New Stage Anticipates Coming Season

New Stage Theater is quiet. Artistic director Francine Reynolds sits in the lobby at a hardtop table littered with yellow acting class flyers. She is thoughtful, mirroring the calm anticipation humming in the theater.

"This season's theme is 'Open the door and keep coming back,'" Reynolds says, holding up the cover of the 2007-2008 brochure, which displays an enticing bold red door framed by wispy curtain folds.

"All of these stories have very strong characters," Reynolds says of the upcoming season, which opens Sept. 11 with Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" and includes the American classic "A Raisin in the Sun." "Characters in unusual situations is what good drama is all about."

Jerry Farley, production manager at New Stage, says he loves the new season.

"I'd forgotten how much I liked some of the plays until I read them again," Farley says. Other plays chosen for production, such as the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner "Doubt," Farley found unfamiliar, but that doesn't wane his enthusiasm.

"'Doubt' is the kind of play you talk about with your friends afterward. It really makes you think."

New Stage strives to present more to the community than mainstage shows. Starting this season, after every second Sunday performance, the actors and production staff of the show will make themselves available to the audience for questions, comments, and open discussion.

Off the theater's lobby is a set of double doors that hide an open, rectangular room of cream linoleum and beige walls. Throughout the season, this versatile space, known as the Hewes Room, is playing space for "Unframed at New Stage," a late-night series that appeals to a younger audience.

"It's a little more cutting-edge," Reynolds says of Unframed. "More mature subject matter and language."

In the spring, New Stage will present once again the Eudora Welty New Play series that gives up-and-coming writers an opportunity to present original work. This year's winner will be the first to receive a monetary prize of $2,000, which Reynolds hopes will increase the scope of submissions.

"It's always important to find and produce new plays," says Reynolds, her small, dark eyes alight in the dimness of the lobby. "I would love to find a Mississippi playwright. That would be icing on the cake."


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