Monday, June 30, 2008

Spotlight on: Ken Parks...A Man who knows the biz!!!

What does it take to be able to serve as the Chair of the Theatre department at Randolph College, as well as Produce and teach classes at Randolph College in Directing and Design, create websites that promote Theatre and other Arts, build a shed for his backyard, and still have enough energy and time to act in two major plays for The Endstation Theatre Company's Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival???

Ask the creative and talented artist who does it ALL and much more.....
Mr. Ken Parks!!
Ken Parks started his career right out of college. He began at the Nashville's Academy Theatre and within a year was promoted to Resident Director and Technical Director. Not a bad first gig huh??... Its darn impressive! In order to earn his opportunity to teach college courses, Ken decided to go back and earn his MFA in Theatre Arts in 1990.
Ken Parks and Casey Carden in rehearsal for Bluest Water

Ken rehearsing Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet
In the past, Ken has explored different job opportunities such as traveling around the country as a portrait photographer, as well as a Summer as a tour guide through the Canadian Rockies and Alaska. Next, Ken utilized his math skills to land a job running an accounting office so that he could stay for a couple years in Jackson, Wyoming and the Grand Teton National Park. If you've been to the Rockies you might understand why. Further down the road, Ken tried his hand in film (video) production for a while, but his response to the film game was: "It just wasn't Theatre".

One of Ken's goal's is to run a professional Theatre one day. He adds: "But that's mostly so I could hire all the great people I've been able to work with over the years (and pay them what they're worth) and keep making Theatre happen."

I asked Ken, How has your experience with Endstation Theatre Comp. been thus far? He replied:
"Endstation kind of feels like family right now. I'm really very impressed with how the whole company has come together to pull this first summer season together. It's been great fun watching all the other characters grow in Bluest Water and being able to focus on what I'm doing on stage knowing that Geoff and everyone is looking out for us. The attention and time that's been put in on refining and tightening the script to really tell the story makes it a very exciting process in rehearsals."

Ken Parks and Michael Stablein rehearsing Act II/ Scene III of Romeo & Juliet

Ken It has been a pleasure and an honor sharing the stage with you! Keep up the Great Work!

Brian Scott Chaitin (Production Apprentice)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

TV, Radio, Paint, Gel, Sledge Hammering, and La Carreta

Brian, David, Krista, and Ingrid prepare for junk collection

This week is dedicated to our tireless production crew...before that though...a general announcement:

The festival will be making an appearance on "Living in the Heart of Virginia" tomorrow (Monday, June 30th at 12:30pm) on WSET. This will be for RandJ. On Monday, July 7th...The Bluest Water will be featured.

The festival will make another appearance on "Studio Virginia" on WVTF Public Radio on Thursday (July 3rd) at 7:30pm. You can also listen to it online after Thursday at:

Here they super heroes...

Brian and JD at work

David and Krista put walls into place

JD and Dan on the fly rail

Krista painting set elements


Mailing Krista to crazy town...

Krista and JD discuss placement of set elements

Some of the debris collected for the set

Last but not least...a production trip to THE CART

I would be no where with out this crew. Thank you all so much.

Geoffrey Kershner
Endstation Blogger and Artistic Director

The Bluest Water - Levels and Layers

Casey Carden and Koda Kerl - using the levels    

      This week, The Bluest Water space has begun to be transformed.  Lighting instruments appeared upstage; platforms, that before were resting on the stage floor, were raised, adding an entirely different visual in terms of levels. Performers began adjusting entrances and focus as they were now elevated above the playing space.  This is only the beginning of the set changes - the construction and painting of walls which will be mounted shortly, the addition of  "found" items collected from the local area, and the adjustment of furniture and final props as the process moves into week six.

Geoff adjusts the opening ensemble scene

     In addition to the forward motion of the set, rehearsals have settled into the run-through stage, and fine tuning begins:  tightening scenes physically to create the vivid visual pictures, working ensemble scenes vocally to form seamless connections in the storytelling,  making sure actors have their lines, bringing characters into sharper focus during rehearsals of individual scenes.

    Maria keeps her eyes on the script

     This week, also, many cast and crew watched "Portrait of a Disaster," a movie narrated by retired state trooper Ed Tinsley, which chronicled events in the days after Camille hit Nelson County.  Not only was viewing this instructive in giving details and pictures about the damage as well as rescue and recovery, it also served as a very important human reminder of the lives affected, transformed, by the storm.  For actors, this connection provides another layer - another way of approaching the characters and the story with integrity.

      In this next week, the playing space will be changed even more dramatically, lights and sound will begin to emerge, costumes will be fitted and adjusted --more, deeper levels of The Bluest Water.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Das Sound Progress

Things are gearing up down here in Florida in preparation for the jaunt to central Virginia. I've been gathering up sound effects from various sources and working with an awesome program (QLab) to be used for cueing the show.

Geoff and I have refocused on our collective goals with the design and I'm excited to be doing a lot of ambient recordings in the Blue Ridge mountains (seriously, I love my job sometimes). But right now I'm gathering all my equipment and double-checking I don't leave a recording interface in I did some many summers ago working on "Hello! No Future?"

Bryce Page
Endstation Blogger and Sound Designer

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Theatre by Torchlight (or, An End to Training Wheels)

Week 5 of Romeo and Juliet sees the company having reached a goal which recently seemed unattainable: the full run-through! It took a couple of tries; due to rainy weather (and the need to shift indoors, then out again) Sunday's start to the rehearsal week only reached the end of the first half of the show.

On Monday, rehearsal resumed with the top of the second half. The show ran to the end, then started again from the top. All in all, and even though it was out of order, approximately 3/4 of the play was performed.

Adjustments which bring the rehearsal to a halt are less and less necessary every night.

It was Tuesday that the goal was finally fully reached, and the sense of accomplishment was almost tangible. The show, from beginning to end, actually fit into one rehearsal! There were minimal places where stops (readjustments, corrections, etc.) were necessary, and performances and technical transitions get tighter every day. Even the ever-diligent ASM, Brian Chaitin, found himself providing lines to actors far less than had been done prior.

Assistant Stage Manager Brian Chaitin waits to rescue actors stranded without lines.

The week has also included regular fight calls and warm-up calls beforehand every night. All those in attendance that participate in any of the fight scenes must review their choreography frequently in order to keep everything as safe as possible. Physical and vocal warm-ups also take place at a set, scheduled time in order to help everyone prepare for the routine of performances.

The maskers' dance was taken outside for the first time this week and went surprisingly smoothly considering the very different surface (a mixture of grass, brush, and brick), but as with any component of the production repetition is key to refinement.

The Romeo and Juliet rehearsal week closed with two nights of "Spots". Before we enter the final phase of rehearsals, it's necessary to identify the areas which need the greatest attention, for various reasons. These included the dance, the opening brawl, and scenes between/among particular actors who may have had previous scheduling conflicts.

The spot rehearsals also included the first technical lessons for those handling the guns and the torches. Even though much of what goes on in a performance involves a degree of make-believe, and even though their use is minimal, real substances such as fire and powder still require great care to be taken so that everyone's safety is ensured.

The production's elegant torches add to the ambiance

In the coming week, we will begin to remove the proverbial safety net. We grow closer each night to performance conditions, and "line" can no longer be called! (If an actor gets in a jam, he or she must find a way out ... or those nearby must assist.) Scripts are still often reviewed by off-stage actors. The final week-and-a-half of preparation is upon us, and excitement is growing. There will be adjustments that still must be made and sections that still must be given particular attention. Nevertheless, everyone is ready to move onward!

Two actors review lines while not needed on-stage

Jared M Anderson
Endstation Blogger

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spotlight on the Light: Dan the Man Gallagher

I have known Dan for 21 years. I was in his wedding. The two of us grew up together here in Amherst County. How lucky am I that when I returned home to start a theatre company that one of my closest childhood friends would be an accomplished lighting designer and that his family would still live in the area. The opportunity to bring Dan home to work is a very special one.

Dan currently lives in New York with his wife Angie. Dan was the 2005 Gilbert Hemsley Lighting assistant at Lincoln Center, where he worked for New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, the Lincoln Center Festival, Julliard, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

He has taught lighting design at the University of Wisconsin – Madison where he received his MFA and designed shows for the University Opera and University Theatre including, The Secret Garden, The Memorandum, Dialogues of the Carmelites and The Physicists for which he won the 2003 Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival award for best lighting design.

He has also designed for CTM Madison Family Theatre, Madison Savoyards, Renaissance Theaterworks (WI), Mary Washington College (VA), Arizona State University, Manhattan Children's Theatre, Maieutic Theatre Works, the Forestburgh Playhouse (NY), and the New York, D.C. and Philadelphia Fringe Festivals.

He has also worked as an assistant designer at Madison Rep, Milwaukee Rep, and Skylight Opera. He became a company member of The Endstation Theatre Company last year and recently designed our original production of The Mind of Poe.

It was a very special opportunity to work with Dan on The Mind of Poe last year. Dan, and I mean this in all honesty, is the best lighting designer I have ever worked with. He is easy to communicate with, hard working, and extremely resourceful. It is such a blessing to have him as a member of this company.

Welcome home Dan!

Geoffrey Kershner
Endstation Blogger and Artistic Director

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Week 5: Thoughts from the Artistic Director

We are in the middle of Week 5 of the festival and things are moving along very well. We are now in run throughs for both shows and both my father and I are able to get a sense of our shows as a whole. We can begin to see the big picture. It is very exciting.

I am particularly excited to see the growth in the The Bluest Water. Every day we step closer and closer to being performance ready. There is still much work to be done, but with every day the actors grow more and more. We are also beginning to see production elements enter the space, which is very exciting.

I have also had the opportunity to work with and to see progress with Romeo and Juliet. Here is a portion of Natalie Caruncho (Juliet) in rehearsal, tackling one of Shakespeare's most famous speeches.

Here is some of the actual work I have had the opportunity to do with Romeo and Juliet. Here is David Zimmerman (Tybalt) and Jared Anderson (Mercutio) in one of my fights for the show.

We continue moving forward. Stay tuned...

Geoffrey Kershner
Endstation Blogger and Artistic Director

Monday, June 23, 2008

The many hats that I proudly wear

Since my arrival at Sweet Briar College, and participation in the Endstation Theatre Company's Summer Festival, I have had the privilege of working with an extremely talented and dedicated team of artists. Over the Summer, Geoffrey Kershner was generous enough to allow me to come up from South Florida and work with his Theater company. He presented me with the opportunity to explore numerous different jobs and tasks for this Summer's Festival. From being Assistant Stage Manager for Romeo & Juliet, to being a builder, electrician, and actor for Bluest Water, I have had the unique opportunity to explore my many different interests in the many fields of Theatre, as well as utilize and apply my Theatre education to practical and creative applications.

The rehearsal process has been exciting and educational. Every rehearsal has been fun to watch and participate in

The wonderful, creative, and talented behind-the-scene Heroes that make it all happen...Dan is probably somewhere overhead working his magic with the lights

Here is Bill Kershner (Director of Romeo & Juliet), leading and guiding his hard-working actors in a physical warm-up exercise that is sure to energize any performer

In this video, Michael Stablein is leading the cast of R&J in a much needed Vocal and breathing warm-up. This ensures that each actor has good breath support, and that their Vocal Chords are warmed-up, that on the RARE occasion that an actor shouts out "LINE!" to me, they are sure not to injure their voice. ;~)

From my very first day here, everyone that I have met has gone out of their way to make me feel very comfortable and right at home. I truly could not have wished for a better hands-on learning experience or a better group of people to work and collaborate with. My greatest and most sincere Thank You goes out to everyone for their hospitality and for their passionate attitudes towards the work that we all love so much!!!! It has truly been my great honor and pleasure to have met so many new and wonderful people.....Break a Leg!

Brian Chaitin
Endstation Blogger

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Diversion...

We have been talking so much about theatre in our "Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival Blog" that I thought it was time for some talk about summer. One incredible advantage of doing theatre in the summer in Central Virginia is that we are in Central Virginia in the summer. It is so beautiful. Last night we took a camping trip. This was a little break from rehearsing, building, and hanging lights.

Here is Lighting Designer Dan Gallagher sporting his "Virginia is for Lover's" t-shirt. This spot on the Piney River is one that Dan and I would often visit when growing up in the area.

This was Natalie, Michael, and my girlfriend Ashley's first camping trip. They had a wonderful time. Below is the incredible and multi-talented Brian Chaitin waxin' philosophical with TD-JD.

Actor Paul Stober...kickin' it...

My foray into fine cuisine...


David and among men....

My final offering...a short film I would like to call...Michael on a log with Penny and Mo...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Costumes: A Tale of Two Time Periods (or Three)

It can be the best of times, and the worst of times when one is costuming a show, or two shows, whose time periods range from Edwardian (1880-1910 roughly) to 1969 and 2008. Romeo and Juliet director Bill Kershner decided to set this production around the turn of the twentieth century; picture long, white, summer dresses and men in suits with closed collars and fitted jackets. Sounds cool and delightful, yes? Well, the actors will experience the added challenge of appearing cool and comfortable as they perform outside in Virginia summer weather which, at best, can be breezy and refreshing, and at worst, incredibly still and intensely humid.

Tanya Crandall Anderson as Lady Montague (Romeo & Juliet)

The Bluest Water, directed by Geoff Kershner, moves between two years: 1969, in the aftermath of Hurricane Camille; and 2008, when Jared and Liz Boyle begin to connect past and present. The search for authentic-looking clothing is critical, since many audience members will recall their own clothing or that worn by family members during the time. The unexpected helps come from people such as Rosie Lawson, a local owner of a military surplus store just off of Richmond Highway (rt. 460), who not only gets excited about looking up details of military dress and insignia, but who also offers to loan suits, boots, pins, and dog tags for the production.

Thomas Bell portrays Chip Owens (The Bluest Water)

Without a Broadway budget or a staff of stitchers, finding period costumes for twenty-three performers can be tricky, but when the search leads to an unexpected new resource, the payoff is worthwhile. Organizing, fitting and accessorizing are the final, critical elements of making sure the costumes work, not only in style and color, but in functionality, especially in the dances and fight scenes.

Coordinating the director’s vision along with collaborating with set and lighting designers on texture and color is an exciting process, and, with some creative use of resources – costume rental houses, three local colleges, one local high school, a community theatre, as well as thrift shops and actors’ closets - the costumes somehow come together, and the characters emerge in full form. This is the best of times…

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thoughts from the Production Big Top

We knew that entering into the process of the festival, that there were going to be all sorts of adventures discovered. We knew that there would be things that we would learn, mistakes that we would make, victories that we could claim, but overall an exciting and rewarding process. There are many aspects that are a part of getting a show off the ground. The production side of the festival has been an interesting one. A balancing act if you will, as the production manager there are a lot of balls that need to be kept in the air and juggled. Should one fall, it would only lead to the rest not far behind.

One of the interesting challenges has been trying to make sure that all members of the production team from directors to designers are being kept informed of updates and changes that may occur during the rehearsal process. One of the ways that we communicate to each other is by having weekly production meetings, where we can debrief and discuss different aspects of each show. The production meetings are times where the designers and directors can ask each other questions and communicate their vision with one another.

A recent design/production meeting (that is JD's arm)

The designers are beginning to arrive and work on the shows in person, yet in the early stages of the planning processes alot of communication needed to occur via e-mail, or phone. It is not uncommon for us to bring in one of the designers via phone for the weekly production meeting. At one of our meetings two weeks ago we had the Resident scenic designer, sound designer, and lighting designer all on speakerphone on various cell and land line phones. At one point they all needed to speak to each other and we pushed all the phones together so they could hear one another - it was quite a site!!! It is nice however when the designers are here in person and we can ask them all the questions we have and be able to discuss it as well.

Dan (Lighting Designer) and JD (Technical Director) discuss the ground plan for BW

There are many other elements that go into the production side of the shows, making sure both directors have what they need, making sure actors have rehearsal props, keeping up with the latest script, taking rehearsal notes and communicating changes back to designers, making sure that all the different pieces of the production puzzle fit together and that things are running smoothly, etc....etc......

There are many things that we have already learned and we are constantly making notes on how we can improve future festivals based on the things we are learning this summer. As we get ready to head into the run-thrus for the shows and then eventually into to tech week the production management kicks into high gear and does not slow down until the curtain closes on the last performance closing night. Even after that there is much to be done post - show.

We look forward to all of the performances and are excited to share these stories with the patrons. As crazy as this process can be sometimes, it is reassuring and encouraging to remember why we do what we do, when we see the reactions of a fresh audience seeing a story unfold before them for the very first time. When the curtain is raised and the lights come up, it's showtime and you can bet we will be ready!!

Maria Hayden
Endstation Blogger and Production Manager