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Celebrating 70: Gala, musical usher in exciting summer for KTG

By Amy Millhorn Leonard • May 29, 2017 at 10:30 AM

Kingsport Theatre Guild has an exciting year planned to celebrate its 70th anniversary! It is one of the oldest operating theater groups in the region.

The 70th Season Preview Gala will take place at the Kingsport Renaissance Center on June 2, starting at 7 p.m. and featuring previews for each of this season’s productions along with opportunities to meet cast members. Tickets for the event are $20 each and include hors d’oeuvres and drinks.

This very special 70th season will feature productions presented by Kingsport Theatre Guild in the past - favorites like “Pinkalicious,” “Nanyehi,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Steel Magnolias,” “A Christmas Story,” “Arsenic and Old Lace” and more. The gala will also feature playbills listing original casts from past productions. A ceremony will recognize original production actors like J. Fred Johnson. Well known for his sports endeavors, Mr. Johnson was also a very talented thespian.

Of course, the current season isn't finished yet.

Kingsport Theatre Guild will present “Princess Diana, the Musical” at 7 p.m., June 15-17, and at 2 p.m., June 17-18, at the Renaissance Center. Guild executive director and production director Tina Radtke declares, “The music is so moving; going from tapping your feet to being in tears, it is an entire emotional experience.”

Shelby Potter stars as Diana. Shelby is relatively new to acting on stage, but has quickly become a fan favorite. She was first cast by Kingsport Theatre Guild in the part of Shelby in “Steel Magnolias” in 2015. For the part of Diana, Shelby has worked very hard in successfully developing her East Tennessee accent into a British one, studying Diana’s mannerisms by watching hours of interviews and documentaries about Princess Diana and diligently rehearsing. She was elated when she was cast in the role. The musical will also star Bryce Hurst as Prince Charles, Christy Peters as the Queen and Judy Womack as the Queen Mum.

Musical writer Karen Sokoloff Javitch, composer, lyricist, author and former teacher of the visually impaired, was a huge fan of Princess Diana. Distraught after Diana’s death on Aug. 31, 1997, Karen began writing songs about Diana’s life and the songs became the basis for the musical. “Princess Diana the Musical” tells the story of Diana’s life from Diana’s perspective. The musical begins the day Diana first meets Prince Charles at his 30th birthday party, gives insight into the royal family and their treatment of Diana, and culminates at her tragic death at age 37.

In memorandum of the 20th anniversary year of Princess Diana’s death, Karen Sokoloff Javitch generously offered grants to theatres nationwide for the musical production. Kingsport Theatre Guild was one of only 10 selected.

“Karen has been wonderful and I call her on a regular basis about the production,” Radtke explained.

This summer, Kingsport Theatre Guild will also feature two theatre camps in June and a two-part filmmaking camp in July. Kids will learn all about the stage, songs, how to perform a monologue, choreography, costume making and set building at theatre camp. In film camp, they will learn about the pre-film process, writing, directing, producing and editing. Students will be working with a local film production company and receive IMDB credits for their participation.

Tickets for “Princess Diana the Musical” and the 70th Season Preview Gala, as well season tickets and theatre and film camp registration, are available online at www.kingsporttheatre.org or by phone at 423-392-8427. Be a part of this exciting 70th season!

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