Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Santaland Diaries: Crumpet's Top 10 Holiday Wishes NUMBER 10

The Santaland Diaries is back for the 12th year in a row at Asheville Community Theatre! This year's production stars Bradshaw Call and is directed by Betsy Puckett. They've cooked up a really creative way to tell this story - and we can't wait to see it!

The Santaland Diaries is, in a nutshell, an "oh my gosh that's SO true" elf's eye view of massive meltdowns, ridiculous expectations, and customer service holiday horrors. If you've ever worked retail during the holidays - or really, if you've ever been in a retail store during the holidays - this story will seem all too true. And guess what? It IS a true story!

Crumpet is the elf name our narrator is required to go by during his stint working at Macy's Herald Square. He's not thrilled about that. Or about a number of other things. So, we put together a list of his Top Ten wishes that would make his holidays a little better. Count down with us all the way to number one! Plus, watch for our "caption this" photo (hint: we'll release it on Wednesday afternoon) to win two free tickets to The Santaland Diaries!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cabaret: Cast List

Asheville Community Theatre is happy to announce the cast for the upcoming production of Cabaret opening February 7, 2014.

EMCEE - Kevin Moxley*
SALLY - Jessica Hutchman
CLIFF - Mark Jones
HERR SCHULTZ - James Curley*
ERNST LUDWIG - Luke Haynes

KIT KAT KLUB GIRLS & BOYS: Fleming Lomax, Jax Ranger*, Leslie Lang, Ashley Dillingham*, Karen Panek, Rebecca O'Quinn*, Lyle Laney, Jacob Walas, Van Raynor and Alan Malpass

The Cabaret Creative Team and the staff of ACT would like to thank the 45 talented actors, singers and dancers who auditioned for the 17 roles in this legendary Broadway musical drama.

One of the most exciting things about this wonderful cast is the *6 new actors who will be joining the ACT family for the first time! As the Emcee of the KIT KAT KLUB says "Wilkommen!"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: Study Guide

We have two matinee performances during the run of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever that are for school groups only.  For those performances, we provide a study guide that we send to teachers in advance of the field trip.  But guess what? The study guide is great for any young audience member - whether they're attending a school performance or not!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Best Christmas Pageant: Cast List

Congratulations to everyone who auditioned for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! We know how much courage it takes to try out for a show, and we wish that every show had more parts to go around.

Drumroll, please! Here's the cast list for the show:

Father: Jeff Corpening
Reverend: Frank Salvo
Mother: Robin Oswald
Mrs. McCarthy: Carla Pridgen
Mrs. Slocum: Viola Williams
Mrs. Armstrong: Francis Davis
Mrs. Clausing: Karen Lechner
Imogene: Charlie Abell
Beth: Delaney Martin
Alice: JyAire McEachni
Maxine: Eleanor Conner
Doris: Isabelle McLellan
Gladys: Riley Oswald
Beverly: Victoria Weatherman
Shirley: Finlay Martin
Ralph: Cade Wooten
Elmer: Frank Davis
Leroy: Matthew Daggerhart
Claude: Brendan Nickerson
Hobie: Luke McLellan
Charlie: Gavin Reep
Ollie: Reed Atherton
David: Ben Kepple
Baby Angels: Violet Conner, Lucille Conner, Ellery Grace

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Annie Get Your Gun: Press and Reviews

Annie Get Your Gun is open! We had full houses for all three performances Opening Weekend and welcomed 380 students and teachers to a school matinee performance just this morning (which ended with high school students chorusing together on songs from the show as they waited for their bus in the lobby). Everyone in the cast and crew is majorly excited and minorly exhausted. At least we think that's the order!

A triumvirate of talent: Charlie Davenport (Pat LaCorte),
Sitting Bull (Mike Vaniman), and Buffalo Bill (Richard Blue)
scheme and sing throughout the show. Photo by Tommy Propest
This show has generated a lot of excitement in the press as well. The Mountaineer ran a terrific preview piece on Annie Get Your Gun by Mark Ellis-Bennett of The Biltmore Beacon. It includes interviews with director Jerry Crouch and stars Brandon Kersey and Jacqueline Collison-Canney. Tony Kiss of the Asheville Citizen-Times also chatted with director Jerry Crouch prior to opening.

And this morning, we received our first review! Jim Cavener of the Asheville Citizen-Times says that Annie Get Your Gun is "this is a theater experience to make time and space to see and enjoy." The show runs for three more weekends through October 13 - and we hope that gives you enough time to join us for a performance!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Annie Get Your Gun" Study Guide

We are trying to up our game in the study guide department - and we're getting closer to where we'd like to be! We're sending this one out to about 700 students who will be joining us for Annie Get Your Gun over the next few weeks. Let us know what you think!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lights! Camera! Annie!

The “Little Sure Shot” of the “Wild West,”an exhibition of rifle shooting at glass balls, etc.
The title is almost longer than the film itself! This short film (only about 21 seconds long) of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler was filmed on November 1, 1894 in Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studio by cameraman William Heise. It's thought to be the 11th motion picture ever filmed!

Note: No need to adjust your volume - there was no sound recorded in early Kinetoscope films.

Annie Get Your Gun runs Friday, September 20 through Sunday, October 13. We've got some tricks up our sleeves, too!  Come and see!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

DramaRama: Asheville Night Live Winners

When all the votes were counted and all the judges' sheets were in, we had 6 performers who took home the grand prizes in Asheville Night Live!

Adult Category:
1st Place: Tina Pisano-Foor
2nd Place: Shannon Phillips
3rd Place: Jackie Canney

Youth Category:
1st Place: Ameena Hinchliffe
2nd Place: Claire Amon
3rd Place: Liam Kelley Black

It was such an incredible show, and everyone - and we do mean EVERYONE - who performed did a fabulous job. What a fun, fun night at the theatre. If you were there, you know exactly what we mean. If you weren't there, then you'll want to make plans to come next year!

Photos from rehearsal on Thursday, July 11 by Tommy Propest.

DramaRama: Thank You!

We're still waiting for the final numbers to come in, but we wanted to send out a huge thank you to everyone who participated or volunteered to help make DramaRama a success.  Thank you all for being the "community" in our theatre -

Thanks to:
Eric Mills, Daniel Hensley, Jackie Canney, Jeff Catanese, Garrett Funk, MK Penley, Carol Duermit, Brad Curtioff, Morgen Cobb, Carole Saich, Lilly Mills, Maggie Harvin, Madison Smith, Jeff Neese, Sara Fields, Kelly Rowland, Aaron Michael, Caitie SellersTawnya Watts, Amy Sawyer, Simone Bernhard, Sheila Thibodeaux, Carly Robbins, Christina Andersen, Grace Gouin, Kristina Benshoff, Luck McElreath of Flower Gallery, Melissa Thomas of Flora, Tiffany Saini, Juniper Cooper, Joti Marra, Melissa Gough, Amy Kispert, Leah McCall, Colby West, Amy Holtvedt, Amy Spedden, Luc Clerici, Lotus Caristo, Susan Sertain, Diane Gardner, Charles Josef Kamper, Aurora Moulin, Parker J. Photography, Jocelyn Mathewes - Studio Mathewes, Morgan Ford - Morgan Ford Photography, LeeAnn Donnelly - Purple Goat Photography, Audrey Goforth - Audrey Goforth Photography, Rodney Smith - Tempus Fugit Design, JameyKay Young - Jameykay Young Photography, Mignon Petrini, Hannah Silberman, Scott Thompson - Makeup at the Grove Arcade, Serenity Eyre - Makeup at the Grove Arcade, Zack Russell - Makeup at the Grove Arcade, Heather Smith, Amanda Anderson - Dollbox Productions, Wendy Ballance - Blush by Wendy Ballance, Kristen Davis - Blush by Wendy Ballance, Emily Wells, Lalena Settlemeyer - Bari Salon, Amy Day Doherty - Pi Salon and Spa, Joanne Bolet Cafarro - Pi Salon and Spa, Nicole Bohanon - Lola Salon, Wesley Bolden of Eclipse Salon, Dena Snyder, Market Connections, Molly Kummerle, Amanda Swafford, Beth Kearney, Rikki Walker, Valerie Phillips, Alisha Jenna, Cady Barrett, Patrice Wilson, Rachel Suero, Kelsey Anne Carter, Jacqueline Franquez, Mary Bell, Kimberly Turley, Tess Miller, Malana Green, Olivia Baronowski, Lisette Marie Kamper, Amanda Joyce, Laura Schoolhouse, Caroline Miller, Brianna Cross, Gretchen Elizabeth, Sarah Merrell, Angelyn Montemayor, Jessica Neilson, Liz Spillars, Tristan Vitrol, Thomas Propest, Carson Fox, Hannah Bruce, David Fine, Jessica Savitt, Kathi Ballard, Greg Mayer, Kerry Shannon, Marcos Cunha, Waylon Wood, Jerry Crouch, Anne Wolf, Shari Smith, Carol Mills, Tom Chalmers, Charlie David, Charlie Flynn-McIver, Michael Lilly, Deborah Austin, Joey Wilton, Michael McMurtrey, Mark Lavin, Susan Maley, Sara LeDonne, Aaron Price, Grant Cuthbertson, Justin Watt, Mondy Carter, Tina Pisano-Foor, Liam Kelley Black, Keturah Dickerson, Shannon Phillips, Jerome Guesne, Emma Hammond, Eleanor Conner, Ameena Hinchliffe, Spencer Anderson, Ryan "Slim" Dixon, Vanessa DeLarca, Devyn Arroyo, Claire Amon, Liza Rain, Beth Mayo, Dave Bortle, Adam Cohen, Suzanne Williams, Trena Parker, Mike Burk, Andrew Huska, Mae Score, CJ Breland, Beth Kowalski, Dayle Purington, Sharon Sandel, Lindsay Salvati, Chip Leslie, Meridith Miller, Ed Wright, Elizabeth Cheesborough, P. Diane Chambers, Steve Riedesel, Jane Stanhope, Myrna Acevedo, Betty Doll, Linda Vickery, Alex and Terry McPherson, Sandy Davis, Suanne Faber, Hannah Parks, Shirley Cohen, David and Nadine Lloyd, Debbie Wood, Mike Vaniman, Craig Justus, Jeff Messer, Carol Motsinger, Richard Handy, Elizabeth Sheppard, Cassidy Robbins, Cary Nichols, Jill Summers, Ed Loder, Cordell Nichols, John Menkes, Peter Kanipe, and McRae Hilliard

If we have 
inadvertently missed your name, please let us know so that we can amend the list - and please accept our apology (we're finishing this up after 7 straight nights of events and aren't thinking as clearly as usual...)

And, of course, thank you to everyone who supported ACT and DramaRama by attending and donating throughout the week!  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

DramaRama: Asheville Night Live - Meet the Performers!

Here's the cast of Asheville Night Live, a variety show meets late night talk show that's closing ACT's annual fundraiser, DramaRama. Performers are competing for cash prizes – and the audience helps to decide who wins by donating to ACT ($1 =1 vote).

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students. Coming to support someone specifically? Let us know at the box office and we'll count part of your ticket purchase towards their points!

This will be a night of incredible performances - don't miss it!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Steel Magnolias" Cast List

We had over 50 people audition for Steel Magnolias - and now we have a cast!  Thank you to everyone who auditioned - we wish there were more than 6 roles!

Congratulations to:
Truvy - Cary Nichols
Shelby - Kristen Ballard
Ouiser - Carla Pridgen
Clairee - Joan Atwood
Annelle - Ashleigh Millett
M'Lynn - LaNita Cloninger

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Kiss Me, Kate" Cast Spotlight: John Hall

The magnificent John Hall has returned to the ACT stage once again, but this time we are letting him keep both his hands! He was last seen on our stage as the infamous Captain Hook, and he greets us again as Fred Graham/Petruchio. His daily life is filled with artistic study, from teaching 6th grade at the ArtSpace Charter School to attending Kiss Me, Kate rehearsals in the evening. We are so thankful he granted us this interview and hope that his dedication to the arts can inspire many Asheville Community Theatre goers.
John Hall as the deliciously dastardly Captain Hook!

Describe a typical day for John Hall:
I teach sixth grade language arts and social studies at the best school in the world – ArtSpace Charter School.  We integrate the arts into all our standard courses of study.  I integrate drama into many different aspects of the sixth grade curriculum.  So, I teach during the day, then head off to various activities, usually involving my wonderful daughter, Anna Kate.

What has been your favorite moment from rehearsals?
My favorite moment is the 'courting' scene between Petruchio and Katharine. I’ve been reunited with a dear friend of mine, Wendy Morrison, who is playing my ex-wife Lilli (and also Katharine).  Wendy and I have known each other over 20 years, and have performed together many times.  It’s been great to work with her again.  She’s so talented!

Which number are you most excited about performing?
That’s a tough one.  I really enjoy all of them.  I suppose the one I’m having most fun with right now is “The Life that Late I Led.”  It’s great fun trying to bring all those different love affairs to life.

What do you think is the #1 reason someone should see Kiss Me, Kate?
Fred Graham would say the number one reason to see the show would be – Fred Graham!  I think the audiences will be blown away by the terrific dance numbers.

If you could share the stage with any actor, who would it be?
Hands down, it would be Derek Jacobi.  I’ve seen him in several shows in England and America, from the 1980s to just a few years ago.  He is the best stage actor I’ve ever seen.  Amazing!

John with his beautiful daughter Anna Kate (who is working
backstage keeping Kiss Me, Kate running smoothly!)
Do you have a favorite Shakespearean quote?
“The course of true love never did run smooth”  It’s from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it seems to fit our show perfectly. Is it my absolute favorite? Impossible to choose!

Anything else that you’d like people to know about you?
I am an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Asheville and enjoy working with the youth of the parish.

Kiss Me, Kate opens June 7th and runs until June 30th! Don't miss out on the chance to see the talented John Hall grace our stage once again! Get your tickets here!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One Minute Preview: "Kiss Me, Kate" Dance Rehearsal

We popped in to a rehearsal last week of Kiss Me, Kate and it truly was too darn hot! Here's a sneak peek:

Sneak Peek of "Kiss Me, Kate" from Asheville Community Theatre on Vimeo.

Now imagine it with full costumes, a full orchestra, lighting, and a completed set! Or don't just imagine - come and see it!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Kiss Me, Kate" Cast Spotlight: Jacob Walas

Audiences have been extremely impressed with the quality of the dance and choreography in the ACT musicals over the past two seasons - and we know it will be no different with Kiss Me, Kate! We've been so lucky to have Jacob Walas as the Dance Captain for several of those shows - and he's appeared as a lead dancer in the others! From the tips of his fingers to the end of his toes, Jacob is electric onstage. It's impossible not to feel the joy emanating from him when he's dancing. And guess what? He's as sunny offstage as he is on, which made this "Cast Spotlight" even more fun! 

As the Dance Captain for Kiss Me, Kate, when did your involvement with the show begin?
Actually, I got to help with the auditions. Chanda and I worked together on Hairspray last fall and I jumped at the chance to work with her some more. I am glad I was able to help because the audition process is my favorite part. It's the part of the process before everyone gets tired. Plus, at auditions, I heard a Cole Porter song for the first time that has become my favorite. A lovely lady came in and sang Cole Porter's "I Love All of You" - the lyrics gave me goosebumps.

Jacob as Lead Arabian in Asheville Ballet's The Nutcracker
Most people who have seen a musical at ACT in the past two years will surely recognize you – but you’ve also performed quite a bit elsewhere. Fill us in!
It’s true - at ACT, I have performed in Hairspray, Chicago, Guys and Dolls, and RENT. Also in Asheville, but in non-musical theatre, I was James in James and the Giant Peach, Eloi in Tennessee Williams’ drama Auto-da-Fe’, and Ariel in The Tempest. Most recently I got to step in as Grandpa George in my students' production of Willy Wonka, Jr. and that was probably one of my favorite memories. This past Christmas, I did my first production with the Asheville Ballet and danced Lead Arabian in The Nutcracker.

And with a classic Broadway musical like Kiss Me, Kate, there are plenty of big dance numbers.     
The choreography is BRILLIANT! It is challenging, but precise. And I think the audience will be very impressed to see the dance that graces this stage. Plus, the principle cast is dynamic, witty and moving. I am so thrilled the share this show with ACT audiences.

What has been your favorite moment from rehearsals?
This show has been rehearsed a bit differently than past shows. We have specialized the ensemble and explored and engaged their strengths. Doing this meant rehearsing the same number in many different locations (and completely separate from each other at times). My favorite moment was watching everyone come together the first time we rehearsed “Too Darn Hot.” We dancers had never heard the powerful brassy singers and likewise they had not yet seen us tear down the house with our great choreography. The beautiful thing is that each person has a strength that is equally matched and supported so when we come together on these numbers everyone is in awe.
Dream Team: Jacob with Fleming Lomax, best bud
and frequent co-star (she's amazing in Kiss Me, Kate)

Also, Kiss Me, Kate rehearsals happened to fall directly on my birthday this year and I was so blessed by the love of this cast! So many people I have just met came out to celebrate my birthday and get to know me, other cast mates and my friends. It was so cool!

You’re a bonafide stage veteran – what do you do when you’re not performing?
I am basically a triple threat: a dancer, a Gap dresser, and a nanny! :) Seriously, though, a typical day for me begins by waking up a little sore from the previous night’s rehearsal. Depending on the day I either dress up to go my job at The Gap in the Asheville Mall, or I dress ready to move for my job teaching dance at the Asheville Performing Arts Academy. Or- it could be one of the days I get to nanny two darling girls that I have nannied for the last 4 years.

Have you always known that you wanted to act or sing or dance?
I honestly can't remember a time where I didn't want to do any of those things. Performing is just like breathing for me: instinctual and necessary for life.

Do you have a number in the show that you’re most excited about performing? “We Open in Venice - I am really excited to wear Shakespearean costumes! And there is a donkey!

Kiss Me, Kate combines Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew with the music of Cole Porter.  Do you have a favorite Shakespearean quote? There are too many amazing Shakespeare quotes to pick just one … but I do have a favorite stage direction: "Exit, pursued by a bear" from A Winter's Tale.

"I know every step, I know every song": Jacob made
Hairspray even more fun!
Ha ha ha! It does makes sense that someone as keen to movement as you are would pick a stage direction! You’re really funny!
Just give me the chance to perform with someone very jovial like Carol Channing. I just think that she and I would have a blast playing off each other! Also she is 6 ft tall (people are surprised by how short I actually am), and I know we could be a comedic duo!

Spoiler alert: We don't have Carol Channing in our cast for Kiss Me, Kate. But we do have Jacob! If you love great, Broadway style dance numbers (and really, who doesn't?), don't miss Jacob tearing up the floor! Get your tickets today!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Kiss Me, Kate" Cast Spotlight: Steven Turner

We caught up with Steven Turner, a terrific actor who's returning to ACT for his third show this season as Baptista in Kiss Me, Kate.  From a past role playing an aging rocker to his truly awesome summer job (as the official county magician - did Leslie Knope run that Parks & Rec department?) to sharing a link that moved him during his research on the Wounded Knee Massacre, Steven's interview will take you to a lot of intriguing places. And we'll be crossing our fingers that he'll audition for an upcoming variety show after honing his magic skills in Vegas later this summer!

What propelled you to audition for Kiss Me, Kate
Because Vatican II discouraged self-flagellation. No, really - I usually don’t audition well - I get nervous, my hands shake, my mouth dries up. Those are unnerving physiological states. But other times I do fine. It interests me why I’m so inconsistent. Of course, I also wanted to be part of the show. Musical theater’s presentational mode of performance is much different than the straight drama or comedy that I’ve mostly done and it’s a skill I’m interested in developing.  

What shows might people have seen you in before (and not just at ACT)?
In Asheville you might have seen me (but probably didn’t – BeBe Theatre only seats 65 folks or so) in Dreamland Motel. It was a locally written/produced play based loosely on the Asheville band Flatrock that flirted with national fame back in the 70’s. I played an aging Rocker who’s fallen on hard times and returns to his roots for a hometown pick-me-up. His erstwhile bandmates aren’t happy to see him and sparks fly. I played guitar and sang “Smoke on the Water” in a sort of a flashback scene. I felt like a regular Asheville gigging musician as I strolled back to my car every night with my guitar strapped to my back.

And you probably didn’t see me in the original musical The Dream of Camelot at the Masonic Temple either – we only ran for just one weekend at the Masonic Temple, but we packed the house for four nights. I sang the Role of King Arthur. I started taking singing lessons with Gary Mitchell to help with a particular song that was giving me fits – one of these songs with multiple-measure high E’s and F’s in harmony with a soaring Soprano.  Gary helped me with that song and others in the show – I still take lessons with him.   

And then there are my two previous shows at ACT – Inspecting Carol and The Grapes of Wrath. Silly farce to Important Literary Drama. Both were tons of fun working with wonderful actors and thoughtful directors. At HART you might have seen me in La Cage aux Folles, The Pillowman, Deathtrap, Shipwrecked! and The Little Foxes.  After Kiss Me, Kate closes, I head up the road to SART to appear in Gypsy, which opens July 4.

You're onstage quite a bit.  What's your offstage life like?
Here's a typical day: First Charlotte (my wife) and I get our daughter off to Reynolds High School and then we sit down to one of Charlotte’s sumptuous breakfasts and read the morning papers together. She usually drifts off to read in bed before starting her day and I settle down in my home office (a converted garage that I tricked out that doubles as my man cave) and market a few properties we’re selling from our real estate investment portfolio. I’m also studying US Western history from 1860 to 1890, the year of the Wounded Knee Massacre at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. My wife and I are gearing up to tour the Northern Plains states visiting battlefield and National Historic Sites related to that era.

Learn more about Wounded Knee at
Scroll down to view the photo vignette “Voices from Wounded Knee – Past and Present” to see the images set to the song “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons. You won’t be disappointed. 

What has been your favorite moment from rehearsals for Kiss Me, Kate?
I have enjoyed watching the dance numbers take shape. “Too Darn Hot” is one smokin’ number.

Which scene are you most excited about performing?
Most of my scenes are in The Taming of the Shrew portion of the show and are designed to set up or react to the musical numbers. My favorite scene is when as Baptista, the father of Katherine, I negotiate her dowry with her suitor Petruchio. It’s a rapid-fire comedic scene requiring precise comedic timing. Comedy, particularly verbal repartee, is maddening in that one night you’re the funniest guy on stage and the next you can’t buy a laugh. You can beat your brains out trying to figure that out or just trust your instincts and don’t get caught up in chasing what happened the night before. The great thing about comedy is you know, as a performer, if you’re effective. It they don’t laugh something’s wrong but at least you know it and then can go about fixing it. With drama that immediate auditory feedback is often lacking.
Steven as Uncle John in ACT's
production of The Grapes of Wrath
Are there people in your life who have never seen you on stage? What do you think will surprise them?
All of my immediate family has seen me on stage. My son left for college just before I started to act locally and has seen only one show - Deathtrap at HART. Just last week I spent time with an old Army friend and we both discovered that each of us is fond of theater and that he was a thespian in college. A sort of coming out, if you will. He’s now planning to travel to Asheville from DC to see the show and throw in some hiking and rafting to boot - my own little arts-driven economic multiplier.   

At what age did you first know you wanted to act or sing or dance?
I started performing magic when I was 8 years old and performed my first paid magic show at age 12. I still have the original manila envelope stuffed with copies of checks from all those shows. I took magic lessons from Wilford the Great who had toured the country doing magic in depression-era Civilian Conservation Camps and took the business side of show business very seriously. During my turbulent youth he was the primary governing conscience of my actions. He died suddenly as he stepped up on a stool to get a dove from a cage to get ready for a show. He founded the local magic club that carried his name for years but people who knew him died themselves or moved away. Eventually the club changed its name to a local dentist and amateur magician.

As a teenager I had the best summer job one could possibly have - I was the official Salt Lake County Magician for three wonderful years and would go around to all the city and county parks and perform magic for the kids. Whatever improvisation skills I might have were honed doing three shows a day all summer long.

If you could appear onstage with any actor or actress, who would it be and why?
Chris Cooper (A Time to Kill, Lonesome Dove, American Beauty, Bourne Identity, etc) He’s a Stanislavski guy through and through and learned early to be disciplined and respectful of all aspects of the acting craft. He paid his dues working in NYC theatre for many years before tackling film. You can’t watch the courtroom scene in A Time to Kill where he testifies against his childhood friend (Samuel L. Jackson) and be the same person afterwards. The undertones of that scene address interracial relations better than symposiums and Chamber luncheons ever could.

Anything else that you’d like people to know about you?
I’m heading to Las Vegas in August to take magic performance classes with Jeff McBride, one of the world’s leading magicians.

Kiss Me, Kate opens June 7 and runs through June 30. Don't miss Steven - buy your tickets before they disappear!

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Kiss Me, Kate" Cast Spotlight: Ruth Planey

Ruth Planey has been involved at Asheville Community Theatre both onstage and backstage since moving to town in 2003.  She's helped to build or paint almost every Mainstage set over the past decade, but has recently stepped into the spotlight.  Ruth is also out and about performing around the area: from harmonizing on a bluegrass tune at the Fletcher Feed and Seed to singing the National Anthem at an Asheville Tourists baseball game, Ruth loves an opportunity to let her voice ring! Plus, she's pretty darn funny -  

Why did you audition for Kiss Me, Kate?
Two reasons: I love to sing and wanted the chance to wear a pretty medieval costume. Since I’ve been typecast as the old lady or bag woman I’m hoping that as the Wardrobe Lady in Kiss Me, Kate, I’ll get to wear something other than a raggedy, old dress and support hose.

Which shows have you done at ACT? 
Diva*licious in 2010, and back to back shows in 2011: Guys & Dolls and Dashing through the Snow

Three's Company: Ruth with her husband Steve
 and trusty dog, Scout
But you've been involved at ACT for much longer, right?
Yes! My husband and I answered ACT’s ad in the Mountain Xpress when we first moved to Asheville in 2003. We’ve volunteered with the set build crew and formed strong, lasting friendships that I treasure. We love it when the actors come and help build the set. It gives us a chance to get to know them a wee bit and it’s always nice to be able to say HI. Since I’m usually dressed in paint splattered clothes and ugly hair, a lot of people don’t recognize me when I clean up but – they always remember our dog, Scout. If you come join us for set build, she’ll be the furry one laying in a pile of sawdust in the middle of the stage.

Have you met new friends in the cast?
It’s good to see familiar faces, but even better to meet new folks. I love the fact that ACT brings in new blood for each production. It keeps the theater vibrant, alive and exciting. 

Plus, I have to say the female ensemble is amazing.  These women have such strong, beautiful voices and have way more stage experience than I do that I'm in awe of them.  We've jelled as a group, support each other, and get together in the dressing room when we're not needed on stage to run over our parts which has been a great help. 

Which number in the show are you most excited about performing? "Bianca" Why? I’m so used to singing the melody or a third above that finding my note in four part harmony way below the melody line has been a real challenge. Besides we get to lust after Bill, Bianca’s boyfriend. 

Are there people in your life who have never seen you on stage? What do you think will surprise them?
I wish my parents had lived long enough to see me perform. Lesson learned - don’t put things off. My hat is off to the fabulous young people I’ve met at ACT who have the guts and passion to go for it – whatever IT might be. 

At what age did you first know you wanted to act or sing or dance?
I always said I wanted to sing and dance on Broadway so when I was reincarnated I’d come back as Shirley MacLaine. Wellll – at age 60 I finally got to appear – off Broadway in ACT’s Diva*licious fundraiser. Now I might decide to come back as Megan Hilty – that girl can sell a song! - except I’ll keep my dark hair. Unlike my two sisters, I’ve never wanted to be a blonde. 

If you could appear onstage with any classic actor or actress, who would it be and why? 
This isn’t the answer you were looking for, but Cheryl Burke from Dancing with the Stars. The woman is amazing! I’d give anything to make my body move like hers, and she always gets into the character of the music. She becomes the song and is believable. Let’s hope I can do just a smidge of that on stage.

Kiss Me, Kate opens June 7 - and from what we've seen of the choreography, we think Cheryl Burke would be pretty proud of Ruth! Don't miss the show - get your tickets

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Kiss Me, Kate" Cast Spotlight: Dwight Chiles

Kiss Me, Kate has a huge cast (28!) consisting of newcomers and veterans to the ACT stage. We wanted to get to know everyone a little better, so we're planning to feature each of them in our "Cast Spotlight" feature here on the blog!

Here's looking at you, Dwight!
We're starting with Dwight Chiles, who has appeared on stages across town in productions for the Montford Park Players (recently as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest) and Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective (in this spring's Vesta). After Kiss Me, Kate, he'll be journeying up the road to Burnsville to appear in Parkway Playhouse's The Mystery of Edwin Drood. We are beyond thrilled that Kiss Me, Kate came at just the right time for this busy actor!

How did Kiss Me, Kate hook you? 
I used to do musicals all the time but I had not done one in about a year so I was kind of going through withdrawals.  That is why I auditioned.  Most people I have worked with on stage have not heard me sing, so I am excited for them all to hear me.

You've done so much theatre around town and know a lot of people.  Have you met new friends in this cast? I have met a ton of new people!  The last show I did with ACT was three years ago so everyone I met was new for the most part.

"Were Thine That Special Face": Dwight as Lady
Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest 
You're a huge Shakespeare fan - do you have a favorite quote? "To thine own self be true" - Hamlet.  And if given the choice to work with any actor, I would choose Patrick Stewart in King Lear at the Globe Theatre just so I could learn from one of the best.

What has been your favorite moment from rehearsals? Probably when I asked the director if I could pretend to be looking at a dirty magazine during "Too Darn Hot" and she said that is exactly what I am doing!  It was awesome.  

Which number in the show are you most excited about performing? "Were Thine That Special Face" - I love the song and I get to sing it with my good friend Adam, who is a great singer.

What's the #1 reason to see Kiss Me, Kate? It is HILARIOUS!!!  Also the cast is incredibly talented...if I do say so myself. I have really enjoyed working with this cast and crew and it is going to be a wonderful show!  Come see for yourself!

Kiss Me, Kate opens June 7 - don't miss Dwight as Riley/Hortensio! Get your tickets here!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cast List for "Kiss Me, Kate"

This cast is incredible!  It's a great combination of new faces with familiar favorites! We couldn't be happier to welcome these super talented singers, dancers, and actors to the cast of Kiss Me, Kate.

This cast is so awesome we need to use all caps to say it again: INCREDIBLE.

Here it is:
Lilli Vanessi /Katherine - Wendy Morrison
Fred Graham/Petruchio - John Hall
Bill Calhoun/Lucentio - Lyle Laney
Loius/Bianca - Katelyn McGuirk
Gangster #1 - Pat LaCorte
Gangster #2 - Waylon Wood
Paul - Ben Falcon
Hattie - Leslie Lang
Dance Captain/Gregory - Jacob Walas
Harry Trevor/Baptista Minola - Steve Turner
Stagehand#1/Nathaniel - Bobby Abrahamson
Stagehand#2/Phillip - John Coggins
Stagehand #3/Haberbasher - Luke Haynes
Riley/Hortensio - Dwight Chiles
Flynt/Gremio - Adam Bowers
Pops/Padua Priest - Mike Vaniman
Wardrobe lady - Ruth Planey
General Harrison Howell - Jeff Catanese
Stage Manager - David Ely

Ensemble Singers: Jacqueline Canney, Candice Owen and  Nana Hosmer

Dancers: Rachel Gordon, Fleming Lomax, Lindsay Salvati, Kimberly Brown and Karyn Panek and Cari Quigley

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath: Adapting the Novel

We've fielded a lot of questions at the Box Office about the adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath from the novel to the stage. We've gotten everything from "How can a 500 page novel fit into a 2.5 hour show?" to "Is the turtle-crossing-the-road scene in the play?" We found a terrific interview with Frank Galati, who adapted the novel for the stage, that answers those questions (and many others):


Haven't read the book in awhile? Spend less than seven minutes listening to this song written and performed by Woody Guthrie. One of our fabulous Facebook friends posted it with a little background: "This is the original "Tom Joad" recording by Woody Guthrie, written overnight after he saw John Ford's film version ... John Steinbeck said that Woody told the story better in the song's verses than Steinbeck had in his 500+ page novel ..."

So yes, not only can you adapt the novel to a 2.5 hour play, it can also be adapted into a 7 minute ballad! 

(And we note that Woody Guthrie also left out the part about the turtle...)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath: Creating the Scene

The truck before moving to its new home at ACT.
This 1923 International Harvestor was purchased specifically for The Grapes of Wrath. Scenic Designer Rob Bowen shares how he found it, why he bought it, and how it will be used onstage:

RB: I was searching for a way to do the truck because how the truck looked would influence the rest of the set design. My research showed many creative ways to create the truck, which is truly a character in the first act. The problem with many of the truck solutions is that they take us out of the world of the play and increased the aesthetic distance instead of bridging it. I felt that if we got something that was reasonable looking, it would allow us to use minimal scenery with props to create the rest of the world, whereas if used a facsimile of a truck, the audience would be pulled out of this minimal setting world by this represented image. I struggled with this problem and how to solve it. Then it hit me as I was driving to the university one day: I pass by this truck on the side of the road everyday and it has been there for a long time. What if we bought it and converted it? I took pictures and approached Jill [Summers, Technical Director] and asked her to meet me at it to look and see what she thought about it. She was enthusiastic so I called a number on a tow truck next to it and that person gave me the number of the owner and I talked with him. It turned out he lives about a half a mile from me.

The more I have learned about this lady of a truck, the more it has grown fonder with me. I was surprised to learn that the rusty engine still works, that it started its career in Oregon in 1923, and that it never was fast - it was made to haul heavy loads. It spent the early 50s until recently with its second owner in Wyoming and then recently came to Asheville. This truck has only had 3 owners with ACT being the 4th.

The truck makes its stage debut in a publicity photo shoot.
ACT: How will it be used onstage?
RB: It will be handled by the cast onstage using a caster system. The truck will interact with the actors on stage and help them make the journey from Oklahoma to California. They will ride in it, they will swing it around. We will see it from the front, the side, the back - as I mentioned earlier, it is a character. It anchors the location and allows us to use lights and platforming to create the world in the mind of the audience.

ACT: What will happen to the truck after the show closes?
RB: We have several options for the truck after the play. I think one reason the play is not performed as often as it could be is that the truck is a major issue and there is no place to rent it. If we could find a place to store it and advertise it, we might be able to make up cost and overhead through rentals. Otherwise, we probably will just disassemble it and see if we can sell it through car restoration sites.

This has been a great collaboration with Jill and the staff of ACT. They are the ones that are going to make this happen.

* * *
Would your theatre like to own this truck for your production needs? Contact Technical Director Jill Summers with inquiries.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother"

Dorothea Lange's 1936 photo, Migrant Mother
Along with Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, the photography of Dorothea Lange brought the plight of the migrant workers to the attention of the American public. Lange was hired by the FSA (Farm Security Administration), which was created as a part of the New Deal, to document the lives of struggling farmers. Her photos gave faces to the disastrous impact that the Great Depression had on American families, and in turn, they helped the American public to understand why government assistance and changes in policy was so desperately needed.

Florence Owens Thompson, the woman featured in Lange's 1936 photo Migrant Mother, recorded a short audio interview about her life before the photo was taken, what happened the day the photo was taken, and a little about her life after the end of the Depression. The strength in her voice, the matter-of-fact-ness about how hard she worked - this is exactly what Steinbeck sought to capture in his novel.  Her story, like so many others, is the story of The Grapes of Wrath.

The power of the arts - visual, literary, or performing - to help explain how others live, to illuminate what might drive a person to behave in a certain way, to humanize a concept has always been a core component of our society. And though The Grapes of Wrath takes place in 1938, it has an undeniable relevancy to 1973, to 1980, to 2007, and to 2013.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dwarf Star: A Staged Reading on the Mainstage

What would you do for love?  What would you do for money?  What does love of money do to you?  Dwarf Star, inspired by the recent economic meltdown, is a dark comedy about buried passions, hidden crimes and huge money, written by Patricia Green, an Emmy winner for Cagney and Lacey and L.A. Law, who also adapted and produced Catherine Marshall’s Christy for television.

Please join us April 17th at 8:00 pm for a reading of Dwarf Star on the Mainstage with a stellar local cast (Maggie Marshall, AK Benninghofen, Jeff Benninghofen, Tiffany Cade, and Jaclyn Helms), directed by ACT favorite Michael Lilly, and the Q and A to follow.  This will be the first time Dwarf Star is read to a live audience, a crucial step in the creative process.  

Tickets are free for this event, but reservations are strongly encouraged.  To confirm your tickets, call the ACT Box Office at 828-254-1320 and come help us give birth to a new play!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath: Discussion Guide

Our brand new Discussion Guide for The Grapes of Wrath has hit the stands! A number of local book clubs are reading the novel in advance, then joining us for a performance - and they're also receiving commemorative book marks. If your book club would like to be a part of our "From Page to Stage" program, please contact us at

And if you're not in a book club, we encourage you to read the novel, look through the Discussion Guide, and attend the talk back performance on Sunday, April 14, 2014! Or, join us at Avenue M on Merrimon Ave. on Sunday, April 21 at 11:30 am for a pre-show brunch.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cast List for "The Grapes of Wrath"

We were absolutely thrilled with the turnout for auditions and we're excited to welcome this cast of both ACT newcomers and veterans into the building! Here's the cast list for The Grapes of Wrath:

Casy - McRae Hilliard
Tom - Jason Williams
Pa - Jim Weyhenmeyer
Ma - Teresa Darakjy
Granma - Shirley Cohen
Granpa - Mike Vaniman
Noah - Ehsan Akhavi
Ruthie - Audrey Arthur
Uncle John - Steven Turner
Winfield - Aidan Short
Rose of Sharon - Rachel Adams
Connie - Kai Hamilton
Al - Miles Rice

Ensemble: Gary Gaines, Cam Smail, Bruce Gruber, Jerry Williford, Michael Boulos, Elijah Short, Jenni Short, J.D. Short, Katy Heimlich, Ashleigh Millett, Melissa Glaze, Cade Wooten

Friday, February 22, 2013

Backstage at BARK!

Totally goofy - but we had a lot of fun making this!

Backstage at BARK! from Asheville Community Theatre on Vimeo.

Catch the show this weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

BARK! Preview

Last week, the cast of BARK! gave a short preview performance of four songs from the show for an appreciative audience at the home of the composer, David Troy Francis. In those four songs, they covered some of the greatest moments in a dog's day: when the owner returns home, when the whole yard is available for the marking of the territory, and when the sirens wail (and the opportunity to harmonize presents itself).

When your dog howls along to a siren, this is what it really sounds like:

Sigh. Dogs are awesome. (So are musicals about dogs...)

Friday, January 25, 2013

We're Closed: Friday, January 25

Good morning!

The roads are too slick for us this morning, so our business office and box office are closed for the day. Most of us are able to check emails, though, so feel free to shoot any questions our way!

Stay safe and warm!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

ACT Partners with New Umbrella to Present "Rubble"

TV fans should head out to the theater  for an evening in which the TV screen and the stage collide.

Mike Reiss, Emmy-award winning writer and producer of The Simpsons, brings his new comedy Rubble to ACT’s Mainstage on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 7:30 pm for a professional reading by an NYC and Asheville-based team of artists. This is the premiere reading of the play. Tickets are free to the public, but reservations are strongly recommended. For reservations, please call ACT at 828-254-1320 or email

Rubble is a ridiculous and absurdist comedy that follows the journey of a middle-aged TV writer as he has a near death experience in Hollywood…in more ways than one! It’s a laugh-out-loud commentary on the state of entertainment today, and anyone who has ever turned on the television is bound to find it stimulating, and painfully funny.

Local favorite actors Willie Repoley, Ralph Redpath, and Charlie Flynn-McIver will be joined in performance by Ken Keeler, former writer for The Simpsons and Futurama, who will play the role of the middle-aged TV writer. “I guess this is method acting,” Keeler says.

New Umbrella Artistic Director Elisabeth Gray will round out the cast, playing all of the female roles—ranging from a bossy studio exec to a French bimbo. Gray will make her Broadway debut this spring in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, while performing her one-woman show Southern (dis)Comfort Off-Broadway, which originated at ACT. “In this reading, each of us gets to play about five different characters. It’s exciting to be involved in such an accessible piece of theater. I can safely say this is a great time to bring along friends who think they hate the theater. They’ll be surprised!” Gray says.

The reading will be directed by NYC-based film and theater director Daniel Zimbler. “I grew up raised on Mike Reiss’s writing on The Simpsons,” Zimbler says. “Directing a reading of his work is like having a chance to direct an episode of The Simpsons. A childhood dream come true!”

The comedy reading will be followed by a Q&A session with celebrated TV writers who have all left Hollywood and made Asheville home. Ken Keeler, writer and producer of both Futurama and The Simpsons, will be joined by Patricia Green, Emmy-award winning writer and producer of such shows as Christy, Cagney & Lacey, Chicago Hope and LA Law, and by Brenda Lilly, co-creator and executive producer of the award winning TV series State of Grace and numerous other works for the screen and for the stage, many of which have graced local stages. She was elected to the Writers Guild Board of Directors and currently teaches at the College of Stage and Screen at Western Carolina University.  

The Q&A session will be open to the public for questions.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Announcing our BARK! Pet Portrait Contest Winners

Let us just preface this: We have been choosing Mainstage seasons for 67 years. For each of those 67 years, there have been at least 6 shows per season. So at bare minimum, there have been 402 casts throughout the theatre's history. And, let's say, there's an average of 15 roles available per show. That's over 6,000 roles we've had to cast. So we don't say this lightly:

We think that choosing the dog that will grace the postcard and poster for BARK! The Musical has been the hardest casting decision that has been made in the history of Asheville Community Theatre. But it has been done. And here he is!

Rusty! Photo by Kristi Hedberg
Meet Rusty.  He lives near a lake in Saluda, NC. His person Kay drove a long way to get his picture taken and will be thrilled to find out he's won the contest (says her husband - Kay was at work when we called).

We think Rusty is definitely trying to tell us something - we imagined him panting up to the back door of the house saying "Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?" We could see him telling us excitedly about a new musical that he just heard about that's ALL. ABOUT. DOGS. "Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?"

Maybe Rusty is the type of dog who would drop a slightly slobbery postcard of BARK! in our laps and then look at us with those jubilant brown eyes, begging us to go see the show so that we could come back and sing him all the new songs we learned.  Hopefully while on a long walk together. Maybe by that lake!

In no particular order, 20 more dogs were chosen to have their portraits displayed in the theatre's lobby.  We've had a lot of requests to share all the portraits in a slideshow - and we're working on that!  Check back or follow us on Facebook to see that announced.

All of us at Asheville Community Theatre want to thank the participants of the portrait contest, the photographers Caren Harris, Carly Deyton, Pam Burgess, Kristi Hedberg, and Sandra Stambaugh, and the staffs and volunteers of Animal Compassion Network, Asheville Humane Society, and Brother Wolf Animal Rescue for an incredible event. Hope to see all of you at the show next month!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Calling All Book Clubs!

This April, ACT will present The Grapes of Wrath, the powerful and deeply affecting stage version of one of the masterpieces of American literature.  If you haven't cracked open this classic since 10th grade, now would be a terrific time.  We're encouraging book clubs to read the novel, then attend the play together.  We think the discussions afterwards will be electric.  And doesn't a nice glass of wine go with a book club discussion?  And aren't grapes the main ingredient of wine?  This is just making more and more sense!

Contact ACT and let us know that you're a book club member, and we'll send you a complimentary book mark and a special Discussion Guide that will incorporate information from the page to the stage!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Additional Opportunities for Local Actors

From time to time, we receive emails and phone calls from outside groups who are looking to connect with Asheville actors. These events or auditions are not in any way associated with ACT - but we're happy to pass on the word for local organizations.  We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about one of these opportunities to get in touch with the contact person listed - often the info that we post is all the info that we have - but they'll be able to give you more specifics.

And also, actors - this site is one to bookmark! 

Looking for 1970's Era Icons:
In celebration of 35 years in business, a local company will be celebrating by having a 1970's theme party for clients. The party will be held on a Wednesday or Thursday evening in a Asheville area venue. An exact date has not been chosen. The time of the party will be 6:30pm until 9:30pm, although performers will be asked to only perform for (2) 30-minute slots.
As part of the fun and entertainment, we would like to have several actors and actresses portray 1970's iconic characters such as Elton John, John Lennon/Yoko Ono, Sonny & Cher, Donna Summer, Kiss, Charlie's Angels, John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever), etc. All others will be considered, just let us know your suggestion. Singing or dancing talent is not necessary (although it would be a big plus), as our main objective would be for performers to portray the iconic character while mingling and interacting with guests. We are open to lip-syn performances as well. Participants would be responsible for their own costume. Auditions will be required.

If interested, please contact Karan at with your character idea and desired compensation.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cast List for BARK!

Congratulations to the cast for BARK!  We're SO excited to welcome this fabulous group of ACT veterans and newcomers to the Mainstage for the NC Premiere of this musical.  AND they'll get to work directly with the composer, David Troy Francis, who's now based in Asheville!

Chanel.................................Jackie Canney
Golde..................................Carol Duermit
Boo.....................................MK Penley
King....................................Jeff Catanese
Sam....................................Daniel Hensley
Rocks.................................Garrett Funk