Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Ghost gets it's Groove

The lines have been learned. The music has been mastered. The lights are ready to shine once more.

Including our preview night, we've had three consecutive performances before packed crowds and I fully expect this to continue throughout our run.
"It's their (Greenbrier County's) story," Cathey Sawyer, our director, has told the cast. And she's absolutely right.

After being away from the theater for a few days, the cast had a brush up rehearsal Wednesday evening and I could tell the time away helped some of the performers, including myself. The mood was light and relaxed and everyone was enjoying themselves.

I can't speak for all of the cast members, but it was intense ride leading up to opening night. We only had a few short weeks to prepare. However, Cathey and her crew definitely had us ready. I was damn proud of everyone and it really showed why GVT is such a professional theater. Cathey inspired me to buckle down and get the job done.

"It's time for all hands on deck," Cathey told us a few days before opening night. I knew exactly what that meant.

Thus begins our second week and I expect tonight's performance to be superlative and I hope you will join us because The Greenbrier Ghost has definitely found it's groove.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kurtis Donnelly Interview



Saturday, May 23, 2009

What You Don't See ... Kinda.

The dark and shadowy figures appearing onstage during blackouts clear entire sets of tables, chairs and whatnots only to replace them with even more necessary whatnots needed for the next scene.

All in the time it takes to say: "Wasn't Christian absolutely brilliant in that last scene?"

In reality, scene changes are integral parts of each production where actors and crew members work as a team in precisely choreographed frenzied events. The goal is to set the stage for the next scene as quickly as possible without killing yourself or maiming any cast members.

This is important for a couple of reasons. If you maim a cast member, you're rarely given the opportunity to maim again, plus, audiences don't pay to watch darkened theaters and it's easy to lose the momentum of the last scene with an unduly extended blackout.

Actors, directors and writers create make believe worlds with a purpose and long scene changes can possibly lead to patrons thinking about overdue water bills.

That's only desirable if an overdue water bill is a central theme to the production.

A "shift plot" details who's responsible for what during scene changes and they are drilled and drilled and drilled and drilled. After that, you drill some more.

But, the payoff is worth the effort and I find shift plots highly challenging. To help actors see in the dark, glow tape is placed on stairs and other objects. On stage, strips of glow tape or paper are known as "spike marks" and represent correct spots for props.

Why not just set them in the general area and be done with it? Because stage lights don't move and they are set specifically to light each scene.

It's all part of a teamwork philosophy that's crucial to success in small theaters. I guess Broadway directors pay highly trained monkeys to rid sets of unnecessary cutlery, but I wouldn't really know because I've never traveled to New York.

As for me, carrying a table full of pots while walking backward down stairs in light dim enough to make a cat spark a match can be as mildly rewarding as executing a flawless soliloquy.

The Greenbrier Ghost by Marissa and Holly Miluk

A Google search of the words "Greenbrier Ghost" offers a perusal of 4,460 Web links. Cast members Marissa and Holly Miluk created this YouTube video of their version of the famous story and it ranks as one of my favorites. Enjoy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Legend of the Greenbrier Ghost

On January 23, 1897 the lifeless body of Zona Heaster Shue was found by a young boy at her at her log home in Livesay's Mill in the western part of Greenbrier County.

Just three months prior, Zona had fallen in love with and married a blacksmith named Erasmus Stribbling "Trout" Shue, who hailed from nearby Pocahontas County.

A local physician and county coroner, Dr. George W. Knapp, initially ruled the young, vivacious 15-year-old had died of "an everlasting faint."

However, Knapp later changed Zona's official cause of death to "childbirth." Accounts of the story say Knapp had been treating Zona for "female problems," but whether she was "childing" is unknown to this day.

Three days after her death, Zona was buried at her childhood home on Little Sewell Mountain.

Disregarding Knapp's explanation, Zona's parents immediately cast suspicion upon the "drifter" from Pocahontas County.

A month later, Mary Jane Heaster began telling friends that Zona's ghost had appeared and recounted how Trout had choked her to death for her failure to cook meat.

Mary Jane Heaster told her story to authorities and after damaging evidence came to light about Trout's past relationships with other women, a judge issued an order to have Zona's body exhumed from the grave.

An autopsy revealed a crushed windpipe and broken neck Later, a grand jury indicted Trout for murder.

During the trial, Prosecuting Attorney John Alfred Preston sidestepped the issue of Mary Jane's ghost story and presented the jury with circumstantial evidence against the defendant.

However, the ghost story entered the record during Mary Jane Heaster's cross-examination by defense lawyer Dr. William Parkes Rucker.

The jury convicted Trout and sentenced him to life in prison. Trout died in prison about three years later.

Since then, accounts have normally included that Trout was sent to prison because of "the testimony of ghost," thus cementing the legend of this Greenbrier County murder mystery.