Asheville – The Magnetic Theatre goes outdoors and inside minds with the world premiere of the original play In the Middle of Nowhere, running the first three weekends in May.
Local playwright Bret Murphy wrote this play, which Magnetic’s Artistic Director Katie Jones directs. Jones relishes this resumption of her “directing a full, in-person production” and with a live audience. Since March of last year — over a year ago — amidst the pandemic, Jones stuck to putting on virtual entertainment. She directed two short films for the theater’s Christmas project, Getting Through The HoliDaze.
The “Nowhere” new production showcases TMT’s New Play Development Program, which includes classes. The “writer’s” theater features original works in offering a “stylistically diverse range of performances and programs that connect adventurous artists to a sophisticated audience that expects to be challenged” Jones stated. “These productions are thoughtful, relevant, unfiltered, and boundary-pushing excursions.”
Showtimes are 2 or 6 pm on Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays.
The venue is in French Broad River Park, at 508 Riverview Dr. in Asheville. The park offers playgoers a chance to combine theater and outdoor activities before or afterward. The popular park has a picnic gazebo, scenic river views, an observation deck, greenway access, two fenced-in dog parks, a small playground and restrooms.
The dynamic is both a clash and collaboration of two “outsiders” with diverse personalities, in characters Cynthia Scott (Alesa Bryant) and Del (Ryan Dever), Jones said.
Cynthia is an “eccentric” retired art professor, who moved to local mountains after a “harrowing experience in her ‘previous’ life,” Jones told the Tribune. “She is harsh on the outside and doesn’t care what most people think about her. But she is also wise and compassionate.”
Further, Cynthia is “fiercely independent,” Jones said. “She gets defensive and prideful at points — mostly out of self-preservation.”
Del is recently released from prison, after serving two years as a sex offender for when he was 18 and his girlfriend was 15, Jones points out. “Her parents disapproved,” triggering the criminal charges.
Del is “gentler, easier, and see things more simply” than Cynthia does, Jones said. “He challenges her to take a chance, and move beyond her self-imposed boundaries.”
In exchange, “she challenges him to not just follow society (the church, his parents, the country, etc.) because that’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do.”
An ultimate dilemma is “will either of them accept forgiveness?” Jones said.
The play’s cast includes Brandi Andrade and Kay Galvin, with appearances by Darren Marshall and Christine Caldemeyer.
Originality; Other Shows
The Magnetic Theatre itself is at 375 Depot St. in the River Arts District and is among venues for Asheville Fringe when it is performed in person. It seats 93 people. The theater opened in 2009.
Magnetic’s upcoming events include a variety show (comedy, music, dance, et al) starting this week, on Tuesdays at 7 pm in the Smoky Park Supper Club. Jones said about 50 patrons typically turn out. TMT events were first held there last October. The prior outdoor play, Something I Cared About, was staged at the Reed Creek Greenway a month ago.
A virtual reading entitled The Court of the Grandchildren will be Thursday, April 22 at 7:30 pm. It is about “climate crimes.”
Shakespearean Monologues With Jamie Knox is a six-week course on Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, May 6-June 10. The challenge is to “learn to unveil Shakespearean language in performance, and make his characters authentic.”
Ticket sales for In the Middle of Nowhere will be capped at 50 people, which is one-fourth of capacity, Jones noted. There is a seating chart to space apart patrons. It is BYOC — bring your own (lawn) chair. Seating opens a half-hour ahead of showtimes.
Magnetic Box Office Mgr. “Tippin” will place a sign for each patron group’s assigned spot, to “control the spacing,” Jones said. Patrons are to wear masks, other than when actually eating or drinking. They can bring food and drink.
Tickets are $23 each. The theater’s members can get a discount. The box office number is 239-9250. Check www.themagnetictheatre.org for more info about upcoming shows, and to purchase tickets.