By Ann Cipperly
As the Arts Association of East Alabama’s Performance Series sets to open with another season of stellar productions, director Phillip Preston feels the lineup may be the most diverse season in the 29 years of performances staged at the Opelika Center for the Performing Arts. Seven productions will light up the stage for this year’s series.
This season features opera star Jamie Barton, a Southerner who travels the world singing, but likes nothing more than getting back home to her roots and her cat in Georgia; and the one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen-in-this-country, Pilobolus production of Shadowland.
Opening the holiday season is the return of one of the series’ all-time greatest hits, Australia’s The Ten Tenors.
The season continues with two award-winning Broadway musical spectaculars, and the National Orchestra of Ukraine with two exciting soloists: the world’s leading classical guitarist playing Bach and the Beatles with his own specially selected string ensemble.
The Arts Association has a history of bringing the bests in music, theatre and dance to the community with shows featuring national and international touring productions, which are generally only available in larger metropolitan areas.
The Arts Association began with the Spring Festival Concert Series years earlier but was limited to productions suitable for church sanctuaries.
“When the school board decided to build the Performing Arts Center as a dual facility to serve the high school and community as theater space it opened up many possibilities,” Preston said. “The Arts Association was asked to create a new concert series, which established the working relationship with the city school system.”
The series opened in September 1987 with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Each season has featured a variety of performances including Broadway tours, symphony orchestras, opera companies and entertainers.
“The guiding spirit behind the series is finding the best events to represent each of the major areas of the arts in terms of music, theater and dance with variety within those areas, and then looking at what is available coming in and out of the region,” Preston said. “We are trying to develop programming within a certain comfort zone of familiarity but with some cutting edge performances as well.”
East Alabama Arts catches productions moving through Atlanta, Birmingham as well as cities in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
Preston is involved in securing performances one to three years ahead of time. “We are scouting for a combination of events with a particular variety that will work for us, and we are still guided by that same spirit of innovation as the Performance Series has evolved through nearly three decades now. Making sure of the quality, the variety, and a sense of discovery and willingness to challenge preconceived notions within the programming, is paramount to a successful venture,” he said.
“Newcomers don’t expect to find a full fledge theater facility in a small town. We are doing a lot on the same level as larger cities at much reduced prices.”
A hallmark of the series has been the level of community support with subscribers and contributors. Since some events are purchased two or three years ahead, the AAEA has to make contractual commitments while the tours are still being formed. “The commitment of a large-scale subscriber base is the only way this works. Along with the support of business sponsors who make financial and service contributions,” Preston said. “It will be hard to wait until October to get all this started, but we’re pleased to provide these opportunities for the whole community to turn out and be entertained, challenged and inspired.”
For tickets contact the Arts Association of East Alabama office located in the Cultural Arts Center of East Alabama at 1103 Glenn St. in Opelika or purchase online by visiting www.eastalabamaarts.org.
Office hours are Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For general information call 334.749.8105.