ART BEAT: Music and mystery dinner theater events offer a variety of weekend fun

Gwinnett enjoys a large community of nonprofit arts organizations and in many of these groups young artists and "artists-in-training" are given the opportunity to gain valuable experience and show off their talents. This weekend and into November, there are two very different but very delightful programs which the public can enjoy, showcasing a number of performers of assorted ages.

The Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra kicks off its season on Sunday with a concert titled "A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Chorus." The event will take place in the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center at 5:30 p.m. Selections include the title piece, Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," as well as the Rossini "Barber of Seville Overture," Saint-Saens' "Le Carnival des Animaux," and songs by John Rutter. Also on the bill is a showcase for the GSO's newest group, the Youth Orchestra, who will be accompanying the GSO for Schubert's Die Allmacht.

Performing with the adult group will be one 16-year-old junior from Berkmar High School who has shown great talent for the cello. His name is Alex Medrano, son of Yesenia and Roberto Medrano, and he is a student of Scott Hague at Berkmar. Alex began playing the cello five years ago.

"The cello is the most beautiful sounding instrument, the most vocal sounding," Alex said.

Alex will be playing for the entire performance with the GSO. He plans to make music his career.

Tickets for this performance are $25, $15 and $13 and are available through the GSO's web site at www.gwinnettsymphony.org, through Ticketmaster or at the Gwinnett Center box office.

Another arts organization is offering something very different, very soon. The Community Art Players of Suwanee is a community group sponsored by Suwanee Performing Arts. They will present the play "Knock 'Em Dead" as a mystery dinner theater event on Nov. 11 and 12. This production allows the audience to enjoy dinner and then decide "who done it." The shows are at 7:30 p.m. on both dates, and tickets are $50 per person which includes dinner, dessert and the show. The event will take place at the Suwanee Academy of the Arts, 341 Main St. in Suwanee.

The gist of the story surrounds a competition night at "Vinnie's Belly Laugh," and performers gather on a rainy night to compete for $1,000 in prize money and a contract at Vinnie's. Contestants include a blues singer, a flaming baton act, a sharp-tongued comedienne, a hypnotist, a dog act and a ventriloquist. Murder and mayhem ensue.

This event will be a fundraising opportunity for Suwanee Performing Arts, which is home to a variety of performing groups such as the Sounds of Suwanee Jazz Ensemble and Suwanee Youth Ballet. Although SPA generally trains and presents young artists, the Community Art Players are all adults. "Knock 'Em Dead" will feature Eric Arvidson, Chris Mink, Katie Smith, Kelly Commander, Mike Twiggs, Teresa Mink and Lee Jones.

For tickets and for more information about this dinner theater production, call SPA at 678-482-6333.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com