Aurora to host community theater festival
Kickoff show to benefit Town & Gown Players

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Gwinnett County Community Theatre Festival will open tonight with a performance benefiting the oldest community theater group in Georgia.

Over the course of this weekend and next, four community theater groups - County Seat Players, Lionheart Theatre Company, New London Theatre and Winder-Barrow Community Theatre - will perform at the second annual festival, hosted by the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville. A fifth group was set to perform, but following a tragic occurrence two months ago in which three of its members were shot and killed, Town & Gown Players will not participate in the festival portion of this year's event.

The Athens-based theater group hasn't been forgotten, though. Proceeds from tonight's show, a presentation of the play "Love Letters" by A. R. Gurney and featuring longtime Town & Gown performers Jeff Evans and Cindy Nason, will be donated to the nonprofit.

Town & Gown Players were gathered at the Athens theater April 25 when University of Georgia marketing professor George Zinkhan allegedly shot his wife, Marie Bruce, and her fellow Town & Gown members Tom Tanner and Ben Teague. Zinkhan's body was found two weeks later, and police said he had shot himself.

Ticket sales from the remaining shows during the Community theatre Festival will benefit the four participating theater groups.

"Many of the smaller theatre groups locally have been affected by the economy, and in the case of the Town & Gown players, other hardships," said Anthony Rodriguez, executive director of the Aurora Theatre. "This is a great way to support these groups, all of whom offer everyone a chance to taste the limelight."

Following tonight's kickoff, Snellville-based New London Theatre will present "Twelve Angry Jurors" at 8 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, while the Winder-Barrow Community Theatre will present "The Dining Room" at 8 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Next weekend's show schedule includes Lionheart Theatre Company's presentation of "The Love List" at 8 p.m. June 19 and 1:30 p.m. June 20, and "Getting Sarah Married," presented by the County Seat Players at 8 p.m. June 20 and 1:30 p.m. June 21.

With a Festival Pass, theatergoers can attend an unlimited number of performances during the event, which spans this weekend and next. Passes are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students.

For more information on tonight's kickoff and the community festival, call the Aurora Theatre at 678-226-6222 or visit www.auroratheatre.com.

SideBar: If you go

· What: Gwinnett County Community Theatre Festival Kickoff Tribute Performance

· When: 8 p.m. today

· Where: Aurora Theatre, 128 Pike St., Lawrenceville

· Cost: $15

· For more information: Call 678-226-6222 or visit www.auroratheatre.com