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RUSSELL COUNTY ARTS COUNCIL: Star Theater Announces 15th Anniversary Season

In the  1950’s crowds flocked to The Star Theater on Main Street to pass the afternoons away watching movies and spending time with friends. One of the first buildings in Russell County with air conditioning, it was frequented by the young and old until its closure. In 1986 a group of talented individuals from Jamestown and Russell County , with the goal of supporting the arts through their acting group the Ruscotown Players, formed The Russell County Arts Council.

For several years, their venue remained  the Old Liberty Play House. As their popularity caused them to grow, it was soon decided a larger venue was needed. In the early 1990’s the historic Star Theater was acquired and completely remodeled through grants and donations. After re-opening its doors in July 1994, with the show “It was a Dark and Stormy Night”, over a hundred shows have been staged.

These shows have ranged from comedies such as the “Virgil series”, “Faith County”, “Haunted Honeymoon”, “Harvey”, “The Beverly Hillbillies”,  to dramas like “Steel Magnolias”, “Dracula”, “Frankenstein”, and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” to musicals such as "Annie", "Oklahoma!","The Sound of Music", "The Music Man" and "Little Shop of Horrors" and productions such as "The Velveteen Rabbit", "A Christmas Story" and "Peter Pan."

Also the Star has been host to Children’s Theater productions like “ Charlotte ’s Web”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “the Wizard of Oz”, “Oliver Twist”, and others. The Dance Shoppe has performed at the Star with shows like “The Nutcracker.” The Star Theater has also been home to the Russell County High School Drama class who has preformed shows like “Grease!”, “Rebel Without a Cause”, and “The Outsiders”.  Between these main stage productions special events are also held throughout the year. Country music star Steve Wariner has performed several concerts over the years as have gospel music singer, Sharon Payne, Shawn Samuels and others.

Whether you have been to every production at the historic Star Theater on Main Street in Russell Springs , or never been, one thing is certain: you won’t want to miss a single show in the theater’s landmark 15th anniversary season. For the first time in 15 years, The Russell County Arts Council will increase the season from six shows to seven. This season schedule is unlike any before with a mix of the classics you love with new shows that you have always wanted. This is the season that is guaranteed to bring a big smile to your face with attractions for everyone.

You will return to Hacker Mountain as Pa tries to hitch the youngans in a reprise of “Corn County”, celebrate the summer with Charlie Brown and Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”, take trips to Salem in October with “The Crucible”, visit Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life” during Christmastime. You will see the magic of the Blue Fairy in “Pinocchio” and want to belong with “The Outsiders”.

Season 15 will jumpstart with a lively reprise of the hillbilly comedy that made Star Theater history with the largest crowds to date. This unique comedy features a huge cast of over 60 with three directors. Act 1 begins with the Children’s Theater under the direction of Gary L. McGowan, who also authored the play. All is dandy on Hacker Mountain until Grandma and Grandpa show up and decide that the youngans need to be hitched. Years pass as the Russell County High School Drama Class takes over the second act under the direction of Mary McGowan.  Everyone is desperate because the youngans still aren’t hitched. Grandpa and Grandma have a plan that could save the day. The third act features the Ruscotown Players under the direction of Debbie Bell. The youngans have all grown up and still aren’t hitched. It is time for desperate measures as anyone who will marry the not so beautiful daughters will be given a large piece of land. “ Corn County ” will play the last weekend in August 23-24, and the second weekends in September of the 6-7. Advance tickets are now available at Grider’s Drug on Main St. for $5 or may be purchased at the door for $6 per person.

 The second main stage production will be Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” In the Puritan New England town of Salem , Massachusetts , a group of girls goes dancing in the forest with a black slave named Tituba. While dancing, they are caught by the local minister, Reverend Parris. One of the girls, Parris’s daughter Betty, falls into a coma-like state. A crowd gathers in the Parris home while rumors of witchcraft fill the town. Having sent for Reverend Hale, an expert on witchcraft, Parris questions Abigail Williams, the girls’ ringleader, about the events that took place in the forest. Abigail, who is Parris’s niece and ward, admits to doing nothing beyond “dancing.” Made into a popular film during the late 90’s starring Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis, “The Crucible” is just the right play to get you into the mood for Halloween. “The Crucible” is directed by Todd Wilson and will play the first two weekends of October 3, 4, 5 and 10, 11, 12.

“Ghosts of Russell County ” return to The Star Theater on October 23. This one night event which sold out last season will feature several authors of the macabre including Roberta Simpson Brown and Lynwood Montell.

In November, Star audiences will take a trip to the fictions town of Bedford Falls in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Based on the holiday classic featuring Jimmy Stewart, it has become almost as familiar as Dickens' “A Christmas Carol”. The story is a natural for a stage adaptation: the saga of George Bailey, the Everyman from the small town of Bedford Falls, whose dreams of escape and adventure have been quashed by family obligation and civic duty, whose guardian angel has to descent on Christmas Eve to save him from despair and to remind him—by showing him what the world would have been like had he never been born—that his has been, after all, a wonderful life. This faithful adaptation has all your favorite characters: George and Mary Hatch, Clarence, Uncle Billy, Violet, and, of course, the Scrooge-like villain, Mr. Potter. This fine dramatization not only celebrates the faith of the season, it also celebrates the American philosophy of life: hard work, fair play and the love and support of one's family and community will be rewarded. “It’s a Wonderful Life is directed by Mary McGowan and will play November 15, 16, 22, 23.

In February a poignant adaptation of “Pinocchio” will transform the Star stage into a place of wonderment and magic. A troupe of actors, escaping through the mountains from a civil war are caught in a violent winter storm and seek shelter in an abandoned puppet theatre. The eccentric old puppeteer who lives in the theatre gives the acting troupe refuge overnight. During the night, while the adults are asleep, he tells the two restless children the story of Pinocchio. When one of the children asks: "Is it a true story?" the old man replies: "It's more than true, it's real. I mean, when I tell it—it happens." Thus begins the well-known tale of the wooden boy who must learn some hard lessons before he can become real. Directed by Todd Wilson, “Pinocchio” will play February the 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22.

In April 2009, “The Outsiders” returns to The Star Theater’s stage. The characters—Dallas, who wasn't tough enough; Sodapop, the happy-go-lucky dropout; Bob, the rich kid whose arrogance cost him his life; Ponyboy, the sensitive, green-eyed Greaser who didn't want to be a hood—all return in this poignant  stage adaptation  that deals with real people, seen through the eyes of young Ponyboy, a Greaser on the wrong side of life, caught up in territorial battles between the have-it-made rich kids—the Socs—and his tough, underprivileged "greaser" family and friends. Cherry, a beautiful Soc, comes to share a special sensitivity with Ponyboy as she discovers that he remembers poems and needs to watch sunsets. At the same time, Cherry's attracted to the older, tougher Dallas , and in a sense she's caught in the violent space between the Greasers and the Socs. While the Socs appear to have everything, the only thing a Greaser has is his friends. As these young people try to find themselves and each other, as the sadness of sophistication begins to reach them and their battles and relationships reach a resolution. “The Outsiders” will play April 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26. This play is directed by Gary L. McGowan.

The season will end with a production of the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown on June 12, 13, 14, 16,17,18 2009 and is based on the popular comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz. You will follow an average day in the life of Charlie Brown. It is a day made up of little moments picked from all the days of Charlie Brown, from Valentine's Day to the baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair, all mixed in with the lives of his friends (both human and non-human) and strung together on the string of a single day, from bright uncertain morning to hopeful starlit evening. From Snoopy battling the Red Baron to the championship baseball game to the gang writing their book reports on Peter Rabbit, adults and kids of all ages are sure to be entertained. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is directed by first-time directors Kelvin Bailey and Barb Harford, who have been in several productions at The Star Theater over the last few years.

Besides providing events on the main stage, the Norfleet Gallery, which is located besides the theater is host to a number of other events. Periodically rock concerts and dinner theaters are offered in this venue, which was added in 2005. A portable stage also makes it an ideal place for performances offered by the Russell County High School Drama Class. Planning for these events for the season is under way. For the latest in show dates, times and other information, visit The Star Theater’s website at or call 866-7827.

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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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