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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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Year in Review

   The end of the year is a great time to look back at the best shows of 2013.

   But I don’t do "Top 10" lists (at least not for community theatre), for several reasons:

   1) I hate applying the "Best of" label to community theatre shows. Every single show was created after a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and while some may be more successful or more accomplished or have a bigger budget than others, they were all a labor of love.

   2) It's apples and oranges. Unless you're comparing different productions of the same show, there's no way to compare different shows made with different casts, different budgets, different conditions - you get the idea.

   3) I didn't see all the shows that hit the stage in the Tri-State area in 2013. I saw 23 shows (by my count), but there were approximately 103 shows in our area, so I (sadly) missed lots of ‘em. I do have two good excuses: I was in one show in the Spring and I directed another one at the end of the year. I have friends who see lots of shows, some see more than I do - but I don't think there's anyone who sees every show (I'm not even sure it's physically possible). 

   4) And I can't be impartial, because I'm on the board of First Stage Theatre Company, and I have good friends in virtually every other local theatre company - so I can’t pretend I’m not prejudiced.

   What I will do is talk about some of the shows I saw and enjoyed, and invite you, gentle readers, to make comments about shows you liked, too. Send your comments to the link at the bottom of this post, or email them to me at TheMinskers@aol.com and I'll share them on this blog site.

   Brag on shows you worked on, rave about shows you saw, but no negative put-downs, please. (I don't believe in "Worst of the Year" lists, either.)

   I'll start with the non-musical productions. First Stage presented two this year, including The Bully Plays and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - both terrific productions packed with outstanding young talent. One tackled a very important topic, while the other brought a classic story of love and redemption to life.

   It was a great year for Shakespeare - the Alban Theatre started the year off strongly with an excellent traditional production of Richard III, and ARTS offered an ingenious twist on Julius Caesar, placing it in the setting of a modern political drama, complete with an array of TV monitors - it was an outstanding production.

   The Alban Theatre is one of the newest in the area, but they presented several terrific shows this year, including Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, Jonathan Joy's Princess of Rome, Ohio, and one of the year's best plays, The Tennessee Williams Project, the ingenious creation of the new Appalachian Artists Collective.

   Marshall University's Theatre Alliance offered a new take on a classic horror tale in the excellent play Monster, bringing the Frankenstein story to life in an original and fresh fashion.

   Another (relatively) new group, ACT, offered the surprisingly dark, thoughtful and moving tale of A Thousand Cranes in a special production presented to hundreds of students around the Tri-State.

   ARTS certain didn't rest on its laurels, tackling six productions this year, including three non-musicals - Julius Caesar, and two outstanding comedies: the hilarious Laughter on the 23rd Floor, the Neil Simon play based around a team of comedy writers working on a hit TV show; and The Man Who Came to Dinner, the delightful story of an annoying guest who is hurt in a fall and turns a household upside down while recuperating. I love the show for the sharp script, the amazingly talented cast, the gifted director, and - I admit it - because I was part of the production, with a (mercifully) small but fun role. It was a blast! 

   Now, for the musicals! These actually fall into two categories - concerts and musicals:

   Under concerts, the year started with Josh Meredith presenting his Senior Project at Marshall University - Josh M! - a (virtually) one-man singing and dancing showcase, and a heck of a lot of fun!

   First United Methodist Church presented its annual fundraiser as a delightful mix of songs and comedy skits (and a great meal) in Laughing All the Way.

   First Stage wrapped up 2014 with its annual alumni concert with Home for Christmas - and what a delight to see so many talented young adults back on stage in Huntington! I admit a special fondness for this show for several reasons: I directed it; it included a performance by son Evan (and a "Les Mis" duet with Evan Price); and it featured more than 20 amazingly talented young adults who grew up on stage in the Tri-State - a wonderful, heartwarming show!

   First Stage also presented a musical that had never been staged in this area - the Broadway production It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman, complete with a high-flying Man of Steel, lots of amazing songs and a terrific cast (not to mention the cutest pre-show ever)!

   CUP presented a non-Disney take on the adorable classic fairy tale in the delightful Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

   Charleston Light Opera Guild (CLOG) tackled two major productions this year, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, a top-notch production of a very challenging show. (We'll talk about the other show in a second.)

   This summer we saw the final production for Huntington Outdoor Theatre, but they went out on a high note with the high energy (and highly entertaining) Hairspray.

    ARTS presented three terrific musicals in 2013, and I admit I adored each one. First was the amazing and inventive Cabaret, then the wonderful, larger-than-life How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, wrapping up with the powerhouse Civil War drama Shenandoah. Any of the three would find a comfortable spot at the top of any "Best of the Year" list.

   If I were to compose such a list - which I'm not - there are two other shows that would be in the running, too. One is Marshall Theatre Alliance's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a riotous, wonderful, high-energy delight of a show - I could have watched it over and over again.

   The other show is CLOG's other major production of the year, the excellent Les Miserables,professional-quality production with an all-star cast, led by the phenomenal Ryan Hardiman as Jean Valjean. Top-notch in every sense!

   My only regret for 2013, as always, is that I didn't get to see more shows! There's so much talent out there, I hate to miss any of the shows! 

   Hopefully I'll be able to catch more productions in 2014 - there are loads of terrific shows on the horizon!

   Happy New Year, theater fans! 

   

Monday, December 30, 2013

Famous Foes in "Gallery"


   I like to brag on our local talent enjoying success across the country - for example, Alissa Fetherolf grew up on local stages and now she's appearing in the show Gallery at the Browncoat Pub & Theatre in Wilmington, NC. 

   She's starring as Pamela Isley, a character better know as Poison Ivy, one of Batman's most famous foes.

   (Thanks to my pal Stephen Vance for the link.)

   Here's the recap of the story:

   When someone has released all but five of the prisoners from Arkham Asylum it's up to Edward Nigma (the Riddler), Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow), Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy), Harvey Dent (Two-Face), and the Joker to figure out who made the break, why they were released, and what to do before the Caped Crusader shows up. As each character searches for the missing pieces to the puzzle their descent into insanity becomes inevitable. Will they escape at all or be stuck in Arkham forever?

SHOW DATES:
JANUARY 9-12, 16-19
BROWNCOAT PUB & THEATRE
111 Grace St, Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 341-0001
http://www.browncoattheatre.com/tickets.php
TICKETS: $15 and $10 for any students

Written by: C.J. Tour
Directed by: Caleb Andrew Ward

Starring:
Joseph Ross Helton
Patrick Basquill
Alissa Fetherolf
Jacob Keohane
Phill Antonino

Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Moonage Daydream: The Bowie Songbook"


   The New Year is almost upon us, and a wonderful tradition continues as performer Ryan Hardiman presents two special concert performances to ring in 2014.

   It's called Moonage Daydream: The Bowie Songbook, and it's offered at a great price - free!

   Hardiman (who most recently starred as Jean Valjean in CLOG's Les Miserables) and guest vocalist Madeline Solange Gourevitch with pianist Mark Scarpelli and a string quartet featuring Kristi HolsteinMolly Lynn PageAlasha Al-Qudwah and Shawn Christian Simms.

   The concert will be presented Tuesday, December 31 in two 45-minute sets at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at 1600 Kanawha Boulevard E. (corner of Elizabeth Street and Kanawha Boulevard) in Charleston.

    The concert is a featured event of Goodnight Charleston 2013 and is sponsored by Charleston Community Music Association.

   Arrangements for voice, piano and string quartet are by Mark Scarpelli, featuring the music of David Bowie.


   Highly recommended!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Little Drummer Boy

   Here's another favorite - one of those "I never thought I'd see that" videos.

   Here's Bing Crosby singing with David Bowie on a mash-up of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace on Earth." I believe this was on a holiday special of Bing's. Terrific song!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

We Three Kings

   Here's another favorite holiday song - this one from a beloved Claymation Christmas special.

   It's a fun rendition of "We Three Kings," with some wonderful vocals:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

   Hope you're having a wonderful holiday! Here's one of my favorites - Bob Dylan singing "Must Be Santa Claus."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Some Christmas Music

   No shows on stage this week (natch), so as per our holiday tradition, we'll post some music videos for your entertainment.

   Here's a favorite of mine - Karen Carpenter singing "Merry Christmas, Darling."

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Home for Christmas"



   I admit prejudice (I directed the show), but I had a wonderful time at Saturday's concert, Home for Christmas, which featured some of the alumni of First Stage Theatre returning to the stage in Huntington to sing classic holiday songs.

   It was great fun, with lovely songs and several surprises. You can read all about it in the excellent story from the front page of Sunday's edition of the Herald-Dispatch - you can read it here; and there's also a photo gallery with photos by Bishop Nash (including the lovely shot of Maggie Saunders singing "Sleigh Ride," above) - you can see those photos here.

   Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tonight at 7:30pm - "Home for Christmas"


   The final rehearsal for the holiday concert Home for Christmas wrapped up an hour ago (as I write these words) - and if you go to the show this evening at 7:30 p.m. at Huntington's City Hall, you're in for a treat.

   The show features some of the talented alumni who have graced local stages over the years - and as good as they were then, they're even more talented now!

   (I admit prejudice in saying this, since I'm directing the show - but they really are incredible!)

   It's wonderful to see these talented singers filling the auditorium with their incredible voices! Among those taking part are: Evan Price, Bronson Bush, Alison Smith, Sarah Hayes, Evan Minsker, Cody Verbage, Maggie Saunders, Caleb and Lara Donahoe, Levi Kelley, Shayne Gue, Athena Stanley, Robyn Welch, Ashleigh Bills, Susan Leist, Zach Davis, Eric Newfeld and Meag Muller.

   You'll also get a sneak preview of one of First Stage's spring shows - Dear Edwina, Jr. 

   So come Home for Christmas - it's a fun show and a real shot of Christmas spirit!

   Don't miss it!  

Friday, December 20, 2013

On Stage Saturday: "Home for Christmas"

 

   Sorry to have been quiet lately, but I've been hard at work putting the final pieces together for this Saturday's Home for Christmas concert, which will feature some of First Stage's Theatre Company's talented alumni.

   It's a fun project we kicked off last year as a way to raise money to pay for the new home for the children's theatre - and it also gave us a good excuse to bring back some of our talented "kids" (now all grown up) to share their talents again with a Tri-State audience.

   I admit that I was a bit nervous last year before the first rehearsal. Would anyone show up? Would the show work? It was all done in a short period of time, and we'd never tried it before.

   I'm happy to report that it was a blast! As soon as everyone gathered, the laughter and stories flowed, and the performances were terrific! It was a great success.

   During intermission, I heard one person say, "The talent on stage is amazing! Huntington doesn't know what it's missing!"

   We have another amazing lineup taking the stage this Saturday, too - and I certainly hope everyone reading these words can make it to the show.

   It's one performance only, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Huntington's City Hall auditorium. It's a Christmas concert (though we have a few surprises in store). Tickets are just $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $8 for children - they're available at the door.

   I admit prejudice, but I guarantee you'll have a good time. If this concert doesn't put you in the holiday spirit, nothing will!  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Home for Christmas"


   My pal Dave Lavender filed an excellent story in today's Herald-Dispatch about this Saturday's Home for Christmas concert, which you can read right here - or here (slightly edited to include the latest information):
   If you went to college and only had 35 shows under your belt, you may be a First Stage Theatre alum. 
   If you spent more time in the Keith-Albee and the Jean Carlo Stephenson auditorium than you did your own house, you may be a First Stage alum. 
   If you can name all of the McElroy boys you may be a First Stage alum. 
   While most weeks will find First Stage alums shining on stages from New York and touring shows around the world to universities scattered across the country, this Christmas weekend, First Stage Theatre Company is calling them home. 
   The 23-year-old children's theater company is for the second year, casting a glowing light on its talent-laden alums in a concert event called "Home for Christmas," a benefit concert at Huntington's City Hall auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21. 
   Hosted by one of the First State Theatre founders, C.E.Wilson, the evening will feature such First Stage alums as: Evan Price, Brittany Hazeldine, Bronson Bush, Alison Smith, Sarah Hayes, Evan Minsker, Cody Verbage, Maggie Saunders, Caleb and Lara Donahoe, Levi Kelley, Kristin Caviani, Eric Wilson, Shayne Gue, Athena Gilette, Robyn Welch, Sarena Johnson, Ashleigh Bills, Susan Leist, Zach Davis, Eric Newfeld and Meag Muller. 
   The directing team includes: Director Chuck Minsker, Music Director Mike Campbell and Producers Leslie Comer Porter and Becky Craig. 
   Tickets are $12, $10 for senior citizens and $8 for children 12 and under. 
   Minsker said they tried a homecoming show last year in September to see if it might work, and it was so successful they've decided to make it an annual event that will happen around Christmas when students are coming home anyway. 
   "The first one was an experiment to see if it would work bringing in people from all over the country and it worked so well and was so much fun," Minsker said. "I'll have to admit that I was a little bit nervous having our first rehearsal the night before the show but all of the kids came back and were telling stories and it went so well, we all thought that we have to make this a regular thing." 
   Minsker said they see the concert as a way for the great performers who grew up on stage in Huntington to Pay it Forward' to the actors of tomorrow as the concert benefits First Stage, which has after decades finally bought a place to store their equipment and props and that one day could be a small performance space as well. 
   "The children's theatre recently purchased a small warehouse near downtown Huntington -- our first 'home' in the group's 23-year history," said First Stage President Hunt Bryan. "We're using the space for storage and set construction, but with improvements, it will eventually include a small theatre space for performances, rehearsals and drama classes." 
   Minsker said they've got about a third of that building paid off thanks in part to last year's fundraiser. 
   Armed with musical director and veteran keyboardist Mike Campbell and a small band, singers have picked through the Christmas canon of classics as well as contemporary tunes to share on Saturday. 
   No matter if they are now professors, dancers, writers, actors, lawyers or still students, Minsker said they're so proud to gather the First Stage alums and to celebrate the perennial role that First Stage plays in molding young people. 
   "It's amazing how many are out there doing great things and not only as performers and singers but those who have gone into different fields," Minsker said. "The skills they have learned on stage here translate into any field and we are so proud what they have done with their lives." 
   For more information, go online at http://www.firststagetheatre.org.

On Stage Next Saturday: "Home for Christmas"

  
   Some of the stars who grew up on stage in Huntington will return for a special concert in Home for Christmas, a benefit concert that will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at City Hall auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.

   The concert will feature alumni of the children’s theatre - some who have become theatre professionals, some who are studying theatre in college, and some who have pursued other careers.

   Among those scheduled to appear are: Evan Price, Brittany Hazeldine, Cody Verbage, Bronson Bush, Alison Smith, Sarah Hayes, Evan Minsker, Clay McKnight, Maggie Saunders, Caleb and Lara Donahoe, Levi Kelley, Sarena Johnson, Ashleigh Bills, Susan Leist, Zach Davis, Eric Newfeld and Meag Muller.

   C.E. Wilson will host the event. The concert is part of a fundraising campaign to help the organization build a new home.

   The children’s theatre recently purchased a small warehouse near downtown Huntington our first home in the group’s 23-year history,” said First Stage President Hunt Bryan. “We’re using the space for storage and set construction, but with improvements, it will eventually include a small theatre space for performances, rehearsals and drama classes.”
   Director Chuck Minsker said, “This gives us a chance to celebrate the holiday season while recognizing some of the amazing performers who grew up on stage in Huntington, and it’s a great chance for them to Pay it Forward to the actors of tomorrow.”
   Tickets are $12, $10 for senior citizens and $8 for children 12 and under.

   The directing team includes: Director Chuck Minsker, Music Director Mike Campbell and Producers Leslie Comer Porter and Becky Craig.

   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, December 13, 2013

On Stage This Weekend

   Courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman, here's the lineup for this weekend:

"The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" (Play)
First Stage Theatre Company (Children's Theatre)
Sat., Dec. 14 at 7pm
Matinee Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2pm
JCS Auditorium
Huntington City Hall
800 5th Avenue, Huntington, WV
Adults $12 / $10 Students & Seniors
304.416.5437


"Can You Forgive Her?" (Play)
Lunar Stratagem
Sat Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center
Francis Booth Experimental Theatre
Marshall University
Tickets $12
304-696-ARTS

"Christmas in the Land of Oz" (Play)
Children’s Theatre of Charleston
Sat., Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.
Sat. and Sun., Dec. 14 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre
Tickets $12 adults / $10 children
304-741-9099


"The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" (Play)
Alban Arts Theatre
65 Olde Main Street in St. Albans, W.Va.
Sat., Dec. 14 and 20-21 at 8 p.m.
Matinees Sun., Dec. 15 and 22 at 2 p.m.
Tickets $15 adults / $10 Seniors and Children under 12.
304-721-8896

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (Play)
Paramount Players
Sat., Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.
Matinee Sat., Dec. 14 at 3 p.m.
Paramount Arts Center
Ashland, Ky.
Tickets $10 Adults / $8 Kids
606.324.3175.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (Play)
Portsmouth Little Theatre
Sat., Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinees Sun., Dec.15 at 2 p.m.
1117 Lawson St.
Portsmouth, OH
$12 Adults / $10 Students and Seniors
740-353-7034

*Rescheduled:
A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley
Ashland Community and Technical College Theatre (ACTC)
Sunday, Dec. 15, at 2:30 p.m.
J. B. Sowards Theatre
College Drive Campus, Ashland, KY
*This performance replaces last Sunday’s performance that was cancelled due to inclement weather. Tickets for the December 8 performance will be honored, and unsold tickets will be available at the door for cash or check payment with photo ID. Tickets are $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Busy Holiday for First Stage


   It's a busy holiday season at First Stage Theatre Company! Here's proof:

   This weekend you have three more chances to catch The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (based on C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, of course)! Shows run Friday - Saturday, 
Dec. 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.

   This Saturday, Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. they'll hold auditions for Godspell for students ages 13 and up! Go to the back entrance at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at Marshall University to try out!

   Then the next Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m., it's back to City Hall for a special holiday concert, Home for Christmas, featuring more than 20 of First Stage's now-grown-up alumni (and more than a few surprises)! 


   Is this a great holiday season or what?

On Stage This Week: "Can You Forgive Her?"

   Taking the stage this weekend only is Can You Forgive Her?

   It's a world premiere of the newest presentation by The Lunar Stratagem.

   Can You Forgive Her? is a piece by Matthew Earnest 
from the novel by Anthony Trollope (1865). 


   The description of the show is short and mysterious: "Fancy talking, cardboard ponies, dancing girls, corruption of treasured literary work - what more could one want?"


   The play is performed by: Andi Dëma, Nathan Mohebbi, Shawn Parr, Nicole Perrone, Samantha Rosentrater and
Vanessa Sawson.

   It's a talented cast, and it's great to see Nathan Mohebbi back in town as a guest artist - he's a gifted actor, performer and filmmaker who lives and works in Los Angeles these days, but got his start growing up on stage in Huntington, and he's a graduate of Marshall's School of Drama. 


   Designed by William Bezek (scenic/costumes), Anthony Narciso (sound), and Matthew Earnest (lights).

   It will be presented at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at Marshall University in Huntington. There will be t
hree performances on Dec. 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Interview with the Director of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

   One final interview on the subject of the comedy Laughter on the 23rd Floor, which wraps up in a few hours at the old Huntington High School!

   Let’s hear from my pal Mike Murdock, who directed the final ARTS production for the year - and knocks it out of the park:

Q: What is the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor all about?

Mike: Laughter is a play that Neil Simon wrote in the early ‘90s about his time writing on the Sid Caesar television shows "Your Show Of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour." The whole play takes place in 1953, in the writer's room. During those years, Simon was on the staff with his brother Danny Simon, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkien, Tony Webster, Sheldon Keller, Lucille Kallen, Aaron Ruben, Gary Belkin and Sid Caesar, just to name more than a few. There were so many brilliantly funny and creative people in that room, vying for attention from Sid and dealing with their own, personal issues, Simon turned it into a play. He changed the names and combined some characters, but this is yet another of Simon's semi-autobiographical shows like Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. I think it's his funniest play, and this ensemble of actors really nails the camaraderie, the foibles, the creativity and the love they all had for each other. This is going to be a tough show to let go of after it ends. Everyone is doing really exceptional character work.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Mike: I've worked with just about everyone in the Tri-State at one time or another. I ran my own theatre in Los Angeles for a year before giving it up to the Upright Citizens Brigade. I'm currently a Resident Director here at ARTS. I was in the Ohio University theatre program for awhile and then ended up graduating from Marshall. I'm an actor, director and writer. I just won the one-act play contest at the Paramount Arts Center over the summer and I have a novel available on Amazon (The Dragon Ruby). Life's been good to me, so far.

Q: What's the most challenging thing about doing a comedy?

Mike: The timing. Always the timing. And the bits. Everyone loves a good bit. Well, not everyone. I know one guy who hates bits, but nobody's perfect. This cast has gone through some pretty serious rehearsals for this show. They got off-book pretty early on and we got the blocking done in the first two weeks, and we've been running it ever since. We're only human, and we all make mistakes, but these folks have really put every effort they could into getting everything smooth and timed just right. Every now and then we might miss a beat, but we get right back on track. A fast-paced comedy is a beautiful thing to behold when it's done well. I think we're doing this one VERY well.

Q: You're staging this in the Renaissance Ballroom, a more intimate setting than the main stage. Does that make the show easier or is it more challenging?

Mike: From the moment I pitched the show, I knew I wanted it in the Renaissance Ballroom. I wanted to use the practical window. I wanted the drop ceiling to be our ceiling. I wanted the carpet to be our floor. We built the walls of the set around the room, and it's my understanding that we have created the biggest playing space, left to right, of any stage in Huntington, other than the Keith Albee. It's even bigger than our main stage! I love it. I love having the audience right on top of you so they can see facial expressions and little gestures. There's so much going on in this show, people really need to see it more than once to catch everything. From the Easter eggs we've hidden all over the set (not ACTUAL Easter eggs, of course, but rather little things associated with the show, like pictures of certain people, books on desks, Chuck Minsker's actual Emmy awards - thanks! - etc.) to the business people are doing all the time on stage (the actors are on stage through almost the entire show). The only challenge is getting enough seats for the audience. I love the Ballroom. Mark Near, Bil Neal, Stephen Vance and Jerry Morse created magic in that space for me. It's absolutely everything I wanted for this show and more. You've got to see it to believe it. As an audience member, you'll be sitting in the writer's room with these folks. It's something you won't soon forget. After the show, I urge everyone to mill about the set and check things out. It will really enrich your experience.

Q: Tell us about the cast you're working with.

Mike: I've already been singing their praises, but all nine of these folks have really knocked me out. They realized how hard doing comedy like this is, and they took it seriously from day one. Joanna Berner and Jenn Naglee are pitch perfect as the only two ladies in this party of fellas, and they give brilliant performances. The old adage that women aren't funny is blown away here. Not only are they beautiful, but they are savvy, smart actors (even though Jenn plays a dumb one) and they handle the comedy even better than the men. Speaking of which - Simon Woods, Brian Cook, David Vickers and Len Trent are the glue of this show. They're on stage the most and their banter back and forth is fantastic. Every little quip, every little movement, every take, every joke, every gesture is spot on from these guys. Jerry Morse... just wow. I've known Jerry for years and years and he never ceases to amaze me. He's like 200 years old, and I've got him running around the whole stage and being man-handled several times, and cursing like a sailor. People should come to the show just to see that! Michael Naglee as Lucas... the Neil Simon archetype... he's so sweet and innocent and down-to-earth, you'll wonder how he ever played the Emcee in Cabaret at the beginning of the season. It's an incredible yin-yang, bookend of the season for him and he nails it. If we didn't all know him outside of the theatre, we'd say he was the all-American boy. Good thing we DO know him, though. And finally, Dylan Clark. I had worked with Dylan at Marshall when I first moved back to the area from L.A. in his first show there. Gene Anthony directed us in The Merry Wives of Windsor. I knew then that he had a lot of raw talent, but he has matured into a truly fine actor. He plays the Sid Caesar role (Max Prince) and is at the same time manic and furious and tender and sweet. He's absolutely killing it. These folks - these nine people - are some of the most talented in the area. I got my perfect cast and they rose to the challenge. It makes me misty to think that this show will end after this weekend because maybe we'll never have this much fun again in our entire lives.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention our tech folks. Linda Reynolds and Karen Pruitt did a wonderful job getting together the costumes, and Laura Armstrong and Anne-Marie Neal are keeping everything together backstage while Michael Sullivan calls the shots from the light and sound board. The show wouldn't happen with out them. Well, it might. But it would look and sound really weird. And I mentioned them earlier, but Mark Near, Bil Neal and Stephen Vance really do make dreams come true. It's an honor and privilege to work with such talented, extraordinary people. I'm one really lucky guy. There's no place in the Tri-State that I would rather be than ARTS.

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

Mike: It's the funniest show in Huntington this weekend. That's a fact. Undeniable (I checked to see if any other comedies were playing). It's the last weekend and it's the last show of the 2013 ARTS season. Also, there's plenty of cussin' for the young kids to enjoy. Bring the whole family!

Q: Where and when will the show be staged?

Mike: Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Ballroom at Old Huntington High - 900 8th Street - in Huntington. Come early! Seating is limited. You don't want to miss it. Tickets are only $10. That's so cheap, even *I* could go twice!

   Thanks, Mike!

Interview #5 With the Cast of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

   Time’s almost out to catch Laughter on the 23rd Floor - tonight’s your last chance! For our next-to-the-last interview, let’s hear from the funny and talented Brian Cook:

Q: What is the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor all about?
Brian: The play is a comedic, semi-autobiographical depiction of Neil Simon’s time spent in the writer’s room for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.”
Q: Tell us about the character you play.
Brian: I play Kenny, a sophisticated “boy genius” with a quick wit who often acts as the voice of reason. I wear three stylish outfits; most pieces come from my own wardrobe.
Q: What's your background in theatre?
Brian: I started in Ashland Community & Technical College’s theatre in Fall 2001… blah blah blah… performed with ACTC, Red Lion, Company of Dreams, ARTS… yada yada yada…directed Here Lies Alan Chase.
Q: What's the most challenging thing about doing a comedy?
Brian: Working with people who aren’t funny.
Q: You're staging this in the Renaissance Ballroom, a more intimate setting than the main stage. Does that make the show easier or is it more challenging?
Brian: I feel that it’s more challenging. Being so close to the audience, it’s easy to forget to project your voice. Also, the proximity between performers and spectators requires you to be in the moment at all times.
Q: Tell us about the cast you're working with.
Brian: The cast is made up of friends, old and new. I care about these people very much. Even though they frequently refer to me as “The Worst.” 
Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?
Brian: Apparently, this show is very funny. We have performed it twice and both audiences have roared with laughter the entire way through (mostly while I’m offstage). If you enjoy having a good time and are available for either of the remaining two performances, I feel it would be silly to miss it.
However, if the thought of pervasive strong language discourages you, I hear Disney’s “Frozen” is pretty good.
Q: Where and when will the show be staged?
 Brian: Laughter on the 23rd Floor plays TONIGHT. Tickets are only $10. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/215752481937135/
   Thanks, Brian!

Interview #4 with the Cast of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

   Time is running out to catch the final performance of Laughter on the 23rd Floor - though you’d better hurry, because seats were hard to come by at Friday’s show, and Saturday is the final performance!

   But before that, let’s hear from a few more stars from the show! Dylan Clark plays the star of the TV show the team of writers  works on, and he’s a riot in the show - a true force of nature!

   As you’d expect, his interview is a bit out of the ordinary, too!

Q: What is the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor all about?

Dylan: It's all about shouting obscenities.

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Dylan: I play Max Prince. He's the head honcho. He's completely nuts, but in the best possible way.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Dylan: Majored in theatre at Marshall.

Q: What's the most challenging thing about doing a comedy?

Dylan: The must challenging thing is probably.... timing.

Q: You're staging this in the Renaissance Ballroom, a more intimate setting than the main stage. Does that make the show easier or is it more challenging?

Dylan: It's makes accidentally spitting on the audience muuuch easier.

Q: Tell us about the cast you're working with.

Dylan: They are the worst people you will ever meet. Joking, of course. Only one of them is the worst.

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

Dylan:  It's a hoot!

Q: Where and when will the show be staged?

Dylan: That's a tough one.... I want to say at that big building across from Subway... Around 8ish?

   Thanks, Dylan!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

On Stage This Weekend: "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"


    Taking the stage this weekend is the stage version of the classic story by C.S. Lewis, made famous in recent years by the Narnia series of movies.

   Of course, I'm talking about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

   The play takes the stage this weekend at the Huntington City Hall auditorium, and runs Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.

   It's being staged by First Stage Theatre Company. A small army of young actors, ranging in age from high school to elementary school, bring the tale to life!

   The story centers around four young people who discover a magical door inside a mysterious wardrobe (which is a piece of furniture that serves as a closet). They pass into the world of Narnia, where magic exists and an evil force is trying to keep the land in a constant state of winter.

   Can the children stop the plans of the beautiful but deadly White Witch, and how does the wise lion known as Aslan fit into the picture?

   It's a terrific, moving tale, and you can see it live on stage over the next two weekends.

   Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children and senior citizens.

   It's a classic tale of good versus evil, and yes, it does have a connection to Christmas! Don't miss it!

 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Interview #3 with the Cast of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

   For our third interview with the cast of Laughter on the 23rd Floor, let’s hear from my pal Jerry Morse.
   He’s a triple-threat in the world of theatre - he’s a terrific director, a marvel at set design and construction, and he’s also an amazingly talented actor, as anyone who sees this play can attest. He’s hilarious! 

   Let’s hear from Jerry:

Q: What is the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor all about?

            Jerry: It’s an “inside look” at the writers for the Sid Caesar television comedy shows, who were at least as zany as the comedies themselves, and probably zanier.

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Jerry: I play Ira Stone. The character he represents, like many of the other writers, was Jewish, but unlike the others, was a hypochondriac, and was notorious not only for that, but for consistently showing up late for work.  While the characters in the play are “composites” of more than one writer, much of Ira’s character is patterned after Mel Brooks.   
  
Q: What's your background in theatre?

Jerry: Over the decades, I have performed with Community Players (“The Pleasure of His Company”), HOT (“Li’l Abner”, “The Music Man”), Musical Arts Guild (“South Pacific”, “Showboat”), Musical Arts Guild – Children’s Theater (“Oliver”), Appalachian Regional Theater (“The Sound of Music”), Summer Motion (“1776”, as Andrew McNair), ARTS (“1776”, as James Wilson), and First Night / First Church  Dinner Theater.  I’ve directed with Children’s Theater (now First Stage Theater Company) for “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Secret Garden,” and Pinocchio,” and for 21 seasons with First Night/First Church Dinner Theater (of which I’m a Co-Founder).

I’ve written, acted in, and directed Chancel dramas and Biblical sketches for First United Methodist Church, and designed sets for a number of shows, most recently for “Noises Off” for the City of Huntington Foundation.   

Q: What's the most challenging thing about doing a comedy?

Jerry:  The timing – not just timing of the lines, but timing of the pauses, the reactions, and the “stage business” (the work with the props).
 
Q: You're staging this in the Renaissance Ballroom, a more intimate setting than the main stage. Does that make the show easier or is it more challenging?

Jerry:  In the case of Laughter on the 23rd Floor, it makes little difference.  We actually have as much space on the set as we would have on the main stage at Renaissance.  The intimacy will probably bring the audience more completely into what’s happening on the “stage”, so they should appreciate the humor even more.

Q: Tell us about the cast you're working with.

Jerry: The play is written to bring out the foibles and unique characters of each of the writers.  Each member of the cast has been challenged to bring that uniqueness to his or her part, and much of our fun as players has been watching that develop and happen as rehearsals have progressed.  I’ve especially enjoyed the “in your face” action between Ira Stone and Max Prince, and between Ira and Brian Doyle (Brian’s Irish, not Jewish, and he and Ira don’t get along too well and that’s good for more than a few laughs).  

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

Jerry: The show is fast-paced, and displays the true “nutty” character of many comedy writers.   We must caution that the show does contain adult language, so it’s intended for mature audiences, and is not suited for youngsters.

Q: Where and when will the show be staged?


Jerry: Friday and Saturday nights, December 6 and 7, performances start  at 8 p.m. each night, at the Renaissance Ballroom, 900 8th Street, in Huntington.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Auditions This Week for "Twelve Angry Men"


    ARTS is in the middle of its latest show - Laughter on the 23rd Floor (it wraps up next weekend) - but it's also holding auditions for its next show - Twelve Angry Men.

   The auditions will be Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. at the Renaissance Theatre (the old Huntington High School). 

   The show dates are Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 7 and 8

   The show is directed by Stephen Vance and will be performed in the round in the ARTS Ballroom.

   Jurors 3 and 8, the Bailiff, and 4 other juror roles have already been filled by resident company members - six Juror Roles remain available. 

   Scripts will be provided for cold reads at the audition.
 

   Rehearsals will be rare through December, but will be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday at 7 p.m. nightly starting in January.

On Stage in December

   The holiday season is here, and there are quite a few great shows on tap, making each weekend in December a great one to catch a new show!

    As always, if I've missed anything, add a comment at the link below or email me at TheMinskers@aol.com.

   Here's the rundown:

- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Play)
First Stage Theatre Company 
Fri. - Sat., Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.
Matinees Sunday, Dec. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium
Huntington City Hall
800 5th Avenue, Huntington, WV
Adults $12 / $10 Students & Seniors
304.416.5437

- Home for Christmas (Holiday Concert)
First Stage Theatre Company 
Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
(ONE PERFORMANCE ONLY, featuring First Stage Alumni)
Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium
Huntington City Hall
800 5th Avenue, Huntington, WV
Adults $12 / $10 Students & Seniors
304-416-5437

- Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Play)
By Neil Simon
Arts Resources for the Tri State (ARTS)
Fri. and Sat., Dec. 6 and 7 at 8 p.m. (Dinner at 6:30 p.m.)
Ballroom at ARTS Renaissance Theatre (Old Huntington High School)
900 8th Street in Huntington
Show only: $10 / Dinner and show: $25
Reservations: 304-733-2787
(*Warning: Adult language- For mature audiences only)
Menu: Green salad with raspberry vinaigrette / Chicken breast / Rice pilaf / Carrots & Broccoli / Rolls / Brownie sundae / Tea / Water (Alcohol cannot be sold at the dinner, but you are welcome to bring a bottle of wine.)

- Can You Forgive Her? (Play)
Lunar Strategem
Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center
Francis Booth Experimental Theatre
Marshall University
Dec. 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $12

- Mary - A Rock Opera - 17th Anniversary (Original Musical)
By Mark Scarpelli and Dan Kehde
Contemporary Youth Arts Company (CYAC)
Thur., Fri, Sat., Dec 5, 6 and 7 at 8 p.m.
WVSU Capitol Center Theatre
123 Summers St. in Charleston
$15 Adults / $10 Students and Seniors
304-342-6522

- Christmas in the Land of Oz (Play)
Children’s Theatre of Charleston
Fri. and Sat., Dec. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.
Sat. and Sun., Dec. 14 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre
Tickets $12 adults / $10 children

- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (Play)
Alban Arts Theatre
65 Olde Main Street in St. Albans, W.Va.
Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m.
Dec. 15 and 22 at 2 p.m.
Tickets $15 adults / $10 Seniors and Children under 12.
304-721-8896

- Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Play)
Paramount Players
Paramount Arts Center
Ashland, Ky.
Tickets $10 Adults / $8 Kids

- A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley (Play)
Ashland Community and Technical College
1400 College Drive, Ashland, Ky.
Dec. 5, 6 and 7 at 8 p.m.
Dec. 8 at 2:30 p.m.

- Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Play)
Portsmouth Little Theatre
Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.

- The Nutcracker Story (Play)
Based on the short story by E.T.A. Hoffman
Capitol Center Theatre
Dec. 19 and 20 at 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
304-342-6522 to reserve tickets or purchase them at the door
For more information call 304-546-6271.

   Whew! So support your local theatre and have a wonderful holiday season!