WNRN Culture Connection for Nov 10 – 16

Ahhhh November.  The month that ushers in  the sugarfest that is commonly referred to as “The Holidays”.  This week I have sweets on the brain and have curated three plays that have some sweet related thing about them.  The first is Edward II at the Blackfriars in Staunton. King Ed has an obsession similar to a sugar addiction which ruins his reign.  Then aptly titled, The Sugar at Live Arts in Charlottesville, is all about a woman trying to kick the glucose habit just when her world seems to be falling to pieces. Lastly but definitely not least, Clay Chapman brings his Pumpkin Pie Show to Richmond.

For information on the featured events, click the links below.  To listen to this week’s Culture Connection, go to wnrn.org, click on Features then on Culture Connection.


Edward II:


The Sugar:


The Pumpkin Pie Show:


So get your sweets fix without the calories this week and have a cultured good time.

All the best,


The Culture Maven

PS: Caught Fed Up at the Virginia Film Festival this past weekend and am working on a blog post about it on culturenuts.wordpress.com.

Activity Report for last weekend (5-16 & 17-14)

Yeah, I know I have been totally slacking on this blog but I have committed to getting my financial house in order with my new job at WNRN and so I have been working, working, working.  It is time consuming but fun.

So what about some arts and culture already?


I spent some time in Richmond this past weekend and saw a play and a photography exhibit.

The play:

DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour at the theatre formerly called the Empire (now Va Rep Center) in the Theatre Gym.

This play is about the deconstruction of the American Dream as viewed through the story of two couples living in a suburb of Detroit.  I love the message of how false attachment to image, escape and material things wrecks havoc on our lives.  Plus pyro’s will appreciate all the fire references and, well, I don’t want to give anything away.  Just go see it for some engaging, thought provoking theatre. Not one single fidget moment for me and my 14 year old was riveted.

Click here for details if you want to go see it.

On Saturday I went with daughter in tow to see POSING BEAUTY IN AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE an exhibit of African American portrait photography from the  1890’s to the present.  I know what you are thinking… If you are white you are thinking that this exhibit is for African Americans and if you are African American you may be thinking that this is a ploy to get you to go to the museum. Both viewpoints are both correct and incorrect. I suggest checking it out as the photography is beautiful and the exploration of what is “beauty in terms of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture. and politics”. I think after seeing the exhibit it will be apparent that this exhibit is for anyone who appreciates art, beauty and/or photography and what is wrong  with the museum wanting to attract people anyway?

As a special bonus the VMFA has a tandem exhibit of items from its own collection called IDENTITY SHIFTS.

For info click here.

Something to see in Charlottesville (which I have yet to attend myself but it looks so interesting I just had to mention it) is


This project involves two of my favorite talented people in Cville: Julie Hamberg and Peter DeMartino so it is sure to be fabulous.

Here is the description pirated from the website:

based on the novel by MIKHAIL BULGAKOV
original text adapted for the theater by JULIE HAMBERG & PETER DeMARTINO
directed by JULIE HAMBERG

The Devil has come to Moscow with a hitman and a talking cat, and will stop at nothing to ensure the perfection of his annual Ball. Mischief, magic, beheadings, and the surprisingly touching biography of Pontius Pilate permeate this unlikely love story that proves that stars can sometimes be un-crossed with enough determination.

Click here for info.


Sadly I will miss the Village People at the Paramount on Thursday night. 😦 But that is the way of the world, sometimes.

Keep prodding me and I will keep writing.

And be sure to check out WNRN Culture Connection on Sunday June 1st at 11am on WNRN  (just stream it from wnrn.org or the App on you smart phone, it is so much easier than me typing out all seven signal numbers thank you very much) when Matthew Slaats and I and two local artists actually do the first “Art Assignment” from the online PBS show of that same name.

Enjoy the amazing weather and get out there and get cultured already.



The Culture Maven

Film, Food, MoFo’s and Ham


Charlottesville is a cool place to live because we some big city entertainment coupled with small town living.  Last week’s big city type entertainment was the Virginia Film Festival, an event that takes over our little village attracting people from all over the country to C-ville for 100 movies in 4 days.

I for one enjoy the people watching during this event usually more than the films themselves and somehow the VFF always falls on a weekend when I have fifty other obligations, limiting my ability to participate.  So this is how the weeks shook down in terms of my Arts & Culture experience:

On Wednesday I lunched at Farm as I waited to ambush Matthew Slatts, Executive Director of the Bridge Arts Center. Farm is a sandwichy/ salady type place that offers fresh food mostly locally sourced and a good selection of beers and wine.  It is charming and the noodle salad I pulled from the ready-mades cold case was delish.  A great place for a nice lunch and plenty of sunny outdoor seating.

Wednesday night I worked on my Bachata moves at Charlottesville Salsa Club’s Bachata night at club M&M.

Thursday was the first day of the VFF- good crowd watching on the Downtown Mall.  My daughter and I went to see the Lighthouse Films since she was a student over the summer.

Friday night was a family road trip to Staunton to the American Shakespeare Center with friends to see (for me a repeat viewing, I liked it so much the first time) RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET.  Every body LOVED it and I won a raffle ticket for answering a trivia question correctly. (yeah!)  The show is in its final weeks, closing at the end of November to make room for the three Christmas themed shows presented in December.

Saturday morning found me directing traffic at the Tandem Tag Sale which was a mother load of treasures.  If you missed it this year be sure to go next year because there is always some gooooood stuff for amazing prices.

Then a visit to the VFF Family day at UVA near the Culbreth theater.  All I am saying is work is needed on this event.

The next stop was one of my fav eateries – The Flat, behind the Jefferson Theater, for crepes al fresco then to Pearl’s Bake Shoppe for apple cider donuts. The Flat make fat savory or sweet crepes and is loved for the fresh local ingredients, ample portions and great prices.  It is fast food that is truly good for you. I had a veggie on buckwheat crepe – yummy.

Saturday night found me at the Downtown Grille for a quick drink and a sumptuous crab cake appetizer before popping over to Live Arts for closing night of MOTHER F**CKER WITH A HAT. The script itself was so-so with a superfluous final scene that watered down what might have been a spectacular ending but Ike Anderson as Jackie, the central character put in a dynamic performance.

Sunday was another VFF day which culminated for me and my daughter with the documentary, BIBLE QUIZ, about a bible quiz team and the personal dynamics of said team over the course of a critical competition.  Who even knew there was such a thing as Bible Quiz?  Somebody I guess…  We liked the film and were sad we missed so many other films due to scheduling or rating issues.

Sunday night we drove to Richmond for Hamaganza rehearsal in preparation for the last Hamaganza fundraiser for Feedmore ever.  Mark your calendars for December 13 & 14 to witness what is sure to be the most debauched, sophomoric and pathetic Hamaganza of all time – because some legends deserve to go down in flames.

Hopefully things will slow down a tad this week but you just never know what invitations might pop up!

Get out there and get Cultured, Ya’ll.


The Culture Maven

Live Arts 2013 – 2014 Season Announced

Last night Live Arts in Charlottesville unveiled its 2013 – 2014.  I am especially excited about this because Live Arts has become my favorite venue for live theatre in Charlottesville, astonishing me with every show this last season with its high level of production. AND there will be more good stuff to come starting in the fall.

Here is the press release distributed (lovingly no doubt) by Jigsaw Jones:


Live Arts, Charlottesville’s largest volunteer theater company, is proud to announce its 2013-2014 season. At a free Season Announcement event at Live Arts on June 2nd, Artistic Director Julie Hamberg unveiled the new season with staged excerpts from each of the six plays performed by members of Charlottesville’s thriving theatrical community.

2013-2014 will mark Live Arts’ 23rd season. In the past year, Live Arts saw a 30% growth in season subscribers, bucking all national trends. In examining this success, Executive Director Matt Joslyn points to not just the quality of work Live Arts produces but also the deep connection Live Arts continues to build with its increasingly devoted community. “Julie has done an amazing job championing classic and challenging plays that are incredibly relevant to the people who call Charlottesville home. By selecting plays that offer unique opportunities for all of our volunteer artists, she’s absolutely driving Live Arts forward in our mission of forging theater and community.”

Subscriptions are now on sale starting as low as $60, and season brochures are finding their way into the homes of all those on the Live Arts mailing list. To request a brochure, call 434-977-4177 or stop by the theater at 123 East Water Street in Downtown Charlottesville.

The theater’s subscription season represents only half of the total work the theater will produce during the 2013-2014 season, which will also include new play development, volunteer workshops, Live Arts’ robust and ever-growing education programs for all ages, the annual Gala fundraiser, the increasingly popular Late Night cabarets, and much, much more. To learn more, log on to http://www.livearts.org or call the office at 434-977-4177.


Live Arts is located in the heart of Downtown Charlottesville at 123 East Water Street, just off the Downtown Mall. For more information about the new season, feel free to contact Artistic Director Julie Hamberg at 434-977-4177 or email julie@livearts.org.

Live Arts is sponsored in part by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts & the National Endowment for the Arts.

The 2013–2014 Live Arts Season
The Motherf**ker with the Hat / the Founders Theater / October 11–November 9
The Philadelphia Story / the Gibson Theater / December 13–January 18
Getting Near to Baby / the Founders Theater / February 7–22
Grey Gardens / the Gibson Theater / March 7–29
The Language Archive / the Founders Theater / April 11–May 3
The Master and Margarita / the Gibson Theater / May 16–June 7
The Motherf**ker with the Hat
by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Author of Jesus Hopped the A Train (Live Arts 2003–2004 Season)
& Our Lady of 121st Street (Live Arts 2005–2006 Season)
directed by Natalie Dieter
October 11–November 9
in the Founders Theater
no shows October 21–27
A high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity, and misplaced haberdashery. A story of attempted redemption and the way old relationships can sometimes be savaged by the passage of time. Addiction, recovery, class disparity, truth, trust, and terrifying honesty punctuate this dark, crisp comedy from one of our favorite contemporary playwrights.

The Philadelphia Story
by Philip Barry
directed by Betsy Rudelich Tucker
December 13–January 18
in the Gibson Theater
no shows December 23–30
Tracy Lord is about to get married, a happy event made increasingly difficult by a snarky ex-husband and an attractive young newspaper reporter. More than just an old chestnut, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is sharp, acerbic, brutal, transgressive, and simply gut-wrenchingly funny. Join us as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of this Broadway smash hit of rumors, love, and midnight swims.

Getting Near to Baby
by Y York
directed by William Howard Rough
based on the Newbery Honor-winning novel by Audrey Couloumbis
February 7–22
in the Founders Theater
When you’re young, the smallest changes can be epic adventures. For Willa Jo and Little Sister, moving in with their Aunt & Uncle is enough to make their entire world strange and frightening. But with careful thought and steadfast love (not to mention the friendship of some unlikely neighbors), there’s nothing these brave girls can’t face in this intimate story of family, forgiveness, and lawn gnomes.

Grey Gardens
book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie
based on the 1975 documentary
directed by Bree Luck
music direction by Kristen Baltes
March 7–29
in the Gibson Theater
Nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2007,
including Best Musical, Best Book for a Musical, and Best Original Score
Grey Gardens. 1973. A house that once hosted Howard Hughes and the Rockefellers is now a refuge for fifty-two stray cats, a few rabid raccoons, and two reclusive women—mother and daughter, East Hampton royalty, Big Edie & Little Edie Bouvier Beale. GREY GARDENS follows the weird, eccentric path of these two women from Little Edie’s fairy-tale engagement to Joe Kennedy to their tenuous codependence in the filthy halls of the ramshackle mansion. It’s GYPSY meets HOARDERS in this sensational musical based on the true story of two women who were, at once, each other’s worst enemies and their one true love.

The Language Archive
by Julie Cho
directed by Fran Smith
April 11–May 3
in the Founders Theater
Winner of the 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
Words versus worlds, sadness versus hope. Little ideas with big ambitions make for the most surprising plays. From the train station to the bakery, from the lab to the empty living room, no matter how many languages you learn, it doesn’t mean you know how to speak to the people you love the most. A magical, bittersweet fable about the ultimate quest to say the right thing.

The Master and Margarita
based on the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov
directed by Julie Hamberg
May 16–June 7
in the Gibson Theater
The Devil has come to Moscow with a hitman and a talking cat, and will stop at nothing to ensure the perfection of his annual Ball. Mischief, magic, beheadings, and the surprisingly touching biography of Pontius Pilate permeate this unlikely love story that proves that stars can sometimes be un-crossed with enough determination.

wnrn culture connection for May 24,25,26, 2013

Here are my  3 picks for where to go and what to do in the WNRN listening area for this week

It’s prom season in Richmond this weekend but not the way you think.  Gallery 5 and the Richmond Burlesque Revue invite you to spike your hair and don your combat boots for the Punk Rock Prom, a night of bands, burlesque and a lot of balloons. Hosted by Crumpy, three punk bands play for your mosh pit enjoyment between some hot performances by Deepa de Jour, Fannie Leibovitz, Scarlet Starlet and Puppy Buffe. Punk inspired formal wear is highly encouraged.

Craving a different way to experience dysfunction?  Make your way to the Weston family reunion as Live Arts, Charlottesville’s cutting edge nonprofit theatre, presents Amy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play, August: Osage County.  This hard hitting play spiked with a shot of ironic humor, boasts most every type of issue a family could have allowing most of us to identify with at least one character and cringe  at the resulting mayhem from a poor life choice.


If you are taking your culture a tad lighter this weekend I suggest getting your Art On at Art in the Park at Gypsy Hill hosted by the Staunton Augusta Art Center, a nonprofit set up to generate diverse experiences in the creation and appreciation of the visual arts. In its forty-seventh year, this two day event features juried work form over 50 artists and craftsman and an eclectic array of music ranging from Gospel to Bagpipes to Brazilian Choro. Gourmet Food and a kids tent add to the fun.

This is Mary Burruss, urging you to make a culture connection at wnrn.org

WNRN logo

“Or” Such a Big Play for Such A Small Space

Claire Chandler, Chris Patrick and Jen Downey

Claire Chandler, Chris Patrick and Jen Downey

I feel that I must openly admit that I had a predisposition to like, “Or”, Liz Duffy Adams’ play that opened at Live Arts Upstage Theatre last weekend because I am enamoured of its subject, Aphra Behn.  Behn who lived from 1640 to 1689 had an amazing life as a spy and possibly mistress to King Charles II of England also holding the distinction of being the first woman recorded in Western civilization as supporting herself as a writer. Accused of being a libertine, Behn’s works are rife with sexual explicity  and Adams sets out to create a play about Behn that Behn might have written herself. There is comedy in the form of running jokes, rapid costume changes, cross dressing and whack-a-mole like entrances and exits. There is also tragedy as Aphra is torn between saving her lover and her loyalty to the king.

The story is about Behn’s release by Charles II form debtor’s prison, where she landed due to his tardiness in paying her for her work as a spy. The play then focuses on one crazy night in which Aphra must write a stellar play while juggling lovers and thwarting a plot to kill the king.  Adams opens it with rhyming prose. At one juncture the Jailer (hilariously played by Claire Chandler) begs Aphra(Jen Downey) not to rhyme during their conversation about ink while Aphra persists. The bit recalls the scene in The Princess Bride where  Vizzini tells Fezik and Inigo to stop rhyming. (You know the one:

Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?

Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead.

Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it.

Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?


Thanks for indulging me with that.)

Adams soon moves her characters into verse laced with humor and often foul language particularly from Nell Gwynne (also portrayed by Chandler) then ties it up neatly with rhyme at the end.

What worked in this production was wonderful and what didn’t work was rather “meh” making for a total score of 8 out of a possible 10 on the Greatness scale.

The actors were directed with care by Christina Courtenay who masterfully blocked  and built relationships with her actors on a tiny stage.  Courtenay obviously loves this play and she commands all the production elements to deliver that message.  The pacing is brisk and informed and each character is fleshed out to the fullest.

Jen Downey makes a bold post-women’s liberation, Aphra, robust and sure of herself, delivering lines with precision timing and kissing her fellow actors with great zeal. She stomps about the small stage with the gusto of a pirate captain capturing her lovers then swooping in for the kill except when (typical or writers) she is writing and all else is unimportant. There might have been an iota more respect for the customary restraint of movement of the period in her performance but we are led to believe during the preamble that the 17th and 21st centuries might criss cross a bit so the error is absolved.

Chris Patrick who gleefully attacks three roles in the show, King Charles II, double spy William Scott, and theater owner, Lady Davenant, displays his gift for comedic line delivery from the get go extracting loud laughter from the audience at key points.  He demonstrates versatility via distinct interpretation of each character (as does Chandler in her three roles) but falters into an indeterminate accent as Scott. (Though his Lady Davenant accent was appropriately hysterical as she was deftly played over-the-top.) Then there was the chest hair revealed as Charles II comes out clothed in a robe at the end of the second act, that was supposedly  purposely shaved to form a rectangular shape.  The oddity of the geometric shape was so disturbing and distracting that I fail to recall the lines delivered as the V in the robe revealed it. I was not alone in irksomeness as it was quite the topic of conversation amongst patrons upon departure from the theatre.

The shining star of the production, however, is Claire Chandler as Aphra’s jailer, Aprha’s crotchety maid, Maria and actress, Nell Gwynne. Part of her appeal is how she amps up the characters but plays properly to the small space -there is depth and variety in her performance without the overblown volume.  She especially glows as Nell, the bi-sexual, cross-dressing actress who becomes mistress to Charles II.  Chandler’s Gwynne is a good mix of masculine and feminine energy making her convincing and well-rounded as a character. She oozes universal sensuality mixed with impish charm.

Also deserving comment are the beautiful costumes designed by Stepahanie Connock, which are often changed within seconds (three cheers to Assistant Stage Manager and Dresser, Barbara Roberts!).  They were all pretty and correct for the time but Aphra’s green overlay which was too large to begin with kept coming unhooked at the top  causing a constant annoyance.

Overall “Or” is quite funny and well worth seeing.

Catch it at Live Arts on select dates from now until May 4.

Get out there and get cultured.

The Culture Maven

PS:  If you know of something interesting in terms of art and/or culture coming up in the Valley aka Lexington to Harrisonburg, shoot me an email at mgburruss@me.com and let me know. Put “culture nuts” in the subject bar.  Thanks. M


Post Publication Note:

This morning someone suggested that the rectangle shaped chest hair Chris Patrick was sporting as Charles II was a nod to Austin Powers.  It has been such a long time since I have seen an Austin Powers movie coupled with the lack of a coherent link between the film to the play other than they are about Brits, I failed (as did everyone else I spoke with) to catch the reference (if indeed there was that connection).

In the Next Room (the vibrator play) as reviewed by novelist Sophie Couch

A Review of In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)

Interesting that the titillating subject matter – the vibrator – receives all the attention. Because truly, this wonderful play was about so much more than the “devices”. For the most part a comedy, IN THE NEXT ROOM, was at moments heart wrenching and heart warming.

The production, written by Sarah Ruhl and currently running at Live Arts (www.livearts.org) in Charlottesville, VA, under the direction of Julie Hamberg, takes a look at the dawn of electricity, the dawn of a sexual revolution, and the dawning intimacy between a husband and wife, previously constrained by the social conventions of the Victorian era.

A cast of talented actors bring the play to life with immaculate timing and chemistry. The Live Arts’ team of volunteers continue to raise the bar with regard to sets, props, lighting, sound, and costumes. (Oh my. The costumes which are donned… and peeled… as needs demand… on stage!)

The final scene elicited a collective “awww” from the audience, which so well summed up the production. We can giggle at the subject matter all we want, (and this is a VERY funny production with some great sight gags), but in the end, it’s the story of a couple discovering an intimacy in their staid, Victorian relationship that requires no “devices”.

Sofie Couch is a novelist from Charlottesville, Virginia. When not raising a pa’r-a-normal young adults and living a romantic comedy, she writes in those same genres… or the occasional review when a truly worthy production requires it.


IN THE NEXT ROOM (the vibrator play) is playing at Live Arts in Charlottesville on selected dates through March 23rd. Click here for more information.

Good Vibrations: the masterminds behind the props for THE VIBRATOR PLAY

IMG_0177                                        Sarah Edwards as Sabrina Daldry & Melissa Charles as Catherine Givings photo courtesy of Live Arts

Artistic Director, Julie Hamberg, is relieved to have her Live Arts directorial debut up and running. IN THE NEXT ROOM (or The Vibrator Play) by red hot playwright Sarah Ruhl opened March 1st to a packed house. As the second part of the play’s title indicates, the play, which is set in the late 1800’s, calls for some interesting props – two electronic vibrators.

I was interested in how the props team created these devices that are focal points of much of the action in the play. So I chatted with Della Jareb and Nick Smith the masterminds behind the machines to get a better understanding of how much hard research vs. creative license was taken with the design and function of the “stimulators”.

“There are two “devices” featured in the play, one designed for a woman the other for a man,” stated Hamberg in a recent phone interview.  Some productions of IN THE NEXT ROOM have built only one vibrator but Hamberg felt it was important to have a differentiation. “Part of the fun of doing this show is about the devices and how they were used. For us having different vibrators was absolutely part of our show.”

Exploring the concept of gender differential Victorian medical orgasmic stimulation piqued the curiosity of many people working on the show.

“We had a ball. Everybody wanted to help with props!” said Hamberg. The lucky winners of the job were 17 year old home schooler, Jareb, who designed the ladies version and Live Arts Master Carpenter, Smith who built the Chattanooga, the “male” vibrator.

It took a lot of research to get the right look. Jareb and Smith got assistance from Dramaturge Kristina Dobrovic-Beard who did some extensive research on vibrators of the era. “The Cattanooga really was a vibrator of the time,” said Smith.  “One thing I learned is that the Chattanooga wasn’t patented until 1904 although the play takes place in the1890’s.”   The script also depicts the nurse using a pedal to control the speed of the Chattanooga, “yet the original patent sketches showed no indication there was any such pedal,” said Smith.

Dobrovic-Beard found a very graphic medical pen and ink drawing of how the Chattanooga was used and Smith looked at photographs from other theatre productions of the play to get an idea of what had been built before. Although Smith does not claim historical accuracy he did pay attention to many details  to make it as authentic as possible. “I chose an English Chestnut stain for the base so as to remain faithful to the type of wood that would have been used at the time. As the Chattanooga did not have to be operational, I didn’t bother with any wiring or adding the various counter weights illustrated within the patent sketches. However, I did manage to locate an electric motor from circa 1908 that matched the patent, sourced from the Edison Electric Company. Any historically accurate parts I found came from my antique hunting in Petersburg, VA.,” he said.

“Mine was based on the female vibrators of the time but I took a lot of artistic license,” said Jareb. A character describes the female stimulator as looking like a farming tool at one point in the play. Getting the right look and making a prop that had to endure a number of rehearsals and a full run of shows was a challenge.

“I modified an old drill to get the look,” said Jareb. “While the vibrator I built was not historically accurate it is fairly representative of vibrators of that time.”

“We are all really excited and impressed with how these props turned out,” said Hamberg. Who reminds viewers that having electrical stimulation was considered a viable medical treatment during the late 1800’s with no sexual connotation whatsoever.  The equivalent of getting a shot or taking a pill.

And really, isn’t a good orgasm still often prescribed by the un-charming even today as a legitimate remedy for a number of poor attitude issues?

At any rate, IN THE NEXT ROOM is sure to be a cure for the late winter blahs and I look forward to seeing Live Arts version in the near future.

See you at the theater.

The Culture Maven


Speech and Debate at Live Arts

This looks interesting.
We hate the term “edgy.” It’s massively overused in marketing circles to indicate, well, anything that is just slightlydaring. Which is a shame, because “edgy” would be a great adjective to describe our upcoming teen theater offering SPEECH & DEBATE. A story of rumors, scandals, and high school misfits, this show truly demands a great deal of bravery, both from the actors and the audience. Come see for yourselves.
February 1-16
in the Upstage
Tickets are going VERY fast, and that’s no rumor. Opening weekend already has a waiting list. Don’t wait. Get tickets, like, soon.

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

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