Common Thread Opens New Company with Segregation Theme
A new theatre company is born! The newly formed Common Thread Theatre Collective staged its inaugural production, Violet, last Friday evening at the Barber Theatre at the Davidson College campus with continuing performances each weekend through July 3.
Common Thread was formed by faculty members from Davidson College and North Carolina A&T State University. Last fall, Davidson’s Theatre Department Chair Mark Sutch, Producer Karli Henderson, Choreographer Donna Baldwin-Bradby, and Costumer Designer Greg Horton set out to create a different kind of professional summer stock theatre. Their objective was “to create bold, engaging productions for the Lake Norman/Charlotte region, focusing on the voices and stories of communities who have traditionally been underrepresented in the American mainstream theatre.”
The musical drama, Violet, fit the bill. The play, focused on segregation in the 1960s, illustrates conditions around the country, particularly in the south. South Carolina native Jeremy DeCarlos directs the play written by Brian Crawley, with music by Jeanine Tesori. Charlene Miranda Thomas is Common Thread’s musical director, intoning 26 songs the actors perform to relate the drama.
Ava McAllister Smith plays Violet, most of the time singing tunes. Grace Carmody is her younger self, Young Violet, who remains on the farm, while she travels by Greyhound bus to the city seeking a new image.
Shawn Halliday, Violet’s Father, is outstanding. His clear voice enunciates each word in the tunes he renders, particularly with emotion toward the end singing “That’s What I Could Do.”
Segregation is part of everyday life when Violet rides the bus in 1964. Unperturbed, she befriends two soldiers, Monty, who is white, performed by Seth Nelson, and Flick, whom she seems to prefer, played by Joshua Suiter who is Black. Joshua’s voice range is amazing!
Violet’s unprejudiced actions lead to criticism by fellow passengers, both white and Black played by an Ensemble including Willa Bost, Corin Davis, Joanna Gerdy, Stephen Emery, Meredith Iodice, Lane Morris, Tatum Moxley, Shawnna Pledger, Nathan Salley, Joseph Santi-Unger, Jada Wesley, and La’Tonya R. Wiley.
Common Thread’s premiere production is beautifully staged. The content of musical numbers is backed up by realistic scenes on overhead video designed by Chip Davis, enhanced by Rachael Blackwell’s creative lighting design. Gregory Horton’s costumes are crisp and elegant. The Barber’s solid running door facilitates unique scene changes without much stagehand fuss.
Although Violet is performed without intermission, the script’s 26 vocal numbers make it seem long, creating difficulty at times to grasp specific words and issues of the storyline.
Common Thread is a welcome professional summer company to the Lake Norman area. It is gratifying to see the faces of new actors among well-known performers, like Joanna Gerdy and Lane Morris, on the college stage. More!
And we shall have it. Common Thread Theatre Collective will present Barbecue at the Barber during the month of July.
Connie Fisher, neé Consuelo Carmona, is a Davidson resident who grew up in Mexico City where she became a journalist and acquired a taste for the theatre. Her preference for work behind the scenes, led to an interest in writing reviews—Yale Rep among her favorite troupes. Connie is the author of Doing it the Right Way, the biography of an Italian hatmaker. Her prose appears with 87 other international writers in The Widows’ Handbook. An active member of Charlotte Writers’ Club North, currently she is writing chapters of memoir and continues to review theatre in the Lake Norman area.