Destinations for Weddings and Other Romantic Adventures

Valentines is fast approaching, and though it is of late not my favorite holiday, I encourage the rest of you hopeless romantics to knock your socks off.  To me there is nothing more romantic than a wedding. In our culture, weddings are where two people who hopefully love each other profess their undying love, loyalty and devotion in front of friends, family and other sundry connected peoples.  Since, also in our culture, at least half of those who make those statements will end their unions in divorce and roughly half of marriages have at least one unfaithful partner the 50/50 chance of those vows being kept (is that the correct stat based on the numbers provided?) makes weddings exceedingly idealistic aka romantic.
The above paragraph may make me sound like a hardened cynic but au contra ire, I am a hopeless, dyed- in- the- wool, grade A romantic.  I adore weddings.  I cry my eyes out at romantic movies.  I am still distraught over the recent death of a nameless Downton Abbey character four days since the fateful episode aired in my country. Why I am such a romantic that even after two failed marriages (does the first one REALLY count?) I hope to find Mr. Right for me and walk down the isle once again – AND I will probably wear white!
for all of you lucky dogs out there with sweethearts, I suggest you think about visiting one of these wonderful places for a special romantic visit.
A Destination in your Mind
You can be transported during your wedding without leaving Virginia
Issue: Richmond Bride Winter/Spring 2013
Posted: 12/11/12 10:10 AM
Photo by Jen Fariello

You want your wedding to be someplace out of town but wish to spare yourselves (and your guests) the airfare? Here are three full-service resorts within a day’s drive of Richmond that will give you the feel of a destination wedding. All three have spas and activities such as swimming, golf and croquet to please you and all your visiting guests while offering distinct details to make your wedding day as special as the two of you are.

Ralph Lauren Country
Keswick Hall at Monticello is about an hour away from Richmond, but the softly rolling landscape and its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains give it that upscale hunt-country look like nothing else around. In addition to gorgeous vistas, fantastic catering and classically beautiful facilities, this resort has a meticulous wedding coordinator, Adam Donovan-Groves, who says he has walked every foot of the property to determine the best backdrops for wedding photos. Other extras include a child-care room with kid-friendly entertainment during the reception, plus complimentary massages or a day of golf for brides and grooms.

Photos courtesy Tides Inn

Upon the Water
What separates the Tides Inn from other close-to-home wedding destinations is its relaxed, casually elegant atmosphere and proximity to water. Nestled on the north side of the Rappahannock in Irvington about an hour-and-a-half drive from Richmond, the inn has been a favorite destination for area families for generations. Brides can choose from a variety of indoor or outdoor venues, including the Carter Room with views of Carter’s Creek, the croquet lawn or a private beach. For a special grand exit, the newlyweds can arrange to be whisked away from the dock on a boat and deposited near their suite on the other side of the inn. There awaits a matted watercolor painting of the terrace — inscribed with their names and wedding date — as a special token of the  

Mountain Springs
A traditional destination for Richmond brides throughout the centuries is The Homestead, amid the mystical Allegheny Mountains in Hot Springs, roughly two-and-a-half hours from our city. This grand landmark of Southern hospitality offers a multitude of options for weddings, the most popular being the simple Pergola on the Casino lawn and the stunning Crystal Room with its graceful arched windows, white pillars and gleaming chandeliers. “The festivities begin from the moment the guests arrive,” says conference service manager Tricia Fry, who also acts as wedding coordinator. The resort can handle weddings with up to 800 guests. The Homestead also offers horseback riding, skeet shooting, mountain biking, guided hiking or Segway tours, falconry, fly fishing, archery, a back-country driving school, paintball and an on-site water park to entertain guests and create memorable bridal-party activities. Brides and grooms can book a carriage to make their grand exit from the reception and will find a bottle of bubbly waiting in their room on their wedding night as a special gift.


CLAW extends to Richmond

When Chris Dovi called me in early November, his voice betraying his usual pre-Hamaganza panic, wanting ideas for entertainment for the event, I suggested we ask Charlottesville’s CLAW to participate.  I had attended the 1st annual SUPER CLAW national championship in June and knew that Lady Arm Wrestling was a perfect fit for the Hamaganza crowd.  I discovered the brand spankin’ new Richmond Chapter, RAWFL after contacting CLAW and they, being awesome women, agreed to help us out.  I had the honor of arm wresting with two RAWFL stars, Miss Camilla Toe and Patty Cakes at Hamaganza this past December.
I am so glad to have introduced RAWFL to Dovi who was obviously impressed enough to write a story.
For your reading pleasure from RICHMOND MAGAZINE:
Over the Top
RAWFL — good fun for a good cause
Issue: January 2013
Posted: 12/18/12 4:53 PM
Photo by Chris Smith
A sense of foreboding accompanied Lea Marshall’s growing fascination with the raw athleticism of Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers, an organization founded by a number of community-minded and strong-armed women friends from the Charlottesville area. It seemed inevitable that Marshall, a writer and dancer who currently serves as the interim chair of VCU’s dance department, would lend her energy and organizing talents to bringing this dubious feat of athletic exhibitionism to Richmond.Indeed, CLAW’s hook was too good to resist: A send-up of the cartoonish soap-opera world of professional wrestling, it gives the cliché new heart by celebrating women and women-focused charities.

“It’s a particular kind of empowerment … when you get into your late 30s or early 40s,” says Marshall. The competitive sport of women’s arm wrestling, she says, can offer a special allure for post-20-something moms who’ve made the transition from awkward youth to enlightened womanhood. “You have a kid, and you say, ‘You know what? I am actually a badass.’ ”

Richmond’s version of CLAW, the appropriately acronymed RAWFL (Richmond Arm Wrestling For Women), held its first match on Dec. 1, at Balliceaux, raising more than $1,200 for Safe Harbor, a nonprofit serving survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

While it was Marshall’s brainchild, RAWFL was finally consummated thanks to a partnership of local women, all of them drawing on backgrounds in the arts. Her co-founders include Emily Smith, head of 1708 Gallery on Broad Street, and Heide Trepanier, a noted visual artist. All are parents of small children and are juggling motherhood with careers. All have hit that zen of female empowerment that comes with age but brings with it wisdom and beauty. Only one — Trepanier — has thus far donned the mask of the arm-wrestling luchadora.

RAWFL events also have a measure of tongue in cheek on full display; contestants adopt fanciful aliases and personas — Camila Toe in Trepanier’s case, Patty Cakes, the Swiss MissFit, The Southern Barbell, Bruisin’ B. Anthony and Amazonia. It’s probably no coincidence that RAWFL echoes the Internet and text-message shorthand for Rolling On Floor Laughing.

Marshall refers to one of the co-founders of the Charlottesville league — which has spawned a national constellation of lady arm wrestling chapters that now operate under the umbrella of CLAW USA — in explaining RAWFL’s mission: “She will say that it’s one-third sport, one-third theater and one-third philanthropy.

But always, when the dust clears, when the championship belt is awarded and the Bengay is applied to sore forearms, it’s the philanthropy that remains the real prize, says Marshall: “As a first run, I’d say [$1,200] is pretty good.”


VA Rep has Hay Fever (by Noel Coward)


Premier Sponsor, BB&T

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February 15 – March 3, 2013

Previews on February 13 – 14

At the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre (formerly the Empire)
Marjorie Arenstein Theatre Stage
at Virginia Rep Center

Part of the Signature Season
Part of The Acts of Faith Theatre Festival
By Noël Coward
Directed by Steve Perigard

This exhilarating comedy from Noël Coward has been recognized as one of the world’s most hilarious classics ever since it first dazzled London’s West End in 1925. How does “the other half” live, when “the other half” is a family of four celebrated bon vivants each of whom finds it impossible to share the spotlight? The eccentric Bliss family — including matriarch Judith (a “retired” actress), her husband David (a renowned author), and their two artistic, adult children — has decided to host a “weekend in the country” at their rural estate / artists’ retreat. The unsuspecting guests all become victims in the self-serving shenanigans of the four bohemians as they seek to out-trip each other in the light fantastic. Everything goes blissfully awry in this sparkling and stylish comedy of manners.


The Miracle that was 24/7 2013


Chris Estey directs Edwina Herring and Mitch Voss in "Moving" by Peter Coy

Chris Estey directs Edwina Herring and Mitch Voss in “Moving” by Peter Coy


*Yesterday morning at 8:02, I sat down in the audience seating of the Down Stage theatre at Live Arts with a room full of strangers and a handful of friends and left the same space last night a member of the greater family commonly referred to as The Charlottesville Theatre Community.

That was just one of the miraculous transformations that occurred yesterday during Whole Theatre’s 24/7 Theatre Project 2013.

In my previous two blog posts, I talked about the structure of the project and even managed a post yesterday during a break from the action.  Today I am pretending to be the diva actress I always thought I would be, lounging in bed well past any decent wake-up time, chatting up new friends on the phone and via Facebook, so whipped from the previous long day  still sporting remnants of stage make-up that I have yet to find motivation to wash. I am tired to the BONE.  So doggedly exhausted that I barely feel the tiniest shred of guilt for not being outside on this warm sunny day.

Other Miracles:

7 new plays were written in 12 hours or less.

7 groups of actors and directors collaborated on projects that didn’t exist the day before.

7 plays premiered in one night.

This event is a 24 hour homage to the Art gods. A pressure cooker for creativity. A test of wills, patience, trust and faith…and in my case personal space.

The plays were all comedies with the exception of one drama.  They were all remarkably good considering they were written overnight.  Standouts were Browning Porter’s play, “The Evelyn in the Room”, (it just happened to be Browning’s Birthday and we all sang to him before his play went on during the second round of shows), “Small Room in a Small Hotel in Singapore, Alabama”, by Doug Grissom, Miller Murray Susen’s, “The Revenge of Mr. It” (no, I am not partial to the latter because I was in it, really it was just a great little play), “Spy Fangs of Lust” by Joel Jones (I laughed the loudest during this play- there is a line about how writer’s don’t make any money and I almost fell out of my chair in the balcony), Phil Horst’s, “Signatures”, in which he cleverly made a play on his focus word, “elbow” by making it a proper name, Elle Beau – very funny, “The Ottoman” by Royal Shiree (half naked men being fondled by older women- what’s not to like?), and the very sad, “Moving” by Peter Coy. Ooops.  I just named all seven plays as standouts. Well, they were all stand outs.

Seriously, it is AWESOME how this thing came together.  People were running around all day and then boom, shows went on in front of two sold-out audiences.

Before the process started I tapped into some yoga magic and asked the Universe to give me the play that was best suited for me with a great director and wonderful cast or better and guess what?  I got everything I wished for and more!

Mike Long, who is in the MFA program in the Drama Department at UVA directed, “Mr. It” and was simply fantastic.  He just jumped right in from the start with a great attitude and let us run with it.  He listened to our (the actor’s and me) suggestions and let us play around with stuff guiding us with only positive direction all day.  I would recommend him to anyone who wanted to work with a smart, talented, caring pro with a good sense of humor and excellent instincts.

In the play, my character, Secretary Lady, is all over everyone- meaning: she is obviously “doing it” with all four of the other characters.  Luckily, I got the dream cast to work with:

Robert Wray played Spy #1

Nick Heiderstadt played Spy #2

Chris Baumer played The General

Sara Shotwell played the Cleaning Lady

All of these people allowed me, as Secretary Lady, to kiss, fondle and otherwise invade their personal space over the course of our ten minute production- something that usually takes weeks to work on in “real time” theatre.

Each play in 24/7 seemed to get the right cast as if the Muses were guiding the hands choosing the names out of the hats that held the actors names when the directors plucked them that morning.

To top of my personal involvement in this project I was interviewed by a local TV station. To see the story aired on the local NBC affiliate click here.

I felt like a star today when several people said they’d seen me on TV.

There is nothing like live theater to teach one to believe in miracles.  Once the play begins it is up to the wits of the players to get through whatever happens from forgotten lines to falling scenery with grace and aplomb all while staying in character and being true to the work.  How it all (props, costumes, lighting, sound cues, make-up, etc)comes together is just a miracle.

For me, this experience was valuable in so many ways.  Theatre is in my blood and I have denied myself the pleasure of acting on stage for far too long.  But regular theatre productions with their long rehearsal process, night and weekend commitment and little to no pay is impossible for me at this time in my life.  Projects like 24/7 give people like me the opportunity to participate without sacrificing our livelihoods. I am grateful for having a space to nurture that side of my creative nature.  Thank you Ray Nedzel and Kristen Wenger of Whole Theatre for making 24/7 happen.

Below is a poem sent out to participants:

Let’s share it, let’s spread it; it’s not too late or too soon,
Our secret is blown, it’s the Elephant in the Room.

O, the props; and the set, lights, and sound — what the heck!
It was the best of the best – the best ever tech!
The costumes, themselves, were each well-sown-fame,
Like the SIGNATURES worn by Dr. El Beau Payne.

The box office, ushers and concessions were all grooving,
And who knew a 24/7 play could be so damn MOVING.
The BAND was religious!  OMG, what a hymn!
As scandalous as Sister’s “man-made” OTTOMAN.

We, too, took a trip to Sexytown, where four women made us swoon,
But there was learning through laughter and THE EVELYN IN THE ROOM.
Last night you all scored a homerun, I’d say, a grand slammer,
You made love to your muse, or, at least, kissed her wit –
Then, you killed off four people in THE REVENGE OF MR. IT.
So, to say that I love you would not be unjust,
Though honestly, it’s just SPY FANGS OF LUST.

Yes, the actors, directors, playwrights and crew made the call.
Because a person’s a person, no matter how ________.

*I meant to post this yesterday but I was distracted.  Thanks for understanding. MB – the culture maven

In the midst of 24/7

I am on a quick lunch break from rehearsing my assigned play, The Revenge of Mr. It, deftly crafted overnight by Miller Murray Susen.  I am thrilled to be cast (by chance) in MIller’s show and it is proving to be a fun if tiring experience reading, memorizing and blocking.  A channel 29 reporter interviewed me this morning- she is following my group’s process throughout the day.  I came home for a few minutes to organize some costume possibilities and eat some homemade soup, soon to head back to Live Arts to rehearse all afternoon before curtain at 7pm.

I am cast with Nick and Robert who are very funny.  Mike is our able director and we have two cameo players. Full Names to come later – you know how I am.

Already exhausted, I have little inclination as to how I will survive through the second show but that is part of the magic, right?

wish me a broken leg!

24/7 has begun




A bad phone image of the 2013 24/7 playwrights

Tonight, amongst a gathered crowd of actors, designers, directors and some actual non-associated audience members, the theme for this year’s Whole Theatre 24/7 project was revealed to the 7 playwrights who will be working through the night to write plays that will be performed tomorrow night.  The theme (drum roll), “The elephant in the room”, was chosen from several offered up at the end of last year’s event and governs all seven plays. To add to the challenge each playwright was individually assigned a focus word, like “tiny” or “ottoman” via the clever vehicle of mad libs created from a paragraph from Dr. Seuss’ class elephant tale, Horton Hears a Who.

Here’s how it worked:  Audience members were asked to break into pairs. Each pair was given a mad lib created from the same paragraph from the book.  The mad libs were then filled in by one member of the pair asking for words specific to requested parts of speech (person 1:”noun”, person 2: “monkey”).  Each playwright drew an audience member’s name from a hat and then that person read the mad lib out loud.  The corresponding numbered mad libbed word from the read mad lib was assigned as a focus word for the playwright.  For example Miller Murray Susen was the seventh playwright to draw a name and have a mad lib read aloud so she was assigned the last provided word form that mad lib.

For a new twist this year there will be a 24/7 band- a group of musicians who will write 7 original pieces of music tomorrow, one to go with each new play, and perform them tomorrow night as well.

As this is being written, 7 playwrights are typing away (hopefully) preparing for the 8am deadline. To see what they produce in the next 10 hours come to Live Arts tomorrow night.

Tickets are 10 bucks.

for more information and a full list of participants click here.

Those Girls Are At It Again!

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One more chance to see Kerry & Rebecca in RVA!

Did you miss the RVA run of American Girl?

Well, you’ve got one more chance to catch Kerry and Rebecca in the act as they take on Jacqueline Kennedy, Dorothy Parker, and Annie Oakley all in a haze of music, drinks, and dress-up!
Join us once again at THE SHOP Sunday, February 10th @ 8pm
 Zero E. 4th St (In the Art Works parking lot)

This time, NLC is springing for a bar, so come early or stay after the show to talk to the girls and have a drink (Dorothy Parker would suggest having two, at least).

And, oh, did we mention that it’s a FREE show?
(Although a $5-10 donation at the door would be greatly appreciated)

For more information, visit our website at:

Can I survive the 24/7?

Next weekend my metal will be tested.  I have agreed to participate as an actress in the 24/7 Theatre Project produced by Whole Theatre and hosted by Live Arts.  It will be the first time since 1993 that I will memorize lines and blocking and perform before a paying audience.  As you may recall, just last month was my first time performing in a play in front of an audience in 20 years but that was a staged reading, I got to hold the script, no memorization- so this is different.  PLUS in 24/7 the script will not even exist until the wee hours of the morning before it is performed.

It sounds dangerous, right?

Below are more details.  Tickets are only $10.00 and can be purchased through Live Arts. (click here for more info).



24-7 written overnight. rehearsed all day. performed once for you.Written overnight.  Rehearsed all Day.  Performed once for you.

Twenty-Four Seven is a theatre festival created in 24 hours.

New every time, it is the cornerstone of Whole Theatre.

Here’s how we do it:

The theatrical artists’ gather on Friday evening.  A theme for the next night’s show is randomly selected from all the given suggestions – it’s literally pulled form a hat.  Then each of the 7 playwrights pull their cast requirements (i.e. 2 woman, 1 man) from the hat, and they pull their special inspirational word from the hat (i.e. Vancouver).  The playwrights write overnight.

Early Saturday morning, the new 10 minute scripts are finished.  The 7 directors each pull a script (yes, from the hat); and have a hour to confer with the playwright.  All the actors arrive.  Casting is done by each director blindly selecting names (you guessed it, literally, pulled from a hat).  Then, rehearsals begin.  And, the hat is retired.

2010 Playwrights -- before the plays are written

The Playwrights — before the plays are written

Saturday day is a full rehearsal process with no time to second guess.  There is a first read through, blocking, memorizing lines, etc.  Simultaneously, lights are focused, sound is mixed, costumes are pinned together, tech, dress, let the audience in.

Saturday night we present a full show of new works – all fully performed and all freshly premiered.  7 new plays all created in the past 24 hours.

Email Ray for more info or to get in on the fun:

Bachata Lessons at R2 tomorrow night




Social dancing is a great way to warm up for Downton Abbey.  I plan to go to the workshop then head home to shower, put on my pj’s and watch episode 3 of season 3.

Here is the message from Butch Bailey about the Bachata workshop, the regular Sunday night lesson and Sunday Night Dance Party:

The September Bachata workshop was a great success; if you missed it here’s another opportunity:
Bachata 101 presented by Edwin Roa
Sunday, Jan. 13th, 2013,  at Raptures, from 7 to 8pm.
This is an open Bachata Workshop; everyone is welcome
$12.00 for workshop only or, $15.00 which includes the Salsa lesson at 8:00 and entry to the
Sunday Salsa dance party at 9:00!
This “Sunday Salsa” will feature some extra Bachata music.
 If you have a favorite you’d like to hear, reply to this message with the artist/title.
Edwin 804-852-4123
Butch Bailey
PS: Edwin is a wonderful instructor and like all dance instructors, he is charming and flirtatious while being professional and courteous.  I totally recommend this lesson. MB

Julius Caesar at ASC Reviewed by Brandon L. Walker

This is a well written review I came across this morning on the C-VILLE WEEKLY website.  Just thought I would share:

Masters of their fates: Julius Caesar at American Shakespeare Center

René Thornton, Sarah Fallon and Gregory Jon Phelps star in American Shakespeare Center's Julius Caesar. Image: Lauren D. Rogers and Tommy Thompson.René Thornton, Sarah Fallon and Gregory Jon Phelps star in American Shakespeare Center’s Julius Caesar. Image: Lauren D. Rogers and Tommy Thompson.

1/10/13 at 2:10 PM

When I moved to this area from New York City, the first thing I wanted to do was go see a show at the American Shakespeare Center. From the moment I learned of it, I was enamored of the dream it promised: a self-sustaining center of Shakespearean, Elizabethan, and early Modern drama in the heart of the Shenandoah, on a stage designed to the specs of the hallowed old Blackfriars Playhouse in London. Being an avid Shakespeare nerd while also despising big city life and seeking out mountainous terrain often set me at odds. The idea that great Shakespeare was happening in the Shenandoah Valley was enough to make me rethink the concept of a sentient universe. Part of me just couldn’t believe such a thing existed, and maybe I was protecting the fragile dream by not going, but otherwise I have little excuse as to why it’s been a year and a half and I’ve just seen my first show. I can happily report that the dream is not only alive, the reality has so o’erleaped the fragile dream that I’m ashamed I ever doubted it.

The play was Julius Caesar, my second favorite behind Richard III, so I was, as always, guarded. I’ve seen Caesar about a dozen times by this point and the range of quality is wide. It’s a tough play to not ruin; it’s so good on its own but it makes you want to make it into something more than it needs to be. Avid tactitioners that they are, ASC flanked that little hang up by approaching it with traditional Elizabethan rehearsal practices. I’m talking about three days rehearsal, no directors, no designers, no set, lights up, costume stock, boom: opening night. This is how it was done when Shakespeare was doing it and it could not have worked better. If you have smart actors who make bold choices, who know their parts, and are unflinching in the objectivity of their self-analysis and are freely constructive with criticism and notes for each other…who needs a director?  Who needs complicated, moody lighting or an immersive set?

The pre-show music was great, and featured all the actors in the show. There was no illusory fourth wall; all the house lights were up and the actors roamed about. I won’t give too much away, but the transition into the first act of the play was one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever experienced. Audience interaction was highly encouraged in a way that genuinely interacted with the show without putting an unwanted spotlight on anyone. The show flew by through the use of cuts that were, by and large, well informed (though they did cut my absolute favorite Brutus line).

The cast was a tight ensemble. Of particular note was Benjamin Curns’ Caesar. Until now, every single Caesar I’ve ever seen  has annoyed me. Maybe it’s because he’s always played as a supporting part in a play with his name in the title. This was not the case with Curns, whose Caesar was confident but not overblown, striding and hubristic, but likeable in the same vein. He was a leader and he led the show, without any self-awareness of his fate or the duration of his time in the play. And more than that, Curns himself is clearly one of those kinds of people who just knows what to do onstage, which goes a long way.

Brutus is my favorite character in Caesar and René Thornton, Jr. played him capably. His looming height and gravitas lent him authority, and he had the vocal delivery of a polished statesman. His choices were smart and his objectives were nimbly pursued. I would have liked to have seen a bigger transition from beginning to end, from the man who loved Caesar but loved Rome more, to the warlord who publicly brushes aside news of his wife’s death. Sarah Fallon’s Cassius was sharp and motivated, her delivery was focused, and she fit Caesar’s remark of her having a lean and hungry look. I was  greatly impressed by Gregory Jon Phelps’ Marc Antony. His character had the most engaging transition, from the Elizabethan equivalent of a frat guy to the deftly manipulative orator and conquering emperor at the end.

All told, this is great theater. It’s the kind that energizes you, makes you want to go out and do something inspired. The same reason we go home and pretend to be Batman after seeing a Batman movie.  For nothing more than the giddy appeal of witnessing something being done right, this show is worth seeing.

Julius Caesar/Blackfriars Playhouse at the American Shakespeare Centerthrough April 4

Looking forward to seeing this and  so happy Mr. Walker decided to stop by ASC as it is one of the BEST Shakespeare Theatre Companies on the planet.

See you at the theatre!

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