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Ensemble Stage plays ‘Mindgame’

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Jul. 3, 2013 | Modified: Jul. 15, 2013
Ensemble Stage plays ‘Mindgame’

From left, Lori Franklin, Mark Allen Woodard and Scott Douglas Wilson star in Ensemble Stage's production of 'Mindgame,' running July 6 to 14 in Blowing Rock.

Photo by Jeff Eason



You purchase this ticket with the price of imagination. With it comes another dimension — a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.

You’re moving into a theater of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into “The Twilight Zone.”

Sort of.

Blowing Rock’s Ensemble Stage presents “Mindgame” July 6 to 14, a mystery-suspense thriller that artistic director Gary Smith likened to an episode of Rod Serling’s classic television series.

“It really is unlike any kind of theater I’ve seen, especially up around here,” Smith said. “It kind of reminds you of an extended version of a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode. Nothing is as it seems, and by the end, everything is completely different than what you expected and what was presented at the beginning.”

Written by Anthony Horowitz, the story centers on a writer (played by Scott Douglas Wilson) who visits a mental institution for the criminally insane to interview a serial killer on the 20th anniversary of his incarceration.

However, upon his arrival, the hospital administrator (played by Mark Allen Woodard) recalls no correspondence with the writer and is reluctant to let him meet the patient. Meanwhile, a certain nurse (played by Lori Franklin) seems to be urging the writer to leave as quickly as possible.

“And the show moves on from there,” Smith said. “I can only tell you how it begins, because I don’t want to give anything else away.”

Smith did reveal, however, that “Mindgame” isn’t a show for anybody younger than 15 years old.
“It’s suspenseful and shocking and bloody and full of twists and turns,” he said. “I think it’ll even appeal to non-theatergoers, because it’s not your typical theater. You’re not going to leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling.”

The same goes for the performers.

“It’s kind of an exercise in questioning your own sanity, in a sense,” Smith said. “Watching (Woodard and Wilson), they’re the perfect match for the show, and there’s some great acting going on on that stage. It’s draining for both of them.”

The show also presented some technical challenges, Smith said, “in the sense that there are a lot of things that change throughout — characterizations of the characters on stage, as well as elements of their environment.”

The big thing, he said, is to do it in a somewhat subtle way.

“I don’t want the audience going, ‘Oh, wow, that’s different,” Smith said. “I want them to go, ‘Oh, well…’”

In order to build this surreal setting, Smith contacted a highly sought-after set designer, Mike Winkelman, with whom he’d worked before.

“He doesn’t normally hop on a plane for under $10,000 a show,” Smith said. “I sent him an email, saying I’ve got this script, I really want to do this show, and there are a lot of technical elements that I don’t know how to do. He called me two days later and said, ‘You know what, I have never seen a play like this, and this is something I’d really like to do.’”

As such, Winkelman agreed to work for free.

“So, that’s exciting in itself,” Smith said. “This is something that is completely different and that theatergoers and even non-theatergoers will really enjoy.”

“Mindgame” runs July 6, 8, 9, 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m., and July 7 and 14 at 2 p.m. All shows are held at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium on Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock.

For tickets and more information, visit http://www.ensemblestage.com or call (828) 414-1844.

Additional Images

From left, Lori Franklin, Mark Allen Woodard and Scott Douglas Wilson star in Ensemble Stage's production of 'Mindgame,' running July 6 to 14 in Blowing Rock.
Photo by Jeff Eason

Mark Allen Woodard stars in Ensemble Stage’s production of ‘Mindgame,’ running July 6 to 14 in Blowing Rock.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

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