|Joan Vail Thorne's|
|The Exact Center of the Universe|
|Directed by: Steve Umberger|
|Meet Vada Love Powell, the overbearing but oh-so-genteel matriarch who put the “mother” in “smother.” Vada is left reeling when her beloved only child, the center of her universe and the apple of her eye, gets married without her consent. Before long the whole town is drowning in gossip like biscuits in gravy. An off-Broadway hit, this Southern fried comedy is a delightful reflection on age and change.|
|Approximately 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.|
|Appropriate for ages 8 and up. Babes in arms are not permitted. Mild language.|
Age is a high price to pay for maturity. - Tom Stoppard
There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings. - Hodding Carter Jr.
Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them. - Oscar Wilde
The years teach much which the days never knew. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is my second time working on "The Exact Center of the Universe," and, like the formidable matriarch who is at the center of the play, I see more with the advantage of age. The first time around, I liked the play's wisdom and humor, its genuine affection for its characters, its smart and straightforward storytelling. Now, maybe because I'm a decade older with a daughter in college, I see something else in it. That's the play's affirmation of our capacity to change, especially when it seems to mean losing something that's precious. In the decade we spend with them, the characters in "The Exact Center of the Universe" are facing big changes in their small-town lives, played out against the backdrop of a world that is itself shifting all around them. Keeping their footing on the old course even as they're charting a new one is their challenge - just as it is ours.
Something else that's happened in the ten years since I first worked on the play is that I've become friends with its author, Joan Vail Thorne. A Southerner who has lived most of her life in New York, Joan's writing captures, with humor and precision, the cultural life of her characters. But she also has the gift of placing that life in a larger context, one that I think will resonate especially well for us here in 2011. On the personal side, Joan is also a great collaborator, and, I'm happy to report, a cook to be reckoned with. From one who has been served what she calls her "pseudo-souffle," I can tell you that Vada Love Powell has nothing on Joan in the kitchen. It's a pleasure to have her involved in this Festival Stage season.
We have the unusual opportunity to have the creators of all three plays with us in person this season. I'm pleased to be able to offer our Visiting Playwright Series, which will feature a Q&A session with the playwright at one performance of each of the plays. It's an opportunity to hear and talk with these nationally known artists about their careers in the theatre, and about the work they bring to Festival Stage. This season's plays will take you on a journey from a treehouse in the deep South, to a high school gym talent show, to the offices of a golf magazine where the staff is in overdrive. There's a family comedy, a musical, and a farce. They all have the vibrant, unique voices of their writers, and they promise a great escape to a land of laughter and a celebration of life. We look forward to having you with us on the trip!
| WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
|"If you're in the mood for a delightful, old-fashioned, well-made play, look no farther than Joan Vail Thorne's Exact Center of the Universe, produced by the (very different) Women's Project. It concerns one of those prim yet feisty southern matrons, Vada Love Powell, and her middle-aged son Apple (actually Appleton, but either way the apple of her eye), whom she just about turned into a sissy, until he meets two extraordinary young women.
I can't tell you more about this fragile and aromatic play, except that Vada and her coevals Enid and Marybell like to play canasta and gossip in a tree house, and that Vada's late husband . . . but I mustn't tell you that either. What I can tell you is that under John Tillinger's sympathetic direction Center tickles with its juicy dialogue and zesty characters. The performances of Bethel Leslie, Marge Redmond, Tracy Thorne, and Reed Birney couldn't be more flavorous, and, as Vada, Frances Sternhagen is good enough to eat. In fact, the whole thing leaves you with a distinctive taste in your mouth -- something like dining at your favorite, cozy neighborhood restaurant on a night when the chef surpasses himself."
~John Simon, New York Magazine
The Charlotte Repertory Theatre production of "The Exact Center of the Universe," with (left to right),
Mary Lucy Bivins, Breton Frazier, Rebecca Koon, directed by Steve Umberger
Frances Sternhagen, Tracey Thorne and Reed Birney in the original N.Y. production of
"The Exact Center of the Universe" produced by The Women's Project
Visiting Playwright Series: NEW for 2011-2012! Arrive at 1:15pm on Sunday
October 23rd for a preshow discussion with playwright Joan Vail Thorne and director Steve Umberger. Included in ticket price.
Preshow Talk: Arrive at 1:15pm on Sundays for preshow talks.
Postshow Talkback: Stay after 8:00pm shows for postshow Q&A sessions.