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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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Interview With An Actor from "Mary"

Here's the third (and final) of our e-interviews about the holiday musical Mary, now playing in Charleston.

Melanie Larch is an actor who's appeared in quite a few shows, and here she talks about Mary:

Q: Tell us the basic story of the show and the part you play in it.

A: On the surface, it's easy to say that it's a musical version of the Christmas story as told in the book of Luke. But as told through the eyes of the archangel Gabriel - little heads up to the purists, our Gabriel is played by a woman (Tonya Dillon-Page) - Mary is the story of a young girl (Molly Means in the title role) coming to terms with her destiny as the mother of Jesus Christ. I play Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant at the ripe old age of 80, with a son destined to be John the Baptist.

Covering the nine months leading up to the birth of Christ, it not only tells the story of these two very different women, but their men (Jonathan Tucker as Joseph and Donnie Smith as Zechariah) and Herod (Eli Chambers), whose power and position ultimately plays into the fate of the two children.

What I really love about this show is the humanity of these biblical figures. Sometimes I think we tend to see Mary, Joseph, etc. as completely flawless people who accepted their fate happily and without pause. As Dan Kehde and Mark Scarpelli have written them, there are emotions people can identify with - Mary's trepidation at being chosen for such a great task, Joseph's dismay when he first learns of her pregnancy, Elizabeth's sorrow over her childless state and Zechariah's skepticism at finding out his 80-year-old wife is going to have a child... you get the idea.

But there's also great faith, humor, love, and strength there, too. Combine all that with some beautiful songs and I'll just say bring your Kleenex! You will need them at some points in the show, trust me!

Q: The show has been around for more than a decade - do you feel any pressure stepping into a show that's become a tradition?

A: Oh, definitely. Probably the most pressure I felt was coming into the first read-through, knowing that there were two current cast members who'd played Elizabeth before! (*LOL*).

One of the biggest challenges for me in playing this role is that I've never given birth to a child. So there are things like 'what is it like to feel your baby move in the womb' or how you convey giving birth. Tonya is a mother of two who played Elizabeth in the 2006 production and she's been a big help to me with that aspect of the part.

Maddy Gourevich is another previous Elizabeth who's been a source of help as well. I can't thank her and Tonya - as well as the rest of the cast - enough!

Q: How have rehearsals gone - fun, or lots of hard work?

A: Both. Even though most of the cast members have done this show before and are very familiar with the material, you've still got to put in the time and effort to make a great production happen.

Dan and Mark are always very encouraging and respectful of their actors' time and talent. It's the kind of rehearsal setting where we can have our fun along the way, but check ourselves and say 'ok, we've had our laugh for the moment, now we've gotta get down to business.'

The people who've done Mary before are also a key part of why the rehearsal process has been so much fun. CYAC is full of intelligent, very talented, and fun young performers who are full of enthusiasm for this company and the shows it produces. If they ask me if I've seen a particular production and I say, "No, I haven't," they can't wait to tell me all about it!

And they've been very supportive of people like me and Jonathan who are performing the piece for the first time.

It really is a great atmosphere to work in as an actor. As I said a few weeks ago, Jack The Ripper was my first show with CYAC, but hopefully it won't be the last.

And hopefully this won't be my last Mary! Elizabeth has some wonderful songs and I love singing Lord of Mercy (The Trio) way too much for my own good.

Thanks, Melanie! A reminder that Mary is at the WVSU Capitol Plaza Theatre at 123 Summers Street in Charleston, WV, Thursday - Saturday, Dec. 4,5,6 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the door - $9.50 Adults, $5.50 Students and Seniors. Call (304) 342-6522 for more information.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Interview With The Composer of "Mary"

The musical based on the life of Jesus' mother Mary continues tonight in Charleston, and here's the second of three e-interviews with the creative people behind the show.

Today we'll hear from composer Mark Scarpelli, who wrote the music and directs the orchestra in the show:

Q: We know who Mary is, but tell us about this show and the basic story behind it.

A: This is the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ through the eyes of the mother. It is an opera and focuses on the emotional struggle of a virgin girl accepting to give birth to the son of God. Major characters are Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Herod and the angel Gabriel who weaves the story from the Immaculate Conception through the birth.

Q: Was writing music for a story based on the mother of Jesus intimidating?

A: This was initially written 12 years ago and at that time I was a different composer. I really don't like the term "Rock" opera, but that is what it has been labeled. When I first thought of providing music to such a historic, biblical story, I thought of the effect to be more of a contemporary new age-like sound. At the time I was highly influenced by the musical score of the Last Temptation Of Christ by Peter Gabriel. Our opera has evolved into a contemporary 21st century opus that focuses more on the emotions of the characters rather than the story itself. Everyone knows the story but you really don't think or relate to the relationships and the human feelings one encounters. i.e. Joseph finding out about his betrothed being pregnant and the baby is not his. His struggle with the acceptance of this makes for great thematic stuff. It's like a modern day soap with some added miracles.

Q: This is the 12th time you've staged the show, so it's safe to say that audiences have responded well to it. How is the 12th show different from the first?

A: Even though this is the 12th year we've performed the show, there have been unique subtleties to each perennial run. Just this morning I rewrote the ending of the show. (Writer) Dan Kehde had an idea of ending the performance with an empty manger (center stage) with a string quartet playing through this final scene. Typically we end with a full cast gradually entering the manger scene. While everyone positions themselves, the music swells into a chorus of "Life Begins Again." We have performed this both vocally and instrumentally but always with a strong, dynamic ending. It seems to me it is the one part of the show that is always open for change. This year instead of a big ensemble musical sound we're going for a more serene, contemplative type ending. Will it work? Only time will tell.

Q: You have a big orchestra for this show - does you prefer working with a bigger group of musicians, or does that make it even more challenging?

A: Working with a larger ensemble of musicians makes for more tone color. Again this piece has orchestrally evolved over the years. The first year we performed this in 1996 there was a guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. I guess that's how it got labeled as a "Rock" opera. Our current pit orchestra consists of a full string section trumpets, trombone, tenor sax, alto sax, guitars, bass keyboards and drums. There is also a chorus of singers.

Q: I was surprised to see the show started the day after Thanksgiving - is it tough to stage a show on Black Friday?

A: Black Friday, Green Friday, Blue Friday???? it's just another day to me. This is great theatre and it's a story, although seasonal, that could be enjoyed throughout the year.

Q: Tell us the basics - when the show starts, where it is, ticket prices, etc.

A: Mary is at the WVSU Capitol Plaza Theatre - 123 Summers Street, Charleston, WV - tonight at 8:00 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 30 at 2:00 p.m. and Thursday - Saturday, Dec. 4,5,6 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the door - $9.50 Adults, $5.50 Students and Seniors. Call (304) 342-6522 for more information.

Thanks, Mark! Tomorrow we'll talk to one of the actors in the show!

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Interview With The Writer Of "Mary"

The musical Mary, based on the life of the mother of Jesus, takes the stage this evening in Charleston, and over the next couple of days we'll share some email interviews with the writer, musical director and one of the actors from the show.

We start with Dan Kehde, who wrote and directed the show:

Q: We know who Mary is, but tell us about the show you've written about her.

A: It's an interesting show. We paralleled the story of Mary with the story of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Mary was a young woman, in her
early to middle teens, and Elizabeth was in her 80's or so. In Biblical texts, both were visited by the angel Gabriel, and were pregnant at the same time, Elizabeth giving birth (after having still born many other babies) only a month or so before Mary gave birth to Jesus. It's very much a story of faith and love on many different levels: Mary's love of God, her love for Joseph and her willingness to sacrifice her life and the life of her first born son. It was a tough piece to write.

Q: Was doing a story based on the mother of Jesus intimidating?


A: It's funny, Mary has always seemed the most accessible member of the holy family: the object of the prayers of the truly desperate, the conduit to the
almighty used by those of us unable or unwilling to pray to God or Jesus for whatever reason. Mary was always terribly and wonderfully human.

Q: This is the 12th time you've staged the show, so it's safe to say that audiences have responded well to it. How is the 12th show different from the first?

A: Our first Mary lasted about 45 minutes. We had nerve enough to hold an intermission just to stretch the thing to an hour. We added 16 new songs for
the second year. We're still refining it, in fact, Mark Scarpelli's finishing up a new composition for the final moments even as we speak. Our casts are bigger than that first one - I think we had 14 that year. But their hearts were enormous.

Q: You have a big cast for this show - are they veterans from past shows or is this new to them?


A: A little of both. Jonathan Tucker, the actor playing Joseph is new to the company. Molly Means, who plays Mary, has done several pieces with us, as has Tanya Dillon Page (Gabriel), and this is the second piece with us for Melanie Larch (Elizabeth). A lot of the kids have come back from past years for this, and others have come in new. It's a good cast.

Q: I'm surprised to see the show starts the day after Thanksgiving - is it tough to stage a show on Black Friday?

A: We started out on these two weekends (Thanksgiving and the week after) because it was the only time when the theater was available. Now it's become tradition. And no, we don't generally set attendance records on opening night, but Mary is one of those shows that you're either going to come to see or you're not, so it really doesn't matter when during the season we perform it. Although one year we closed two days before Christmas - that was harder.

Q: Tell us the basics - when the show starts, where it is, ticket prices, etc.

A: We open today and run 8 p.m. curtains on Nov. 28, 29, Dec. 4, 5 and 6 and have a Sunday Matinee at 2 p.m. on November 30. Tickets are $5.50 for students and seniors, and $9.50 for adults. Tickets are available at the door the evenings of the performances. For large group reservations you can call the box office at 304-342-6522 during regular business hours. All performances are on the stage of the WVSU Capitol Center Theater, 123 Summers Street, Charleston.

Thanks, Dan! Tomorrow we'll talk to composer Mark Scarpelli!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Trouble for Local Theatres?

OK, I said I was taking the day off, but then I saw this story, which is too important to wait.

When the economy struggles, it usually hits the theatre community hard. On Broadway, we've seen quite a few shows announce a closing date, including perennial hits like Spamalot, Hairspray, Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde and others.

Now the problem seems to be hitting closer to home, as we see in this story from the Herald-Dispatch:
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) _ A $100,000 cut in state funding may mean the final curtain for Beckley's Theatre West Virginia, a cultural staple for more than four decades.

Funds from the Division of Culture and History amount to only 10 percent of the theater's budget. Still, general manager Gayle Bowling says the theater cannot trim spending or productions of shows like Honey in the Rock, the nation's oldest Civil War drama, without harming quality.

Bowling said Tuesday the board of directors has given her two weeks to decide how to dispose of the company's assets, its offices in Mabscott and an amphitheater at Grandview Park. She expects total shutdown within a month.

"As far as we're concerned now," she said, "we're no longer open for business."

Theater officials learned of the cut last month but hoped the funds would be restored.

Beckley received more state aid than any of the four state-funded drama groups, said Gov. Joe Manchin, but everyone needs to make adjustments in a tough financial climate.

He suggested the company meet with other theaters that have survived on small budgets and look for ways to innovate.

"Are there other things they're doing that TWV is not? We're willing to help facilitate and bring people together to find the best solution," Manchin said. "It's not like the budget's cut in half. Everyone's making adjustments. It's not that they're not being treated fair."

But Bowling refuses, citing concerns about the possible accumulation of debt and a decline in quality of productions including Hatfields and McCoys, Seussical and High School Musical.

When the company faced a budget cut in the early '90s, "the reduction showed on stage," Bowling said, "and the board is adamant — and I totally agreed — that we are not going to cut the quality of what we do just to get by."

Its website says Theatre West Virginia, whose founders included former Gov. Hulett C. Smith, has entertained more than 1 million people since 1955. The theater formed the Acting Company in 1971, and it remains the state's only professional touring and historical outdoor theater company.
Hopefully they can work out the funding problem, but it's a problem many theatre groups are facing. Stay tuned!

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's a day to be thankful, and I'm grateful you stopped by to visit our humble theatre blog - but I'm taking the day off, and you should do the same.

Here's hoping you have a great holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

900!

This is post number 900, which means it's time to stop and say "Thank you" to everyone out there who takes time out of their busy day to check on the latest about community theatre in our area.

As always, gentle readers, I urge you to send along a comment or write an email to me at TheMinskers@aol.com with your news, photos, comments and suggestions.

I enjoy our little chats here, and hope you enjoy it, too. Now, onward towards 1,000!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Merry Christmas (After All)!

Well, thanks to my readers for correcting a terrible mistake on my part!

I try to search around and make sure I'm up on the latest community theatre shows in our area, and was surprised to see very few Christmas shows the last time I looked - so I wrote a blog post about the shortage of shows, only to find out I had overlooked a bunch of 'em!

My pal Melanie Larch wrote to say, .
..there are three other holiday shows happening in Charleston (in addition to Mary). Children's Theatre is presenting Babes In Toyland next week. Charleston Stage Company brings the one man show, The Santaland Diaries to the WVSU Capitol Center Theatre December 11-13. That same weekend, Kanawha Players presents John Jakes' adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
Then my pal Shirlee Idzakovich wrote:
There is a lot to do in Portsmouth, Ohio for the Holiday season, including A Beautiful Renaissance Feaste and the classic story of Miracle on 34th Street.

The Portsmouth Little Theatre is doing Miracle on 34th Street on Dec. 5,6 and 12,13 with a matinee on the 6th. It is a great cast and Ivy Idzakovich is little Susan Walker (Macy and Ravan's little sister from Cats and Millie!) It has a great cast of over 30 and is directed by Michael Stapelton and Jason Chaney. The Portsmouth Little Theatre is celebrating their 60th Anniversary! Tickets are available at the theatre at 1117 Lawson Street or by calling 740-353-7034.

Also THE Portsmouth West High School is doing A Renaissance Feaste. Once every four years the entire choir comes together with costumes and props of olde to host a magnificent Feaste. Songs, food, dance along with a king and queen and their court. Under the direction of Linda Tieman, suitable for the entire family. Tickets can be purchased by calling 740-858-1103. The Feaste will be held at Portsmouth West High School, Route 52 West on Dec. 6 at 6:00 p.m. (reservations are required).
Then my pal Stephen Vance added:
...for all intents and purposes the 1940s Radio Hour is a Christmas/Holiday Show. The broadcast portrayed during the play occurs on December 21, 1942. In fact, it happens on a snowy NYC night and is dedicated as a Christmas gift to the boys overseas.
Great to see our communities will have several shows to choose from after all. Thanks for the info, everyone - and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

12th Annual "Mary" Production Opens Nov. 28

Hey, I promised you more information about the holiday show Mary, so here's the press release from CYAC:
The Contemporary Youth Arts Company opens its twelfth annual production of the Mark Scarpelli - Dan Kehde musical MARY at 8 p.m. on Nov. 28 at the WVSU Capitol Center Theater at 123 Summer Street in Charleston.

The story of the nine months prior to the birth of Jesus Christ through the eyes of a young girl destined to be the most important woman in the Christian tradition, MARY has become a family friendly holiday tradition throughout the greater Charleston area.

Drawing from a mix of talent, young and old, from all over the greater Kanawha Valley, the annual production began rehearsals in early October for the traditional opening night the day after Thanksgiving. A driving score and an ageless story continue to inspire audiences with new insights to the days and months leading up to the first Christmas.

This year's cast includes Molly Means as the title character, with Jonathan Tucker as Joseph, Tanya Dillon-Page as Gabriel, Melanie Larch as Elizabeth, Donnie Smith as Zechariah and Eli Chambers as Herod; with a large supporting cast including Tess Lucas, Amanda Trail, Samantha Oxley, Nik Tidquist, Nick Curnutte, Kirill Gura, Shane Belcher, Ryan McCoy, Ella McCoy, Shante Martin, Stephanie Stockman, Liz McCormick, Alicia Lewis, Marranda Major, Jackie Cobb, Maddy Gourevitch, Victoria Hayes, Emily White, Lauren Miller and Sarah Mandirola. A 15-piece orchestra, conducted by composer Mark Scarpelli, accompanies the production.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Nov. 28, 29, December 4, 5, 6 with a Sunday matinee on Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5.50 for students and seniors and $9.50 for adults and can be purchased at the door the evenings of the performances. Call the WVSU Capital Center Box Office, 304-342-6522, for advance reservations and group discounts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

'Tis The Season - Or Is It?

With Thanksgiving almost here, it's normally the time of year when community theatre groups roll out their holiday shows.

Usually, you'll find more than one group presenting shows on the same weekend, since there's only a limited number of weekends between Turkey Day and Christmas - but this year, there's a surprising shortage of holiday shows.

In fact, the only one I've heard about is Mary, a seasonal favorite being presented in Charleston by CYAC for the 12th year! Those shows run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6 (and I'll have more about it later this week).

The Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC) has a long-running tradition of presenting A Christmas Carol every holiday, but that theatre group is still on hiatus after last Spring's accident on the set of Sweeney Todd. (Word has it that they'll be presenting shows again in the Spring of 2009.)

Fifth Avenue Theatre in Huntington also has a two-year tradition of presenting A Christmas Carol, but has apparently decided to take a break this year.

First Stage Theatre Company has presented several Christmas shows in the past, including A Christmas Carol (natch), A Christmas Story (twice) and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but that group is also taking this holiday off.

If there are any shows out there I'm missing, gentle readers, let me know - but it looks like this year, other than Mary, we'll have to settle for watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV for the umpteenth time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More on "The 1940s Radio Hour"

A recent comment asked for more information about the upcoming show, The 1940s Radio Hour, so here's the cast and song list (and other information), as provided by my pal Stephen Vance:
Arts Resources for the Tri-State proudly presents The 1940s Radio Hour by Walton Jones

Shows will be presented Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m.; Dec. 5,6,11,12,13 at 8:00 p.m. ; and Dec. 14 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $15, and dinner is available prior to the Friday and Saturday shows for $15.

All Veterans are admitted free of charge to the show.

The Cast:

Scott Burner as BJ Gibson
Sarah Hayes as Cute Little Connie Miller
Joshua Jannotta as Johnny Cantone
Amy Knell as Ginny Lee Browne
Bil Neal as Lou Cohn
Eric Newfeld as Wally Fergusson
Mary Olson as Ann Collier
Linda Reynolds as Ginger Brooks
Stephen Vance as Neal Tilden
David Vickers as Clifton A. Feddington
Charles Woolcock as Pops Bailey

Direction and Music Direction by Bruce Rous
Choreography by Gene and Coni Anthony

Songs Include:
I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo
Daddy
Our Love is Here to Stay
That Old Black Magic
Ain't She Sweet
How About You
Blue Moon
Rose of the Rio Grande
I'll Never Smile Again
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Blues in the Night
Jingle Bells
I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good
You Go to My Head
Five O'Clock Whistle
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Strike Up the Band
I'll Be Seeing You
I'm hearing great things about the show, so mark your calendars!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Last Chance for "Glass Menagerie"

Tonight's your last chance to catch the excellent play, The Glass Menagerie, as presented by the Marshall University Department of Theatre.

The show will be presented tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for Adults, $7 for High School and younger, $12 for Seniors, Faculty and Staff, and it's free to MU students with ID.

You can read my review of it right here. It's a wonderful, moving performance and well worth checking out. If you miss it, you only have yourself to blame!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Blessed Event!

Hey, I'm running a few days late with this, but I wanted to take a moment to congratulate my pals Ryan and Jean Tarbett Hardiman on the birth of their daughter, Celeste Marie! (Ryan has starred in a number of shows, and Jean works at the Herald-Dispatch, so it's all in the family here.)

Ryan sent some photos of Celeste, but my computer isn't cooperating, so I'll try to share them later - but trust me, she's a beauty!

Celeste made her grand entrance on Monday at 5:47 p.m., weighed in at a petite 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20 inches long.

Ryan said,"She's beautiful like her Mommy and big sister! She has her Daddy's cleft chin. We're thankful that she's healthy, and we're so happy and proud of her!"

What better time of year to have a baby than Thanksgiving? Congratulations all around!

On Stage Tonight - "The Glass Menagerie"

You still have two chances to catch the excellent play, The Glass Menagerie, as presented by the Marshall University Department of Theatre.

The show will be presented tonight and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for Adults, $7 for High School and younger, $12 for Seniors, Faculty and Staff, and it's free to MU students with ID.

Don't miss it!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"The Glass Menagerie" - A Review

The Glass Menagerie is a show that gets staged a lot, especially by high schools across the country, and there are lots of reasons for that. It uses a small cast, requires only a minimal set, and it's a moving and thought-provoking show.

But to really experience the power of Tennessee Williams' classic story, you need to see this production being staged by Marshall University's Department of Theatre. It's a shining example of the power of live theatre.

Consider the cast. It's a small show, and only four actors take the stage. The narrator of the story, Tom, is played with intensity and assurance by Adam Terry. He introduces the performance as a "memory play" and also appears in the play as himself, a young man forced to cope with the responsibilities of providing a home for his mother and sister.

Playing the role of the mother, Amanda, is Mary P. Williams, and she gives an amazing performance. It's rare to see a performer actually become the character they're presenting, to such an extent that you forget that you're watching an actor practicing her craft. That's how completely she assumes the role - she's perfect and absolutely believable. Sometimes funny, sometimes infuriating - Amanda is EveryMom, and not many will watch the show without thinking at some point, "That sounds like something Mom would say."

Caitlin Haught tackles the difficult role of Laura, Tom's shy, crippled sister who lives a lonely life, despite her mother's best efforts to bring her out of her shell. She delivers a sweet, touching performance and absolutely nails a deceptively difficult role. It would be easy to make Laura a whiny, annoying character, but Caitlin wins your heart and creates a character who's both sweet and sympathetic.

The final member of the cast doesn't show up until the second act, but his arrival is the catalyst that changes the lives of the other three. Jeremy Plyburn plays The Gentleman Caller, and what a terrific job he does, exuding confidence, charm and a (somewhat self-centered) drive to succeed. I've watched Jeremy grow up on stage, and he's always been an excellent performer - but he's honed his craft and become an outstanding actor, too.

The story these four tell is what might be called a "small" story, or at least a personal one, as the three family members deal with the stress of everyday life. But through the lyrical writing of Williams, our hearts go out to their trials, and we're reminded of the power of a personal journey, where something as small as a dinner date can be the most important thing in the world - and where a breaking heart can shake the firmament.

Trust me on this, you owe it to yourself to see this production, and see why it's considered a stage classic. Every aspect of the show is excellent, including the set design, costumes and the tech work - and kudos to Jack Cirillo for his fine work here. Under his direction, the acting carries the story here, and it's why you'll be thinking about the show long after you've left the theatre.

It's the smallest cast of any show I've seen in years, but it's also one of the most touching, moving and thoughtful shows I've seen, too. Highly recommended!

Seeing "The Glass Menagerie"

Hey, I saw The Glass Menagerie at Marshall University last night and absolutely loved it! I hope to post a review of it this evening, but I wanted to highly recommend this show to everyone out there - it features some amazing acting, and it's a truly moving experience.

The show plays tonight through Saturday, Nov. 22 at 8:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for Adults, $7 for High School and younger, $12 for Seniors, Faculty and Staff, and it's free to MU students with ID.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"The Glass Menagerie" - An Interview

It's time for another e-interview! Stepping up to our non-existent microphone is my pal Jack Cirillo, the director of The Glass Menagerie, which takes the stage tonight at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.

Jack was nice enough to answer a few questions via email:

Q: For those who haven't seen it, tell us a bit about The Glass Menagerie.

A: An American classic and Tennessee Williams' first success. The story is somewhat autobiographical and focuses on a young man’s struggle to lead an independent life while taking care of an overbearing mother and handicapped sister during the depression just before World War II.

Q: Why did you want to direct this show?

A: This is a long time favorite of mine and a great challenge for young actors. The role of Amanda (the mother) is usually very difficult to cast in a college environment, but we are blessed with Mary Williams who has decided get her degree in theatre (shall we say) a bit later in life than your typical student. She’s outstanding in this part.

Q: It's a small cast - does that make it easier or more challenging for you and for the cast?

A: This offers the opportunity for more direct interaction with a cast. We get to ask lots of questions and find many of the answers. The rehearsal period has been somewhat shorter than usual, but the work has been very concentrated.

Q: Tell us about your cast.

A: They are astonishing — really! Adam Terry plays Tom Wingfield and has become such a wonderful talent. He has really made an incredible journey in this part and I couldn’t ask for better in this role. Mary Williams is a real pro. The character has so many layers and she manages to score on every one of them. Jeremy Plyburn has been doing work with me since he was a kid (Oliver! 10 years ago!!!!). Jeremy plays the “Gentleman Caller," a role I played when I was his age... he’s better... and I hate saying that! And Caitlin Haught has owned this role since she first read for it in auditions. She brings such an endearing, yet sad innocence to the part that it will break your heart. All four are seniors and all four are excellent.

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

A: You won’t see better performances anywhere for quite some time. Really. If you love great acting in one of the greatest plays ever written, set and costumed in a way that will transport you to a time and place that existed before TVs, IPODS, cell phones and McDonalds — this is one you can’t miss.

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

A: The show plays Wed., Nov. 19 — Sat., Nov. 22, 8:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for Adults, $7 for High School and younger, $12 for Seniors/Faculty and Staff, and free to MU students with ID.

Thanks, Jack!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Focus On "The Glass Menagerie"

Marshall University's latest show (which opens on Wednesday) is a theatre classic - and you can learn more about it in this story in the Herald-Dispatch by Beth Hendricks:
Send the kids to High School Musical 3 and do a little high school reminiscing of your own with the Marshall University Theatre Department this week.

Under the direction of Jack Cirillo, theater students will present The Glass Menagerie, a well-known high school English class staple, at 8 p.m. nightly Nov. 19-22 at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. The selection is the department's annual "Denman Classic," named in honor of retired Marshall Provost, Dr. Sarah Denman, an avid theater supporter.

"When she announced her retirement, we were disappointed because it meant she wouldn't be a part of our day-to-day, week-to-week lives. She was a tremendous supporter of the arts when she worked here," Cirillo said. "So, we decided to honor her with one selection every year."

The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams, his self-described "memory play," has been considered a theater classic since its debut. The play centers on Tom Wingfield as he reminisces about his childhood living with his domineering mother Amanda and handicapped sister Laura. From high school days, audience members might remember Laura's nickname "Blue Roses," from a bout of pleurosis, Amanda's attempt to find an appropriate suitor for her daughter and the glass figurines that play a symbolic role in the tale.

"This was considered Williams' first great success," Cirillo said. "It's somewhat autobiographical and it deals with something most of us are familiar with - family dysfunctions."

For Cirillo, it is a return back to a play he performed as a student himself, but had never directed. It utilizes a small cast - only four members - and presents a teaching opportunity that most works do not.

"I wanted a small cast that I could work very closely with and really roll up my sleeves and get involved," he said. "I did this in college myself ... and there are parts of it that, as we've gone through it, became very familiar to me again. I had a pretty good sense of what I wanted to do with it and I knew I had the actors necessary to make it alive."

For tickets, call 304-696-2787.

On Stage This Week - "The Glass Menagerie"

Taking the stage this week at Marshall University is a real theatre classic - The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. The play will be presented at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.

Here's a description:
No play in the modern American Theatre has so captured the imagination and heart of the American public as Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie.

As William’s first popular success, it launched the brilliant, if somewhat controversial, career of one of America’s per-eminent playwrights. Since its premier in Chicago in 1944, Menagerie has been the bravura piece for great actresses from Jessica Tandy to Joanne Woodward, and is studied and performed in classrooms and theatres around the world.
The show starts Wednesday, Nov. 19 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 22. All the shows start at 8:00 p.m.

Highly recommended!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Musical Theatre Performance Tuesday in Charleston

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will continue this season’s Collegiate Series with a musical theater performance by Marshall University students titled An Evening of Songs & Scenes at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18. The program will take place in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston.

The Collegiate Series is free and the public is invited to attend.

An Evening of Songs & Scenes is directed by Beth McVey and features Bruce S. Rous on piano. McVey is bringing 12 music and theater students who will perform 13 numbers.

For more information, call 304-558-0162 in the evenings or Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner for the Division, at 304-558-0220.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Coming Soon - "The 1940s Radio Hour"

Here's a press release from ARTS about the group's upcoming show, The 1940s Radio Hour
: December 1942. The country is at war. Economic times are terrible. A small radio station in New York City rallies to help the boys overseas know all is well back home.

Arts Resources for the Tri-State presents a musical Christmas card - The 1940s Radio Hour beginning December 4. The show is a live “Broadcast” from radio station “WOV – The Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade.” Featuring some of the most beloved music of the Big Band era, comedic commercials, swing dancing, a big band, and a cast a zany characters, The 1940s Radio Hour is sure to offer something for everyone!

The artistic team is comprised of several who presented George M! at Marshall this past October. According to Bruce S. Rous, Director, “I had so much fun working with Gene and Connie Anthony on George M!, but never imagined they’d agree to work on 1940s. What amazing choreography they have brought to the show. I have never seen so much laughter during dance rehearsals.”

Lang Reynolds is the lighting designer who designed George M! According to Rous, “With Gene and Connie on board, I thought ‘why not ask Lang, as well?’ I mean, the man is an award-winning lighting designer and he agreed to do our little show.”

“The cast is made up of some perennial favorites,” says Rous. “I am really lucky to be working with a group of people this great. 1940s is a very special show to me - this is my fifth production of it, and I think Tri-State audiences will be as thrilled as I am with the talented bunch of people working on this project.”

Shows are Dec. 4-6 and 11-14 at the former Huntington High School, 900 8th Avenue. Tickets are $15, and Veterans will be admitted free, with the appreciation of the company.

For reservations or more information, please call Arts Resources for the Tri-State at 304-733-ARTS. Dinner is available.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Menopause the Musical" at the Keith-Albee

Here's another reminder that you have one chance to catch a very funny musical this Sunday in Huntington. Here's the story from the Herald-Dispatch:

Menopause the Musical is returning to Huntington at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 925 4th Ave. It's a 90-minute production that includes 25 re-lyricized tunes from the '60s and '70s.

The musical is set in a department store where four women meet by chance. The musical pokes fun at things such as hot flashes, memory loss, mood swings, wrinkles, night sweats and eating binges. The show's intended message is that menopause is a normal passage in every woman's life that should not have to be hidden.

The musical encourages a healthy dialogue about issues of aging and women's health and provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness with female audiences.

Recognizing the show's potential to educate women on health issues, writer and producer Jeanie Linders took the show on the road as Menopause the Musical Out Loud: Breaking The Silence of Ovarian Cancer. The 2005-06 tour raised nearly $500,000 for ovarian cancer research and awareness.

A portion of the proceeds from the Huntington production will directly benefit the West Virginia Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Tickets range in price from $33 to $43.

To purchase tickets, contact Donna May, Keith-Albee box office manager, at 304-696-3313 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

More information is available at www.ovarian.org.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On Stage This Weekend - "The Producers"

There's only one show taking the stage this weekend, and Charleston has it:

- The Producers will be presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

And I should point out that Saturday is the last performance for that show. It's the first local community theatre production of the insanely popular Mel Brooks musical.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Discount on "Menopause: The Musical"

Hey, if you're looking for a bargain, check out this web site - it's a short ad for Menopause: The Musical, and it tells you how you can save money on your ticket.

The show was a huge success the last time it was in town, with all the shows selling out fast, so don't miss your chance to catch this funny show.

(Oh, and I assure you - the music in the show isn't performed in the chipmunk-style you hear on this website.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Stage Tonight: "Oliver!"

Here's a show you only get one chance at, as Oliver is presented tonight at the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center in Huntington.

It's the classic musical about an orphan who falls in with the wicked Fagin, the Artful Dodger, and all the other memorable characters from the story by Charles Dickens. Most of us know the show from the film version, but there's nothing better than seeing the show performed live on stage!

Tickets are $46 and $56. Youth tickets (17 and under) are $27.50, $25 and $22.50.
For tickets or more information, call the Marshall Artists Series ticket office at 304-696-3326.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back By Popular Demand: Menopause the Musical

Here's a show that slipped under the radar - a return visit from Menopause the Musical, which was a huge success in its visit last season, so the Marshall Artist Series has brought it back for another go.

Here's the story from today's Herald-Dispatch:
Menopause the Musical is returning to Huntington at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 925 4th Ave.

Menopause the Musical is a 90-minute production that includes 25 re-lyricized tunes from the ’60s and ’70s.

The musical is set in a department store where four women meet by chance. The musical pokes fun at things such as hot flashes, memory loss, mood swings, wrinkles, night sweats and eating binges. The show’s intended message is that menopause is a normal passage in every woman’s life that should not have to be hidden.

The musical encourages a healthy dialogue about issues of aging and women’s health and provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness with female audiences.

Recognizing the show’s potential to educate women on health issues, writer and producer Jeanie Linders took the show on the road as Menopause the Musical Out Loud: Breaking The Silence of Ovarian Cancer. The 2005-06 tour raised nearly $500,000 for ovarian cancer research and awareness.

A portion of the proceeds from the Huntington production will directly benefit the West Virginia Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Tickets range in price from $33 to $43.

To purchase tickets, contact Donna May, Keith-Albee box office manager, at 304-696-3313 or visit ticketmaster.com.

More information is available at www.ovarian.org.

On Stage This Week - "Oliver!"

How lucky are we to live in a community where you can see touring Broadway shows? (The answer, of course, is "very lucky indeed.")

Wednesday, the musical Oliver! takes the stage at the historic Keith Albee Performing Arts Center - and you're invited!

You can learn all about the show in this story by my pal Dave Lavender. Here's an excerpt:
When she was 7 years old, Rhiannon West saw a production of the musical Oliver in her hometown of Mobile, Ala.

A year later she was a show orphan herself.

West, who plays the street-wise heroine Nancy in the national tour of the musical Oliver, said the musical has that kind of impact.

Area Broadway musical fans will get to take the music to the streets of Victorian England as the Marshall Artists Series welcomes in a touring production of Oliver, the musical based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 925 4th Ave., Huntington.

Tickets are $46 and $56. Youth tickets (17 and under) are $27.50, $25 and $22.50.
It's a terrific show, and is highly recommended!

For tickets or more information, call the Marshall Artists Series ticket office at 304-696-3326.

ABOUT THE SHOW: Debuted in London in 1960, the musical made its way to Broadway in 1963 with such songs as "Consider Yourself," "You've Got To Pick -A-Pocket Or Two" and "Who Will Buy."

COMING UP: The next three Marshall Artists Series shows are Wizard of Oz on Tuesday, Dec. 9; Sergio Mendes on Saturday, Jan. 31; and Sweeney Todd on Feb. 5.

ON THE WEB: Go online at www.marshall.edu/muartser

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Peter Pan" Postscript

Peter Pan wrapped up on Sunday, and a terrific run it was! The final shows played to packed houses, and the cast was fantastic!

I've talked in this space about the cast and the directing team, but I should take time to mention the unsung heroes of theatre - the tech crew. They're the ones behind the scenes handling numerous jobs, and they rarely get to take a bow.

They moves the set pieces around, help the actors with props and costuming, they operate the lights, the sound, create special effects, close and open the curtains, make the stars fly in the air - and on and on. They're a key part of the team that puts on a show, and they deserve a lot of the credit for the success of any show. Hats off to them!

After the last performance of "Pan," the set was dismantled and moved back to the storage facility, the costumes were taken away, cleaned and stored, and the actors, directors, tech crew and parents got to return to their normal lives.

But they all get to bask in the glow of having been part of an outstanding performance. They've made new friends, learned new skills, and gained more stage experience and the self-assurance that goes with it.

Now that's what I call a success!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

On Stage Today - "Pan" and "Producers"

Two great shows to choose from today - it's your last chance to see Peter Pan and the only Sunday performance of The Producers.

Here's the rundown:

- Peter Pan will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at the Huntington High School Auditorium today at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. The shows this weekend have been packed, so you might want to get there a little early to be sure you get a ticket!

- The Producers will be presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater today at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $20.

See 'em before they're gone!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "Peter Pan" and "The Producers"

There are two great shows to choose from tonight - one in Huntington and one in Charleston. They are:

- Peter Pan will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at the Huntington High School Auditorium tonight at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

- The Producers will be presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater tonight at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

You can't go wrong with either show - they're both lots of fun!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Last Weekend for "Peter Pan"

The boy who refuses to grow up takes flight this weekend for three more shows at (the new) Huntington High School.

The classic musical Peter Pan will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at the Huntington High School Auditorium at 1 Highlander Way in Huntington, W.Va., on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

The stage show tells the story of the boy from Never-Never Land who refuses to grow up, and his adventures with Wendy, Michael, John and the Lost Boys, as they fight the evil Captain Hook and his band of pirates.

The show includes a cast of more than 80 young actors and features professional flying effects provided by the ZFX company, which allows Peter to soar across the stage.

The performance will also include a pre-show featuring Tinkerbellettes and Little Pirates.

The directing team includes director Mary Smirl, musical director Lara Donahoe and producer Elaine Young. For more information, call 304-416-KIDS (304-416-5437).

The First Stage Theatre Company is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing an educational, developmental experience for young people through the performing arts. Peter Pan kicks off the company's 19th season.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

"Junie B.", Where Have You Gone?

I've mentioned before that community theatre groups are at the mercy of the companies that own the rights to the musicals and stage shows.

Usually, there's no problem staging any show that's available to community theatre groups. You sign a contract, send some money, and you get the rights to stage the show you've chosen.

However - sometimes events work against you. Perhaps the show you want to stage is touring with a professional troupe and is visiting your area. In that case, the company won't allow a local group to stage the show. There are other reasons, but that's the most common.

The point of all this (he said, burying his lede) is that the First Stage Theatre Company had announced plans to stage the show Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business in the Spring - but recently found out that the company that holds the rights has decided not to release the rights to community theatre groups. I'm not sure the reasons behind it, but it's a shame - there was a lot of interest in the show, and there will no doubt be a lot of disappointed kids out there.

The point of this post is to invite our readers to suggest other shows they'd like to see fill the spot left by "Junie's" departure. It needs to be a small show, preferably a non-musical - so if you have any suggestions, post them here or email them to me at TheMinskers@aol.com.

Sorry about that, "Junie" fans!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Directing Team for "Peter Pan"

I keep meaning to write a post about the directing team on Peter Pan and what a fantastic job they're done - but my pal Elaine Young sent me a note that says it all!

She wrote:
Just a note to let everyone know that all the creativeness in First Stage's production of Peter Pan comes from our brilliant director, Mary Smirl. The dancing trees, the flying fairies, the nursery toys, and the antics of Capt. Hook, all came from Mary's ingenious approach to children's theatre.

Mary took on the task of directing 87 children (with a preshow of 15) with fervor and passion. All the details that you will see in this production of Peter Pan came from her never-ending thoughts to make the show "exciting, fun, and interesting." The kids responded to Mary because she made acting fun and gave them positive reinforcement.

Lara Donahoe brought the best out in the cast vocally with her wit and praise while playing in the orchestra AND playing the role of Mrs. Darling. Tiffany McCullough provided challenging choreography which brought everything together.

Add those remarkable directors to an extremely talented cast and we have an amazing production!
Elaine only left out one important person - the producer of the show! It's probably the most thankless of the jobs you can tackle in community theatre, because the producer has to tackle a hundred different jobs, solve a never-ending series of problems, organize the workforce, and keep the production moving forward.

Peter Pan was blessed with an indefatigable producer who worked vitually around the clock to make the show the best it could be. She's done an amazing job. Oh, her name is: Elaine Young. She's my hero!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

Finally, Election Day is here!

If you're eligible, get out there and cast your vote for whichever candidates you prefer. It's the All-American, patriotic thing to do!

And remember, if you don't vote, you don't get to complain!

(Well, that's what I was told.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Shows in November

After having a dozen shows to choose from in October, we move on to November, which is much more manageable - only four shows this time around!

Here's what you have to look forward to:

- Peter Pan will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at the Huntington High School Auditorium on Nov. 7 and 8 at 8:00 p.m. and Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

- The Producers will be presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater on Nov. 7, 8, 14, and 15 at 7:30 p.m. A
matinee will be presented on Nov. 9 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $20.

- Oliver! will be presented by the Marshall Artists Series at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center on Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. The classic musical is based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

- The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams will be presented by the Marshall University Department of Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on Nov. 19, 20, 21, 22 at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

On Stage This Afternoon - "Pan" and "Clue"

Two shows to choose from on Sunday afternoon:

- Peter Pan will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at Huntington High School’s auditorium today at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $10 for children age 12 and under. The show will also run next weekend.

- Clue: The Musical will be presented by ARTS at the Renaissance Theater today at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. It's the last performance for this show.

Recommended!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thoughts About "Peter Pan"

As often as possible, I try to post reviews of community theatre productions - especially since it's a niche no one has covered since the days Bill Belanger wrote for the Herald-Dispatch.

However, I run into occasional obstacles. As I mention way too often in this space, I'm the president of the First Stage Theatre Company advisory board, so it's hardly fair for me to review our own shows.

So I can't really write a full-fledged review of Peter Pan. If someone out there wants to send in their comments, I'll be glad to include them on this blog - just click on "Post Comment" at the bottom of this entry, or send an email to me at TheMinskers@aol.com.

But if you'll allow me, gentle reader, I will make some comments and observations about the show:

- One of the joys of working with the children's theatre is watching these young people learn and grow. Young actors like Mary Kate Young (Peter Pan), Alissa Fetherolf (Tiger Lily) and Josh Meredith (John) - to use just three examples - have practically grown up on stage, and they've become talented, terrific performers. I couldn't be more proud of them and the rest of the cast.

- I kept howling with laughter at some of the bits of business put in the show. The antics of the "Tree" Amigos, the dancing of the Pirates (the tango being my favorite), Captain Hook ad-libbing a funny cover, the Benny Hill-style chase around the auditorium with the Pirates and the Indians, the running debates between the Lost Boys, the Scooby-Doo chase between Hook, Pan and the trees - I could go on and on. Suffice to say, it's a very funny show.

- The show also has some outstanding dancing sequences, and I like the fact that it gives lots of kids a chance to shine.

- The tech for the show was almost flawless, and that's a major challenge. You only notice the tech when something goes wrong - a mic goes dead, the lights go out, that sort of thing. If it happened, I didn't see or hear it. And the scene changes were amazingly fast.

- As an old community theatre hand, I know how the flying works, I've seen it set up and practiced - but it still gives a thrill when you see characters flying across the stage. Mary Kate is especially good at it - she really seems to be soaring effortlessly.

- I'm always amazed at the high level of talent locally. The singing, the dancing, the acting - it's all excellent.

- It's great to see so many young people getting the chance to perform on stage. Being part of the theatre is such a boost for a young person's self-confidence. I always say, if you can sing and dance in front of a big crowd, you can handle anything.

So those are my first impressions - I'll have more later. I admit I'm prejudiced, but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this production. You'll walk away from it flying high!

On Stage Tonight - "Pan," "Clue" and "Producers"

Three great musicals on local stages tonight - so don't say there's nothing to do!

- Peter Pan will be presented by First Stage Theatre Company at Huntington High School’s auditorium tonight at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children age 12 and under.

- Clue: The Musical will be presented by ARTS at the Renaissance Theater tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

- The Producers will be presented by The Charleston Light Opera Guild at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater tonight at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

So pick and show and make a night of it!

More About "Peter Pan"

I got to see the opening night performance of Peter Pan tonight - what a terrific show! The cast is wonderful, and the show is filled with fun and exciting moments.

When I have some more time I'll post my comments about the show, but to tide you over, you can read this excellent story about the show in the Herald-Dispatch.

Here's an except from the story written by my pal Dave Lavender:
Loaded up with professional stage rigs and harnesses from ZFX Company out of Louisville and veteran direction, First Stage Theatre Company opens the first of two high-flying weekends of Peter Pan with a youth-infused cast of more than 80 kids.

Mary Kate Young, who plays Peter Pan, went to Louisville to train and learn to be comfortable and to sing better while suspended in a harness.

First Stage also has a dedicated corps of five volunteers who man the rigging for the teen and tween actors jetting off into the night sky of the stage.

The musical, juiced up a bit (more flying anyone?), hits the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, at the Huntington High School Auditorium.