Wortham Center for the Performing Arts announces 2019/2020 season

Press release from Wortham Center for the Performing Arts: 

The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Asheville has announced its 2019/2020 Season schedule, the venue’s first season following the transformation from the single-entity Diana Wortham Theatre into a newly expanded and renovated three-venue performing arts complex.

This season, from September 2019 to May 2020, a wide range of top touring artists in music, theater, dance, comedy and other performing arts will delight audiences in the 500-seat Diana Wortham Theatre, as well as in the new Tina McGuire Theatre (seating up to 100 people) and the Henry LaBrun Studio (seating up to 80).

“Our community has patiently witnessed and navigated the construction process,” said Rae Geoffrey, managing director of the Wortham Center, “and we are thrilled to finally unveil the new and improved center, which they have made possible through their support and passion for the performing arts.”

Over the course of its nine-month Season, which begins on Tuesday, Sept. 17, the Wortham Center will present a total of 42 awe-inspiring performances from 27 phenomenal artists. An additional 25 performances from 12 artists make up this season’s Matinee Series, which provides students and families with the opportunity to see world-class works of art.

Tickets for all performances go on sale at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22, and will be available at worthamarts.org as well as in person at the box office, or by calling 828-257-4530. The theatre offers flexible, multi-show discount packages starting with as few as three performances. Savings range from 10-20 percent off regular prices, depending on the number of performances; multi-show packages are available only through the box office, either in person or by calling 828-257-4530.

“The 2019/2020 Season reflects a wide range of artists to please everyone, taking advantage of multiple venues in the new Wortham Center with expanded engagement opportunities throughout the season,” Geoffrey continued. “This season brings the same caliber of artists that patrons might see in New York City or Chicago — all without leaving their home town — while also offering increased opportunities for entertainment, engagement and connection.”

New in the 2019/2020 Season, the Wortham Center introduces its first-ever Artist in Residence: cellist and singer-songwriter Shana Tucker. With her signature ChamberSoul™ sound, mixing classical arrangements with jazzy melodies, and a touch of folk and R&B, Tucker will delight audiences all season long with a whirlwind of inspiring activities and events leading up to her Saturday, April 4 Diana Wortham Theatre performance. Events, outreach and engagement with Tucker include: a professional development workshop for performing artists titled, “Minding Your Own Business,” (Sept. 27) in the Henry LaBrun Studio; an intimate, hike-out acoustic performance in nature (Sept. 28); in-school workshops for children focusing on creating and performing songs (Feb. 17); an immersive performance experience in the Henry LaBrun Theatre, examining the creative process of concert design (February); a public master class in the Tina McGuire Theatre exploring songwriting and performance (February); and a pre-show discussion prior to her main performance in spring 2020.

The Music Series kicks off the season with a concert from Kronos Quartet (Sept. 17), an internationally celebrated ensemble producing an eclectic blend of classical, contemporary and experimental works. The music continues with Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi (Sept. 22), in a performance that showcases Giddens’ old-time Americana sound with Italian multi-instrumentalist Turrisi’s influences from around the globe. All-female a cappella quintet Nobuntu (Oct. 3) is next up, flying in from Zimbabwe to deliver powerful and heartfelt harmonies. Continuing the a cappella momentum is innovative ensemble m-pact (Oct. 26), which uses vocal acrobatics to create melodies, harmonies and instrumentation through the power of the human voice. Next, Venezuelan singer Nella (Nov. 1) dazzles her audiences with soulful Spanish vocals and enchanting onstage charm. As the season gets colder, Canadian Brass (Nov. 15) will warm audiences up with a repertoire ranging from Baroque to The Beatles. Then, Broadway star and powerhouse singer Shoshana Bean(Nov. 20) will blow the audience away with her show Spectrum: Soulful Standards. Wrapping up 2019 is folk duo Violet Bell (Dec. 6 and 7), performing from the intimate stage of the Tina McGuire Theatre. Then, celebrate the start of 2020 with The Black Market Trust(Jan. 16), combining the soulful sounds of legendary American crooners with the fire and energy of gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Scandinavian instrumental trio Dreamers’ Circus (Feb. 28) will transport the audience to a magical new world using traditional folk music with sounds from around the world. For a modern twist on Celtic music, the Derina Harvey Band (March 5) packs a punch, with lyrics that swirl in a tempestuous sea of high-energy Celt-rock. Known for stunning shows and superb musicianship, Lúnasa (March 18) keeps the Irish music rolling, though it keeps its tunes traditional with evocative instrumental arrangements. Next, Susan Werner and David Myles (March 19) present a dual-sided repertoire, featuring Myles’ timeless taste and Werner’s wit and charm, for a show that falls somewhere between folk, jazz and soulful pop. The Music Series ends with cellist, singer-songwriter and Wortham Center Artist in Residence Shana Tucker (April 4), whose lyrical storytelling paints a musical tapestry in her signature ChamberSoul™ style.

The Special Attractions Series showcases six spectacular acts, the first of which is A Swannanoa Solstice (Dec. 22), a local and beloved holiday tradition of the last 17 years that features renowned artists Al Petteway, Amy White, Robin Bullock, David Holt and other special guests. In 2020, YAMATO The Drummers of Japan (Feb. 24 and 25) return to Asheville with a high-energy, heart-thumping and explosive new show, “Jhonetsu.” Next, comedian and actor Rondell Sheridan (March 6) presents his side-splitting stand-up act “If You’re Over 40 and You Know It, Clap Your Hands!” Audiences won’t believe their eyes when illusionist Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders (April 2) comes to town — making objects disappear, causing photos to spring to life and prompting brushes to paint works of art on their own. In a performance equal parts hilarious and heart-warming, Compagnia Baccalà presents “Pss Pss” (April 24) brings clowning into the modern world with inspiration from Charlie Chaplin and the stars of the silent era. Closing out the Special Attractions Series is London-based gospel group The Kingdom Choir (April 29), which blew away an estimated 3 billion viewers across the globe with a performance of “Stand By Me” at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

This season’s Dance Series includes five inspirational companies, including a riveting performance from BalletX (Oct. 11 and 12), which challenges the boundaries of classical ballet in new works of athleticism, emotion and grace. Next, Flamenco Vivo / Carlota Santana (Feb. 14 and 15) brings a vital piece of Spanish culture to Asheville in a showcase of inspiring traditional dance, music and dress. Then, Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre (March 12-14) takes over the new Tina McGuire Theatre, bringing Cuban-American choreographer Herrera’s varied and celebrated contemporary works to the local scene. Past-season favorite Pilobolus returns with “Shadowland: The New Adventure,” (March 24 and 25), using their signature shadowy theatrics to tell an all-new tale that’s equal parts love story and science fiction. Wrapping up the Dance Series, as well as the entire Season, the Dance Theatre of Harlem celebrates its 50th Anniversary Tour (May 5 and 6), using its forward-thinking, impassioned repertoire to celebrate the African American culture through the language of dance.

The Theatre Series begins on the intimate Tina McGuire Theatre stage, with The Last Great Hunt’s “New Owner” by Arielle Gray and Tim Watts (Jan. 16-19), an award-winning performance that combines puppetry, live action and animation to capture the hearts of dog-lovers around the world. Next, Aquila Theatre Company returns with two classics: George Orwell’s “1984” (Jan. 31), for an eerie look into totalitarian society, and Homer’s “The Odyssey” (Feb. 1), an ancient tale of Greek gods, mythical monsters, adventures at sea and a quest to return home.

The Matinee Series for Students and Families is presented each season for more than 10,000 students who visit the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts to experience entertaining, professional and curriculum-related shows at an affordable cost. From theater to professional dance to musicals from popular storybooks, the popular Matinee Series thrills and delights teens, families, school groups, homeschoolers and youth and community groups throughout Western North Carolina. The 2019/2020 Matinee Series includes returning favorite Theatreworks USA presenting three productions: “Warriors Don’t Cry” (Feb. 6 and 7), which fosters a deeper understanding of civil rights history through the battle to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School; “The Pout-Pout Fish” (Feb. 18 and 19), a magical journey of undersea puppetry based on The New York Times’ bestseller — turning even the poutiest frowns upside down; and “Dog Man: The Musical” (April 1 and 2), based on the bestselling series from the creator of “Captain Underpants.” Bringing Shakespeare to life this season is Warehouse Theatre in “Macbeth” (Oct. 22), a story of power, ambition, desire and consequence. In another Matinee-exclusive performance, ArtsPower brings one of history’s most powerful lessons to life in “My Heart in a Suitcase”(April 21 and 22), detailing one family’s fight to survive in 1938 Germany. Bringing the Wortham Center’s 2019/2020 Season to the Matinee crowd, students and families can enjoy the powerful voices of Zimbabwean a cappella quintet Nobuntu (Oct. 3), the dynamic choreography of BalletX (Oct. 11), the classic Greek epic of Aquila Theatre’s “The Odyssey” (Feb. 3), the living art form of flamenco with Flamenco Vivo / Carlota Santana (Feb. 14), the thunderous drum beats of YAMATO The Drummers of Japan (Feb. 25), the playful and innovative shadow-theatrics of Pilobolus in “Shadowland: The New Adventure” (March 25), and the empowering and impassioned choreography of Dance Theatre of Harlem in its 50th Anniversary Tour (May 6).

Make deeper connections to the Wortham Center’s 2019/2020 Season with Ancillary Events offered by many of the artists, such as Nobuntu’s African dance workshop (Oct. 2) in the new Henry LaBrun Studio. Join BalletX for a master dance class for pre-professional dancers (Oct. 10), as well as a public dance class for all skill levels (Oct. 12) — both in the new Henry LaBrun Studio — along with two pre-performance discussions with the company at the Tina McGuire Theatre. Later in 2019, connect with the musicians of Violet Bell on a deeper level in a special master class “Where Do Songs Come From?” (Dec. 7). To coincide with The Last Great Hunt’s “New Owner,” the artists will host a unique puppetry master class (Jan. 17) in the Tina McGuire Theatre. Prior to both Aquila Theatre productions, the company invites patrons to connect with the works and the company in insightful pre-show discussions (Jan. 31 and Feb. 1). Bring your special someone for an engaging evening with Flamenco Vivo in a special Valentine’s Day pre-show V.I.P. tableau performance (Feb. 14), featuring a special drink and hors d’oeuvres package at the Henry LaBrun Studio. Then, join Flamenco Vivo in the Henry LaBrun Studio again for a community dance master class (Feb. 15), open to all ages and skill levels. During Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre’s Asheville stay, the company will host both a community dance workshop for all skill levels and a master class for dance students in the Henry LaBrun Studio. Then, join Herrera’s company and watch the creative process unfold by attending open rehearsals of a work-in-progress at the Tina McGuire Theatre. Play with Pilobolus at the Henry LaBrun Studio in a master class for intermediate dance students (March 23) — or in a master class open to all skill levels (March 24). Arrive early to either Pilobolus performance for a pre-show discussion with the company. Get to know Wortham Center Artist in Residence Shana Tucker all season long with her performances, outreach and engagement events from September 2019 to April 2020 (details listed above). Celebrating 50 years of dance this season, the Dance Theatre of Harlem invites the public to connect on a deeper level with their work at insightful pre-show discussions (May 5 and 6) in the Tina McGuire Theatre.

The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is located at 18 Biltmore Avenue. The entrance for the Wortham Center is marked by the marquee between 12 and 14 Biltmore Avenue. Patrons enter the theatre through the breezeway, between Marble Slab Creamery and White Duck Taco, into a large interior courtyard with multiple glass doors that lead to the theatre’s lower lobby and box office. The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is the premier performance space in Western North Carolina, encompassing the 500-seat Diana Wortham Theatre, with its exceptional acoustics and sightlines, as well as the new Tina McGuire Theatre, which seats up to 100 patrons, and the new Henry LaBrun Studio, designed for multiple uses with configurations for up to 80 guests. The 2019/2020 Season sponsors are 67 Biltmore, Asheville Citizen-Times, Blue Moon Water, Buncombe County TDA, the North Carolina Arts Council and the Renaissance Asheville Hotel. To obtain more information on the Season or to purchase tickets, call the theatre’s box office at 828- 257-4530 or visit worthamarts.org.

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