Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"If your not having fun teaching, they aren't having fun learning!"

(thank you Angie Sweigart-Gallagher for all the great pictures used in this post)


When I tell people that I want to pursue a career in theatre education, most of them don’t fully understand why that would be appealing unless they too are lovers of the arts. To me, theatre education isn’t just about putting fancy costumes on a child and teaching them how to do a cute routine on stage for their parents to video tape. Instead, it’s about being able to harvest children’s imagination and creativity in order for them to realize the amazing things each of them are capable of. As I spent my last four years of college completing a double major in theatre and elementary education, I began to realize how much my experience in theatre positively impacted my teaching ability. Instead of fearing the inventiveness a child’s mind, I was able to use it to my advantage and create lessons that allowed my students to have fun as well as learn. For example, instead of teaching third graders how to add and subtract money with worksheets and fake money (which can be boring to both teacher and students), I used theatrical elements to bring those students into the world of a restaurant and have them truly put their skills to the test. How exactly do I go about doing that? Well let's just say I’m not afraid to throw on a silly costume and frantically enter the class begging for help with my restaurant now that all of my penguin waiters have decided to go on a swim break.


(one of my silliest costumes in Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island)

In that moment, I’m instantly able to see a shift of atmosphere in my class, and not only are the students excited to be there, but it serves as a constant reminder for myself of how much I love my job. It’s truly amazing how something as simple as teaching in role can encourage students to learn and participate far more than they would have in a regular classroom setting.
That is one of the many reasons why I believe children should have the opportunity to be involved in some sort of arts program. Even if they don’t want to be on stage for the rest of their lives, being involved with theatre as a child, teaches them more then just how to perform. It teaches them self confidence, community building, problem solving, creative thinking, how to embrace curiosity and discovery, meet new friends, and most importantly, to have fun. With every theatre camp I have taught, I have never experience a child or parent who was not grateful to have been a part of the program. While being involved with these programs, I learned that it was through first hand experience that the parent and child were truly able to understand the importance of the arts. Therefore, I don't think that what I write in this blog should be the only reason that you should agree with me about why theatre education is so important. Instead, I invite you to be a part of this experience with a child. Even if you’re not a parent, take a niece, nephew, brother, sister, or even just a friend whose parents may not have the opportunity to take them, to go see Endstation Theatre’s production of Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island by Joshua Mikel. When you take them to this performance, don’t just sit back and watch the show (although we do want you to enjoy yourself!) but pay close attention to your young person.

Watch them react to what they are experiencing, see them engaged in the world of the play, participate because they want to, get excited when the character Rosa accomplishes a difficult task, laugh as the silly antics of Chomps and Hal, or show respect in the presence of the Idol. Just by watching how much fun your child can have within that hour of this play could be more reason then I could ever give you as to how influential theatre can be for young people.
Although my time with Endstation must come to a close after the final performance of Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island this weekend, any opportunity I get to work with young people is one that I shall treasure. Not only will I remember it for the fun I have had with all the company members and supporters, but it was during this experience that I got offered my next big adventure in Colorado where I will begin work as a Teaching Artist at Rocky Mountain Theatre for Kids starting June 9th!
I hope you are all able to see this wonderful production as well as all the others at Endstation this summer and most importantly, have fun doing it :)

-Melissa Porcaro 
(Actor and Teaching Artist)

Monday, May 30, 2011

SPOTLIGHT: Mays- Tucker Insurance

There are a lot of wonderful things that could be said about the local Central Virginia community and specifically the folks that have supported Endstation over the years. The company is continuing to grow and with that growth comes the need for additional funds each year. We are and continue to be incredibly grateful for everyone who has donated time, money, supplies, and otherwise to us. This summer is no different and we are fortunate enough to welcome several companies as sponsors for our various productions.


Mays- Tucker Insurance company is located less than a mile from the Sweet Briar Campus and is this year's corporate sponsor for our production of Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island. As you may have seen from previous posts, the production toured several local schools last week and will be opening to the public this coming Wednesday June 1st. We are looking forward to greeting everyone who will be joining us for each performance June 1-5 (get tickets here).


Mays- Tucker Insurance, originally Tucker Insurance, was founded back in 1967 by Thomas Tucker. Several years later, Will Mays entered the scene and joined the business in 1994 establishing the full time company in Amherst, VA as well as Lovingston, VA. In 1997, after purchasing Will Mays renamed the company Mays-Tucker Insurance. In addition to the renaming, Mr. Mays added several national insurance companies as well as adding additional personnel to assist policy holders. The insurance company focuses on several different types of coverage including, automobile, homeowners, personal umbrellas, boats, motorcycles, and other personal coverage. Mays-Tucker Insurance works with business owners and individuals to find the right plan and coverage that works for them.


One can see by all the client testimonials that Will Mays and his team and committed to making the insurance experience an enjoyable one, here is just some of what folks have to say:

"Would not go anywhere else for insurance needs. Will, you are the man!"

"Thanks, Will, for the great service during my recent home purchase. You went above and beyond the expected, and made sure that everything went smoothly for the closing office and for me."

"Will Mays has been our insurance agent for many years. He is a great agent as well as a terrific person. He looks out for our best interests and is always quick to respond to our questions and needs. We value his knowledge and count on him to keep us up to date on our coverages."

"Dear Will,
Thank your for all your help with our insurance. Your patience and understanding is amazing.
"

So if you are looking for a solid company that will meet your insurance needs, Mays- Tucker Insurance may be the right business for you. Check them out when you have a chance, or drop them a note and tell them them a big thank-you for helping make our production possible this year.

Of course, don't delay in getting your tickets for this week/weekend's production run of Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island. They are going fast and you won't want to miss getting a seat. We will see you there!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Theatre and Wine go WAY back


So, the origins of theatre are linked very closely to the cultivation of grapes and the making of wine. The earliest forms of theatre, as we know it today, were performed in ancient Greece. The Greeks held a festival, Dionysia, that honored Dionysus the god of the grape harvest and wine. At this festival the Greeks performed both tragedies and comedies. We can only imagine that the Greeks watched this early form of theatre (outdoors by the way) with wine in hand.



At Endstation we love our wine. I personally love wine. For my honeymoon, my wife Ashley and I spent a week in Napa Valley. One of the great things about producing summer theatre in Central Virginia is that we are surrounded by a burgeoning wine industry. In our home county of Amherst there are four vineyards (Rebec, Lazy Days, Chateau Z, and Ankida Ridge) and there is an explosion of vineyards in our neighboring county of Nelson. Here is a link to virginiawine.org which has a complete listing. It is pretty impressive how many vineyards are in driving distance of Sweet Briar College.
So, every year Endstation takes trips into the beautiful hills of Central Virginia to taste the wines that Virginia has to offer. These trips happen on off days and are a great way to enjoy the beautiful country side and also we get to know some incredible people in our community who are making wine. Plus... we get to drink wine. That's nice too.


Rebec Vineyards in Amherst



Actor Walter Kmiec enjoys some Virginia wine


Endstation members at a tasting in Nelson County


Rebec Vineyards wine maker Svet at a performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream

The other great thing about having so many vineyards nearby is that we are starting to host a vineyard at everyone one of our outdoor performances of Twelfth Night. This is really exciting because we really are harkening back to the origins of western theatre. We are celebrating the festival of Dionysia. We are adding more vineyards this week and just learned that Democracy Vineyards will be joining us for our Assassins opening. For info on our wine tastings visit:

http://endstationtheatre.org/foodandwine.html


Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director

Saturday, May 28, 2011

ENDSTATION INTERNS SHINE

Endstation Company members have taken over the Babcock Theatre. Conference rooms, lobbies, green rooms, hallways and dressing rooms have become impromptu office space to hold various departments charged with making the Blue Ridge Theatre Festival a success. I decided to set up shop in the audience of the theatre, not just because the air conditioning is strongest there (though truth be told it’s the best) but because I get to watch the set for ASSASSINS get built.

The creation of theatre is a collaborative process that requires hundreds of people working tirelessly to create a production. As a director, I draw great pride in watching our interns bringing to life ideas, that moments ago were mere sketches and drawings, by our creative team.

Actors, directors, and designers often reap much of the praise from audiences, but I wish everyone could have my vantage point sitting in the theatre watching our interns in action. At this moment Ben, Rebekah, and Molly are building our show deck onstage, John and Skylar are hanging lights over my head, Paige is altering a very detailed dress in the basement, Katie Jo, Alicia, Cortney and Megan are executing postcard drops to local businesses, Spencer is learning his music upstairs, and stage management interns Kara and Kelly are preparing studios for tonights rehearsals.

I was speaking with a gentleman recently who marveled at the thousands of hours of work that go into producing shows for a limited run. I explained that like a good road trip, the journey of creating theatre is more rewarding than the destination. To collaborate with a company of talented artisans is a unique gift, and the performances are the icing on the cake (hint to Jeff Price).

The muscle of Endstation Theatre Company is our talented interns, who help us realize our ideas and challenge us to do better. When you enjoy one of the four shows playing in the Blue Ridge Theatre Festival this summer, take a moment and think of the dedicated group of interns who made the performance possible. And remember their names, because they are tomorrow’s leaders of the American theatre.

Chad Larabee

Director, ASSASSINS



Friday, May 27, 2011

Endstation Theatre Company's Educational Outreach Program

Endstation Theatre Company is at it again...turning young children into future artists and art lovers through our Educational Outreach Program!
This year we've prepared a tourable version of Joshua Mikel's Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island aimed at K-5th grade, and workshops on Improvisation, Building a Character through Movement, Shakespeare's Clowns for middle and high school students.
Our actors have had an enormous amount of fun performing for young audiences. Young audiences are different than adult audiences...not better, not worse, just different. Here is a look at just how different they are.
video

Suffice to say, our performers learned a lot after the first school performance, and they made adjustments to help better manage the audience's excitement during the show's points of participation.
Our workshops for middle school and high school students were also a big hit. Here are some photos from our session today at New Vistas School in Lynchburg. We are looking forward to heading to Amherst High School on Tuesday!













































































If you want to have Endstation Theatre Company visit your school next year, contact me! We have programs for all age groups and that cover all areas of theatrical interest.

--Posted by Angie Sweigart-Gallagher,
Endstation Education Director, education@endstationtheatre.org

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Assassins" and Excitement

The last month has been unlike anything I've ever experienced before. Not only had I never been to Virginia, but I had never really been to the eastern US. In the last few weeks I've been to eight new states, Washington DC, walked in the Atlantic ocean, and seen the Blue Ridge Mountains for the first time. I'm learning how to survive the pollen and humidity here. All of these new experiences culminated with my arrival at Sweet Briar College last week. Since then, I've met some really amazing people. I can't help but appreciate the environment of family that this place breeds.

No doubt Endstation has a great group of actors this summer. The talent I've seen in the short time I've been here has been impressive. But what I find fascinating are the personalities I see behind the characters they portray. As a stage manager, I get moments between note-taking and email-writing to sit in the background and observe those around me. It is a very unique perspective. The discussions that happen during rehearsal are always fascinating to me. Assassins is especially interesting. These historical figures had big personalities of their own and I get to watch them come to life every day.

Rehearsals for Assassins have only just begun. We had our first read thru of the script on Tuesday. It was great to hear the characters start to come to life. Last night we began blocking the show. Everyone has been such a pleasure to work with. This is certainly going to be a powerful show.

I enjoy the job I came to do, don't get me wrong, but my favorite times so far have been spending time with my fellow company members. Movie nights in Carson, karaoke nights in town, and conversations during breaks at work have been great. I've only been here for a week and a half, but I almost feel like I've been here for months. My fellow interns are wonderful. As soon as someone new moves in we swoop in (hopefully not too enthusiastically) and have them join the fun. After Sunday night's Broadway in the Blue Ridge, a group of us got caught in a rainstorm and had to walk to shelter on a road that might as well have been a river. Last night we celebrated John's (Lighting/Sound Intern) birthday at Pizza, Wings, and Things. Most of the company who lives on Sweet Briar's campus, as well as some people who live nearby, came by for food, karaoke, and dancing. What a way to bond! I look forward to continuing to build these relationships as the summer goes on. I'm proud to be a part of the great work going on here!

Kara Gowler
Stage Management Intern


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lightning!! Crashhhh!!!

Greetings!

This week has been a busy one.... as of yesterday we are a full house, since everyone has arrived on site here at Sweet Briar College and things are steamrolling along. As you saw in the report yesterday we had a successful turnout this past weekend for our Broadway in the Blue Ridge Benefit Concert, and everyone had a wonderful time. Assassins and Twelfth Night have begun rehearsals and Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island began it's local elementary/middle school run.  There is an excitement in the air, and everyone is focusing on the tasks ahead as we continue to prepare.


The Good Good cast met early on Monday to go over some items and then headed out for our first performance at an elementary school. We were pretty excited as this would be the first time we were performing in front of an audience, and the fact that the majority of the audience were kids was even better! We loaded up the cars with our props, costumes, gear and headed off.


One of the interesting/exciting challenges for us as a cast is having to adapt to each new location we perform in. Since we have been rehearsing for the past several weeks in the same spot we are used to a specific format, so we definitely are on our toes as we enter each new school. Angie (Endstation Education Director), and Geoff (Artistic Director) have done an excellent job in preparing us ahead of time on what to expect.

We arrived at the first school on Monday and took an assessment of our surroundings, then set to work unloading and setting up for the audience of children and teachers that would soon join us. We discussed a couple of adjustments that we would need to make, and before we knew it Kelly (our fabulous stage manager) was calling "places" to all of the cast. The curtain was closed and the cast waited with anticipation backstage as we could hear everyone entering. We smiled at each other as we heard these tiny, excited voices settling in, and then cracked up as we heard the instruction of "all tooshies must be on the ground" communicated to the classes entering. A hush soon fell as Angie addressed the masses, welcomed everyone, and let them know how excited we were to be there. She then slipped backstage gave us the cue and we were off!


From the moment the first actors headed out to perform, the audience was very responsive, they were incredibly excited that we were there. Did you know that when you tell little ones to make as much noise as possible.......they really will do it? It was so much fun to interact with them and feed off of their energy throughout the entire performance that day. I think it is safe to say we were pretty exhausted by the time we were done, but glad that the crowd enjoyed themselves.


We learned a lot that day and were able to make even more adjustments for the performances to come. We performed at a local middle school the next day, and had just as much fun as the day before. Today was a day off from performances and we will head back out on the road tomorrow morning and Friday for additional school performances. We will soon be heading into our "tech" which is where we will put all the final elements together as we prepare to welcome audiences that will join us for the performance run right here at Sweet Briar (June 1-5, get tickets here). I do hope that we will see you there...believe me you won't want to miss this.....

Till next time~
Cheers!
MAH
Company Manager

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Night With A Star

Well, if you were unable to make it out to our Broadway in the Blue Ridge benefit concert, I am truly sorry for you. Boy did you miss out! It couldn't have worked out better and what a show! We had an amazing audience, fantastic talent and an incredible evening.

*photo credit to Sergio Soltero for all the photos in this post. Thanks bud!*


Crowd Shivers With Anticipation!


This idea came about all because of Facebook and Phantom of the Opera. The Artistic Director, Geoff Kershner and a Board Member for Endstation, Jeff Price (He prefers to be called Sexy Jeff), both realized they had a common friend in a young man who just happened to be on Broadway playing Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. The idea hit right around the time Lynchburg went crazy with productions of Phantom at Liberty University and E.C. Glass. They got a wacky idea to call Sean MacLaughlin and boom, we have ourselves a wonderful evening of beautifully sung showtunes and broadway hits.


The Man of the Hour

Sean graced us with a familiar tune, "All I Ask of You" from Phantom of the Opera (even on his night off he's still working) as well as several other hits from various works. I'm sure it was a treat for him to sing a few different pieces since he's been singing and performing Phantom of the Opera for close to 4 years now. Along with Sean, we had a ton of local talent cover songs from Anything Goes, West Side Story, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, an original musical Camila and even a sneak peak into our upcoming production of Assassins!


"Ballad of Czolgosz" from Assassins

No, Geoff Kershner did not sing us a song.
(But I hear he does a mean Beastie Boys salute during Karaoke)

Everyone was so giddy and excited to perform with him and we were honored to share the stage with a "Broadway Star". Sean and his dear wife were incredible to everyone and an absolute joy to work with throughout the ordeal. We can't thank him enough. We'd also like to thank all the local performers that truly showed the depth and talent this area has to offer. The fundraiser really helped us start the year off with a bang as we prepare for 4 more shows this season! Trust me, you're going to want a subscription to the season and the good news is, there are plenty left! If you'd rather get single tickets, we have plenty of those as well. You just don't want to miss this season!

Sean and company singing "Waiting For The Light To Shine" in the finale!


Aaron "Patches" Farr
(Actor)


Monday, May 23, 2011

Camping!


So, we work pretty hard at Endstation, but we also like to have fun. One of the wonderful things about Virginia is all the incredible natural beauty. For those from the area and for those from else where, it is a joy to embrace the great outdoors in Central Virginia.

This past Friday we went camping out in the George Washington National Forest on the Piney River. A beautiful campsite right on the river. It was a perfect night for camping. The weather was just right.

Our lighting designer, Dan, did some lighting work...


Walter, one of our actors, did some character work...


Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Choosing the 2011 Season

So. Here we are. Welcome to the 2011 BRSTF season. This week we begin rehearsals, staff begin to arrive on the Sweet Briar campus, and spring begins to turn to summer.

I thought for this post I would discuss the process I went through selecting this year's season. The process of selecting a season has a lot of factors. Mission, artistry, logistics, budget, human resources, and audience wants (and their needs).

This year's season includes a play for young audiences that was written and developed through our playwright's initiative, a play about environmental issues facing the Appalachian Mountains, a musical that tackles history and the dark side of human behavior, and a Shakespearian comedy that will keep with our tradition of outdoor performance. All of these shows are like ingredients in a stew. Each balancing each other and working to create an over all rewarding experience for our audience and artists.

Our playwright's initiative is heading into its third year. This initiative was founded by company members Josh Mikel and Michael Stablein and its goal is to foster the development of young playwrights and to promote the creation of new theatrical work. Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island was written by Josh during the initiative in 2009. Josh's work for children is really incredible. It has a unique voice and is fun for both children and adults. In 2010, Michael Stablein produced the piece in the New York International Fringe Festival. I felt that we could continue the development of the piece by producing it again in this year's festival. I am trying some new things with the piece this season by exploring its interactive nature and working to promote the piece's self awareness. I know audiences, both young and old, will have a lot of fun at the performances for this show.

Next up is a really special work that a group of us traveled to Charlottesville to see at the end of last year's festival. Our lighting designer Dan Gallagher cares deeply about the issues of mountain top coal removal and it is an issue that is greatly effecting communities very near our own in the Appalachian Mountains. Actor Adelind Horan has created a wonderful theatrical work, Cry of the Mountain, in which she portrays a myriad of individuals she personally interviewed who are effected by this issue. We are excited to play host to Adelind and the Whole Theatre Company with this production that will hit very close to home, both emotionally and literally.

A preview video for a recent performance of Cry of the Mountain in NYC

Next up is our very first musical. This was the toughest slot to decide on. We knew we wanted to work with some of the guys from the local Lynchburg theatre company Wolfbane and we knew we wanted to bring in director Chad Larabee. We already had the rest of the season selected. We knew we had a new work for children, a new work about our region, and a Shakespearean comedy. This year marks Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday and he is with out a doubt, our greatest living musical theatre artist. Assassins is a very exciting work that I have always been attracted to. Its subject matter and conventions are profound. This will be a challenging work for our audience, but an enjoyable one. It does not set out to simply entertain but to ask questions about society and human nature. This piece became particularly profound with the recent attack on Gabrielle Giffords. I think we all struggle to understand how something so horrific could happen and yet it did.


Opening number from the 2004 revival of Assassins

Our last show of the season is something that has become a staple of our summers at Sweet Briar, the site specific Shakespeare. This year I believe we have the most beautiful location yet. We are located by the old Sweet Briar train station and the view is stunning. Every night the audience will watch a sunset behind the mountains.


video
The Twelfth Night Location

This year's play is Twelfth Night. This is one of my favorite of Shakespeare's plays. It is hilarious but it is also filled with some incredibly poignant moments. It is crammed with "quotable" Shakespeare lines. The characters are also so rich and complex and we have a great cast. I can't wait to begin rehearsals tomorrow night.

Please join us for all the shows this summer. I know you will have an incredible time.

Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director

Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011 Lighting!

We're back for another summer... this time with a new addition. For those of you haven't met Parker, you will! It is great to see old friends and welcome new ones. We have a big season on tap. After Sunday's concert, my first big project as lighting designer is Assassins. I am planning on using a lot of sculptural side light and back lighting through Krista's roller coaster inspired set. The lighting will use a palette of red white and blue to tie into the themes of the show. We will use a lot of bare bulbs for some scenes to give the sense of a fair or carnival. I have posted some research photos below:





My second second lighting project for the summer will be for Twelfth Night. We will be doing more minimal lighting than we did for last year's production of Hamlet. There will be a bit more natural light later due to the location. My goal is to create some basic illumination and focus as it gets a bit darker. Part of the reason for this is because we have a lot less power available to us at this location. Besides how can I compete with this...