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GTA to transport audience to the wonderful world of Oz with classic musical

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Performances of "The Wizard of Oz" will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6-10 and Nov. 13-17 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and Nov. 17. All shows will be in Hosch Theatre, 429 Academy St., in Gainesville, Georgia. A discounted preview performance will be 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5, with tickets available Oct. 22. Tickets are $28-$30 for adults, $26-$28 for seniors and $18-$20 for students. The preview show costs $15. UNG students, faculty and staff may purchase tickets at a discounted price, too.

Before the creation of Netflix, DVDs and video cassettes, Jim Hammond looked forward to one popular movie broadcast on television as a child. It was the 1939 film classic "The Wizard of Oz."

"For a child, it was the event of the year," said Hammond, chair of the theatre department at the University of North Georgia (UNG). "It was the Super Bowl to us."

This fall, the Gainesville Theatre Alliance (GTA) aims to bring the same anticipation and excitement for the film when it presents "The Wizard of Oz" as the first MainStage production of the season. GTA is a nationally acclaimed collaboration of UNG, Brenau University, theater professionals, and the northeast Georgia community.

Based on the American children's novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, the stage version tells the story of Dorothy Gale's farmhouse being blown over the rainbow to the magical land of Oz. There Dorothy encounters munchkins, a good witch and a bad witch. She also befriends a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion, who accompany her on an adventure to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard.

Performances of "The Wizard of Oz" will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6-10 and Nov. 13-17 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and Nov. 17. All shows will be in Hosch Theatre, 429 Academy St., in Gainesville, Georgia. A discounted preview performance will be 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5, with tickets available Oct. 22.

Tickets are $28-$30 for adults, $26-$28 for seniors and $18-$20 for students. The preview show costs $15. UNG students, faculty and staff may purchase tickets at a discounted price, too.

A free stage tour for a behind-the-scenes look will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 23. A free opening night reception catered by Luna's will be in the lobby following the Nov. 6 performance. A question-and-answer session with the cast and crew will follow the Nov. 13 show.

Beth Kendall, GTA marketing manager, expects the show to sell out early and encourages people to get their tickets sooner rather than later.

Hammond said the musical will not only entertain the audience but will challenge the students performing it.

"We will have a company come in to rig the theater to help the witches fly," he said. "They will teach our students how to use the equipment. And monkeys and witches will fly."

With munchkins, monkeys, witches, and a farm girl wearing ruby red slippers, audience members can capture the excitement of an era gone by, Hammond said.

"We are not there to create a musical," he said. "We are there to create an experience."

"The Wizard of Oz" is not the only theatrical production scheduled for November. The GTA's Discovery Series will present "Waiting for Godot" from Nov. 9-12 in the Ed Cabell Theatre on UNG's Gainesville Campus.

Based on Samuel Beckett's existential classic, "Waiting for Godot" begins with two men on a barren road by a leafless tree. Vladimir and Estragon, characterized as "tramps," contemplate hopelessness and what to do with themselves as they wait for assistance from Godot.

Hammond explained the Discovery Series offers a completely different feel compared to the MainStage production. It gives audiences a choice.

"Our goal is to create a smorgasbord of different types of experiences because everyone has different tastes," Hammond said.

The Discovery Series is an alternate and often more experimental stage featuring smaller-scale professional productions and contemporary scripts. The free performances are general admission seating on a first-come-first-served basis. Vouchers are handed out at 6:30 p.m. the night of the performance with doors opening at 7:10 p.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the GTA website.

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