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Construction continues; OCTC announces schedule
by Liz Warren

It’s been a bumpy ride, but Oak Creek Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Mary Guaraldi wasn’t expecting anything less.

“The rough spots make success all the sweeter,” said Guaraldi. “Yes, we had a thoroughly exhausting search for a new home, but now that search is over, and we’re excited to be knee-deep in the construction phase.”

The space, located in the Old Marketplace plaza on Highway 89A in Sedona, needs some significant remodeling so that Guaraldi and her professional company can effectively stage the remainder of the 2001-2002 season.

“We’re in the thick of things with architects and contractors and engineers and hope to be ready to unveil our theatre to the community at the end of February or the beginning of March,” Guaraldi said.

The inaugural events will take shape over a full weekend and are designed to be a special thank you to the community.

“So many people have helped us - by coming to see our productions, by volunteering, by donating, by sending good wishes when our future was uncertain - we want to show them what their support has created,” Guaraldi said.

After the thank you celebration, which will offer a variety of free and paid events, the theatre turns the spotlight on the remainder of its fourth season.

“Our regular season consists of four productions from September to April,” Guaraldi said. “And this year’s three-out-of-four isn’t bad, considering that until December we were without a home!”

OCTC opened the season back in October with A.R. Gurney’s Ancestral Voices, starring Betsy Palmer, Christopher Gausselin, Michael Peach, Lynne Wieneke and Larry Soller. The intimate chamber piece was staged to acclaim at the Sedona Creative Life Center.

“With our new home established, we’re in the mood to celebrate,” said Guaraldi. “We all love drama, but this is the time for music and fun.”

“Side By Side By Sondheim” is a collection of songs by Stephen Sondheim that Clive Barnes of The New York Times called “a tiny, many-faceted gem that lights up Broadway.” Side By Side previews March 6, formally opens the new theatre on March 7 and closes March 31. It will be followed by Larry Shue’s “The Nerd,” which previews April 10, opens April 11 and closes May 5.

Song after song, Sondheim has dazzled Broadway for years. As a composer and as a lyricist, he is a master of the Broadway musical. With numbers from “West Side Story,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and “Gypsy,” Side By Side is one of Sondheim’s most performed shows.

This collection of more than 35 selections from his work on Broadway, in films and in television features numbers as diverse as “Comedy Tonight,” “Send in the Clowns,” “I Feel Pretty” and “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

The evening unfolds as a series of vignettes in song, each one telling a story - from the longings of British sailors far from home in Japan to the hilarious advice of more experienced colleagues to the young Gypsy Rose Lee. The juxtaposition of songs, from sophisticated to sad and from cynical to romantic, is a life’s worth of emotional material that takes the audience on an unforgettable journey.

Director Guaraldi heads up the same production team that brought northern Arizona theatre-goers the stunningly realized trip through the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, “A Grand Night for Singing.” Musical director Eric Tucker has extensive performance credits throughout the United States and is currently a faculty member at Northern Arizona University. Set and lighting designer Edwin Nagy has been a key member of the team designing the new     theatre space. The cast features Lynne Wieneke, Antoinette Tucker, Nathaniel Hackman (last season’s Charlie Brown) and Carl Barra.

Larry Shue’s hit comedy “The Nerd” will close OCTC’s main stage season. The same sense of mischief and chaos Shue exhibited in “The Foreigner” creates a world of laughter as several lives head on a collision course that can only mean comedy.

Willum Gilbert has it all - a promising career, a close circle of friends, a serious girlfriend. Every day he thanks the mystery man who saved his life back in Vietnam - until that mystery man pays a visit.

If you’ve ever seen Rowan Atkins as Mr. Bean, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what a nerd is, and Atkins starred in the original production. “The Nerd” is a maddening combination of wimp, geek and klutz with a large dash of insensitivity thrown in for good measure. Within minutes of his appearance on the scene, poor Willum is thinking he might have been better off dead. Dan Schay, who directed last season’s “The Foreigner,” will also direct “The Nerd.” 

When the mainstage season closes, OCTC will begin work on a series of new programs, including Canyon Moon Academy of the Performing Arts, which will begin classes in the spring. Classes are planned in acting, technical theatre, magic and clowning. Plans are also underway for a summer theatre institute for youth in conjunction with Children’s Classic Caravan that will culminate in a production. OCTC’s new space will also play host to New Territory Art Space for a series of professional and open mic poetry sessions and creative writing courses.

To order a two-pack season subscription or individual tickets for upcoming productions, call Canyon Moon Theatre at (928) 282-6212. There is no performance of “Side By Side By Sondheim” on Good Friday, March 29.

For additional information on Canyon Moon’s OCTC and its many programs, you can check them out on the Web (oakcreektheatre.org).

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