Ensemble Stage is ready to ‘Gogh’

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Sep. 19, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 19, 2013
Ensemble Stage is ready to ‘Gogh’

From left, Ensemble Stage’s Gary Smith directs actor (and Blowing Rock fire chief) Kent Graham in one of the company’s staged radio dramas.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

With autumn’s foliage as its palette, Ensemble Stage has painted a colorful lineup for its fall season.

It appropriately opens with “Vincent,” a one-man show on the life of Vincent Van Gogh by playwright and “Star Trek” luminary Leonard Nimoy, who, artistic director Gary Smith noted, will not be appearing in the show.

“We originally had ‘by Leonard Nimoy’ on our website, and we had a lot of people thinking he would be performing in it,” Smith said. “So, we changed it to ‘written by Leonard Nimoy.’”

Directed by Smith, the play stars Travis Wayne Bosell as Van Gogh’s brother, Theo.

“The whole thing is based on about 500 letters that were written back and forth between Theo and Vincent Van Gogh throughout the course of their lives,” Smith said. “So, you kind of discover what he went through — and not just as a painter. He was passionate about everything he did, and that really comes out in the play.”

Throughout the production, some 200 images will be projected on stage, depicting locations and myriad paintings, all of which coincide with the dialogue.

“It’s really one of those shows people will walk out of with a better understanding of who he was,” Smith said.

The play takes place approximately a week after Van Gogh’s death, and his brother, Theo, is talking to the audience. At times, Smith said, Bosell will slip into character as Vincent via a series of flashbacks.

As an art dealer, Theo helped finance his brother’s artistic passion.

“Yet, when it came to trying to sell his paintings, that’s where he fell short,” Smith said, “and it’s kind of unique and interesting to hear the story behind that. There’s a point in the play where Vincent just rails on Theo for that very reason. It’s interesting, the dynamics between these two, and the way the play is written is really quite seamless … these seamless, but definitive changes from when he’s Theo to when he’s Vincent.”

It’s an entertaining, engrossing and educational experience, Smith said, adding that even he learned new things about the artist.

He hopes it has the same effect on its audience. For instance, he added, people might be surprised to learn Van Gogh pronounced his name “Van Goff.”

The play also references the act that led to the artist’s pop culture notoriety, in which he severed his ear. Not to reveal any more, Smith said, “They do talk about that, and it’s an interesting story behind that.”

“Vincent” runs Saturday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m. Tickets cost $19 for adults and $17 for senior citizens, students and members of the military and are available by visiting http://www.ensemblestage.com or calling (828) 414-1844.

‘The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow’

For one night only, Washington Irving’s classic short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” rides into Blowing Rock.

Presented as a staged radio drama, “The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow” will feature cast members reading dialogue and making sound effects with a wide variety of props, bringing the era of radio dramas to life before the audience’s eyes.

“We did ‘Dracula’ the last two years, so this is a nice change of pace,” Smith said. “We’re probably going to localize it, just like we do all our radio dramas, and bring it to the area. It’s got all the characters from the classic story … and it’ll still be a theatrical piece — not just people standing up at microphones holding a script.”

That includes costumes, lighting effects and sound effects aplenty.

“I love that we do these radio dramas,” Smith said. “And I think it’s neat that people bring their kids. Even the adults have no idea how those things took place back then with radio dramas. To see the sound effects done live on stage — like the stake into Dracula’s heart being a mallet on a cabbage — that’s just fun theater.”

“The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow” runs Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $8 for children 15 and younger.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

The fun continues into the holiday season with another radio drama, an adaptation of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“There have been a lot of theaters that have done (the play) recently,” Smith said. “I had my doubts about it, but after looking at it and researching it, there’s a lot more to it, and it stays really true to the movie.”

As such, he said, audience members can expect to see the popular classic in a whole different light.
The staged radio drama, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” runs one night only on Saturday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $8 for children 15 and younger.

‘Christmas in Blowing Rock’

Ensemble Stage has a present for fans of its annual “Christmas in Blowing Rock” variety shows — “(The Best of) Christmas in Blowing Rock (5).”

“It’s patterned after the whole Andy Williams and Bing Crosby television specials of the 1960s, with the girls in ball gowns, guys in tuxedos, silly little skits, music and things like that,” Smith said. “This year, it’s going to be the best of, so we’ll take all the bits that were the biggest crowd-pleasers … and we’re bringing all those favorite backs.”

And favorites they are, as Smith is surprised every year by the amount of feedback — and the demand for more — from his audience.

“Every year, I have people wanting to reserve tickets for the next year, because it’s just a fun show,” he said. “I guess this has become the tradition up here.”

“(The Best of) Christmas in Blowing Rock (5)” runs Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $8 for children 15 and younger.

About Ensemble

Unless otherwise noted, all Ensemble Stage productions take place at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium on Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock.

Ensemble Stage is a nonprofit organization. For more information, tickets or how to become a donor, call (828) 414-1844 or visit http://www.ensemblestage.com.

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