Tri-State Theater

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Dear Edwina, Jr." Interview #1

   Taking the stage this Friday is Dear Edwina, Jr., the musical that follows the adventures of plucky advice-giver extraordinaire Edwina Spoonapple as she directs the neighborhood kids in a series of production numbers as part of the latest edition of her weekly "Advice-A-Palooza" extravaganza. 

   So let’s hear from the cast! First up is 10-year-old Luke Lovejoy

Q: Tell us the basic story behind Dear Edwina, Jr.

Luke: A girl named Edwina has siblings that get all the attention. So when a talent scout comes into town she will have to be perfect.

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Luke: I play the role of Frank. He is a very rude person. He craves to get attention and will do whatever it takes.

Q: What's your background in local theatre?

Luke: I have done many shows that include Schoolhouse Rock, Peter Pan, Suessical, Into the Woods, Narnia, Scrooge, Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid.

Q: What's your favorite song in the show?

Luke: I love all the songs but my favorite is probably “Frankenguest.”

Q: Tell us about your trip with this show to the Music Theatre International Festival in Atlanta. 

Luke: It was so nice. It was absolutely fun and educational. I learned so much on the trip with my friends. I am positive that we kicked butt. It was a once in a lifetime experience. The best part was that we got to miss school.

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

Luke: This is a show that you will never forget. It is funny for all ages, it teaches you important lessons in an awesome way. 

Q: If a kid is thinking about trying out for a future First Stage show, what advice would you tell them?

Luke: I would tell them to be themselves. Theatre is for all ages. Theatre is a place to show your talent, meet new friends, and HAVE Fun!!!

   Thanks, Luke!

   The musical will be presented Fridays and Saturdays, April 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, April 6 and 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Center at 900 8th Street in Huntington.Tickets are $10 for children and $12 for adults.

   Don’t miss it!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Serious Discussion About "The Rack"

   Theatre can cover a wide range of experiences - it can be a place for light entertainment or take the audience into dark, thoughtful territory.

   Charleston playwright Dan Kehde has produced some terrific work at both ends of the spectrum, but his latest effort tackles a deadly serious topic. 

    He sat down for a interview recently to talk about his next show: 

Q: Tell us about The Rack.

Dan: The Rack is the story of the aftermath of a fictional elementary school massacre as seen through the eyes of members of the community in which it occurred. Centering around the grieving members of the shooter’s family as they try to understand the reasons behind the boy’s actions, the drama unfolds as the bodies of the victims and shooter are transported off site just as the blame for the shooting begins its relentless shift from issue to issue, person to person, and institution to institution until it finally comes to rest on... well that would ruin the ending, wouldn’t it?  

Q: We should stress that this is an original play you've written - what was the genesis of this production?

Dan: To be honest with you, it began as something else entirely. I started it as a story about the increasing pressures on kids today, but as I developed the plot, it began to take a much darker turn and I went with it. As soon as Marty’s personality began to develop, there was no doubt that the piece deserved more information than I had on hand. The research took its toll, but Marty’s pretty authentic even if he is totally fictional. 

Q: Audiences tend to favor "feel good" musicals - is it important to push the envelope?

Dan: Yeah, it’s going to take a brave audience to come and see this one. I don’t blame audiences for wanting to see the feel good musicals. You work hard all day, you come home, fight with your kids and the last thing you want is to go to some play where you’re confronted with issues you’d rather ignore. I can’t argue with that.  It’s a miracle that most folks actually get up and see the feel good stuff as it is. But I do believe that there will always be a segment of the population who appreciates the artistry of live drama; part of that artistry being that we challenge our audiences as visually, intellectually and viscerally as poetry challenges a reader, albeit in a quieter manner. Writing challenging, edgy pieces is a difficult choice when you have to put food on the table and the segment of the population likely to come out for your show is very small. Nevertheless, as artists, the best we can do is try to let these audiences know that, even here, these plays exist, that these experiences can occasionally be found in local houses, and hope that enough folks attend to keep us going.  

Q: Tell us about the cast you've assembled - this must be challenging material for them, too.

Dan: I lucked into this cast, I really did.  We generally try to use as many 12-25 year olds as we can in our productions just because I like working with that age group. We brought in some older actors for the age appropriate roles last fall and again for the Lincoln opera in February, but I really wanted young people to  originate the characters I’d created in this play. The kids that showed up for auditions were perfect. While I ended up still needing a few older roles for the Pastor and the Psychiatrist, they came in on their own. And yeah, our first reading was pretty tough. Many of the episodes that Marty experienced in his early life came from my own personal experiences and from kids I grew up with so long ago. It seems like pieces of the story resonated with the kids in the cast as well. There are dark passages in all of our lives. That’s part of the play. Our cast includes Nik Tidquist, Mandy Harper, Olivia King, Caitlin Moore, Angel Gandee, Katie Shaver, Siercia O’Brien, Janna Bailey, Matt Connelly, Rowan Maher, Ellie Paybins, Clayton Spry, Jeremy Drake and Patrick Felton.

Q: There will be those who look at the subject matter and think the show will be entirely tilted to one opinion about the topic - is that accurate or do you 
think it's a more balanced approach?

Dan: I’ve taken my hits for interjecting too much of my own opinions into my plays, but playwrights aren’t journalists and the concept that we, as artists, should present fair and balanced works is counter to the whole idea of freedom in art. As an artist, why shouldn’t I say what I want? Art’s in the creation, isn’t it? Rather than in the replication? If something I write generates controversy or just conversation, isn’t it worth doing? The Rack is ultimately about the complete inability of one community to protect itself against an inevitable tragedy. How could I possibly write it void of my own opinion? Do my opinions make it less valid as a piece of art or more? 

Q: Do you have a favorite sequence or scene in the play?

Dan: There’s a scene between Billie Edison, a victim of prior shooting, and the local newswoman, Lena Phillips, where Billie is trying to understand why these massacres happen in the first place.  There she is, in the studio, disfigured and only recently able to speak, trying to make heads or tales of this terrible thing that killed her boyfriend and blew away half of her brain. That one still gets to me.  

Q: Why would you urge our readers to see this play?

Dan: This really isn’t a play I would urge anyone to come see.  Really.  This is an extremely hard-hitting, visceral piece of theater that isn’t going to make anyone feel good while they watch it.  It’s intellectually stimulating and emotionally exhausting. But it’s the world premiere,and we still have a few more weeks of rehearsal so I can’t even say if it’s going to be as good as I envisioned it when I wrote it. So far, I think it is.  So far, I think anyone who attends will be changed for having seen it. I think the questions it raises are valid, the acting honest,  and the overall experience just plain good art. 

Q: Tell us when and where the play will be presented.

Dan: We open at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 3 at the WVSU Capitol Center, 123 Summers Street, Charleston, and run April 3, 4, 10, 11, 12.  We’re not performing Saturday, April 5 because it’s prom night for two of the high schools where some of my actors attend and, rather than sacrifice performances with substitutes, we’re simply not performing that night.  [Their performances are THAT good and it’s a small price to pay for including young people in my art.]  Tickets are $8 for students and $15 for adults and are available at the door the evenings of the performances. All shows begin at 8 p.m. For more information, call the WVSU box office at 304-342-6522. 

   Thanks, Dan!

Friday, March 28, 2014

On Stage This Weekend - Lots of Shows!

   Courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman, here's the list of community theatre shows taking the stage this weekend:
- The Pirates of Penzance (Operetta)
by Gilbert and Sullivan
Arts Resources for the Tri State (ARTS)
Fri. - Sat., March 28-29 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sun., March 30 at 2 p.m.
Renaissance Theatre Ballroom
900 8th St., Huntington
Show Only - $15
*Seating is extremely limited. Call 304-733-2787 for reservations
- Romeo and Juliet (Play)
By William Shakespeare
Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC)
and Boyd County Public Schools
Fri., March 28 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sun., March 30 at 2 p.m.
J. B. Sowards Theatre
College Drive Campus, Ashland, KY
$8 for adults, $5 for students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more, $4 for ACTC faculty and staff, and $2 for ACTC and MSU Ashland students.
- Extremities (Play)
by William Mastrosimone
Kanawha Players
*Warning- Contains adult content and strong language*
Show Dates:
Fri. - Sat., March 28-29 at 8 p.m.
Kanawha Players Theater
309 Beauregard St. Charleston, WV
$12 Adults / $10 Children under 18, Seniors and College Students w/ID
- Dan Stories 3: the Sixties  (Storytelling / Monologues)
by Dan Kehde
Sat, March 29 at 8 p.m.
WVSU Capitol Center Theatre
123 Summers Street, Charleston
$15 Adults / $8 Students
Tickets available at the door
- The Boys Next Door (Play)
by Tom Griffin
Morehead State University Dept of Music, Theatre and Dance
Thurs. - Sat., March 27-29 at 7:30 p.m.
Lucille Caudill Little Theatre in Breckinridge Hall
Morehead State University, Morehead, KY
Tickets $5
- Little Shop of Horrors (Musical)
by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
West Virginia Wesleyan College
Thurs. - Sat., March 27- 29 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sat., March 29 at 2 p.m.
Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts
59 College Avenue, Buckhannon, WV
$8 Adults / $5 Students / $3 Seniors
Tickets available at the door
   And that's it - so get out and support your community theatre!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Pirates of Penzance" - A Review

 What makes a classic play (or musical)?

   There have been untold  thousands of plays written over the centuries since the first playwright started scribbling, and most of those shows had their moment in the sun - and then disappeared forever.

   So why does Shakespeare still draw crowds, while Thomas Kyd is largely forgotten? Why do Gilbert & Sullivan endure while Dunlap & Carr languish?

   The easy answer is: they were masters of the art, setting a standard others can only aspire to. 

   Gilbert & Sullivan created 14 comic operas that were beloved by theatre fans in the late 1800s - and shows such as The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore are still being presented today (among others), with avid fans still packing in performances.

   But my personal favorite from that duo is The Pirates of Penzance - so it was with great anticipation that I attended last Saturday’s performance at Huntington’s Renaissance Theatre. 

   I’m happy to report that the show is an absolute delight - and probably the silliest (and funniest) show you’ll see this year.

   It’s easy to see how Gilbert & Sullivan influenced generations of comedians - the combination of silly antics with sharp and intelligent wordplay is in evidence, and would obviously influence modern performers including Your Show of Shows and Monty Python’s Flying Circus (not to mention hordes of musicians and playwrights).

   The story of “Pirates” is a mad delight: a young man named Frederick is accidentally apprenticed to a group of tender-hearted pirates, but when he reaches his 21st birthday, his apprenticeship is ended, and he vows to bring the pirates to justice. 

   Left on a desolate shore, he encounters a flock of beautiful girls - the Stanley sisters - and one of the girls captures his heart. The pirates return and threaten to (ahem) marry the sisters, but their plans are thwarted by the father of the girls, who is a Major-General.

   And that just takes us to intermission! There are more highjinks in Act II, along with plot twists, battles with the Keystoniest Cops ever, a hilarious round of hide-and-seek and a riotous (and terribly convenient and unexpected) wrap-up to the whole crazed adventure. 

   Of course, the most wonderful play can’t succeed without a talented cast, and ARTS has that (and then some). 

   Nic Scaggs plays the Pirate King, and it’s a challenging part - he must veer back and forth from clever to stupid and heel to leader without losing the audience’s favor - and Scaggs does it with apparent ease and rugged charm. It doesn’t hurt that he has a fantastic singing voice and a wonderful supporting cast of pirates who can be threatening and vicious while obviously being, underneath their gruff and comic exterior, a cuddly bunch. They’re a wonderfully expressive, charming band with terrific voices - they include Eric Wilson as Samuel (showing off a tremendous tattoo on his chest), with Bill Stambaugh, Luke Matlock, Andrew Surber, Jonathan Armstrong and Stephen Vance rounding out the pirate band. 

   The central character in the show is Frederick, the idealistic and naive young pirate who tries (with little success) to amend his misdeeds and change his life. He’s played with a purity of spirit by Michael Naglee, who’s born to be on stage - you can’t take your eyes off him.  A terrific singer, he gives us a Frederick who can steal hearts, gain sympathy and play each comic moment perfectly. It would be easy to play the character as smug and insufferable - but in Naglee’s care, he’s actually rather sweet and affable (if a bit dim when needed). He’s so much fun to watch!

   Karen Pruitt plays Ruth, Frederick’s former nursemaid who is ultimately responsible for his predicament. She’s wonderfully funny and a fine singer - and manages to hold her own against a stage full of pirates!

    If I had to pick out the most impressive performance in the show, I’d have to go with Nora Ankrom as Mabel, the Stanley sister who falls in love with Frederick. I knew she was very funny from seeing her performance in The Man Who Came to Dinner (and she gets plenty of chances to get laughs here, too), but I had no idea that she was such an amazing singer! Mabel sings her songs at the top of the register, and Nora hits those notes effortlessly! Truly impressive and a real delight.

   For most male actors, THE role that they someday hope to play is that of Mabel’s father, Major-General Stanley. Here the part is played to perfection by a relative newcomer to the area, Dr. John Campbell. He gets to chew scenery, stare down the pirates, outsmart the band, generate big laughs, and sing one of the most famous songs in the history of musical theatre: “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.” Campbell knocks it out of the park - he’s a delight from the moment he struts onto the stage, and carries right through to the curtain call.

   There are two other groups that make the show a hit - the sisters and the constables. The Stanley sisters provide both soaring vocals and huge laughs throughout the show. The sequence where they’re flirting with Frederick is an absolute classic, if just for their comic expressions. The group includes Tiffany Trent, Molly Maynard, Courtney Parsley, Laura Armstrong, Jaclyn Johnson, Joanna Berner and Emma Grace Imes - each one a treasure! 

   Last to appear in the show (but first in the hearts of comedy fans) are the Constables, brought in to bring the pirates to justice - a task that is surely beyond this bumbling group of policemen. Led by Todd Green, the three - Tristan Reynolds, Tyler Bradley and Mike Murdock - are absolutely hilarious, both for their songs and their cowardly antics. 

   The show is presented in the Renaissance Ballroom, which might seem a small venue for a big, classic production - but the directors have created an intimate, cleverly-designed space that works perfectly (and just manages to allow room to squeeze everyone on stage for that final act). 

   The costuming is effective, from the pirate’s duds to the sisters bustling outfits, the lighting is effective and the sound clear and well managed (which is to say, I didn’t notice any problems - which is a sure sign of good tech work).

   Congratulations to director Bil Neal and his team of directors for bringing this classic production to life! It checks all the boxes - excellent choreography, top-notch musical performances and outstanding acting! I thoroughly enjoyed the show! 

   “Pirates” has endured for a simple reason: it’s a fantastic show, and the company at ARTS does it up right. If you enjoy musical theatre, you don’t want to miss this one. (And if you don’t enjoy musical theatre, you should probably be reading a different blog.)

   Highly recommended!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Voices of the Mountain - On Stage Tuesday Night

   Voices of the Mountain takes the stage for one show only on Tuesday night!

   Appalachian Artists Collective, in special collaboration with the Clay Center's Explore and Program and Staci Leech Cornell presents a collection of student-written one act plays on March 25 at 7 p.m. at the Clay Center's Walker Theater. 

   The students represented are from Van Jr. / Sr. High School's Explore and Soar program. Playwright Mike Murdock and set designer Greg Morris joined AAC to develop a script and create a design concept for the project. AAC takes the creative works of students and fully realizes them with adult actors. Tyler Eldridge, Mariah Plante, Olivia Morris and Justin Skidmore complete AAC's ensemble. 

   Tickets are $10 and all proceeds go directly to Explore and Soar.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Pirates of Penzance" Interview #4

 The first weekend of performances may be over, but The Pirates of Penzance will return for three more shows next weekend!
   One of the leads is played by a relative newcomer to the area. Dr. John W. Campbell gets to sing one of the all-time great songs in the history of theatre.
   Let’s hear from Major General Stanley:
Q: For those who aren’t up on Gilbert & Sullivan (shame on ‘em), tell us the basic story of The Pirates of Penzance.
John: Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Obstacles arise - he’s a pirate, she’s a major general’s daughter; the pirates want to kidnap and marry all the daughters but the father objects; the boy learns he has obligations to the pirates for many more years to come, but she will wait for him; etc. - and are overcome through clever plot twists.

Q: Tell us about the character you play.
John: Major General Stanley sings about himself in one of the best-known songs from the show, “The Modern Major General.” The song highlights his vast classical, esoteric but completely impractical knowledge base, in a spoof of military self-importance. He is clever, but also honest enough to experience remorse over lying to escape the pirates. And he is a lot of fun to play. As he sings at one point, “It is, it is a glorious thing to be a Major General” (stealing that lick from the Pirate King!).

Q: What's your favorite part (or song) of the show?
John: There are so many hilarious moments that it is hard to narrow my favorite part to only one, but I’ll try. I am a musician in real life, and marvel at the truly beautiful tunes by Arthur Sullivan in this show. One of my favorites is the sweet, sweet air “Ah, leave me not to pine,” sung back and forth between Mabel and Frederick, but that ends each verse with a tongue-in-cheek “Fal la la la!” Our audience will be caught between real pathos and the utter silliness of the lyric. Exquisite! And very “Gilbert & Sullivan.”

Q: What's your background in theatre?
John: Before moving to the area last August, I appeared on several stages in central Kentucky, most often with Georgetown Community Theatre. I have been privileged to play Tevye  (Fiddler on the Roof with GCT), Warbucks (Annie, with Bluegrass Theatre Guild), Benjamin Franklin (1776 with Woodford Theatre), and Gus Klingman (Southern Comforts with Studio Players of Lexington), among other roles. I directed Music Man, The Sound of Music and Cinderella for Georgetown Community Theatre. Before that I have to leap back to high school and college productions, although I have directed or worked with church and college productions as part of my positions at various of those institutions.

Q: What's the most challenging thing for you about staging this show?
John: We put this show together in about 5 weeks. A complete operetta using amateur actors, many of whom don’t read music or read it well, in only five weeks! And the results will astonish our audiences. It is a tribute to the hard work and genuine talent of the cast and production team.

Q: Tell us about the cast of the show - are you having fun working on this comic operetta?
John: This cast has been a true delight to work (and play) with. There are no divas, no super-egos to work around or put up with. It has been a team effort from the beginning, community theatre at its best.

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?
John: First of all, because our audience will be thoroughly entertained. They will laugh and laugh and laugh at the slapstick, at the wit of the lyrics, at the posturing of the actors and their characters, and at the general silliness of the comic situations. They will have a good time, the best to be had in town these two weekends!
Secondly, it is a great show to serve as an introduction to live theatre. People who may not normally think of going to a live show will be very glad they saw this one, and just may get hooked. Movies and television can be great in their own ways, but neither comes close to the experience of live theatre.
Thirdly, while Pirates of Penzance is 130 years old, it is still a show that resonates with modern audiences, and it continues to play a role in popular culture. “Penzance” and its Gilbert & Sullivan siblings set the stage for Monty Python and much of the British (and by extension some American) sense of humor. This is a classic show - though not at all stodgy - and the “educated” individual (whatever that means exactly) really should be acquainted with it. You never know when it will show up on Jeopardy!
One last reason is that you never know who you may see on stage. The quiet co-worker suddenly is transformed into a pirate, larger than life! You may look at friends and acquaintances in a new light when you unexpectedly see them in a show. And that is a lot of fun.
   Thanks, John! (And thanks to Stephen Vance for the photo!)

  The show runs next weekend: March 28 and 29 at 8 p.m., and March 30 at 2 p.m. The shows will be presented in The ARTS Ballroom in The Renaissance Center at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

   The show is $15. Call 304-733-2787 to reserve your tickets. Seating is limited.

   Don't miss it!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Pirates of Penzance" Interview #3

   Continuing our series of interviews with the cast of The Pirates of Penzance (the Gilbert & Sullivan classic that is on stage this weekend and next at the Renaissance Theatre), let’s hear from the lovely and talented Karen Kelly Pruitt

   She plays the part of Ruth, who manages to create and solve problems in a most comical way: 

Q: For those who aren’t up on Gilbert & Sullivan (shame on ‘em), tell us the basic story of The Pirates of Penzance.

Karen: This operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan is a silly story of an indentured pirate's apprentice (Frederic) who is ready to leave the tender-hearted band of pirates, having reaching his 21st birthday. He was deeply devoted and loyal to the pirates, even though his apprenticeship was a mistake. He decides not to join the Pirate King and his band of pirates, but rather vows to exterminate them. Along the journey he meets Mabel, her sisters, and their father, the Major General Stanley. He falls in love with Mabel, but through a startling twist, he is legally and morally indentured to the Pirate King yet again.  What will be the outcome of his love of Mabel versus his sense of duty? I'm not gonna tell... come see for yourself!

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Karen: I play Ruth, the somewhat aged nursery maid to Frederic. It is Ruth's fault that Frederic is apprenticed to the Pirate King, and she has remained with the pirates taking on the job of a "maid of ALL work." Ruth pleads with Frederic to take her with him when he decides to  leave the pirates. He cautiously agrees, since she is the only woman he has ever seen, but quickly changes his mind when he sees the Stanley sisters. Ruth is devastated and sent away. Her only choice is to go back to the pirates and become one of them... ARGHHH!

Q: What is your favorite part (or song) of the show?

Karen: Too many to name! But on top of the list is the song "With Cat-like Tread" done by the pirates. Chorally, the song "Hail, Poetry" is magnificent! "The Modern Major General" is amazing and worth the price of the ticket! Our Music Director, William Murphy, does an excellent job working with this extremely talented cast to bring out some of the most beautiful voices singing some of the most silly and ridiculous lyrics.

Q: What is your background in theater?

Karen: I started in community theater less that 10 years ago right here in Huntington. Some of my roles include Widow Paroo in Music Man, Mrs. Peacock in Clue, the Musical, Ethel Banks in Barefoot in the Park, Mrs. Frasure in Stepping Out, Mrs. Stanley in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Frau Wendell in Cabaret and a church lady in Shenandoh. I was a member of the first Resident Acting Company of ARTS in 2013, and am honored to be a member again for the 2014 season. I truly love what the ARTS Resident Acting Company is doing for community theater, and I hope to be a part of it for a long time!

Q: What's the most challenging thing for you about staging this show?

Karen: This is my first operetta, and what a way to start! Again I refer to those silly and ridiculous songs. I've had to concentrate on WORDS, WORDS, WORDS! Once the words were learned, then I was completely free to be silly and funny while singing.

Q: Tell about the cast of the show - are you having fun working on this comic operetta?

Karen: I cannot begin to tell you how much fun I have had working with this amazingly talented cast! Every night of rehearsal was pure JOY! Frederic (Michael Naglee) and Mabel (Nora Ankrom) are a delight to watch and listen to. The Pirate King (Nic Skaggs) makes me laugh every single night and has an absolutely beautiful voice. The Major General (John Campbell) is AMAZING and steals the show with "Modern Major General." The lovely sisters are a treat to watch and have some of the most entertaining songs and movements in the show.  BUT the Constables and the Pirates... well... you just have to experience it for yourself!

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

Karen: IT'S JUST FUN! It's a perfect show for ALL the family! PLEASE!Don't miss this!

   Thanks, Karen! (And thanks to Stephen Vance for the photo!)

  The show runs two weekends: March 22, 28, 29 at 8 p.m., and March 23 and 30 at 2 p.m. The shows will be presented in The ARTS Ballroom in The Renaissance Center at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

   Dinner & Show is $30, Show Only is $15. Call 304-733-2787 to reserve your tickets. Seating is limited for dinners as well as shows.

   Don't miss it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Stage This Weekend

   Here's the list of shows taking the stage this weekend, courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman - lots of great shows to choose from:

- The Pirates of Penzance (Operetta)
by Gilbert and Sullivan
Arts Resources for the Tri State (ARTS)
Fri. - Sat., March 21-22 and 28-29 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sun., March 23 and 30 at 2 p.m.
Renaissance Theatre Ballroom
900 8th St., Huntington
Dinner/Show - $30
Show Only - $15
*Seating is extremely limited. Call 304-733-2787 for reservations
Menu- Salad (Mixed greens w/ baby shrimp)
Entrée (Baked fish, Roasted Vegetables, Asparagus, Yellow Rice)
Dessert (Chilled melon balls and fruit). Alcohol cannot be sold at this venue, but you are more than welcome to bring a bottle of wine of your own.
*Dinner sold out for Saturday, March 22*

- Extremities (Play)
by William Mastrosimone
Kanawha Players
*Warning- Contains adult content and strong language*
Show Dates:
Fri-Sat March 21-22 and 28-29 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sun March 23 at 2 p.m.
Kanawha Players Theater
309 Beauregard St. Charleston
$12 Adults / $10 Children under 18, Seniors and College Students w/ID

- The Drowsy Chaperone (Musical)
by Lisa Lambert / Greg Morrison / Bob Martin / Don McKellar
GW High School Theatre of the Nevertheless
Fri-Sat March 21,22 at 7 p.m.
Matinee Sun March 23 at 2 p.m.
George Washington High School Auditorium
1522 Tennis Club Rd, Charleston
Adults $12 / Students $10

- Romeo and Juliet (Play)
By William Shakespeare
Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC)
and Boyd County Public Schools
Fri. - Sat., March 21-22 and 28 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sun., March 23 and 30 at 2 p.m.
J. B. Sowards Theatre
College Drive Campus, Ashland, KY
$8 for adults, $5 for students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more, $4 for ACTC faculty and staff, and $2 for ACTC and MSU Ashland students.

- The Pink Panther Strikes Again (Play)
By William Gleason
Mid Ohio Valley Players
Fri. - Sat., March 21-22 at 8 p.m.
229 Putnam St., Marietta, OH
$11 Adults / $9 Students-Seniors / $6 Youth (up to 16)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Pirates of Penzance" Interview #2

For our second interview with the cast of the musical comedy The Pirates of Penzance (which takes the stage this weekend at the Renaissance Theatre in Huntington), let's hear from one of the show's stars: the devilishly handsome and amazingly talented Mike Naglee

Q: For those who aren’t up on Gilbert & Sullivan (shame on ‘em), tell us the basic story of The Pirates of Penzance.

Mike: Pirates of Penzance is a hilarious tale that chronicles the intersection between the lives of a band of tender-hearted pirates and their apprentice with those of a Major General and his bevy of beautiful daughters. The young apprentice has come of age, and can finally quit the detestable profession of piracy, to which he was mistakenly indentured but honor bound to serve out. He leaves intent on living a blameless existence, especially after instantly falling in love with the General's daughter, Mabel. Everything falls into place for the young lovers, until a surprise manipulation of his overblown sense of duty threatens to put a 63 year hold on their engagement.  

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Mike: I play Frederick, the naive apprentice freshly out of his indentures. He leaves his pirate friends and promptly and mutually falls head over heels for the General's daughter, Mabel. Driven by his sense of duty, he intends to atone for his former life of villainy by exterminating the pirates - and then marry her as soon as possible... but the pirates aren't quite ready for his apprenticeship to end. [cue ominous music]

Q: What's your favorite part (or song) of the show?

Mike: There's no way I could pick just one! Cat-like Tread and Modern Major General are a blast to sing. Stay, Frederick, Stay is downright touching. I can't stop laughing at the constables every time they open their mouths. There's just not a song in the score I don't thoroughly enjoy.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Mike: I graduated from Marshall in '03 with my Theatre degree, but life happened and I lost myself in computer programming for a number of years. My wife and I jumped back on the theatrical horse a few years ago and are well on our way to riding it to death.  ;-)

Q: What's the most challenging thing for you about staging this show?

Mike: I'd say it's a draw between the music and the show's tongue-in-cheek nature. The score is a ton of fun and vocally demanding. It's a rather exhausting show! It's a challenge to tread the line of absurdity while attempting to keep your character from becoming a caricature.

Q: Tell us about the cast of the show - are you having fun working on this comic operetta?

Mike: Immensely! The production team has been patient and professional, and music director Will Murphy's staggering musicianship humbling. Nic Skaggs *is* the King of Pirates and comedy. Karen Pruitt's Ruth is simultaneously hilarious, devious, and pitiable. John Campbell was born to play the Major General. The sisters and pirates are lovely and dastardly, respectively. It's awesome to watch them all have so much fun nailing their roles. Todd Green and his constables are absolutely gut-busting funny, you've just got to see them. Finally, Nora Ankrom is positively radiant as Mabel. In only her third stage appearance, she's a natural with an amazing work ethic, and it shows in her well polished performance. It's been truly wonderful having such a kind and talented songstress playing beside me. The production staff, the crew, my truly tender-hearted pirate band, the lovely Stanley sisters, the anxious constables, the modelest Major General and dearest Mabel - I love them all with affection unspeakable. It's been an honor and a pleasure to work with them, old friends and new alike.

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

Mike: It's hilarious!  It's got rollicking pirates, rousing choruses, true love, scurrilous pirates, bitter betrayal, tender duets, pretty girls, dashing pirates, deepest heartbreak, curious quips, 11th hour redemptions, pirates, and more jokes than you could possibly shake a stick at (please don't bring sticks). Also, there are pirates! What more could you ask for?  Grab the phone already and reserve your seat!

   Thanks, Mike! (And thanks to Stephen Vance for the photo!)

  The show runs two weekends: March 21, 22, 28, 29 at 8 p.m., and March 23 and 30 at 2 p.m. The shows will be presented in The ARTS Ballroom in The Renaissance Center at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

   Dinner & Show is $30, Show Only is $15. Call 304-733-2787 to reserve your tickets. Seating is limited for dinners as well as shows.

   Don't miss it!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Pirates of Penzance" Interview #1


  One of my all-time favorite shows takes the stage this weekend in Huntington, as ARTS presents the Gilbert & Sullivan musical comedy, The Pirates of Penzance!

   So let's hear from the cast! For the first of (hopefully) several interviews, here's my pal, the lovely, talented and very funny Nora Ankrom, who plays the beautiful and kind-hearted Mabel Stanley: 

Q: For those who aren’t up on Gilbert & Sullivan (shame on ‘em), tell us the story of The Pirates of Penzance.

Nora: Pirates of Penzance centers around Frederick, a young man who was mistakenly indentured as a pirate's apprentice (by his childhood nursery maid Ruth) until his 21st birthday. Frederick abhors the pirates' profession, but because he is the "slave of duty," he carries out his commitment. Upon completion, Frederick vows to wipe the pirates from the face of the earth to atone for his involuntary association with them. He meets Major General Stanley and his well-to-do daughters, all of whom shun him for his past in piracy; except for Mabel, who takes pity on the "poor wand'ring one." The Stanleys and the pirates collide and as Frederick is about to defend the family and rid them of the pirates (with the help of some not-so-eager constables), he is informed of a "most ingenious paradox" that allies him with the pirates once more. Through the silliest twists and turns in logic (and puns) you can imagine, eventually a happy ending comes to all (except maybe the constables).

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Nora: I play Mabel, the only Stanley sister who will take pity on poor Frederick. Mabel offers Frederick her heart, but not without exerting her self-proclaimed moral superiority over her new fiancee, her sisters, and the pirates. Because the show is satirical and full of melodrama, everything about Mabel is big: the way she teases her sisters, her love (and heartache) over Frederick, her loyalty and pride for her father, her bustle, and especially her hair!

Q: What's your favorite part (or song) of the show?

Nora: There really are so many hilarious parts, but I'd have to say my favorites are "With Cat-Like Tread," "Paradox," and anything involving the constables.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Nora: I stumbled upon an ARTS workshop almost a year ago and got hooked! I played a secretary in How to Succeed last May, Nurse Preen in The Man Who Came to Dinner last August, and I got to work backstage for Shenandoah last October. I knew during the first show that I wanted to be a part of what was happening at ARTS and planned from then to audition for the 2014 Resident Acting Company. Before ARTS, I only had experience in high school show choir, so this last year has been incredibly educational (and pretty fast-paced!). I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to learn from and work with some extremely talented (and patient!) people.

Q: What's the most challenging thing for you about staging this show?

Nora: Being funny. Really, you'd think that comedy would be all fun and easy-going (especially a very silly comedy), but it really takes a lot of effort. Getting the notes and words just right are essential, and ensuring the material "lands" with the audience is much more precise than you'd think. "Plant your feet in third position, bend your knees slightly, breathe from your torso, keep your breath supported, square your shoulders, don't upstage yourself, hit your marks, don't walk backwards, etc… and now be funny" :) Comedy is a lot of work!

Q: Tell us about the cast of the show - are you having fun working on this comic operetta?

Nora: YES! The cast is wonderful. The Stanley sisters are an unstoppable "sister machine." The pirates enjoy every minute of being pirates and that is awesome to watch. The constables are likely the silliest characters on stage: it's a challenge every night to keep a straight face on stage with them! Karen Pruitt's Ruth is fantastic and makes me laugh out loud every night. Nic Skaggs is extremely talented and has so much fun on stage. He truly is the Pirate King! John Campbell is an absolute gem as the Modern Major General. I couldn't imagine anyone more perfect for the role. And Mike Naglee is perfectly brilliant and charming (and wow, can he sing!). It's such a pleasure to work with such a solid, confident, and giving actor.

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

Nora:  Swashbuckling, soft-hearted pirates, prim and proper ladies in big hats and parasols, knee-knocking constables, silly, giggly lovers, even sillier tragedies, paradoxes, and puns galore! What's not to love?
   Thanks, Nora! (And thanks to Stephen Vance for the photo!) 
   The show runs two weekends: March 21, 22, 28, 29 at 8 p.m., and March 23 and 30 at 2 p.m. The shows will be presented in The ARTS Ballroom in The Renaissance Center at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

   Dinner & Show is $30, Show Only is $15. Call 304-733-2787 to reserve your tickets. Seating is limited for dinners as well as shows.
   Don't miss it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Auditions for ACTC's One Act Play Festival

My pal Jonathan Joy sends along this audition notice:
One week away. 
ACTC Theatre.  
Monday, March 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.  
Tuesday, March 25 at 7 p.m. 
We need a group of approximately 20 actors and actresses for the school's first one act play festival. The roles are mostly for adults, but they could use a few 9 to 12-hear-old boys for a couple of the shows. No experience necessary. Auditions are open to anyone and everyone. 
The fest will feature 10 plays written by Ashland Community and Technical College students and faculty as a part of my playwriting class last Fall. The plays range from 5 to 40 minutes in length. The program will run about 2 hours total. 
A flexible rehearsal schedule will begin Monday, March 31 and continues for three weeks. Tech week will begin Sunday, April 20 and show dates are April 25, 26, and 27.  
Jonathan Joy, Mary Shortridge and Sarah Diamond Burroway are directing. 
Sounds like fun!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Coming Soon: "Dear Edwina, Jr."

   Lots of great shows hitting the stage in the weeks ahead! We'll have lots of interviews and features coming up in the weeks ahead.

   To tide you over, here's the poster for First Stage's final show for the 2013 - 2014 season (the group's 24th): Dear Edwina, Jr.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Coming Soon: The Pirates of Penzance

Here's a press release from ARTS about their next production, which promises to be a heck of  a lot of fun:

ARTS is doing Gilbert and Sullivan! Opening Next Week!

In our quest to try things we’ve never tried before, we’ll be performing The Pirates of Penzance. It’s an operetta, which means that most of the dialogue is actually sung.

The story concerns Frederic, who, having completed his 21st year, is released from his apprenticeship to a band of tender-hearted pirates. He meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley, and the two young people fall instantly in love. Frederic finds out, however, that he was born on 29 February, and so, technically, he only has a birthday each leap year. His apprenticeship indentures state that he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday, and so he must serve for another 63 years. Bound by his own sense of duty, Frederic's only solace is that Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully.

Full of British humor written decades before Monty Python and one of the silliest ARTS has ever produced. Bring someone with you who loves to laugh - or just needs to.

The Pirates of Penzance is being presented in the ARTS Renaissance Ballroom.
Space is limited and reservations are recommended.

Two Weekends Only!
March 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Sunday Matinee at 2 p.m.
Show only tickets $15
Dinner and Show Tickets $30 (by reservation only)
Call 304.733.2787 for reservations and leave a message, someone will return your call as soon as possible.

There has never been a better time to be a Pirate (or to be at ARTS)!
Won't you join us?

Arts Resources for the Tri-State
900 8th Street
Huntington, WV 25701

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On Stage This Weekend

   Courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman, here's the rundown of community theatre productions taking the stage this weekend:
- Grease (Musical)
by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Paramount Players
Thurs. - Sat., March 13, 14, 15 at 7 p.m.
Matinee Sat., March 15 at 3 p.m.
Paramount Arts Center
1300 Winchester Ave., Ashland, KY
Adults $14 / Students $10
- Godspell (Musical)
by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak
Southern Coalition for the Arts
Thurs., March 13 at 7 p.m.
Logan Country Club
715 Lincoln Hwy, Chapmanville, W.Va.
Tickets $30 Includes appetizer, entree, dessert, drink and show
(304) 855-8400 or (304) 784-5444
- Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr. (Musical, Children’s Theatre)
by Doug Wright / Alan Menken / Howard Ashman / Glenn Slater
Children’s Theatre of Charleston
Fri-Sat, March 14-15 at 7 p.m.
Matinees Sat-Sun March 15-16 at 2 p.m.
Charleston Civic Center Little Theater
$12 Adults / $10 Students
- No Pants Players All Ages Show (Improv Comedy)
No Pants Players
Sat., March 15 at 7 p.m.
Alban Arts Center
65 Olde Main Plaza, St Albans, W.Va.
Tickets $8 online at nopantsplayers.com
or $10 Adults / $8 kids at the door
- The Pink Panther Strikes Again (Play)
By William Gleason
Mid Ohio Valley Players
Fri. - Sat., March 14-15 / 21-22 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sun., March 16 at 3 p.m.
229 Putnam St., Marietta, Ohio
$11 Adults / $9 Students-Seniors / $6 Youth (up to 16)
- Seussical: the Musical (Musical - Children’s Theatre)
by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on the books of Dr. Seuss
Portsmouth Area Children's Theatre
Fri. - Sat., March 14-15 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee Sunday March 16 at 2:30 p.m.
Vern Riffe Center for the Arts
940 2nd Street, Portsmouth, Ohio
$12 Adults / $10 for children 12 and under 
Available at the McKinley Box Office at (740) 351-3600 or at ticketmaster.com
   So you can't say there's nothing to do this weekend - get out there and support your local theatre!