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GTA kicks off 35th season with state grant

GTA grant
GTA's 2013 production of GUYS & DOLLS, featuring "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York," delighted audiences who filled the 13 performances to 95% capacity. Photo by Simpson Custom Photography.

Just in time to help fuel the Gainesville Theatre Alliance's (GTA) 35th season, Gov. Nathan Deal has announced that GTA has been awarded a $10,000 Partner Grant by Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA).

GTA, established in 1979 through a collaboration between the University of North Georgia (UNG), Brenau University, theater professionals and the northeast Georgia community, and has yielded state and national awards for theater excellence. GCA has routinely ranked GTA among the top professional theaters in the state, though Georgia's 85 percent reduction in arts funding since 2009 has severely limited grant awards.

"The financial award from the Georgia Council for the Arts will help provide GTA with the financial support to produce the most ambitious season in our 35-year history," said Jim Hammond, GTA's artistic and managing director.

More than 25,000 patrons attended 156 GTA performances last season, with patrons remarking on the quality production values made possible by the hybrid professional company and theater training program. The upcoming season promises nothing less, with theater professionals directing, acting and designing alongside GTA's college theater students.

GTA will open its 35th season with free Discovery Series student project "Half Mile Down," an outdoor bluegrass drama written by UNG student Rob Brooksher. The musical is based on Brooksher's love of Lake Lanier and bluegrass music, and is told through new folk tales and original music.

Brooksher collaborated on the script with Brenau graduate Christina Jundt, who is directing the show and was part of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance training program. Brooksher composed all of the production's music for the cast of 15.

"Our goal in choosing a waterside setting for Half Mile Down is to create a complete experience, transporting audience members back to the early 20th century, with outdoor games, canoeing and kayaking," Brooksher said. "We are hoping people will come with their families to picnic and play. We'll even have a 'Provisions Store' selling lemonade, sweet tea and snacks."

"Half Mile Down" will be performed at 8:15 p.m., Aug. 15-17, at Lake Lanier Olympic Venue off Cleveland Highway in Gainesville. Gates open at 6 p.m. for pre-show picnicking and activities. Performances are approximately 90 minutes in length and are appropriate for all audiences.            

Audience members are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring camp chairs, picnics, blankets and bug spray, though limited seating is provided. Performances are free, but donations are encouraged, with net proceeds supporting the Soque River Watershed Association, which works to improve water quality and education about Georgia's rivers.

The 2014-15 GTA theatrical season provides both well-loved and new titles, classical and contemporary fare for theatre-goers. The MainStage season kicks off in September with the WonderQuest (theater for young audiences) production of "Sleeping Beauty" and continues with a MainStage season of shows never produced on the GTA Stage before: "Oklahoma!" in November, and then spring productions of "In the Heights," "Antigone" and "The Great Gatsby."  Tickets went on sale July 1.

Director/Choreographer Barbara Hartwig, who was on board for last season's production of "Guys and Dolls," returns to stage "Oklahoma!" and "In the Heights." Productions will feature the work of choreographer Ricardo Aponte and actor Rick Gomez, who is also GTA's musical theater coordinator and an assistant professor at Brenau University.  Award-winning Atlanta scenic designer Kat Conley will make her GTA debut with "Antigone," which will be directed by Elisa Carlson, GTA resident director and UNG associate professor.

"Thanks to the remarkable support of the University of North Georgia, Brenau University and the northeast Georgia community, the Gainesville Theatre Alliance has built a stellar reputation for quality, and this anniversary season promises to take our work to an even higher level," Hammond said.

Discounted package subscriptions and individual tickets to GTA performances can be purchased at www.gainesvilletheatrealliance.org, where patrons can select their own seats, or by calling the Box Office, 678-717-3624.

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