MARS HILL – Over its long run, Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre has built a reputation for performing world premiere plays — 60 of them since the company began in 1975.
This year, to celebrate its landmark 40th season, SART will do three more originals, plus a popular returning mountain musical, all of them at the Owen Theatre, a nearly century-old former church on the Mars Hill University campus.
The season opens Wednesday with the drama “Shunned” by Larry Parr, a coming-of-age story about an Amish teen.
Some big changes are coming to SART and the theater grounds. Construction begins this fall on a new next-door building including a black box second stage and a hospitality area for concessions.
Construction will continue into next theater season, displacing SART from Owen. The company will tour its shows around Western North Carolina in 2015, said artistic director Bill Gregg.
But for now, Gregg and the SART crew are focused on making the 40th season one to remember. “We have never done this many full length world premieres,” he said. The theater receives 150-250 play submissions each season and usually picks just one for production.
Many of SART’s regular players will return, including Chris Allison, Liz Aiello and Ben Starr Coates.
The season will feature:
• “Shunned” by Larry Parr, opening Wednesday and continuing through June 22, a coming-of-age story about an Amish teen.
• “The Stardust Supper Club,” by Alan Bailey and Mark Cabaniss, June 25-July 13, featuring the music of legendary songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, whose hits included “Georgia on My Mind.”
• “Promises,” by Joel W. Williams, July 16-Aug. 3, a story of family secrets set against the backdrop of Fontana Dam.
• “Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming,” by Connie Ray, Aug. 6-10, with another visit with the fictional Sanders family singers just after the end of World War II.
IF YOU GO
• Find the full schedule and links to purchase tickets online at www.sartplays.org, or call the box office at 689-1239.
• Plays are performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays and most Thursdays during their runs.
• Most tickets are $26.56, including tax, plus a per-order service charge online. Groups of 10 or more get a $2 per ticket discount; seniors and students get a 20 percent discount.