New Stage Theatre
New Stage Theatre
New Stage Theatre was chartered as a nonprofit organization in 1965 and produced its initial season in the winter and spring of 1966. Founded by Jane Reid Petty and seven other charter board members, with the assistance of the American National Theatre Academy and Actors' Equity Association, the theatre has been dedicated to professional excellence in the dramatic arts since its inception.
Ivan Rider was the theatre's first artistic director and served in that capacity until 1979. A gifted professional, Rider established the high artistic production standards that remain the hallmark of New Stage programming today.
New Stage's first home was an adapted church at the corner of Gallatin and Hooker Streets. The full houses for its opening season were significant: they represented the city's first racially integrated theatre audience and playgoers' response to more intellectually stimulating theatre fare than had been previously available locally.
New Stage produced 13 seasons in the 150-seat church before moving to its present site in Belhaven in 1978. Built in 1963 for the Jackson Little Theatre, the 12,000 square foot structure includes the 364-seat Meyer Crystal Auditorium, and a flexible, smaller performing space, the Jimmy Hewes Room. The theatre also owns the three other structures on the site, two of which are used for actors' housing and one for offices. In 1997, the theatre complex was designated as the Jane Reid Petty Theatre Center in recognition of the New Stage founder's contributions to the development of professional theatre in Mississippi.
Now in its 43rd year, New Stage produces a full professional season, including five main stage shows in the subscription series, a Christmas show, children's shows and selections in the Eudora Welty New Plays Series, named in honor of the internationally acclaimed writer, a lifetime member of the theatre's board of directors.
As a professional regional theatre, New Stage is committed to exploring new worlds of theatre, including challenging new works in development, important contemporary plays and classics selected for their artistic merit, their power to illuminate the human condition and their impact on the community.
The Welty New Plays Series, established in 1984, has premiered scripts by Reynolds Price, Jim Lehrer and native Mississippian Gary Grubbs. As founder Jane Reid Petty said when the Welty Series was initiated: "At New Stage, our energies are directed toward sustaining a vital environment in which artists can work together to achieve their finest moment onstage. Mississippi audiences are bred on the rich literary heritage of the state - William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, and they respond to the dramatic event that is rooted in the playwright's words and vision. Our emphasis on new work evolves from this heritage. The Eudora Welty New Plays Series provides the creative meeting of playwright and performing artists that nurtures the art of the dramatist and the present and future vitality of the American theatre."
In 1989-1990, the theatre established a formal education department, created a professional internship program and hired an education director to coordinate the internship program, acting classes and day camps for students and to direct a touring program to take live drama to schools across Mississippi. New Stage received the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1995 for its efforts to introduce tens of thousands of young Mississippians to live theatre.
Pictures and information were provided by Jackson Visitors & Convention Bureau
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