THOMASVILLE — A tale of passion, romance and suspense will command the stage at the Thomasville Cultural Center on Thursday with Thomasville Entertainment Foundation’s presentation of The Acting Company’s production of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, “Jane Eyre.”

“There’s a strong cast all around, it’s beautifully directed and very interesting and the story itself is really compelling,” said Christopher Oden, 44, who portray’s Rochester in the play. “Jane is, in some ways, a very contemporary woman. She’s very strong and the way she navigates her world and the love story is heartbreaking.”

Oden, a professional actor “on and off” for the last 23 years, is enjoying his first season with The Acting Company.

“My parents took me to a lot of plays when I was a kid and there was a time when one of the actors came and sat in the audience next to us,” he said. “He had so much energy and there was something almost otherworldly about him sitting in his seat. It was almost like he was electrified and glowing and I wanted that.”

He got his first audition for the play via its movement director — who he’d worked with on a number of prior occasions — and went through the auditions process to receive a role.

“I had wanted to work with director for a while, but I’d never read the story before I got involved with the production,” said Oden. “I didn’t have a particular part I wanted to play, but I love my role. Rochester fell in love with Jane and he has a violent temper and reverses himself. It’s an amazing love story and to get to live that love story is really fun.”

The Acting Company was founded in 1972 by legendary Oscar-winning actor/producer/director John Houseman and Margot Harley, current producing director, out of the first graduating class of the Juilliard School’s Drama Division.

The focus of The Acting Company is on the actor.

Past members who have gone on to make significant impacts in the performing arts include: Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, David Schramm, Jessie L. Martin, Keith David, David Ogden Stiers, Frances Conroy, Jeffrey Wright and Rainn Wilson.

The Acting Company has performed 127 productions for more than 2 million people in 48 states and nine countries.

The Acting Company has been honored with the Obie Award, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, Citibank’s Excellence in Education Award, two Audelco Awards and the Tony Award.

Last season, the company presented an adaptation of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” by Jeffrey Hatcher and Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” The Acting Company also toured the south with Carson McCullers’ “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” adapted by Rebecca Gilman.

The Miami Herald has called The Acting Company, “One of this country’s most exciting, creative and impressive theater companies.”

The company — excluding its New York season in May — tours five months a year to communities across America where live theater is limited or non-existent.

The Acting Company promotes theater literacy and reaches approximately 25,000 students each year through Literacy Through Theater, workshops, student matinees and master classes. Most are in schools that have no other arts programming.

The centerpiece of its education programs are week-long Literacy Through Theater Artistic Residencies., where students are immersed in all aspects of a play. At week’s end, the students go to see the company perform that play and spend the day with the actors.

“Jane Eyre” is the tale of an orphan raised by a wicked aunt who arrives on Edward Rochester’s stoop, the guardian of a little girl who Jane becomes a governess to, and they end up falling in love. Then come the problems.

“I think one of the messages of the story is that strength and self reliance will get you through in the end because, by sticking to her principals after many dark days, Jane comes out on top,” said Oden.

TEF officials are enthused about the performance and encouraged residents to buy tickets to the show.

“Throughout the tour, the company has received rave reviews from the media and from their management, ICM Artists,” said Janice Faircloth, executive director of TEF. “The consensus is that the performance is very polished and well-directed, and definitely a crowd-pleaser. Personally, Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite novels and I can’t wait to see this production.”

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