Monday, October 31, 2011

The Resident Playwright in the Offseason

Hey dudes,

Endstation's resident playwright Joshua Mikel here to fill you in on a little of what I do in the offseason.

While most of the company members' plates are full with preparations for next season, my job as resident playwright when I'm not in residence is basically what it is when I am: to write (just in less beautiful locales). But even more so, my job when I leave Amherst is to seek productions for the plays I've written. So I've been writing, rewriting, seeking out folks to produce my stuff, and luckily have had some good fortune thanks to it.
(The first read through of "Aesop, Come Back!" at Mount Paran with directors Meagan Morgan and Adam Slocum and the 27 actor cast!)

While up in Amherst this summer, I was in early talks about writing a commissioned piece with an old friend of mine and FSU alum, Meagan Morgan, who is the theatre director at Mount Paran Academy in Kennesaw, Georgia. I did a great deal of research for the piece up in Amherst which would eventually become "Aesop, Come Back," a modern adaptation of (my favorite) Aesop's fables. It went into rehearsals soon after my return from Virginia, and eventually opened with seven performances in one undoubtedly tiring weekend for the actors and crew. I got a chance to make it up for a number of the rehearsals and finally the last performance, and was so proud of the work Meagan, Adam (codirector), her crew, and wildly talented group of 27 (yes, Twenty. Seven!) middle school actors had done. After the performance, I made some small changes to the piece cutting the proverbial fat and shipped it off for the folks at Playscripts to consider for publication, as I think it would be an excellent piece for middle schools looking to cater to a huge group of actors. I'll be sure to brag about that if I get some good news back from the Playscripts folks.

("Shelter" Poster I created for the production at LHU)

This year at our festival Ad Hoc reading series I workshopped a piece I wrote called "Shelter." It's a play about three siblings trapped in their parent's bomb shelter post apocalypse, and it's maybe a bit more cheery than that might lead you to believe. After the reading, Endstation's education director, Angie Gallagher, got in touch with me about producing the piece up at Lock Haven University where she's on faculty. I, of course, agreed. It's rarely that easy to find productions for one's plays, but then again, I've never gotten a premiere production that didn't at first begin with a friend championing my work.

(Shelter at Lock Haven University. L to R Corey Wilson, Cody Goldberg, and Kathleen Good)

The best part of the deal is that the LHU student association and Players Club (their theatre troupe) found the funds to have me up for the beginning of the process and have me back for the production. So just a couple weeks ago I went up for the beginning of rehearsals, and was able to work with Angie and the actors. During my stay I had some invaluable time to make changes on the script alongside the team, and left having penned three new drafts of the play, worked out some huge logistical issues, and got it to a spot where I think I can't do much more with it until I see it produced. I even got an early look at the set for the piece from Lock Haven's technical director and set designer David Tidwell.

(Undressed set rendering for "Shelter" at LHU by David Tidwell)

You can see more about the production by following the Facebook page the Lock Haven team created here:

While I was up at Lock Haven I also received the good news that my play "The Red Pants Blue Pants Marionette Spectacular," (a one act comedic farce) which had a closed reading up at this year's festival was a finalist for the Thornton Wilder Playwriting award, and would be published by Playscripts Inc. I think it will be a good fit for high school competitions. You'll soon be able to read and order books of the play here:

And the good news kept on coming when I received word from Playscripts that my 2010 Endstation Post Haste piece "PIRATES! Theodore Thud and the Quest for Weird Beard," which was published by Playscripts earlier in 2011 would be receiving its first production from none other than Ashley Byrne, a Lynchburg native, and director at Holy Cross Regional Catholic High School. They're planning to do a production November 3rd for the community at 6 PM. Please check it out!!! It's a ton of fun for kids, and in the vein of my other TYA play performed at this year's festival "Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island."

(Holy Cross' production of "PIRATES!" in rehearsal)

My next project I'm writing is a ten minute piece for our good friend, playwriting initiative alum, and artistic director of Tympanic Theatre Company in Chicago Dan Caffrey for a night of ten minute plays they're calling "Deliver Us" based on the album "Nebraska" by Bruce Springsteen. It promises to be a good time, and they've assembled one hell of a group of playwrights to write the pieces that will be performed.

Well, I guess that's enough braggin' and BSin' for now. I absolutely can't wait to be back up to Amherst next summer. Until then, take care and thanks for reading!

+joshua mikel

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another year of Stinkin' fun! (2011 Garlic Festival Re-Cap)

Fall is definitely here in Virginia, the air is beginning to get cooler, the trees are beginning to slowly transform and put on their autumn colors, everywhere you look you see harvest decor, and many traditions that come with this season are taking place. Pumpkin patches, hiking, festivals, and so much more. Soon enough you will see little ones and not so little ones, out and about for annual costume parties and trick- or- treating.

For Endstation, the month of October means one big thing, the annual Wine and Garlic Festival hosted by Rebec Vineyards. Every year for the past five years we have graciously be allowed to set up a booth at the festival to spread the word about the company and promote our upcoming summer season. It always proves to be a great time, and we have had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and visit with some with familiar faces over the two day event each year.

This past Saturday I got an early start, jumped in the car and headed out to Sweet Briar to pick up Krista Franco (Co-Founder & Resident Scenic Designer) and her husband Drew who were in town to help work the event. We were glad they could make it, however Geoff (Co-Founder, Artistic Director) and Ashley (Communications Director, Box Office Manager) Kershner were missed by all of us this year. We packed up the final items in the car and headed out to the vineyard. The weather was cool and crisp, the drive was lovely, and we were all looking forward to a great day.

We pulled right up to our tent, unloaded and set about the task of getting the booth ready to receive patrons who be making their way in shortly. One of the great things about this time of year is that although cool in the morning it usually warms up by mid morning and when the sun is out the weather is just gorgeous. This year did not disappoint and there was not a cloud in the sky, which we knew was going to be great for the number of people coming out to the festival. We usually have our endstation wares available for purchase (tees, bumper stickers, etc..) and normally raffle off a wine basket throughout the weekend. This year the fine folks at Ankida Ridge Vineyard donated some of the items in the basket and we were happy to promote them through the weekend.

One of the new things that we did this year was offer a "photo booth" where people could dress up in hats and masks, hold a sign and pose for a picture. Krista decided to test out some of the props and had a little fun early on Saturday.

We were on the opposite side from where we usually are set up and it proved to be an awesome spot as folks would stop by the booth soon after they picked up their wine glassess and wanted to check us out. We were able to jump right in and start promoting the 2012 Season . Some had heard of us before, however several individuals had not but were excited to learn more. The mailing list was growing, flyers were being handed out, some raffle tickets were being sold, and before we knew it more troops showed up in the form of board member Jeffery Price and his lovely wife Laura. I am convinced that Mr. Price could sell ice to an eskimo! He is huge endstation fan and wants to make sure everyone else is too. He even got in on the photo booth fun!

(sneak attack on endstation friend Wiley)

The rest of the day went well as we continued to talk to new people, visit with friends as they stopped by, promote the season, and sell raffle tickets....a man on huge stilts even stopped by!

We wrapped up in the late afternoon, and stored things away for the next day of the festival. Sunday dawned and brought more beautiful weather to the vineyard. Historically Sundays at the festival tend to be a little bit more low key, and even though there may be less people out, the atmosphere is still the same and folks have a great time. We got to meet more new people, other familiar faces stopped by, additional names added to our mailing list, and more raffle tickets were sold.

Overall, it was another great year and time well spent. Thank you to all of our volunteers that came out to lend a hand and thanks to all the fans of endstation old and new that stopped by to say hello. We were able to talk to a lot of new folks, and make some wonderful connections. There are many exciting things that will be happening between now and the next summer season, so make sure to stay tuned and in the meantime, have a wonderful fall season and cheers!

Till next time ~
Company Manager

Monday, October 3, 2011

Endstation's new additions and new roles

New Endstation Managing Director Laren Baum (left) with Endstation founders Krista Franco and Geoffrey Kershner

With the arrival of fall weather, some changes are in the air. After a successful 2011 summer season, Endstation welcomed some new faces to the team and expanded the roles of some familiar faces. As some may have read in our last blog post, we are very excited to welcome Michael Stablein Jr. as our new Associate Artistic Director. Along with this new position, we are adding a Managing Director to the team. Current board member, Laren Baum, is stepping into this role and we are very thankful for her time and skill. Laren has been an active volunteer for EC Glass Theatre and will bring her insight and organizational skills to our staff, only strengthening our ability to bring great theatre to Central Virginia. 

With the fall also comes our annual board officer elections. We are very excited to usher in our new board president, Peggy McFadden. Peggy has served on the Endstation board for the last year with her husband John. Peggy brings a dedication to the Central Virginia community, Sweet Briar College (her alma mater and her daughter currently attends the college), and to the arts. We are so pleased to have Peggy's leadership this year. Here is a link to Peggy and John talking about Endstation. Also joining the officers is our new vice president Rob Vaughn, our new treasurer Kay Wright, and serving as our board secretary is Laren Baum.  

Endstation is proud to add some new board members to the fray as well. We are pleased to welcome Beverly Jones and Niki White. Beverly is a retired Amherst County Public School educator and an active member of the community. Niki is a former child wrangler for the Broadway production of the Lion King and wife of Jefferson Forest High School's Director of Drama, Spence White.

As we head into this new era, I want to take the time to thank Steve Martin, our former board president. His service and leadership was invaluable. Luckily, we retain Steve as a board member. Exiting his position as the vice president and his role on the board is my father Bill Kershner (Chair of the SBC Theatre Dept.). Bill was an incredible board member, who directed Romeo and Juliet in our first season and was an invaluable ambassador for both the company and the college. We also want to thank Brian Ratliff (Amherst County Public Schools Superintendent) for his service to the board for two years. With Brian's help, Endstation's work was able to reach many area students. We are grateful to all of them for their time, commitment, and dedication to the arts and this community. Thank you.

Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director