Theater revival

Published 11:27 am Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stuart Aronson has two things on his mind these days: a theater revival in Beaufort County and finding some real talent to back it up.

Aronson is author of “Blackbeard, Knight of the Black Flag,” a play that ran many a summer night in Bath’s long-gone, outdoor theater. The play he’ll be staging once more is another piece of Beaufort County history: Edna Ferber’s 1925 visit to eastern North Carolina and her adventures aboard a floating theater that would be inspiration for the novel and hit Broadway musical “Showboat.”

“Unless you’ve read Edna Ferber’s biography, no one knows how the musical came to be, the novel got written, how she even came to the area,” Aronson said.

Aronson’s comedy, “The Last Showboat,” is a historically accurate rendition of events as they might have transpired when Ferber took a four-day ride up the Pamlico River on the James B. Adams, gathering information for her novel by assuming different roles while on board — among them ticket-taker and actor, in walk-on roles in the nightly performances.

“This is family entertainment,” Aronson said. “It’s a two-act comedy with singing and dancing. It’s a wonderful show.”

Aronson and cast debuted the play to Washington Civic Center crowds in 2005. Then, proceeds went toward the construction of the Thomas Ormond Amphitheater, an outdoor venue located off N.C. Highway 92 just west of Bath. Now, Aronson hopes to breathe new life into a once-vibrant theater community. But he’s not going to attempt it without the best talent out there.

“This is a gamble for me because I have to put up my own money — I’ve never done that before,” Aronson laughed. “And I refuse to do the play unless I can get a stellar cast.”

That stellar cast consists of four women — two of whom have to be able to sing, with one of the two able to dance a vigorous Charleston — and seven men, one of whom should be able to do the same. Aronson’s talent expectations aren’t without incentive: “The Last Showboat” is a paying gig, because if all pans out, it will launch Blackbeard back to the boards, to entertain summer audiences once more.

“If this works, they may consider bringing Blackbeard back. That’s why this is so important — the theater (Ormond Theater) is underused right now,” Aronson said.

Auditions for the play will be held at 1:30 p.m. April 13, at Ormond Theater. Cast members should be between 20 and 50 years of age. Those auditioning should come prepared to recite a short (one minute) monologue and, if auditioning for singing roles, to sing a selection a cappella. Projected performance dates are June 27-29; July 5-6; and July 11-13.

Until opening night, Aronson will be searching for ways to financially facilitate the play, including searching for grants that fall in line with his plans.

“If I can get a grant — I’m home free,” Aronson said.

For more information about auditions, call Stuart Aronson at 252-754-2324.