Wilson County native brings adult theatre back to Lebanon

Xavier Smith • Updated May 19, 2016 at 1:00 PM

The directors of this year’s Wilson County Civic League’s annual Black History Month event seek to bring adult theatre back to the eastern part of the county. 

Mitchell Vantrease and Brady Quisberg started the Centerstage Theatre Co. and will kick off the organization’s run with a rendition of “Steel Magnolias” next month. The group will be housed at the Wilson County Civic League building on Market Street.

 “We’re pretty excited about it. It’ll be the first time adult theatre is in Lebanon and Watertown since, I believe, 2001,” Vantrease said. 

Vantrease directed the Broadway classic, “A Raisin in the Sun,” by Lorraine Hansberry earlier this year and called it “the start of something special.” Centerstage is the special he envisioned months ago.

“A lot of the talent we got for this show came to [‘A Raisin in the Sun,’] and they saw how great some of the people that performed for the first time were,” he said, noting the large number of people who auditioned for the production. 

“We could’ve cast the entire show twice,” he said, noting Steel Magnolias made for the perfect initial production under the official label.

“The show doesn’t say anything about the race of the women, so we just went with the best from auditions,” Vantrease said. He said the production features a mixed cast with varying levels of experience, similar to the “Raisin” cast.

Vantrease said “Steel Magnolias” would be the first of four or five productions the group will put on through May 2017. He said the duo also plans to do community outreach, which includes adult and youth acting classes. He said Centerstage would eventually branch into youth productions, as well.

“This is more than just putting on shows. We want to have a full outreach program for the community,” he said.

“Steel Magnolias” will show at the Wilson County Civic League Center the weekends of June 17-26, something Vantrease said is a byproduct of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

“It’s hard to do just one weekend for a show when you put all that hard work into it,” he said. 

Vantrease said the community responded and showed an overwhelming amount of support for “A Raisin in the Sun,” which helped him know it was time for an adult theatre production group to return to Lebanon.

“It’s time, because there are not a lot of programs in the Lebanon-Watertown area. I think it’s time to bring arts back in a big way in Lebanon. The arts really help expose people to things they wouldn’t have otherwise. People can be on stage or behind the scenes,” he said.

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