Counter/Top – An Interview with Playwright Kirin McCrory

I’m here with Kirin, the playwright for Endstation’s upcoming new work, Counter/Top, a play that takes place in Lynchburgs Texas Inn.

Kirin, I understand you’re from the area, did you grow up in Lynchburg itself?

Yeah, my family moved here when I was about seven, and my parents lived here until last year. I moved around when I was young, but Lynchburg is the place I consider my hometown.

What is your history with company?

I started with Endstation as an actor. I was in Romeo and Juliet, their first professional summer here at Sweet Briar—that would have been 2008. I came back the next year as an actor in another Shakespeare and a work of Joshua Mikel’s. After that I’ve been a playwright—so I’ve been with Endstation since 2008, but in different capacities.


So why the T-Room?

The T-Room is a Lynchburg staple, known by everybody from the truck drivers there at six in the morning to the VES students there on a lark on a Friday night. It’s maybe the most prominent cultural mixing pot in Lynchburg.  It’s a great establishment. The people who work there are wonderful and interesting and the people who go there—you can’t help but get sucked in by the atmosphere, it’s a really sort of warm, bizarre subset of Lynchburg culture.

The idea of a local ingredient for playwrights was introduced maybe three years ago. It was open-ended that summer, and when it was proposed to the playwrights, the T-Room was the first place to pop into my mind. One of the ingredients that year was a tea party. Out-of-towners, when you mention the T-Room, they think it’s a tea parlor.

I think that’s what I assumed the first time I heard the name.

Exactly. I think that was how I got to it that first summer. I thought the T-Room would be a great setting.

Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Playwrights Initiative and the process each summer?

I think Geoff Kershner has always been interested in new works, so the Playwrights Initiative in various forms has been a part of the Endstation summer since the beginning. As Endstation was figuring out what its purpose was and what it wanted to do, the local ingredient became very important to them. About three years ago, they solidified that and gave the playwrights a local objective.

It had been open ended before that and had just been good writers writing whatever they wanted to, but then it shifted towards writing something this region would appreciate specifically. We’ve always had public readings. Counter/Top might be the first play to move out of the Playwrights Initiative into production. Tearrance Chisholm, who has been a part of the initiative since the beginning, wrote In Sweet Remembrance, but that wasn’t started in the initiative. Josh Mikel has, of course, written several things for Endstation but I don’t think those started in the initiative either. So Counter/Top is exciting as it’s the first Endstation production that really started in the initiative.

So at this point you’ve been going to rehearsals, and seen the designs from others involved, what are your thoughts on where the process has taken your work now that it’s moved off the page and into production?

This is the most exciting point for me. The play isn’t out of my hands, but I’ve tried to give it to the people working on it. I’m always more interested in theatre as a collaborative art. I’m in it to see what other people are going to do in their roles. It’s very exciting! I think they’re painting a replica of the T-Room sign for the set, building a whole diner on stage. Walt and the cast are doing great work, and I get to let it go a little bit and give it to the people who are going to do it, let them take the reins.

Counter/Top opens July 2nd at Lynchburg Park & Recreation’s Miller Center, with performances July 3rd, 9th, 10th, & 11th at 7:30 PM, and July 5th & 12th at 2:00 PM. Ticket information is available here.

Phil Tyler is a freelance stage manager and occasional WordPress developer based out of Washington D.C. You can find him on twitter or at pwtyler.com.

Counter/Top – An Interview with Chris Merlino and Raechelle Egan

I’m here with Chris Merlino and Raechelle Egan from the cast of Counter/Top, Endstation’s latest new work, a play that takes place in Lynchburg’s Texas Inn.

Your two characters, Khent and Liza, are almost immediately antagonistic to each other, what about each other gets under your skin so quickly?

Raechelle Egan: I think it’s because I see beyond the picture Khent is putting up. Throughout the show it trickles in that he’s more than his facade, and I think I pride myself in knowing what kind of people they are when they come in, so when I start to feel like I can’t crack him…

Chris Merlino: I think that Khent is relatively passive, and he strives for a peaceful experience everywhere he goes. Liza gets under his skin because she seems to want to bother him for no reason. It’s pointless questions, really just to get a reaction out of him— one I would really not like to show.

Raechelle: He gets under my skin because he’s fake and I want to get to the bottom of it.

So that’s your relationship onstage, what is your chemistry like offstage?

Chris: I think our relationship offstage has grown since last year.  I think we have a brother-sister relationship in the sense that we know how to get on each other’s nerves, but we never do it with a malicious intent—it’s always to spice up a mundane situation.

Raechelle: Yeah, for sure.  We spend so much time together, we’ve already got Crab and Dolley [in Two Gentlemen], and that’s an interesting, very different duo. This year, it’s really worked to our advantage. I think it’s worked up our on-stage chemistry—

Chris: Because we’ve learned to be friends.

Raechelle: There’s this mutual respect, we both work hard to make the other person look good.

Chris: Because we work so closely together in both shows, it’s in our best interest to help the other person out.

This is the second new work you’ve done here, right behind Two Gents, how is that different from a show like Our Town, which you were both involved in last year?

Raechelle: What has been really great is that the playwright is there. You can ask her intention for the character and marry it with your own. It’s not like cheating, it doesn’t do the work for you, but it lets you have a more in-depth view into what’s going on. If something doesn’t feel right, you can change it and still keep the playwright’s intention. Our Town is well known and has been around for a while: people have played these characters often, whereas we’re originating roles in the new works. In Our Town, it’s more about staying true to the script, digging into what you can find in the script. You want to try to make it unique—

Chris: Working on a new work is more about exploring something as opposed to achieving something. When you have a play that’s well known, you definitely want to deliver a baseline product everybody knows and has seen and talks about, while with a new works it’s about “Let’s see what we can get out of this.”

Raechelle: With a new work, you turn to yourself first, and since you don’t have anywhere else to pull from initially, I feel like I put more of myself into those characters.

You mentioned Crab and Dolly a moment ago—you are a team in Two Gents, and are very much against each other in Counter/Top, how does it feel to make such a drastic change?

Chris: Refreshing.

Raechelle: Yeah, it’s fun!

Chris: It definitely filters a lot of what we would probably do into a stage setting as opposed to real life. I think we get it out messing with each other on stage, so that by the time we’re done, we just want to chill.

Raechelle: Even the language is… well, Two Gents is PG, while this show is… not. The language has an energy to it, it’s quick—

Chris: It reveals a grittier side to our relationship.

Raechelle: We’ve been on a team in a show before, so it helps.

Counter/Top opens July 2nd at Lynchburg Park & Recreation’s Miller Center, with performances July 3rd, 9th, 10th, & 11th at 7:30 PM, and July 5th & 12th at 2:00 PM. Ticket information is available here <http://endstationtheatre.org/gettickets/>.

Phil Tyler is a freelance stage manager and occasional WordPress developer based out of Washington D.C. You can find him on twitter or at pwtyler.com.

 

Counter/Top – An Interview With George Carruth, Jude Flannelly, and Chris Martin

I’m sitting here with George Carruth, Jude Flannelly, and Chris Martin from the cast of Counter/Top, Endstation’s latest new work, a play that takes place in Lynchburg’s own Texas Inn.

In the last show, Two Gentlemen of Virginia, we saw you as these outrageous, over-the-top characters,. How is your approach to Counter/Top different from Two Gentlemen, and how did you feel coming out of one and into another?

Jude Flannelly and Chris Martin in Two Gentlemen of Virginia at Poplar Forest

George Carruth: There’s more at stake now, because there are actual human beings depicted on stage, and those actual human beings could be in the audience. There’s more pressure to do a good job.

Chris Martin: My character Gunner is interesting, as he does borderline caricature for me. The important thing is to figure out who he is as a human: his past, the conflicts there— there are very human conflicts going on that need to be present because he can come off as a clown, but he is so relatable. You immediately love Gunner. He’s so dumb, you know that from when he first walks onstage, but he’s got a respectable amount of grit and gumption, and his heart is in the right place. Gunner is going through very real things— 

Jude Flannely: The acting style is certainly American realism—

Chris: Exactly. He is not a stock character; he’s not like the style of Two Gents at all, but a borderline caricature in a very real world with very real people. It is my job to make him as real as everyone else on stage. The language takes care of itself, and it’s up to me to bring in the honesty and myself into the character. Another beautiful thing about Gunner is that he’s too dumb to have subtext, so everything he says, he means.  He can’t hide anything. That’s almost Shakespearian in a way, there’s no subtext in Shakespeare, there’s no hidden agenda with Gunner: it’s all out there and he doesn’t know how to deal with it.

Jude: You can’t just sit there and play a generic character. You can’t just play an old person, you need to play a person who has seen stuff that is specific to that person. You have to ask yourself: Is this guy a veteran? Where does he get money from? What does he do? You have to get very specific. That colors the character.

George: The process has been the same in that both Two Gents and Counter/Top are new pieces that are debuting here.  There are rewrites and questions: we sometimes have the playwright in the room. The shows are different because one involves maniacal explosion of energy (in Two Gentlemen) while in Counter/Top, the explosion should maybe never happen, but it should always be on the brink of exploding. 

George, you mentioned having the playwright in the room, can each of you talk a little about your relationship with Kirin, the playwright? How long have you each been involved in the play?

George: I met Kirin three years ago here at Endstation with the Playwrights Initiative. This play has been worked on I think as long as that. I’ve seen different drafts of this, and we’ve had readings— I’ve played different characters.

Chris: My first year here was three years ago. I think I originally read for Jude’s part, I think I was Brooks. Last year I read for Gunner.  It’s interesting to see how it’s evolved through time. I love working on new work because it’s so alive: you come in, there are changes that are dependent on what we actors are doing.  She’s watching the show and making changes that are dependent on choices that we’ve made. It becomes a piece tailored to us as actors.

Jude: Kirin is from around here, and has known these people for a while. I started last year, and read a bunch of different parts. Watching her adapt the piece to these specific actors has been a really interesting process.

George: It’s fun to see the life of the play change with the performers, and it’s a testament to Kirin’s writing that the play is not dependent on any single actor playing any particular role. The roles are ready for any actor to assume.

You’re spending all this time in a fictionalized Texas Inn, how many times have you been to the real T-Room?

Chris: The first time I went, Josh Mikel, our resident playwright (who originally read George’s part), within like 10 minutes, proposed and was married to some woman who was next to him. They made these little napkin rings; it became this beautiful ceremony between these two people who had never met. It was exactly the kind of thing that happens at the T-Room: the most interesting people you could imagine. All walks of life. I’ve never had a boring experience there. 

George: I’ve been to the T-room about six times?  My experiences have been… I feel like I’ve been to the T-Room once. Every time I’ve gone it’s been the exact same thing. It’s like a pit stop on the way to the edge of the earth. It’s always open, and everybody who hits it, especially at the time of night it’s most populated, feel like they’re on the edge of the world, they’re on the ride of a lifetime. And the people at the T-Room are right there chugging along, doing their thing like always. They cater to men with button-down shirts, or denim cut-offs. Like Chris said—all walks of life. 

Jude: I’ve only gone once; I think it was after a reading of this play at the Academy. It’s an interesting place. It’s like the most American thing in the world.

Chris: That’s a bold statement.

Jude: On a scale, of one to ten, it is like eleven on the scale of American things.

So, do you like Cheesy Westerns?

George: Yes, I do.

Chris: Love ’em.

Jude: Yeah, every day. I did get the chili. Everything was good.

Chris: I wouldn’t order anything else.

Counter/Top opens July 2nd at Lynchburg Park & Recreation’s Miller Center, with performances July 3rd, 9th, 10th, & 11th at 7:30 PM, and July 5th & 12th at 2:00 PM. Ticket information is available here.

Phil Tyler is a freelance stage manager and occasional WordPress developer based out of Washington D.C.  You can find him on twitter or at pwtyler.com.

Our Board on Summer 2014

As we near the close of this Summer, our Endstation Board president Laren Baum and I asked two of our board members to reflect on what Endstation has meant to them both this Summer and in previous years.

Rachel Gagen (left) at Sonnets & Chocolates 2014

I moved to Lynchburg for the schools and the parks, for my job, but without any hope that a small town like this could support quality theatre. I figured I would have to drive to Richmond or DC to get my cultural fix. What a delight to be so wrong!! I fell in love with Endstation at first iambic pentameter. Over multiple seasons, I can confidently say that they have produced the most unique and enthusiastic Shakespeare I’ve ever seen anywhere (New Haven, NYC, London). Each show is endowed with homespun music, costumes, and detail that captivate the audience. Beyond the Bard, Endstation entrances both your ears and eyes with musicals like Big River and original works. This company not only has a treasure trove of creativity and wit in its participants, but it is dedicated to being a truly local theatre. Endstation makes Lynchburg come to life with amazing outdoor performances that cannot be duplicated. Each season has outdone the last. It’s what’s happening in Lynchburg every summer.  No travel needed!

This year Endstation surpassed even my high expectations. The original piece Two Gents was so good – I saw it multiple times! The way they stirred history and culture and drama and comedy and music and location into a giant pot and then presented a delicious and unique show. I fell in love all over again! Our Town was a show that I saw long ago and loved. It’s hard to outdo a memory like that, but the performance in Old City Cemetery was literally breathtaking. I was moved by the honesty and the artistry. I wept and felt joy for the chance to weep. I treasure the way that, in both these shows, Endstation brings Lynchburg to life. This is what is truly unique – that no professional company in a theatre outside of our wonderful town could ever create. Even years after the show is over, it will inhabit and color the space. Each time I visit Poplar Forest, I hear the spirits of shows before. And the audience participation is the extra shine on the shoe. Each performance is truly unique and palpable to the audience. We are so blessed to have this company here, opening our eyes and hearts to our own community, joys and sorrows.
 

Jason Witt (left) at the Endstation Croquet Tournament 2014

I am so proud to be part of this organization. While new to the board, I am not new to Endstation as I have been both a personal fan and a community volunteer. After attending a performance last year, I was taken back by the level and quality of theatrical talent that was present here in our community. I knew I wanted to get involved with the organization so I approached the theatre and started volunteering. It is because of this that I am now serving as a member of the Endstation Board. It is an honor to be working with this amazing group.

My first season as a board member has been an incredible one. I personally believe that giving back to your community in some way is vital to your community’s livelihood. And to partner that “giving back” with an organization such as Endstation has allowed me to witness first-hand the value Endstation brings to our community. Aside from having a small part in bringing first rate theatre to Central Virginia, I have been able to witness many of its benefits; whether it has been witnessing a patron connecting with a particular show or receiving a thank-you message from someone that explains how much enjoyment they received from attending a show. For me, theatre provides an escape, it provides different perspectives, it provides motivation and it provides joy. Theatre educates us about those who have come and gone. It keeps their memory alive and it allows their great lessons on life to continue. For all these reasons, and many more,  serving on the Endstation board is an experience I will always value.

We hope that attending an Endstation show can be like visiting with family. This is our community, and we are proud to see how the Endstation family grows exponentially every year. Your community. Your story. Your theatre company.

Aaron C. Thomas has been the Resident Dramaturg at Endstation Theatre since 2010. He is also a contributing scholar for the Brooklyn-based American Laboratory and will be working in the Department of Theater at Dartmouth College. You can connect with him via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or his blog Tea to Pour.

New Play Reading Series 2014!

Each year Endstation brings a group of talented playwrights to come participate in a playwriting intensive in beautiful Central Virginia. This year joining the team are Hallie McPherson, Matthew Kellen Burgos, and Kirin McCrory – along with our Regional Commissioned playwright, Tearrance Chisholm, and our resident playwright, Joshua Mikel.

This month, beginning on Monday July 28th, Endstation will be hosting a public reading series, which is your chance to get involved! Come hear readings of the playwrights’ new works and participate in talk-backs with the writers!

Monday, July 28th: In order to prepare for this reading, the writers have been spending their days participating in a writing bake-off. This means they all have a list of “ingredients” that each playwright needs to include in his or her piece. These ingredients range anywhere from “the Tower of Babylon” to a “pineapple”! To make things more interesting, each playwright has been assigned an idea that centers on specific topics of Central Virginia history. At the reading you can expect to hear plays about the poverty in Cotton Hill, racial segregation in Miller Park Pool, and even the myth of Thomas Jefferson’s poisonous love apple! This event will take place at the Amherst Historical Society at 7:00 PM.

Tuesday, July 29th: This is a special event dedicated to our generous donors and support system. A wine and cheese reception will be held in the Anne Spencer House Garden and Museum at 5:30 PM for all of our supportive donors! The reception will be followed with a reading of Matthew Burgos’s new manuscript, Forest, Empty. The play investigates the life of a Congolese pygmy, Ota Benga, living in Lynchburg, and his relationship with the Harlem Renaissance poetess, Anne Spencer.

Wednesday, July 30th: We will be ending our Public Reading Series with a piece three years in the making. Kirin McCrory will be sharing her manuscript creatively influenced by the late night antics of Lynchburg’s famous greasy spoon, the Texas Inn. The reading will take place at the Warehouse Theatre in the Academy of Fine Arts at 7:00 PM.

 All readings are free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Two Grand Ladies: Patsy Cline and Lynchburg’s Academy of Music

One Sunday afternoon, while I was strolling through the ruins of a Victorian palace in the backwoods of Central Virginia, I stumbled across a Latin verse etched into a wooden bookcase. When translated, the quote read ‘Architecture is frozen music’.

As I sift through books and photos that illuminate the once grand stature of Lynchburg’s Academy of Music, I suddenly realize the poignancy of that carved-in piece of wisdom. When it first opened in 1905, the Academy was an epicenter of excitement and activity for Lynchburg residents, who had never before stepped into a building that was fully equipped with working electricity. The theatre was a symbol for the city’s societal progress in the arts, but Lynchburg’s relationship with the building has eroded with the innovations of film and television. Yet, the theatre still stands today, as a symbol of an era frozen in time.

With its Ionic pillars protruding out of its cemented exterior, the Academy is a living relic to the Neoclassical period of architecture that was popular in the United States during the early 20th century. Appropriately nicknamed Lynchburg’s ‘Grand Old Lady’, the building’s antiquarian design was thought of as a remedy to cleanse the clutter or urban life, but none of the Academy’s classical features could protect it from a long history of rebirths and destructions.

At the height of its popularity, the Academy of Music was victim to a fire on April 20th, 1911. Up to that point, the Academy had housed the talent of memorable names such as George M. Cohan, Ethel Barrymore, Will Rodgers, and Mary Pickford. For a then-astounding cost of $2.50, the Lynchburg elite could enjoy the front row antics of John Drew or Stella Mayhem. The fire of 1911 would be the first crack to crumble this house of fantastical escapism, as the nation increased its involvement in World War I.

Though Lynchburg mercantilist Charles M. Guggenheim was able to surge a quick renovation of the theatre within a year of its first fire, the number of performers touring into the city via railroad steadily decreased as coal became a commodity to fuel the war effort in Europe. Lynchburg residents found that the new “movie palace” across the street from the Academy offered a greater variety of entertainment, and so a fierce competition for ticket sales was ignited with the advent of talking pictures in the 1920s. 

Not to mention, the highbrow theatregoers of the city were beginning to recede into the suburbs as the number of families owning an automobile had increased to almost 50% by 1925. That same year, the Academy would be victimized once again, but this time at the hands of a tribe of barbaric hooligans. The once ‘Grand Old Lady’ would be reduced to housing amateur talent for the next three decades, until finally the Academy ended all theatrical entertainment in 1958.

Serving as an incubator for dust and cobwebs for the next three decades, the Academy managed to avoid demolition by the city council due to its merit as a historical site, though the building could not fight Mother Nature, as demonstrated when it lost its roof during a storm in the summer of 1993.         

The tumultuous journey of the Academy found new direction when it merged with the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center in 2003 to form the Academy of Fine Arts. This consolidation has inspired bold new plans to completely renovate the original Academy building back to its original design from 1905. Until the renovation is complete, many present productions are being staged behind the Academy theatre in the Joy and Lynch Christian Warehouse Theatre. This will be the site of Endstation’s final show of the season, Always…Patsy Cline

A musical play about the unapologetically independent singer of the late 1950s, the life of Patsy Cline strangely correlates with the location that will stage her story. A wife and mother who would survive a near-fatal car accident in 1961, Cline had the strength to rise from the ashes and continue her career as a headliner at the Grand Ole Opry, only to be struck down again just two years later in a plane crash that would end her life at the age of 30. 

Just as the Academy of Music experienced many premature tragedies in its lifespan, Patsy Cline’s legacy would depend on public appeal to maintain its prevalence. Thanks to the eternal timelessness of her music, she continues to reappear in pop culture with Hollywood dramatizations in Sweet Dreams and Coal Miner’s Daughter, and this play by Ted Swindley is now one of the most produced musicals in America. 

Similar to how a listening of “I Fall to Pieces” can enchant a person’s lonely heart with the memories of a lost love, a quick glance at the fading marquee of the Academy of Music induces a feeling of nostalgia for a simpler time. 

Lynchburg’s Grand Old Lady will welcome the grand lady of country music on July 24th, and will house her in its the Warehouse Theatre until August 3rd.

Kevin C. Reagan is a student of the University of Arizona, where he studies theatre, history, and journalism. While in school, he works as the editor of the arts & life section of his university’s award-winning newspaper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He also works as a content producer for Arizona Public Media. He hopes to pursue a professional career in arts-focused journalism upon graduating with his BFA degree this December. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinReaganUA.

Meet Our Stage Management Apprentices

Here at Endstation, an enormous component of our work every year is mentoring and teaching college students who travel many miles in order to work for the company and who get to study with Endstation’s professional theatre artists, managers, designers, and technicians. Every year, our apprentices build scenery, assist with the box office, paint flats, design properties, pull costumes, stage manage shows, and focus lighting equipment. These young men and women are an integral and beloved part of Endstation’s work. This year, we want to make sure our audiences get to know our apprentices even more usual by showcasing them and their stories through the Endstation blog. The stage management apprentices, Katie and Drew, work directly with the directors of this season’s shows and maintain the artistic integrity of the show each and every night, long after the director’s work is done. Let’s hear it for the stage managers!

OK. Here we go! Can you tell us a little bit about where you’re from and how you heard about Endstation?

Katie: I currently attend Florida State University so hearing about Endstation Theatre Company just comes with the territory. Every summer when students are looking for a great summer-stock theatre, you look to Endstation first. FSU alumni founded the theatre and many of my friends have been apprentices in the past and loved their experience. What more could you really look for than outdoor theatre in the beautiful Virginia mountains? I was immediately hooked as soon as I heard about them.

Drew: I’m from Bowie, Maryland and I attend Stetson University in Deland, Florida. I first heard about Endstation from Krista Franco when she was in the midst of the candidate process to join the theatre faculty at Stetson. During her portfolio presentation, she showed production photos of Endstation’s Twelfth Night and described the amazing work that Endstation puts on each summer. From that moment, I knew I wanted to get involved with Endstation in some capacity. Last summer, a friend and I visited Cassie Kris, when she was working with the company as a scenic artist apprentice, and I was able to experience a taste of what life was at Endstation. Eventually, Krista began teaching at Stetson and she encouraged me to apply to Endstation as an apprentice and now I’m here helping to create and facilitate great theatrical experiences for our patrons.

Any teachers at your school that we should give a shout-out to?

Katie: I’ve been lucky to have many teachers who have guide my path. George McConnell wrote me a wonderful letter of recommendation so I should really start with him. George is someone I really admire for the work he’s brought to FSU. And in my first year of college, Christopher Brazelton really ushered me into theatre management. He taught me so much in such a short period of time and I will always be thankful for knowing him. But in regards to stage management, the person to whom I really owe most everything is Siobhán Ruane. She really refined my work and made me a better stage manager this year. I’m very grateful for her impact and am lucky to consider her a friend as well as a mentor.

How did you fall in love with in the theatre?

Drew: Theatre has always been a part of my life. My parents have always supported the arts and believed that it was important for their children to explore different artistic media. I remember my parents taking advantage of all of the great theatre that was available in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. They would take my brother and sister and me to see the touring Broadway productions at the Kennedy Center or take us up to New York City to spend our spring breaks from school exploring the city and seeing Broadway shows.

Katie: I don’t know if I could pinpoint a specific moment where I fell head over heels into theatre. I think it’s a slow process – a progression of staying in the theatre until 2 am to work some nights or inviting your friends over to watch a movie and finding yourself suddenly in a production meeting discussing the lighting design – where you realize you’re probably in this for the long haul and you’re in love. Pretty much how you fall in love with a person.

But surely you both started as performers, right?

Katie: I think it’s a rule that most people that have wildly curly hair and a lot of energy are probably put in some kind of performance camp as a child, so that’s exactly what my parents did. I was a performer for a very long time up until college when, as a favor, I stage-managed my first show, Black Comedy written by Peter Shaffer. I gained a lot of experience and confidence through that process and met some wonderful people.

Drew: Personally, I first got started in theatre in the 3rd grade when I acted in a local church production of The People Garden. Since then, I had been primarily acting in local community musicals. I continued acting when I arrived at Stetson but began to explore different opportunities in theatre. When I was a sophomore in college, I stage-managed a student-directed production of Dracula and I knew I found something I could see myself doing in the future. After working on that show, I have been pursuing acting, stage management and, recently, directing.

What do you do for fun? I would ask what you do when you’re not doing theatre, but I expect you spend most of your “fun” time doing theatre-related activities as well.

Katie: I really love to travel! Fall semester of 2013 I traveled abroad to London and spent 4 months working at a fashion public relations company. I got to work on London Fashion Week projects. I was in Barcelona, Spain for my 21st birthday and got to lay on the beach in La Barceloneta. I lived five minutes from the West End in London, so I got to see a lot of theatre while I was there.

Drew: I’ll be the first to admit that I am a TV and musical theatre nut. If I’m not obsessing over what happened to Olivia Pope on the latest episode of Scandal or rewatching The Golden Girls for the 500th time with Cassie Kris, then I’m probably ranting on about how fantastic Sydney Lucas is on the Fun Home cast album or playing “The Hill” from the Once original broadway cast recording over and over again. It’s a problem, I know.

Katie: Actually, when I saw Once in London, I introduced myself to the stage manager. She invited me to come back, sit backstage, and watch her call the show. It was such an amazing experience!

Do you have a favorite show you’ve worked on?

Drew: At Stetson, I got the opportunity to play Leaf Coneybear in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It was always of dream of mine to play Leaf because how I much I relate to the character. I loved being able to explore Leaf’s silly quirks and emotional depth and have the opportunity to share him with audiences every night.

Katie: I always cite this as my favorite show simply because of the people I was surrounded by and the work we were doing. I worked on a devised theatre piece at FSU my sophomore year. The director, Matt Silva, and I had worked together previously and I will always feel like it’s a privilege to have worked with him. The piece was originally shaped by Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist, but it turned into this amazing work with actors wearing school desks and dances. Beside the work itself, it was so fun to call the show. There was a dance with different sound cues every 3-5 seconds, and I remember working very hard to make sure the timing came out exactly right.

Drew: I’m going to be selfish and talk about two of my favorite shows that I’ve worked on. One of my favorite shows that I have stage- managed was this past semester at Stetson when I worked their production of Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom. It was one of the most collaborative productions I have ever been a part of and it was such a joy to work with a great creative team and cast.

What has it been like working at Endstation so far?

Katie: Working with Endstation Theatre Company has been amazing. The staff here is so welcoming and inviting. The shows being produced this season are incredibly diverse, which makes a great learning experience for apprentices. I’m currently working on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, a very well-known play, and an entirely new work written for Sweet Briar College’s campus, In Sweet Remembrance. It’s lovely when a company can be so devoted to making good work for their audiences and encouraging their apprentices to try new things and learn as they work.

Drew: My experience working at Endstation so far has been incredible. I’ve been itching to work with a professional theatre company for some time now and Endstation has been everything I have ever dreamed of in a theatre company. Everyone here is so friendly and welcoming. I admire their commitment to the work that we are trying to do this summer. It’s just wonderful to be a part of this company.

Thanks, guys! You two are a delight.

A big thank-you to our Assistant Production Manager Cassie Kris for the truly awesome photos. According to Cassie, “The amount of planning Drew and Katie went through to coordinate outfits and figure out poses was ridiculous… but not shocking.”

Aaron C. Thomas has been the Resident Dramaturg at Endstation Theatre since 2010. He is also a contributing scholar for the Brooklyn-based American Laboratory and will be working in the Department of Theater at Dartmouth College. You can connect with him via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or his blog Tea to Pour.

Protecting a Legacy: an Interview with Patsy Cline’s Daughter

The world knows her as the first woman of country music, but Julie Fudge knows her just as mom. Just four years old when Patsy Cline died tragically in a plane crash, Fudge grew up discovering her mother through her timeless music. Today, the 55 year-old helps to represent her mother’s estate with her father, and supervises the Always… Patsy Cline Fan Club.

Cline is the subject of the musical Always… Patsy Cline by Ted Swindley, which will be staged by Endstation Theatre Co. starting July 24th at the Academy of Fine Arts in downtown Lynchburg. Fudge is used to watching actresses play her mother, as Cline has been dramatized on screen by Jessica Lange in Sweet Dreams and by Beverly D’Angelo in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

REAGAN: Do you have a favorite song of your mother’s?

FUDGE: They told me as a child that I liked the “Tra La La La Triangle” song very much, but I enjoy her music just as much as anyone else.

REAGAN: Did you ever have ambitions to follow in your mother’s footsteps?

FUDGE: I didn’t hang out at the Grand Ol’ Opry all the time like how some people would think, but I never had something she had… so I never took a professional route into the music business.

REAGAN: What was it that your mother had that made her so special?

FUDGE: She was a very personable person, and always in charge, and very confident… which is something I lack. I think she had something you did not find in females in general at that time, and back then you had to fight and push hard in order to make it.

REAGAN: Have you ever seen a production of Always… Patsy Cline?

FUDGE: I’ve been privileged to see a number of productions. The story itself represents Patsy very well, and the script of the story sounds a lot like mom. In those days, it was not unusual for fans and performers to be friends, so it captures that culture very well.

REAGAN: Did your mother have many friendships with her fans?

FUDGE: She met one lady in Canada, and to this day our families are still in contact. We share each other’s homes and each other’s lives.

REAGAN: Did you ever meet Louise Seger, the fan who befriends your mother in Always… Patsy Cline?

FUDGE: I did meet Louise, and she was a very sweet person. In fact, that character is probably my favorite part about the play. She is such a hoot, and I think I would really enjoy hanging out with her.

REAGAN: What is it like seeing other women portray your mother on stage and screen?  

FUDGE: It is a little strange, but we’ve become accustomed to people playing her. Coal Miner’s Daughter and Sweet Dreams are both good movies, but Sweet Dreams was half-story and half-Hollywood, and there have been misconceptions made from that movie. For instance, mom’s favorite flower was a red rose, but the film claims that it was a blue rose.

REAGAN: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your family?

FUDGE: That the people who represent Patsy Cline are not accessible, or that we’re above them in some way. We are no different than anybody else and are always willing to answer any questions someone may have.

REAGAN: What do you think was your mother’s greatest accomplishment?

FUDGE: Personally, I think she wanted to have a family and a career she enjoyed, and I think she accomplished that.

REAGAN: What’s it like interacting with fans of your mother?

FUDGE: Fans today are very excited, and I try to be just a representative for her. I’m not Patsy… I’m just as big a fan as anybody.

REAGAN: Thank you so much, Ms. Fudge, for volunteering your time to chat with me this afternoon!

Kevin C. Reagan is a student of the University of Arizona, where he studies theatre, history, and journalism. While in school, he works as the editor of the arts & life section of his university’s award-winning newspaper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He also works as a content producer for Arizona Public Media. He hopes to pursue a professional career in arts-focused journalism upon graduating with his BFA degree this December. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinReaganUA.

Altering Imagination: the Life of a Costume Apprentice

“There are sneaky things that happen in the costume shop,” says Katie Goldman, one of the two Endstation apprentices spending the summer learning the crafty side of dressing three full-scale productions.

Along with Hope Maddox, Goldman works in the basement of Sweet Briar College’s Babcock Theatre, where they help the Endstation costume designer, Deepsikha Chatterjee, to alter garments, pull wardrobe, and assist with clothing the 30 different characters of the Endstation season.

When they’re not raiding the racks of a nearby Goodwill, Goldman and Maddox are thinking of ways to be resourceful with the materials they’re given. For instance, Goldman suggested altering a pair of women’s shorts for the boyish character of Wally Webb in Our Town.

“It’s a lot of creative problem solving,” says Goldman, who just graduated from Swarthmore College in Philadelphia. Maddox is currently attending Longwood University, where she is earning a BA degree in theatre and history.  

Maddox is also learning how to improvise. When she was forced to learn how to pattern an 18th-century-style cravat for the production of Two Gentlemen of Virginia, luckily she had the assistance of some YouTube videos, which helped speed up the construction process from two full days to an afternoon.

Hope & Katie, Photo by KCR

Goldman and Maddox are both natives of the Amherst County area, and so they elaborated more on how Endstation has impacted their surroundings from the time they were in high school.

REAGAN: How has Endstation changed this place you call home?

GOLDMAN: I think without Endstation, there is a void in the arts scene because there are not many other theatres doing shows over the summer.

MADDOX: The company has gotten bigger since I was in high school, and it’s begun to reach out to Lynchburg, which is great for the arts in general.

REAGAN: How did you become interested in costumes?

MADDOX: I’ve always been doodling little dresses in notebooks as long as I can remember. I’m a girl so I like pretty things, and costumes can be so beautiful.

GOLDMAN: My mom taught me to sew as a kid, so it was kind of inevitable that I’d be doing something with costumes. I remember my parents got me and my siblings a giant chest with dress-up clothes for Christmas one year, and we’d spend hours just playing.

REAGAN: What was your favorite thing to dress-up as?

GOLDMAN: I was a princess for Halloween about 7 times… maybe more.

MADDOX: I have an Anne Boleyn costume that I wear all the time. I saw a production of Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton at The Globe Theatre, and it changed my life! I just love Tudor costumes, and I think I was Anne Boleyn in a past life.

REAGAN: Do you ever make your own clothing?

Katie, photo by KCR

GOLDMAN: I typically just alter things so that they can fit me. I hope I’ll be able to learn more about doing alterations over the summer.

MADDOX: I’ve made a Kate Middleton-style coat, and I’m waiting for Easter to come around so that I can wear it!

 

REAGAN: What’s been your favorite show to work on?

MADDOX: I have things that I love about every show that I have ever worked on and usually the shows that are my favorite ones are the ones that involve a lot of creative projects and thinking outside the box. I really enjoy shows that have a lot of color and energy. I have enjoyed all of the shows that I have worked wardrobe on like The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, For the Love of Three Oranges, and I have truly enjoyed working on Two Gentlemen of Virginia.

GOLDMAN: So far, I’d have to say that the show I’ve most enjoyed working on was my acting thesis this past spring. Three friends and I devised a production of The Three Musketeers and it was a very physically demanding clown piece, which was a ton of fun to create and perform.

REAGAN: What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to make for a show?

GOLDMAN: I had to make a pair of hair-horns for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The director wanted them for the character of Puck, and so I had to make them out of Styrofoam and fake hair.

MADDOX: I once tie-dyed a clown costume. I felt like a mad scientist because the costume’s material was really heavy, and took a lot of mixing and coloring. I think the way color works is really fun, so one of my hobbies is just to tie-dye things.

REAGAN: Have you ever experienced any wardrobe malfunctions while working on a show?

MADDOX: Everybody likes to throw up and rip their pants when I’m a wardrobe supervisor! I once had to have a crew member follow around an actress with a bucket because she would always get sick before and after the show.

GOLDMAN: I’ve had a similar experience…I was actually performing in a show. Another actress had completely ripped the crotch of her pants. We were all scrambling backstage to fix the problem. We all had these safety pins on the tags of our costumes, so we were pinning the pants back together so that they would hold through till intermission.

Hope, photo by KCR

REAGAN: What would be your dream show to work on as a designer?

MADDOX: I would really like to do Midsummer Night’s Dream because you could do crazy fairy stuff, and there’s so much you can do with Shakespeare. If I could, I would probably do it in the Italian Renaissance era because of its color palette… the show is a very earthy, summer play, so I think that period would work well.

GOLDMAN: The play Etta Jenks by Marlane Meyer has characters that all have animal qualities, which I would like to reflect in the costumes. The play is about a girl who tries to make it big in L.A., and then ends up in the porn industry, but climbs the ranks to become a talent scout for the business. I had to read it for a dramaturgy class.  

REAGAN: How is Endstation preparing you for achieving your eventual career goals?

MADDOX: I feel that Endstation is giving me a lot of real life, professional experience with costumes and with creative problem-solving. I think that the lessons I have learned during this apprenticeship will help me to be a better costume technician in the future, which in turn will help me be a better designer.

GOLDMAN: My ultimate career goals are still a bit fuzzy and undefined. I know that I would like to stay in the theatre world for a while longer, but I’m still determining where I would like to live and how I’d like to channel my creativity. Currently, I’m exploring costumes and think I may continue this for a bit. Working with Endstation is giving me a solid technical base in costumes, while exposing me to a professional theatre experience within a friendly, family-style company. I would also like to continue doing theatre that has strong connections and a basis in its community; Endstation is giving me excellent preparation in that arena.

Goldman and Maddox are presently assisting with the costume construction of Endstation’s production of Our Town, which will be staged at the Old City Cemetery starting June 27th.

Kevin C. Reagan is a student of the University of Arizona, where he studies theatre, history, and journalism. While in school, he works as the editor of the arts & life section of his university’s award-winning newspaper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He also works as a content producer for Arizona Public Media. He hopes to pursue a professional career in arts-focused journalism upon graduating with his BFA degree this December. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinReaganUA.

Meet Our Scenic Painting Apprentices

Here at Endstation, an enormous component of our work every year is mentoring and teaching college students who travel many miles in order to work for the company and who get to study with Endstation’s professional theatre artists, managers, designers, and technicians. Every year, our apprentices build scenery, assist with the box office, paint flats, design properties, pull costumes, stage manage shows, and focus lighting equipment. These young men and women are an integral and beloved part of Endstation’s work. This year, we want to make sure our audiences get to know our apprentices even more usual by showcasing them and their stories through the Endstation blog. We have six different apprenticeships, and so we will be posting a discussion with each group of apprentices over the coming weeks. We hope you like them as much as we do, and if you see one of them at a show, go up and say hello!

Aaron: Hi guys, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from?

Sarah: I am from King George, Virginia, and I’m double-degree student at James Madison University (in Harrisonburg, Virginia) in studio art (art education and painting and drawing) and technical theater (scenic art). I first heard about Endstation when I came to Sweet Briar college as part of the BLUR summer arts program a few summers ago. I had applied as an art student, but because my portfolio had a lot of stuff that I’d painted for my high school’s theater program, I got stuck into the theater performance track. I was so nervous about that – I had no desire to do any performance at all! I ended up being very lucky, though – I had the opportunity to work with some really great people from Endstation (including Michael Stablein, who is working with the Playwrights Initiative and BLUR this year), and was allowed to shadow Endstation’s scenic designer/production manager/ co-founder Krista Franco in the paint shop for a couple of weeks. I learned a lot about performance and just being comfortable with myself, and I fell in love with scenic art. I think, too, that it was the first time that I realized what theatre was and could be – not just lines and paper moons and curtain call – but something real people can connect with on a personal level. I kept up with Krista when I was working on my senior culminating project on scenic art for Commonwealth Governor’s School, and now I’m here! I’m so excited to be apprenticing with Endstation this summer!

Pedro: I’m from San Antonio, Texas and go to school at Texas State University. I heard about Endstation Theatre from our new lighting supervisor Scott Vandenberg. He actually handed me Krista’s card and I was able to meet with her while at USITT.

Sarah & Pedro

Aaron: Are there any professors or anyone else to whom you’d like to give a shout-out?

Pedro: I would love to give a shout-out to Scott for introducing me to Krista and Sara Lee Hughes and Tara A. Houston for making me a better scenic artist and designer.

Sarah: I’m very grateful to John Burgess, my professor and advisor, for encouraging me to get out and try things this year, and to Krista for helping me find my way!

Aaron: How did you each get started in the theatre, and why did you choose scenic painting as a field of interest?

Sarah: My first real memory of theatre is when my family went to Theatre IV in Richmond to see The Wizard of Oz. I was around seven or eight years old, and I just thought it was the most dazzling thing in the world – I remember that I covered my ears all the way home from the show so I wouldn’t have to hear the radio and forget a single line or song from the show. I was completely in love! My family continued to go to the theatre throughout my childhood – whenever I’m home, we still manage to see a show or two! – and I still loved it, but I knew I wasn’t meant to be onstage. In high school, I ran cross country, but then I got hurt and couldn’t really run competitively anymore. That same year, though, my youth pastor – who was also the high school theatre teacher (small town!) had a Bible study session every morning before school that I attended, and I was taking an art class. I’d always come in in the mornings carrying five or six new paintings for class, and I guess they were short on labor for their children’s show (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown), so he asked me if I’d come in and start helping with paint. I remember that I called my mom that day to tell her I was staying after to paint for the show, and she said, “Okay, but this can’t become an every-day thing!” So much for that! I’m not sure there’s been a day since that I haven’t painted.

Pedro: I started working in theatre during my sophomore year of high school. My school offered technical theatre, and one of my friends had already taken it and got into the upper tech class. I realized that I loved theatre once I got into college. I entered as a business major and realized I wouldn’t be happy if I stayed a business major. So I changed it to theatre and haven’t looked back since.

Aaron: Do you have a favorite show you’ve worked on?

Pedro: The favorite show I’ve ever worked on would have to be our university’s production of Hair. While I was able to paint for that show, it was also an awesome opportunity to crew that show as well. I was able to work with an amazing, professional stage manager who just made the experience that much more enjoyable.

Sarah: I love all of the shows I work on! I think I involuntarily fall in love with whatever I’m working on – you invest so much time in what you’re doing, it’s hard not to feel connected to your work! As far as experience goes, though, I think that the show that was a big turning point for me was my last show my senior year of high school, The Music Man. It’s when I made two big decisions – that technical theatre is something that I want to do for a really long time, and that I could be brave and do something different. Someone had said to me before the show started that I must “only do backstage stuff because I’m too afraid to actually be onstage”. There’s nothing like a challenge to get me going! I practiced for my audition for months and months before they were scheduled – I sang in my car (okay, I still do that) and ran lines in my room – I was off book for the part I wanted before auditions even happened because I knew that if I was going to be in the show and be the charge artist for the show and be responsible for designing the t-shirt, the playbill cover, and the poster that I’d have to be super prepared! So I was. I did get the part – Amaryllis (although, in all actuality, It might have had more to with the fact I was one of the only people small enough be a little kid…) and every day was hard. I still had all of my normal tech responsibilities and then some, and I was so overwhelmed all of the time! I think it was really great getting to “un-pigeon-hole” myself for a little while, though, and to learn just what I’m capable of!

Aaron: What has it been like working at Endstation so far?

Sarah: I absolutely love working for Endstation!  It’s just a really great environment to create theatre!  I’m really, really excited to get to work here this summer!

Pedro: Since arriving at Endstation in late May, it has been such a great experience. It is definitely a change of scenery that is much enjoyed. I love working with Krista; she is such a talented designer and painter. It’s so nice to work in another shop and see how theatre is done in other parts of the country. Everyone in the company has been really great to work with and is like a huge family, which made it a great environment to move into.

Aaron: Tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

Pedro: One of my favorite pastimes is hanging out with friends. Back home my friends and I get together and play games, make dinner, or just go out to a movie or something. It’s great to have that same relationship with apprentices here.

Sarah: Hmm… I’m really not all that exciting. I really just love to paint, and I always like to be in the middle of something! When I’m not at work, I do a lot of fine art painting for fun. I keep canvas stretcher bars in my trunk, but when I’m at JMU sometimes I like to actually build the canvases myself. I’m learning to sew, too! I’m working on piecing together a couple of patterns that a friend found from the early sixties, which is hard but kind of neat, too! I’ve been trying to play around with photography lately. We’re in such a beautiful place to practice! I really just love being in the “making” process, which is why I love theatre!

A big thank-you to our Assistant Production Manager Cassie Kris for the photos.

Aaron C. Thomas has been the Resident Dramaturg at Endstation Theatre since 2010. He is also a contributing scholar for the Brooklyn-based American Laboratory and will be working in the Department of Theater at Dartmouth College. You can connect with him via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or his blog Tea to Pour.