Unity opens season with 'The Syringa Tree'

The Heinavanker Choral Ensemble from Estonia will perform the second event of the season for the Community Chamber Concerts at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bryan’s First Presbyterian Church. The concert is free and a free nursery is provided. The Choral Ensemble performs ancient Estonian runic songs and folks hymns, as well as more modern selections. The Community Chamber Concerts are presented by the Friends of Chamber Music.

Many young people may not be familiar with apartheid, a system of government-imposed segregation that ruled South Africa from 1948 until 1991. They may have heard of Nelson Mandela but not know of the vital role he played in overturning that hated -- and hateful -- system.

A personal story of two families -- one black and one white -- in those troubled times in South Africa opens the Studio Series season at Unity Theatre in Brenham Thursday night.

Pamela Gien based The Syringa Tree on her experiences as a white child growing up under apartheid. She tells the story through the eyes of Elizabeth Grace, a 6-year-old English South African. The play opens in 1963 and continues through four generations.

In an interview with Time magazine, Gien said she based her play -- which she later turned into a novel -- on several true events, including the murder of her grandfather by what is assumed to be a Rhodesian freedom fighter.

She said, "While I based the play on two true incidents, I chose to write it as a fictional story. I didn't want it to be a docudrama of my life, and writing as a fiction gave me a way to speak to something that belongs to all of us, something more profound, incorporating the idea of freedom and human dignity.

"So it's a fictional story, but one deeply invested with much of my life, memories and feelings that I carry with me to this day."

The Syringa Tree won the 2001 Obie Award for Best Play.

The Syringa Tree will be performed Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. Nov. 12.

All seats are $25, $15 for students. For Thursday's opening night, all tickets are $17. They are available at the box office in the theater lobby at 300 Church St. in Brenham. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and 90 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets also may be purchased with a credit card by calling 979-830-8358 or emailing tickets@UnityBrenham.org.

Any seats unsold 15 minutes before each performance are available at the ticket window for $15 on a first-come basis.

Following Thursday's show, there will be a brief talk back with director Jim Johnson and the cast.

On Nov. 11, the audience is invited to arrive 30 minutes early to visit with the director.

Biting theater

A&M Consolidated High School's Tiger Theatre presents timely update of Bram Stoker's spooky classic Dracula Thursday through Saturday.

The play is an original adaptation by director Randal Williamson of the familiar story in which, according to the press release, "Dracula moves to England in search of new blood, but instead finds his humanity."

Performances are at 7 p.m. all three nights in the A&M Consolidated High School auditorium. Tickets are $7 each and are available at the door.

Lead actors are Tatum Love as Dracula, Charlotte Brumbelow as Mina Harker, Lauren Fix as Lucy Westenra, Jacob Eaker as Jonathan Harker, Avery Wright as Renfield, Todd Gray as Dr. Seward, Landon Lipscomb as Arthur Holmwood and Tanner Rodman as Van Helsing.

Dracula is recommended for children 10 and older.

World view

The second event of the year for Community Chamber Concerts will transport us halfway around the world with an appearance of the Heinavanker Choral Ensemble from Estonia, south of Finland across the Baltic Sea.

The concert will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, 1100 Carter Creek Parkway in Bryan. The concert is free and a free nursery is provided. A reception will follow the concert.

Formed in 1996, the Heinavanker Choral Ensemble performs ancient Estonian runic songs and folks hymns, with some newer music thrown in. The name Heinavanker comes from artist Hieronymus Bosch's Haywain Triptych from around 1516.

The Milkshake Sentinel-Journal said, "Singing the entire program a cappella, they delivered gorgeous melodies with pure, ringing unisons and beautifully balanced harmonies, colored by free, deftly woven ornaments.

"Contrasting male and female voices and solo voices with the full ensemble sounds, the group presented a constantly shifting tapestry of elegant dynamics, timbres and colors."

Saturday's program is scheduled to include:

Oh Adam, sinu essitus -- Oh Adam, thy Falsehood

Folk hymn from Otepää parish

• Kyrie, Mass of Barcelona (14th century)

Nüüd ole Jeesus kiidetud - Praised be you, Jesus Christ

Folk hymn from Kihnu parish

Mu süda, ärka üles -- Awake my Heart

Margo Kõlar after various versions of a folk hymn

Rahva Õnnistegija -- Redeemer of the Folk

Folk hymn from Suur-Pakri parish

• Sanctus, Mass of Tournai (14th century)

Agnus Dei, Mass of Toulouse (14th century)

Mu mano tulge latse -- Let the children come to Me

After folk hymn from Vormsi parish

Veni Creator Spiritus / Oh Jumal, Looja, Püha Vaim -- Come Creator Spirit

Margo Kõlar after Gregorian chant and a folk hymn from Lääne - Nigula parish

Loomine -- Creation

Margo Kõlar after traditional runic song (Ambla parish)

A mythical story about the creation of the world, typically sung from a big village swing.

Nätse Jummal, siin ma rummal -- Here behold me as I cast me

Folk hymn from Räpina

• Imeline koda -- Wondrous House

Margo Kõlar after Estonian traditional runic song (Vilo parish)

In the temporal sense, this text is rather cryptic. The storyteller appears to travel to a divine realm where, by partaking in a strange ritual, she is included in the creation of the temporal world.

Haned kadunud -- Missing Geese

Margo Kõlar after an Estonian traditional runic song (Kuusalu parish)

Community Chamber Concerts are sponsored by the Friends of Chamber Music.

New theater

It is always good news when a new theater opens in the Brazos Valley. This time the good news comes from Hilltop Lakes where Troupe Over the Hill has set up shop with great success.

Now, Troupe Over the Hill is planning its next production, From Sea to Shining Sea: A Musical Tribute to Our American Heroes! The production is slated for 7 p.m. Nov. 10 and 11 and 3 p.m. on Nov. 12.

The show will be in the Tonkawa Room, 1 Lodge Drive at Hilltop Lakes which is located on Texas 3 northwest of Normangee.

All tickets are $10 and all seats are reserved. They may be ordered by calling 936-855-2715 or 936-855-2906.

From Sea to Shining Sea: A Musical Tribute to Our American Heroes! is directed by Ruth Hime. Musical direction is by Swen Crone, Ron Treat and Waynette Shockey.

With all the turmoil in our country, a healthy dose of patriotic music may be just the thing we all need.

Troupe Over the Hill is accepting program advertising through Wednesday. Prices ranger from $40 for a quarter page to $150 for a full page. For more information, email troupeoverthehill.net or call Joyce Perkins at 936-820-23200.


Today -- Lanterns & Legends, Navasota Theatre Alliance's living history event, 2 p.m., Sunny Furman Theatre, 104 Washington Ave. in downtown Navasota. $10. (navasotatheatre.org)

Today -- Brazos Breeze Flute Choir presents a selection of music for Halloween, First United Methodist Church, 506 E. 28th St. in Bryan, 5 p.m. Free.

Thursday through Saturday -- Youth Steelband Open and a Festival of Trinidad's Arts & Culture, a Hurricane Irma charitable event featuring scholars, steelbands and performers from Texas, Florida and Trinidad, events at Texas A&M University, Brazos Valley African American Museum and the city of Bryan. (305.804.3283, david@takestok.org)

• Saturday -- KEOS Fall House Party and Lone Star Music Series featuring Claire Domingue, 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For information and location, email bod@keos.org. Suggested donated $25 at the door.

• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)

Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to robert.borden@theeagle.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.

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