Tri-State Theater
Let's discuss upcoming shows, secrets behind the scenes, things you never knew about the theater and why live theater is so darn entertaining.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Congratulations, Brooklyn!

   Here's exciting news - Tara Nelson announced that her daughter Brooklyn Nelson will be making her Broadway debut on Tuesday!

   She wrote: 

   We are beyond thrilled and excited to finally be able to announce that tomorrow, our amazing daughter, Brooklyn, will be making her BROADWAY DEBUT in Matilda the Musical!!!!! 

   She has worked so hard and is ecstatic and grateful for this life changing opportunity! 

   Brooklyn is the small girl swing that plays Lavender and Amanda. 

   We are so thankful that God has given Brooklyn and our family this experience.


   How awesome is that! She had roles in numerous shows in Huntington, including Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr., Dear Edwina, Jr. and Once on This Island, Jr.!

   All of us in the Tri-State are cheering her on! Break legs, Brooklyn!

   (And your pal Chuck is particularly proud to note that he directed her in her first show, "The Little Mermaid," where she played a chef, a sea creature and a member of the sea chorus!)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Marshall Theatre Announces Its New Season

   Reporter Paul Sebert filed a terrific story in Sunday's paper about the upcoming season for Marshall University's Theatre Department.

   You can read the full story right here - here are the highlights:


   The Marshall University School of Music and Theatre has kicked off the start of a new school year by announcing the theater program's line-up for the 2015-16 school year. 

   Each year, the theater program gives students the opportunity to perform on the big stage, presenting four productions over the fall and spring semesters. This season's range of plays vary from comedy to drama. In addition to acting, students are given roles in music, design and production.

   "We provide four main stage productions to the public and to the Huntington community," said Samuel Kincaid, project coordinator for the School of Music and Theatre. 

   The first play of the season is "Ah, Wilderness!" which runs from Sept. 30 - Oct. 3 and Oct. 8 - 10. All showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. at the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre. Written by playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1933, the play is a coming of age comedy centered around a family's Fourth of July weekend. The play was brought back to Broadway in 1998 as part of a popular revival.

   "'Ah, Wilderness!' is unique because it's one of O'Neill's few comedies," Kincaid said. "He's best known for his dramas. It's one of his few lighthearted stories and it's a very sentimental piece. A good bit of it is inspired by his boyhood. It's simply a story about a large family. The central character, Richard Miller, is having his first love as a teenage boy and he has to deal with this around his eccentric family. It's a good family play and I think audiences will really enjoy it.”

   The theater program will run another family favorite Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" from Nov. 18 - 21 at 7:30 p.m. There will be a special Saturday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 21. Charles Dickens' classic story of redemption will be on the big stage at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse with program director Jack Cirillo playing the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge.

   The first play of the spring semester is "Mauritius." Written by Theresa Beck, the play is centered around two half-sisters who inherit a stamp collection that could be worth a fortune. One wishes to sell the collection while the other wishes to hold onto it for sentimental reasons. Complicating the matter are a trio of collectors who will resort to underhanded means to get a hold of a particularly valuable stamp called "The Blue Mauritius." The play will run in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre from Feb. 17 - 20 and 25 - 27 at 7:30 p.m.

   The final play of the school year will be William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," which will run at the Joan C. Edward's Playhouse April 20-23. This will be a full-scale production of the Bard's classic tragic love story. The theater program has a proud tradition of producing one of Shakespeare's plays every other year.

   General admission to each show is $20. Seniors and faculty can buy tickets at a discounted rate of $15. Children 5 - 12 can attend for $7. Admission is free to full-time Marshall students with a valid ID. Tickets can be purchased at the box office at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center, which is open from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call the box office at 304-696-2787.

   For more information, visit  

Friday, August 28, 2015

"Medea" - A Review

   Most theatre groups are more than willing to stay in safe places.

   That’s why you typically see upbeat musicals or comedies being tackled by community theatres. (And let me quickly add, don’t misunderstand me - there’s nothing wrong with staging crowd pleasing shows.)

   It takes courage to tackle the shows that fall on the dark side of the spectrum, and thankfully, there are companies willing to tackle those shows.

   The theatre group that seems to be leading the way in the Tri-State area is Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS). 

   Its latest offering is one of the most intense theatre experiences in recent memory, one that hits you visually, viscerally and emotionally.

   The play is Medea, a classic Greek tragedy by Euripides, adapted for modern audiences by A.E. Gill.

    It’s a story of a disintegrating marriage - and a brutal attempt at revenge.

   Medea is well-known in Greek mythology as the woman - or witch - who aided the hero Jason in his quest to acquire the Golden Fleece. She betrayed her family and her home country, and used her knowledge to help Jason overcome mystic menaces and fulfill his quest. He married Medea, and they had two young sons - but then Jason left her to marry Glauce, the daughter of King Creon. Devastated by the loss of the man she had sacrificed everything for, Medea plots a terrible revenge.

   It’s a grim tale that is brought to life with stunning skill and art by this company. Director Leah Turley has crafted an amazing production, combining a deceptively simple (but supremely functional) set with evocative costumes (complete with metallic tattoos), a brilliant use of lighting and subtle music to influence the mood of each scene, and a terrific cast that’s always in motion - and on the edge.

   But the show really rests on the talent of its cast. Playing the title role is Joanna Berner Murdock - and she’s spectacular. She’s onstage for virtually the entire show, delivering reams of dialogue with amazing intensity - sometimes pleading, sometimes commanding, always in control. It’s a stunning, riveting performance - well worth the price of admission alone.

   She’s supported by the narrator and nurse, played by Sheila Meade, a rare voice of humanity who keeps the story moving along and keep the audience informed about all the heart-breaking events.

   You’ll also find an actual Greek Chorus, as Cyndi Mac Fuller, Nora Ankrom, Jinnie Knight, Tish Maynard, Becky McClelland, Kistina Richins and Rachel Sanford use their choreographed motions, their lines (often delivered in unison), and their bodies to become part of the set - it’s simply ingenious and captivating.

   There are a few men involved in the production, including Eric Wilson as the hero Jason, the tortured husband of Medea who plays a difficult and intense role in the tragedy. He commands your attention as he confronts a terrible fate - but one he may just deserve.

   Mike Murdock bring King Creon to life, the man who has plotted to entice Jason to marry his daughter Glauce (played to stunning effect by Nora Ankrom). But Creon has a moment of weakness, and as a result, he may have to pay a terrible price.

   John Campbell plays Aegus, the one truly sympathetic male in the show - and the only one who offers to help Medea. And Jonathan Maynard is the Messenger - and the news he delivers isn’t good.

   Lots of shows in our area feature great acting, some include great sets, and others feature strong technical aspects - but this is one of very few productions to combine all three! It’s a  performance and presentation that creates a tactical, emotional experience that will stay with you for a long time after you’ve left the theatre.

   It’s not a show for everyone - you won’t have snappy songs stuck in your head or take away many laughs - but you will see a moving, thoughtful show that will affect you and make you think - and that, after all, is what art is all about.

On Stage This Weekend

   You have three grey shows to choose from this weekend:

Medea - Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS) presents the classic play Aug. 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. on the ARTS Renaissance Main Stage at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Tickets are $15 for the show only, or $30  for dinner and the show. Reservations are required for the dinner - call 304-733-2787. 

Dearly Departed - Kanawha Players presents the play on Aug. 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the LaBelle Theater at 311 D Street in South Charleston. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. 

Interactive Murder Dinner Parties presented by Murder and Merriment in August include: A Taste for Murder! is Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. at The Greenhouse of Teays Valley in Hurricane, W.Va. - tickets are $50 per guest - call for reservations at 304-397-6316.

    So get out there and support your local theatre!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Interview With "Medea" Actor Mike Murdock

   As the final performances of Medea draw near, let’s enjoy one more interview with the cast.

   One of the area’s finest actors, Mike Murdock (don’t tell him I said that - there will be no living with him), takes the stage to play an authority figure, facing off against a woman who is a force of nature.

   Here’s Mike:

Q: For those not familiar with the show, tell us about Medea.

Mike: Medea is a play about a woman scorned. Jason and countless screaming Argonauts took her from her homeland and brought her to Greece. Then Jason dumped her and married King Creon's daughter. This puts Medea in a rather dark mood for the majority of our play. It's as if she wants to exact a revenge of some sort. I guess we'll see what happens.

Q: How does the show relate to modern-day audiences?

Mike: Funny you should ask. I was just talking to someone the other day about doing terrible things to someone because of how someone else had wronged me. It's clearly still a thing. We all have feelings and we get varying degrees of angry when people hurt us. Medea intends to make Jason pay for what he's done. We can relate to love, infidelity, broken vows and revenge - perhaps more than most things. It's hard-wired into us to care about that kind of thing. This play's got 'em all.

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Mike: I play Creon, King of Corinth, father of Jason's new bride. I take it upon myself to try to protect my daughter, and in doing so, I open myself up for tragedy. Also, my wife plays Medea, and we get to have a very friendly scene together, which is always fun.

Q: Has it been fun, working with an (almost) all-female cast?

Mike: I can't think of anything better than being surrounded by ridiculously talented, beautiful women every day for six weeks. Such torture. Oh, the humanity. Stop it.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Mike: I played a Christmas present when I was in Kindergarten which was a wrapped cardboard box with arm holes and I had a bow on my head. That started it all, and now, 32 years later, I'm wearing a toga. #blessed

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Mike: I love working with Leah Turley. She's simply a brilliant actor's director. I knew when we asked her to work at ARTS that she would bring something amazing to the table, and I had to be a part of it. I also love working with my wife.  She's incredible in this show, and I am in awe of her talent. She teaches me something every day. There are many other reasons, including every other member of the cast and crew, but I already see the flash light going off in the back, so I need to wrap it up. Don't forget to tip your waiters.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Mike: This show is nothing like ARTS has ever done, and that's the best reason to see it. Not only is the show fantastic and gorgeous to look at it, the director, cast and writer/translator has made yet another ancient text accessible to anyone that comes to see it. We do more adult theatre than anyone else around here, year-round, non-stop, and we're always trying to up our game with each production. There's never a time when we don't put our hearts on our sleeves and give it everything we've got. We're always looking to improve and do things differently than anyone else is doing. We take risks with every show we do and we never back down from a challenge.  This show is another perfect example of all of that. If this show doesn't knock your socks off, you must not have been wearing socks in the first place (and we're not judging you for that, we're just trying to keep things honest).
   Come see my wife do terrible things to myself and others! Live! On stage! EXPERIENCE Leah Turley's exceptional direction and artistic vision! SEE Nathan Bradley's amazing light show! HEAR the incredible all-female Greek Chorus! FEEL Eric Wilson's sweat and tears! SIGH as John Campbell offers HOPE! GASP as Sheila Meade exquisitely relives the HORROR! TASTE the sweet nectar of REVENGE! This weekend - only at ARTS! See you there!

   Thanks, Mike!

  Medea is being presented by Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS). The classic play will be staged on Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. on the ARTS Renaissance Main Stage at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Tickets are $15 for the show only, or $30 for dinner and the show. Reservations are required for the dinner - call 304-733-2787. 

An Interview With "Medea" Herself - Joanna Berner Murdock

   As the classic play wraps up this weekend, it’s time to hear from Medea herself!

   It’s just the latest star turn for the incredible Joanna Berner Murdock, who plays the role of a powerful and vengeful woman.

   Here’s our interview with Medea: 

Q: For those not familiar with the show, tell us about Medea.

Joanna: Medea’s husband Jason has betrayed her by marrying the daughter of Creon. During the course of the play we see Medea create a dark plan for revenge - the actions of which send her down a dark path.

Q: How does the show relate to modern-day audiences?

Joanna: Modern day audiences can relate to this play because everyone understands the feelings of a broken heart, anger, revenge, and love. It may be hard to relate to the way Medea deals with those feelings… but that is also what makes this play interesting - how far would you go if you were in Medea’s shoes?

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Joanna: I play Medea. A woman who feels backed into a corner and chooses to fight her way out, whatever the consequences may be.

Q: Has it been fun, working with an (almost) all-female cast?

Joanna: This has been a wonderful experience. I always enjoy working with ARTS. This is my 3rd year as part of their Company. I love every member of this cast and crew. They are talented, hard-working, hilarious folks - and you need some laughs when dealing with such dark material!

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Joanna: I was a shy kid who got hooked on theatre and never looked back. I have a BFA in acting from UK and I’ve been involved in theatre in some way for most of my life so far, since my first show at age 13.

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Joanna: I wanted to be a part of this show because I wanted to work with Leah Turley, because Greek theatre is interesting, and because I knew it would be a little different than any other experience so far.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Joanna: Come see this show! If you don’t I’ll send Medea and her chorus of fierce ladies after you!

   Thanks, Joanna!

   Medea is being presented by Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS). The classic play will be staged on Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. on the ARTS Renaissance Main Stage at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Tickets are $15 for the show only, or $30 for dinner and the show. Reservations are required for the dinner - call 304-733-2787. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Interview with "Medea" Actor Eric Wilson

   The classic Greek tragedy Medea revolves around the title character and her husband, Jason (the hero best known from his work with the Argonauts).  

   For today's interview, let's hear from the actor who plays that part in the show, which wraps up this weekend at the Renaissance Theatre in Huntington.

   We asked the handsome and talented Eric Wilson several questions, but he wrapped up his comments in one concise answer:

Q: Tell us about the play Medea.

Eric: This show is $@%#&*^ gorgeous. I haven't felt so much pain, happiness, and resolve in many years. It is fresh, delivered with precision and unappetizingly delicious. Prepare to have all of the feels during the curtain call, and do yourself a favor and see this show.

   Thanks, Eric!

  Medea is being presented by Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS). The classic play will be staged on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. on the ARTS Renaissance Main Stage at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Tickets are $15 for the show only, or $30 for dinner and the show. Reservations are required for the dinner - call 304-733-2787.

Monday, August 24, 2015

An Interview With "Medea" Actor John Campbell

   The cast of Medea may be mostly female, but there are some males who play key roles, including one of the few to offer help to the title character.

   You have two more chances to catch the show next weekend at the Renaissance Theatre in Huntington.

   For today's interview, let's hear from the talented John Campbell:

Q: For those not familiar with the show, tell us about Medea.

John: It's Greek. It's a tragedy. Lots of death and suffering. Much like a teledrama, but snappier.

Q: How does the show relate to modern-day audiences

John: People are people, whether they lived in ancient Greece or live in Huntington today. We are all too often arrogant and self-centered, and willing to hurt others to get what we want, so we can understand the heroic but flawed Jason. Probably all of us have been on the receiving end of such treatment at some point, and so we can relate to the rejected woman Medea. Plotting revenge vicariously has its dark gratification, though I hope we won't go so far as to commit murder.

Q: Tell us about the character(s) you play.

John: I play Aegeus, King of Athens, who is the only male to treat Medea as an equal. In fact, when given the opportunity he asks for her advice, since she is “the wise one.” Aegeus offers her protection in exile, though without knowing the catastrophic nature of her plans.

Q: Has it been fun, working with an (almost) all-female cast?

John: Yes, but not so much because of gender; rather, because these are good souls and talented individuals.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

John: After some roles in high school and college, I took a long break from the stage. When my own children wanted to try out for community theatre in central Kentucky, I went with them, and we did summer musicals together. Two of our three children remain active in theatre as young adults, and here I am too, still treading the boards. At ARTS I appeared in The Pirates of Penzance as Major General Stanley (“the very model of a modern major general”), and was Music Director for Crazy for You last year.

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

John: I had never been part of a Greek drama, and it is a form of theatre that is both profound in content and distinct in design. Modern playwrights still use the Greek chorus, but not the way the Greeks did. And we continue to explore themes of the human psyche (there's a good Greek word!) that they tackled back then. I wanted to give it a try and see what it was like from the inside. I had also heard good things about director Leah Turley, and welcomed the opportunity to work under her direction for the first time. I'm glad I did.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

John: It is an emotional workout, for audience as well as actors, and in that hard work of wrestling with the darker sides of our own character, there can be a cleansing, a catharsis (another Greek word!). On the technical side it is a first-rate production, with stylizations that capture the spirit of the original text, though we will deliver the play in English. The set, lighting and costumes are very interesting, both in their look and in their starkness. The ensemble is very strong, as it has to be to pull off choral recitation that nevertheless conveys emotion and passion. Individual actors across the board are giving strong, emotional, powerful performances. Joanna Berner Murdock as Medea presents a compelling tragic figure; her voice alone is worth the ticket price.
   It is a dark piece. Casual attenders of live theatre in the area may find themselves stretched a bit by Medea. I suspect the ancient Greeks would think that was a good thing. Hard-core theatre people owe it to themselves to take advantage of this offering of a classic play such as rarely happens here. The ARTS fan base knows to expect the unexpected, and Medea will deliver once again. Don't miss it! 

   Thanks, John!

  Medea is being presented by Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS). The classic play will be staged on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. on the ARTS Renaissance Main Stage at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Tickets are $15 for the show only, or $30 for dinner and the show. Reservations are required for the dinner - call 304-733-2787. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

An Interview with “Medea” Actor Becky McClelland

   Let’s continue our interviews with the cast of Medea, which is being presented by ARTS in Huntington tonight and next weekend.

   The (nearly) all-female cast is loaded with talent, including the lovely Becky McClelland. Here’s our interview with her: 

Q: For those not familiar with the show, tell us about Medea.

Becky: I like to say Medea herself is the embodiment of the phrase, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." It is the ancient Greek story of Medea, from Asia, who married Jason, a Greek, and moved with him to Greece, breaking all ties (with classic 'Medea' violence) from her home country and her family. Now living in Greece with Jason and their two sons, Jason betrays her with a golden-haired princess. Medea, a witch, is not pleased with this and spends the remainder of the show planning and carrying out her revenge.

Q: How does the show relate to modern-day audiences?

Becky: The theme of betrayal and unfaithfulness is something we all are familiar with. She is hurt. She wants Jason to hurt. Who can't relate to that?

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Becky: I play one of the chorus women of Corinth. As a Greek chorus, nearly every line given by chorus is spoken in unison with at least one other person. Our chorus is broken into three 'personalities.' My group is the one who loves to 'stir the pot' and enjoys watching the destruction of everyone in Medea's path.

Q: Has it been fun working with an almost all-female cast?

Becky: Wow! What an opportunity! This is a show about a female who takes control of her life lead by Director Leah Turley who is such an encourager. It has been such a great experience!

Q: What is your background in theater?

Becky: My first show was almost a year ago (Crazy for You; October 2014) here at ARTS. This will be my fourth show as an actor. I've been the props mistress for one show and helped with costuming for several as well while at ARTS. I had the opportunity to build costumes for this entire show in addition to acting in it. I should be totally finished with costumes tonight. It's a good thing!

Q: Why did you want to be a part of this show?

Becky: To be honest, when I was offered the role as a part of my Resident Company bid last November I wasn't overly excited about it. My thoughts were, "It's a Greek tragedy and I'm just a chorus member. It's not going to be exciting, but at least I'll get to be on stage." I am so pleased to say how wrong I was about all of that! This 'chorus' role is the biggest role I've had yet and the show anything but boring! It's such a great show!

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Becky: This show is so good! Medea, played by Joanna Berner Murdock, is captivating. The story is so incredibly horrible. And the cast is absolutely on their toes! Add to that the beautifully simple set and stunning lighting by Nathan Bradley and it's a show you won't soon forget. I hope to see you there! 

   Thanks, Becky!

   Medea is being presented by Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS). The classic play will be staged on Aug. 22, 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. on the ARTS Renaissance Main Stage at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Tickets are $15 for the show only, or $30 for dinner and the show. Reservations are required for the dinner - call 304-733-2787.