Opening night of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s “The Great Gatsby” brought in a packed house and thunderous applause. ASF is the first theater in the Southeast to present Simon Levy’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel.
Meanwhile, the city of Anniston’s video competition,“City of Storytellers,” is gaining momentum. A public meeting later this month provides a chance to see the first few entries. Then, in Talladega the Historic Ritz Theatre’s spring productions highlight Alabama successes in two very different ways.
‘The Great Gatsby’ at ASF
Our group from Anniston expected to see high-caliber acting in this production, which we did, but we were especially enthralled with the set. Cleverly designed by scenic designer James Walk, making his design debut at ASF, the set is minimal but elaborate with a platform suspended across the back of the stage serving as a bridge as well as the upper story of Gatsby’s mansion. The living room windows in four different scenes are flown in and out, and the Jazz Age furniture, costumes and dancing make it a visual jewel.
Anniston native Rodney Clark is seen in four supporting roles: Meyer Wolfshiem, a member of the underground of the time; Mr. McKee, a photographer; a cop and a dancer. Clark’s wife, Greta Lambert, plays Mrs. McKee, Mrs. Michaelis and a dancer. “Gatsby” continues through Feb.16, and again May 18, 22 and 25. Tickets range from $35-$60.
The next production (Feb.14-March 2) is “Twenty Seven” adapted from William Faulkner’s “Old Man,” a tale set in the great storm of 1927. For information on this and other productions this season, call 800-941-4273 or visit online at www.ASF.net.
Film showcase Feb. 20
The Yellowhammer Filmmakers invite everyone to see “Missed Connection” and “Damaged,” written and produced by group members Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at McClellan Park Business Center (the old PX). This is also the first opportunity to see entries into the City Of Storytellers video competition
“We’d like everyone to see what’s being done artistically with films in this area,” said Yellowhammer President Annie Brunson. “Cinema is a collaborative effort. You don’t have to be behind a camera to be a part of it. There are countless ways to help, and there’s much to be done.”
“Missed Connection” is a short suspense film about the consequences of a missed phone call. “Damaged” explores the plight of veterans facing homelessness and PTSD. The first video entry for City of Storytellers focuses on the history of Anniston, Brunson said.
There are many more possibilities for film subjects. For example, a narrative on famous Annistonians such as Ruth Elder, the first woman to fly the Atlantic. Or perhaps a look at the city’s museums, the biking trails, high schools (there’s been much interest among students, Brunson said), historic bed and breakfasts, the founding of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Anniston, various segments of Fort McClellan history, the town’s churches, gardens (the Botanical Gardens at the Anniston Museum or the many community gardens) — the possibilities are limitless.
Brunson said she would like to see a documentary made by an older resident about life here 50 years ago, and a film focusing on unsung heroes such as our policemen and firemen.
For more information, visit www.YellowhammerFilmmakers.org. Full guidelines for the video competition are at www.cityofstorytellers.wdng.net.
Ritz lineup celebrates Alabama legends
Few people know it, but Muscle Shoals, a small town on the south bank of the Tennessee River in northwest Alabama, played a key part in pop-music history. Legendary artists of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s recorded in the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, said to be a world-class facility. The Ritz Theatre in Talladega will show “Muscle Shoals,” a documentary featuring artists such as Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge performing in the studio, Friday, March 14, at 7 p.m. The spotlight also falls on Rick Hall, who founded Fame Studio in 1959 and brought black and white musicians together to create unforgettable vocal sounds. Jimmy Johnson, an inductee of the Alabama Hall of Fame whose guitar is on view at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, will be present to answer questions.
Then on April 10 at 7 p.m., the theater presents “The Miracle Worker,” a moving and timeless tale about the human spirit. Penned by William Gibson, the film tells the true story of Tuscumbia native Helen Keller, deaf and blind since infancy who, with the help of her tutor Annie Sullivan, found her way into the world of language after much frustration and rage.
For more information, call the Ritz at 256-315-0000 or www.visittalladegaritz.com.