tone of the evening will shift from the strange to the silly with a team of fake Ghostbusters who have a phony TV show in Phantom Annihilators by alumna Kati Gautreau. The scammers meet their match when they encounter a house that is truly haunted in what Bray calls “a complete splatter comedy like Evil Dead.” 

A night like this offers a little something for everyone at the Cellar Theatre on Mar. 24–26, 30–31 and Apr. 1–2 at 8 p.m. and Apr. 3 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 or $7 for students, and can be purchased at drama.uga.edu/box-office, by phone at 706-542-4400 or in person at the Performing Arts Center or Tate Center box office.

Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA: The Timeless Love Story is UGA’s Black Theatrical Ensemble’s big show of the year, directed by UGA alumnus Jayln Fleming. The Grammy and Tony Award-winning musical is based on Verdi’s famous opera by the same name and tells a love story of ancient Egypt. It’s at Seney-Stovall Chapel on Apr. 1–2 at 7 p.m. and Apr. 3 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $5–15 and can be purchased at the Tate Center box office, by phone at 706-542-8579, or online at tate.uga.edu/tickets.

Pippin by Steven Schwartz is the Cedar Shoals High School Musical Theatre spring offering directed by Rosemary Milsap. It’s been described as a “high-flying, death-defying hit musical” about an emperor’s son and a troupe of players who tells his story. It’s in the CSHS Fine Arts Building on Mar. 31–Apr. 2 at 7 p.m. and Apr. 3 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 or $5 for students. For more information, call 706-546-5375 or email milsapr@clarke.k12.ga.us. 

Kitty Kitty Kitty by Noah Haidle is the next show up by the highly energetic UGA Graduate Acting Ensemble, which uses proceeds from their show to fund their final showcase they take on the road before they graduate. Directed by Marlon Burnley, this is one oddball play; Kitty is a cat who falls in love with his clone, Kitty Kitty, who doesn’t love him back. Maybe his next clone, Kitty Kitty Kitty, will? As the clones keep coming (remember the “Simpsons” episodes with dozens of Homers?) things get even weirder. The performance will be held at Seney-Stovall Chapel on Apr. 4–6 at 8 p.m., and tickets are $5 at the door. Visit the ensemble on Facebook for more information.

Improv Athens has another free show coming up on Mar. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. in Miller Learning Center, room 102. The popular, nationally competitive troupe tends to fill their performances fast, so come early if you want a seat. Find Improv Athens on Facebook for more details.

Sharkwing is UGA’s hilarious sketch comedy team, and they’re offering free shows on Apr. 5 at 7 p.m. in room 148 of the Miller Learning Center and in room 150 on on Apr. 7. For more information, check them out on Facebook.

Ethnic Nights are produced throughout the year by UGA’s International Student Life, and three are coming up soon. ISL describes these as “evenings of culture that showcase a variety of global traditions, customs, performances and culinary delights” that let you “travel the world without leaving Athens.” For example, the Caribbean Student Association describes Caribbean Night as “a play with high energy dances interspersed throughout it, and we have even incorporated some spoken word! We plan to serve some of the most popular Caribbean dishes like rice and peas, jerk and curry chicken, macaroni pie and of course plantain!” 

Korean Night is at Tate Grand Hall on Mar. 26 at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are $7, students are $5; tickets at the door are $9 and $7. Caribbean Night is at the Morton Theatre on Apr. 1–2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12, or $8 for students. Legends from the Philippines is at Tate Grand Hall on Apr. 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 706-542-8579 or online at tate.uga.edu/tickets.