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ART BEAT: Gwinnett community theaters collaborate to produce 'The Foreigner'

Competition becomes collaboration in the Gwinnett theater community as two nonprofit groups come together to produce a lively comedy with a Southern personality. "The Foreigner" will be performed as a joint effort by Live Arts Community Theatre and Fifth Row Center Theatre over the next two weekends at Fifth Row Center's studio located at 5509 Main St. in Flowery Branch.

"The Foreigner" is a play written by Larry Shue. It will be performed by this combined effort today through Sunday, and again on Oct. 5 through 7. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday's show is at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at either www.fifthrowcenter.com or at www.liveartstheatre.org.

The alliance began in late July when Live Arts Theatre needed a facility for their show "Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know." Fifth Row Center offered their space, and a partnership began.

Fifth Row Center Artistic Director Donna Chalmers has positive thoughts about the collaboration.

"Community theaters provide wonderful opportunities for all age groups to get on stage or work a tech crew," she said. "But small theaters, like ours, which are nonprofit, greatly benefit by extending a helping hand to each other and fill in gaps for each other's limited resources."

The play itself promises to be upbeat and audience friendly. "The Foreigner" brings residents of a small Georgia fishing lodge together with a stranger whom they have been told is from an exotic foreign country and speaks absolutely no English.Hilarity ensues as "the foreigner" tries to teach the group of Georgians all about his "culture."

"Rehearsals have been hilarious," said Live Arts Theatre Artistic Director Becca Parker. "There are so many funny lines, so it seems like at every rehearsal someone discovers a new bit of humor that we hadn't noticed before. James Burke is hysterical as one of the main characters, Charlie Baker, often making the switch between his 'foreign language' and English look effortless. There are also a few special effects in the show that have made the rehearsal process interesting for the cast and crew."

Parker is directing the show as well as designing the set. The cast includes Lee Tingler, Virginia Kirby, Justin and Mallory Safley, Joshua Garcia and Ean Barrett. These performers have been seen in many of the favorite productions presented by both groups. Jessica Moskowitz, Greg Bradford, Rahne Brant and Larry Cohran also perform as the townspeople. Lighting is designed by Chelsea Floyd Martin and Tom McWilliams will handle the sound.

After "The Foreigner" is over, Live Arts Theatre's Parker will continue her collaborative efforts with Fifth Row Center. Although directing and designing the set for "The Foreigner," she will also design the set for Fifth Row Center's Christmas show, "Narnia" which is based on C.S. Lewis' well loved book "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." This show will be performed in the new Buford Community Center.

For more information about "The Foreigner" and any of the two theatre groups' activities and performances, visit www.fifthrowcenter.com or www.liveartstheatre.org.

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