Posted by Philip Poole on 2012-06-11

Samford University's Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center has announced what university officials call "a dynamic range of programming" for the 2012-13 season.

The year's schedule is highlighted by performances featuring Emmy Award winner Ed Asner, noted humorist Garrison Keillor, Tony Award winner Linda Eder and Grammy Award winner Neil Sedaka. The season also features feature world-class performances from theatre, dance and music. In addition to the second season of the Wright Center Presents Series, the Wright Center will again be home to three of Birmingham's performing arts organizations: the Alabama Ballet, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra's SuperPOPS! series and Opera Birmingham.

According to Sean Wright, Samford's director of venue management, this "dynamic range of programming is a key component of what the Wright Center is all about." Wright is no relation to the family for whom the venue is named.

"Unlike many Fine Arts Centers, the Wright Center is embracing a broader and more inclusive vision," Wright said. "We want the Wright Center to be a venue for theatre, for dance, for classical and popular music. We want to present the finest national acts and the best artists in Alabama. We want to be a laboratory where arts students throughout Birmingham can interact with great performers through masterclasses, workshops, and meet and greets. In short, we want to be the home for great Performing Arts in the region. This schedule is representative of that goal."

The "signature piece of this ideal" is the Wright Center Presents Series. The series begins with the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. This acclaimed modern dance troupe will be presenting "NewDANCEfest," a collection of dances by five respected choreographers. As part of the ensemble's residency, a group of Birmingham dance students will study with the company throughout the week and perform with the company for a portion of the concert. This performance is funded in part by the MetLife Community Connections Fund of the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project and by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Wright noted.

Veteran stage and television actor Ed Asner will perform his one-man theatre piece "Ed Asner Starring as FDR" Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. The piece is based upon Dore Schary's hit play "Sunrise at Campobello," which ran for 70 weeks on Broadway. The story was later made into a popular movie starring Ralph Bellamy and Greer Garson.

The Wright Center will partner with Samford's Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies to present An "Evening with Garrison Keillor" March 25 at 7 p.m. The beloved humorist and radio host will delight with his trademark dry wit and unparalleled storytelling, Wright said. This is part of the Wright Center Presents Series as well as the 2013 Tom and Marla Corts Distinguished Author Series hosted by the education school.

The Wright Center Presents Series concludes with a tribute to the theatre and showtunes with "Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway" April 16 at 8 p.m. This performance recreates great moments from  Broadway shows of the 20th century and will feature music from shows such as "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "Cats,"  "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Jekyll & Hyde" and many others.

In addition to this series, the Alabama Ballet returns to the Wright Center to present three full-length story ballets. Just in time for Halloween, the Ballet stages "La Sylphide: A Witch's Revenge" Oct. 26-28. They return at Christmas for the annual production of George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" Dec. 14-16 and 21-23. The final production is the first pairing of composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa, "The Sleeping Beauty," Feb. 22-24.

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra's 2012-2013 SuperPOPS! Series at the Wright Center begins Nov. 2 with "A Broadway Romance," led by acclaimed music director Ted Sperling. It continues Dec. 8 with Holiday Cirque de la Symphonie, returning after their well-received performance in 2011. The new year begins with a celebration of the "Music of Ray Charles" Jan. 12, featuring rhythm and blues artist Ellis Hall. Broadway star Linda Eder joins the Symphony March 2, and pop music legend Neil Sedaka performs April 20. The SuperPOPS! Series concludes May 4 with a tour through southern rock with "Sweet Home Alabama Symphony".

Opera Birmingham will be performing two grand operas at the Wright Center, including the classic Puccini opera Madama Butterfly Jan. 25 and 27. Under the direction of Dona Vaughn and the baton of Israel Gursky, this heartbreaking story features soaring melodies is always a favorite, Wright noted. Mozart's comedy "The Magic Flute" will be performed March 15 and 17. Blending onstage hilarity and touching musical moments, this opera is fun for all ages, he added.

Full series tickets for the Wright Center Presents Series can be purchased by contacting the Samford Arts Box Office at (205) 726-2853. Single tickets will go on sale July 9 at 9 a.m.

Tickets for the Alabama Ballet or Alabama Symphony can be purchased by contacting (205) 975-2787.

Tickets for Opera Birmingham can be purchased by contacting (205) 322-6737.

More information on all events, directions and parking information and online links to tickets can be found at the Wright Center website:


About Samford UniversitySamford is a premier nationally ranked Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts and a distinct blend of graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 3rd nationally for student engagement and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranks Samford 34th among private universities in the U.S. for value and affordability. Samford enrolls 5,692 students from 46 states and 28 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.