Different Strokes

Sandra Stambaugh


If you want to stage a dance or theater production in downtown Asheville, your options are limited. You could rent the 40-seat BeBe Theatre or the 35-Below space, operated by Asheville Community Theater, which can hold about 75 people. But if you want marquee appeal, something that can draw foot traffic, you have to rent the Diana Wortham Theatre.

“The ability to fill a 500-seat space, for a local company, is sometimes overwhelming,” said Rae Geoffrey, the Wortham’s executive director. “The size and scope of Diana Wortham Theatre over the years has gotten too large for a lot of people and it has become used so often we frequently don’t have space in there.”

In the past few years, Geoffrey and the Wortham’s board grew concerned. They believed the theater’s programming didn’t reflect Asheville’s racial and ethnic diversity and ticket prices were out of reach for many. So they committed to expanding both the capacity and accessibility of the theater.

In September, the rebranded Wortham Center for the Performing Arts will hold three separate spaces -- the 500-seat main stage, a flexible black box space that can hold up to 100 and a multipurpose studio that can seat up to 60.

courtesy of Janet Oliver


From her earliest memories, Janet Oliver was different than every other child she knew in Batesville, Ark. Her father was a white civil rights lawyer, her mother black, and the adults around her—particularly the women in her matriarchal family—pushed her to greatness.

“The women around me said you will get a great education, you will leave Arkansas and you will have a life,” she said. “I was self-directed, I was opinionated, I was articulated and I was obedient, and I think they liked that factor far more.”

Different Strokes is an Asheville theater company with a mission to "change the world one play at a time." Still, Stephanie Hickling-Beckman, the founding director of Different Strokes, couldn't have known the company's production of "Best of Enemies" would come on the vapors of the racially charged events of Charlottesville, Virginia.