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New book club enhances theater experience

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Now that the Walton Arts Center is on the other side of all its construction -- and has one season under its belt with the beautiful new spaces of the facility -- staff members are looking for new ways to fully use all the resources at their disposal in engaging community.

"That's something we've continually done," says WAC public relations director Jennifer Wilson. She points to the 10x10 Arts Series as a successful example of using activities before and after a performance to immerse an audience. The "Broadway series is a huge draw and it gives us a unique opportunity because the show is here for multiple days. The challenge is, even though we have them here for [several days], their time is very busy. So we wanted to find a way to engage that didn't necessarily involve the cast or crew that still let people develop a deeper relationship or a deeper understanding with the work."

FAQ

Broadway Book Club

WHEN — The Monday following each Broadway show’s run (except “Finding Neverland”)

WHERE — Sudduth Garden Room inside Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville

COST — Free to participate; readers are also eligible for a 10 percent discount on tickets to select performances

INFO — 571-2719, waltonartscenter.org

FYI — Please contact group sales coordinator Kimberly Jones at the number above to register for the Broadway Book Club and reserve a spot.

FYI

Book Club Schedule

• Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” — “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon, Oct. 9

• Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” — “White Christmas: The Story of an American Song” by Jody Rosen, Nov. 13

• “Finding Neverland” — “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie, Dec. 18

• “Cabaret” — “Berlin Stories” by Christopher Isherwood, Jan. 22

• “An American in Paris” — “Suite Française” by Irène Némirovsky, Feb. 12

• “RENT” — “Down These Mean Streets” by Piri Thomas, March 5

• “Beautiful - The Carole King Musical” — “A Natural Woman: A Memoir” by Carole King, April 30

• “The Sound of Music” — “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, May 21

WAC engagement coordinator Meghan Foehl suggested the idea of pairing a book with each show in the Broadway series for a community-building book club. Many shows in the 2017-18 season are either based on a book or have an obvious direct counterpart -- like new musical "Finding Neverland" telling the semi-biographical account of "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie; or "White Christmas: The Story of an American Song" of course pairing with Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." The program seemed like a perfect fit.

"I thought it would be an easy way for folks who like to read to kind of engage further in the background and the social context of the show, but also as a way for us to talk about adaptations," shares Foehl. "I love adaptations, so being able to talk about the production choices that were made -- scenic design and costume design, the character choices and what story elements were included and what was left out -- is always fun for me."

Half the shows in the series have either a book with a direct connection, or work of source material -- as with "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" based on King's memoir. For the other four shows, Foehl reveals she conducted extensive research to find the most effective reading choice. Using works set in the same time period as the stories that will unfold on stage was her key point of connection.

"One of the ways we decided the book club meeting should take place after the show was we don't do a lot of the post-show discussion," Foehl says, acknowledging the Creative Conversations that often take place before a show with cast or crew from the production. "This is kind of an opportunity afterwards to be able to say you saw the show and you also did a little bit further reading with the background or themes or time frame, and then a chance to process all that and make meaning from both the performance and the book."

Those interested in the book club are free to read just one book or all eight, regardless of their involvement in other reading groups, and can receive up to four discounted tickets to select performances for each show in which they plan to participate. The discussions may involve questions pulled from educational material provided by the shows, but Foehl and Wilson both assert they want to leave plenty of room for flexibility and growth so as to avoid limiting what the program can be.

"We didn't want to limit it or target an individual group, because book lovers are everybody -- [they] cross all kinds of demographics," Wilson adds. "That's ultimately what we want to do is create community."

NAN What's Up on 09/08/2017

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