News

MILL MOUNTAIN THEATRE ANNOUNCES NEW EDUCATION TEAM

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Roanoke, VA – Mill Mountain Theatre (MMT) is pleased to announce a new trio joining Mill Mountain Theatre’s Conservatory team as the organization expands its education and outreach programming. The new team will consist of Jay Briggs serving as the director of education and community engagement, Travis Kendrick assuming the position of education associate and Jillian Hannah joining the Conservatory as a teaching artist. “This is a dream team with an incredible skill set. Our new talent will showcase their expertise in directing, choreography, music direction and teaching multiple disciplines. All three hold degrees in their fields, including two masters’ degrees. They are performers themselves with expansive credentials from across the country,” according to Ginger Poole, producing artistic director. “We could not be more excited about this accomplished group joining us,” Poole said.

Jay Briggs, a native of Hendersonville, North Carolina, recently relocated to Roanoke from Greenville, South Carolina, where he was employed as a teaching artist, director and consultant with several organizations. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of Mill Mountain Theatre’s education department. As the professional regional theatre is experiencing growth, the infrastructure is in place to diversify the offerings within the Conservatory and expand the reach within the Roanoke Valley, “ Briggs exclaimed.

Travis Kendrick is returning to his home state of Virginia after working and pursing an advanced degree from the University of California – Irvine (UCI). He developed his love for the theatre during his childhood years in Hopewell, south of Richmond. “It is such a joy to return to my theatrical roots and have the opportunity to work with young people who are perhaps in the midst of this same discovery and enchantment with theatre,” he said. The public is encouraged to participate in a fun social media (MMT Facebook and Instagram) campaign called “Tracking Travis from California to Mill Mountain Theatre.”

As a recent graduate of Elon University where she music directed numerous productions, Jillian Hannah had her first experience with Mill Mountain Theatre as a member of the summer apprentice company. Her new role will be an extension of her experiences where she has focused on public performance, collaboration, continuing education and service to the community through teaching and outreach.

As Mill Mountain Theatre continues to grow as a strong company producing top-notch regional programming throughout the area, more than 476 students were served in-house last year with successful opportunities for the community extending far beyond the theatre walls. The fall Conservatory schedule, featuring the new team, and show tickets are available at millmountain.org. For more information, contact Ginger Poole at (540) 342-5749 or via e-mail atginger@nullmillmountain.org.

DOZENS OF LOCAL TALENT FEATURED IN MILL MOUNTAIN THEATRE’S SUMMER PRODUCTION

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Roanoke, VA – More than 100 talented middle and high school students auditioned for 26 roles that are part of Into The Woods, JR., a musical that will take place July 27 through August 7 at Mill Mountain Theatre. The accomplished students that were selected for the performance represent at least 14 area schools throughout the community.

The family-friendly show, based on a book written by James Lapine and music by Stephen Sondheim, incorporates several Brothers Grimm fairy tale characters. Classic stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and his beanstalk) and The Baker and his wife are intertwined in an interesting and imaginative way.

Songs that will be included from the original musical will include I Wish, It Takes Two, and On the Steps of the Palace. Themes of perseverance, hope and responsibility are portrayed through the lyrics and characters. “With a stellar production team, a talented cast of local student actors, and a passionate crew of student technicians, we are excited to share this important musical fairy tale with the Roanoke Valley,” Anna Kimmell, director and choreographer, said.

Each summer, the Mill Mountain Theatre Conservatory program gives young aspiring local performers the chance to appear on the theatre’s main stage. In addition to the annual show, other educational opportunities such as professional instruction in voice, dance, acting, musical theatre and technical theatre are provided by the Conservatory program for pre-K through adult students.

Into The Woods, JR. runs July 27 through August 7 on the Trinkle Main Stage in the Wells Fargo Auditorium at Center in the Square. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the show beginning at 7:00 p.m. The Saturday and Sunday matinees will begin at 2:00 p.m. with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available from the Center in the Square box office by calling (540) 342-5740 or online via Mill Mountain Theatre’s website at www.millmountain.org.

Mill Mountain Theater is grateful for the support from Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital; The Roanoke Star and TheRoanokeStar.com; and WDBJ Television.

Additional support is made possible in part by generous underwriting by BNC Bank; chocolatepaper; Friendship Retirement Community; Dr. David Jones with Roanoke Valley Orthodontics; and Lanford Brothers Co. Grantors supporting this production are Center in the Square; City of Roanoke Arts Commission; County of Roanoke; Sam and Marion Golden Helping Hand Foundation; Kiwanis Club of Roanoke; Kathryn B. McQuade Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Into The Woods, JR. cast:

  • Savannah Amos (Witch) – William Byrd High School & Center for the Performing Arts
  • Mackenzie Bowles (Rapunzel) – Northside High School & Center for the Performing Arts
  • Mary Brothers (Granny/Forest Spirit/Assistant to the Director) – Patrick Henry High School
  • Caitlin Carter (Cinderella) – Cave Spring High School
  • Jack Dunkenberger (Cinderella’s Prince) – Hidden Valley High School Simon Elliot (Forest Spirit) – Roanoke Valley Christian School
  • Layla Esch-Bickel (Lucinda) – Homeschool
  • Olivia Goodman (Little Red Riding Hood) – Central Academy Middle School
  • Ben Kennedy (Narrator/Mysterious Man) – Salem High School
  • Mateo Lara-McNamara (Milky White/Cow) – Roanoke Catholic School
  • Ben Lewis (Baker) – Salem High School
  • Abby Martin (Stepmother) – Lord Botetourt High School
  • Cedar Moore (Jack) – Alleghany High School
  • Sawyer Mullins (Milky White/Cow) – Read Mountain Middle School
  • Ian Ridgway (Steward/Cinderella’s Father) – Hidden Valley High School
  • Victoria Riego de Dios (Cinderella’s Mother/Forest Spirit) – North Cross School
  • CJ Rodenberg (Wolf/Rapunzel’s Prince) – Hidden Valley High School
  • Rachel Shores (Baker’s Wife) – Hidden Valley High School
  • Sophie Sons (Forest Spirit) – Community High School

Production staff:

  • Anna Kimmell – Director/Choreographer With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre from Elon University, Anna has performed and taught all over the country. Along with managing and teaching Mill Mountain Theatre Conservatory in Roanoke, Anna choreographs at Patrick Henry High School and for the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Hollins University. Favorite performance credits include: The Wizard of Oz National Tour, Peter Pan (Wendy) at Rhode Island’s Theatre By the Sea, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Rosemary) at Florida’s Show Palace, Nuptials (Kitty) at North Carolina’s Flat Rock Playhouse, Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey) at Colorado’s Lake Dillon Theatre, White Christmas (Judy) at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Annie at Georgia’s Theatre of the Stars. She has been a regular at Mill Mountain Theatre by performing in 42nd Street (Peggy), The Sound of Music (Liesl), Swing! (featured dancer/singer), and Hairspray! (Amber). She also proudly directed and choreographed the successful Mill Mountain Theatre productions of The Wizard of Oz, Young Performers’ Edition, Shel’s World, and Beauty and the Beast JR. Anna can regularly be seen in television, film, and commercials, most recently guest starring on the Lifetime show Devious Maids. Behind the scenes, Anna serves as a photography assistant, production assistant, and seamstress. Find out more at annakimmell.com.
  • Seth Davis—Musical Director Seth, another Georgia native, is thrilled to now call Roanoke his home. First coming to Mill Mountain Theatre in 2013 for The Sound of Music, Seth has served as resident music director for the past two seasons. His favorite regional music directing credits include: Spring Awakening and The Rocky Horror Show (Actor’s Express), Hair and Time Between Us (Serenbe Playhouse), Illyria (Georgia Shakespeare), and The Red Balloon (Theatre du Reve).

For more information, contact Ginger Poole at (540) 342-5749 or via e-mail atginger@nullmillmountain.org

THE MUSIC OF ABBA FEATURED FOR TWO NIGHTS ONLY AT MILL MOUNTAIN THEATRE

Roanoke, VA – The 2016 Music Series continues at Mill Mountain Theatre as the Music of ABBA returns next month. After a successful inaugural season last year with the two one-night performances selling out, Mill Mountain Theatre has expanded the Music Series to three shows that will span two nights each this year.

It’s been 24 years since a band from Stockholm, Sweden formed and quickly rose to fame after winning a song contest where they debuted their smash hit, “Waterloo.” ABBA, an acronym from the first names of the four band members: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Agnetha Faltskog, became one of the most successful and beloved pop groups in music history. Long after the last performance by the group in 1982, ABBA’s music was adapted into the successful musical “Mamma Mia!” in 1999. An estimated 40 million people from around the world have seen the performance, one of the longest-running Broadway shows in history. Nearly ten years later, ABBA’s timeless tunes were again resurrected as a film version and accompanying soundtrack were released.

The group disbanded after just a decade, but the music will live on at Mill Mountain Theatre for two consecutive nights in June. The audience can enjoy their favorite beverages while being entertained with well-known dance floor classics that include “Take a Chance on Me,” a chart-topper that has graced many movies and television show soundtracks; “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” an upbeat best-selling single; and their number one pop masterpiece, “Dancing Queen.”

Three talented entertainers will take the audience back to the disco era of the 1970’s and 1980’s as they harmonize the unforgettable melodies made popular by the iconic Scandinavian foursome.

The Music of ABBA will premier June 3 on the Trinkle Main Stage in the Wells Fargo Auditorium at Center in the Square. The second performance will be on June 4. Beverages can be purchased from the bar at 6:30 p.m. with service continuing through intermission. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. with the performance beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available from the Center in the Square box office by calling (540) 342-5740 or online via Mill Mountain Theatre’s website atwww.millmountain.org.

After the show, keep the party going at Lucky’s, (18 Kirk Ave., Downtown Roanoke). Grab a bite and sample the “Fernet-do,” a cocktail created by Lucky co-owner and master mixologist Hunter Johnson to celebrate The Music of ABBA.

Enjoy a mixture of Fernet Branca, vodka, lemon and sugar, topped with pear cider. This specialty drink is available now through June 4.

The Mill Mountain Music Series grateful for the support from Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital; The Roanoke Star.com; and WDBJ Television.

The Music Series is made possible in part by generous underwriting by Bank of Floyd; Business Solutions, Inc.; Jefferson Surgical Clinic; Skyline Capital Strategies, LLC; Virginia Varsity Transfer/Virginia Varsity Storage; and Woods Rogers PLC. Grantors supporting this production are Actors’ Equity Association; Center in the Square; National Endowment for the Arts; and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

About The Music of ABBA cast:

  • Jorie Janeway will make her third appearance at Mill Mountain Theatre this week. She most recently appeared in 42nd Street as brassy Maggie Jones. In her first performance at Mill Mountain Theatre, she was the grouchy Sister Berthe in The Sound of Music. Her other favorite roles include being Chaperone in The Drowsy Chaperone, performing as the female authority figure in Hairspray, playing Cindy Lou in The Marvelous Wonderettes, and being part of the ensemble of Sister Act.
  • Lindsay Nantz returns to Mill Mountain Theatre after playing Penny Lou Pingleton in Hairspray last season. Her former credits include: The Marvelous Wonderettes (Suzy); The Secret Garden (Lily); Les Miserables (Cosette); Merrily We Roll Along (Beth), The Rocky Horror Show (Janet); the Addams Family (Alice Beineke); Grease (Patty Simcox); A Christmas Carol (Belle/Mary); The Producers; Show Boat; The Drowsy Chaperone; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat; and The Lost Colony. For more information, visit www.LindsayNantz.com.
  • Jill Vanderoef has been seen in two previous performances at Mill Mountain Theatre. She appeared in the production of Opry Divas and played Yonah in The Children of Eden. Some of her most memorable roles have been appearing as Cathy in The Last Five Years; Shelia in Hair; and playing Shelby in The Spitfire Grill. Visit www.jillvanderoef.com to learn more.

The band will include: Seth Davis (pianist), Mike Havens (bass/guitar), and Sam Nash (drums).

Production staff:

  • Alicia Varcoe—Director Alicia is a director, lighting designer and theatre administrator currently employed at Mill Mountain Theatre as assistant to the producer. She is a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Elon University’s Theatrical Design, Production and Music programs. Alicia has served in a variety of roles at Mill Mountain Theatre including: calling stage manager for “Swing!”, and assistant lighting designer for “Children of Eden,” “Hairspray,” and “42nd Street.” She made her directorial debut with The Music of Motown at Mill Mountain Theatre last month and she was also in charge of lighting for the production. Additional lighting credits include: Headvoice (New York Musical Festival); Next to Normal (Elon); 18 months at 54 Below. She has served as assistant director for: Our Guy, Cy (54 Below); Chasing the River & Reefer Madness (New World Stages). Her prior experience has led to jobs and internships with the Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, The Juilliard School and INFINITY Stages/Darren Bagert Productions.
  • Seth Davis—Musical Director Seth, another Georgia native, is thrilled to now call Roanoke his home. First coming to Mill Mountain Theatre in 2013 for The Sound of Music, Seth has served as resident music director for the past two seasons. His favorite regional music directing credits include: Spring Awakening and The Rocky Horror Show (Actor’s Express), Hair and Time Between Us (Serenbe Playhouse), Illyria (Georgia Shakespeare), and The Red Balloon (Theatre du Reve).
  • Bill Webb (lighting designer)
  • Ayme Gierchak (sound engineer)

2016 MUSIC SERIES KICKS OFF WITH THE MUSIC OF MOTOWN

motownRoanoke, VA – Three two-night performances are scheduled during the 2016 season as The Music Series at Mill Mountain Theatre returns next month. After a successful inaugural season last year with the two one-night performances selling out, Mill Mountain Theatre will expand the music series to two nights beginning with The Music of Motown on March 11 and 12.

Tamla Records, better known as Motown (a combination of “motor” and “town”), became the biggest and most successful independent record company in the United States. Founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. in Detroit, Michigan in 1959, Motown quickly became the heart of American pop music that boasted a roster of artists that encompassed many different genres of music from early rhythm and blues to soul, funk, pop and more. Motown’s signature sound served to inspire a generation, define an era and re-shape the music industry. It spanned an audience broader than any in history with its commercial appeal.

Mill Mountain Theatre will bring more than 30 of Motown’s iconic hits to the Trinkle Main Stage with two consecutive nights of top tunes beginning March 11. The audience can enjoy their favorite beverages in the informal concert setting as they are entertained with lively music that includes “Mr. Postman,” a number one chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961 along with “You Can’t Hurry Love,” one of 10 number one hits by The Supremes. “For the past three years, Mill Mountain Theatre has been fortunate to have Seth Davis as our resident musical director. Once again, the audience will get to experience his incredible talent as his masterful music direction and arranging will be heard throughout The Music of Motown,” Ginger Poole, producing artistic director for Mill Mountain Theatre said.

The dynamic onstage performances by talented entertainers (see cast information below) will showcase the rich history of Motown with hits by Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, and one of the biggest pop music acts of the 1970’s, the Jackson 5.

The Music of Motown runs March 11 and 12 on the Trinkle Main Stage in the Wells Fargo Auditorium at Center in the Square. Beverages can be purchased from the bar beginning at 6:30 p.m. and continuing through intermission. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. with the performance beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available from the Center in the Square box office by calling (540) 342-5740 or online via Mill Mountain Theatre’s website at www.millmountain.org.

The Mill Mountain Music Series is made possible in part by generous underwriting by Bank of Floyd; Business Solutions, Inc.; Jefferson Surgical Clinic; Skyline Capital Strategies, LLC; Virginia Varsity Transfer/Virginia Varsity Storage; and Woods Rogers PLC. Grantors supporting this production are Actors’ Equity Association; Center in the Square; National Endowment for the Arts; and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

About The Music of Motown cast:

  • Chris Flowers is a Michigan native and a graduate of Aquinas College. This will be his first appearance in a Mill Mountain Theatre production. Some of his former roles include performing as C.C. White in “Dream Girls” and Jake in “Side Show.” Visit www.chrisflowersonline.com for more information.
  • Kris Roberts is a New York University (NYU)/Tisch alumnae. She was named a finalist in the New York Musical Theatre Festival’s Next Broadway Sensation last year. She was also nominated for BroadwayWorld Detroit’s Best Actress in a Musical and Richmond Theatre Critic’s Circle’s Best Actress in a Musical. Some of her roles have included: Lead Singer/Vocal Captain for Royal Caribbean, performing as Charlayne in “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and Michelle in “Dreamgirls.”
  • Michael Jemison is currently living in New York City and just recently finished portraying Adrian in a production of Smokey Joe’s Café at the Starr Theatre. Other credits include his role as TJ in “Sister Act.
  • Patrick Clanton – Following graduation from Elon University, Patrick has been a familiar face at Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina as he has performed in “Hairspray,” “Miss Saigon,” and “My Fair Lady.” He has also toured nationally as part of the cast of “Sister Act.”

The band will include:

  • Seth Davis (keyboard),
  • Mike Havens (bass/guitar), and
  • Sam Nash (drums).

Additional production staff:

  • Director and Lighting Designer: Alicia Varcoe is a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Elon University’s Theatrical Design, Production and Music programs. She will make her directorial debut with The Music of Motown at Mill Mountain Theatre next month. She served in a variety of roles at Mill Mountain Theatre last season. Those positions have included: calling stage manager for “Swing!”, and assistant lighting designer for “Children of Eden,” “Hairspray,” and “42nd Street.” Her prior experience includes serving as an arts manager, director and lighting designer which has led to jobs and internships with the Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, The Juilliard School and INFINITY Stages/Darren Bagert Productions.
  • Sound Engineer: Ayme Gierchak

For more information, contact Ginger Poole at (540) 342-5749 or via email at ginger@nullmillmountain.org

Radio City Music Hall Rockette Choreographs 42nd Street at MMT

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Eileen Grace, former Rockett and choreographer of 42nd Street

ROANOKE – 42nd Street is the classic show about show business: A musical tale about a starry-eyed young dancer with a dream of making it on Broadway. Peggy Sawyer leaves her hometown in Pennsylvania to audition for a new show, gets a chorus role and then a big chance when the leading lady breaks her ankle. Peggy takes over and becomes a star. Mill Mountain Theatre’s production next month of 42nd Street couldn’t come closer to that story. Eileen Grace, the show’s choreographer, began her dancing career nearly the same way. “No sooner than I got to New York out of college, I landed a role in the first road tour of 42nd Street,” Grace said. Most of the cast had already been hired when the final auditions were to fill three remaining slots and Grace got one of those. “It was the big jump in my career. I went off with that show for two years, came back with enough money to live in New York and pursue my career,” which included the Broadway cast of 42nd Street, another road tour, the initial cast of The Will Rogers Follies and eight years dancing with the iconic Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. With the high-kicking, 36-tap dancing Rockettes, Grace has been a dancer, choreographer and dance captain for special performances with big stars and director of its touring shows for nine years. “I never dreamt that I’d have this kind of career; it’s been an amazing ride,” she said.

Like the 42nd Street character Peggy Sawyer, Grace said she “has worked hard at my craft. In my youth I have up a lot to stay focused on dancing. It took a lot of encouragement from many people for me to go to New York. And it was luck of being at the right place at the right time. Absolutely, 42nd Street is my story.” And when Mill Mountain Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Ginger Poole called Grace to work in Roanoke, “I was thrilled,” she said. “In rehearsals, more than once I almost got teary looking at those young performers and realizing how lucky I’ve been.”

Today, Grace lives in Pittsburgh, is married, with six-year-old twins, a daughter and a son. “My best role by far is being Mom.”

The production runs Dec. 2 to 20 on the Trinkle Main Stage in the Wells Fargo Auditorium at Center in the Square. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are available from the Center in the Square box office, by calling 540.342.5740 and on line via MMT’s website, www.millmountain.org. Three tiers of seats mean there are affordable tickets for every show.

The production of 42nd Street is made possible in part by generous underwriting by Avis Construction Company, Inc.; Bank of Floyd; Better Sofas; Lee F. Brooks/Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.; Business Solutions, Inc.; Catawba Capital Management; Claytor/Wirt Associates; Davis H. Elliot Company; Elk Hill Advisors, Inc.; Gentry Locke; Chas. Lunsford Sons & Associates; Miller, Long & Associates; Oakey’s Funeral Service & Crematory; Physicians to Women; Rutherfoord; Skyline Capital Strategies LLC, and Spilman, Thomas & Battle.

Full-season sponsors in 2015 are Carilion Clinic, The Roanoke Star.com and WDBJ Television. Grantors supporting this production are Actors’ Equity Association, Center in the Square, the National Endowment for the Art s and Virginia Commission for the Arts.

MMT distributes free tickets to clients of several local nonprofit organizations that serve low-income children and families. Those tickets are underwritten by sponsors of our Share the Magic fund: Benefit Plan Administrators, Inc.; Fee-Only Financial Planning; PlasticsOne and Union Bank.

51st Season Announced

ROANOKE – Roanoke’s professional theatre today announced its 51st Season of stage productions, educational programs for youth and the newly expanded concert series. Mill Mountain Theatre’s 2016 Season will build on beloved community traditions and is designed to create stellar audience experiences.

“The season honors the traditions that have made MMT so much a part of life in Roanoke,” said Ginger Poole, producing artistic director. “One of those is big musicals that consume the stage and fill the hearts of audiences. Another is seeing talented youth on stage in shows that challenge them to reach new goals. In 2016 we will perform shows that match those expectations and that we know audiences will love.”

The Season includes:

  • Hollins-Mill Mountain Theatre Winter Festival of New Works.
    This collaboration with Hollins University’s Theatre Institute provides the stage to showcase two newly created plays, Coupler: A whimsical Underground comedy by Meredith Dayna Levy, Jan. 22-31, 2016; and com, by Taylor Gruenloh, Feb. 19-28, 2016.
  • Smokey Joe’s Café, a musical revue packed with memorable tunes of Rock, Rhythm and Blues, including “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Stand by Me.” This show garnered seven Tony nominations and was the longest-running musical review in Broadway history. It will be on MMT’s Trinkle Main Stage April 27-May 8, 2016.

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  • Into the Woods Jr., the youth version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale with music by Stephen Sondheim. This epic is about wishes, family and choices we all must make, an entertaining lesson for kids. It will feature student actors and theatre technicians from the MMT Conservatory education wing, on the Trinkle Main Stage July 27-August 7, 2016.

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  • The Odd Couple, one of Neil Simon’s greatest comedies, proves that opposites do attract. A happy and surprising story about two recently divorced men who become roommates by necessity and friends through hard work. On the Trinkle Main Stage September 29-October 9, 2016.

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  • Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, full of dancing, romance and laughter set in snowy Vermont with beloved songs “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Happy Holidays,” “Blue Skies” and the unforgettable title song. On the Trinkle Main Stage, November 30- December 18, 2016.

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Mill Mountain Music, a series of easy, casual evenings to lay back with a beverage and familiar music, will expand in 2016 to three concerts, each played two consecutive evenings. They include:

  • The Music of Motown, March 11 and 12, 2016, featuring medleys and powerhouse songs made popular by The Temptations, The Four Tops, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and The Pips.
  • The Music of ABBA, June 3 and 4, 2016, an opportunity to dance in the aisles to “Mamma Mia,” “S.O.S.”, “Money, Money, Money,” “Waterloo,” Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” and “Dancing Queen.”
  • Holiday Music, Dec. 20 and 21, a perfect evening for the family to step into holiday mode without the frenzy. Cast members from White Christmas and other MMT alums will lead the singing of songs for a special time of year.

Also announced on Thursday was the return of Season Tickets at Mill Mountain Theatre. This audience service that has not been available since 2009 returns with special advantages and a limited-time discount price. If purchased before Dec. 1, 2015, Season Tickets give patrons three professional main-stage shows for the price of two regular tickets.

Contact our box office at 540.342.5740 for details about this 33% discount deal.

Collateral Events about Domestic Violence

October 2015
Mill Mountain Theatre is proud to announce its partnership with several area organizations and leaders to use the upcoming production of On Golden Pond as an opportunity raise awareness about the problems and issues of family violence in our community. Please join us on Sept. 30, Oct. 3 and Oct. 9 for events related to performances.

Domestic Violence: A Community Problem that Begs for Wider Awareness

Domestic and family violence has grown at a shocking rate in the Roanoke region over the past decade, becoming a drain on thin resources to deal with its impacts and efforts for prevention. A study released in 2013 by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services found:

  • Roanoke City had the highest rate of domestic violence victims among all of the state’s cities and counties, of 25.5 people per 1,000-person population. That rate of victims and incidents reported to criminal justice agencies grew by 29 percent between 2006 and 2010, the parameters of the study. In the same period, the number of reported victims was 10 per 1,000 people in neighboring Salem but the rate of increase was a more dramatic 56 percent.
  • The number of arrests made from reports of domestic violence grew during that period by 20.8 percent in Roanoke City, 37.6 percent in Salem and by 902 percent in Roanoke County, the same study said. Even before that study documented a growing problem, Roanoke saw a spike in deaths attributed to domestic violence in 2005, causing City Councilman Sherman Lea to head an effort to understand causes of the problem and seek solutions. Recommendations led to dedicated staff positions in the Police and Social Services departments to deal with the issue.

Domestic violence is estimated to cost the U.S. economy $8.3 billion annually, according to a December 2013 report by Forbes magazine. The article computed direct costs of medical care and lost productivity by job absence of the 24 percent of adult women and 14 percent of adult men who are physically abused by their partners. The problem is severe to the point that several major, national companies admit to screening job applicants for signs of domestic violence.

Ironically, the increase in police reports of domestic crimes in Roanoke comes at a time when the community’s overall crime rate has decreased and the city ranked nationally among localities with declining incidents of violent crime.

Some of the increase in domestic crime reports is attributed to change in public awareness and new laws that empower police officers to seek holistic solutions to families’ problems, said Frank Leftwich, a Roanoke Police Department criminal investigator in its special victims unit. He also is a member of the Roanoke Family Violence Coordinating Council, an agency that matches organizations offering services with citizens needing them.

Before 2011 a police officer who responded to a complaint about a family disturbance would say to those involved “Calm down. If we have to come back, somebody is going to jail,” Leftwich said. Since changes in state laws “we ask about the root of the argument, the cause of the stress.” The officer now assesses the situation to determine who is the aggressor and who is the victim, to make an arrest and to seek emergency protective orders, he said. When there is a subsequent offense, the civil complaint becomes a criminal matter.

There is now greater focus on the offenders as well as the victims of domestic violence, Leftwich said. There is also acknowledgment that the cycle of domestic violence in families and communities cannot be broken without bringing awareness of the problem.

Mill Mountain Theatre’s Response to a Community Need

It is not the conventional role of arts organizations such as Mill Mountain Theatre to address directly criminal justice issues like domestic violence. But it has long been a function of playwriting and theatre to be catalysts for social change and to empower those who assume leadership roles. Our collateral events associated with last season’s productions of To Kill a Mockingbird and Children of Eden as good examples of the ability of Mill Mountain Theatre to draw people together for thoughtful discussion as well as to deliver messages through performances. MMT’s production of On Golden Pond will coincide with the Family Violence Coordinating Council’s awareness walk and ceremony to remember victims, in downtown Roanoke on Oct. 9. Leftwich plans for the group to staff information tables during MMT performances and related events and to offer private counseling for people who want it. Other community agencies are developing ways to draw the greatest impact from public events facilitated by MMT. On Golden Pond, now a classic of both theatre and film, is about a family in the flux of uncomfortable change. Roles of two women in the cast are the change agents as well as emotional glue that hold the family together during that change. They are models for women who are the victims of family violence, for women who are advocates for change in how society understands and reacts to domestic abuse and for creation of programs that more directly address these costly problems. Our partners in this project include The Turning Point shelter operated in Roanoke by the Salvation Army for abused women and their children, Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and its Leadership Roanoke Valley program, Hollins University, the Roanoke Police Department Family Violence Coordinating Council and Citizens Against Family Violence in Martinsville. Those partners are helping Mill Mountain Theatre identify and invite women who will benefit from seeing performances of On Golden Pond and whose presence in the audiences and talk-back sessions can increase awareness of the social problems.

The Play That Will Generate Healthy Discussion and Action

On Golden Pond’s strength is in telling the impact of human affection in a family beset by changing roles and pressures of contemporary society. It is a message that many of us need to hear to affirm our own feelings about those we love and those we barely know.

Our goal is to include in the audience women whose lives have been affected by family conflict and who are repairing themselves with a sense of empowerment. Understanding that they are not alone in their struggle is an important aspect of their renewal. We hope the impact of our production will add positively to community discussion about domestic violence, family change and personal relationships.

A six-actor cast tells the story of the power of respect and love among people who consider themselves a family. The two women’s roles are pivotal to the change that ultimately affects the relationships and affirms the interdependency of the other characters. The play is about Ethel Thayer, in her 70s, and Norman Thayer, about to turn 80, who return to their Maine vacation cottage on Golden Pond. The summer begins routinely but is quickly changed when their estranged middle-age daughter, Chelsea, arrives with her fiancé, Bill, and his teenage son. The daughter and her friend depart for a trip to Europe and leave behind the adolescent boy, Billy.

The elderly couple and boy work through their own awkwardness but eventually become close, sharing interests in fishing on the lake and discoveries of new experiences. By the time the daughter and her friend return as a married couple, Chelsea must deal with her curmudgeon of a father, who has never acknowledged her personal and professional successes and with his own oncoming senility. Ethel must absorb the abrupt changes in her family, acknowledge Norman’s declining health and ponder the effects on her life. Near the end of the play Norman suffers heart pains and collapses; Ethel’s reaction shows she has feared his death for some time.

The characters and their situation are believable, said Roger Ebert in his review of the play’s film version for the Chicago Sun-Times. “On Golden Pond was a treasure for many reasons, but the best one, I think, is that I could believe it. I could believe in its major characters and their relationships.” Ebert confessed he left the theatre “with a certain resolve to try to mend my own relationships and learn to start listening better.”

Mill Mountain Theatre last presented On Golden Pond in 1986 for audiences totaling 4,469 people. The play’s quiet contemplative humor is a contrast to the bright big-cast musicals for which MMT has built its reputation. But we believe that producing plays with a serious message is part of our mission, especially when they encourage patrons to consider their own conditions.

Women who are victims of family conflicts that rob them of empowerment are those who also are burdened by loss of financial independence, damaged credit and without access to reparative counseling, said Jamie Starkey, program director at The Turning Point shelter in Roanoke.

“Everyone has a struggle in life,” Starkey said. “Many abused women end up in shelters because they have no one to reach out to as a mentor or as a timely counselor.” The experience of seeing and talking about On Golden Pond would be validation of worthiness for many” of The Turning Point’s clients, she said.

The goals against which we will measure the project’s success are:

  • Attendance by at least 250 women and family members at designated performances of On Golden Pond who, as identified by MMT’s partner agencies, will benefit from the experience.
  • At least three collateral events tied to performances as either pre-show discussions or post-show talk-back sessions. These events will be facilitated by trained members of MMT’s partner agencies for this project and designed to generate community conversation and measurable actions to deal with the problem of family conflict.
  • Increased awareness of domestic violence as a significant and growing problem for the Roanoke community. We will seek measurable feedback from our partner agencies to know that production of the play and collateral events enabled them to generate awareness and concern. Awareness of incidents and costs of domestic violence is a component of the City of Roanoke’s education effort that date from the task force first formed in 2005. The Family Violence Coordinating Council and several of its member agencies will participate in events related to MMT’s production and evaluate those efforts.

Mill Mountain Theatre relies on ticket sales and contributed underwriting from sponsors and grantors to produce its shows. Collateral events often mean that seats are allocated to patrons who are part of focused groups we want to reach but who cannot pay for tickets. Their involvement subtracts from the inventory of seats that could be sold and, thus, that lost revenue is offset by underwriting and grants. The projected budget for collateral events related to the production of On Golden Pond includes the cost of unpaid seats at performances and facilitation of community discussions related to performances.

Our project partners expect that about 250 clients of agencies assisting domestic violence victims would benefit by seeing a performance and participating in related discussions. Their involvement has a direct cost of about $7,700 in unrealized ticket revenue. Additional costs would provide marketing to reach that focused audience, recorders to collect and effectively analyze the comments and concerns raised at collateral events, and food and beverages for the pre-show discussions.

The Kathryn B. McQuade Foundation, which supports global efforts for women’s and children’s rights, education and welfare, and the Friendship Foundation of Roanoke have made the initial grants for this project. Other proposals for support are pending.

For further information please contact John Levin at development@nullmillmountain.org or 540.342.5761.

Revised 8/18/2015

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