VICKI LAWRENCE HEADLINES REVIVAL OF UNA SUMMER THEATRE PROGRAM
June 3, 2008
FLORENCE, Ala. – For Will Stutts, summers during his undergraduate days provided the foundation for most everything he has done in professional theatre over the past four decades. His alma mater, the University of North Alabama, initiated a summer theatre program in 1970, and for eight years some of the brightest stars of stage, screen and television came to Florence to perform and share their own experiences in the entertainment industry. Personalities such as Mercedes McCambridge, Peggy Cass, Van Johnson, Sal Mineo, Janis Paige, Broderick Crawford and many others were a part of the program.
“In the ’70s, celebrities like these would visit UNA each year, give performances and talk with theatre students and others about careers in entertainment,” said Stutts, whose career has included Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, acting and directing at virtually every major regional theatre in the country, and accolades as a playwright and master of the one-person show.
Stutts is bringing the UNA summer theatre program back to life in July, with Emmy Award-winning actress Vicki Lawrence as headline guest. Lawrence, famous for her endearing character Thelma Harper, or “Mama,” was part of the now-legendary cast of “The Carol Burnett Show.” Stutts met Lawrence years ago in California, when the two were embarking on their careers.
“Vicki never lost touch with people, her audience, and remains one of the most giving performers I have ever met,” Stutts said. “She is really committed to sharing her experience with others.”
“We are proud that Mr. Stutts is using his entertainment success as a platform to offer current UNA students and others of the Shoals area the same opportunities he had in his early career,” said Dr. William G. Cale, UNA president.
Dr. Bill Huddleston, chairman of the UNA Department of Communication and Theatre, said he anticipates the program being “a UNA as well as a Shoals community event. This is for theatre students and anyone else interested in theatre, or just a fun, entertaining performance by one of our special guests.”
The summer theatre program will kick off July 5 with Stutts’ “Mark Twain’s America,” the show he began while a student at UNA in 1968. For 40 years, Stutts’ show has toured the entire country and Canada in more than 1,000 performances in a variety of venues. He will perform the popular one-person show that evening at 8:15 in Norton Auditorium.
Stutts is also directing a production of the Tammy Wynette musical “Stand by Your Man” by Mark St. Germaine, which will run for four performances July 10-12 in Norton Auditorium. The play will also feature music director and conductor Nathan Perry, who is currently on tour as music director and conductor for the Johnny Cash musical, “Ring of Fire.”
Lawrence will conclude the summer program July 31 with a one-day acting workshop at UNA as well as a performance of her show “Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two Woman Show.” The performance will take stage at 8:15 p.m. at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center.
In addition to performances, the summer theatre program will offer a series of seminars, workshops and master classes on various aspects of theatre, including movement, monologues, audition techniques and stage management. The program will also include a special two-day seminar/workshop with nationally known casting director Mike Lemon of Mike Lemon Casting.
For more information or ticket purchases, call 256-765-4201 or visit www.una.edu/summertheatre.