A Tough Act to Follow…
Regional Companies Get Creative with New Socially-Distanced Art Forms
By Keith Martin
In our summer issue we reported that “The Show Must Go On(line)” and detailed how our beloved local companies and performers here in the High Country and throughout the region were stepping up and finding ways to keep connecting with audiences as they adapted in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Now that period of trial-and-error is behind us, and many performing arts organizations have bounced back by getting creative with new, socially-distanced art forms… both online and in person.
Perhaps Allison West, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Appalachian, said it best. “We have to think about new ways of delivering the performing arts, and right now that’s through the power of technology—offering original and curated content that audiences can enjoy from the comfort of their own homes or classrooms.”
Here are a few events and seasons that have been announced from now through early December, listed alphabetically below by producing company. PLEASE NOTE that all of the performances, dates, and times are subject to change; readers are strongly encouraged to check their websites for the most current information.
Faced with the uncertainty of holding in-person performances during the fall, the APPALACHIAN STATE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND DANCE has created its own virtual stage and a slate of seven unique productions. On September 18, October 2, 16, and 23, The COVID Chronicles: Monologues Created During the Pandemic is a series of fresh, new, original works created and performed by Appalachian students. Inspired by the popular 24 Hour Plays productions in New York City, these unique and contemporary monologues share student responses to COVID-19 in dramatic fashion, creating acts of theatre that are vital, timely, moving, and irreverent, documenting an unprecedented moment in history.
Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush are excerpts taken from Appalachian’s 2020-21 Common Reading Program selection this year, the 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist in general nonfiction. In collaboration with The Climate Stories Collaborative, the department will interpret the stories Rush recorded of people from every corner of the country, all of whom are experiencing the dire consequences of rising sea levels and rising temperatures due to climate change. October 3and 4, 2020
The American Dance Festival’s Movies by Movers international film festival dedicated to the celebration of the conversation between the moving body and the camera returns online and free, streamed on a continuous basis October 12 – 18, featuring more than 80 short and feature-length films from around the world. For information and access to the films, go to www.adfmbm2020.com.
From October 19 through October 25, join in a live virtual event. Re/Imagining Performance: A Digital Collective is a First Year Showcase that features theatre and dance students collaborating to examine, discuss, and create around the questions:What is performance? How do space and performance work together? What is the relationship between our bodies and the spaces our bodies are in? How do we humanize a digital space?
Dracula: A Radio Play, adapted and directed by Derek Gagnier, relives the thrills of 1930s radio dramas. Based from the 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, this new adaptation is recorded in the style of the “Mercury Theatre On The Air” shows from that era. The production will be broadcast on Appalachian’s student-run WASU radio station during Halloween weekend, October 30 – November 1.
Dancing With Ourselves, November 5 – 7, is a collaborative dance project made and performed on Zoom that plans to use the virtual background feature for dancers to appear to be in close proximity, sharing the screen, and dancing with others.
From November 19 – 22, Waiting for the Host: An Online Play by Marc Palmieri is set in April 2020 and the pandemic is raging through New York City. A church pastor still wants to produce his church’s annual Easter passion play… online. He gathers a cast of actors on Zoom to rehearse. As they grapple with the various challenges of videoconferencing, isolation, and potential contagion, they also rediscover the enduring power of human connection.
Additional information about all seven of the above productions may be found at www.TheatreandDance.appstate.edu.
On Thursday, September 17, the APPALACHIAN THEATRE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY (ATHC) will hold a unique fundraiser, Lights, Camera… Auction! with actress Laura Linney serving as honorary chair for the event. Linney has won four Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards, and has been nominated for four Tony and three Academy Awards. She is the daughter of the late playwright Romulus Linney, whose archives reside in the Belk Library at Appalachian State University. For more info, go to www.apptheatre.org.
Over in Abingdon, Virginia, the BARTER THEATRE acquired the abandoned Moonlite Drive-In theater and has lovingly converted it into a live, outdoor performance venue, using non-union actors from the Barter Players touring company. As producing director Katy Brown told writer Karen Sabo in American Theatre, “Patrons drive in to a touchless check-in, go directly to their assigned double-wide parking spot on the clean grounds, tune into the stage from their car stereo, and watch the actors on the 15-foot-high stage, with close-ups simulcast to the Moonlite’s big screen directly above the stage.” Following successful experiments with Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins, “The State Theatre of Virginia” has just announced a fall season consisting of Barter favorite Eugene Wolf in How Can I Keep from Singing? Wolf’s unique mixture of song, story and characters brings to life friends and extended family from his 23 years in Abingdon, including pieces by Jo Carson, songs and tales of A.P. Carter, and more from October 1 through 3.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a musical adapted from Washington Irving’s novel by Barter playwright-in-residence Catherine Bush and Dax Dupuy. From October 15 through November 11, the Moonlight Drive-In becomes Sleepy Hollow, “a village haunted by the legendary Headless Horseman, has a new schoolmaster, the somewhat hapless and extremely superstitious Ichabod Crane. When Ichabod tries to win the hand of the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, he makes an enemy of her former suitor, the brawny Brom Bones. Brom vows revenge and, one dark and spooky night, Ichabod finds himself in for the ride of his life!” From October 8 to November 8, a second production of Dracula, also adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel, “recounts the vampire as he flees Transylvania for London, where the teeming population provides ample fodder for his blood-thirst. Only Abraham Van Helsing, the world famous metaphysician, has a hope of stopping the Prince of the Undead. Can Van Helsing save the day? Or will his heroic efforts merely render him the next victim to Dracula’s deadly bite? A fresh new take on a timeless horror classic.” www.BarterTheatre.com
In mid-November, IN/VISIBLE THEATRE intends to produce a retrospective of its annual Boone Solo Festival (BOLO Fest) consisting of revivals of popular shows from seasons past, plus a couple of new works from emerging playwrights. There is a provision for going online if need be, according to founders Derek Davidson and Karen Sabo, who are encouraging audience members to visit their website for more specific show information. www.invisibletheatrenc.org.
LEES-MCRAE COLLEGE’S PERFORMING ARTS DEPARTMENT is producing four events this fall on their picturesque campus in Banner Elk. The first is a group of short works that are being presented on an outdoor stage as a springboard to the devised piece they will be creating and producing as their last production. The second production is an enhanced readers theatre piece called Changemakers by Jennifer Clements which will be streamed online starting October 9 and available through October 16.
One Flea Spare,by Naomi Wallace, is an award-winning play set in plague-ravaged 17th Century London; this will be performed outside and is also an enhanced readers theatre piece. On November 7, the department will debut a devised theatre piece entitled The Dumpster Fire Variety Hour. It will be streamed online with information available at lmc.edu/pashows or via Instagram @lmctheatre.
SCHAEFER CENTER PRESENTS 2020-21 Season will be delivered virtually, October-April. In light of the uncertainties of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the vast knowledge gleaned from the summer’s online programming, the staff at Appalachian’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs felt that continuing virtual-only programming offers the safest alternative while still continuing to meet the ongoing needs of students, faculty, the community, and a larger digital audience.
At press time, series organizers were in the midst of assembling the season and confirming artist engagements. What is known is that the fall season of Schaefer Center Presents will welcome two esteemed theatre companies in the North Carolina Black Repertory Company and the American Shakespeare Center, with additional programming that includes music, dance, film, theatre, and world-renowned speakers. Plans are underway to present approximately 10 shows during the fall and spring semesters, all of which will either be live-streamed from the stage of the Schaefer Center, or presented as a live remote or pre-recorded event. Several of these artists are available to provide workshops and/or master classes for university students. For details and more information, please visit www.theschaefercenter.org.
In lieu of our usual cultural calendar listings, the following is a roster of organizations whose artistry we cover in the pages of CML, many of whom will soon be announcing their upcoming productions. Please check them out online at the following websites:
Alleghany Community Theatre | www.alleghanycommunitytheatre.org
Appalachian State University Department of Theatre and Dance | www.theatreanddance.appstate.edu
Appalachian Theatre of the High Country | www.apptheatre.org
Ashe Civic Center | www.ashecivic.com
Ashe County Little Theatre | www.ashecountylittletheatre.org
Barter Theatre | www.BarterTheatre.com
Beanstalk Community Theatre | BeanStalkNC.com
Blue Ridge Community Theatre | www.blueridgecommunitytheatrenc.com
City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium | www.commaonline.org
Ensemble Stage | www.ensemblestage.com
Hayes School of Music | www.music.appstate.edu
In/Visible Theatre | www.invisibletheatrenc.org.
Jones House Cultural & Community Center | www.joneshouse.org
Lees-McRae College Performing Arts | lmc.edu/pashows | Instagram @lmctheatre
Parkway Playhouse | www.parkwayplayhouse.com
Schaefer Center Presents | www.theschaefercenter.org
Wilkes Playmakers | www.wilkesplaymakers.com