The 2014 Season: At a glance

Endstation Theatre Company is pleased to announce its 2014 season. This year’s season includes Two Gentleman of Virginia, Our Town and Always… Patsy Cline. Together the three presentations uniquely weave together the three most vital aspects of Endstation’s work: our community’s people, landscape and history.

Two Gentleman of Virginia is an Endstation contemporary adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Two Gentleman of Verona. Written by Endstation veteran Walter Kmiec with Jude Flannelly, the parody’s heroes Thomas Jefferson and James Madison live in a hybrid world wherein the 1780s meet the 1980s complete with a hair band and fashion maven Betsy Ross. Whether you prefer the Bard or Bon Jovi, this hilarious and highly creative production promises to be a night out not to be missed. Two Gentleman of Virginia opens on the lawn of Jefferson’s retreat home Poplar Forest on June 6 and 7. The production rounds out the remainder of its run on the beautiful grounds of Sweet Briar College June 13-14, 20-21, July 4, and July 18-19. Rain dates are June 8, 15, 22 and July 20.

The second production of the season is Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town co-directed by Artistic Director Geoffrey Kershner and Aaron C. Thomas. This production is performed exclusively at Old City Cemetery. Its location illuminates the message of Our Town. “It makes these themes of the preciousness of life even more potent,” says Kershner. According to Kershner, this production of Our Town “is an embrace of Lynchburg.” The play features a multicultural cast with the purpose of depicting the demographics of the Hill City. The music of local church choirs will also be featured at each performance. Our Town will be performed at Old City Cemetery June 27-28, July 5-6, and July 10-12. Rain dates are June 29 and July 13.

Endstation’s third production of the season, Always…Patsy Cline, is produced in partnership with the Academy of Fine Arts. Written by Ted Swindley and directed by Chad Larabee, Always…Patsy Cline is based on the true story of the Virginia-born country music legend and her friendship with a Houston fan named Louise Seger. The musical play, complete with down home country humor, true emotion and even some audience participation, includes some 27 of Patsy’s unforgettable hits such as “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Walkin’ After Midnight.”

In Endstation’s take the Academy’s Warehouse Theatre is transformed into a Texas Honky Tonk with a functioning bar. According to Kershner, “it will be immersive and like nothing anyone has experienced in that space before.” After Friday and Saturday evening performances a local bluegrass act will follow the show with a set to extend the honky tonk experience for audiences. Performances are July 24-27, 31 and August 1-3 at the Academy of Fine Arts Warehouse Theatre in Downtown Lynchburg.

IN SWEET REMEMBRANCE

Commissioned by Endstation Theatre Company, Sweet Briar College, The Greater Lynchburg Community Trust, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, In Sweet Remembrance is a tribute to the significant role of the black community throughout Sweet Briar College’s history.

*The performances are FREE for Sweet Briar College faculty, staff, and students with a valid college ID. 
 
Performances: 
Wednesday, August 27th @7:30pm (post show discussion)
Friday, August 29th @7:30pm
Saturday, August 30th @7:30pm (post show discussion)
Sunday, August 31st @2:00pm (post show discussion)
 

Endstation Honored by Local Arts Council

Endstation is proud to announce that on Thursday, March 6th, we were awarded the 2014 Voice of the Arts and Humanities Cultural Organization Award presented by the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities. This award recognizes, “distinguished creative accomplishments which significantly and consistently influence the cultural life of Central Virginia.”

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2014 Auditions

Join us on stage! Virginia auditions for Two Gentlemen of VirginiaOur Town, and In Sweet Remembrance will occur on Friday, March 14th from 6-10pm and Saturday March 15th from 10-4pm. Auditions are by appointment only. Click here for more info. 

Upcoming event…

Lynchburg’s favorite Valentines event features familiar faces and a whole new twist. Join us on February 8, 7pm at the Academy of Fine Arts to raise money for our 2014 summer season. Learn more…

Kelly Bremner On Bringing UNEARTHED to Life

Today on the blog Kelly Bremner who directs and developed Unearthed shares her perspective on bringing this new piece to life. Don’t miss Unearthed this weekend July 26-28 at 7 pm in Babcock Auditorium at Sweet Briar College.

Tell me about how you came to be involved with Unearthed.

Four years ago I met up with Dan Gallagher and Angie Sweigart-Gallagher in New York.  I knew them from grad school, and Dan and I had worked on a few shows together in those years.  Over drinks Dan told me all about Endstation Theatre Company and its mission to produce material that speaks to Central Virginian audiences. He said the company was going to start doing musicals, and he wondered if I might be interested in developing a musical work with my husband Scott that focused on Central Virginia.  At the time Dan had also been lighting a lot of opera for City Opera in New York, and he was interested in seeing if we could work with Central Virginian source material in the same way that opera develops certain types of characters and epic plots. I thought Dan’s ideas were so amazing, but I felt funny taking on a regional work from a place I didn’t come from.  I put it on the back burner….

Call it fate or what have you, but five months later I was hired at Emory & Henry College in nearby Emory, VA.  Suddenly I was “from here” even though I was a transplant.  I turned my mind back to the project after my first year at Emory as I started to fall in love with the Appalachians.  Geoff and the company invited Scott and I to campus that summer to pitch ideas to get this musical off the ground.  At this point, I knew I would need a playwright, and I had just come off an amazing collaboration with Scott and playwright Nick Lantz, and we were all eager to work with each other again, so I told Nick all about the idea and asked him to share some ideas of potential plots.  I vividly remember meeting with Geoff and Dan at Oh What a Blessing bakery, reading a handwritten note with a number of potential plot synopses, and bursting with passion about the project.  Apparently my passion came across because here we are.

 What is the design concept for this production?

 The opening stage direction of the play is one of my favorite bits of writing from the script.  “Two houses are connected by some woods but separated by 100 years.”  This meant we needed to capture two distinct time periods, and the vastness of an Appalachian forest all on one stage.  Originally we really wanted to do this production in an alternative space like a black box, or even outdoors because I wanted the musical to be acoustic, and I wanted as much intimacy with the audience as possible.  For a number of reasons, we ended up in Babcock Auditorium, but we kept working with the idea of keeping the play intimate.

 Early on, Krista proposed a poetic/non-literal take on the idea of a forest to get at the sense of fairytale and magic in the script that I wanted highlighted.  The result is the abstracted forest, with the houses on the far sides of the stage.  Krista placed a passeral on the downstage edge of the stage in order to get my singers as close to the audience as possible.  This space becomes a literal bridge between the two time periods, and serves as a place where characters can dream in song right next to my audience.  As a director, I am blessed to spend all this time inches from some of the most amazing singers, and I am hopeful that my audiences will get the same thrill out of being so close because of Krista’s design.  It also allows us to put the band right in the middle of the set literally, which is awesome.

 As you can imagine the lighting for the show needed to be amazing, since the idea for the show comes from a lighting designer.  The abstracted forest drop becomes a playground for light, and Dan expertly manipulates the light through the space to both give us a sense of realism, and of magic.  It is through the light that the idea of a fantasy world really gets driven home.

 In the costumes we again went for a sense of heightened realism.  You’ll notice denim on nearly everyone on-stage, as well as a color palette which ties them all in with the forest.  Katie Friedman, one of the interns this summer, was entrusted with the designs, and her work has been just amazing.

A shot from one of the team's previous collaborations "Iphegenia at Aulis." Music by Scott Gendel, Lighting Design by Daniel Gallagher, Directed by Kelly Bremner

 What is it like collaborating with not only your close friends, but your husband?

There are couples for whom this doesn’t work so well, but for Scott and I?  It works brilliantly.  Scott is a genius, anyone can hear that in his music, but my expertise in the practical realities of staging a show helps him keep his feet on the ground.  This is our third major collaboration, and in all three I have had to ask him for at least one major revision.  These conversations aren’t easy in any collaboration, but having them within the framework of also being married could be a scary prospect.  These kinds of conversations are professional, but when talking about music that you have written, they very quickly become personal. I have combined expertise in both music and theatre because of my background, and I think Scott trusts me to not ask for something I don’t think is necessary, and I trust him to listen and disagree if he needs to. For budding Unearthed fans, ask him about the re-write of the first song, Cass’s song, the elimination of a duet with Gaither and Alzy, and a complete re-envisioning of the end of the play.  There is some amazing music on the cutting room floor of this show, but I am glad he trusted me enough to let me encourage the changes I think the script needed.

Scott and I have worked well together since well before we were married, but I will admit this is something that has gotten harder since we had children, since it means we need to find to childcare.  For this reason, we don’t work together as often as we used to, so Unearthed is a real treat.

2 of the cast members also happen to be your students at Emory & Henry College where you are a professor. How does working with them differ in this context? 

It is just awesome. I don’t want to embarrass them, but I am beaming with pride at the work my two students do in the show.  I try to share my passion for new work with my students, and thus they have heard me talking about Unearthed for years.  However, as much as I love my students, out of respect for both their educations and the quality of the Endstation productions, I could not give them preferential treatment in casting.  They needed to get this job without any special help, and both Jackie and Devin should be applauded for getting here on their own.

The three of us made a pact at the start of the summer that we wouldn’t be student/professor for the summer, but would instead be friends and collaborators.  It has been such a treat to get to know them this way, and to watch them grow as performers in this more professional context.  I can’t wait to see where both Jackie and Devin go from here after such a great summer with Endstation.

What aspect of Unearthed gets you the most excited?

Yeah right, you might as well ask me which child I like the best.

 Seriously, I love everything about the show.  Nick’s words, Scott’s music, the design, the story, the way it is inspired by this area, the way it re-interprets the music and folk tales of this region, watching others fall for Unearthed like I have, imagining a future for the work, the people I have gotten to know while putting it together…

This show for me has been almost like bringing a child into the world with a 4 year pregnancy.  The love I feel for this show in unlike anything I have ever worked on, and I hope audiences leave as touched by this play as I am.

Unearthed is playing this weekend only Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at 7 pm in Babcock Auditorium at Sweet Briar College. For tickets call 434-826-0391 or visit endstationtheatre.org/get-tickets/

Interview with Unearthed playwright Nick Lantz

One of our greatest passions at Endstation is developing new work that is relevant to our audiences. For the last two years we’ve supported the development of UNEARTHED: an Appalachian Musical thanks in part to the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Today on the blog we meet Nick Lantz who wrote the book and lyrics for UNEARTHED.

Poet and Playwright Nick Lantz

How did UNEARTHED originate?
I believe Dan Gallagher wanted Endstation to produce a locally focused opera/musical, and he brought in Kelly Bremner and Scott Gendel, and Kelly in turn brought me in on the project. After doing some quick initial research, I pitched a series of plot outlines to Kelly—some of these versions were similar to the final story, and some were quite different, but many included some version of the Stranger character. I have a longstanding interest in folk tales and mythology, and I very much wanted to write the sort of story in which gritty, everyday problems are complicated by something magical or fantastic. Everyone was game for that, so that’s what we gravitated toward.

How did you get connected with Scott, Kelly, Dan and Angie?
We all met when we were living in Madison, Wisconsin (we all went to grad school at UW-Madison). A few years ago, Kelly brought me in to write an opera with Scott, so we’d already worked together on a project. It was a good feeling, going into UNEARTHED knowing the strength of my collaborators.

Tell us about the research involved for UNEARTHED. 

Nick Lantz writing lyrics for "Please Tell Me," a song from UNEARTHED


I started with books, mostly about the history and folk life of the Blue Ridge. My goal, particularly when writing about the characters from 1900, was to build a vocabulary that would sound authentic. I wanted to know the kind of objects and activities that would be part of these characters’ daily lives, because those would be the details they would use as points of reference in the dialogue and songs. I also listened to a lot of traditional songs from the Blue Ridge and Appalachia (Scott Gendel and I actually exchanged playlists, and found we were often drawn to similar artists and songs). I wrote the lyrics of several songs in UNEARTHED to mimic the style of those folk songs, but some of the songs themselves provided inspiration for the story itself.

One example of that is the folk song “The Two Sisters” (which comes originally from England but has many American variations), in which one sister betrays and kills another over a romantic rivalry. That idea inspired the love triangle between Alzy, Cora, and Gaither in UNEARTHED, though the outcome in our show is quite different. In the summer of 2012, Endstation gave me the opportunity to come to Virginia and explore the Amherst area firsthand. This stage of research involved a lot of field trips, and again, this provided a lot of background texture, little details that arise in the dialogue to lend it authenticity but that aren’t essential to the plot. Some outings led to more substantial aspects of the show. For example, several of us took an afternoon trip to the Piney River, which I ended up using as the setting for one of my favorite songs in the whole show.   

How has UNEARTHED evolved over the years?
I pitched a variety of different story ideas at the outset of the project, but even after we settled on one idea, a lot of the details changed, and any change tends to send out ripples. For example, Wade’s mother was originally going to be a character in the show, but she needed to be cut for reasons of dramatic economy. But then I felt it was conspicuous that even though he’s returning home we don’t see Wade reconnecting with his family, so I decided to change his backstory so that he’d been raised by Melia’s family, which completely changed how I understood their relationship. In my early research for the show, I listened to several versions of “The Wreck of Old 97,” which is a terrific railroad ballad about a train wreck that took place in Virginia 1903. I really wanted a fictionalized train wreck based on that event to be a major part of UNEARTHED’s plot and to write a song that paid homage to the original ballad. But as the script developed, the wreck’s importance to the plot kept diminishing, and eventually I felt I had to drop it. One of the changes that was the most difficult (and rewarding) for me was the lullaby that Melia sings in Act 1. It was one of the first songs that Scott and I wrote for the show—it was spooky and dark, and I loved it. But as I wrote the rest of the script, it became clear that the song no longer fit, so we had to scrap it and start over. It was heartbreaking to let it go—I was proud of the text, and Scott’s composition was absolutely haunting. So I was on a train, departing Lynchburg after my visit last summer, and I wrote a completely new version of the lullaby on that train ride. That version is (with some minor revisions) the one that appears in the show now. As much as I was sad to see the original go, I dare say the current version is even better, and the changes to the text allowed us to use it again in Act 2 in a way that I think will really surprise anyone seeing the show for the first time (I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil it). The changes that song has gone through really exemplify the way that letting go of something good can make room for something better that you didn’t expect. 


Do you have a favorite character in UNEARTHED?
Boy, that is a tough question. The easy answer is probably Melia, though perhaps for selfish reasons. Many of the lines of dialogue and bits of song text I’m most proud of as a writer are hers, though not by design. The more complicated answer is that because playwrights depend on actors to actually embody their characters, a character who is more minor or a bit “thin” on the page can end up being one of the most memorable parts of the show because of the actor’s performance. I’ve had health problems that prevented me from coming to Virginia this summer, but I’ve been watching a lot of rehearsals over the Internet, and I’m continually surprised and impressed by the life that the performers bring to the characters. So my answer to your question probably changes every time I watch part of the show, which is a great feeling. I think every character in the show gets his or her moment to really impress or surprise the audience.

Tell me about some of your other projects.
While I’ve written several plays, I’m mostly a poet. My third book of poetry, How to Dance as the Roof Caves Inwill be published in March of 2014 (though it’s already on Amazon!). The manuscript just went to the typesetter and I’ve seen the cover, which is pretty sweet. I’m currently writing another poetry collection that is all poems about animals and our (sometimes problematic) relationship to them. Right now I’m reading a lot about taxidermy as research for that project. 

How does being a poet inform your work as a playwright?
I actually feel like poetry and drama come from very different parts of my brain. Part of that is the medium in which the audience encounters each genre. A poem is complete on the page, as text, but plays aren’t complete until they’re embodied by performers in a physical space. A poem can’t depend on the presence of an actor or scenery to create an image—the poem’s magic is that it can create a powerful, vivid image from words alone. As a playwright, I have to always be mindful of the fact that a real live person will have to stand on stage and speak/sing these words. That frees me from some of the obligations of poetry but imposes others. For example, in UNEARTHED, the way that past and present intermingle is inherently physical in a way it could never be on the page. Even though the show contains songs, the lyrics of which resemble poetry in some ways, a song is not a poem, and a poem is not a song. Added to that, the songs in UNEARTHED are so different in style from the poetry I usually write that there’s very little crossover for me. A final difference is that a poet surrenders his or her text to the interpretation of a reader—that’s a reasonably straight light between author and audience. In theater, the text is mediated through the interpretation of directors, composers, dramaturgs, designers, and actors before it ever reaches the audience. The end product rarely if ever matches exactly what the playwright had in mind. A musical like UNEARTHED is the result of extensive collaboration, and the significance of that can’t be overstated. Working with the show’s creative team and watching the rehearsals, I’m continuously amazed by and grateful for the unanticipated details and dimensions that all my collaborators have found in the text.

 
UNEARTHED premieres this weekend July 26-28 at 7 pm in Babcock Auditorium at Sweet Briar College. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for students. To purchase tickets call 434-826-0391 or click here
 
 

Unearthed July 26-28

Endstation is proud to present Unearthed: an Appalachian Musical with book and lyrics by Nick Lantz, music by Scott Gendel and direction by Kelly Bremner. The studio production in development at Endstation will premiere this weekend July 26, 27 and 28 at 7 pm in Babcock Fine Arts Center. Click here for tickets.