June is bustin’ out all over — with the arts, to borrow a phrase from the Rodgers and Hammerstein song. For our art scene, it is a month for new beginnings and renewal.

Foothills Stage Company, an in-house theatrical venture at the Oxford Performing Arts Center, is getting started.

The Jacksonville Cemetery Stroll needs volunteers as it prepares for this Alabama Bicentennial event.

Parker Memorial’s choir and orchestra concert on July 2 renews our motivation to preserve our nation’s liberty.

The call is out to be a part of these offerings or, at the very least, to support them with your attendance.

New theater company at OPAC

The new Foothills Stage Company at OPAC will make its debut in August with the musical “Hairspray.” Tryouts are tonight from 6-9 p.m. in the OPAC main theater, according to Molly Page, artistic director for Foothills Stage Company.

The production, directed by Mike Beecham, will be Aug. 1-4. Audition details are available on Facebook on the events page created for “Auditions, Hairspray.”

     “We felt ‘Hairspray’ was a great first choice for our MainStage series for Foothills Stage,” Page said. “It is well known and upbeat, but also a musical that conveys a strong message about individuality and a group of people coming together around a common goal.”

Page joins OPAC with over a decade of experience working in regional, professional, educational and community performing arts, doing everything from acting to costume design to directing. She holds a master’s degree in acting/directing from Louisiana Tech University, and has worked with Theatre of Gadsden, CharACTers Theatrics and Improbable Fiction, a Shakespeare theater company in Tuscaloosa, among other theaters. She received a Kennedy Center Fellowship for her work with Artists Striving to End Poverty and the International Rescue Committee.

Foothills Stage will engage local artists and actors as well as guest artists and professionals from around the country, Page said. “We feel that this will provide a space for area performers to grow and interact on a new level.”

Cemetery Stroll planning begins

Barbara Rowell, Jacksonville Public Library director, hopes that everyone will look ahead concerning summer activities and make a special effort to come to a meeting on July 20 to help organize the city’s annual Cemetery Stroll.

The Stroll will be Oct. 20 from 2-4 p.m. Behind-the-scenes workers and actors are needed. Stories will be told by actors representing past community citizens from the three cemeteries in Jacksonville. Roles must be assigned, research done and costumes assembled.

Piano concert Saturday in Jacksonville

Julio Barreto presents a piano concert at First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. The pianist’s specialty is Latin and jazz. He works as a pianist at First United Methodist Church. It is a free event but contributions to a “support offering” will be appreciated.

Patriotic concert July 2 in Oxford

Nothing expresses the spirit of America like patriotic music. The music and the spirit are offered in Parker Memorial’s concert July 2 at 7 p.m. at OPAC.

Directed by Don Gober, the program will include narration and songs that reflect optimism, new hope, courage and gratitude for the blessings of this land. It is a free event.

The program includes:

• “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa. To know the background of the march makes listening to it more interesting.

On a June day in 1869, 13-year-old Sousa was introduced to the commandant of the United States Marine Corps Band by his father, a trombonist in the band. The plan was for the boy to enlist as an apprentice to study music until he abandoned the idea of joining a circus band.

Evidently, the plan worked. Sousa, who became an excellent musician, especially as a violinist, joined the band.

In later years, he returned to it as band leader. Under his command it became world famous, according to “Music to Remember” by Lillian Baldwin.

After 12 years, Sousa formed his own band, the Sousa Concert Band. It was for this ensemble that “Stars and Stripes” and other marches were written. Sousa is known today as “The March King.”

• “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” The words to this hymn were written by Isaac Watts,an English clergyman who wrote 761 hymns. This particular hymn, based on Psalm 90, has great emotional vitality.

• “We Are America.” A song about our nation as a home for people who come from many places.

• “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.” This is a phrase from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet “New Colossus,” which she wrote for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now stands. The poem did not receive much recognition and was quite forgotten after the auction. In the early 1900s and after Lazarus’ death, one of her friends began a campaign to memorialize Lazarus and her “New Colossus” sonnet. The effort was a success, and a plaque with the poem’s text was mounted inside the pedestal of the statue.


Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.