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Gainesville Theatre Alliance sends audience on epic adventure with season finale

GTA presents The Odyssey
The Gainesville Theatre Alliance presents "The Odyssey" as the season finale at the Ed Cabell Theatre on the UNG Gainesville Campus.

Jim Hammond, chair of the theatre department at University of North Georgia (UNG), and artistic and managing director of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance (GTA) said he found a director for the production of "The Odyssey," before he found the script.

The director was Michael Granberry, an Emmy-winning animator and a '91 UNG alumnus. Granberry was directing a production of "The Tempest" in North Carolina when the two crossed paths.

"We wanted him to direct because he's so talented, so we brought him in back in February as a guest artist," Hammond said. "It was just a matter of finding the right material to fit his talents."

The "right material," it turns out, is "The Odyssey." It will be the season finale for GTA, which is a nationally acclaimed collaboration of UNG, Brenau University, theater professionals, and the northeast Georgia community.

"The Odyssey" is the poet Homer's story of Odysseus, king of Ithaca and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus about 10 years to return home to his wife, Penelope. His return voyage is anything but dull as he is beset by monsters and Greek gods and goddesses.

Homer’s epic poem has been adapted for the stage by Mary Zimmerman, who GTA audiences might remember from her enthralling adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in 2007, telling the story of a dozen Greek myths using 8,000 gallons of water in a submersible stage.

"She writes her stories in ways that allows actors and directors to tell the story in a fantastical way," Hammond said of Zimmerman. "The show taps into and stimulates the imagination of the audience."

Granberry, making his GTA directing debut, said the size of the cast (26) and the large props inside the intimate space of the Ed Cabell Theatre will make the audience feel like they are in the middle of the action.

"It's a massive story, taking place over the course of a decade," Granberry said. "The production poses a lot of technical challenges, but a spectacle without a heart is kind of an empty experience."

GTA patrons who want to whet their appetites for the creative wizardry in store are invited to a free stage tour at 6 p.m. March 27 to see how Granberry's vision for this sprawling story takes shape, and how set, costume and lighting design elements are working to make that vision happen on stage. Visitors to the set that night will see one scene in rehearsal.

Adventurers who purchase tickets will set sail at the Ed Cabell Theatre on UNG's Gainesville Campus at 7:30 p.m. April 10-14 and 17-21; and 2:30 p.m. April 15 and 21. Ticket are $18-$20 for adults, $16-$18 for seniors and $14-$12 for students, depending on seat location.

Patrons can select and purchase seats on the Gainesville Theatre Alliance website, or call the GTA box office at 678-717-3624, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For theater enthusiasts not interested in an epic play, the GTA Discovery Series is producing "Fuente Ovejuna" at 7:30 p.m. April 6-9 at Brenau University Theater on the Square in the Brenau Downtown Center.

Based on 15th-century events immortalized by one of Spain’s greatest and most influential Golden Age dramatists, Lope de Vega, "Fuente Ovejuna" answers the question: What does it take to bind a community together against violence and oppression?

When a military commander returns victorious from battle to a small town, he becomes a menacing oppressor to the town’s residents and especially its women. Pushed to the breaking point, the people of Fuente Ovejuna rise up in a show of unity and bravery.

Discovery Series performances are free, with seating on a first-come-first-seated basis. Patrons can collect vouchers beginning at 6:30 p.m. the night of each performance to guarantee a seat. Theatre doors will open at 7:10 p.m.


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