Forsyth County’s new performing arts center offers entertainment for theater lovers at affordable price

Ben Lacina
FoCAL performance of "Guys and Dolls"(Photo/FoCAL Facebook page)

(Forsyth County, GA) In just over a week, the Forsyth County Art and Learning (FoCAL) Center will host one of its several upcoming productions that will keep the community busy into the summer of 2023 - all without burning a hole in your wallet.

The FoCAL Center is a performing arts center that provides performance space to local elementary, middle, and high schools as well as community productions. After officially opening at the start of 2022, the center is gearing up for its first show of its inaugural 2022-2023 season. Ticket prices range from $15 to $30.

Dawn Phipps, the FoCAL Center director, says she looks forward to seeing how these productions come to life, both on and off the stage.

“There's definitely something for everybody,” said Phipps. “I'm so excited to be bringing together school and community people in a new way in which they are creating art and building those relationships.”

What’s coming?

The theatrical season starts off with an unorthodox performance of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park. The show will take place in the center’s smaller blackbox theater and be performed “in the round”. This means audience members can look forward to a more intimate seating arrangement that puts them on all four sides of the stage.

This show is one of two add-ons to the center’s slate of productions that are intended to veer off from ones you’d see in a traditional theater season. The core four productions are The Sound of Music, Mamma Mia!, Nutcracker, and Matilda which wrap up in June of 2023.

The other add-on is Seussical Jr. the Musical which is the second installment of the FoCAL Center’s Penguin Project. This program puts on junior versions of Broadway musicals composed entirely of students with special needs.

Phipps says the stage should be a place of diversity, and she hopes the Penguin Project can piggyback off what she says was a huge success in last year’s performance of Annie Jr.

“Not only are the Penguin Project shows wonderful as a standalone theater experience, but the shows send an important message about inclusion and giving all people a chance to share their talents and gifts with others,” said Phipps.

This emphasis on inclusion applies to the audience members too. The FoCAL Center serves as a cheaper, more localized alternative compared to places like the Fox Theater, but Phipps says theaters are not competing with one another but rather providing more options of accessibility for their audiences.
Penguin project students and their mentors dressed for "Annie Jr"(Photo/FoCAL Facebook page)

A busy season

Providing options at a less expensive price means most people should be able to find something they enjoy.

Leslie Page, a Forsyth local who’s loved theater since seeing her first Broadway show at 11 years old, says it is important to keep an open mind with theater productions, especially early on.

“Everyone has different likes and interests so I’d suggest trying comedy, drama, musicals or anything else that sounds appealing,” said Page. “I would say if you don’t love it the first time to stay open to another show or venue.”

Although Page frequents the Fox Theater for shows like Wicked, one of her favorites alongside A Chorus Line and Hamilton, she says she looks forward to checking out the FoCAL Center’s spin on Sound of Music and Mamma Mia!.

The center is scheduled to have a new production almost every month between August and February, then takes the stage again in June with Matilda. But Phipps says this is far from a break; it’s actually their busiest time of the year.

“This is when we are hosting a plethora of events for our schools and community,” Phipps said.

The center hosts school and community band, choir, and dance groups as well as graduations, award ceremonies, and proms.

She adds, “We designed our FoCAL programming events to not occur during this time so we could make all of our spaces completely accessible to the needs of our schools and community. Trust me, this is no break!”

While the center’s utility goes far beyond the theater, it provides many people the unique bond of sharing an artistic experience that can be felt by the performers, the audience, and anyone in between. It’s something Phipps describes as magical.

“I think art in its many forms is wonderful and even better when easily accessible,” said Page.

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Ben Lacina's writing experience allows him to tackle a myriad of subjects and stories. His background in science helps him use his writing experience to translate complicated topics into understandable content for a wide audience.

Athens, GA

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