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Award-winning animator brings talents back to the Gainesville Theatre Alliance with 'The Odyssey'
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Director Michael Granberry speaks with his cast during a dress rehearsal for, "The Odyssey," presented by the Gainesville Theatre Alliance in Gainesville, on Saturday, April 7, 2018. Performances will begin showing on April 10 through April 21. - photo by David Barnes

It didn’t take Michael Granberry 10 years to get back to Gainesville the way it took Odysseus 10 years to get home in Homer’s epic story of “The Odyssey.” Granberry also wasn’t coming back from war.

“The Odyssey”

When: 7:30 p.m. April 10-14 and 17-21; 2:30 p.m. April 15 and 21

Where: University of North Georgia’s Ed Cabell Theatre, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood

How much: $18-$20 adults, $16-$18 seniors and $12-$14 students

More info: 678-717-3624

The two-time Emmy award-winning animator made it back, though, to direct the Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s performance of “The Odyssey” at North Georgia’s Ed Cabell Theatre in Oakwood on April 10-15 and 17-21. A free reception in the theater’s lobby will follow tonight’s performance and a free Q&A with the cast will follow the show on April 17.

This will be Granberry’s first time directing a main-stage show for the GTA. About a year ago when Jim Hammond, the GTA’s artistic and managing director, asked him to do it while at lunch on the Gainesville square, Granberry was on board.

His previous work includes the preschool series, “Tumble Leaf,” which won an Emmy in both 2015 and 2016. There’s also the feature film, “Anomalisa,” which was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe in 2016.

Granberry, a GTA alumnus, also has directing credits for “Robot Chicken” “Bob’s Burgers,” “MAD,” and “Spy VS Spy.” Other film and television credits include “Adventure Time,” “Supermansion,” “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” and “Tales of Halloween.”

Prior to working in animation, he spent several years as artistic director for the Cape Fear Shakespeare Festival in Wilmington, NC. He currently serves as animation director for Bix Pix Entertainment in Los Angeles.

“The challenge of doing a play that has come up through the centuries is finding a way to make it relevant to contemporary audiences,” said Granberry, who graduated from what is now Brenau University in 1991. “‘The Odyssey’ particularly has survived because it has so many scenes and chapters in it that are so relevant to modern audiences.”

He said it’s a story about families being torn apart by war, children looking for their parents and countries struggling because of a lack of strong leadership. All of those things make for many “fantastical scenes,” which Granberry is excited about.

“I wanted to find a way to combine live theater, puppetry and animation all in one piece and this story seemed to lend itself to that,” Granberry said. “So we’re pulling out all the stops.”

He said they have created animations specifically for the show that will allow them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. The animations will be projected onto the set and the actors will interact with them, making it look like they are part of the same scene.

“It’s an exciting effect,” Granberry said. “It’s a very different effect than people normally see, and it lends itself to some great scenes.”

With his experience, Granberry is up for the same challenge he said the cast was up for when it originally chose to do “The Odyssey.” He said putting on a show like this would push everyone involved because of the elaborate scenes and characters.

“When you are comfortable, you tend to not grow,” Granberry said. “And the purpose of the school is to make people grow. So you have to build challenges into your program while also creating exciting, interesting theater for your audience.”

“The Odyssey” is a play that Granberry feels will challenge everyone’s ways of thinking about theater, which he said is something that always needs to be done.

“If you wanted to do the same show and same kinds of shows over and over again, then you might as well work in a museum,” Granberry said.