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Up with Statesboro
Up with People cast arrives for weeklong stay
030413 UWP ARRIVAL 02
Up with People drummer and vocalist Robin Gustafsson, of Stockholm, Sweden, center right, meets host Kim Duke, of Nevils, dressed out in mummy attire at the Averitt Center for the Arts on Monday. Cast members were tasked with finding their hosts by a song, which the host families had to represent with props or costumes. Duke was given the 1970s disco classic "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees and thought the best way to represent it was by not being dead. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

They will explore Europe and perform throughout Mexico. But this week, it’s all about Statesboro.
    More than 110 performers from 20 countries arrived in front of the Averitt Center for the Arts Monday to continue an 18-city world tour performing shows and tackling community service projects.
    It was an exciting day for the travelling troupe, Up with People, who were given a police escort downtown — not before bus trouble on their way from Vero Beach, Fla. — caught a quick show in the Emma Kelly Theater, and met, for the first time, their host families for a weeklong stay.
    In the evening, several families filled the Averitt Center foyer, holding — or in some cases dressing as — clues that paired hosts with their “adopted” family members.
    Performers were given cards featuring a song title while the families, hopefully, provided hints good enough for the young artists to find them, upon exiting the theater.
    The challenge was no problem for California’s Jessica Sun.
    “(My roommate and I) were just talking about the song (“Girls Just want to Have Fun), and then all of a sudden I heard Cyndi Lauper,” Sun said — Sun’s host parent, Julie Brannen, was in the corner of the foyer blasting the song from a boom box. “I said ‘Yep. Yep. That’s her!’”
    Another family held a sign that read “Journey” and had the word “believing” crossed out. On one side of the room, a man held up cutouts of the name “U2” and a giant number one.
    Kim Duke cleverly dressed as a mummy, and held a sign with the word “dead” crossed through it — a nod to her song, “Staying Alive.”
    Duke said she is looking forward to adding six more “sons” to her family this week.
    “The boys are going to be able to take the four-wheelers out, and my boys will show them how to shoot skeet,” she said.
    Monday’s meeting kicks off what some of participants consider the best part of their travels.
    “It is one of the most exciting parts of the program,” said China’s Wenfei Wang. “I really enjoy it.” 
    Said Sun: “Every one of my host families has been very different, but great.”
    Before meeting host families, Up with People participants were treated to a performance at the Averitt Center featuring local talent.
The Statesboro Youth Chorale and musician Russ Lanier drew standing ovations for their efforts.
    The Up with People cast will spread out this week to participate in various community service projects — assisting Habitat for Humanity, visiting the Boys & Girls Club and working with children at the library and Averitt Center — and perform live shows to raise money for charity.
    Up with People is a nonprofit organization designed to provide travel, cultural, art performance and community service experiences for its students, who pay tuition.
    Other projects this week include sorting food items at the Food Bank Inc., cleaning the river with Ogeechee Riverkeeper, and meeting elders at the Parks and Recreation Department senior center.
    Today, the group will perform a show for students, staff and faculty at Georgia Southern University, and Wednesday, groups of Up with People performers will visit Sallie Zetterower Elementary School and Julia P. Bryant Elementary School and appear in a cultural fair on the GSU campus.
    The group’s public shows are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Statesboro High School auditorium. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children and students.
    Future tour cities include Atlanta; Geneva, Switzerland; and Mexico City.

    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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