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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.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Comments About "Spelling Bee" and "Hoods"

I've been neglecting my duties at this blog - I've been so busy, I haven't had time to take in the other shows running this weekend. (Sorry about that!)

I've mentioned James and the Giant Peach several times (a wonderful show for all ages), but I've neglected The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Hoods.

Luckily, my pals Stephen Vance and Mel Larch were able to send along their comments, for which we're grateful. Here's what they had to say:

Stephen on "Spelling Bee" -
I was able to see the Sunday matinee (of "Putnam County Spelling Bee") and I had a great time and so did everyone in the audience. The venue is set up for dinner (but that's not required).

I really like the show and thought it was a great choice for this size venue and environment. It's a fun show with some very sweet moments. This cast is superbly talented and I liked the work I saw. From the very over-the-top moments to the very real moments, there was a great finesse by this ensemble. I love when a cast knows how to connect with an audience.

Congratulations to the Pullman crew for a job well done.


Here's Mel on Hoods -
I did get to see CYAC's Hoods last Saturday. It's a very powerful and ultimately moving story about race relations in late '50s rural Appalachia. Dan Kehde has assembled an amazing cast of young actors.

The sad thing is that the first weekend's audiences averaged about 20 people a night. Even though you won't leave it humming a happy tune, it's a great show that deserves bigger crowds than that.

I hope you and your readers can come out for one of the last three performances this week (8:00 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Capitol Center Theatre in Charleston).
Thanks, Mel and Stephen! I've heard nothing but great things about both shows, so readers, I urge you to check 'em out and support your community theatre!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Introducing "Theatre Gym!"

I'm running a bit late with this - it's been a crazy couple of weeks helping out with James and the Giant Peach, which wraps up this weekend.

But my pal Bruce Rous sent along this information about a new concept called Theatre Gym, which sounds like a lot of fun!

Here's the info:
THEATRE GYM

"There is no better artistic expression, than that of true collaboration."

"Theatre Gym" is a place to work on your craft as a theatre professional.

It seems we are so often busy getting a show "up" that we don't find time to actually work on our growth as artists. We become a community of "shake-and-stir" summer stock performers, and hope for the best.

"Theatre Gym" is about that missing artistic growth. It is to be a group of like-minded people, all who want to grow as actors, directors, choreographers, dancers, playwrights, musical directors, et al. True artists in the field of theatre, who wish to develop their skills further. It is about exploration and growth.

If you are an actor, there might be a role you'd like to play one day, or a role on which you are currently working. Or a song you'd like to sing. You can work on it here.

If you are a playwright, you might need actors to read your words.

If you are a director or musical director, you might need some more experience working with performers in a safe environment.

If you are a choreographer, you might need dancers to play with.

If you are a dancer, you might want to explore further your abilities.

This will be a safe environment for you. There will not be a performance. This is not a class, there will not be a teacher, only a facilitator, who will help guide the group in collaboration. You are responsible for choosing your own material, with help from the facilitator, only as necessary.

If this form of artistic collaboration sounds appealing, please email the facilitator, Bruce Rous, at theatregym@gmail.com. A $10 donation is suggested for each weekly group.

Saturday at 1 p.m. is full with a waiting list. There is a new GYM group forming at 3 p.m. on Saturdays. High School Thespians are invited.

Classes will be held at Highlawn Presbyterian Church at 28th and Collis Avenue, just beside St. Mary's.
Sounds like a great idea - thanks, Bruce!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Huntington Music and Arts Festival This Saturday

My pal Dave Lavender sends along this information about the first-ever Huntington Music and Arts Festival:
The hills of the Ritter Park Amphitheater will be alive with the eclectic sounds of live music for the first Huntington Music and Arts Festival set for Saturday, Oct. 2.

Gates open at noon. Music starts shortly after 1 p.m. with some 15 local, and eclectic live music acts to play at the park amphitheater, which will also be filled with local art, food and beverages.

Such acts as Fletcher's Grove (pictured below), The Demon Beat, Jeff Ellis, Sasha Colette, Qiet, Richie Tipton, Adam Bieniek, Sly Roosevelt, Jess Graham and headliners former Jive Records recording artists, American Minor, who are reuniting for one show after a five-year hiatus, are on the bill.



Tickets are $10 advance or $12 at the gate. Kids 10 and under get in free.

The event is alcohol-free. Wristbands are being sold for re-entry during the nearly eight-hour-long festival.

Advance tickets are on sale at Shamrock's Pub, 2050 3rd Ave., or at Happy Camper, 1323 4th Ave., Huntington.

The show is organized by Ian Thornton, who has booked nearly all of these acts at Shamrock's Pub, which is across from Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Thornton said the festival will be a great chance for folks of all ages to come out and see some of West Virginia's best live acts. The acts range from Americana and pure folk to rock 'n' roll of all stripes to such genre-blurring acts as the zesty street band Qiet, a gypsy-souled acoustic act that features guitar, fiddle, upright bass, trombone, a washboard and musical saw.

"All of the acts are from West Virginia or the area, and it's not just rock but folk and country and experimental, there really is no style borders," Thornton said. "It's really a chance for people to come out and see what amazing bands our state has to offer."

Thornton said he's kept the price low (10 musical acts, and five acoustic acts between sets for $10) to make sure anyone could come.

Thornton said he hopes to draw up to 1,000 people out to Ritter Park and to help the area launch what will be an annual festival spotlighting local and regional acts.

For more information about the fest, and a full schedule, videos and contact info, go online at www.hmafestival.com.
Sounds like an awesome event - hopefully it'll become an annual festival!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Best Wishes to Zach, Allison and Aiden

Let's take a break from theatre talk and send our best wishes to some of the members of our extended theatre family: specifically, my pal Zach Davis and his wife Allison.

Their newborn son Aiden recently had some surgery at the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, and we're glad to hear that it all went well and everyone's recovering!

You're all in our thoughts and prayers!

NOTE: Zach sends in (via the comments below) a link to a website where we can check on Aiden's progress - it's right here: www.carepages.com/carepages/ACDJourneytoRecovery .

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Photo Gallery for "James and the Giant Peach"


The Herald-Dispatch has posted a Photo Gallery (which you can see right here) of about 20 photos from the play James and the Giant Peach. The photos were shot by my pal Toril Lavender.

The show wrapped up its first weekend today, but if you missed it, the good news is: there are three more shows on tap for next weekend at the Renaissance Center (the old Huntington High School) at 900 8th Street. The shows on Friday and Saturday start at 8 p.m., and the final Sunday show starts at 2 p.m.

The first weekend was a big success, and the young actors were terrific (though I admit I'm prejudiced).

Here's one more photo to tide you over until Friday:

Friday, September 24, 2010

On Stage This Weekend - Four Shows!

That's right, there are four shows on stage this weekend - three in Huntington and one in Charleston! (And September is usually a slow month for community theatre!)

Here are your choices:

- James and the Giant Peach - The play based on the classic children's book will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at the Renaissance Center (the former Huntington High School) at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26. Directed by Jon Joy, the show includes a cast of 30 young actors from around the Tri-State. Tickets are $10 and $8 for children 12 and under. Call 304-416-KIDS (304-416-5437) or visit www.FirstStageTheatre.org.

- Steel Magnolias - It's the final weekend for this drama from Fifth Avenue Theatre Company and the City of Huntington Foundation, Inc. Shows will be presented tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. as well as 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, in the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium in City Hall, located at 800 5th Ave. in Huntington. Tickets are $10 and $8 for children 12 and under. Call 304-696-5522 for more info or go online at www.cityofhuntingtonfoundation.com/pages/theater.htm.

- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - The inaugural show for the new Pullman Plaza Playhouse at the Pullman Plaza Hotel. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, as well as 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26. Tickets are $33 for dinner and the show or $18 for show only. Go online at www.pullmanplayhouse.webs.com.

- Hoods - A new production from Charleston Youth Arts Company, this original drama by Dan Kehde takes the stage at the Historic WVSU Capitol Center at 123 Summers Street in Charleston. Tickets are $9.50 for adults and $5.50 for students. For reservations, call 304-342-6522. For more information, visit http://web.me.com/cyac2001/CONTEMPORARY_YOUTH_ARTS_COMPANY/Welcome.html.

So get out there and support your local theatre!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Stage Theatre to present Dahl's 'James and the Giant Peach'

I've been swamped this week helping out with the production of James and the Giant Peach (which starts tomorrow night), but my pal Dave Lavender wrote an excellent story about the show for today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch.

(I should warn you that you'll run into quotes from me in there.)

Here 'tis:
Even though First Stage Theatre Company is heading into its 21st season, somehow it had never dug into the deliciously dark world of British writer Roald Dahl.

Scratch that now. The Tri-State's children's theater, an all-star troupe of sorts that features some of the region's best child actors from high school age to grade school, is dipping into some Dahl with the fantastic adventures of James and the Giant Peach.

Directed by prolific playwright Jon Joy, who directed an original piece (First Day of Summer) earlier this year for First Stage, James and the Giant Peach, will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, as well as 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26.

Starring more than 30 actors from around the region, the show will also run next weekend, Oct. 1-3, at the Huntington High Renaissance Center, 900 8th St.

First published in 1961, but perhaps best known in the United States in its 1996 incarnation as a Disney blockbuster, James and the Giant Peach tells the story of James, a young boy, who escapes to the magical city of New York from his wicked aunts in quite a fantastical way. A mysterious old man gives James a bag of magic, glowing crocodile tongues, which he spills onto a barren peach tree. A peach appears and then grows to monster proportions. James then climbs inside, and with the help of some giant insect friends they make their way through several adventures as they try to find a new home.

Tickets are $10 and $8 for children 12 and under.

Chuck Minsker, one of the long-time First Stage board members, said they'd kicked around the idea of doing Willy Wonka for years, but that this happens to be the first piece they've done of Dahl's who also penned, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was made into a movie last year.

Minsker, whose sons Evan and Justin grew up in the First Stage, said the high-quality children's theater has a great reputation built through seasons of tackling such difficult shows as Peter Pan, Les Miserables, Cats, and other shows not necessarily known as children's fare.

"That is the beauty of this children's theater is that people think it's going to be a bunch of little kids mumbling through a show but it is amazing the talent of these young performers, and we are proud to give so many of them their first show," Minsker said. "Any adult not familiar with First Stage is always amazed at the quality. That is part of it, we really draw kids from all over the Tri-State and so you are getting the best actors from all over the place, and it is amazing to me to see all of that talent coming together on stage. It really is impressive."

Although several actors who grew up in First Stage have come back to direct and help out from Justin and Travis McElroy to Justin Minsker, Joy happens to be the first of that next generation of actors who grew up on the stage, to be a board member for First Stage.

Minsker said this show kicks off the first of three shows this season for First Stage. Other upcoming shows will include Once Upon a Mattress at the Renaissance Theater in November and Rugrats -- A Live Adventure! in March 2011 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

For more information, call 304-416-KIDS (304-416-5437) or visit the website at www.FirstStageTheatre.org.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tax Credits Available for Donors to First Stage Theatre

It takes money to operate a community theatre group, and thanks to a special program being offered by the state of West Virginia, a donation to First Stage Theatre Company can result in a tax credit. Here are the details:
The First Stage Theatre Company has received a record number of West Virginia Neighborhood Investment Program tax credit vouchers and plans to distribute the vouchers to contributing businesses and individuals, according to a news release.

The West Virginia Legislature sets aside $2.5 million each year in state tax credits for the program that is divided among qualifying 501(c)3 nonprofit groups. The minimum contribution that a donor can make to receive a tax credit is $500. The maximum is $200,000. Contributors can get up to 50 percent of their donation amount in tax credits, which can help decrease their state corporate net income tax, business franchise tax and personal income tax.

For patrons who donate $500 or more, a 50 percent West Virginia tax credit will be given, the release said. For example, by giving $500 a business or individual would receive a $250 tax credit and the entire $500 donation would be a regular federal tax deduction. Contributions can be in the form of cash, personal property, real estate, stock, and in-kind professional services. Since First Stage is a nonprofit (501(c) 3) corporation, all donations are tax-deductible

"It's an opportunity for us to give back to the individuals and organizations who have supported First Stage over our 20-year history," said Elaine Young, vice president of First Stage. First Stage will use the funds to provide education, auditions and participation opportunities in the performing arts to low-income children.

For more information, contact Elaine Young by e-mail at eyoung4039@aol.com, by phone at 304-733-4909, and by mail at 6421 U.S. 60 East, Barboursville, WV 25504.

First Stage Theatre Company celebrates its 21st season this year with the upcoming 2010-2011 season:

James and the Giant Peach Sept. 24-26, Oct. 1-3 (Rennaissance Theater).

Once Upon a Mattress Nov. 12-14, (Rennaissance Theater).

RUGRATS -- A Live Adventure! March 17-20, 2011 (Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Busy Weekend for Shows

As more proof of the busy theatre weekend ahead, here's a story from today's Herald-Dispatch:
The gossip-filled beauty parlor is open for business as the Fifth Avenue Theatre Company and the City of Huntington Foundation, Inc., continues its production of Steel Magnolias at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, as well as 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, in the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium in City Hall, located at 800 5th Ave., Huntington.

Directed by Zach Davis, Steel Magnolias costs $10 and $8 for children 12 and under. Call 304-696-5522 for more info or go online at www.cityofhuntingtonfoundation.com/pages/theater.htm.

That show is just one of many theater productions set for this next weekend in the Tri-State.

Here's a look at some other shows.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Directed by Clara Adkins and Todd Preston, "Spelling Bee" is the inaugural show for the new Pullman Plaza Playhouse at the Pullman Plaza Hotel. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, as well as 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26. The show also runs Oct. 1-3. Tickets are $33 for dinner and the show or $18 for show only. Go online at www.pullmanplayhouse.webs.com.

James and the Giant Peach: The play James and the Giant Peach, which is based on the classic children's book, will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at the Renaissance Center (the former Huntington High School) at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26. It will also be Oct. 1-3 as well. Directed by Jon Joy, the show includes a cast of 30 young actors from around the Tri-State. Tickets are $10 and $8 for children 12 and under. Call 304-416-KIDS (304-416-5437) or visit www.FirstStageTheatre.org.

The Needle's Eye: Greenbo Lake State Resort Park will hold its annual weekend honoring Kentucky writer Jesse Stuart. The weekend will feature The Needle's Eye, a dramatic production with music taken from Stuart's book about his experience as an educator "The Thread That Runs So True." Show times are 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26. Both shows will be at the Greenbo Lake Amphitheater. Admission is $5, $3 for seniors and students. Preschoolers are free. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets with you.

The Johnny Cash Story: Carter Caves State Resort Park will host The Johnny Cash Story Dinner Show with the band 6 Feet High & Rising at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Sept. 24-25. The buffet dinner starts at 7 p.m. Come out and hear the costumed band sing such hits such as "Walk the Line," "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues" plus a video salute to local veterans during "Johnny's" rendition of "Ragged Old Flag." Cost for dinner and the show is $34.95 plus tax per person and $29 plus tax for children 12 and under. A lodging package that includes a one night stay, dinner and show for two is $149.95 plus tax. For more information about 6 Feet High & Rising, visit www.jctribute.com. For more information, call 606-286-441 ext. 2543.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looking for a Showgirl and More News

Some assorted news and notes from the world of community theatre:

- I ran into my pal Bil Neal the other day - he's directing Will Rogers Follies for ARTS - and he tells me they need one more Showgirl for the upcoming production. So if you're a girl, you can sing and dance and you're interested in being part of a terrific show, give Bil a call at 304-733-2787. You'll have lots of fun!

- I mentioned yesterday that James and the Giant Peach takes the stage this weekend at the Renaissance Center (the same place Will Rogers Follies will be staged), but "James" is just one of three shows on stage this busy weekend ahead. You can also catch the last weekend of Steel Magnolias at the City Hall auditorium, and you can catch the opening performance by the Pullman Plaza Players as they present the hilarious show, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. All three shows are highly recommended - you can see one a day and enjoy a full weekend of theatre!

- Lots more news on the way soon, including upcoming seasons for more community theatre groups, one group's search for a new home, and something called Theatre Gym!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Stage Next Weekend: "James and the Giant Peach"

There are several shows hitting the stage next weekend, but I have to admit to being partial to this one:
I should admit - I'm one of the producers for the show, and it's been a blast to be part of the production!

The cast is terrific, the show is a lot of fun, and it's a play all ages will enjoy!

Here's the press release with all the info:
The play James and the Giant Peach, which is based on the classic children’s book, will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at the Renaissance Center (the old Huntington High School) on Sept. 24, 25, Oct. 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 26 and Oct. 3 at 2:00 p.m.

The stage show tells the story of a young boy who is treated badly by his wicked Aunts. He manages to escape from their clutches with the help of several giant insects and a peach that magically grows to giant size. The group has to make their way through several adventures as they try to find a new home. The author of the original story is Roald Dahl, who is best known for his book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The show includes a cast of 30 young actors from around the Tri-State area – some are stage veterans, and for some, it’s their first community theatre production.

The play is directed by local playwright and actor Jonathan Joy, and is the first of three productions that make up the 21st season for First Stage Theatre Company. The other two shows are Once Upon a Mattress in November and Rugrats - A Live Adventure! in March 2011.

James and the Giant Peach will be staged at the Renaissance Center at 900 Eighth Street in Huntington, W.Va. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under. For more information, call 304-416-KIDS (304-416-5437) or visit the website at www.FirstStageTheatre.org.

The First Stage Theatre Company is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing an educational, developmental experience for young people through the performing arts.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On Stage Tonight - "Steel Magnolias"

The drama Steel Magnolias takes the stage tonight in the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium at Huntington City Hall.

The show is presented by the City of Huntington Foundation, Inc., and 5th Avenue Theatre Company, and shows will be presented tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children ages 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or by calling 304-696-5522 or online at www.cityofhuntingtonfoundation.com.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zach Talks About "Steel Magnolias"

The director of Steel Magnolias is my pal Zach Davis, and he joins us now for a short e-interview about the show, which takes the stage at City Hall this weekend.

Q: This is your first time directing a show - has it been fun?


A: As a first-time director I will say it has been a joy and pleasure. I mean, I did have several obstacles to overcome that not every new director encounters. Such as directing the show from the hospital because our son wanted to enter this world six weeks earlier. However, I wouldn't have it any other way. I want to direct more... Children's theatre would be fun! (Hint there Chuck.)

Q: What is Steel Magnolias about?

A: Well if someone doesn't know what it's about I would be shocked, but it's a dramatic comedy based on six women's lives who get their hair done at Truvy's hair salon. We learn about the character's lives and struggles as they gossip while getting beautiful. I'd rather not go into great detail in hopes to attract viewers to want to really see what will happen.

Q: Why did you want to tackle Steel Magnolias?


A: When I was asked to propose a show to direct I had no clue what to choose because there are so many wonderful plays out there. However, after thinking I went with Steel Magnolias for several reasons. First it has a following from the movie with the same title and attracts people - particularly women. Secondly, the script has everything from laughter to tears. Simply just a beautiful piece to showcase and I wanted something with a small cast so I wouldn't be overwhelmed for my first show. This play offers such a diversity of everything and was just a perfect match with me I felt.

Q: Tell us about the cast of the show...

A: I know all directors claim they have the best cast, but I am sorry, they can't compare to the team of talented and strength of my women. The show calls for six ladies and I cast one extra to be my live radio DJ. These women are these characters in real life. I feel like I am watching an episode of The Golden Girls! They have been dynamic with one another and supportive to me and Allison in our time of need with our son. My crew has been there every step as well and just as supportive. I couldn't ask for better people. It's funny, I have seven females in the cast. The tech crew is also made entirely of women as well. So they all tag team against me but that's expected! I love them and thank them from my heart!

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?

A: I encourage people to come to this show simply because it's a tremendously moving piece that connects with audiences. It has everything that a show could need and more. I believe that Steel Magnolias is one that doesn't need song and dance to entertain and offers something different to the Tri-State area. A change of pace can be nice and I promise no one will leave disappointed and without feeling like they are part of the gang in the hair salon.

Q: When and where is the show and how much are tickets?


A: The show will be going for two weekends: Sept. 17-19 and Sept. 24-26. Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are only $10 for adults and $8 for children under 12. I hope to see everyone at the show!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Stage This Weekend - "Steel Magnolias"

The cast of Steel Magnolias, left to right front row; Kyle Fisher as Clairee Belcher, Peggy Walker as the Radio DJ, Twinkie Smith as Truvy Jones, back row; Shannon Bates as Annelle Dupuy Desoto, Jenn Jacobson as M'Lynn Eatenton, Stephanie Sands as Shelby Eatenton Latcherie and Loretta Hetzer as Ouiser Bourdreaux. (Photo by Toril Lavender)

The City of Huntington Foundation, Inc., and 5th Avenue Theatre Company will present Steel Magnolias at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Sept. 17-18 and 24-25, and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 19 and 26, in the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium at Huntington City Hall.

Here's the story from today's Herald-Dispatch:
If you like your local theater served with a good dose of beauty shop humor, then you're in luck.

The City of Huntington Foundation, Inc., and 5th Avenue Theatre Company will present Steel Magnolias at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Sept. 17-18 and 24-25, and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 19 and 26, in the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium at Huntington City Hall.

Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for children ages 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased by calling 304-696-5522 or online at www.cityofhuntingtonfoundation.com.

The show, which is directed by Zach Davis, is set in Truvy's beauty salon in Chinquapin, La. The town's most notable women all go to Truvy's. Truvy is the wise-cracking owner. Softspoken Annelle is her new assistant. The shop's regulars include the town's rich curmudgeon, Ouiser, eccentric millionaire Miss Clairee, the local social leader M'Lynn and her daughter Shelby, the prettiest girl in town and about to marry a "good ole boy."

Tragedy in the second act brings the sudden realization of the group's mortality and also draws on the underlying strength and love which give the play and its characters the special quality to make them touching, funny and amiable company in good and bad times.
Tomorrow we'll interview director Zach Davis about the show!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Charleston Stage Company's 2010-2011 Season

Today we look at the upcoming season for the Charleston Stage Company. They have a great lineup of four shows on the way, including:

- Superior Donuts - Sharp, funny, aggressively authentic and proudly ethnic, this play centers on the unlikely friendship that develops between the disillusioned, aging hippie Arthur Przybyszewski and college dropout Franco Wicks, a bright young black man with big dreams and a large debt. Arthur owns a decrepit donut shop in the uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Franco, who is his only employee, wants to change the shop for the better. This comedy-drama by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tracy Letts explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship. The show will be presented Oct. 14-16 and 21-23 at the Capitol Center Theatre.

- Shipwrecked (An Entertainment): The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) - The adventurous Louis de Rougemont invites you to hear his amazing story of bravery, survival and celebrity that left 19th century England spellbound. Dare to be whisked away in a story of the high seas, populated by exotic islanders, flying wombats, giant sea turtles and a monstrous man-eating octopus. Shipwrecked examines how far we're willing to blur the line between fact and fiction in order to leave our mark on the world. The show will be presented Jan. 27, 28, 29 and 30, 2011, at the Walker Theater at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.

- Palace of the End - Playwright Judith Thompson blends together the stories of West Virginia native Lynndie England, Dr. David Kelly (the British weapons inspector who reported that there were never any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction) and Nehrjas Al Saffarh (an Iraqi woman who was tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime and was later killed by U.S. bombs during the 1991 Persian Gulf War) and creates three intense dramatic monologues that graphically depict the horror of war. The play takes its title from the former royal home that became Saddam Hussein's torture chamber. The show will be presented March 31, April 1-2, 7-9, 2011 at the Capitol Center Theatre.

- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - George, a professor at a small college, and his wife, Martha, have just returned home, drunk from a Saturday night party. Martha announces, amidst general profanity, that she has invited a young couple — an opportunistic new professor at the college and his shatteringly na├»ve new bride — to stop by for a nightcap. When they arrive the charade begins. Underneath the edgy banter lurks an undercurrent of tragedy and despair. George and Martha's inhuman bitterness toward one another is provoked by the enormous personal sadness that they have pledged to keep to themselves: a secret that has seemingly been the foundation for their relationship. The Broadway production of this play was a memorable experience and proclaimed author Edward Albee as a major American playwright. Now considered a classic American drama. The play will be presented May 26-28, June 2-4, 2010 at the Capitol Center Theatre.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kanawha Players 2010-2011 Schedule

One thing's for sure, everyone at the Kanawha Players has a very busy year ahead of them.

That organization sets the local record for most productions in the year ahead with nine shows on tap!

Here's the list:

- Li'l Abner - the musical comedy based on the classic comic strip takes the stage at the Civic Center Little Theater Sept. 24, 25, 26, Oct. 1, 2 and 3.

- The Art of Murder - takes the stage at the Kanawha Players Theater Oct. 22, 23, 29, 30, 31.

- Anne of Green Gables - opens Dec. 10, 11 and 12 at the Civic Center Little Theatre.

- The Homecoming - opens Dec. 17, 18 and 19 at the Kanawha Players Theatre.

- Our Lady of 121st Street - opens Feb. 25, 26, 27, March 4 and 5, 2011, at the Kanawha Players Theatre.

- The Odd Couple (Both Versions) - opens Feb. 11, 12, 18 and 19 at the Civic Center Little Theatre.

- A Few Good Men - opens April 15, 16, 22 and 23 at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre.

- Rounding Third - opens April 29, 30, May 6 and 7

- Fellows Inn opens June 10, 11, 17, 18 and 19 at the Kanawha Players Theatre.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Charleston Light Opera Guild's 2010-2011 Season

The latest stop on our review of community theatre seasons is the Charleston Light Opera Guild, which has an impressive (and challenging) season coming up, although their scheduling seems a bit... odd.

They have four big musicals on tap - one this fall, and the next three squeezed into three consecutive months in 2011. The first three will be presented at the Civic Center Little Theater, and the last one will be at the Clay Center.

Here's the rundown:

- Dreamgirls - the musical hit about a singing girl group will be staged November 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 19 and 20, 2010.

- The Drowsy Chaperone - the musical comedy will be presented May 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20 and 21, 2011. Auditions will be held in February 2011.

- Thoroughly Modern Millie - the hit Broadway musical will be presented June 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26, 2011. Auditions will be held in April 2011.

- Hairspray - the hilarious musical will be presented July 29, 30, 31, August 5, 6 and 7, 2011. Auditions will be in June 2011.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

ACTC's 2010-2011 Season

For a recap of what ACTC's community theatre is tackling this year, let's turn this space over to a story by my pal Angela Henderson-Bentley:
The 2010-11 Ashland Community and Technical College Theatre season is bringing something new to the stage.

ACTC begins its 54th year of community theater with Nosferatu: The Vampire, and ends with another production based on a novel, Wuthering Heights: The Musical. Both were written by Bernard J. Taylor.

Edward Figgins, ACTC Director of Theatre and Assistant Professor, is excited about featuring Taylor's works this year. He first discovered Taylor when he found the Wuthering Heights CD 10 years ago.

"I couldn't find who controlled the rights so I put it on the backburner until last year when I found the website," Figgins said.

Taylor, who lives in Columbus, will be assisting with the productions.

Nosferatu is a musical based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. Figgins described the production as a rock opera. "I knew the students would be pretty excited about that," he said.

"Heights," which is based on the Emily Bronte novel, is the only musical approved by the Bronte Society.

"Wuthering Heights is a very dramatic, beautiful story," Figgins said. "It's a very challenging piece."

ACTC Theatre will also present the children's production, Once Upon a Mattress, and the annual staging of A Christmas Carol.

Figgins said there are several things to consider when choosing what plays to produce.

"We have an educational theatre program. So each year we try to choose shows that are educational but also entertaining," he said. "And it has to be things students want to do. If I choose one they don't like, I wouldn't have a cast."

Figgins is excited about this year's selections, which a play selection committee helped him choose.

"The audience is going to see theatre a little differently. It's something so fresh that they've never seen before," he said. "They won't come in with an ability to prejudge based on a previous performance."

But the audience won't be the only group experiencing something different. "It's brand new to the students. It's going to be a real challenge for them," Figgins said.

Figgins is looking forward to seeing the productions on the stage and how the audience reacts to them.

"I'm always really excited to see the audience response to what we're doing," he said. "We're doing this not for ourselves, but for the enjoyment and education of the audience."

Nosferatu: The Vampire will be presented at 8 p.m. Oct. 15-16, and Oct. 22-23, and at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 17 and 24. A special Halloween performance is scheduled for midnight on Oct. 23.

The remaining performances are A Christmas Carol, Dec. 2-5; Once Upon a Mattress, Feb. 18-20; Wuthering Heights: The Musical, April 15-17 and April 22-24.

All performances are in the J.B. Sowards Theatre at the ACTC campus. Season tickets are now available for $25 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. For season ticket information, contact the theatre office at 606-326-2073. More information is also available on the ACTC website at www.ashland.kctcs.edu.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pullman Plaza's 2010 Season

Continuing our look at the upcoming season for local community theatre groups, we arrive at the newest group in town - in fact, this weekend the Pullman Plaza Playhouse offers up its first production.

The group's productions will all be presented at the Pullman Hotel Grande Ballroom.

Here's the lineup:

- Starry, Starry Night - a concert performance by more than 20 talented singers, including Deborah Wolfe, Ryan Hardiman, Shayne Gue, Melanie Shafer and Marina Jurica-Preston. They'll present more than 30 hits from such Broadway shows as Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Jekyl and Hyde and Guys and Dolls, just to name a few. Show times are 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12. Dinner will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and brunch is at 1 p.m. Sunday. Combo tickets (dinner and show) are $30 or show only for $15.

- The 25th Annual Spelling Bee - the musical comedy about the wildest spelling bee contest ever will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, and Oct. 1-2, with Sunday matinees scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 26, and Oct. 3.

- Little Shop of Horrors - the musical comedy about a strange plant and its effects on the life of a shy gardener will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29-30, and Nov. 5-6, with an additional midnight showing on Saturday, Oct. 30, and a Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7.

Here's the story from today's Herald-Dispatch about this weekend's performance:
The forecast for this weekend is a 100 percent chance of a Starry Starry Night.

OK, so raindrops might be falling on your head Saturday, Sept. 11, but inside at the Grand Theatre inside the Pullman Plaza Hotel, WSAZ meteorologist Marina Jurica-Preston forecasts nothing but a Starry Starry Night.

Jurica-Preston, who's been a favorite featured singer on stages with the Huntington Symphony Orchestra and the Charleston Light Opera Guild, is directing a fund-raising concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, at the Pullman Plaza.

Dinner will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and brunch is at 1 p.m. Sunday. Combo tickets (dinner and show) are $30 or show only for $15.

The Broadway breezy, cabaret-style show will feature about two dozen local singers performing more than 30 hits from Broadway shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Jekyl and Hyde and Guys and Dolls, just to name a few.

Jurica-Preston, who put together a similar show about a year and a half ago for Arts Resources for the Tri-State, said the cabaret is a fun show and a great way to give the new Pullman Plaza Playhouse a quick monetary boost as it launches its first season of dinner theater shows.

"We did one of these for ARTS and sold out the two nights and it's just great because for cabaret there are no royalties so basically the cost is low to put on the show and a lot of it is just profit," Jurica-Preston said. "When Debbie Wolfe asked if we could kick off the Playhouse season with a cabaret we thought it was a perfect idea."

While the format is similar to the show they did for ARTS, she said they've super-sized the cast, swelling it from a dozen performers from Huntington to 26 coming from Kentucky, Ohio and as far away as Morgantown to do the show.

"Todd (her husband) and I have been here a little longer and we can pull a few more favors," Jurica-Preston said with a laugh. "It's a pretty impressive cast that we've drawn in from all over the area."

Just a few of the Charleston-based singers headed this way is the Pennington family, made up of professional guild actors, Alan and Lori and their daughter Kristen, a voice major at West Virginia University.

Cary Lantz-Brown, who was the lead in the recent Charleston Light Opera Guild show Barnum is coming over, as is Beth Winkler-Bowden, and a host of Huntington-area performers are singing, including WSAZ morning show anchor, Melanie Shafer, Nancy Jackson, Ryan Hardiman, Shayne Gue and Deborah Wolfe.

Jurica-Preston, who has been involved in productions in Charleston and Huntington, said it's great to see everyone rallying for the creation of the Playhouse, which has a two-show opening season, but which hopes to grow into a five-day-week professional dinner theater much like the now-defunct Mountaineer Dinner Theater.

"We are thankful that all of these people are wanting to help out the theater company and can share our passion for wanting to see a dinner theater here," Jurica-Preston said.

Jurica-Preston said folks will love the diversity of the evening's songs that range from classic shows such as 42nd Street, to the latest modern musicals such as Mamma Mia and Hairspray.

In fact, Jurica-Preston and Hardiman are going to be singing a song from a new show, The Pirate Queen, that most people have not heard yet.

The main accompanist will be Mark Smith for the show that will feature a mix of duets, trios and quartets with a few solos splashed in along the way.

There will also be songs from the Playhouse's two fall shows the 25th Annual Spelling Bee, which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, and Oct. 1-2, with Sunday matinees scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 26, and Oct. 3, as well as Little Shop of Horrors, which will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29-30, and Nov. 5-6, with an additional midnight showing on Saturday, Oct. 30, and a Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7.

Jurica-Preston, whose husband Todd is directing "Spelling Bee" with Clara Adkins, said everyone is getting excited about the kick-off of the new downtown dinner theater.

"I think the dinner theater is great," Jurica-Preston said. "Debbie saw this void in the area since there has been nothing like the Mountaineer since it closed. People love dinner theater and being with friends at a table and being in a great environment and sharing a great meal... We have a venue and that is usually the hardest thing to get, so now it is just about getting it all set up and getting lights and sound and a stage. We're starting with the bare bones of a room and we have two shows this season and we want it to look spectacular."

CONTACT: For more information, call Shayne Gue at 304-412-0129 or Deborah Wolfe at 304-525-1001, e-mail at pullmanplayhouse@gmail.com or contact Gue through Facebook or e-mail shaynegue@hotmail.com.

ON THE WEB: Go online at www.pullmanplaza.com for more info about overnight packages for the Playhouse shows.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

ARTS 2010-2011 Season

Onward with our look at the upcoming season for local theatre groups!

Today we look at ARTS (Arts Resources for the Tri-State), which presents its shows in the Renaissance Theatre (the old Huntington High School).

This year the group has two musical productions on tap:

- Will Rogers Follies - This is the first community theatre production in the area of this musical. It takes a look at the life of humorist and performer Will Rogers, who often headlined the Ziegfeld Follies. It describes his life through big production numbers. Rogers performs rope tricks and tells some of the famous homespun stories that made him one of the most beloved citizens in America. His most famous quote sums it up: "I never met a man I didn't like." The show is directed by my pal Bil Neal and will be presented October 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24.

- The Drowsy Chaperone - This musical comedy is an homage to American musicals of the Jazz Age. The Man in Chair, a Broadway fanatic, listens to a recording of a fictional 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone. As he listens he is transported into the musical. The characters appear in his apartment, and it is transformed into an impressive Broadway set. The exact dates are still in the works, but plans call for the show to open April 1, 2011.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

5th Avenue Theatre's 2010 Season

Continuing our listing of upcoming shows for local community theatre groups, we move on to 5th Avenue Theatre Company, which has two shows in the works for this Fall (the group hasn't posted any information about its Spring shows yet).

The shows will be presented in the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium in Huntington's City Hall.

Here's the rundown:

- Steel Magnolias - This play is set in Truvy's beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies who are "anybody" come to have their hair done. Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (who is not sure whether or not she is still married), the outspoken, wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to the towns rich curmudgeon, Ouiser ("I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for 40 years"); an eccentric millionaire, Miss Clairee, who has a raging sweet tooth; and the local social leader M'Lynn, whose daughter, Shelby (the prettiest girl in town), is about to marry a "good ol' boy." Filled with hilarious repartee and not a few acerbic but humorously revealing verbal collisions, events force the ladies to draw on the underlying strength and love which give the play, and its characters, the special quality to make them truly touching, funny and marvelously amiable company in good and bad times. Directed by Zach Davis, Steel Magnolias runs September 17-19 and 24-26.

- Irving Berlin's White Christmas - Based on the music of Berlin and the popular film, this dance-filled musical begins on the Western Front in World War II and then travels to New York and continues in the state of Vermont where two entertainers try to save the inn owned by General Waverly by having a show in the barn of the inn. Communications get skewed and the fun ensues. This fun, romantic comedy introduced great songs like "White Christmas," "Sisters," "I Love a Piano," "Snow" and "The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing." Directed by Eddie Harbert with Mike Campbell as musical director, White Christmas runs December 3-5 and 10-12.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

First Stage Theatre's 2010 - 2011 Season

Continuing our look at upcoming seasons for community theatre groups, we continue with the second-oldest group in Huntington, First Stage Theatre Company.

The children's theatre group is starting its 21st season, and here are the three shows it plans to present this Fall and next Spring:

- James and the Giant Peach - the play is based on Roald Dahl's classic book about a boy who is tormented by his two wicked Aunts, and tries to escape by traveling inside a giant peach, along with several giant insects! The show, directed by Jonathan Joy, will be presented at the Renaissance Theater (the old Huntington High School) Sept. 24, 25, 26 and Oct. 1, 2 and 3.

- Once Upon a Mattress - the musical comedy that made a star out of Carol Burnett is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story of the Princess and the Pea. The show, directed by Amy Browning, will be presented at the Renaissance Theater (the old Huntington High School) Nov. 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20 and 21.

- Rugrats, A Live Adventure - the musical comedy is based on the popular Nickleodeon animated series. Rugrats is all about life from a baby’s point of view. This live theatrical production features young performers as they bring this award-winning television show to life. Whenever adults are around, the Rugrats act like real babies, but when they're alone they talk to each other with the vocabulary of 5-year-olds. The Rugrats, in their usual offbeat fashion, turn a typical rainy afternoon into an adventure of the imagination. The show will be co-directed by Mary and Tommy Smirl, and it will be staged at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center March 17 - 20, 2011. Auditions for the show will be held in December 2010.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Marshall's 2010 - 2011 Season

I promised a review of the upcoming seasons for theatre groups in our area, so let's start with the one that's been around the longest (as near as I can tell) - Marshall University's Department of Theatre, which is presenting six shows under the title Marshall's Theatre Alliance.

All the productions will be presented at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. Here's the rundown:

- Saturday, Sunday, Monday will be presented October 6 – 9 at 8 p.m.
Brooklyn, 1985. As Mama Rosa prepares her celebrated sauce for the ritual Sunday meal, she recalls her own Mama’s lessons. “To make ragu, my Mama used to say, takes patience.” And love. Family tensions simmer during the Saturday preparations. On Sunday, smoldering antagonisms fuel misunderstanding and harsh words. Pasta plates and wine classes are abandoned on the table as the party breaks up, but on Monday morning, “Nothing gets put away until it is counted,” including the family’s abiding love for each other.

- The Good Doctor will be presented November 10-13 at 8 p.m.
The Good Doctor: A Comedy with Music is Neil Simon’s hilarious adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s short stories about the foibles of ordinary people. Two lonely pensioners wistful contemplate the possibility of taking tea together, a frightened governess quavers, an eager dental student lunges, and a desperate man freelances as a faux suicide. It’s all in good fun, directed by guest artist (and my pal) Clint McElroy.

- Dead Man Walking will be presented February 23-26 at 8 p.m.
(This play contains adult themes.) Tim Robbins’ dramatic adaption of Sister Helen Prejean’s autobiographical book, Dead Man Walking, has been performed by over 170 universities nationwide and is scheduled to open in New York next year. The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project enlists the power of theatre arts to enliven the national discourse on the death penalty. The story unfolds as Sister Helen gives witness to the emotional roller coaster of death row inmate, Matthew Poncelet, as well as the deep heartache of his victims and their family members.

- Working will be presented April 20-23 at 8 p.m., and April 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Based on oral historian Studs Terkel’s bestselling book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974). One worker’s story blends seamlessly into another’s as ordinary people reflect on their jobs and on the greater meaning of work. The songwriters who collaborated on Working find the soaring power and unique poetry of musical theatre in the spare, revealing and honest words originally spoken to Studs Terkel.

- Christmas Carol will be presented December 1-4.

- Theatre Guild Cabaret will be presented February 7-11 in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Marshall's Department of Theatre Gets a New Professor

Hey, welcome aboard to Marshall's newest associate professor! Here's the story:
The Marshall University Department of Theatre has a new faculty member. Nicole Perrone, a former dancer with Walt Disney World, joined the faculty as an associate professor.

Perrone started out as a dancer in high school, then got into theater because she thought it would open up more career opportunities as a dancer.

She said that while on a national tour for Walt Disney World as a dancer, it dawned on her that dancing careers are usually short and she started thinking about what would happen after that career.

She started acting training at about 19 years old at the New School in New York City, earning a fine arts degree. She also attended the Neighborhood Playhouse, a conservatory-type training program concentrating on the Meisner Technique.

Perrone worked as an adjunct instructor at Kent State University while she worked on her master’s degree in theater. She also has worked in theater education for several professional theaters, including the Cleveland Playhouse and the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

At Marshall, she is teaching Introduction to Theatre, Musical Theatre Studies, Behavioral Realism and Stage Movement. The intro course is one she really has a message for.

“If you’re getting into it to be famous — if that’s your expectation — you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment,” Perrone said. “If you’re getting into it to be an actor, you can have a career. You have to look at it like a career.”

In addition to teaching, Perrone will be directing the musical Working next spring.

Julie Jackson, chairwoman of the Theatre Department, said she is looking forward to working with Perrone.

“I’m very excited about her,” Jackson said. “We look for all of our faculty to have a combination of a personal background and professional background and she fits it perfectly, couldn’t be better. She’s very excited to work with the students; that’s one of the things that attracted all of us to her.”
Welcome to Nicole - in her honor, tomorrow we'll preview the upcoming season for Marshall's Department of Theatre!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On Stage in September

September is traditionally a slow month as community theatre groups get geared up for the fall season, but there are quite a few shows on tap this month.

As always, if I've left any shows off, let me know by making a comment at the link below, or send an email to TheMinskers@aol.com.

Here's the rundown:

- James and the Giant Peach - First Stage Theatre - the play based on Roald Dahl's classic book will be presented at the Renaissance Theater Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 1-3.

- Liza Minnelli
- Marshall Artists Series - the award-winning singer and actor will perform at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center Sept. 12.

- Steel Magnolias - 5th Avenue Theatre Company - the play will be presented at the City Hall Auditorium Sept. 17-19, 24-26.

- Li'l Abner - Kanawha Players - the musical based on the classic comic strip will be presented at the Civic Center Little Theater Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 1-3.

- Starry Starry Night - Pullman Plaza Playhouse - a concert performance will be presented Sept. 11 and 12 at the Pullman Plaza Hotel.

- The 25th Annual Spelling Bee - Pullman Plaza Playhouse - the musical comedy will be presented Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 1-3 at the Pullman Plaza Hotel.