By Kitsey Burns Harrison
A holiday extravaganza is planned for the winter production at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center’s Willingham Theater, and actors have been working hard for several weeks now to prepare. Willingham Wonderland will take place at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center on Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 6 and 13 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20.
“What we decided to do for our shows is to have the Willingham Theater present different shows for the holidays,” Artistic Director Ron Stacker Thompson explained. “It’s always going to be a Willingham Wonderland. This is the first, which happens to be called ‘Tis the morning of my life,’ which I wrote as just a basic comedy 30 years ago when I had a theater in Oakland, California.”
The comedy, about a widowed grandmother who finds a new love, and a new lease on life, has been revamped to include a slew of holiday tunes and dance numbers.
The cast includes a number of area youth who have been participating in the acting workshops Thompson holds on behalf of the arts council, as well as several adult cast members.
Also performing in the production are theater veterans Patty Grant, David Nielsen and Kitsey Burns Harrison, as well as a newcomer to the stage, David Petty.
“This the first show I’ve been in and I’m enjoying the whole experience,” Petty said. “Ron Stacker Thompson, who wrote and directed the show, has been so patient with me during the entire process. Ron has created a Christmas experience that will be unlike any other you’ve ever seen, I promise. There are kids of all ages in the show, and it’s got a nice variety of music and acting, but the story itself is compelling enough to keep adults fully engaged. I think everyone will find something to like about it.”
David Nielsen said he, too, was looking forward to the production.
“I am excited and nervous to play the character of Ken,” Nielsen said. “Excited because you don’t see middle-aged romantic leads in a play often. I am sure a few of the baby boomers in our audience will relate to finding love later in life. But I am nervous because Ken’s confidence and style of flirting is definitely not me.”
Patty Grant summed up the show saying, “the story itself is a story of how everyone, no matter age or background, has the right to happiness. They find it in different ways, often through family, often through holidays and when that comes together in a good way, yeah, there’s happiness.”
Grant is a longtime veteran of community theater in Yadkin County and said she is proud to again be a part of theater here in the area.
“When I think back about theater experiences here in Yadkin County I have to say there’s a celebrated history here of community theater. In the mid ’70s, under the direction of Bill Casstevens, there were five to six shows mounted every year,” Grant said. “At that time we didn’t have the beautiful performing arts center we have now, we performed in the back of a freezer locker and the lights hung on a set of ladders that had been erected and when it rained, water ran under the stage so you had to hold your costume up when you crossed backstage. The history of the Yadkin Players is like a history of the ’70s and ’80s in Yadkinville, nice memories, talented people.
“I really enjoy being on stage again with experienced actors and new comers to the theater,” Grant added. “The Willingham Players that are now performing here seasonally here at the Willingham Theater are looking to do a variety of productions. The Saturday acting workshops have encouraged young people to become part of the performing group, this season the show has people in it from age eight to age 75, it is something for everyone.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, call 336-679-2941 or visit www.yadkinarts.org.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.