Thursday, June 30, 2011

Looking Back

   Looking back through my process shots of the Assassins set I found a few pictures of the set when it was nothing but a deck and some framing. It’s hard to believe how far the set has come since then. Through the talents of my two partners in crime Molly and Rebekah and our fearless leaders Terry and Krista, the stage has transformed from an empty box to a dramatic fairground where assassins might be heroes
   A theatrical production only exists in its entirety for a couple hours during a performance, though. When all of the actors take to the stage and the orchestra plays the music and the instruments light the set, a production becomes something more than the sum of its parts. The set that starts as a few pieces of a lumber in a black box takes on life. 
   So on opening night a familiar rush returned to me when the show’s first chords wafted up to my position on the flyrail. By the end of the show I could feel the adrenaline in me as the audience applauded and I knew I had been a part of something special. I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunity to work with such talented people and create such great theatre.

-- Benjamin Burke, Scenic Intern

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some Local Thoughts.....

One of the unique and really great aspects of Endstation is that each summer we have a blend of talent from across the country and from the local area. We appreciate the support of the local community for so many different reasons and could not do what we do without the support. From the very beginning local community individuals have been involved with Endstation productions.

(Tell Tale and the Mind of Poe Cast/Crew 2007)

I'm a "local person" and it is a great perspective being the staff member on site year round and welcoming everyone back when they come at various times during the off season for planning and fund-raising events and of course back for the summer.

This year we have several local actors that are part of our productions of Assassins (Kathy Clay, Karl Lindevaldsen, Jared Anderson, Jeffrey Price, Shelbie Filson, Josh DeVries, Liz Butler, Scott Rankins, Albert Carter, Dustin Williams, Aaron Farr, and Joe Gilbar) and Twelfth Night (Rachel Blomquist, Melora Kordos, and Alex Miller). Some have participated in past festivals and others are joining us for the first time. The majority of them have day jobs and other responsibilities that they juggle and maintain while participating in the festival, and I was curious about their perspective on Endstation, so I asked them. Here is some of what they had to say:

(Melora Kordos and Rachel Blomquist rehearsing for Twelfth Night)

Have you had a positive experience with Endstation this summer?

Working with Endstation Theatre has been one of the most rewarding experiences. I have been overwhelmed with the professionalism of the production team. This production team enabled me to rise to new challenges and succeed in performing to a height I never thought possible (Scott Rankins)

To say this was a positive experience would be the understatement of the ages. Before I ever knew I had a "need" as an actor, answers and solutions were always met. That's what I'd call expert trouble-shooting....(no pun intended~~) (Kathy Clay)

I always have such a great experience with Endstation, that's why this is my third summer with the company, and hopefully there will be many more! (Melora Kordos) 

I've most certainly had a positive experience this summer. Having attended the festival since 2008, I've always wanted to work with the company. When I heard that "Assassins" was going to be part of the season, I knew I had to audition. (Liz Butler) 

(Kathy Clay and Liz Butler during a scene from Assassins)
Photo credit: Bryce Page

What is one of your favorite parts/memories of your production or endstation as a whole?

It's hard to pick out one particular memory. I'd have to say that the rehearsal process at the very point all of the cast is off book is the best part of the process. It's fun when the cast begins to experiement with language and the text. We bring the characters to life and just enjoy playing. (Rachel Blomquist) 

I think my favorite memories so far this year have been getting together with some of the cast outside of rehearsals and just playing some music. We'd teach other new songs and swap instraments back and forth. So much fun. Getting to listen to an jam with the guys like George and Spencer really is a privilege. (Alex Miller) 

I have always loved the rehearsal process; there is always room for discovery and growth, and (hopefully) always inspiration from the cast and crew of the show. What was remarkable about Endstation was the feeling of community among everyone outside of the rehearsal/performance process as well. Karaoke nights, barn parties, campouts, dinners, cookouts, jaunts into the big bad metropolis of Lynchburg, it all added to a memorable summer experience, even for us "older townies" (Kathy Clay)

(Alex Miller (left) rehearsing a scene from Twelfth Night with George Carruth and Sergio Soltero)

If this is your first time, what has your overall impression of endstation and the festival been? If you are returning how has this year been different than others?

I have enjoyed watching productions the last 2 seasons, and I am thrilled to be part of the company this year. I recognized from the start the excellence that this company has. It was great working with Chad and the wonderful direction he brought to Assassins. (Karl Lindevaldsen) 

Assassins was my debut with Endstation, only because I never had time the last few summers, but I hope to be involved for future performances. The level of professionalism brought to Central Virginia is amazing to me. I have been involved in Lynchburg area community theatre for 12 years and I have incredible respect for the level of production and acting Endstation brings to us. (Scott Rankins) 

Endstation has progressed so much through it's productions. I'm pleased to say that I have seen or been in many of the productions each year since Endstation started the Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival. Each year they keep getting better and better. The cast of Twelfth Night feels much more like a community than other larger productions in the past. By condensing the cast, a sense of family is created, I love that! (Rachel Blomquist) 

 (Dustin Williams in Assassins) 

Have you enjoyed getting to work with other artists/interns from across the country?

Immensely! We only grow and enrich ourselves with diversity. Learning from others is absolutely key to anyone's growth. We cannot expand our horizons thinking, living and (in this case performing) in a box. The production team was from all over the country and a few of the actors in Assassins. Observing and listening to all these folks around me has enriched my acting and brought my singing to a level I never thought I would even have been able to achieve. (Scott Rankins) 

Yes I have, I'm amazed by how much talent I'm surrounded by at each and every rehearsal. It inspires and challenges me to become a better actor, to really master the art. (Rachel Blomquist) 

I don't thank God enough for putting me with Endstation. Most of my friends this summer are hundreds of miles away from their families working for next to nothing doing summer stock or an internship of some kind before heading back to school in the fall. Meanwhile I get to stay in my hometown, keep a good-paying job, plus work with a group of professional actors, directors, designers from all over the world. Seriously they are amazing. It's like joining the Dharma Initiative, but without all the time travel (Alex Miller)  

(Twelfth Night rehearsal)

Has it been difficult to maintain your regular schedule and your rehearsal schedule?

I'm not gonna lie, some weeks are more difficult than others, but it is always worth it (Melora Kordos)

No, Endstation has been so flexible with my personal schedule that I have not been stressed going about my day to day activities and plans. (Rachel Blomquist)

Of course! It is always a balancing act for me. I own a business, have a wife and feel I neglect all of them somewhat when I am involved in theatre. But I have a wife who is very understanding and who also loves the arts. I am busy at work, but I would rather be busy than sitting around and watching everyone else have fun! (Scott Rankins) 

(Assassins cast rehearsing with director Chad Larabee) 

Do you think you will audition for future productions? If not on stage would come as a patron/audience member to future productions?

Yes, I would love to be part of Endstation again. I will be an audience member if I am not able to be a member of a cast. I am excited that Endstation will continue to grow and I hope it will become a theatre festival that many people will want to come to. (Karl Lindevaldsen) 

Definitely, I'm sold! (Scott Rankins)  

Absolutly, as long as I'm in Lynchburg I will continue to audition or be an audience member of the Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival. It's such an enriching experience and it sparks a great amount of excitement into my summer. (Rachel Blomquist) 

YES! and YES!!! It seems Endstation is gathering more momentum every summer, which is so wonderful to witness. (Kathy Clay)  

So there you have it, they seem to love us just as much as we love them! Like I said we could not do what we do without the local community, and we appreciate everyone probably much more than they will every realize. Thank you to all the local actors/volunteers/audience members who continue to support us in different ways.

If you have not already seen Assassins, make sure to get your tickets (you can do that here), or better yet since I am sure you are planning to see Twelfth Night why not get a two show package deal (more info here) so you are sure not to miss out!! We will see you soon!

Till next time~
Company Manager

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Ode to the Stage Manager

(Photo credit to Sergio for the photos in this post - thanks for letting me use them.)

This goes out to my two girls

Who maintain the spin of a chaotic world.

You bear great burdens of thought and time,

To keep your cohorts in somewhat line.

You manage it all with a grace and smile,

Allowing the rest to dance all the while.

You are true darlings in every sense of the word,
You offer a perch for the tweeting bird.
Your work can be thankless,
Please do not grimace;

We realize, that without you, there is no us.

So...we cannot give you money.

We offer no jewels, no fancy air-brushed shirts and not a single door prize.

But you must be reminded...

We LOVE yous guys.

Kelly and Kara, thank you so much for all that you do for us. Yours are the shoulders on which we stand.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sponsor an Artist Update

Well, it's been just over a week and our Four Artists are still hoping to earn your love AND MONEY!

They've raised just over $1500 to date, but that still leaves $2500 worth of love (and by love I mean cold hard cash) to earn!

George "THE COOL GUY" Carruth remains in the lead...

(He had to wash his Charlie's Chicken Dinner out of his beard.)

Don't let your favorite Artist go unchallenged!!!!!!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

"How will this fadge?" -Viola, Twelfth Night

Viola in Twelfth Night discovers early in the play that she may have set off a chain reaction of events by disguising herself as a man. Olivia, who Viola is supposed to be courting for Orsino, has fallen in love with her, thinking she is in fact a man. She states, "How will this fadge?" In Elizabethan speak, this means, "how will this turn out?" This is my statement for the season. I have been joking that I want a t-shirt that says, Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival 2011 on the front and on the back it will say, "How will this fadge?"

Well, it has been a great first half of the season and we are off to a great start. By far, this is the highest quality season we have produced. I know we are making growth every year. Our artists are engaged in continuing to elevate the work we do. We won't be satisfied with the past and we are always moving forward. The work has always been good, but we are moving closer and closer to excellence. I am more and more hopeful that we will meet our ticket goals this season, but no matter what happens, I will know that we can proudly stand by the work we have produced and that feels really good.

Assassins finale

As I stated in my last post, Assassins was a season choice that was about quality and not about being a popular title. During this opening weekend I watched audiences become electrified by the work that our team has produced and I believe that this will ultimately bring us a longer lasting audience base. Much more than a mediocre production of Annie (nothing against the little red head) would have (nor would we have done a mediocre production of it ;) ). We are engaging audiences beyond the obvious or easy. This makes me profoundly proud.

Check out's review here.

As we head into Twelfth Night there are some things I can't control. I can't control the weather and I can control the unseen variables like squirrels running through a scene or an Amherst County High School student testing out his car stereo system's bass in the parking lot, but I do have a lot of hopes for the success of this production in regards to quality. The cast is fantastic. One of the best through and through casts we have had to date on an outdoor Shakespeare, plus the show is just a blast. Shakespeare knew what he was doing.

In usual Endstation form we are bringing a space already filled with visual spectacle to theatrical life, fully utilizing it. Our actors are also doing incredible work bringing the language to life with vivid expertise and energy. I can't wait to share this with an audience.

So... "How will this fadge?" Not sure, but I know I am holding my head high as we move through this journey.

Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sound Off

The work of my department is often challenging to convey because the quality of sound engineering and design is measured in how well it blends with a piece. When Geoff announced this year’s season I knew my primary challenge of the summer would be Assassins. The language and texture of the songs is hugely important in Sondheim’s work and often -with Assassins in particular- the lyrics fly by so quickly that it’s a challenge to just understand what a character is saying; never mind the full orchestra and gunfire in the score!

Our production team planned the show around the huge demand for wireless microphones, managing to assemble sixteen mics and an incredible digital mixer. Now that probably sounds like some sound geek rattling off a list of fancy things, but the bottom line is that Endstation’s production team built a fully-functioning Broadway-level sound system in less than a week. I was floored.

But building a system that plays sound is really only half the challenge. Once performers are connected to microphones and the orchestra kicks in the real challenge is managing volume levels. If the microphones are turned up too loud they create feedback, too soft and we lose the language and lyrics. Part of how sound engineers overcome this challenge is by utilizing effects like compression. A compressor allows the engineer to flatten the changes in volume from an actor’s voice, so an actor’s whispers are as loud as their singing.

I write this post as I’m aboard a train slowly working it’s way back to New York and I find myself with ample time to muse about this past week. I feel I may be restating previous sentiments, but the work has been an amazing, challenging experience. I hope you get a chance to see and hear it. Assassins is some of the best work Endstation has ever made.

Bryce Page
Sound Designer

Friday, June 24, 2011

From the Music Director

I often say a good sign in the preparation of music for a concert or a show is that I begin dreaming the music. The longer the period of having a soundtrack to my dreams before a performance, the better the show is going to be. For instance, before Endstation’s opening concert, “Broadway in the Blue Ridge,” my sleep was accompanied by “You’re the Top”, “All I Ask of You”, “Maria” and so forth for three or four nights in a row. And while it was great fun to accompany such a talented cast (including Broadway’s Sean McLaughlin), more importantly the house was packed, and the event was a wonderful success.

Sondheim’s ASSASSINS is an experience like none other I’ve had. Much more than simply catchy tunes, Sondheim’s music is written to reflect and amplify the characters – and what extraordinary characters! Like the action onstage, the music is powerful – sometimes funny, always moving.
Combine Sondheim’s music with an Endstation cast that since February we knew to be truly exceptional, Director (and fellow University of Iowa grad) Chad Larabee’s remarkable vision and guidance, a top-notch crew, and a fantastic orchestra, and the experience is beyond powerful. It’s overwhelming. Funny. Intense. Thought-provoking.

Not that ASSASSINS is simply a walk in the park. In almost any show, there are times in which serving as Music Director is akin to attempting singlehandedly to move mountains. I imagine the same is true for choreographers and directors, too. Sondheim’s music (perhaps because it is so intuitively connected to the characters) is never easy. No two ways about it, it’s hard work. Logistic hurdles abound in a show like this – all of which our cast and crew continue to overcome with grace, humor and artistry.

Don’t get me wrong – Endstation’s production of ASSASSINS is hard work, yes – but each rehearsal has been so artistically rewarding, it’s more like riding a great wave of creativity than trying to move mountains.In fact, the only mountains involved have been the inspiring backdrop I’ve enjoyed, travelling to and from Babcock Theatre. Every rehearsal I have been amazed to see onstage something startlingly new, and often profound. And I can’t wait for audiences to catch this wave!
As for my nightly soundtrack, well, I’ve been dreaming ASSASSINS now for two weeks…

Randy Speer
Assassins Music Director

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Standing O of Success!

Tonight was the opening was the night of ASSASSINS and what a night it was! The show went off without a hitch and the crowd fell in love with the cast. The reception that followed the performance gave the audience a chance to meet and greet with the cast, as well as celebrate the evening with homemade goodies (from the fabulous Jeff Price) and champagne! It could not have been a more perfect evening. I am so grateful to be able to be involved with such a welcoming and talented company. This is my first time working in theater and I have never felt more at home. Thank you so much to everyone who has made the transition here so smooth. The community of people at Endstation is one of the best group of people I have ever worked with. Not to mention, working for my sister isn't too bad either. Endstation has been a wonderful experience thus far and I can't believe time is flying by so quickly!

Tonight was only the first night of Assassins and there is much more to come! Tickets are available here.

Now the entire company is going to boathouse to keep the celebrations going! Cheers to Endstation!

Alicia Hester (Administrative Intern)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Attention Has Been Paid"

This evening we will head into the final dress rehearsal/preview night of our 2011 production of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. Some last touch ups to the set have been made, all props are in places, costumes are set, and any bugs that needed to be worked out have been taken care of. Just yesterday if you looked around at the audience seating you would see various "tech tables" spread through the theatre. (Tech tables are basically mock tables made for each of the production members to sit at during the technical process.) All of the tables, cords, plugs, etc... have been cleaned up and the seats now sit (ha ha...ahem) waiting for some guests that may be with us this evening, and of course will be ready for opening night tomorrow night (there are still some tix available, and you can get them here) plus the following days of opening weekend. I do hope that you plan to join us for at least one or more of the nine performances.

Everyone who is involved with this production from design team to cast, to orchestra, to crew have all worked tirelessly in order to make this one of the best shows endstation has produced to date (and that's sayin something as endstation has done some pretty incredible work).This is also our first musical and it has been pretty neat to watch everything unfold, from auditions, to final dress.

As the title implies, there are guns used in the show (let me clarify that these are all prop guns made specifically for use in a theater production). I have the privilege of serving as the "gun wrangler" for this show and I have enjoyed getting to work with the cast members that I didn't already know previously. I take care of all of the guns, cleaning them, making sure they are stored in a secure location every night, loading them up, and making sure I know where every single gun is at all times when being used. I also get the fun responsibility of firing all the off stage gun shots throughout the show. This also means I get to sit directly off stage so I have a pretty good vantage point to see most of the show, for the other parts, I just listen and enjoy.

I am looking forward to opening night tomorrow, there is always a special kind of energy and excitement that spreads throughout to everyone involved. You can feel the cast getting excited to perform in front of an audience, and everyone needs to be on their toes and bringing their best game to the table. It's a nervous energy....a good energy....full of adrenaline and anticipation. There is energy before and during every performance but there is really something special about opening night, and I am excited for everyone that will be joining us for it.

Check out this great trailer made by Walter Kmiec (who plays Sam Byck) where you will see all of our actors that are part of the production, you may even catch some familiar faces. This production is brimming with talent and I promise you will not be disappointed by what you see.

So make sure to get your tickets for this weekend or next, and we will see you soon!

Till next time~
(Company Manager)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Postcard from Camp

Dear Mom and Dad,

Endstation Theatre sure has been fun this year! And busy. Which is why I haven’t called that much… SO I thought I send you some pics and show you what I’ve been up to!

<- This is me as "Larry". He's sort of the narrator and host of Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island. This play was the children's play we did and it was lots of fun!

When I first got here I got to stay at the Brown’s house.
They have a nice house and really cool dogs.

This is James Brown.

And this is Corn Dog. (Cuz he‘s so fat he looks like a corn dog!)

After we stayed at the Browns we stayed at the “Guest House”. This is where boys who visit Sweet Briar College stay as “guests”. This house is also ‘home’ to over 22 species of spiders and 32 varieties of mosquito. We would sit around after rehearsal and come up with new names for them.
My favorite: Romeo. I found him in my bed!

After that I got to stay at Carson which is dorm here on campus. I just loved it there! There was ten or twelve of us in the same building and we would have dinner together and sing songs and get caught in the rain together!

Of course it hasn’t been just hanging out - we’ve also been doing a lot of work too!
This is my Director Geoff (left) and our Count Orsino discussing Twelfth Night's finer points.

And this is our performance space for Good Good. They painted the floor just for us!

This is Melissa and she was really good at taking down ALL her rehearsal notes.

Here George, one of our actors, is running lines with the Umber Goat. Those two are bound for fame!

Good Good toured local schools and Walter (in the helmet) had to drive us- which wasn't always the best idea...

This is Skyler, one of our interns. Many things surprise him...

This is Jessica, our Viola, nothing surprises her...

This is Parker. She's Endstation's first baby and unofficial mascot. She love's her binky!

Well that 's it for now. I miss you guys. Tell everyone I say hello and I'm having a great time!
I hope you liked my pics and I promise to call more often!

With all my love,
Sergio Soltero