Endstation Theatre Company has expanded its Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival beyond the campus of Sweet Briar College for the 2013 season. Two of three plays — Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Cymbeline” — will also be performed at historic locations and theaters in downtown Lynchburg.
According to Endstation’s artistic director Geoffrey Kershner, it’s a “season of travel,” and that applies to the musical “Violet,” as well. The musical, he says, “tells the story of a young woman who travels across the country on a journey of self-discovery.”
The festival will open with “The Taming of the Shrew,” directed by Kershner, on Friday, May 31, with a special 10-performance engagement at the Renaissance Theatre in downtown Lynchburg until June 9. The downtown leg of the production is made possible with the support of the city of Lynchburg and a James River Arts and Culture District Project Grant. Audiences will enjoy a special pre- and post-show 15-percent discount to the locally owned restaurants Dish and Bull Branch.
The second leg of “The Taming of the Shrew” will be performed outdoors on the grounds of Sweet Briar College from June 15 to July 7. During the Sweet Briar performances, audiences are encouraged to bring blankets and picnic at dusk while enjoying wine and beer made available by local vineyards and breweries.
While Endstation has taken its troupe off campus only once before, transplanting Shakespeare into a (more) modern context is a recurring theme. Last year, Macbeth found himself in the midst of the Civil War; this year, the company’s take on “The Taming of the Shrew” is inspired by the historic vaudeville theaters that existed in downtown Lynchburg at the turn of the century. In “Cymbeline,” the second play of the summer, a troupe of Depression-era actors bring Shakespeare’s fairytale world to life with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and “Violet: the Musical” is set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement.
Directed by Walter Kmiec, “Cymbeline” will be performed on the grounds of Sweet Briar College from June 14 to July 14, followed by a Central Virginia historical tour July 19 to 21 — at Old City Cemetery on July 19, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest on July 20, and concluding with a special family event at Presbyterian Homes and Family Services on July 21. The family night will include study guides for children and ice cream for the whole family.
The only ‘stationary’ play of the festival, “Violet” will be performed at Sweet Briar’s Babcock Fine Arts Center June 28 to July 14. Directed by Chad Larabee, it features lyrics by Brian Crawley, music by Jeannine Tesori and is based on the book “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts. “Violet” follows the emotional transformation of a young woman scarred by her father in an accident. She sets off on a bus journey from her small North Carolina town in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Oklahoma, in hopes that a televangelist can heal her scar.
“[Violet] explores faith, racism, self-worth and acceptance of that which we can never change,” Larabee says.
The musical was one of the most acclaimed off-Broadway shows in the 1990s, astounding critics and audiences with its inventive score of gospel, rock, country and rhythm and blues.
General admission tickets for each performance are $15 for adults and $7 for students. Premium tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for students. An all-access, premium-seating pass for unlimited performances is available for $90 per person. For more information and a complete schedule, and to purchase tickets, please visit endstationtheatre.org or call (434) 826-0391.