Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival 2010

At Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival in Amherst, Va., the location's the thing

Endstation Theatre Company rehearses for its production of "Hamlet," set during the Civil War.
Endstation Theatre Company rehearses for its production of "Hamlet," set during the Civil War. (Ellen Perlman)
By Ellen Perlman
Friday, July 2, 2010

Few audience members were spared the actors' attention during the Endstation Theatre Company's production of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" in Lynchburg, Va., at a recent Sunday matinee.

Not the woman with whom Juliet (actor Derek Arey in drag) flirted the moment Romeo died.

Not the audience members who said, "Get thee to a nunnery" in unison upon the request of actor Michael Stablein Jr., who told them, "Section A, that was awful."

Not even the 85-year-old man in a section of people who were asked to wave their arms over their heads and declaim in high-pitched, Monty Python-ish voices, "Maybe, maybe not."

"You weren't even moving your lips," actor Walter Kmiec accused the octogenarian. "You know what that means, right? You're going to have to do it all. By. Your. Self."

And the man did, first asking, "What am I supposed to do again?" Oh, the hoots from the crowd.

The energy in the room was boundless, the audience laughter hearty, the applause generous.

Soon, however, the three actors will shift into tragic mode. "Complete Works," written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, is part of a three-play Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival 2010, and that show ended last month. The actors are now rehearsing "Hamlet."

Between the Shakespeare bookends comes "Alice in Wonderland," aimed at children ages 3 to 12. The whimsical production will burst with color and creativity, said Krista Franco, resident scene designer and co-founder of the theater company. It will be performed in a theater on the campus of Sweet Briar College in Amherst, about 12 miles north of Lynchburg, as part of an ongoing partnership between the theater company and the college.

"Hamlet" will be staged at a third venue. The outdoor show, a la Wolf Trap but without a roof, uses an abandoned dairy barn as a backdrop.

This is the wonder of Endstation's summer festivals. The play's not the thing. The location is.

Artistic director and theater co-founder Geoffrey Kershner chooses a campus location first, without knowing what play will be performed. "It's about the space," he said. "I'm interested in found space and developing a show in and around it."

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