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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.

Friday, May 27, 2016

On Stage for Memorial Day Weekend

   With the holiday weekend here, there's only one show taking the stage in the Tri-state area.

   Here's our humble list (and don't worry, June is packed with shows to see):

   - Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will - Paramount Little Theatre present the PG-rated Dramedy on May 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for senior citizens.

   And that's it! Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

First Stage Announces Its New Season

   First Stage Theatre Company, Huntington's long-running children's theatre, recently announced its 2016-2017 season. It will be the 27th season for the group.
   The lineup includes:
   - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (non-musical) - Based on the classic story by Mark Twain, the show will be directed by Zach Davis and produced by Debbie Jackson. (It will be staged in late September / early October 2016)
   - School of Rock the Musical: Youth Production - The hit Broadway musical based on the film starring Jack Black, the show will be directed by Chuck Minsker, music director Mark Smith, choreographer Melissa Marcum, produced by Leslie Comer-Porter and Jeanette Rowsey. (It will be staged in November 2016)
   - Junior Theatre Festival 2017 - First Stage will take a group of students to the annual festival in January 2017.
   - Honk, Jr. - The beloved (and very funny) musical based on the story of the Ugly Duckling, the show will be directed by Amy Browning and produced by Jeanette Bailey. (It will be staged in the Spring of 2017)
   - Showcase 2017 - A talent showcase for both young performers and First Stage alumni, this is a special fundraiser for the First Stage Playhouse. (It will be staged in the Spring of 2017)
   Audition dates for these shows will be announced soon!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Summer Theatre Camp

   Summer's almost here, and this is the time of year that people are asking about summer theatre camps.

   ARTS is having two theatre camps this summer. Older camp begins June 13 and goes through July 2. Younger camp begins July 11 and goes through July 30. Campers will tackle the just-released Elf the Musical, Jr. 

   Camp from 9 a.m. through noon Monday through Friday. Participants will help build the set, help with costumes, learn choreography and participate in a musical! 

   Camp will be held at the Renaissance Theatre (old Huntington High School) at 900 8th Street. 

   For more info or to get an application, contact Eddie Harbert at 304-360-2749. Space is limited so register today!

   Instructors for the class are Eddie Harbert, Coni Anthony and Carol Scarberry

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Great Time for Community Theatre!

   This is an amazing weekend for everyone who loves community theatre!

   That's because we have not one, not two, but three Broadway-quality shows taking the stage in our area tonight.

   For your consideration:

   1) Last night my lovely wife and I saw CLOG's Spamalot at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre - and we absolutely loved it, we couldn't stop laughing. It's an amazing, top-quality show with great performers, a stunning set, fantastic costumes, hilarious songs and laughs throughout. It's a real achievement, professional in every way and a heck of a lot of fun. The last performance is tonight at 7:30 p.m. Highly recommended!

   2) I already raved in this review about ARTS' production of August: Osage County - an intense play about a dysfunctional family that shakes the audience to its core. The set has received plenty of raves, but the actors make the show - their performances are stunning, heartfelt and touching. It's an amazing, professional production, and also comes highly recommended! The final performance is tonight at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

   3) Tonight only John McAlister presents Broadway Showstoppers, an evening of American show tunes starring Tony winner Beth Leavel, West Virginia's Sean Watkins, and Vaudevillian Jesse Luttrell with the Fred Barton Orchestra.  It will be presented at  Christ Temple Church Auditorium at 2400 Johnstown Road in Huntington. How often do you get to see Broadway stars perform locally?

   You'll note the one problem with this embarrassment of riches - they all take place tonight! But you can't go wrong with any of these shows - they're all terrific! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

On Stage This Weekend

   Lots of great shows to choose from this weekend, including:

- August: Osage County - ARTS presents the play by Tracy Letts, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It tells the story of an Oklahoma family that is dealing with the sudden and mysterious disappearance of the family patriarch. What unfolds is a dark and comedic drama that unveils secret after secret within the Weston family. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance. The show runs May 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

- Monty Python's Spamalot - The Charleston Light Opera Guild presents the musical based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre on May 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at charlestonlightoperaguild.org or call the Box Office at 304-343-2287 Monday through Sat., 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and one hour before showtime.

- Broadway Showstoppers - John McAlister presents an evening of American show tunes starring Tony winner Beth Leavel, West Virginia's Sean Watkins, and Vaudevillian Jesse Luttrell with the Fred Barton Orchestra.  It will be presented May 21 at  Christ Temple Church Auditorium at 2400 Johnstown Road in Huntington.

- Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will - Paramount Little Theatre present the PG-rated Dramedy on May 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for senior citizens.

- Murder Mysteries -  "Post Time for Murder!" on May 21 at the Greenhouse of Teays Valley, in Hurricane. Tickets are by reservation only - call 304-397-6316. Tickets are $45 per guest.


   So get out there and enjoy some local theatre!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Interview with "August: Osage County's" Mary Williams


 The final weekend of August: Osage County has arrived, and you just have a couple of chances to catch the acclaimed play at the Renaissance Theatre in Huntington.

   We also have our final interview with the members of the cast. Let’s hear from the lovely and talented Mary Poindexter Williams, who plays a spitfire who’s at the heart of the family conflict that drives the play.

Q. Tell us about August: Osage County.

Mary: August: Osage County is a story about the Weston Family as they come to grips with their past and face their future. The patriarch of the family has disappeared and the family gathers in the large family home located in Osage County, Oklahoma. Both the climate and tempers can be HOT!!

Q. Why did you want to tackle this show?

Mary: OMG! A rare opportunity to be a part of a production of this  Pulitzer Prize winning play! Wonderful play. wonderful role! Wonderful theatre company! Wonderful director and cast!! Wonderful experience!

Q. Tell us about the character you play.

Mary: I play Violet Weston, wife of the missing Beverly Weston and mother to Barbara, Ivy, and Karen. Violet is  not a very likable human being. Violet is addicted to drugs, is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, chain smoking throughout the play, and lashing out at everyone in the Weston home. But I love delving into why Violet has become this kind of person. I like to try to understand events in her life that have molded her into this caustic and bitter woman. It has probably been the most challenging role I've ever played. There are so many layers to this woman. And, it's so fun to play this kind of character. I'm a fairly reserved person and it is cathartic in a way to express Violet's feelings with her ranting and raving!  I hope I haven't scared my husband, Steve! Ha Ha!

Q. What is your background in theatre?

Mary: The acting bug bit me on this very same high school stage. My first acting role was in the play Flowers for Algernon, performed on the Huntington High School stage in 1973. I did a few things in high school and then in college ( I attended Marshall University) and a few community theatre shows at the old Abbot Theatre and the Huntington Art Museum. But then I moved to Florida, got married, had two daughters and was busy homemaking, mothering, and working as a funeral director until I moved back to Huntington in the mid-‘90s. After my girls became adults and moved away, my husband encouraged me to return to MU to take some theatre classes. Next thing I know I'm in their theatre program and graduated with my BFA in 2010.

Q. Tell us about the set.

Mary: Just Wow!  I could never imagine this set, this absolutely realistic house that Greg Morris and Tom Olson have built-here on this stage! It's so easy to lose myself in my role and become Violet in "my house." The hours and hours that have gone into the building and dressing of this set is mind-boggling. These are men with careers and families and what they have put into this; their blood, sweat, and tears is awe inspiring.

Q. Tell us about the cast.

Mary: They are the best! I knew some of the cast and crew before we started rehearsals, but this is my first year as a company member so I've been thrilled to make some new friends. Everyone is so talented and  I'm honored to be a part of this once in a lifetime experience with this group.

Q. Why would you recommend this show?

Mary: This is the kind of theatre experience that stays with you, has an influence on your life. You may think you can not relate to this family. Your family may not have some of the problems that this family is struggling with, but all families have issues. This play forces  you to "feel." It makes you laugh, makes you cry, maybe even makes you cringe. But you have an experience watching this play. Theatre entertains, it educates, it motivates. This play has it all.

Thanks, Mary!


   ARTS presents August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, on Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance.

"August: Osage County" - A Review



   Sometimes you get to see a show that really stands out from the crowd.

   A production that has a real emotional impact.

   A play that leaves you in awe because of the skill of the execution, the intelligence of the script, and the talent of the performers.

   August: Osage County is just such an experience.

   It tells the story of the ultimate dysfunctional family, the Westons. The patriarch of the family is the intelligent (and somewhat eccentric) Beverly Weston (played with gusto by Robert Hutchens). He hires a live-in housekeeper (the lovely Sheila Meade) to look after his ailing - and abrasive - wife Violet (played with power and grit by Mary Poindexter Williams).

   When Beverly goes missing the family returns for the first time in years to support Violet and look for answers - and in the process, long-held secrets (in this show, everyone has a secret) are revealed. The events that follow shake the family structure to its core.

   The family includes the long-absent daughter Barbara (played with dynamic fire by Amy Carlson) who decides to take control - something she hasn’t been able to manage with her husband Bill (played both amiably and angrily by Simon Woods) and her rebellious daughter Jean (the engaging Amanda Maynus).

   The other sisters are Ivy, the one who stayed to look after her parents and struggles with her resentment (played by a controlled and sensitive Kate Morris), and Karen, the flighty sister (played with energy and passion by Joanna Murdock) who arrives with her finance, the secretive and sketchy Steve Heidebrecht (played with authority by Tyler Bradley). 

   Rounding out the cast are relatives Mattie Fae Aiken (the luminous Linda Reynolds), her husband Charlie (a flinty Todd Green), their son “Little Charles”  Aiken (a nervous and endearing Dylan Clark) and the local Sheriff, who has a history with Barbara (a sensitive Jonathan Maynard).

   The cast and the script flow together flawlessly to bring this story to life. It’s a tale that is at times surprising, shocking, repulsive and (at all times) fascinating to watch. Secrets are revealed (some quite dark), truth is spoken and emotions laid raw. It’s a powerful, moving story that will be on your mind long after you leave the theatre. 

   When you first arrive at the Renaissance Theatre to see the play you’ll be struck by the size and complexity of the set designed and built by Greg Morris and Tom Olson (with the assistance of many others). It’s a three-story home brought to life on the stage, including (by my count) seven distinctive, perfectly-decorated rooms - and it’s as important, in its way, as any performer. It’s a professional product that any company would be proud to work on, and quite an achievement - kudos all around!

   A few caveats - this is not a show for young children. It’s intense, it’s real - there is violence (both emotional and physical) and adult language and situations are included.

   But for those mature enough to handle it, it’s a terrific production (it’s no surprise that the original play walked away with a swath of honors and awards).  

   Congratulations to the cast, crew and directors for crafting one of the Tri-state’s most impressive shows! 


  ARTS presents August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Interview with "August: Osage County's" Jonathan Maynard

   You have three more chances to catch the ARTS production of August: Osage County in Huntington, starting Thursday night - and we have a few more interviews with the cast to share!

    Stepping up to the imaginary microphone today is the talented Jonathan Maynard, who plays a hometown boy who took on a surprising job.

Q: Tell us about August: Osage County.

Jonathan: The play follows the tale of the Weston family of Osage County Oklahoma in August of a year in the late 2010’s. Beverly Weston, the patriarch, hires a live-in maid and subsequently disappears. As the family converges on the house on the plains, family secrets are revealed, relationships are tested, and the question of what it means to be a family is brought to the forefront. 

Q: Why did you want to tackle this show?

Jonathan: My favorite theatre pieces are those that teach us something about ourselves, the ones that show the truths about humanity and what it means to be a flawed individual. August: Osage County embodies everything about that idea. None of the characters are particularly lovable. There are no winners or losers. But there are people. Real people. 

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Jonathan: I play Sheriff Deion Gilbeau. He has the unenviable task of delivering bad news to people he's know his whole life and may care a little more than he wishes to admit about this particular family. 

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Jonathan: I have been performing in community theatre throughout the Tri-state since 2012. 

Q: I've heard the set is amazing...

Jonathan: Not only is it massive, it's functional. I've rarely seen a set this well thought out and put together, let alone acted on it. I mean, it's a three story house with a front porch for crying out loud. 

Q: Tell us about the cast.

Jonathan: The cast are some of the most talented  individuals in the area. They have worked tirelessly to create the world of the Weston family and I, for one, am honored to be a small part of this cast. 

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Jonathan: If you go, you will laugh. You will feel uncomfortable. You will hate and pity and relate to the characters. You will lose track of time. You will learn something about yourself. You will see one of the most well-written pieces of American theatre produced by a group of people who truly care about the material. What could be a better use of an evening?

Thanks, Jonathan!


   ARTS presents August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, on May 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Interview with "August: Osage County's" Kate Morris

   Continuing our interviews with the cast of the excellent August: Osage County, which runs this weekend in Huntington, let’s hear from another sister at the heart of the dysfunctional family. 

   Here’s the gifted and lovely Kate Morris:

Q: Tell us about August: Osage County. 

Kate: August: Osage County is one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. It’s comedy, tragedy, mystery and a family reality show all mixed together. The imagery and symbolism could keep an English major busy for months and yet the story so real and familiar that anyone who watches it can find pieces of themselves and their family in it. 

Q: Why did you want to tackle this show? 

Kate: The first time I heard of this show was when I watched the 2008 Tony Awards. Then I saw a touring production in Pittsburgh and fell in love. I had never seen a stage show that felt so real and so allegorical at the same time. I couldn’t imagine that a local company would have the guts to tackle it. When I heard ARTS was taking it on I knew I had to be a part of it. I adore working with Mike Murdock as a director. He gives actors freedom to explore and play and discover new things each night. There are scenes in this show that are different each time we do them. It’s a show where you can really live in the moment and just play it as it comes. That’s my favorite part of live theatre and I think it’s really happening on our stage. 

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Kate: I play Ivy, the middle Weston sister. The one who stayed home to take care of her parents when her sisters left to pursue their careers. Anyone who has taken care of an aging parent can probably relate to her. She is quiet and reserved and takes quite a bit of bullying from her mother, but she has plans and dreams and secrets that make her so interesting to play.

Q: What's your background in theatre? 

Kate: I’ve been a theatre rat since I was a kid. 

Q: I've heard the set is amazing...

Kate: My husband designed and built it the set. I feel like the process of creating it has been like birthing another child for us. He has been working on the design since we got the call in October that we were going to be part of the show. A challenge for us is that we have a 3-year-old and no local family to help us babysit. Mike Murdock was so accommodating in adjusting the rehearsal schedule in the beginning so that Greg could have the majority of the set built by the time I was needed regularly in rehearsal. I will be eternally grateful to him for his flexibility. Without it I never would have been able to be part of this incredible show. Greg put in many 16 hour Saturdays and Sundays. He took days off from work and worked early mornings and late evenings before and after his “real job.” He did the thing that many people thought couldn’t be done here and I couldn’t be more proud of him. The dedication that everyone has had to getting this set built and the show on its feet is inspiring. 

Q: Tell us about the cast.

Kate: Inspired. Talented. Dedicated. They’re like family now.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Kate: This play is about real people down in the muck going through real struggles to change themselves for the better. It isn’t always pretty, but I think you will find that it is beautiful.

Thanks, Kate!


   ARTS presents August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, on May 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Interview with "August: Osage County's" Amy Carlson

    Continuing our interviews with the cast of the ARTS production August: Osage County, let’s hear from one of the show's lead actors, the beautiful and talented Amy Carlson, whose character Barbara is at the heart of the fiery conflict in the dysfunctional Fordham family.

Q: Tell us about August: Osage County.

Amy: August: Osage County is a little bit of everything. It's a drama. It's a dark comedy. It's contemporary. It's an ensemble piece and it's some of the best writing in the American theater canon. It won the Pulitzer for good reason. The story itself follows the Weston family. Daddy goes missing and everyone comes home to Oklahoma to see what is going on. The story unfolds and secrets come out as loving, leaving, fighting, cussing, pill popping, and chaos ensues. 

Q: Why did you want to tackle this show?

Amy: This show is a monster. And I mean that in the most complimentary of terms. As an actor this show and this role require you to invest everything. That's why I wanted to do it. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to challenge myself. I hope I have risen to the challenge. And, besides those things, I wanted to work with this creative team and this cast. I have loved working with this creative and talented group of people. 

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Amy: I play Barbara Fordham. She is the oldest Weston daughter. She comes home for the first time in years when she gets the news about her father. She reluctantly comes home and finds it difficult to leave as the events of the play unfold. She gets swallowed up by the world around her and she loses control of everything. I mean everything. 

Q: I've heard the set is amazing...

Amy: You heard right. I can't express how amazing and how detailed the work is. Greg Morris really designed a great set. And then he went on and created that set.  It's a very exciting set to work on as an actor. I feel very lucky to get to do it. 

Q: Tell us about the cast.

Amy: The cast is full of dedicated actors who have worked very hard on this play. This play asks a lot of the cast. For it to work, each actor on stage has to be present and fully committed to the material. That sounds like such an "actor" thing to say but it's true. 

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Amy: I think this show is unlike anything else we or anyone else in the Tri-state area is doing or has done, with the exception of Marshall University.  It's theater for adults. It pushes the envelope for what we think local audiences will see. I think that alone should be a reason to see it. Who knows when material like this will be presented again? I hope you come to see it.

Thanks, Amy!


   ARTS presents August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, on May 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance.

Interview with "August: Osage County's" Robert Hutchens


 The drama August: Osage County has been earning well-deserved rave reviews, and you have three more chances to catch it next weekend in Huntington.

   Let’s hear from the cast! Joining us for our first interview is the talented Robert Hutchens, who plays the patriarch of a truly dysfunctional family:

Q: Tell us about August: Osage County.

Robert: August: Osage County is entertainment and art; it's darkly funny and tragic; colorful characters march through it, revealing huge secrets along the way.

Q: Why did you want to tackle this show?

Robert: The play has a stellar reputation. When it premiered, it dominated conversations about theatre all over the country.  

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Robert: The character I play, Beverly Weston, is an actor's dream: richly textured, articulate, humorous and tragic.

Q: I've heard the set is amazing...

Robert: One of the most beautiful, grand sets I've ever played on.

Q: Tell us about the cast.

Robert: Powerful, funny, dynamic.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Robert: As I said before, it's both entertainment and art.  It has suspense and melodrama, but it also has characters that are as layered as they are eccentric.

   Thanks, Robert!

   ARTS presents the play by Tracy Letts, on May 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

August: Osage County


   Last night I attended the opening performance of August: Osage County, and was blown away - it's powerful production about the battles between a dysfunctional family as they face life and death and a matriarch who has jumped the rails.

   It's an amazing show, both for the riveting performances by the actors involved and for the incredible set that the ARTS tech crew has assembled. It all adds up to one of (if not THE) most impressive production of the year.

   You have one more chance to catch the show this weekend, tonight at 8 p.m., and then three shows next weekend. Don't miss it!

   I'll have a full review posted here soon, and I have some cast interviews to share, but first, here's an excellent story from the Herald-Dispatch written by my pal Dave Lavender (the photo above is by Toril Lavender):

---------------

   Walk into the ARTS Renaissance Center auditorium and be prepared to scrape your jaw off the floor.
   For the past three months, Greg Morris, Tom Olson and friends have built a house.
   Every square inch of the old Huntington High School stage is filled with a multi-level home complete with a porch, den, bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and living room - all sturdy as a Southside bungalow and all left open to the audience.
   Starting Friday night, Violet Weston and her daughters try their dysfunctional family darnedest to tear that house apart in the part comedy, part tragedy and full-on feuding masterpiece of contemporary theater that is Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning drama August: Osage County.
   Directed by Mike Murdock, ARTS' production of August: Osage County has a two-weekend run set for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 13-14, and Thursday through Saturday, May 19-21, at the Renaissance Arts Center, 900 8th St., Huntington.
   Show-only tickets are $15 and dinner and a show are $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make your dinner reservations now. Tickets can be bought online or - if not sold out - at the door on the day of the performance.
   August: Osage County stars Huntington-based professional actress Mary Williams as the salty, pill-popping, chain-smoking family matriarch Violet Weston, who leads a cast of troubled characters, including her daughters - Barbara Fordham played by Amy Carlson, Ivy Weston played by Kate Morris and Karen Weston played by Joanna Murdock.
   "I am a fairly reserved person, and this gives me a chance to be angry and expressive and not worry about my behavior because Violet doesn't much care what people think," Williams said. "She has reached a level where she is telling the truth about it all, whether they want to hear the truth or not."
   That "truth," seen through everyone's own lens, comes spilling out of the play as soon as it opens, as family patriarch Beverly Weston (played by Robert Hutchens) confides to his new hired help about his crumbling marriage imploding after decades of abuse and neglect.
   "My wife takes pills, and I drink," Hutchens said. "That's the little deal we've struck, a little paragraph in our marriage contract."
   When Beverly drives away from their rural Oklahoma home and mysteriously disappears, the family's three daughters and extended family emerge to provide support for Violet. But as the families keep coming, they literally and figuratively unload their baggage into the increasingly cramped home place, under the weight of family pressure in the summer's stifling heat.
   Murdock said he had been trying to get ARTS to put on the play, one of his favorites, for the past few years. But he said the timing is perfect as ARTS has someone in-house (pun intended) in Greg Morris to build the house, which is like another character in the play with its many levels and capacity for showing so many people confined in one place.
   "One of the big concerns about this play is that you have to have the house. The house is another character in the show, and we never had the technical expertise to do it before. But Greg had always wanted to build it, and when they said yes to the show I immediately called him up and was like, 'Boy have I got a project for you,'" Murdock said.
   "He leapt at the chance and probably regrets it now, but he and Tom Olsen have built this amazing set that doesn't even look like a set; it looks like a house," Murdock said. "... I hope that everyone loves this show, but at the very least I want that wow factor that when they walk through the doors and see the house for the first time - it will take their breath away."
   Like the timing of having someone on board who could build the house, Murdock said they too feel lucky to have reeled in Williams to be a part of the ARTS company this year and to tackle a role so out of character for her.
   "I had worked with Mary a couple times at Marshall and had worked with her in Noises Off with Fifth Avenue Theater Company about six years ago," Murdock said. "I lured her in with this play, a play that she always wanted to do but a character she never thought she would get to play because she (was) always considered too nice to play the character. We have stretched those bounds quite a bit. People are going to see quite a different Mary Williams. They are used to the nice sweet Mary that we all know and love it is going to be a little bit different."
   Amy Carlson, who plays Barbara, said although the play takes place in Oklahoma it shows an all-too-familiar tangled web of big families with multiple issues from relationships to prescription pill and alcohol abuse.
   Both Williams and Carlson said they did not like the play when they first read it several years ago. Williams said it took multiple readings to understand that there was love in that family buried beneath the layers of dysfunction.
   Carlson agreed and said she felt like although the Weston family is an extreme case, there are shades of us all in these characters.
   "When I read this play for the first time about five years ago, I thought, 'Good grief, how can these people exist?' but when you stop and think about it - well, I kind of know someone like that, and oh yeah, well, maybe I do know more people like this ... there are shades of things that we do as human beings that are all throughout this play," Carlson said. "It is yourself, it is your mother, it is your brother, your sister, your aunt, your grandmother ... Whenever distance takes hold, it is easier to be close when you are far away. When you are on top of each other, like the people are in this house, secrets come out and bad things happen, and in the end, it is a little bit more hopeful, they do all break away, not in the best of circumstances but they do break away."
If you go
WHAT: ARTS opens a two-weekend run of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning drama August: Osage County
WHERE: Renaissance Arts Center, 900 8th St., Huntington.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 13-14, and Thursday through Saturday, May 19-21.
HOW MUCH:Show-only tickets are $15 and dinner and a show are $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make your dinner and show reservations.
GET TICKETS: https://artsaugust.eventbrite.com or at the door on the day of the performance.
WHO'S IN IT: Beverly Weston - Robert Hutchens; Violet Weston - Mary Williams; Johnna Monevata - Sheila Meade; Barbara Fordham - Amy Carlson; Bill Fordham - Simon Woods; Jean Fordham - Amanda Maynus; Ivy Weston - Kate Morris; Mattie Fae Aiken - Linda Reynolds; Charlie Aiken - Todd Green; Little Charles Aiken - Dylan Clark; Karen Weston - Joanna Murdock; Steve Heidebrecht - Tyler Bradley; and Sheriff Deon Gilbeau - Jonathan Maynard
BEHIND THE SCENES: Director - Mike Murdock; Asst. Director/Fight Choreographer - Mike Naglee; Stage Manager - Michael Sullivan; Set Designer/Master Carpenter - Greg Morris; Technical director/lighting designer - Nathan Bradley; Costumer - Anna Baker; Properties - Becky McClelland and Cyndi Mac Fuller.
THE DINNER: Garden salad with raspberry vinagerette dressing; Orange Picante Chicken Breast; white, brown and wild rice mix; broccoli florets; rolls; apple pie with cheddar cheese.
ON THE WEB: Visit http://www.artstristate.org for more information.
ON DECK AT ARTS: Other upcoming ARTS productions include The Full Monty Aug. 19-20 and 25-27, God of Carnage Oct. 14-15, 20-22, and New Works Dec. 2-3 and 9-10.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

On Stage This Weekend

   A terrific weekend of shows on tap in Huntington and Charleston - here are the shows you're going to want to catch:

- August: Osage County - ARTS presents the play by Tracy Letts, which won the 2007 Pulitizer Prize for Drama. It tells the story of an Oklahoma family that is dealing with the sudden and mysterious disappearance of the family patriach. What unfolds is a dark and comedic drama that unveils secret after secret within the Weston family. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance. The show runs May 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

- Monty Python's Spamalot - The Charleston Light Opera Guild presents the musical based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre on May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at charlestonlightoperaguild.org or call the Box Office at 304-343-2287 Monday through Sat., 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and one hour before showtime.

- Selfie - The Theatre Project. Shows presents the play by Bradley Hayward at the WVSU's Capital Theatre on May 13 at 7 p.m., May 14 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and May 15 at 2 p.m. Recommended audience is PG-13 for minor mature scenes.

   So get out there and see a show!

Monday, May 09, 2016

On Stage Next Weekend: August: Osage County


    Hitting the stage this weekend in Huntington is the critically acclaimed play August: Osage County. 

   It's being staged by ARTS, and they sent along this press release, which includes info about a special opening night party:

   August: Osage County, the Pulitzer Prize-winning adult comedy/drama opens this weekend and runs through next weekend.

   May 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 at 8 p.m.

   Dinner reservations for May 13 and 14 will be open until Wednesday night.  You may also still make reservations for May 20 and 21, next weekend, by calling 304-733-2787. Also note, there are no matinees for the show, and there is a Thursday evening performance (no dinner - show only) on May 19 at 8 p.m.

   Don't miss your chance to see this incredible play performed on one of ARTS' grandest sets - a three story house!
   We're even opening the BALCONY so you can see the show from above - arguably the best seats available!

   Get tickets at the door or online at artstristate.org. Tickets are only $15 for the show only.  Dinner and show tickets are $30.  Dinners begin at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in the ARTS Ballroom.

ARTS Renaissance Theatre(Old Huntington High School)
900 8th St. Huntington, WV

   Dinner menu: Garden salad with raspberry vinagerette dressing, Orange Picante Chicken Breast, White, brown and wild rice mix, Broccoli florets, rolls, apple pie with cheddar cheese.

   (August: Osage County contains adult language and situations and is not intended for children)
______________

   SPECIAL OPENING NIGHT PARTY for AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY!
   Opening night is our favorite night of theatre and we want you to join in on the fun!
   If you join us on opening night for August: Osage County this Friday, May 13 at 8 p.m., we invite you to stay after the show for a wine and cheese after party in the ARTS Ballroom - meet with members of the cast and crew, ARTS Company members, ARTS Board members, family and friends as we celebrate our OPENING NIGHT!  

   No special tickets, no extra fees - just a special little something that only those coming to opening night will get a chance to participate in!  We encourage you to dress up, put on something fun and sparkly, bring a +1 or 2 or 3, or fly solo, and join us for the best night of theatre - OPENING NIGHT!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

On Stage This Weekend

   On stage this weekend, you can catch four great shows, including a comedy classic, a literary gem, a brand-new rocker, and a murder mystery. Here's the list:

- Monty Python's Spamalot - The Charleston Light Opera Guild presents the musical based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre on May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at charlestonlightoperaguild.org or call the Box Office at 304-343-2287 Monday through Sat., 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and one hour before showtime.

- Alice Through the Looking Glass - The LimeLight Theatre Company will present the play on May 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and May 8 at 2 p.m. at the  WVSU Capitol Center Theater at 123 Summers Street in Charleston. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for ages 12 and under.

- School of Rock the Musical Youth Production - Jenny Wiley Theatre in Pikeville, Ky., presents the musical based on the Jack Black film May 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults and $9 for children and senior citizens.

- Murder Mysteries - Murder & Merriment presents the murder mystery "Post Time for Murder!" on May 7 at 6 p.m., a Fundraiser to Benefit the South Charleston Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn & Suites in South Charleston. Tickets by reservation only - call 304-744-0051. Tickets are $40 per guest.

   So get out there and support your community theatre!

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Tony Award Nominees Are...

   It's going to be a great night for the musical Hamilton when they hand out the Tony Awards, one suspects - the hottest musical on Broadway earned a record-setting 16 nominations when the nominees were announced this morning.

   There are quite a few amazing shows in the spotlight this year! You can read the full list of nominees right here.

   Among the Best Musical nominees are Hamilton, School of Rock the Musical, Bright Star, Waitress and Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Building the Set for "August: Osage County"

    Here's a rare opportunity to look behind the scenes as the set is built for the next show being presented by ARTS.

   It's August: Osage County, and director Mike Murdock takes us behind the scenes

Sunday, May 01, 2016

On Stage in May

   School may be winding down, but things are still hopping for community theatre in May -productions include a big Broadway musical comedy and an intense non-musical!

   Here’s the list:

- August: Osage County - ARTS presents the play by Tracy Letts, which won the 2007 Pulitizer Prize for Drama. It tells the story of an Oklahoma family that is dealing with the sudden and mysterious disappearance of the family patriach. What unfolds is a dark and comedic drama that unveils secret after secret within the Weston family. Show only tickets: $15, Dinner and Show tickets: $30. Call 304-733-2787 to make dinner and show reservations. Tickets can be bought online or at the door on the day of the performance. The show runs May 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

- Monty Python's Spamalot - The Charleston Light Opera Guild presents the musical based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre on May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at charlestonlightoperaguild.org or call the Box Office at 304-343-2287 Monday through Sat., 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and one hour before showtime.

- Broadway Showstoppers - John McAlister presents an evening of American show tunes starring Tony winner Beth Leavel, West Virginia's Sean Watkins, and Vaudevilleian Jesse Luttrell with the Fred Barton Orchestra.  It will be presented May 21 at  Christ Temple Church Auditorium at 2400 Johnstown Road in Huntington.

- Selfie - The Theatre Project. Shows presents the play by Bradley Hayward at the WVSU's Capital Theatre on May 13 at 7 p.m., May 14 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and May 15 at 2 p.m. Recommended audience is PG-13 for minor mature scenes.

- Alice Through the Looking Glass - The LimeLight Theatre Company will present the play on May 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and May 8 at 2 p.m. at the  WVSU Capitol Center Theater at 123 Summers Street in Charleston. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for ages 12 and under.

- Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will - Paramount Little Theatre present the PG-rated Dramedy on May 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for senior citizens.

- School of Rock the Musical Youth Production - Jenny Wiley Theatre in Pikeville, Ky., presents the musical based on the Jack Black film May 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults and $9 for children and senior citizens.

- Murder Mysteries - Murder & Merriment presents murder mysteries, including  "Post Time for Murder!" on May 7 at 6 p.m., a Fundraiser to Benefit the South Charleston Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn & Suites in South Charleston. Tickets by reservation only - call 304-744-0051. Tickets are $40 per guest; and "Post Time for Murder!" on May 21 at the Greenhouse of Teays Valley, in Hurricane. Tickets are by reservation only - call 304-397-6316. Tickets are $45 per guest.


   So get out there and enjoy some terrific community theatre!