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Lee Street theatre and Catawba College announce partnership

SALISBURY — A new partnership between Lee Street theatre and Catawba College will provide a continuum of great theater and music for the Salisbury community and more real world, hands-on opportunities for Catawba students.

This joint initiative was finalized by Lee Street board members and Catawba faculty and administrators as longtime Lee Street managing artistic director and Catawba alumnus Justin Dionne prepares to exit his role at the end of June to attend graduate school.

As a component of the partnership, Craig Kolkebeck, who has served as Catawba’s scenic shop manager, will assume the position of both interim artistic director for Lee Street and assistant professor of theater arts at Catawba. In doing so, he will continue to serve as scene shop manager and teach two classes in each semester. In addition, he will work with Lee Street to direct shows, oversee the artistic output of guest directors, assist in developing the 2017-18 season of productions and promote those productions, and facilitate and promote the use of Catawba students in a variety of areas at Lee Street. This will afford Catawba students yet another venue to assume roles as performers, in set and lighting design, set construction and administrative operations, enhancing their learning environment and opportunities.

Kolkebeck will also develop a relationship with Catawba’s department of music for opportunities for the ADP and Vernaculars to perform at Lee Street, in addition to scheduling other external music concerts.

“This partnership truly is a perfect alignment of all of our joint resources to benefit our community and the students at Catawba College,” said Lee Street’s incoming board chair Shari Graham. “Craig has every quality and skill set that we were seeking when we sat down to chart Lee Street’s course for the future. And tapping the skills, talents and resources of Catawba students just makes perfect sense. I am so pleased that we have given birth to this idea.”

Kolkebeck came to Salisbury in 2006 from Los Angeles, working with C.A.S.T. theater in Charlotte, as well as being a resident teaching artist with Children’s Theatre Charlotte. He joined the Catawba College theater arts department in June of 2013, bringing with him more than 30 years of experience as a SAG/AFTRA/AEA member professional actor and a professional director. He was the former artistic director for Teatro Los Pobres and Southwest Repertory Organization. His productions have ranged from the smallest of warehouse stages to $1 million venues in the theme park live action stunt show arena here in the U.S., as well as Holland, Germany, Japan and Russia. At Catawba, he discovered a love for teaching and has taught beginning acting for non-majors and acting for the camera, in addition to his role as scene shop manager.

Theater-goers will remember Kolkebeck’s work at Lee Street in the recent productions of “A Few Good Men,” “The Parchman Hour” and “Shipwrecked,” all of which he directed.

“In each of these productions,” Graham said, “it was obvious that the very best performances of his actors occurred due to his direction. The actors loved working for him and loved being directed by him.”

The Lee Street board lauded Dionne, who has worked at Lee Street since its early inception, for helping grow its support in the community.

“He was willing to take risks, wear tons of different hats – he did it all and did it very well,” Graham said. “While we will sorely miss him, he knows and we know that Lee Street is in capable hands with Craig Kolkebeck.”

Catawba Provost Dr. Michael Bitzer shared his pleasure at the new partnership with theater arts faculty on campus. He said, “This partnership will help further the theater arts department’s mission which is ‘to cultivate the growth of well-rounded artist and scholars who are accomplished leaders and theatre-makers, who value creativity as a way of understanding and connecting with the world.’ ”

Lee Street’s next production is “August: Osage County” that runs at 7:30 p.m. July 21-23 and the July 28-30 and at 2:30 p.m. on July 24. It is directed by Dr. Kurt Corriher, a professor emeritus of Catawba College. Tickets are available at http://www.leestreet.org/tickets/.

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