Summer Theater Merriment Locally Flavored

| May 27, 2011

The Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival is a truly Central Virginia experience. Shakespeare outside against a mountain backdrop, picnic dinners and local wines from vines growing practically next door — it’s not your typical night at the theater.

The annual festival, now in its fourth year, is produced by Endstation Theatre Company on the campus of Sweet Briar College, where the company is in residence. A classic play staged outdoors is a signature part of each season’s lineup. This year’s production, Shakespeare’s comedy “Twelfth Night,” continues Endstation’s tradition of matching each show to a different setting on the wide-open campus.

“Twelfth Night” will be held adjacent to Sweet Briar’s old train station. The artistic team, led by Endstation co-founders Geoff Kershner and Krista Franco, will turn the site into a dynamic theater space that places the audience in the middle of the action.

“Every summer that Endstation has been on the Sweet Briar campus, we have admired the beautiful view from the train station. It overlooks the mountains and the sunsets are stunning,” Kershner said. “This is easily the most beautiful location we have staged our work on yet.”

Patrons are encouraged to come early, bring blankets and picnics, and enjoy the setting as part of the evening. Wine tastings and sales also will be offered by a local vineyard at each performance. Participating wineries include Rebec Vineyards, Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, Lazy Days Winery, Chateau-Z and the new Ankida Ridge Vineyards.

Too busy to pack a picnic? Sweet Briar’s dining services is offering boxed dinners of fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, biscuits and strawberry shortcake for all “Twelfth Night” performances. Order online in advance to have it waiting at the box office for your arrival.

“Twelfth Night” is the last of the festival’s four productions. The season kicks off with “Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island,” a play for young audiences written by Endstation’s resident playwright, Joshua Mikel, and directed by Kershner. Mikel’s inventive adventure finds Good Good Rosa accidentally delivered to Bad Bad Island where she must accomplish a number of impossible tasks to prove herself to the horrible idol. “Good Good Trouble” is for kids and the young at heart.

Next in the lineup is a one-woman documentary play, “Cry of the Mountain,” which explores the issue of mountaintop coal removal in Appalachia. Creator Adelind Horan portrays those involved with, responsible for, and affected by mountaintop removal. Adelind embodies the characters as she relates their perspectives, accompanied by live banjo music.

Stephen Sondheim’s powerful musical “Assassins,” directed by Chad Larabee, is the third show of the season. The musical lays bare the lives of nine infamous figures who forged their way into American history books for their assassinations or attempted assassinations of U.S. presidents. “Assassins” explores the American experience in profound and startling ways, with a score by one of the country’s most accomplished musical theater composers.

The final show, “Twelfth Night,” will be directed by Kershner. Shakespeare’s comedy is filled with mistaken identities, romance and a little cross-dressing.

Endstation was founded in 2006 by Kershner and Franco, both Florida State University School of Theatre M.F.A. graduates. Kershner grew up on Sweet Briar’s campus and seeing an opportunity to bring quality live theater to Central Virginia, established residency there with the College’s support. The company produced the first Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival on the grounds in 2008, and the festival has expanded with each season.

Past productions include original works such as “The Bluest Water: A Hurricane Camille Story” and “My Brother’s Knife,” and as well as Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Hamlet.” Actors, directors, playwrights and interns come from all over to produce the festival. Traveling from places such as New York and Colorado, they live and work on the College’s campus each season so they, too, soak up the Central Virginia experience. You can read about their impressions on the Endstation blog.

Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island,
directed by Geoffrey Kershner
June 1, 2, 3, 4 at 7 p.m., June 2 and 5 at 2 p.m.
Babcock Fine Arts Center, Sweet Briar College
$15 for adults, $7 for children and students with a valid ID

Cry of the Mountain, created by Adelind Horan
June 9, 10, 11 at 7 p.m., June 12 at 2 p.m.
Babcock Gallery, Sweet Briar College
$15 for adults, $7 for students with a valid ID

Assassins, Directed by Chad Larabee
June 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, July 1, 2 at 7 p.m.
June 26, July 3 at 2 p.m.
Murchison Lane Auditorium, Babcock Fine Arts Center, Sweet Briar College
$15-$22 for adults, $7-$15 for students with a valid ID
***Contains adult language

Twelfth Night, directed by Geoffrey Kershner
July 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 at 7 p.m.
Sweet Briar College grounds
$15-$22 for adults, $7-$15 for students with a valid ID

Tickets for any Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival production can be purchased online at or by contacting the box office at (434) 826-0391.

Category: Performing Arts, Theatre Arts, Uncategorized