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, September 30, 2009

Set the Stage, Light the Lights!

Traditionally, August and September are slow months for Community Theatre, as the summer theatre groups wind down and the fall and winter shows go into rehearsals, so not many shows are actually staged (though there are always exceptions).

But now October is here, and that means loads of great shows to check out - by my last count, there are at least nine shows being staged next month in our area - and several of them start (or continue) this weekend!

I'll have a rundown tomorrow of all the shows you'll want to be watching for!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comedian Mike Birbiglia Performs Friday

Comedian Mike Birbiglia takes the stage Friday, Oct. 2 at the Veterans Memorial Field House as part of Marshall's Homecming celebration.

Birbiglia achieved comedy cult status in 2006 with the nationwide release of his Comedy Central CD, Two Drink Mike, and the accompanying Comedy Central sponsored Medium Man on Campus college tour.

For the past 7 years, Mike has toured the country honing the act that made him one of the youngest comedians to ever appear on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Mike is a talk show regular and the star of two Comedy Central Presents specials, but what has truly galvanized his fan base is his "Secret Public Journal," a weekly blog that he emails to 30,000 fans and broadcasts to millions on the nationally-syndicated Bob & Tom Radio Show.

These personal, autobiographical diary entries, which evoke the nostalgic tone of David Sedaris and the relatability of Bill Cosby, have defined Birbiglia’s public persona.

Monday, September 28, 2009

On Stage Soon - "Ohio Impromptu"

My pal Jon Joy sent along this note about a show that hits the stage in a week.

He's directing the short Samuel Beckett play Ohio Impromptu at the Huntington Museum of Art as part of a night of offbeat, experimental work.

The event is called What in the World Was That? It's a night of short music and theater performances, and it begins at 7 p.m. Oct. 6, 2009, in the Grace Rardin Doherty Auditorium.

Matyas Seiber’s “Three Morgenstern Songs” for soprano voice and clarinet will be performed, followed by the short play Ohio Impromptu featuring Jerry Morse and Mike Murdock. After the performances, a discussion follows with Dr. David Wohl.

Sounds like fun, so mark those calendars!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Community Theatre News

Hey, today's Herald-Dispatch features lots of theatre news items (which is always nice), including:

- Go here to get the latest on ACTC's new season, which will include Blood Brothers - the Musical, A Christmas Carol, Willy Wonka Jr. and Copacabana: The Music of Barry Manilow.

- Go here to read more about the upcoming ARTS show I Ought to Be in Pictures, which will be presented at 8 p.m. Oct. 2-3 and Oct. 10, as well as at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4 and 11.

- And while it's too late to audition for the upcoming Red Lion production The Royale (sorry, I missed the audition notice), this story has lots of helpful information if you're interested in volunteering to help out behind the scenes.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Coming Soon - "I Ought To Be In Pictures"

Here's another show opening soon - a week from today, in fact.

Arts Resources for the Tri-State will present Neil Simon's I Ought to Be in Pictures Oct. 2, 3, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 4 and 11 at 3 p.m. at the Renaissance Theater (the old Huntington High School).

Here's the press release with more info:
ARTS is pleased to stage this comedic drama by one of America's most beloved playwrights, Neil Simon. He is the author of over 30 plays including Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple.

Libby Tucker is a 19-year-old girl from Brooklyn who has virtually raised herself and is ready to confront her father Herb who she hasn't seen since she was 3. She hitchhikes to California to face her father and to jumpstart her career in the movies. Thrown for a loop, Herb tries to balance his life between his now grown up daughter, his failing screen writing career, and a relationship with his girlfriend Steffy.

The New York Post has called I Ought to Be in Pictures, "Terrific... sweet, dandy and touching... a mature, memorable play that brings joy to the season" and WCBS-TV2 reviews stated it was "A finely tuned theatrical blend of hilarity, honesty, directly and deeply felt emotion. Go."

The cast for ARTS production is Alissa Fetherolf as Libby Tucker, Clint McElroy as Herb Tucker, and Leann Haines as Steffy Blondell. This show will be the directing debut for Stephen Vance. The producers for the show are Jeanette Bills and Amy Knell.

All performances will be held at The Renaissance Center (Old Huntington High School), 900 East 8th Street in Huntington, WV. Show tickets will be $15 per person. For Reservations Please Call 304-733-2787. Tickets will also be available at the door. For more information, visit the ARTS website.

The Cast:

Alissa Fetherolf is an 18-year-old freshman at MCTC. Alissa has appeared in several major roles locally, such as Tiger Lily in First Stage’s production of Peter Pan and Natalie in HHS’s production of All Shook Up. In addition to her work on stage, Alissa won the American Legion’s State Oratorical Contest and competed in the national competition. This summer she had a featured role in a short film that will be debuting in October at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Characterized by hard work and transparent sincerity, Alissa has continued to succeed both on stage and off. In this show, audiences will see why she has achieved so much already.

Clint McElroy is no stranger to theatre audiences of the area. Having performed in over 20 productions, he has of late starred as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple, and most recently as Father in Children of Eden. More than just a performer, Clint has gone out of his way to make sure that many could have the same opportunities on stage that he has had. He has served on the board of directors for First Stage, directed, produced and even written several plays. Because of his contributions to both local theatre and to the community, Clint will be inducted to the Greater Huntington Wall of Fame this October. It has been over a year and half since Clint’s last performance on stage, and it seems that this role at this time is a perfect fit.

Leann Haines, a Parkersburg native, is a science teacher at Huntington Middle. Most recently she assistant directed First Stage’s Charlotte’s Web. She has assistant directed and stage managed many area productions, however her work is not limited to behind the scenes. Locally, she has appeared in productions of Nunsense, Inspecting Carol and Godspell just to name a few. Passionate about good characters and a good script, Leann jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this show. The depth and honesty she brings to every role fits perfectly with the character that Neil Simon has created.

The Director

When he first got involved in theatre just over 5 years ago, Stephen Vance had no idea how quickly and how deeply he would be affected by it. First and foremost a fan of all things community theatre, he started hanging around at HOT’s Footloose until he was put to work. He had seen several HOT shows but didn’t know how to get involved until his sister, who was assistant directing the show, suggested he just show up and volunteer. Well, he did and since that time he has acted in, assistant directed, and worked tech in over 25 shows. Stephen’s first show on stage was HOT’s Thoroughly Modern Millie. His first major role came a year later when he played Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! He has assistant directed several shows at Huntington High School including the state award winning I Never Saw Another Butterfly.

Stephen considers himself a student of theatre, attempting to learn in each and every capacity he has served. He has had the privilege of training with some of the area’s great directors, including: Danny Ray, Helen Freeman and Bruce Rous. Stephen’s goal in community theatre is to help carry on what his hardworking and talented predecessors have been doing for years: putting on great shows with great casts for local audiences to enjoy. To him, that means working hard and providing great shows for the community whether he is on or off stage.

Not a Musical?

Although theatre is often though of as huge musicals with elaborate costumes and dance numbers, there is a need for straight plays as well. Few are staged at a community level in this area, not because of the lack of material or talent, but because of just the opposite, the musicals often provide more opportunities for more performers at one time. However, there is no denying the charm of a well-told story with real people, real problems, and real humor. The ARTS production of I Ought to Be in Pictures is the first adult non-musical to be staged in Huntington community theatre in nearly a year. Each member of the cast and the director are huge fans of musical theatre, but they are glad to see that non-musical shows have a place on local stage too.

Director Stephen Vance has this to say about the show, “Its strength lies in the storyline that Neil Simon has created. It is a real story about things that really happen. The humor isn’t forced or farcical, it’s real. The brilliant thing about this show is that it has characters that the audience will love. You will find yourself caring about what happens to everyone in the show, in fact, you will find parts of who you are wrapped up in these characters. The cast has done a remarkable job of taking this script and making it live. There is no need for a tap solo or fire batons here. The life of the show is the thing.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coming Soon - "Damien"

Here's another show coming up in a couple of weeks that promises to be a special event.

It's called Damien, and it'll be presented next month at the Huntington Museum of Art.

Here's more information about the show:
On Oct. 11, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to canonize Blessed Damien of Molokai. Blessed Damien is known as ‘The Apostle of Lepers,’ a Roman Catholic martyr who died in 1889 as he himself succumbed to the disease at age 49.

The story of Blessed Damien will be told on stage in an amazing and moving one man play starring Paul Neace. The show, Damien, will be performed at The Huntington Museum of Art.

Shows will be presented Oct. 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 11 at 3:00 p.m.

This deeply touching play, written by the late Aldyth Morris, describes his life experience with the leper patients of Molokai as he views it from his own gravesite.

It is an evolution from boyhood to sainthood as he endures realities of the disease, the frustrations of seeking help for them, and the wealth of love borne out of his charity.

Seeing this play one can empathize not only with the 254,525 people who currently suffer with the disease worldwide, but all of those who struggle with communicable diseases such as TB, HIV and others who need compassion, love and charity as Jesus gave to Lazarus.

Damien was brought to national attention in 1978 and 1986 when broadcast on PBS. What a privilege for us now to present this play in Huntington on the weekend of Blessed Damien’s canonization!

Tickets will be sold at the door before each performance for $8.

For more information call 304-654-0261.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Stage This Week - "The Blob"

I'm back from my sabbatical and ready for the fall season!

First up is The Blob, which my pal Mel sent some information about. She writes:
I've seen a couple of rehearsals and it's going to be a fun show. Just in time to get people in the Halloween spirit, too!
Here are the details, fear fans:

Scarpelli & Kehde’s Newest Collaboration

The Blob

The 1958 Horror Classic comes to life on the musical stage with good old 1950s rock and blues music, dancing, romance and special effects in one amazing evening of entertainment!

Featuring performances by Aaron Crothers, Molly Means, Nik Tidquist, Ric Fleenor, Maddy Gourevitch, Liz McCormick, April Richardson Morgan, Michelle Spencer, Bob Martin and a large supporting cast of singers, dancers and musicians.

The production includes 20 new songs from Scarpelli and Kehde with such titles as “Duck and Cover," “Midnight Monster Marathon," “A Boy To Hold Me," “Too Young To Ever Fall In Love,” “Rocket Route Forty,” “Little Moon” and many more.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 1-3 at the historic WVSU Capitol Center Theater at 123 Summers Street in Charleston, W.Va. Tickets are $9.50 Adults, $5.50 Students/Seniors.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 8 - Here and Gone

Take my word for it - it’s not easy to stage a show. It takes a lot of people, time, effort, dedication and yes, money to put one together. For that reason it’s not surprising that quite a few community theatre groups have faded away over the years.

I wanted to wrap up my series about “the history of local theatre as I remember it” with a tip o’ the hat to those groups.

I should add that there have probably been quite a few that I’ve never heard of - after all, I arrived in Huntington in 1976, and that’s where my memory starts. (As always, dear reader, feel free to post comments or send me an email at TheMinskers@aol.com with corrections or additions.)

Possibly the biggest group to fade away was the Community Players. I only remember seeing one show of theirs, A Christmas Carol, at the Abbott Theater on Huntington’s west end. The group spent years putting on shows, but when the Abbott finally closed (and was later torn down), the group apparently disbanded. A few efforts have been made in the years since to revive the group, but for now, the group has apparently left the stage.

Another group that I know about firsthand was the Appalachian Regional Theatre (known as ART, but not to be confused with the ARTS group in the Renaissance Theatre). Organized by Danny Ray, a stage veteran who returned to his home in Huntington, the group put on some outstanding shows, including Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Sound of Music, The Odd Couple, Noises Off and Into the Woods, to name a few. Sadly, the group shut down about four years ago.

And then there's the group headed by Eddie Harbert known as the Renaissance Players, and they've also staged a number of shows in the area, including Nunsense, Baby, Little Shop of Horrors, Closer Than Ever and The Rocky Horror Show. That group has been on hiatus for a while, and may yet return to the stage (although these days Eddie is busy with shows for Fifth Avenue Theatre Company).

My hat is off to anyone who undertakes the challenge of putting on a local show. It’s a near-impossible job - but it can also be lots of fun and very rewarding!

We'll keep an eye out for any new groups that may appear when you least expect it! (I've heard rumors...)

So that wraps up our little walk down memory lane. We'll be back to normal tomorrow with news about some shows coming up in October. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 7 - Free Spirit Productions

This seven-part series is now an eight-parter, thanks to my pal Jon Joy, who sent in this essay about another theatre group that's been around more than a decade.

Free Spirit Productions (1998-present?)

Free Spirit Productions (FSP) was founded in August 1998 by Tressa Preston, Cindy Sullivan and a volunteer force of 20 local theatre artists including Jonathan Joy, Herschel Jeffrey and Dave Hall.

The original intent was to renovate and re-open the John C.C. Mayo Amphitheater in Armco Park in Ashland. The group's name was chosen because of its imaginative and nonconformist connotation; FSP artists wanted to present shows that were rarely performed on stages in Ashland.

After a year of brainstorming and fundraising, the group produced its first play, Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, in July 1999.

After two years and three shows at the amphitheater, FSP became a group without a home. Managing the space was simply too much to bear for a group of young artists focused on performance over site maintenance; the group handed the space over to Backstage Players and moved its home base to Huntington in 2001 with a performance of Simply Selma at the Huntington Museum of Art.

In the years that followed, FSP would stage two or three straight plays a year, both new and classic, at venues throughout the Tri-State such as the Museum of Art, Marshall University, the Paramount Arts Center and the Jeslyn Performing Arts Center.

Shows included The Glass Menagerie (2002), Fool for Love (2003), an Irish Drama Festival (2004), The Santaland Diaries (2003 - '05), Picasso at the Lapin Agile (2007) and more. The group has also presented several plays written by co-founder Jonathan Joy, including The Princess of Rome, Ohio (2005), Just Another Day in November (2006) and Lunch at the Fork n' Finger (2008).

FSP has represented Huntington at Festiv-all Charleston for the past five years and once traveled a production to the Columbus Fringe Festival. The group has also performed for the West Virginia Shakespeare and Renaissance Association and was featured in a Marcus Gregio book about theatre companies around the world.

These days the troupe is in a bit of a hiatus. It's been nearly two years since their last major production. Recent shows include Festiv-all one act performances and nothing more.

Whether FSP is on its last legs or poised to make a comeback is unsure - only time will tell.

Next: Groups that faded away.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 6 - ARTS

The newest theatre group in town is, basically, a new wing of an organization that got its start about 10 years ago. Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS) began as a gathering of theatre groups - and one orchestra - who would work together to refurbish part of the old Huntington High School and turn it into a center for local arts groups.

For assorted reasons the idea didn’t work out and the original members of the organization - the Musical Arts Guild, the Musical Arts Guild - Children’s Theatre, Huntington Outdoor Theatre and the Tri-State Youth Orchestra - all eventually left the ARTS organization.

The group continued on its own, managing the use of the Huntington High School auditorium and renting it out to other organizations. Approximately once a year since the organization began, the group has presented fundraisers in concert form, usually featuring Broadway veterans Mark and Beth McVey.

More recently the group has been presenting its own stage shows. The idea, of course, is to raise money to refurbish the auditorium.

Their output has been solid - they have presented the Christmas show Amahl and the Night Visitor, and Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (among others).

With at least two shows already in the works for this season, ARTS promises to continue to make its mark on Huntington community theatre.

Next: Being a Free Spirit.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 5 - 5th Avenue Theatre Co.

The 5th Avenue Theatre Company was founded about eight years ago for a unique purpose: to raise money for the City of Huntington Foundation.

Back in 1991 the Foundation began the restoration of City Hall's auditorium. The city had planned to gut the old auditorium to create office space, but interior designer Jean Carlo Stephenson urged City Council to reconsider. She was the Foundation's first director, and today the auditorium is named after her.

But maintaining and making improvements to the facility takes a lot of cash. To raise money, the 5th Avenue Theatre Company has staged a number of shows, including Annie, West Side Story, Carousel, Music Man, A Christmas Carol and the recent Guns and Hoses Benefit Concert.

Because of the uneven nature of bringing in money on shows (not every show makes money, as anyone in theatre can tell you), 5th Avenue has been cautious in presenting shows. But with a major show on tap for next month - the upcoming Man of La Mancha - the City of Huntington Foundation will continue to give audiences a reason to pay a visit to their facility.

Next: The area’s newest theatre group is also supporting a classic theater - just four blocks away from City Hall.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 4 - Huntington Outdoor Theatre

The Huntington Outdoor Theatre (HOT) got its start back in 1993, and - of course - its origins can be traced to the Musical Arts Guild. At one performance by that group (I’m not sure which show it was), Helen Freeman first met Patti Shaver. The two kicked around the idea of starting a local outdoor theatre - and finally decided to give it a try.

HOT’s shows have all been presented at Huntington's Ritter Park Amphitheater. The shows usually run through each weekend in July. Some years the group has presented two shows in a summer, while other times (like this past summer) they present a single show.

The group is led by Helen, who serves as the President and Artistic Director, and Patti, who is Vice-President and Managing Director. Helen directs most of the shows, and Patti choreographs and organizes things behind the scenes.

Of course, they have lots of help, with a board of directors and an small army of managers tackling every job from designing posters to selling tickets and T-shirts.

HOT has established itself as a summer tradition, and focuses on presenting big musicals, including shows like Hello, Dolly, Guys and Dolls, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, The Music Man, Huntington: The Jewel of West Virginia and Oklahoma. The group has also tackled some unique projects, like 2008's musical version of Romeo and Juliet.

Each show also features a pre-show, featuring a variety of performers singing or dancing, and a prepared performance by young actors.

HOT has been a real success story, bringing in huge crowds through the month of July. Like any outdoor theatre, its only enemy is bad weather, but thankfully Huntington’s summers are usually mild.

Oh, HOT has one more dubious distinction - it’s the only organization that has presented a show that included, as one of its actors - me. And despite that burden, somehow the group continues to thrive!

Next: A theatre group that’s been around less than a decade - and it’s designed to raise money to pay for improvements to a local building.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 3 - First Stage Theatre Co.

The First Stage Theatre Company got its start 19 years (and one name change) ago. After auditions in 1990 for shows like Annie and Hansel and Gretel brought in - literally - hundreds of kids, it was obvious that there was a need for an outlet for these young thespians.

As with many local theatre groups, its beginning are tied to the Musical Arts Guild (MAG). George Snider and Jennifer Salcines approached the board of MAG and asked the group to sponsor the children’s theatre, and that’s how the Musical Arts Guild – Children’s Theatre (MAG-CT) began.

The group’s first production was You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown on Sept. 14, 1990.

There are, basically, two kinds of children’s theatres. One features adults putting on shows for young people (with the cast perhaps including a few young actors), and the other stars young actors in the leads (with the cast sometimes including a few adults). MAG-CT would be the latter, and over the years it has allowed young people the chance to star in all kinds of shows, both musical and non-musical.

Like any youth organization, the group has an ever-changing board, as young actors and their parents get involved, graduate and move on to other interests. There are only two board members still involved with the group who were there at the beginning - the group’s past chairman, C.E. Wilson, who was the first liaison between MAG and MAG-CT (he’s a darn good actor, too), and Mary Smirl, who has directed (and choreographed) quite a few shows, including the upcoming Into the Woods (and she’s also a darn good actor).

By 2001 it was obvious that MAG-CT was able to stand on its own two feet, so in an amicable split the two groups separated, and the children’s theatre adopted a new name (one suggested by board member Clint McElroy): the First Stage Theatre Company.

Like its parent group, First Stage is a theatre group without a home - so it roams from theater to theater, depending on which one is available and which one fits the needs of the production. Every year the group produces either two or three shows, each one featuring young actors from across the Tri-State area. The purpose of the group is to provide young people with a positive experience either on the stage or working behind the scenes.

If anyone out there is avoiding their shows because it’s a “children’s theatre,” you’re missing out on some great young talent - many of whom you’ll see on stage in other local theatre productions.

In the last four years the group has staged major shows like Bye, Bye Birdie, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Seussical: the Musical, Honk, Les Miserables: The School Edition, High School Musical and Cats, in addition to smaller shows like Alexander, Who's Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move, Winnie the Pooh, A Christmas Story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Three Musketeers, Charlotte's Web and Babes in Toyland (to name just a few).

First Stage also offers up two scholarships - one named in honor of Jim Stone, a local actor who was a great supporter of the arts and a mentor to many young actors, and the other in honor of Leslie McElroy, a board member, producer and actor who is missed by all.

First Stage has established itself as a great place for young people to get their start in theatre. There they gain the skills and confidence that will serve them well throughout their life. It's also a great place to see the stars of tomorrow.

Next: Started just a few years after the Children’s Theatre, this group rules the month of July - which must be why it’s called HOT.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 2 - Musical Arts Guild

The Musical Arts Guild (MAG) is the second-longest-running (and still active) community theater group in the Huntington area. (Marshall is the oldest - I think.)

Way back in 1965 several area churches combined their choirs to provide music for a preaching mission, and that was the beginning for the Musical Arts Guild.

Those early missions were presented for a while at the Keith-Albee Theater, and when that ended, the group continued doing concerts and finally “regular” shows at the Huntington High School auditorium (now known as the Renaissance Center).

Over the years since, the group has produced some terrific shows and given stage time to many local actors who moved on to Broadway, including Michael Cerveris and Mark and Beth McVey.

One of my favorite shows produced by MAG was Fiddler on the Roof in the mid-’90s, starring my pal Jim Stone (God rest his soul) as Tevye.

Unfortunately, it’s been a while since MAG tackled a stage show - I believe their last show was a few years ago. The King and I was directed by Danny Ray and starred Tommy Smirl.

The group is still active, but has gone back to its roots and presents shows in concert form only. Every year MAG holds a fundraising concert for the three scholarships the group awards every year to Marshall students - two for music majors and one for a theatre major.

They’ve carried the torch of community theatre for more than 40 years - and hopefully they’ll continue to bring the gift of music to the area for many more years to come.

MAG was also directly involved in the creation of the next-oldest local community theatre group - the one devoted to local children. Next: Part 3 - First Stage Theatre Company.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Local Theatre History - Part 1 - Marshall University

Being something of a history buff, I often wonder about the history of theatre in Huntington. As far as I know, no one has ever assembled any definitive catalog of the shows presented here, or what the first community show might have been. There's not much to be found on the subject on the Internet.

Touring shows have probably been presented in Huntington virtually since the city was founded, and certainly local schools have put on shows since the first teacher or parent walked through the door who was willing to take on the challenge.

The newest section of Marshall’s Old Main - the part with the auditorium in it - was built in 1907, and students staged their first show there on March 13, 1908.

Although I don't have any research to back it up (and I trust you'll correct me if I'm wrong, dear reader), it seems safe to assume that Marshall has the longest continuing tradition of putting on shows in Huntington.

I have wonderful memories of seeing great shows in that auditorium. When I was a student in the late ‘70s, one of the outstanding performers was a guy named Joe Johns, who is well known today for his work on CNN (and NBC before that).

Marshall has other famous acting alumni, including the Oscar-winning Brad Dourif, Conchata Ferrell, who stars on TV's Two-and-a-Half Men, and Peter Marshall, the legendary host of the Hollywood Squares. Billy Crystal also attended for a semester, but he was on a baseball scholarship.

My hero Soupy Sales is probably the most famous alumni, though I'm not sure if he ever acted on the Marshall stage.

These days Marshall has a new theater, and it’s a beauty. The Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center is a state of the art facility, and the Department of Theatre uses it to maximum effect. The shows they’ve staged in recent years certainly live up to (and often surpass) the ones from the past. They stage at least four shows a year, most of them directed by professors Jack Cirillo or Eugene Anthony - and they do amazing work.

In recent years they’ve done shows like The Foreigner, which is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen on a stage, the outstanding To Kill a Mockingbird, which should be required viewing for every student everywhere, and the phenomenal Hair (to name just a few). Almost every year they tackle a Shakespeare play, like the excellent Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and The Tempest - you owe it to yourself to see these.

Really, if you’re not checking these out on a regular basis, you’re missing some excellent work - not to mention the chance to see the potential stars of the future!

So if Marshall has been putting on shows the longest, who's next on the longest-running list? That's the topic of the next post, which we'll call: History Part 2 - The Musical Arts Guild.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hello, I Must Be Going

(Bonus trivia points for those who recognize the title, which is from a song by the immortal Groucho Marx.)

Sorry for the lack of posts, y'all! Between a shortage of shows and various other real-world demands, your pal Chuck has been swamped lately.

In a few weeks we'll hit our three-year anniversary of the Tri-State Theater blog, so I'm thinking I should take a short break here to recharge my batteries - but I don't want to leave you with nothing to read, so here's the deal: starting tomorrow I'm going to re-run my seven-part series about the History of Theatre in Huntington.

It originally appeared on this site during our first month in operation, so it should be new to many of you. I've updated it a bit, and as always, I welcome and additional information or corrections you might have to offer.

Then I'll be back with lots more theatre-related stuff as we move into the busy part of the fall season.

There are lots of great shows coming up in our region, and we'll talk about it... soon!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Guns and Hoses Benefit Photos

Hey, in case you missed the Guns and Hoses Benefit, you can check out a few photos from the show right here on the Herald-Dispatch Photo Gallery.

Still photos are nice, but of course the show was a lot better with the actual music and singing and dancing.

The benefit raised money for the Huntington Police and Fire Departments, and for the City of Huntington Foundation.

It was stage by Fifth Avenue Theatre Company. That group's next show will be Man of La Mancha.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Stage Goes Quiet...

With the wrap-up of Thursday night's excellent Guns and Hoses Benefit Concert, the stages in our area go quiet for a few weeks.

Well, that's not quite true. Many groups are busy right now, rehearsing their next show - but that's all work that the audience rarely sees.

Counting off the top of my head, there are at least eight shows that will be presented during the month of October, and about that many showing up in November.

So that means there's nothing to talk about in this space, right? Ha! There's always something going on in the theatre, so keep tuning in and I'll do my best to keep you up-to-date on upcoming shows.

As always, send in your notes, comments and general gossip via the comment link below, or email me at TheMinskers@aol.com.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Guns and Hoses Benefit - A Review

Thursday night is the only performance of the "Guns and Hoses" Benefit Concert, so for this review I sat in on tonight's dress rehearsal at the Huntington City Hall Auditorium.

And let me just say: what a terrific show!

You can never go wrong by casting some of the area's top talent, and here we have an All-Star lineup of singers, including Marina Jurica, Ryan Hardiman, Danny Ray, Mary Olson, Linda Reynolds, Jennifer Scott, Paul Neace, Ron Short, Nancy Jackson and Zach Davis.

The show is hosted by Debbie Wolfe and features just over two hours of terrific songs and performances.

And director Eddie Harbert and choreographer Coni Anthony have assembled a terrific lineup of songs, with a great mix of heartfelt songs, dramatic numbers, humorous songs and some real show-stoppers. Kudos also to my pal Mike Campbell, who provides the accompaniment for the show.

The tendency on these types of shows is to lean on the hoary show tunes, and they avoid that here, using a great mix of fresh, funny and often surprising songs. Some are beloved songs from Broadway shows, but you'll also hear some pop songs mixed in there. You may be shocked, you'll enjoy some laughs, and you'll be moved to tears - it's a great showcase for some of our top performers.

It's great to see so much talent on the stage like this, and hopefully this will become an annual tradition for Fifth Avenue Theatre and the City of Huntington.

You can see the show for yourself Thursday night, and it's for a great cause! All proceeds go to the Huntington Police Department, the Huntington Fire Department and the City of Huntington Foundation.

Dinner is served at 6:00 p.m. and the performance follows at 8:00 p.m.

The cost is $100 per person for dinner and the show, or $40 each to just see the performance. Yes, the price is a little steep, but it's a great cause to support our local heroes.

The event is being sponsored by Kindred Communications and the Herald-Dispatch.

Tickets are now on sale - for more information, call Maxine Loudermilk at City Hall at 304-696-5522, or you can buy tickets at the door Thursday evening.

Highly, highly recommended!

Monday, September 07, 2009

This Week - the Guns and Hoses Benefit Concert

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Here's another reminder to order your tickets for the upcoming Guns and Hoses Benefit!

All proceeds go to the Huntington Police Dept. (Guns), the Huntington Fire Dept. (Hoses) and the City of Huntington Foundation.

The show will take place Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009, at the Huntington City Hall Auditorium.

The cost is $100 per person for dinner and the show, or $40 each to just see the performance.

Dinner is served at 6:00 p.m. and the performance follows at 8:00 p.m. with the Fifth Avenue Theatre Company presenting a stage show of Broadway tunes by a cast of local All-Star performers. Debbie Wolfe and Clint McElroy are the co-hosts, and performers include: Mary Olson, Linda Reynolds, Jennifer Scott, Marina Jurica, Ryan Hardiman, Danny Ray, Paul Neace, Ron Short, Nancy Jackson and Zach Davis.

The event is being sponsored by Kindred Communications and the Herald-Dispatch.

Tickets are now on sale - for more information, call Maxine Loudermilk at City Hall at 304-696-5522.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Marshall Artists Series Tickets Go On Sale Tuesday!

Hey, this just in from my pal Angela at the Marshall Artist Series:
2009—2010 Season Tickets for all events go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 8 at noon!

Call our box office at 304-696-6656, call Ticketmaster at 304-523-5757 or order online.

Visit our website at www.marshallartistsseries.org to learn more about our shows.

And here's the lineup we have to look forward to:

- Comedy Central’s MIKE BIRBIGLIA

8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 at the Veterans Memorial Field House

Homecoming will be hilarious as MU’s Alumni Office, MU’s Student Activities Programming Board, and the Marshall Artists Series team up to bring Comedy Central’s Mike Birbiglia to the Veterans Memorial Field House just in time for homecoming, on Friday, October 2, 2009 at 8 p.m. Birbiglia achieved cult status with the release of his Comedy Central CD “Two Drink Mike,” and the accompanying “Medium Man on Campus” college tour. He just finished a successful run off Broadway with his show “Sleepwalk with Me.” Mike is a talk show regular, the star of two Comedy Central Presents specials and broadcasts to millions on the nationally-syndicated “Bob & Tom Radio Show.” Mike Birbiglia is also sponsored by CSX Transportation and AEP and Dr. Phil Zambos, WKEE, WAMX, The Herald Dispatch, WOWK, Marshal University, and the College of Fine Arts.

- Jean-Michel Cousteau’s The Great Ocean Adventure

7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 at the Keith—Albee Performing Arts Center

Chesapeake Energy invites you to take a deep sea adventure with the son of the legendary ocean explorer, Jacques Cousteau. Jean-Michel Cousteau, marine explorer, filmmaker, environmental advocate and educator brings– The Great Ocean Adventure –to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 7 p.m. In this multimedia “great ocean adventure,” Cousteau will share his stories, photographs and videos from over 40 years of studying the world under the sea. Patrons of all ages will experience delight and awe as he fills the theater with ocean life, inspiring our audience to protect this precious resource. The Great Ocean Adventure’s Educational Outreach sponsors include The Cabell County Commission, Dr. Stephen Nicholas, Trainer Wright & Paterno, Cabell County Commission, Delegate Kevin Craig, McVay Realty, WV Dept. of Education & the Arts — Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary, WKEE, WVHU, WTCR, WSAZ, Herald-Dispatch, Marshall University, and the College of Fine Arts.

- Avenue Q

8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 at the Keith—Albee Performing Arts Center

The Law Office of Doug Reynolds, American Babbitt Bearing, Pritchard Electric, and Chapman Printing Company present Broadway’s smash hit Avenue Q on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 8 p.m., at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Winner of Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book at the 2004 Tony Awards, Avenue Q is a hilarious show full of heart and hummable tunes about trying to make it in New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Called “one of the funniest shows you’re ever likely to see,” Avenue Q features a cast of people and puppets who tell the story in a smart, risqué and downright entertaining way. Sponsored by WKEE, WTCR, WOWK, The Herald Dispatch, Marshall University, and the College of Fine Arts. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

- The Rat Pack is Back! Here for the Holidays

8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, 2009 at the Keith—Albee Performing Arts Center

Ring-a ding-ding in the holiday season as The Rat Pack is Back! – Here for the Holidays comes to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center on Monday, November 30, 2009 at 8 p.m. The swingin’, free-wheelin’ and festive sounds of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop will certainly get you in the mood for the holiday season! The Rat Pack is Back – Here for the Holdays features uncanny vocal recreations, unbridled humor, and a hot, live orchestra featuring the original Rat Pack arrangements that will send the audience back to the coolest time in history. The Rat Pack is Back—Here for the Holidays is sponsored by Huntington Federal, Boggs Roofing, Verizon, Neighborgall Construction, Air Systems Inc., Kendall—York Dentistry, WKEE, WVHU, WSAZ, The Herald Dispatch, Marshall University, and the College of Fine Arts.

- CATS

7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8 & 9, 2010 at the Keith—Albee Performing Arts Center

Cabell Huntington Hospital proudly presents CATS in its first appearance at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center on Monday and Tuesday, February 8 & 9, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. Winner of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, CATS is the longest running show in Broadway’s history and features 20 of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s timeless melodies including the hit “Memory.” There’s no better way to introduce your family to the wonders of live theatre than with the magic, the mystery and the memory of CATS! CATS is also sponsored by Heiner’s Bakery, The Touma Foundation, University Physicians & Surgeons, WV Higher Education Policy Commission, WV Department of Education, WKEE, B-97 The Herald Dispatch, WSAZ, Marshall University, and the College of Fine Arts.

- Lucille Ball’s “Thank You For Asking”

8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010 at the Keith—Albee Performing Arts Center

Celebrate the first lady of television in An Evening with Lucille Ball: “Thank You for Asking” directed by Lucie Arnaz, Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 8 p.m. at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. This touching, funny and uplifting play is written and performed by actress and renowned impressionist, Suzanne LaRousch, in association with Lucie Arnaz and Laurence Luckinbill. The evening recreates the comic genius and the magic behind the “Queen of Comedy”. Lucy guides us through a lifetime of personal memories inspiring her timeless sketches on “I Love Lucy, her 30-year television career and never-before heard personal recollections about her tempestuous and complicated marriage to Cuban bandleader turned impresario, Desi Arnaz. An Evening with Lucille Ball: “Thank You for Asking” is sponsored by First Sentry Bank, Farrell Farrell & Farrell, Dr. Jeff & Mrs. Brooke Leaberry, WTCR,B-97, WSAZ, The Herald Dispatch, Marshall University, and the College of Fine Arts.

- Mozart’s Masterpiece DON GIOVANNI

8 p.m. Monday, March 15, 2010 at the Keith—Albee Performing Arts Center

St. Mary’s Medical Center and HIMG are proud to present Mozart’s Masterpiece Don Giovanni, with 30 piece orchestra, on Monday, March 15, 2010 at 8 p.m. Hailed by many as the greatest of all operas, Don Giovanni is based on the true-life escapades of Don Juan of Seville, an aristocratic lothario who lived during the 1600s. The full-scale production features beautiful sets and costumes and a cast of soloists who are excellent actors as well as first class singers. Don Giovanni is performed in original Italian with English supertitles. Don Giovanni is also sponsored by WKEE, WOWK, The Herald Dispatch, Marshall University, and the College of Fine Arts.

- Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance

7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22, 2010 at the Keith—Albee Performing Arts Center

Beford Auto is proud to present Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 7:30 pm bringing a mesmerizing blend of traditional and modern Celtic music and dance to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “a showpiece extravaganza,” the story is based upon mythical Irish folklore as Don Dorcha - Lord of Darkness, challenges the ethereal Lord of Light – The Lord of the Dance. Battle lines are drawn, passions ignite and a love story is fueled by the dramatic leaps and turns of dancers’ bodies against a backdrop of Celtic rhythm. Described by The New York Post as “fascinating and entertaining!” Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance is also sponsored by City National Bank, WV Lottery, Huntington Testing & Technology, River Cities Anesthesia, WKEE, WTCR, WOWK, The Herald Dispatch, Marshall University, and the College of Fine Arts.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Improv Comedy Returns to South Charleston

My pal Tony Slack sends along this info about a show this weekend:
The No Pants Players will end their summer schedule on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 8 p.m.

This will be the last chance to catch the NPP at the Labelle Theater until the Oct. 31 "Scaretacular." As always, the show will be family-friendly.

There will be NPP merchandise and concessions available, along with a raffle for a "Beatles-themed" prize package. Tickets are just $6, and can be purchased at the door. You can also reserve tix by calling 1-877-IMPROV9.

The Labelle Theater is located at 311 D Street in South Charleston. For more info visit the web-site at www.nopantsplayers.com.

Thanks so much, and hope to see everyone at the show!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I'm Listening...

I told you earlier this week about the listening tour that brought the West Virginia Division of Culture and History to the Huntington Museum of Art to talk with local arts organizations and artists.

I was lucky enough to sit in on Wednesday's meeting, along with about 50 people representing local community theatre groups, Marshall University, the Symphony Orchestra and other organizations.

The representatives from the state were there to hear the concerns and ideas of local groups - the need for funding, the need for advice and assistance, organizational skills and guidance on applying for grants were just a few of the topics discussed.

It was very educational, and everyone (on both sides of the table) were eager to offer suggestions and solutions.

Local arts groups face some big obstacles in the years ahead, including a lack of funding (especially during the recession) and a lack of manpower, but it's good to know that the members of the Division of Culture and History and the people who make up the local arts community are reaching out a helping hand.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Another Show for the Fall - "The Blob"

Here's another show I missed that's coming up this fall in Charleston (told you there would be several) - thanks to my pal Mel for the info:

Contemporary Youth Arts Company (CYAC):

Sept. 24 - Oct. 3 - The Blob

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Important Meeting Wednesday for Local Arts Groups and Artists

Hey, there's an important meeting Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the Huntington Museum of Art for local arts groups and artists (sorry for the short notice).

Here are the details from my pal Margaret Mary Layne:
The WV Division of Culture and History is touring the state to talk with arts organizations, artists and others to gather information to ncorporate into a new statewide arts plan covering 2011-2013. This plan will be submitted to the National Endowment for the Arts and will impact the funding the arts in WV receives from them.

The Huntington Museum of Art is hosting this meeting on Sept. 2, 2009, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. You're invited to be a part of this "Listening Tour." It's a great chance for the Huntington arts community to make its voice heard!

Another Show for the Fall - "I Ought to Be in Pictures"

Yet another show I missed! My pal Stephen sends along this press release:
Arts Resources for the Tri-State proudly presents Neil Simon's I Ought to Be in Pictures.

The show will be presented Oct. 2, 3, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 4 and 11 at 3 p.m.

ARTS is pleased to stage this comedic drama by one of America's most beloved playwrights, Neil Simon. He is the author of over 30 plays including Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple.

Libby Tucker is a 19-year-old girl from Brooklyn who has virtually raised herself and is ready to confront her father Herb who she hasn't seen since she was 3. She hitchhikes to California to face her father and to jumpstart her career in the movies. Thrown for a loop, Herb tries to balance his life between his now grown up daughter, his failing screen writing career, and a relationship with his girlfriend Steffy.

The New York Post has called I Ought to Be in Pictures, "Terrific... sweet, dandy and touching... a mature, memorable play that brings joy to the season" and WCBS-TV2 reviews stated it was "A finely tuned theatrical blend of hilarity, honesty, directly and deeply felt emotion. Go."

The cast for ARTS production is Alissa Fetherolf as Libby Tucker, Clint McElroy as Herb Tucker, and Leann Haines as Steffy Blondell. This show will be the directing debut for Stephen Vance. The producers for the show are Jeanette Bills and Amy Knell.

All performances will be held at The Renaissance Center (Old Huntington High School), 900 East 8th Street in Huntington, WV. Show tickets will be $15 per person. For Reservations Please Call (304) 733-2787. Tickets will also be available at the door. For more information, visit the ARTS website at www.733arts.org.