A year of local talent shines through

By Kelly Dickey | The Herald BulletinDec 25, 2016

ANDERSON — As tumultuous as 2016 felt at times, one thing always felt stable: the amount of talent in Madison County.

Complaining and feeling cynical often feels natural, but there are groups of people in the community who work all year to bring joy, entertainment and a brief escape to others through their art.

The Herald Bulletin frequently covers events at local theaters and art galleries. Here are some of the highlights of their contributions to Madison County in 2016.

The Alley Theatre

The Alley Theatre at Central Christian Church has been on the local scene less than two years, but it’s already making touted strong productions.

That continued in 2016, with productions such as “Love Letters, “Steel Magnolias” and Rick Vale’s original screenplay “Snowman: A Christmas Musical.”

But a standout this past year was the theater’s production of “Agnes of God.”

Under the direction of Vale and Bill Malone, the three-member cast gave big, emotional performances. Tiffany Jackson was transcendent as Dr. Martha Livingstone, a fallen Catholic and psychiatrist appointed to diagnose a young nun accused of killing her secret baby. Julia Bratton was chilling as Mother Miriam Ruth, and Ashley Victoria Hastings gave a dynamic performance as a seemingly angelic nun.

Anderson University productions

Anderson University’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is known for its spectacular productions, and the past year was no exception.

The school showed its range with shows such as the opera “Regina” and comedy thriller “Deathtrap.”

The school’s spring production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” brought all 37 of the playwright’s works to Byrum Hall in a hilariously witty, condensed, semi-improvised parody.

On the other hand, the fall production of “Gypsy” showcased the school’s dramatic and musical talent, particularly that of Anna Harkrider, who shifted from young, optimistic Louise to a sultry burlesque diva.

Commons Theatre

The Commons Theatre in Alexandria has grown immensely in its few short years of existence.

That continued throughout 2016 with more ambitious projects, including “Gypsy,” “The Bad Seed” and “The Gift of the Magi.”

The theater brought the chart toppers of yesteryear with the off-Broadway musical revue about a clean-cut quartet who died at the height of their popularity, “Forever Plaid.”

Perhaps more importantly, The Commons continued exposing Madison County kids to the arts with its workshops and youth productions, including “Hairspray Jr.” and “Cinderella.”

Mainstage Theatre

Mainstage Theatre continued its strong standing in the community this year with entertaining productions such “Aladdin Jr.,” “1776” and “Caught in the Net,” a sequel to the theater’s 2014 production of “Run for Your Wife.”

Productions this year did not disappoint and the theater started off strong with its season opener of “Spamalot.” Adapted from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the musical comedy did a phenomenal job of bringing the twisted humor to the stage.

While “Spamalot” mastered British comedy, “Of Mice and Men” mastered dramatic storytelling. Actors Andrew Persinger and Daniel Clymer depicted a strong bond between the intelligent George and his mentally hindered, gentle giant companion, Lennie, who faces a heart-wrenching end.

Anderson Center for the Arts

Per usual, the Anderson Center for the Arts brought creations from near and far in 2016.

The arts center’s “Beyond Description” exhibition featured eight contemporary abstract artists in Indiana, including Madison County’s own David Michael Slonim, who curated it.

Hidden messages came to life in the center’s annual “Figures of Speech” exhibition, which featured Hoosier-made art based on popular phrases. Simultaneously, a select number of works by conjuror artist Katherine Ace were on display, most of which were heavily influenced by Brothers Grimm’s tales.

Park Place Arts

One of Park Place Arts owner Eliot Reed’s goals for his gallery is to showcase local talent.

This year’s exhibitions included an extensive look at photographer Cliff Ritchey’s work with “A Life I Wish I Had: The Manifestation of Living Through Music & Photography” and Larry Stuart’s own journey with “Wander Lines: A Photography Exhibit.”

This past month, though, Park Place Arts has featured creations and décor from nine artists in “Fall Showcase: Local Art, Creations & Curiosities.”

Items on display and for sale include pottery, handmade jewelry, wood-crafted bottle openers, cutting boards, upcycled tables, paintings, photographs and wooden wall hangings. The items will be available through Dec. 31.