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Briar Patch puts new focus on Georgia author
Play performances to include discussion of Harris role as storyteller
The characters of Joel Chandler Harris' works are featured in "The Briar Patch," opening Friday at Brenau University's Pearce Auditorium.

The Briar Patch

When: Performances 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Oct. 8, 2:30 p.m. Sunday; discussion precedes Sunday performance at 1 p.m.

Where: Pearce Auditorium, Brenau University, Gainesville

Tickets: $10-$12, $7-$8 for students and children

More info: Gainesville Theatre Alliance website

WonderQuest, the Gainesville Theatre Alliance's young audiences division, will tackle some deeper-than-usual issues in its latest production, "The Briar Patch," opening Friday at Brenau University's Pearce Auditorium.

The play, based on the stories of Georgia author Joel Chandler Harris, focuses on the adventures of Brer Rabbit, a mischievous rabbit that often tangles with Brer Fox and Brer Bear.

Uncle Remus, the African-American character featured in "The Briar Patch" and many of Harris' books, will be the focus of an adult-oriented panel discussion called "Everything you know about Uncle Remus is WRONG?" set for 1 p.m. Sunday at the auditorium.

The discussion features Lain Shakespeare, executive director of The Wren's Nest, Harris' Atlanta home and museum, and Cheryl Renee Gooch, Gainesville State College's Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts. They will discuss the role of Uncle Remus in Harris' folk tales, and "help Mr. Harris regain his place as a storyteller and recorder of African-American heritage," WonderQuest director Gay Hammond said.

"While the play is aimed at children, the panel is really aimed at literature teachers who've become confused about the value of Harris' writing," Hammond said.

A study guide will be provided to all teachers to prepare their students for seeing the play. The guide includes information on Harris' apprenticeship on a plantation and friendships he made who became models for Uncle Remus, discussion points about Brer Rabbit as a "trickster" character from African tradition and notes on why the tales of Brer Rabbit and company were revolutionary at the time, creating a genre of storytelling that children are familiar with today.

Two meet-the-actors receptions will follow the opening night performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Following Sunday's panel discussion and 2:30 p.m. matinee, an old-fashioned ice cream social will be held at the gazebo behind Pearce Auditorium.

Reserved tickets for adults are $10-$12. For children and students, ticket prices range from $7 to $8.