Grunin Center Welcomes Shannon Mayers, Executive and Artistic Director

The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts and the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College are pleased to announce that Shannon Mayers has been hired as Executive and Artistic Director after a national executive search guided by Arts Consulting Group. 

Mayers began her new position at OCC on July 12 and will be responsible for all activities of the two centers. She has more than 25 years’ experience in the arts, with extensive management and curatorial experience in professional and academic settings, including at the Arts Brookfield in New York City, the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, and, most recently, the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College in New Hampshire. Throughout her career, Shannon Mayers has produced and presented more than 1,000 performances, working with artists from 100 nations, ranging from celebrities like Bruce Springsteen to South African artists Ladysmith Black Mambazo. 

She earned her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and her BS in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and has been a guest lecturer at Theatre for a New Audience, Actors Theater of Louisville, Connecticut College, Queens College, College of Staten Island and Georgia Southern University. 

Mayers is originally from New York City and was raised in an artistic family with a mother who was an actress. “I grew up within the arts and was lucky to have it all around me,” she says. “I loved to go to shows and museums and was always hanging out at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center.” 

Over time, Mayers discovered that she loved the big picture — the totality of an event — and went into arts administration, after many years working in directing, teaching and event production. She sees her long career in the arts as a series of building blocks of areas that were of interest to her. 

She loves working in higher education, “where the arts can become an incubator for new ideas and research, and where experiences are expanded. It’s a great place to take risks and work with a variety of students and faculty on different projects that are connected to their learning and teaching,” she says. “Making the arts happen, is one of my passions. I want people to know — and it’s important for everyone to know — that the arts can happen anywhere.” 

“One of my strategic priorities is to increase our visibility and our audience to new groups that may not have considered participating or supporting the arts here in the past,” she says. “My passion is to entertain and engage audiences, inspire and enlighten the next generation of art enthusiasts, and to champion the arts as vital to the soul of every community.” 

Another one of Mayers’ goals is to institute what she calls “Creative Connections,” a new arts series that will offer a variety of free public programming for the campus as well as the wider community. 

Mayer also is excited to oversee the Novins Planetarium and plans to continue to integrate the sciences into the arts, which have a scientific component that people may not realize. To this end, the two centers (Grunin and Novins) may offer more integrated events in the future. 

“An arts center within a college or university setting exposes a wide variety of people to what the whole college has to offer. The arts should be as accessible as possible. It’s clear how OCC values the arts — giving students the chance to learn by doing, and sharing what they learn. Sharing the arts is a holistic, integrated experience. The arts allow a safe place for dialog about challenging topics and it’s wonderful to see the College embracing that. I’m very committed to this,” she adds. 

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Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Grant to support “Mobilizing Our Community” program

TOMS RIVER, NJ — The National Endowment for the Arts is awarding the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College a grant of $10,000 to support a collaboration with mobile artist Kevin Reese called “Mobilizing Our Community.”

“All Americans should have access to the arts,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Grants such as this one the Grunin Center are an important part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ work to ensure people in communities both large and small across the nation have the opportunity to experience the arts.” 

“Mr. Reese is an actor, designer, and visual artist with 40 years of experience working with young people as a performer and artist-in-residence,” said Mark Wilson, Director of Cultural Affairs for the Grunin Center. He is also a teacher of math, history, geometry, and physics, which he merges with his knowledge of art and art history. “Mr. Reese works with communities to create large permanent moving sculptures – at schools, community centers, and art centers – inspired by participants’ designs,” Wilson added. “This program connects both geographically and economically disadvantaged people, who may not have had the opportunity to participate in such a large-scale art project.”

During this collaboration, Reese conduct community-based workshops at OCC as well as school-based residencies to facilitate more intensive learning opportunities. During these school visits, he will work with students to create miniature “maquette” mobiles, installed as part of the larger public display. As they create individual pieces, students must learn to balance together to create a whole piece of art that will be a legacy and will open a dialogue about the importance of art and art’s place in a community. Students will work on life skills that include teamwork, critical thinking, community building, confidence building, and communication skills.

“We will use this educational tool to connect diverse communities together through arts education,” Wilson noted. 

About the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts 

The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College, is a performing arts center dedicated to providing art and entertainment to Ocean County and the Jersey Shore. Featuring premiere acts from across the globe, the Grunin Center’s intimate venue allows patrons to experience once-in-a-lifetime from venerated artists, hometown musicians, and unique entertainers. Music performances of all genres, theatre, film, and dance make their way to the Grunin Center stage each season. The Grunin Center is also the home to young performers from various educational performing arts organizations, including Ocean County College students from the performing arts and fine arts programs, and the Ocean County and NJ State Teen Arts Festivals. Our Art Gallery highlights local artists by displaying several collections throughout the year. Additionally, the Garden State Philharmonic is the Orchestra-in-Residence. For more information, visit grunincenter.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.

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Rufus Wainwright Comes to Grunin Center Main Stage August 23

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Rufus Wainwright, one of the great male vocalists, composers, and songwriters of his generation, will present “Oh Solo Wainwright: An Evening with Rufus,” with special guest The Rails, at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at 8:00 pm on Friday, August 23

The Grunin Center is located on the OCC Main Campus, on College Drive in Toms River.

Wainwright – who has collaborated with artists such as Elton John, David Byrne, Robbie Williams, Mark Ronson, Joni Mitchell, and Burt Bacharach – has released eight studio albums, three DVDs, and three live albums. His album “Rufus Does Judy,” recorded at Carnegie Hall in 2006, was nominated for a Grammy.

His acclaimed first opera, “Prima Donna,” premiered at the Manchester International Festival in July 2009 and has since been presented in London, Toronto, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. This summer it will be performed at the Armel Opera Festival in Hungary and Augsburg Theatre in Germany.  In 2015, Deutsche Grammaphon released a studio recording of the opera recorded with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Wainwright celebrated the 400thanniversary of Shakespeare’s death with his most recent album, “Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets,” released by on Deutsche Grammophon in spring 2016.

The Canadian Opera Company commissioned Wainwright’s second opera – “Hadrian,” about Roman Emperor Hadrian – which premiered in Toronto in the fall of 2018.

Main Stage Tickets: $39-$59

VIP Meet & Greet Package: $209

Includes:

1 Premium Seat

1 Meet & Greet and Photo with Rufus Wainwright

1 Exclusive Merch Gift 1 Commemorative VIP Laminate

92.7 WOBM is the official media sponsor of the 2018-2019 Grunin Center Season. 

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ALEXIS MORRAST PERFORMS JAZZ ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Alexis Morrast

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter Alexis Morrast has proved her chops by twice taking the title at Amateur Night at the Apollo, and also winning “Showtime at the Apollo,” a Fox TV program hosted by Steve Harvey. This month, Morrast will grace the main stage of the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts. “Introducing Alexis Morrast” is set for 3:00 pm on Sunday, March 31, part of the arts center’s Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon Series.

The Grunin Center is located on the Ocean County College Main Campus, on College Drive in Toms River.

The youngest of six children, Morrast began singing at the age of three. The 17-year-old phenom and native of Newark, New Jersey, now resides in Plainfield, New Jersey. In addition to her success at the Apollo, Morrast was the recipient of the 2017 Hot House Magazine “Best Up and Coming Young Artist Award.”

Tickets: Adults $24, Seniors $20

New Jersey Jazz Society is a proud media sponsor of the Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon Series.

To purchase tickets, contact the Grunin Center at 732-255-0500 or visit grunincenter.org.

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AUTHOR TIM O’BRIEN VISITS THE GRUNIN CENTER ON MARCH 28

Tim O'Brien

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Last year the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest awarded Toms River Regional Schools a $15,000 grant to host NEA Big Read, the aim of which is to broaden understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. On Thursday, March 28, at 6:30 pm, Tim O’Brien – author of “The Things They Carried” – will visit the Jay and Linda Grunin Center of the Arts as the culmination of Toms River’s 2018-2019 NEA Big Read. 

This event, which will feature a book discussion followed by a Q&A and a book signing, is free and open to the public. The Grunin Center is located on the Ocean County College Main Campus, on College Drive in Toms River.

O’Brien received the National Book Award in Fiction in 1979 for his novel “Going After Cacciato,” and his work “In the Lake of the Woods,” published in 1994, was chosen by Time Magazineas the best novel of that year. The book also received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was selected as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times

In 2005, “The Things They Carried” was named by The New York Timesas one of the 22 best books of the last quarter century. It received the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award in fiction and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The French edition of “The Things They Carried” received one of France’s most prestigious literary awards, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. The title story from “The Things They Carried” received the National Magazine Award and was selected by John Updike for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century.  

In 2010, O’Brien received the Katherine Anne Porter Award, presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for a distinguished lifetime body of work. Two years later, he received the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. In 2013, O’Brien received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Literature from the Pritzker Military Library, and in 2018 he received the Mark Twain Award in literature. 

O’Brien’s short fiction has appeared in The New YorkerThe AtlanticEsquirePlayboyHarper’s Magazine, and numerous editions of The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Best American Short Stories. His novels have sold more than six million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

This event is presented by: the Toms River Regional School District, NEA Big Read, Ocean County College, and the Ocean County College Foundation. For more information, contact the Grunin Center at 732-255-0500 or visit grunincenter.org.

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HAIRSPRAY SING-ALONG WITH HOST JEREMY GRUNIN!

Hairspray

TOMS RIVER, NJ — Join host Jeremy Grunin – aka Edna Turnblad – for a hilarious “Hairspray” Sing-Along on the main stage of the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College, at 8:00 pm on Friday, March 22. 

The film “Hairspray” is set in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962, and follows teenager Tracy Turnblad as she follows her dream to appear on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program. When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight, meets a colorful array of characters, and launches a campaign to integrate the show.

Get your hair done and your vocal chords warmed up and join us for this upbeat, fun-loving, can’t-stop-the-beat sing-along at the Grunin Center. Don’t know all the words? No problem! We’ll have them onscreen to make sure you keep up. You can’t help but feel good watching this film remake’s star-studded cast, including Zac Efron, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, and John Travolta.

Dressing up is encouraged! And show us your best 1960s hairdo!

Tickets to the “Hairspray” Sing-Along are $10.

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92.7 WOBM is the official media sponsor of the 2018-2019 Grunin Center Season. 

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A LOVE LETTER TO BROADWAY PRESENTED BY THE OCC REPERTORY THEATRE COMPANY

A Love Letter to Broadway

TOMS RIVER, NJ — The Ocean County College Repertory Theatre Company will bring their production of A Love Letter to Broadway to the Black Box Theater at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts from March 8 through March 17

Join the theatre company as they present a rousing collection of musical favorites spanning decades and styles. You’ll enjoy a delightful show featuring well-known hits (and some misses), the up-tempo, the ballad, and the rock n’ roll jukebox. If you’re a fan of Broadway musicals, this is a show you don’t want to miss!

Seating in the Black Box Theater is General Admission, and at an intimate 90 seats, shows often sell out fast. So don’t delay- get your tickets today!

Get Tickets!

Performances:

Friday, March 8 at 7:30 pm

Saturday, March 9 at 8:00 pm

Sunday, March 10 at 2:00 pm – Sold Out

Thursday, March 14 at 7:30 pm

Friday, March 15 at 7:30 pm

Saturday, March 16 at 8:00 pm

Sunday, March 17 at 2:00 pm – Sold Out

A Love Letter to Broadway Creative Team:

Paul Chalakani, Director

Beth Brierley, Choreographer

Kara Leigh, Musical Director

Lauren Schwartz, Lighting Designer/Stage Manager

Stephan Caldwell, Set Designer/Technical Director

A Love Letter to Broadway Cast: Taylor Bongarzone, Brandon Burns, Connor Dosch, Javier Fuentes, Samantha Gertner, Becky Hobba, Cassie Jones, Thomas Krey, Donovan Lee, Becky Malinowski, Amanda Mason, Kelly Morrissey, Marley Pullen, Megan Rafferty, Derek Rizzo, Arianna Scarano, Cameron Schlussler, Rubin Smyers, John Thompson, Mike Thullner, Katie Whalen

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, and can be purchased online at grunincenter.org; by phone at 732-255-0500; or in person at the Grunin Center Box Office, Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Ask about group and student rates.

92.7 WOBM is the official media sponsor of the 2018-2019 Grunin Center Season.  The Grunin Center is located on the OCC Main Campus, College Drive, Toms River, NJ.

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Get To Know Us!

Get To Know

Get to know us…

In 2014, The Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation announced a $5.75 million donation to Ocean County College to establish The Jay & Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on the College’s Main Campus in Toms River.

So who are Jay and Linda Grunin, and why did they want to start an arts center here?

Jay and Linda met and fell in love as two promising law students at NYU in the sixties. They established a thriving law practice right here in Toms River, NJ, and decades later chose to pursue one of their lifelong passions: philanthropy. Thus their foundation was born.

The Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation is a family-run philanthropic fund with three distinct areas of focus: healthcare, education, and the arts. As long time residents of the Jersey Shore, Jay and Linda knew it was the natural destination for their philanthropic endeavors. Their desire is to make Toms River “the regional template for quality of life and strong economic health.” To that end, the main campus at Ocean County College was considered the perfect location for the arts center, due to its centrality and significance within the Ocean County community.

A Cultural Hub is Born

The center is built on the belief that a thriving arts culture is vital for community involvement and economic opportunity. It includes a 464 seat theatre, as well as an additional 90 seat black-box theatre, and is home to a variety of inspiring and entertaining performances and lectures season after season. In 2017 it was announced that a 53,000 square foot performing arts high school would be built adjacent to the theatre on the Ocean County College campus administered by the Ocean County Vocational Technical School system. The performing arts high school is expected to open in 2019 and is poised to become one of the best performing arts academies in the country, where students can earn associates degrees alongside their diplomas.

There are so many ways that we at the Grunin Center work to keep the arts alive and thriving at the Jersey Shore. Here are just a few of the highlights of our 2017-2018 season:

  • The world renowned Vienna Boys Choir
  • An Evening with Todd Frazier, Major League Baseball player and hometown hero
  • Chrissy Metz, Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated star of critically acclaimed This Is Us
  • Two-time Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones

We are also pleased to provide quality programming through our “Schools ‘n Stage” initiative, geared specifically toward providing educational and engaging experiences for local students, and we are proud supporters and hosts to both the Ocean County and New Jersey Teen Arts Festivals. At The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, we are committed to nurturing a love of arts and entertainment not only in our own generation but in those to come.

We hope you feel as though you can get to know “us,” and in future posts will be sharing even more about our staff, outreach programs, venue, and more!

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Arts Education with Schools n’ Stage

schools n stageby Jaclyn Wood, Community Engagement Coordinator
Grunin Center for the Arts

What do a swashbuckling pirate, a Korean jazz group, and a Chicano band from East Los Angeles have in common? They’ll all be performing at the Grunin Center this winter as part of our Schools n’ Stage series, and you can see them!

The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts is pleased to announce a new slate of school programs in our new School n’ Stage. Piloted in 2016/2017 with Doktor Kaboom and The Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, this series brings the best in science, arts and culture programming to young people in elementary, middle and high school. Based on feedback from teachers, we’ve hand-picked five great programs for the 2017/2018 school year!

S.T.E.A.M.: Integrating Arts Education

One of the biggest topics in education right now is S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). And integral part of this is the Arts- S.T.E.A.M. Studies show the benefits students receive from exposure to and participation in the arts.* With “Janet’s Planet: Tour of the Solar System” and “Pirate School: The Science of Pirates,” we will be bringing entertaining, engaging science-based K-5 programs to our stage.

Janet's PlanetJanet’s Planet comes to the Grunin Center on January 18, 2018. “Janet’s Planet and her JP Space Crew are taking their new friends on an out of this world adventure! Janet, along with Galileo her Super Computer, Cody the Robot, Professor Cosmos and Dr. Comet are going to start at the sun and share the wonder of our Solar System by visiting every planet orbiting around the star at the center of it all! One young astronaut (a special cadet in training from the audience) will even get to walk on the moon!”

On February 7, “Pirate School: The Science of Pirates” sails onto our stage to excite with Pirate Schoolthe allure of swashbuckling fun while introducing simple concepts and technologies outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards. “Pirate School: The SCIENCE of Pirates!” is an uncommon and engaging matinee assembly for students Grades K-5, promoting curiosity in the sciences by presenting S.T.E.A.M. curricula with a comical, nautical twist! Developed with the Long Island Children’s Museum Theater in NY, this rousing show is the creation of 25 year veteran family entertainer David Engel, who has performed across the US, Europe, and Asia. Subjects covered will include Optics, Simple Machines & Engineering, Navigation & Astronomy, Aero & Hydrodynamics, and rudimentary physics of how a cannonball flies.

World Music: A Gateway Through Arts Education

In addition to our S.T.E.A.M. shows, we’ll also be hosting three world music concerts, in conjunction with the Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission: Black String, Las Cafeteras, and Kuniko Yamamoto.

Black StringBlack String, founded in 2011 as part of the Korea-UK cultural exchange program “UK Connection” plays “borderless contemporary music from Korea.” When you come to the Grunin Center to see Black String perform, you will learn about South Korea and hear “amplified bursts of sound of the geomungo (6-stringed zither) and Korean bamboo flutes, the fierce quake of Korean traditional percussion, and unpredictable melody of jazz guitar (that) will grasp all your senses.” In addition to the performance, Black String will also engage students in a question and answer session, so students can interact with the group and learn more. Black String will be here on January 25, 2018.

Las CafeterasOn January 30, students will enjoy performances by Las Cafeteras, a band from Los Angeles. They are influenced by the culture, storytelling, and poetic music of Son Jarocho, a traditional music from Veracruz, Mexico. They will sing in English and Spanish and play a variety of instruments including a requinto (a small guitar-shaped string instrument), a box-like percussion instrument called a cajon, and even a donkey jawbone! They also use a wooden platform called the tarima to dance zapateado. You may hear familiar tunes like “La Bamba” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” as well as original songs like “If I Was President.” Las Cafeteras use their performances to inspire social change.

Black String and Las Cafeteras will also play night time performances that are open to the public, so if you are not a student, don’t worry about missing out!

KunikoLast but not least, on March 19 performance by Kuniko Yamamoto. She will tell Japanese stories and folk tales using music, masks and mime, and will use origami (the art of paper folding) and magic tricks as she performs. We are also excited to have Kuniko here to lead workshops for the student at the Ocean County Teen Arts Festival.

Interested in booking your students for a School n’ Stage performance? Contact Jaclyn Wood, Community Engagement Coordinator at 732-255-0400 ext. 2487 or jwood@ocean.edu. Be sure to sign up soon, because tickets are limited!

*Learn more about arts education and become an Arts Ambassador at https://artsednow.org

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Hometown Heroes Share Their Stories This Veterans Day

Telling Jersey Shore Veterans

by Elizabeth Stacy, OCC Student

Telling: Jersey Shore Debuts at the Grunin Center

With a lot of social and political issues going on in the world today, it is difficult to concede with most of what circulates in the media. One thing that we as Americans, and as human beings, agree on is the importance of those who have laid themselves on the line for this country. Not only do they miss holidays, birthdays, and the small moments that we take for granted every day, these men and women risk their lives, rick becoming disabled, and can develop stressful conditions. These sacrifices were made to make sure that the people back home are safe.

Telling: Jersey Shore allows us a diverse glimpse into the life of a soldier. An important stage performance that lets the audience get close to these men and women by letting them express their stories, this is an event for younger and older generations alike. It isn’t just for those who have been directly affected by war or know veterans, it is for anyone who would like a deeper understanding of the lives of veterans and to support each other as human beings.

About the Veterans Participating

Two of the local veterans that will be sharing their stories are Phillip Zimmerman and David Rosenak.  Phillip served in the U.S. Navy until he was discharged in December of 1986 when a colleague turned him in to the National Investigative Service for being gay. What would have been a long and promising career in the Navy ended abruptly. However, he has taken a negative and turned it into a positive by serving as a veteran’s services officer. He now helps other veterans, especially those who have been treated unfairly, to regain their honor and benefits which they very much deserve.

David Rosenak spent his nine years of service in the U.S. Air Force, traveling all over the world. He’s had assignments in, but not limited to, Texas, England, Kansas, France, and Vietnam. Although he got to see much of the world, it wasn’t without sacrifice. David has many stories, some involving rocket attacks, losing friends in Cambodia, an emotional visit to the American cemetery in Normandy, and coming home with PTSD. Despite his time in the Air Force, David still has a long history in professional theatre, as well as a background writing poetry, which is another reason he was thought of for this project.

Show Your Support of Our Local Veterans

Don’t miss the opportunity to not only show support to these brave men and women but also to gain knowledge and consideration. Not only will this be a glimpse at the lives of veterans during their service, it will also allow the audience to see that they are more than soldiers, they are people. This performance looks at the human side of war and what serving your country really means. It is a truly emotional and riveting performance by and about Jersey Shore Veterans and their families. The best way to help Veterans transition back into normal, everyday life is to understand what they have been through.

Get your tickets now! All performances take place in the Black Box Theatre.

Friday, November 10th at 7:30pm
Saturday, November 11th (Veterans Day) at 8:00pm
Sunday, November 12th at 2:00pm

Thursday, November 16th at 7:30pm
Friday, November 17th at 7:30pm
Saturday, November 18th at 8:00pm
Sunday, November 19th at 2:00pm

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