The Show Must Go On (With a Different Name)

Local theater rebrands for 2022

A VISION IN BASIC BLACK
President Janice Guazzo, left, and Artistic Director Victoria Lamberth pose inside the majorly revamped Hendersonville Theatre.
Photo by Karin Strickland

For the past two years, live theater shows in Hendersonville have been few and far between, putting both a financial and creative hurt on venues. Hendersonville Community Theatre spent the pandemic down time rebranding and reorganizing itself to become simply “Hendersonville Theatre.”

Patrons familiar with the 56-year-old institution will notice the new logo: a colorful rendition of the classic theater icon of a smiling-face mask merged with a sad-face mask, set within graphic swirls that infer motion, and accompanied by the shortened name set in a modern sans serif font and in all-capital letters. Those who go to the first show of the new season — Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Nunsense Jamboree — will immediately feel as though the sky’s the limit as they enter the stone building in downtown Hendersonville: The old cavernous awning over the entrance is gone. Once inside, basic black has replaced the old blue in the 114-seat auditorium.

“We have talked about rebranding for a few years now, and we believe that it’s a bold message to the community — both Hendersonville and the acting community — that we are a growing organization with a bright future,” says new president Janice Guazzo. “While the theater was closed for almost two years, the opportunity to reorganize and start fresh was a decision that was easily made. My hope is that this will [convince audiences and actors] to take a chance and find out what a wonderfully creative theater we are.”

Behind the scenes, even more is afoot.

Hendersonville Theatre wants to make a habit of edgier shows.
Photo by Karin Strickland

“We are going to start a Readers Theatre group that will perform on our stage and at various senior communities,” says Guazzo, ticking off a must-do list. “The new playwright group will be choosing a play for us to develop and produce. Education will be a focus after this current COVID surge; this will include adult workshops and youth camps during the summer.” She also mentions a new roster of live music, including Buncombe Turnpike featuring Tom Godleski, a popular bluegrass act, performing March 4.

Guazzo’s enthusiasm is palpable as she juggles fundraising, marketing, bookings, renovations, and volunteer coordinating. She became president in March 2021, but from 2017 to 2019, she was both a volunteer and a staffer, serving as director of operations and digital-media manager. (During her time away from Hendersonville Theatre, she was active with Asheville’s Montford Park Players and The Magnetic Theatre.)

“Although we still rely heavily on volunteers, we have our first professional, full-time staff,” says Victoria Lamberth, artistic director. “Starting with our 2022 season, we are using professional directors, designers, and stage managers to create our productions.” Lamberth’s selection of scripts reflects the new brand, too. “I wanted shows that had both relevance and strong points of view. I also think it’s important to produce shows that educate and impact our audience. This means choosing plays and musicals that reflect diversity, inclusion, and equity.”

In a word, contemporary. “Our 2022 shows are more modern than many of the shows we’ve done in previous years,” she explains. An example is the stage adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, scheduled for October. The gothic tale has gone through many iterations since Shirley Jackson published the eponymous horror novel in 1959, including a Netflix version four years ago and an updated theater script.

First, though: singing nuns. Sabrina Rock says she is “excited and ready” to direct Nunsense Jamboree, the third in a sequel of seven madcap musicals about zany Sisters with hidden talents. 

“After regaining her memory from being hit on the head with a crucifix, Sister Mary Paul [aka Sister Amnesia] realizes that she was in fact born to be a country singer,” Rock reveals. “Reverend Mother, knowing that one’s God-given talent should never go to waste, gets Sister Amnesia a recording contract. The show is presented as a promotional tour for Sister Amnesia’s newly released album I Could’ve Gone to Nashville.” 

Even the audience will get in on the act when they take part in a country auction and sing hosannas to Patsy Cline. Advance press for the show promises it will prove hilarious to “Catholics, Lutherans, and heathens alike.”

“We are a welcoming community,” says Guazzo.

Hendersonville Theatre, 229 South Washington St. Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Nunsense Jamboree opens Friday, April 22 and runs through Sunday, May 8. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3pm. For tickets and more information, call 828-692-1082 or see hendersonvilletheatre.org. 

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