Raise the curtain: Lee Street unveils ninth season, names interim artistic director

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2016

By Susan Shinn

For The Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — As Lee Street Theatre prepares to set sail into Season 9, there’s a new captain at the wheel. Or a new director in the chair, if you will.

On July 1, Craig Kolkebeck became interim artistic director at the theater. He’ll continue his duties at Catawba College as assistant professor of theatre arts, as part of a partnership recently announced by the theater and the college. The theater’s first managing artistic director, Justin Dionne, is set to begin graduate school in Florida next month.

Kolkebeck is a familiar face at Lee Street, having directed “A Few Good Men,” “The Parchman Hour” and “Shipwrecked.”

Kolkebeck, 59, is a longtime actor and director, having worked in Los Angeles for 15 years. While in Texas, he served as artistic director for two companies, one of which was bilingual. He became a freelance actor and director in the 1990s, working in stunt shows in the theme park industry. When that industry began to wane after 2001, Kolkebeck segued into reality television.

But his brother had attended Catawba, married a Southern girl, and never came home to their native New York, Kolkebeck reports. His parents followed, as did Kolkebeck and his wife in 2005. He became active in local and regional theater, and Dr. Woody Hood invited him to teach at Catawba.

“I’ve been called a teaching director,” Kolkebeck says, “and that’s the greatest compliment anybody’s ever given me. When I work with people, I try to get the best performances out of them that I can.”

He wasn’t considering applying for the position, but with Shari Graham, Lee Street’s incoming board president, Catawba President Brien Lewis and Catawba Provost Dr. Michael Bitzer sat down to discuss the position.

“We thought we could make it a worthwhile partnership if Catawba would place a faculty member as artistic director,” Kolkebeck says.

So he, Dionne and John Brincefield, Lee Street’s current chair, put together a proposal.

“The department already has a relationship with Lee Street in so many ways,” Kolkebeck says.

Now that relationship has been formalized.

“In terms of enrollment and recruitment,” Kolkebeck says, “this partnership is going to be extremely valuable to the college.”

Students will have the opportunity to work as actors, designers, technical assistants and in management, Kolkebeck says, in a working theater environment.

“I would like to see an ensemble that integrates students with performers, something that lets us bust down the walls of the theater and get into the community,” Kolkebeck says.

He definitely wants to continue and expand Lee Street’s tradition of community outreach, he says. “There’s only so much we can do within the walls of the theater.”

Here’s what’s happening inside those four walls in Season 9.

• “Exit — Pursued by a Bear,” Sept. 8-10, 15-17, by Lauren Gunderson. The first show is a comedy about spousal abuse. Think “Goodbye Earl,” the Dixie Chicks hit from a few years back, Dionne says.

“There’s silliness,” Kolkebeck admits. “But inside of that is this wonderful core of message and meaning.”

The play uses comedy to explore important topics, Dionne adds.

• “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Oct. 13-15 and 20-22, by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Alborn. This play, based on the popular book, will feature a two-person cast. The movie starred Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria.

“After directing 14-member and 17-member shows, I’m excited to have just two actors,” Kolkebeck notes.

“This is a wonderful story that explores end-of-life care,” Dionne says.

• “Reefer Madness,” Nov. 10-12 and 17-19, by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney. Beth Homan, Catawba’s assistant professor of theater arts, will direct this “tongue-in-cheek” musical.

“It’s based on a 1940s movie, warning of the evils of marijuana,” Kolkebeck says. “It’s almost a satire on the movie.”

• “10 Minutes to Christmas,” Dec. 7-10, is the theme of this year’s 10-minute play festival.

“We’ve got a Christmas theme going on this year with the festival, Polar Express and the Scrooge Trolley Tour,” Kolkebeck notes.

• “Viva Las Vegas,” Jan. 19-22 and 26-28, 2017. This Vegas variety-style show continues the theater’s run of cabaret shows.

• “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Feb. 23-26, March 2-4, 2017, by Francs Goodrich and Albert Hackett. This is the first of two plays presented by the Center for Faith & the Arts.

Even though plays such as this are set months in advance, Dionne says, “they end up being the right plays at the right time.”

• “Alice in Wonderland,” April 27-29, 2017. This production is a dance showcase, directed by Meredith Fox in partnership with Catawba’s Theatre Arts Department. Fox is an assistant professor of musical theatre and dance at Catawba.

• “Boeing Boeing,” May 18-20 and 25-27, 2017, by Marc Camoletti. Lee Street takes on farce for the first time with this production. A man meets his mistresses, all flight attendants on different airlines, in Paris. But schedules change and they all arrive on the same day. Hilarity, as they say, then ensues.

• “Big Fish,” June 15-17 and 22-24, 2017, based on the movie, with book by John August and music by Andrew Lippa. The movie is based on the book created by Daniel Wallace, a Chapel Hill-based writer.

“It’s a beautiful show and a beautiful play,” Dionne says.

The story of a father and son opens on Father’s Day weekend, he adds.

• “Pride and Prejudice,” July 20-23 and 27-29, 2017. This classic story, the second play presented by Center for Faith & the Arts, has been adapted by Jenny Hubbard.

“This is a great season and a fun season,” Dionne says. “We’ve got some ‘name’ shows, we’ve got funny stuff that explores issues, and we’ve got some challenging shows. Those three words, ‘original,’ ‘challenging’ and ‘entertaining’ are all in this season. And those words are in our mission statement.”

The theater’s annual fundraiser, Night at the Cirque, is set for April 8, 2017.

Season tickets for the 2016-17 season are now on sale. For details, visit www.leestreet.org or 704-310-5507.


Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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