Aiken arts groups gear up for 2013 season

Aiken Standard File Photo Harpist Vonda Darr performing with soloist Mary Grefenstette during a rehearsal for the Aiken Choral Society's last concert of 2012. The society is now preparing for its spring concert.

The holidays have been taken from the chimneys with care. Old times and acquaintances have been toasted. People are now resuming their normal schedules, leaving vacation fun and rest behind.

However, a special community – the Aiken arts community – works year-round to never leave spirits down.

Here’s a look at some of the events we have to look forward to in 2013.

Aiken Community Playhouse

Aiken Community Playhouse started their 2012-13 season in September with “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” an adult musical about two con men who target lonely, rich women.

“The idea is to peak right when you open, and that’s where we’re at,” director John Lewis said in August. “I ended up with a good cast, maybe a little smaller than I wanted, but it’s good … It’s a very fast paced show, not too many chances to get bored.”

Currently, the playhouse is doing “Frost/Nixon,” which opened Friday. The play is a fictional take on the real-life interactions of former President Richard Nixon and talk show host David Frost.

“Frost/Nixon is … our fourth production of our season,” Michael Gibbons, ACP executive director said. “(It) is fantastic play, and director Bob Franklin has assembled a wonderful cast.

The show will appeal not only to those who remember Watergate. It’s a dynamic story that will really please audiences.”

ACP Youth Wing will perform “The Pajama Game,” a musical comedy about love and labor at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory, in February. The play is directed by Jim Anderson.

The final audition for “Fox on the Fairway” will be on Monday at 7 p.m.

The 2013-2014 season starts up in September, though reading and reviewing of plays is already underway, according to Gibbons.

The playhouse is located at 126 Newberry St.

For more information on ACP, visit

Aiken Performing Arts Group

Aiken Performing Arts Group prides itself on having used song, dance and theatre to reach out to the Aiken area since 2005.

Coming soon on Jan. 13 is the multi-sensory experience of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter & the Wolf.” The symphony was organized to teach children the sounds of the orchestra, while an artist and narrator will help complete the experience.

“Today ‘Peter and the Wolf’ is recognized and beloved as the finest classical composition for children in the world, bar none,” Dr. Donald Portnoy, USC and show conductor, said in a release. “The piece combines a great musical story for children, but it is sophisticated enough for adult listeners to thoroughly enjoy.”

“All Hands on Deck!” will make some reminisce about Bob Hope and the 40s when it opens in February, while “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical” will bring a bit of New York City down South in March.

Right now, APAG is “moving full-stream ahead for the 2013-14 season,” Cathy Traver, arts administrator, said.

“It’s a lot of work planning, but it’s very exciting.”

Before they announce the new season in March, the group will survey the audience on what types of genres, performers, etc. they liked or like to see. They then will take that into consideration while mapping out the year.

“We try to put together a well-round season,” Traver said. “We want something for everyone.”

So far, the surveys have been a success.

Aiken Center for the Arts

The mission of the Aiken Center for the Arts is “arts education, supporting artists and cultural activities, plus fostering partnerships for the growth of an arts community,” said Kristin Brown, executive director.

This is the 40th year for ACA – “a major accomplishment for an arts nonprofit,” Brown said.

ACA will be starting up its “Impressionism from Monet to Matisse” exhibit on Jan. 25. Also this month will be the Aiken Retro and the Aiken High School AP art exhibitions.

Though budgeting and balancing expenses is essential to ACA, the center did offer a free Spring and Fall Fling course last April and September. ACA sent bags filled with children-designed art kits to Cumbee Center, My Father’s House, Ronald MacDonald House, Christ Central and Aiken Regional Medical Centers for its Art 4 U project.

“Our staff and volunteers felt privileged to bring these creative experiences to children who are in difficult environments,” Brown said. “They were warmly welcomed by every organization who received them.”

ACA will be soon offering online payment.

The center is located at 122 Laurens St.

USC Aiken

USC Aiken, the home of the Etherredge Center, is the place to find new, training and old talent, what with housing an arts department and catering to several outsider performers every year.

“I believe we have set a standard of excellence that we continue to strive to meet each time we present an event at the Etherredge Center,” Jack Benjamin, visual and performing arts department chair, said. “We are constantly evaluating all that we do so that we do not settle for less than the highest of qualities. I constantly tell my students the day you believe you can’t improve in our business is the day you should change careers.”

The Winter Nocturne with Irish pianist John O’Conor is next on the school’s arts agenda, with the show being on Jan. 24.

Other events to look forward to are Birdland Big Band in February, Juilliard of Aiken in March and the Orchestra of the Midlands’ “Spring Fling” in April.

“Our mission is to promote and support the arts and arts experiences throughout the CSRA,” Benjamin said. “It is imperative that we provide a quality arts experience for today’s younger generation that they will grow to appreciate the arts the same way that their parents and grandparents have grown to appreciate them. We also serve as consultants to any arts organization that would like our assistance or expertise.”

“This year’s events will be better than last year’s, and next year’s will be better than this years. That’s the philosophy that I ascribe to and the one that I ask of all the faculty, staff and students within the Etherredge Center.”

Aiken Choral Society

The Aiken Choral Society is looking ahead for the new year, as they prep for their spring concert in May, featuring numbers such as “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” and from American composers like Scott Joplin and Irving Fine.

“The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” combines the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and stringed bass with Appalachian-style ballads and is “loosely based on the ancient Catholic Mass,” Simpson said.

The society will perform the spring concert at the Piccolo Spoleto concert in Charleston some time in May or June.

“We have an amazing number of multi-talented members who can act as well as sing,” Simpson said.