They say the best way to get to know someone is to walk a mile in their shoes. This being the case, the best way to get to know a theater department is to see one of their shows and experience their talent for yourself.
So that’s what I did. I was invited to go see Gainesville State College’s current production of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I went and was completely blown away at their facilities, volunteers, staff, cast, the whole nine yards.
Everyone knows about the impending merger of our two schools, but for the most part, students don’t have a clear understanding of what that will mean for their day-to-day campus life. I’m as unclear as the rest of them.
But what I do know is that a merge with the well-established theater department of Gainesville State will greatly help the fledgling program we’re trying to sustain here.
While North Georgia is not lacking in any of the academic departments, the fine arts have been somewhat swept under the rug, especially where the theater department is concerned. Lack of interest, lack of budget and lack of proper facilities have all contributed to the problem.
At North Georgia most rehearsals for theater-related events take place in the Fine Arts Annex; a building the majority of the campus doesn’t even know exists. It is a dilapidated, abandoned elementary school a few blocks from campus that creative types frequent. There are weaving, ceramics, and other studios, as well as a somewhat large classroom where rehearsals are underway for the upcoming show “Noises Off.”
Other than Hoag, North Georgia doesn’t have a theater for student productions. Student actors rehearse in a classroom at the Annex, or sometimes in Hoag when it’s available and sometimes at the Holly, after hours when the rehearsal for the children’s show is over.
But upon entering the campus for Gainesville, there are signs that point the way to the Performing Arts Center, a large brick building with panoramic glass windows and a real theater inside.
Upon entering the building, I was greeted by smiling volunteers and patrons waiting to enter the theater. Inside, the stage was decorated tastefully, simply and it was obvious that there was a rather large budget involved.
The house filled quickly, nearing almost capacity, which was surprising for a weeknight show. Then the lights went down and the show began. The performance was excellent and definitely on a professional level.
But first, a curtain speech was delivered by Jim Hammond, Professor of Theater, Artistic and Managing Director of Gainesville Theater Alliance. In his brief speech, he outlined next year’s season, totaling five shows.
These shows are possible through community support, with “sixty to seventy percent of funds coming through season ticket sales” making early planning of the upcoming shows possible this early in the game.
Gainesville State’s theater program works in tandem with Brenau University and together they form the Gainesville Theatre Alliance (GTA). They offer several degrees in theater, but specifically at Gainesville, students can receive a Certificate in Technical Theater, Associate of Arts with an emphasis in theater, or a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Design and Technology for Theater.
At North Georgia, we have a Theater minor, which is impossible to complete due to the classes being nonexistent, or never offered.
The GTA won a national award in 2000 for academic excellence and cost management from The American Council on Education, and has been called “a model theater program.” It is also considered one of the best theater companies in the state of Georgia by the Georgia Council for the Arts.
So in this merger with Gainesville, there are several things that will be changed for the better. North Georgia will be gaining a superb theater program with talented students and staff that has community support. This will help to further Gainesville’s effort to produce more “educated artists” both at Gainesville, and at North Georgia.