The Herald-Dispatch |

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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Highlights from Two Shows

Hey, swing over to the Herald-Dispatch's website and you can check out a couple of nifty theatre-related entries. (Don't worry - it's not far away!)

For example, you can go here and see the Photo Gallery of shots from tonight's performance of Hairspray, which was sponsored by the Marshall Artist Series. (The photo at right comes to us from that gallery, natch.)

You can also check out a video by Whitney Johnson about the just-completed Huntington High School production of All Shook Up. Or you can just watch it here:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shows in May

I'll try to have a complete listing in a couple of days, but in a comment on the last blog entry, my pal Stephen Vance mentions three upcoming shows he's looking forward to seeing. He lists them for us - you might want to jot these down. He wrote:
The dates as I understand them are as follows:

West Portsmouth High School's Anything Goes
May 2, 3, & 4 at The Vern Rife Center, not sure of the times

Capital High School's Phantom of the Opera
May 1, 2, 3, 4 at 7:30 at Capital High (Sunday may be a matinee)

Charleston Light Opera Guild's A Chorus Line
May 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, & 17 at 8pm at the Civic Center Little Theater (Reserved Seating)

Monday, April 28, 2008

One Last Show for April - and It's a Good One!

It's Hairspray, of course - the last show in this, the 71st season of the Marshall Artist Series.

The Broadway hit is also a touring show, and it moves into the Keith Albee Theater for one show Wednesday night. I can't recommend it strongly enough - it's a fun, high-energy show!

You can read more about it in this excellent article by my pal Dave Lavender.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

On Stage Today - Last Chance to See "Shook Up" and "Crucible"

You have one more chance to see these fine shows:

- The musical All Shook Up will be staged at Huntington High School at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating. You can also see a photo gallery from that show right here on the Herald-Dispatch site (that's where I got this photo of the wonderful and talented Alissa Fetherolf).

- The play The Crucible is being presented by the Ashland Community and Technical College. The last show is at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the college's J.B. Sowards Theatre.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Three Shows Tonight - and Last Call for "Wives"

If you enjoy community theatre (doesn't everyone?), you have one last chance to catch an excellent show at Marshall University. And it's your next-to-the-last chance for two other shows. After that, you have only a few shows to choose from over the next several months - so strike while the iron is hot, y'all!

- Tonight's the final performance of the excellent The Merry Wives of Windsor. It's being presented by Marshall's Dept. of Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for seniors, MU faculty and staff; $7 for youths 17 and younger; and free to full-time MU students with valid identification. For more information, call (304)696-2787.

- You can also catch The Crucible, which is being presented by the Ashland Community and Technical College. Shows run at 8 p.m. tonight and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the college's J.B. Sowards Theatre.

- And don't miss the fun of All Shook Up at Huntington High School at 7:30 p.m. tonight. There's also a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (304)528-6461 or (304)525-3497.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "Wives," "Crucible" and "Shook Up"

Yep, there are three shows to choose from tonight - all well worth your time!

- Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor will be presented by Marshall University's Dept. of Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for seniors, MU faculty and staff; $7 for youths 17 and younger; and free to full-time MU students with valid identification. For more information, call (304)696-2787.

- The Crucible is being presented by the Ashland Community and Technical College. Shows run at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the college's J.B. Sowards Theatre.

- All Shook Up takes the stage at Huntington High School at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and there's a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (304)528-6461 or (304)525-3497.

Check 'em out!

Talking to the cast of "All Shook Up"

Students at Huntington High School are presenting the musical All Shook Up, which starts tonight. It’s an Elvis-inspired musical that’s a lot of fun.

Thanks to my pal Stephen Vance(who also supplied this photo), we have an email interview with some of the stars of the show to share with you. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: Tell us what All Shook Up is about...

A: Philip Cron: All Shook Up is about a guitar-playing roustabout who finds himself in a broken down town where the hope of ever finding true love has been lost amongst the citizens. Chad (the roustabout) brings back that hope and the town starts falling "stupid in love." Even Chad falls for a special girl.

Alissa Fetherolf: The show is basically a big tangled web of "he loves...she loves.... so this girl dresses up like a boy to make him like her." It's very funny to see the way the show plays out the plot. It's a modernized version of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, so you know to expect something interesting.

Mickey Farley: It's about a roaming cool guy who comes to town, and shows everyone in the place how to live again.

Josefine Landgrave: The show is about a small down that is turned upside down when a rolling roustabout visits.

Q: Why did you want to be in the show?

A: Philip Cron: I loved the script when I first read it; you can always tell when a play is going to be good when you have an amazing script to work with. The music is made up of songs that Elvis himself sang and performed. I guess I just loved the mixture between great music and a wonderful script.

Alissa Fetherolf:
I knew with the right director and the right cast this show could be so great, and from what I can tell, we have both of those things!

Josefine Landgrave: I wanted to do this show because I love perform and the stage is my second home. I also love singing and dancing.

Mickey Farley: I decided to do this show because of two of my friends that passed away this past year, Chris Wither and Bobby Gleason. They always loved to entertain, so I thought there was no better way to honor them.

Q: What's your favorite part of the show?

A: Philip Cron: My favorite part of the show would have to be when we perform “Burning Love.” It is a fun scene and I think everyone will enjoy it.

Alissa Fetherolf: I love watching the scenes between the two characters Jim and Sandra because they are both have really great characters, and their chemistry on stage is fabulous.

Mickey Farley: My favorite part of the play is when Chad (Philip Cron) and Jim (Ryan Jackson) have their duet. It’s funny and the vocals are great.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being in a show?

A: Alissa Fetherolf:
I love the whole excitement of putting on a show. We work so hard and then show time comes around and all of our efforts go to making someone’s day better.

Philip Cron: The most enjoyable thing about being in a show is when you have a great cast that has lots of energy and is willing to take risks. In All Shook Up I believe we have that cast.

Mickey Farley: I enjoy being around people that are funny and have a great time no matter what.

Josefine Landgrave: My favorite part of the whole play is the very end when everyone finds their soulmate.

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

A: Philip Cron: I would recommend All Shook Up to your readers because the musical has such high energy and if you enjoy watching a fun show with lots of dancing then you will love our show.

Alissa Fetherolf: It’s a lot of fun. I guarantee there’s at least one part of the show that appeals to every single person. There are also very touching parts, so it’s a great balance.

Josefine Landgrave: I recommend this show to anyone who wants a good laugh and a good time. It will get your feet stompin’ and fingers clappin’.

(This text has been edited to fix Philip's name, which I somehow mangled. Sorry about that!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"The Merry Wives of Windsor" - Falstaff Speaks!

One of Shakespeare's most famous characters is Falstaff, and he stars in The Merry Wives of Windsor, now being presented by Marshall University's Dept. of Theatre.

Playing the part in this production is my pal Mike Murdock, a terrific actor and a heck of a nice guy (that's him on the left in this photo from the Herald-Dispatch photo gallery) . We fired a few questions at him about the show, and here's what he had to say:

Q: Give us a recap of this show...

A: The show is a complete farce. It's ridiculous on every level. It's not your typical Shakespearian "kind of funny, kind of moody" comedy. It's got eccentric characters and all sorts of over-the-top stuff going on all the time. But at the end of the day, it's a story about Falstaff, an errant knight who is always looking for ways to scheme money. This time, however, he meets his match with the two wives, Mistress Page (played by Leah Turley) and Mistress Ford (played by Katherine Mohn). Falstaff decides he wants to sleep with one or both of them, and, disgusted by him and his antics, the wives torture him hilariously, physically and emotionally, for the rest of the play, getting their husbands, and, eventually, the entire town to turn the tables on Falstaff.

Q: How much fun is it playing one of the greatest characters ever written for the theatre?

A: Getting to play Falstaff is a quite literally a dream come true. He's such an iconic character, and one of the few characters to have been in several of Shakespeare's plays... and he makes the jump from the history plays to a comedy, because the Queen loved the character so much, she demanded Shakespeare write a play based around him. It's an honor to be able to play this role, especially with such a great director and cast. I have loved getting the chance to be back at Marshall working with old friends and mentors, and, hopefully, helping out some new folks along the way. It's a role I've always wanted to play, and the perfect environment to play it in.

Q: You have lots of young faces taking part in this show - how challenging is that?

A: It is challenging working with so many freshmen in this show, but they have really stepped up to the work. At the call-back for the show, Professor Anthony had us create a silly character for whichever role we were called back for, and I have never been more impressed with a group of people in my life. I sat in awe and watched these kids really put themselves out there, and they deserve to have the houses packed to watch their work in this show. The MU Theatre Department has some wonderful up-and-coming performers. I can't wait to check back in a couple of years, after they have had some training, and see how they've grown.

Q: What's it like working with one of the area's best directors, Gene Anthony?

A: I've worked with Professor Anthony several times in the past, and I always forget what a true experience it is. I was in his production of 1776 with Huntington Outdoor Theatre, and I worked with him on several shows at Marshall, including The Foreigner, Bus Stop and You Can't Take It With You. He's a great director, and a great person. I value my friendship with him. He's hard on you, because he knows what you need to hear to get your best effort. He's nurturing and sympathetic to your needs as an artist. But most of all, he wants to have fun just like everyone else, and this show has been probably WAY too much fun!

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

A: I've done A LOT of Shakespeare in my life. I would nearly always recommend a Shakespeare show to someone, in general. Luckily, this show has something for everyone. It's got love, lust, misdirection, cross-dressing, sight-gags, slap-stick (literally), chases, swords, adventure, and, most of all.... it's hysterical. We've worked really hard on this show, the sets and lights are great, and we want everyone, even if you don't think you're "into" Shakespeare, to check it out; because you won't find a better show to get your feet wet with Shakespeare than this production.

Q: Give us the details - when and where the show takes place, ticket prices, etc...

A: The show plays tonight, Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m. each night at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at Marshall. Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for seniors, MU faculty and staff; $7 for youths 17 and younger; and free to full-time MU students with valid identification. For more information, call (304) 696-2787.

On Stage Tonight - "Merry Wives" and "Crucible"

Two great shows to choose from tonight...

- at 8 p.m., you can catch The Merry Wives of Windsor - one of Shakespeare's comedies - as it's presented by Marshall University's Dept. of Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. It's an outstanding production and well worth your time! Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for seniors, MU faculty and staff; $7 for youths 17 and younger; and free to full-time MU students with valid identification. For more information, call (304) 696-2787. Oh, and you can check out a photo gallery of the play right here.

- Also tonight is the premiere of Ashland Community and Technical College's production of The Crucible. (No, you're not suffering from deja vu - the Kanawha Players just wrapped up their run last weekend.) Shows run at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the college's J.B. Sowards Theatre. You can read more about that show in this article from today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch.

So get out there and support your local theatre - you'll be glad you did!

Oh, and you can also see some photos from last night's performance of Little Women right here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "Little Women" and "Merry Wives"

Dadgum Internet problems have had me blocked from posting - hopefully that's now cleared up. Sorry about that!

Two great shows to choose from tonight:

- Little Women is the latest presentation from the Marshall Artist's Series (which provided this photo). The musical based on the classic book has earned wonderful reviews and is well worth checking out (you might be well advised to bring a handkerchief). You can read more about it in this story from the Herald-Dispatch.

- Starting tonight and running this week is one of Shakespeare's great comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor, being presented by the Marshall University Dept. of Theatre. More on that tomorrow, but for now be sure to read this story in the H-D.

Check 'em out!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Busy Week Ahead for Local Shows

April wraps up with a truckload of terrific shows (of course, May will be mighty thin in comparison). We'll have more on these shows as the week rolls along.

Here's the rundown:

Marshall Artists Series

Little Women - April 23
Hairspray - April 30

Marshall University Dept. of Theatre
The Merry Wives of Windsor - April 23-26

The Crucible - April 24,25,26,27

Huntington High School
All Shook Up - April 25,26,27

Sunday, April 20, 2008

One More Thing...

One thing I forgot to comment on (I'm still talking about Children of Eden here): the amazing visuals that filled the screen onstage.

Someone put a heck of a lot of work into that, tracking down some great artwork, using visual effects to give it a striking (but never distracting) look, and managing to present it in a way that matched up to the music - an incredibly difficult thing to do in live theatre! I really liked the touch at the end, where they included shots of the cast rehearsing the show!

A special tip o' the hat to the responsible parties!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Children of Eden" - Some Observations

Tonight I finally saw Children of Eden. It's a musical loosely based on the book of Genesis. You may find it strange that I'm only seeing it now, since I'm listed in the program as a Co-Producer. Let me explain.

I did help out early in the process of rehearsing the show, but I knew my real-life work was going to keep me from helping out for long, so early on I turned my duties over to the more-than-able hands of my co-producers, Clint McElroy and Jeanette Bills. My job has had me on the run in recent weeks, and tonight was my first chance to see the entire show.

Now, I can't really review the show since I can hardly claim to be impartial about it - but I can tell you that if you miss this one, you're missing a fantastic musical. I had never seen COE before, and I'm glad that's no longer the case. It's filled with fantastic songs and outstanding performances.

Among the standouts (and there are many):

- My pal Clint McElroy, who plays "Father" and delivers his most impressive vocal performance to date (and that's saying something).

- The incredibly talented Brittany Hazeldine plays the part of Eve and fills the role with energy and life. Her heartbreaking song at the end of Act I brought the audience to tears (including your otherwise manly blogger here).

- Playing Adam is Scott Burner, who's always been a terrific performer, but turns in his best performance yet in this show as the sympathetic father of man.

- Elliot Imlay gets to show off both his fantastic vocal skills and his acting intensity as the troubled Cain.

- T.J. Thompson gets some great laughs and shows off his own strong vocals as the tragic Able.

- Maggie Saunders brings down the house as Noah's wife in the song "Ain't It Good?" (the answer: yes, it is).

- Chris Crawford also turns in his best performance yet (and some excellent, heartfelt solos) as Noah, who must make some difficult decisions.

- Mary Kate Young is another performer who has a number of terrific performances on her resume, but I really think this is her best yet, as she plays Yonah, the young woman who threatens to tear a family apart. It's a sweet, sensitive performance with a wonderful solo.

- Josh Meredith is having a great year on stage, and it continues as he plays Japheth, the son of Noah who's in love with Yonah. It may be his most sensitive and "grown-up" role to date, and he plays it with great intensity. It goes without saying that he's also a terrific singer and dancer with great stage presence.

- The show also features outstanding ensemble work by a talented bunch, including Elijah Boyles, Katy Pettit, John Purcell, Shainia Carter, Kristin Caviani, Kate Colclough, Rose Colclough, Diane Dawley, Emily Dennison, Andrew Edwards, Caroline Hunter, Kylie Magner, Rachel Meadows, Elizabeth Schmitz, Rileigh Smirl, Holly Smith, Jacob Smith, Cody Verbage, Emileigh Wilson, Samantha Young and Brian Zepp.

Special kudos to the outstanding work by the tech crew and the directing team, including choreographer Mary Smirl, music director Mark Smith, children's choir director Joanna Bokovitz, tech director Michael Sullivan (who provided the photo above), and (of course) outstanding work by director Jack Cirillo, who has crafted a show that is a joy and a wonder.

All this and I haven't had a chance to mention the amazing costumes or the impressive set.

Remember, you have one more chance to see the show - Sunday at 2 p.m. - and last night's show was a sell-out, so get there early and don't miss this one!

Friday, April 18, 2008

On Stage This Weekend - Children and Crucible

Sorry to have been slack about posting this week - I've been on the go and away from the Interweb! But here's your reminder that there are two great shows you should make time for this weekend:

The musical Children of Eden is being presented by the First Stage Theatre Company tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Francis Booth Experimental Theater at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the campus of Marshall University. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and children age 12 and younger.

You can also see the play The Crucible, which is being presented by the Kanawha Players at The Civic Center Little Theater, 100 Civic Center Drive in downtown Charleston tonight and Saturday. The box office opens at 7 p.m., the house opens at 7:30 p.m. and the curtain goes up at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16/adults and $10/students.

Miss them not!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thank You, Ollie

Not to turn this blog into an ongoing obituary, but yet again I can't let this go by without bringing it to your attention. Ollie Johnston passed away this week. If the name isn't familiar to you, the amazing work he was part of certainly is.

Ollie was the last surviving member of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men." They were the animators who brought so many of Disney's early animated films to life, and I have to pause here to honor their achievement. They may be gone, but their work will always be cherished by the young - and the young at heart.

Here's the obit from the Associated Press (via our pals at the Herald-Dispatch):
Ollie Johnston, the last of the "Nine Old Men" who animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and other classic Walt Disney films has died. He was 95.

Johnston died of natural causes Monday at a long-term care facility in Sequim, Wash., Walt Disney Studios Vice President Howard E. Green said Tuesday.

"Ollie was part of an amazing generation of artists, one of the real pioneers of our art, one of the major participants in the blossoming of animation into the art form we know today," Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt Disney and director emeritus of the Walt Disney Co., said in a statement.

Walt Disney lightheartedly dubbed his team of crack animators his "Nine Old Men," borrowing the phrase from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's description of the U.S. Supreme Court's members, who had angered the president by quashing many of his Depression-era New Deal programs.

Although most of Disney's men were in their 20s at the time, the name stuck with them for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps the two most accomplished of the nine were Johnston and his close friend Frank Thomas, who died in 2004 at age 92. The pair, who met as art students at Stanford University in the 1930s, were hired by Disney for $17 a week at a time when he was expanding the studio to produce full-length feature films. Both worked on the first of those features, 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Johnston and Thomas and their families became next-door neighbors in the Los Angeles suburb of Flintridge, and during their 45-minute drive to the Disney Studios each day, they would devise fresh ideas for work.

Johnston worked as an assistant animator on Snow White, became an animation supervisor on Fantasia and Bambi and animator on Pinocchio.

He was especially proud of his work on Bambi and its classic scenes, including one depicting the heartbreaking death of Bambi's mother at the hands of a hunter. That scene has brought tears to the eyes of generations of young and old viewers.

"The mother's death showed how convincing we could be at presenting really strong emotion," he remarked in 1999.

Johnston's other credits included Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Robin Hood and The Rescuers.

"(People) know his work. They know his characters. They've seen him act without realizing it," said film historian Leonard Maltin. "He was one of the pillars, one of the key contributors to the golden age of Disney animation."

After Johnston and Thomas retired in 1978, they lectured at schools and film festivals in the United States and Europe and co-authored the books "Bambi; the Story and the Film," "Too Funny for Words," "The Disney Villains" and the epic "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life." They were also the subjects of the 1995 documentary "Frank and Ollie," produced by Thomas' son Ted.

The pair's guide to animation is considered "the bible" among animators, said John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar animation studios and Johnston's longtime friend.

Oliver Martin Johnston Jr.
was born on Oct. 31, 1912, in Palo Alto, Calif., where his father was a professor at Stanford. He once noted that he and Thomas "were bound to be thrown together" at the university, as they were two of only six students in its art department at the time. When not in class, they painted landscapes and sold them at a local speakeasy for meal money.

Johnston had planned on becoming a magazine illustrator but fell in love with animation.

"I wanted to paint pictures full of emotion that would make people want to read the stories," he once said. "But I found that here (in animation) was something that was full of life and movement and action, and it showed all those feelings."

Johnston was honored with a Disney Legends Award in 1989 and, in 2005, he was the first animator honored with the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony.

He was also a major train enthusiast. The backyard of his Flintridge home boasted a hand-built miniature railroad, and Johnston restored and ran a full-size antique locomotive at a former vacation home in Julian, Calif.

Johnston's wife of 63 years, Marie Worthey, died in 2005. Johnston is survived by sons Ken and Rick and daughters-in-law Carolyn Johnston and Teya Priest Johnston. The Walt Disney Studios is planning a life celebration for Johnston. Funeral services will be private.

AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Congrats to HHS!

Congratulations to Huntington High School's drama team... well here, let my pal Stephen Vance tell you about it:
Huntington High School competed in the WV State Thespian Competition last weekend. Their play I Never Saw Another Butterfly was one of only five plays that won the weekend's top award of top play.
The thespian competition only recognized the top five plays, and they do not assign rank. All State Performer awards were given to Senior Laura Benson and Sophomore Josephine Landgrave. That award is similar to an all-state basketball team, where the judges select the best of the best.

In a separately judged competition, HHS also received one of the five top scene awards. Their scene was a shorter smaller cut of "Butterfly." Comments from the judges included phrases such as "Masterful work" and "This is the reason theatre should be done."
Congratulations, one and all!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On Stage This Afternoon - "Children of Eden"

You have one last chance this weekend to catch this show! But don't worry, both Children of Eden and The Crucible will continue next weekend. (Crucible is taking Sunday off.)

Children of Eden runs this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. in the Experimental Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse at Marshall University. Call the Box office at 304-696-2787 (ARTS) for reservations.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Children of Eden" Poster

It slipped my mind (until now, of course), that I had this poster from Children of Eden to share with you:

I talked to my pal Jack Welch, who said the first show went great and had a great crowd - not quite a sold-out show, but close. Once again, I urge you to get those tickets early (and often)!

Jack also told me a behind-the-scenes story from the show - it seems that before each show the cast sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" - Jack said they all had goosebumps by the last note!

On Stage Tonight - "Children" and "Crucible"

For today's post - second verse, same as the first!

Two great shows to choose from tonight!

- First Stage Theatre Company present Children of Eden tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Francis Booth Experimental Theater at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the campus of Marshall University. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and children age 12 and younger. (And take my advice and get your tickets early - seating is limited and it won't surprise me to hear that some shows are sold out.)

- Kanawha Players presents The Crucible at The Civic Center Little Theater, 100 Civic Center Drive in downtown Charleston tonight. The box office opens at 7 p.m., the house opens at 7:30 p.m. and the curtain goes up at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16/adults and $10/students.

Both are highly recommended!

Friday, April 11, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "Children" and "Crucible"

Two great shows to choose from tonight!

- First Stage Theatre Company present Children of Eden tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Francis Booth Experimental Theater at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the campus of Marshall University. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and children age 12 and younger. (And take my advice and get your tickets early - seating is limited and it won't surprise me to hear that some shows are sold out.)

- Kanawha Players presents The Crucible at The Civic Center Little Theater, 100 Civic Center Drive in downtown Charleston tonight. The box office opens at 7 p.m., the house opens at 7:30 p.m. and the curtain goes up at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16/adults and $10/students.

Both are highly recommended!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Children of Eden - Comments from the Cast!

We’ve done quite a few interviews with directors and (individual) actors here at ye olde Tri-State Theatre blog – but here’s our first-ever cast interview. (Well, we couldn't get comments from everyone, so I guess it’s actually a partial cast interview - but still a first!)

We sent a list of questions to the entire cast of Children of Eden (which starts Friday), and here are the answers we received:

Q: Why did you want to be in Children of Eden?

Scott Burner: I wanted to be in Children Of Eden because I had been familiar with the show for a while and loved it. It really hits home for a lot of people. It's very genuine and personal and it portrays relationships in a realistic, yet optimistic way. The characters are so dynamic and relatable that they all seem like people you actually know. Plus the music is fantastic and unlike anything else that's ever been done around here.

Mary Kate Young: I wanted to be in Children of Eden because I wanted to work with Jack, work with my mentor, Mary, be with my friends, and perform (that's the best part).

Andrew Edwards: I’ve tried out for a lot of plays because I’ve always wanted to be a actor. I’ve taken extra measures this year to better my chances like going to acting camp last summer. I wanted to be in Children of Eden because I really just wanted to be in a play.

Emileigh Wilson: When I learned that "Children" was written by Steven Schwartz I was thrilled because I knew he had also written Wicked. I had the opportunity to see Wicked on Broadway in New York while on class trip with the drama club from school. I knew it would be a great opportunity to perform in this amazing show.

Cody Verbage: I wanted to be in Children of Eden because I think theater is such a fun and productive activity to be in. Plus, a lot of my friends auditioned for the show.

Brittany Hazeldine: Not only is this my last show with First Stage Theatre Company, but I also wanted to do it because it's biblically based, and this is sort of my way of thanking God with my love for theatre for all of the things He's provided me with.

Q: What part of the show do you enjoy most?

Josh Meredith: This show has been very different from most shows in that we had the great opportunity to work with Jack Cirillo and the folks at Marshall University. It has given us some insight as to how the professional world of theatre works, which is great for people like me who are planning on going into theatre professionally. I have had a wonderful time working with Jack, as well as Mary, Mark, and Joanna, the other fabulous directors.

Kristin Caviani: I've always thoroughly enjoyed being on stage, no matter what it is I'm doing. It's a crazy awesome thrill that doesn't stop until you fall asleep after the final show.

Elliott Imlay: My favorite part of the show is the final song because it has the most meaning and is amazing.

TJ Thompson: My favorite is getting to do my first death scene. It's way cool.

Q: What would you say to a kid out there who's thinking about trying out for a future show?

Elliott Imlay: I would say that everyone needs to give theater a try at least once because it's a lot of fun and is full of amazing people.

Brittany Hazeldine:
DO IT! It's the most wonderful feeling I could ever imagine! I wasn't cast in the first three shows I auditioned for, so don't let the fear of rejection keep you from auditioning. I've found a passion in performing, not only because of the rush of being on stage, but because of the BEST friends I've made! (It would actually be more appropriate to call them a "family!")

Josh Meredith: Theatre is the greatest tool for a timid child to overcome his or her shyness. It provides children with an outlet for creativity, as well as their emotions. Being on stage, in my opinion, is the greatest feeling in the world. I would advise a child and his or her family to watch the newspaper for upcoming auditions, as well as various audition workshops. (Shameless plug: The First Stage Theatre Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is planning an audition workshop for kids in the coming year.)

Katy Pettit:
I would tell anyone thinking about doing a show that it is the most amazing experience you can have. Even if you only do it once or twice the experience stays with you and can help you later in life.

TJ Thompson: The best part is making new friends and it is just fun.

Cody Verbage: I think any kid that has any thought of trying out for a show should do it. Through plays, you can meet so many friends that you didn't even know existed. Also, it's a great way to work on your oratory skills.

Emileigh Wilson:
I would say go for it! You will have a great time and meet lots of new friends. Be confident, and don't hold anything back!

Scott Burner: The whole thing is such a wonderful experience. All the kids who do the shows are like a big family. It's such a great experience to be able to create a work of art to share with the community and to do it with such an amazing group of people.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Andrew Edwards:
I would recommend this show because it has funny parts, sad parts, and it’s telling you about the Bible.

Josh Meredith: The great thing about Children of Eden is it can be enjoyed by any person of any age, religion, gender, race, etc. It has a beautiful message that anyone can take in. It provides us with a moral that we have been given a choice concerning how to live our lives. As the final song proclaims, "Our hands can choose to drop the knife, our hearts can choose to stop the hating. For every moment of our lives is a beginning." Stephen Schwartz has provided us with a message that "In whatever time we have..." we must "seek for our garden [of Eden]" and live our lives to the fullest, showing compassion and making good choices while doing so.

Kristin Caviani: Why would you recommend this show? because it's not just another show. there's some way powerful stuff in the songs and no matter how good the cast and crew, there probably won't be a dry eye in the theatre when the show's over. also, it's about God and creation and all that good stuff and it's just awesome.

Mary Kate Young: It has a great message of how we all have the power to make the right choice, it’s figuring out what is right that’s so hard. Also this show sends this message through children which makes it even more powerful.

Katy Pettit: I would recommend this show because it is not your usual musical. It is about something that people actually believe in and it is amazing to hear that story with the music and the actors.

Brittany Hazeldine:
The entire cast and all of the directors and crew have worked SO hard to make this production possible, and I can guarantee that anyone who sees this show will leave feeling different than when they come in. The show encompasses the reality that life isn't perfect, and it focuses on the human nature of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Noah and his family. Again, I'll say that it's incredibly moving and inspirational, and I hope everyone reading this blog comes to see Children of Eden.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"The Crucible" - The Interview

For today's preview of "shows you'll want to watch this weekend," we have an interview with Debbie Haught, who's directing the Kanawha Players production of The Crucible. Here's our email interview with her:

Q: Tell us what The Crucible is about.

A: Literally, it is about a period in our America's history in the late 1600s. A documented outbreak of hysteria that ended in the execution of many members of the Salem Massachusetts community as witches. The essence is a group of young girls that were caught dancing in the woods (A huge NO NO) by the local minister Reverend Parris (Kevin Pauley) and rather than face the consequences of breaking strict Puritan rules they convinced a town they were bewitched. An expert (Reverend John Hale) is called in to assist in the matter. Once the children and the Barbados slave Tituba (Katonya Hart) call out names of neighbors as witches, the hunt begins. Central to the plot are John Proctor (Ryan Hardiman) our flawed protagonist and his wife Elizabeth (Kate Woestman) whose marriage has been strained to breaking by John's affair with Abigail (Mandy Petry) the key witness in the witch hunts. Greed, status, and position in the church and the community complicate the towns ability to sort out what is true. Those in power (Deputy Governor Danforth played by James Raywalt) trade life for confessions and the naming of names, decimating the town.

Allegorically, the play is Arthur Miller's take on the real historical event but viewed through the lens of McCarthyism and the House committee on UnAmerican Activities and Miller's experiences with them.

For me, the play is about fear and how humans deal with it. One of the most interesting things about directing my actors was helping each of them discover what they had at stake. Fear changes us and this play is a wonderful examination of how courage, faith and love can be powerful against overwhelming fear.

Q: Why did you want to tackle this show?

A: I think that Arthur Miller was an iconic playwright, and this piece has always interested me. Intellectually it has so much information based on historic research and so much that is highly relevant to us today.

Also this is the first play I saw that truly affected me. Stopped me in my tracks and made me want to understand why humans behave the way they do. I was fifteen and a sophomore at Ripley High School. I was so taken by the play that I went to the library and took out every book I could find on Miller, Salem, and the witch trials. Then I learned about allegory and McCarthy. The more I read the more I wanted to know... How could something communicate in such a powerful way to make me have to know? Theatre was magic, I decided, so I had to learn more about it. The Crucible started my love of theatre and the literature that feeds it.

This show is a great opportunity for actors. And it has drawn some really fine ones. Even though I am not a reality TV fan, I can see how a play like this might have some of the qualities that draw people to reality TV. Great drama, pain, conflicted characters, impossible odds, true courage and fear. Only The Crucible is based in real fact. It happened.

Q: Why does this story still have appeal for today's audience?

A: This is a great story!!!! All the excitement of the best late night soap/sitcom, a great love story, evil in the guise of innocence created with the intelligence of an amazing playwright using beautiful language!

I think we learn from history, so I love the historical perspective, but more than that it easily connects to reality in three identifiable times in America's history: 1692 Salem; 1950s McCarthyism and post 9/11 War on terror. They all deal with fear and trying to identify the evil among us. The following paragraph is actually from my Director's notes from the program, but I think it answers your question.

I think The Crucible has much to offer us today. 9/11 was a pivotal moment in our history and we understand fear in a new way. The same way that Arthur Miller viewed McCarthy and the House Committee trials and his fear of them through the lens of the Salem witchcraft trials I think we as a community, a global community, can view our fears and the unseen nature of terrorism. It takes courage for each new generation to look into the glass and see witches or communists or terrorists with clarity and not let our fear overwhelm our goodness.

Q: What were (are) the biggest challenges in staging this show?

A: ** The language...the same beautiful language that I love is also very different from our everyday speech. Luckily we have a speech pathologist in the cast (Kate Woestman) who was able to not only help us understand our own speech but help us understand how it is different from the dialect in the script and how to accommodate the change.
** costuming ... We were lucky enough to enter into a collaboration with an Asheville NC theatre company and use their hand built period costumes. All the women's costumes are raw silk and detailed.
** Demanding roles for actors... although I list this as a challenge, it was also what brought out auditioners from two states to participate in the show. Good actors like to have a chance at truly well written well-designed characters. I was very lucky to find such a talented cast. they amaze me nightly! Finding consistency in community production can be a struggle. After all, everyone of my actors are full-time students or hold day jobs, but they commit to huge amounts of time to be able to have this creative outlet.
** The complexity and depth of the writing... Each and every day I read the script and each time I find something new. That is the rewarding part of directing this show. I get to watch my actors discover and truly become the characters.
** common misconceptions about the show... it's something you HAVE to read in school, people die.....

Q: Why would you recommend The Crucible?

A: Excellent acting, a strong story and plot. The story is riveting! Ryan Hardiman as John Proctor and Kate Woestman as Elizabeth Proctor are two of the strongest actors I have known. Beautiful performances that will have you holding your breath and finding your tissues. Ryan most recently was the recipient of the title Symphony Idol with the WVSO and is a consummate performer.

A beautiful show to look at. Technical Director Greg Morris has done a beautiful job of balancing minimal set distractions with touches of details that take us to the proper time and place.

It's LIVE theatre. Nothing is so immediate, so engaging as live theatre. You can immerse yourself in the sounds and images and be transported to another time to understand what is at stake when fear consumes a community.

Q: When and where will the show be staged?

A: Kanawha Players production of The Crucible will be performed at The Civic Center Little Theater, 100 Civic Center Drive in downtown Charleston on April 11-12, 18-19. Box office opens at 7 p.m. house opens at 7:30 p.m. and curtain at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16/adults and $10/students. Tickets are available online at, at the Civic Center Box Office or at the door prior to each performance.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Children of Eden" - the Interview

My pal Jack Cirillo is directing the First Stage Theatre Company production of Children of Eden, which takes the stage starting Friday.

Being a heck of a nice guy, he agreed to take part in an email interview about the show - here 'tis:

Q: Tell us about the story of this show.

A: Children of Eden is a loose adaptation of the the book of Genesis. It uses the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah and the flood to examine the relationships between parents and children. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote Wicked, Godspell and Pippin and has collaborated with Alan Menkin (of Little Shop of Horrors and Beauty and The Beast fame) on a number of film projects, most recently--Enchanted. Children of Eden has an amazing score that employs a very eclectic range of musical genres from pop to gospel, and standard broadway to Caribbean sounds.

Q: Why did you want to direct this show?

A: I thought the shows message of "family" and parenthood was beautifully represented. and very appropriate for community children's theatre like First Stage. And, of course, the score is astounding. I've been listening to the original cast recording for over a year now and I'm still amazed by it!

Q: You're a professional - how challenging is it to work with so many young actors?

A: Like anything else, it has its high and low moments. The kids are wonderful and I've enjoyed each and every minute of our work together. They have grown so tremendously throughout the rehearsal of this show and I can't say enough about them. With a cast of 30 and an age range from 8 to 50-ish -- that makes for some challenges. We have one adult performer (the 50 something), Clint McElroy who plays "Father". He's such a strong dynamic performer and I can't imagine anyone better. The younger kids, of course, need more extra care and repetition to get things right than the older ones, so a production like this takes a huge number of rehearsal hours -- more than I'd care to count. The music is also very complex and its a constant refinement process between day one and opening night.

Q: Costuming is a big challenge with this show - how's that going?

A: Jeanette Bills and her team of minions haver been adapting costumes and animal masks that we rented from The Cumberland County Playhouse from Cumberland Tennessee. They are astounding and really add such a visual component to the show that works so nicely with the incredible set designed by MU Theatre student Amy Harper and the beautiful lights and projections composed by Perkins DeMuth and Adam Paul respectively -- both also MU Theatre students.

Q: The show is using First Stage actors, tech crew and parents alongside creative talent backstage from Marshall University (where it's being staged).
It sounds like a great learning opportunity both groups. How's it working out?

A: Extraordinarily well. This is a great fit for both organizations. MU Theatre brings to the table a huge amount of resources both in skill and knowledge so that the experience for these kids is both fun and educational. For MU Theatre, working with these kids provides an enormous recruitment tool. Many of these kids will (and in past years, HAVE) become MU Theatre students. As a theatre professor at Marshall, I relish the opportunity to work with these kids over longer periods of time than the four years that I have with them in college. A graduating student at Marshall just got accepted to one of the finest Graduate theatre programs in the country. I've been working with this student since I first came to Huntington 10 years ago. I believe that long term development has played a part in his success.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

A: The show is a family show in the best sense of that phrase. It has enough "teeth" to satisfy even the most sophisticated theatre goer, while at the same time it offers a very benevolent and careful depiction of these very important stories.

Q: When and where is the show, and how can we get tickets?

A: The show plays on April 11 and 12, and 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., and on April 13 and 20 at 2:00 p.m. -- all performances are in the Experimental Theatre (Black Box) at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse at Marshall University. The Playhouse Box office is open M-F from 1-5 PM or call 696-2787 (ARTS) for reservations.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Dave's Trippin' Along

There are a couple of excellent shows coming up this weekend - but before we talk about those, let me pause a minute to give a plug to my pal Dave Lavender, who's gone and published a book!

It's called Dave Trippin': A Day Tripper's Guide to the Appalachian Galaxy of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, and it's based on his excellent columns in the Herald-Dispatch. You can read more about it at his website right here, or you can read about it in this story in the H-D.

As the article says:
Featuring nearly a dozen trips each in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, the book takes readers on an adventurous and usually humorous family journey to some of Appalachia's coolest towns such as Berea, Ky., Athens, Ohio, and Fayetteville, W.Va., as well as the region's big cities like Lexington, Columbus and Cincinnati.
He has some book signings and other appearances coming up, so watch out for them!

Congrats, Dave!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

"The Crucible" Cast List

Here's some info about the upcoming play, The Crucible, courtesy my pal Ryan Hardiman, who notes:
Of special interest to Huntingtonians, the cast features MU Theatre alum Kevin Pauley as well as Joe Gibson, who was Thomas Jefferson in HOT's 1776 and was in Carnival opposite Linda Reynolds.
The Crucible
By Arthur Miller
8 PM, April 11-12, 18-19, 2008
Charleston Civic Center Little Theater

Reverend Parris: Kevin Pauley
Betty Parris: Lily Odekirk
Tituba: Katonya Hart
Abigail Williams: Mandy Petry
Susanna Walcott: Daisy Thomas
Ann Putnam: Melanie Larch
Thomas Putnam: Bob Martin
Mercy Lewis: Danielle Conard
Mary Warren: Johanna Miesner
John Proctor: Ryan Hardiman
Rebecca Nurse: Kat Johnson
Giles Corey: Mark Felton
Rev. John Hale: Joe Gibson
Elizabeth Proctor: Kate Woestman
Francis Nurse: Cliff Isaacs
Ezekial Cheever: Kenneth Maker
John Willard: Greg Garner
Judge Hathorne: Christopher Conard
Deputy Governor Danforth: James Raywalt
Sarah Good: Penny Fioravante
Hopkins: Travis Strom
Sarah Bibber: Olivia Strother
Ruth Putnam: Amber Biel
Elizabeth Hubbard: Laurance Raines

Directed by Debbie Haught
Set design by Greg Morris

Ticket Prices
Adults: $16
Children 18 Years and Under: $10

How to Buy Tickets:
AT THE DOOR. Buy tickets at the door beginning one hour before the performance.
CHARLESTON CIVIC CENTER BOX OFFICE. Buy tickets in advance at the Civic Center box office beginning two weeks before each production (no service fee). Civic Center Box Office hours: 10 AM - 5 PM Monday - Saturday -- Civic Center Box Office number: 304-342-5757
ONLINE. Order online and receive tickets by mail (a small service fee will apply)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Another Show for April - "All Shook Up"

I knew I was forgetting a show! Apologies to everyone at Huntington High School for neglecting to mention All Shook Up, which runs at the end of the month. A terrific cast and a fun show! Here's the info:

All Shook Up
is basically Shakespeare's Twelfth Night moved to the 1950s with a biker twist, all set to the music of Elvis Presley. High energy, great cast, and fantastic music.

Chad - Philip Cron
Natalie - Alissa Fetherolf
Jim - Ryan Jackson
Sylvia - Katie Rife
Dennis - Adam Porterfield
Sandra - Josefine Landgrave
Dean - Michael Parker
Lorraine - Angela Pino
Matilda - Jordan Bean
Earl - Mickey Farley
and a very talented ensemble.

Directed by: Helen Freeman
Choreographer: Patti Freeman
Music Director: David Chenoweth

Friday April 25
Saturday April 26
Sunday April 27

Performances at HHS.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Even More "Children of Eden" Photos

My pal Allen Louden added some more photos from Children of Eden auditions - you can see them right here (and there's one photo at the top of this column).

And here's some basic information about the show: First Stage Theatre Company presents the Stephen Schwartz musical Children of Eden, loosely based on the Bible’s book of Genesis, for two weekends: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday April 11-12 and 18-19, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 13 and 20, in the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at Marshall University. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger. For more info, call (304) 416-5437 or go online at

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Coming Soon: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

You can catch a great show at the Clay Center on Friday, as the Montana Repertory Theatre presents Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at 8 p.m.

In case you haven't seen it, here's a description on the show:
The volatile nature of human interaction and the danger of deception come together in this theatrical masterpiece. This riveting traditional adaptation of the Tennessee Williams classic will fascinate you with its vibrant characters and story of a powerful family in crisis.
Tickets are $35, $25 and $15. For more information, visit the Clay Center website. And, just to prove we offer full service at your Tri-State Theatre blog, here's a spicy video clip about the show:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Shows Coming Up in April

Yep, it's April Fool's Day, but there's no fooling here - these are the shows you can look for in the month ahead. As always, if I missed any (and I surely have), drop me a line and let me know at

Now, get out your calendar and mark these dates - some great shows to choose from here, including two Crucibles!

Clay Center

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof - April 4

First Stage Theatre Company
Children of Eden - April 11-13 and 18-20

Kanawha Players
The Crucible - April 11,12,18,19

Marshall Artists Series
Little Women - April 23
Hairspray - April 30

Marshall University Dept. of Theatre
The Merry Wives of Windsor - April 23-26

The Crucible - April 24,25,26,27

Huntington High School

All Shook Up - April 25,26,27