GTCC THEATER PERFORMS MUSICAL ‘HANDS ON A HARDBODY’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OCT. 6, 2016

Ann Brownlee (Kelli Mangrum); Stephanie Shroeder (Heather Stovall); and Wade Scovern (Wilholte).

From left to right: Ann Brownlee (Kelli Mangrum); Stephanie Shroeder (Heather Stovall); and Wade Scovern (Wilholte). Photo by Jordan Pinnix.

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Ten contestants. Four days. One truck.

Guilford Technical Community College’s Theater program will present the three-time Tony-nominated musical, “Hands on a Hard Body,” this fall.

Inspired by the cult classic documentary of the same name, “Hands on a Hardbody” is about the human drama and comedy of the American dream. For 10 hard-luck Texans, a new lease on life is so close they can touch it. Under a scorching sun for days, armed with nothing but hope, humor and the need to succeed, whoever can remain standing the longest keeping their hand on a brand-new truck gets to drive it home. The musical is inspired by true events and infused with a “fresh roots-rock vibe.”

Performance dates are 7 p.m. Nov.10-12 and Nov.17-19; and 3 p.m. Nov. 13 and 20 at the Center for Creative and Performing Arts Theater, H2 building, located on GTCC’s High Point Campus, 901 S. Main Street.

“This play is timely as it discusses race, the American Dream, and what we are willing to stand up for,” said Joshua Waterstone, the show’s producer and manager as well as a GTCC theater instructor. “It could have easily taken place in High Point, and audiences are in for a treat with the music, singing, acting, choreography and design of this poignant and funny musical.”

Brianna Witherspoon (standing on the truck) plays Norma Valverde in GTCC’s production of “Hand on a Hard Body.” Surrounding her from left to right: Kevin Romero-Ortiz (Jesus Pena); Wade Scovern (Greg Wilholte); Ann Brownlee (Kelli Mangrum); Stephanie Shroeder (Heather Stovall); Mark Flora (Benny Perkins).

Brianna Witherspoon (center) plays Norma Valverde in GTCC’s production of “Hand on a Hard Body.” The cast includes from left to right: Kevin Romero-Ortiz (Jesus Pena); Wade Scovern (Greg Wilholte); Ann Brownlee (Kelli Mangrum); Stephanie Shroeder (Heather Stovall); and Mark Flora (Benny Perkins). Photo by Jordan Pinnix.

“Hands on a Hard Body” was on Broadway in 2013 and nominated for nine Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Musical. The book is by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green, and music by Trey Anastasio (front man for the band Phish) and Amanda Green. The New York Times proclaimed: “You can hear the sound of America singing in this daring new musical.”

“Hands on a Hard Body” is not traditional musical theater, said director Jenna Tamisiea Elser (artistic director of GLOW-Lyric Theatre in Greenville, S.C.). The play is set in the present and has a smaller cast. It’s also about the lives of real people, so the script has a lot of heart and grit, and some splashy musical numbers, too.

“I think it is a brilliant educational experience for the students in that they can relate personally to the journeys of the characters,” Elser said. “In our country, getting an education is a challenging proposition and can be a financial struggle. Students today felt the effects of the most recent recession during their lifetime; they were children when the war in Iraq began. These are the exact circumstances that are affecting the characters in the show in a potent way.”

The musical tackles themes of racism, poverty, immigration, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the economic recession and politics. “A lot of difficult issues that are currently causing tension and division in our country,” Elser said. “I think one of the most powerful things about this show is how it balances these hard issues with the fun, vibrant musical numbers. It provides a really engaging piece of theater that swings your emotions through the whole show.”

The most important element of the musical, Elser said, is the authenticity of the actors’ approach to their characters. Because they’re portraying real life people, believability is essential to engaging the audience.

“If these characters are approached without authenticity, with even an ounce of caricature, we’ve lost the heart of the piece,” Elser said. “I have been working with the actors on building these characters based off of their own personal experiences, so that they can connect in a meaningful way. We work together to immerse them in the given circumstances, the stakes of the contest, the complex backstories, and the budding relationships between the characters. We as an audience have to be able to believe in them and empathize with them in order to stay engaged.”

The cast is a mix of stage veterans from the community and students from GTCC and UNCG.

“I wanted a show that all of our Center for Creative and Performing Arts departments could work together on,” Waterstone said. “We found it in the ambitious show ‘Hands on a Hardbody,’ pulling actors from our GTCC theater, entertainment technology and music programs along with students from UNCG, GTCC alums, stage veterans and professionals in the community.”

The cast includes: Wade Scovern (GTCC); Ann Brownlow (UNCG); Stephanie Schroeder (UNCG); Mark Armstrong (UNCG); Brianna Witherspoon (GTCC alum); Mark Flora; T.J. O’Connor; Kevin Romero-Ortiz; Meridith Stephens; Jacob Luck (UNCG); Kristal Taylor Davis (GTCC); Zac Pettit (GTCC); Jennifer DeCoste; Mike Ferris; Brandon Lucas (GTCC).

The production team is comprised of GTCC students: stage management by Dana Greeson; assistant stage manager is Amanda Weikert; scenic dressing by Amber Shuping; props by Laurabeth Bunch; costume design by Lutoria Cooper. Lighting design and technical direction is by GTCC theater instructor Jody LS Tidwell.

Live sound mixing and audio design is by Jonathan Fishman with assistance by Tamara Cook, both entertainment technology majors at GTCC.

Music direction is by Stephanie Lindley (artistic director of Found Space Theatre in Greensboro). The show’s live band features GTCC students Caleb Hernandez (guitar) and Maurice Dunn (drums), with lead guitar and fiddle by professional musicians from the community, including Lindley on keyboard.

Tickets are $5-$15 and available online at http://www.highpointtheatre.com or by calling the box office at 336-887-3001. Tickets also will be sold at the door on performance nights.

For more information, contact Joshua Waterstone at jswaterstone@gtcc.edu or call 336-334-4822, ext. 50299.

Guilford Technical Community College is the fourth largest of 58 institutions in the NC Community College System. GTCC serves more than 40,000 students annually from five campuses and a Small Business Center. Learn more at www.gtcc.edu.

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— Carla Kucinski

What: GTCC Theater presents ‘Hands on a Hardbody’

When: 7 p.m. Nov.10-12 and Nov.17-19; and 3 p.m. Nov. 13 and 20

Where: Center for Creative and Performing Arts Theater, H2 building, GTCC High Point Campus, 901 S. Main Street

Tickets: $5-$15, available online at http://www.highpointtheatre.com or by calling the box office at 336-887-3001. Tickets also will be sold at the door on performance nights.

Information: Contact Joshua Waterstone at jswaterstone@gtcc.edu or call 336-334-4822, ext. 50299