South Boston puts on a show

The performing arts are at home on Main Streets throughout Virginia. Commissioned works on a regional theme premiere at Abingdon’s Barter Theatre.  Shakespearean tragedies move audiences at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton. And audiences around the country tune in to watch bluegrass legends pick and sing on Song of the Mountains from the stage of Marion’s Lincoln Theatre. 

South Boston’s Prizery has added to that list by providing a community-centered arts venue that hosts touring groups and offers classes. In 2009 the Virginia Commission for the Arts named the Prizery the Rising Star Award as an up-and-coming arts organization having a significant impact on its community.

Now, in an era in which many performing arts groups have pulled back their offerings due to economic uncertainty, The Prizery has moved ahead as a driving force in the  community’s arts- and culture-based economic restructuring strategy with a new summer-stock effort.

This summer, the renovated tobacco warehouse will be home to professional actors who  have moved from as far away as the Gulf Coast for paying jobs in original productions of three Broadway-style musicals.

“I am taking a chance on The Prizery because they are taking a chance on me,” says Mary Linehan, an on-stage ensemble actress as well as a costume intern who hails from Findlay, Ohio.

Merchants are getting behind the effort as well. A downtown café owner will bring over  freezers of homemade gelato to sell at matinée intermissions. Local restaurants – from renowned upscale eateries to a landmark hot-dog stand – are distributing fliers and urging support.

“In addition to the obvious impacts to our hotels and restaurants, the Summer Theatre Celebration offers us a unique opportunity to cultivate more than 20 ambassadors for Halifax County,” says Mike Sexton, executive director of the Industrial Development Authority of Halifax County. These professional actors and technical people will be living in our community for nearly three months, and if we do our job correctly, when the leave, they will tell others about the wonderful experience they had while working here.”

Dames at Sea, All Night Strut, and Annie will run for a combined 32 shows between June 24 and Aug. 7. Tickets and links to trip-planning tools are available at www.prizery.com.

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