The Arts

Meet Our Final Sew for the Show Judge: Wig and Makeup Artist Jason Estrada

July 27, 2020

Jason Estrada loves to create: at home he paints, sculpts, draws and tends to his garden. At work, his canvases become fabric, wigs and even faces. A costumer by trade, Estrada specializes in hair and make up design. But as much as he enjoys the hands on creativity, there’s something even better: the collaborative art of a theatrical production.

“It’s not just about one thing; it’s about everybody’s work together,” says Estrada, who is one of the three expert judges in Blumenthal’s “Sew for the Show: Mask Design Challenge.” This week, we are sharing his fabulous design for “WICKED,” as well as his insights on the costuming field, to help inspire your own creations for this final week of the contest. (“WICKED,” part of the Equitable Broadway Series, will be coming to Ovens Auditorium, Dec. 9, 2020 – Jan. 10, 2021.)

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Blumenthal President Tom Gabbard Joins COVID-19 Theatre Think Tank: National Consortium Pairs Theater Professionals with Frontline Health Experts

July 13, 2020

Blumenthal Performing Arts President and CEO Tom Gabbard was recently invited to join the COVID-19 Theatre Think Tank (CTT), a national consortium of theater professionals working with public health experts, to study and compile the latest research on the novel coronavirus as it relates to the unique challenges of live theatrical productions.

The group, which began convening virtual meetings in April, was launched by Matt Ross, a New York-based producer and publicist. It includes about 40 representatives from a variety of organizations spanning Off-Broadway and Broadway to small regional theaters and large performing arts centers. It is intentionally cross disciplinary as well, with stage managers, non-profit leaders, technicians, directors, designers, and other industry professionals coming together.

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THE SHOW GOES ON | Blumenthal Continues to Serve the Community During Uncertain Times

Spring/Summer 2020

In the last few months, the world has changed in ways few people could have ever predicted. Every person and every business has been affected by the worldwide pandemic. How does a performing arts organization – a business dedicated to bringing people together – continue to function in the midst of a public health crisis in which social distancing is the new normal?

Here’s a look at how Blumenthal Performing Arts has managed to continue operating, retain its staff, care for its customers, and even successfully launch sales for its biggest Broadway season ever. At the heart of this behind-the-scenes production has been preparation, collaboration and innovation.

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Local Couple Will See Their Own Story Brought to Life in Broadway Musical, Come From Away

December 10, 2019

Phyllis and Jim Knubel haven’t yet seen the musical COME FROM AWAY, inspired by the incredible generosity of a small Canadian town during 9/11, but they already know the story by heart.

That’s because they lived it.

The Knubels, who retired a few years ago to York, SC, were aboard one of the 38 planes, carrying more than 6,500 passengers, diverted to Gander, Newfoundland when the terrorist attacks on 9/11 took place. The town’s population nearly doubled overnight and for the better part of a week, residents did all they could to support the physical, social and emotional needs of the “plane people.”

What the Knubels experienced in Gander affected them deeply; the people they met showed profound kindness, empathy and selflessness. Some have also become treasured friends.

“It’s not something that my husband and I would ever forget,” says Knubel. “When we talk about it, we always cry. How from that disaster, people we didn’t know in another country could come together and take care of all those people.”

Here’s how their real-life experience unfolded, as told by Phyllis Knubel:

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When Things Go Wrong: Real Life Tales of Backstage & Onstage Drama

November 19, 2019

Picture this: it’s September 2008 and you’re at the press night in Los Angeles for the pre-Broadway run of the new musical 9 to 5. There’s a full house, including celebrities, industry VIPs and 350 members of the media. Suddenly, in the midst of a big scene change, everything on stage stops.

The house lights come up halfway while the crew jumps into action to solve the problem. Tom Gabbard—Blumenthal’s CEO and one of the producers of the show—is there with his wife, Vickie. They are seated a couple rows directly behind the original film’s stars and can see Dolly Parton, taking advantage of the delay, scooting over to chat with actor Dabney Coleman, who played the film’s famously misogynistic boss. Just then a voice rings out over the crowd. It’s Vickie Gabbard with a spontaneous idea: “Dolly, sing something!”

So she does.

Parton, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, steps out into the aisle and a nearby soundman brings her a handheld mic. She riffs for a few minutes on how much she’s enjoyed working on her first Broadway musical and her respect for her co-creatives. Then she leads the audience in singing the 9 to 5 title song. About 20 minutes go by and Parton is still entertaining. She’s about to sing “I Will Always Love You,” when she gets the signal that the show is back up and ready to go.

Just another night at the theater, where anything and everything can happen!

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BACKSTAGE WITH THE BAND’S VISIT | Producer Orin Wolf and Writer Itamar Moses talk about their multiple Tony Award-winning show

Summer 2019

When Orin Wolf saw an early screening of the film The Band’s Visit, he had an immediate impulse: to put it on stage. “It was a moment of clarity for me that doesn’t happen very often in my life,” says Wolf. Some eight years later, his initial inspiration would become one of the
most celebrated and critically-acclaimed
musicals of all time.

Winner of 10 Tony Awards in 2018, this story of an Egyptian military band that gets stranded for one night in a remote Israeli village is now beginning a national tour, and Charlotte audiences will be among the first to see it. The Band’s Visit comes to Knight Theater Aug. 6-25.

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A NEW WAY TO ENGAGE | Blumenthal Tests App That Lets Audiences Decide What a Show Is Worth

Summer 2019

Kahlil Ashanti, a writer and performer whose award-winning shows have played all over the world, is not your typical computer programmer. But his new web application “,” could revolutionize the way theaters and artists do business.

Forty-something Ashanti learned to code on late nights after picking up his kids from soccer practice, helping his wife take care of things at home, and tucking in their three boys at night. 

Local audiences may know Ashanti best from his critically-acclaimed one man show, Basic Training, or the innovative PostSecret: The Show, which he co-wrote. Both productions had successful runs at Booth Playhouse in Charlotte.

Throughout his career, Ashanti has often taken on new risks. “I had to go out as an artist and create opportunities for myself,” he says.

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