The year ahead for the Alban Arts Center in St. Albans may be its biggest one yet.
“It’s huge for us,” Alban director Adam Bryan said.
While the schedule for the upcoming season of plays has been out for several weeks, the Alban has had a couple of late additions, starting with a two-night performance with television actor Ed Asner.
Asner, probably best known for playing gruff newspaper editor Lou Grant on the CBS show of the same name, as well as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” is coming to the Alban May 17 and 18 for “God Help Us,” a political comedy revolving around a debate between two political opposites, moderated by The Almighty.
“He’s been taking the show across the country,” Bryan said. “Ed Asner plays God and they get local actors to be the pundits who debate.”
In this case, Asner co-stars with Bryan and Marlette Carter.
“Marlette and I don’t often get to be on stage anymore,” Bryan said. “But with Ed Asner coming to town, we figured that’s a good reason for us to dust it off.”
The director said he was looking forward to it, though when he’s mentioned it some of his younger friends, they don’t immediately recognize the name.
Bryan said, “I have to tell them Ed Asner was Santa Claus in the movie ‘Elf’ and was the voice of the old guy in ‘Up.’”
Odds are, anyone with a television has seen Asner. His career spans over 60 years and he’s appeared in dozens of films and television programs, most recently as a guest star on shows like “MacGyver,” “Cobra Kai” and “Bones.”
In May, the Alban will also be one of three theaters in the state to screen the film “Mine 9,” about nine coal miners who struggle to survive after a methane explosion leaves them with one hour of oxygen.
Directed by West Virginia native Eddie Mensore, from Wetzel County, Bryan said he believed the film was probably going to one of the streaming services for distribution within the next year.
“But the production company wanted to get it played in theaters in Appalachia before it shows up on Amazon or Netflix in a year or whatever,” Bryan said.
The small-budget film features actors with screen credits, including Kevin Sizemore from Mercer County, best known for his roles on “Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462” and “Resurrection.”
“We don’t do a lot of film screenings,” Bryan said. “So, this is just a cool opportunity for us.”
In the fall, the director added that they had plans to do a musical but were contractually unable to release information about the name of the show until the touring production had already passed through the area.
“We should be able to say something in April or maybe May,” Bryan laughed. “This is exciting for us, too, and there’s that little bit of suspense about what the show might be.”
The area, he added, wasn’t necessarily just Charleston, but could include Huntington and beyond.
Meanwhile, here’s the Alban’s show schedule:
- April 26 to 28, May 3 through 5, “Sylvia,” a comedy about how one man’s life changes after he finds a stray dog.
- June 21 to 23, June 28 to 30, the Alban will present “Huck Finn,” based on the novel by Mark Twain.
- July (date to be announced), the Alban will present William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” outdoors at St. Albans City Park.
- September 13 to 15 and September 20 to 22, it’s “Matilda: The Musical.” Based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl, 5-year-old Matilda overcomes obstacles and helps her teacher reclaim her life through the power of her mind.