Best of Theater
1. 'Stop Kiss'
The modern love story was the first of its kind on the Appalachian Stage, but hopefully not the last. In a play where time is not always chronological but love is universal, audiences were more than entertained. For just less than two hours, they were captivated. Particularly timely with the recent bout of gay teen suicides and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," "Stop Kiss" wasn't trying to make a statement, director Ray Miller insists, he and the actors were trying to tell a love story, and that's exactly what translated in this honest, actor-heavy hit.
2. 'God's Man in Texas'
Mark Woodard shined as a naive pastor who realizes the true meaning of evangelism in this David Rambo dramedy, a risky but appropriate choice for Blowing Rock's Ensemble Stage. With a cast of pros, rounded out by David Silverthorn and George Gray's spot-on portrayal of a pastor with dollar signs in his eyes, "God's Man" painted a realistic (albeit unsettling) picture of America's commercialized evangelism and invited needed discussion, the talking points of which will last well into the New Year and beyond. The show marked Ensemble Stage's birth into not just an organized community of theater enthusiasts, but a professional local powerhouse.
3. 'Romeo and Juliet'
The "misadventured, piteous overthrows" may have, with their death, "buried their parents' strife," but we, the audience, will replay those sword fights (expertly choreographed by Teresa Lee) in our heads throughout the New Year. With a double dose of Raphaelite pizzazz, director Derek Gagnier brought a painting to life on the Valborg stage at Appalachian State University.
4. 'Horn in the West'
As always, this "Horn" meant summer to tourists and locals alike. This year brought the usual mesh of fire dancing and feathered natives, with the added twist of new choreography and a renewed spirit. This year's highlight? Stages of History, a night of vignettes from outdoor dramas throughout North Carolina. Beat that, 2011.
"I never heard no music quite like yours. Where'd you learn how to play it that way?"
Lees-McRae, perhaps? With expert choreography and that rare mesh of professionalism and talent, "Ragtime" burst its way onto the summer stage at Lees-McRae College, proving once again that, for a taste of Broadway close to home, you need look no further than Banner Elk. While Lees-McRae does have a fair shake of traditional theater, its reputation as an "it" school for under grad musical theatre can't be broken.
ASU Faculty On Stage!
What's better than watching your professor pirouette across the stage? If your professor is Marianne Adams. ASU faculty members stepped out of the classroom in 2010 and onto the stage, and with highlights like Adams' piece from the Front of Curtain Festival and Gordon Hensley's wily portrayal of the mustached Mr. Paravacini in "The Mousetrap," it's easy to see why students weren't the only ones enthralled. And don't forget ASU retired theater historian Frank Mohler's unforgettable Col. Mustard-like portrayal of Major Metcalf. If you've had Mohler as a professor (as I have), that's an image that will stick with you at least through 2051.
War of the Worlds
Halloween meant the return of the men from Mars, at least that's what Ensemble Stage would have had you believe with its return to Orson Welle's classic radio play. Directed by Gary Smith and thoughtfully acted by ASU professor and Blowing Rock Stage Company vet Derek Gagnier, the play (complete with sound effects and the Watauga High School orchestra) sent its audience back in time to those days in front of a coal stove with the radio on. Here's to hoping it's back for a third installation in 2011.