Sunday, July 7, 2013

Overnight Sensations Shows You Where We Are

Patrick Kelly (left) and Chris Shepard help the typecast drunk (moi) in "The Transplant".
My group in rehearsal.
Director Bonnie Metzgar (left) Patrick Kelly make up Christina Koomen.
Writer Yulia Gray reacts to rehearsal.
Scene from "Pine Valley Laundry".
Finale from the musical "The Dreams You Choose".
Taking a bow after "Starship Stupid".
Scene from our play "The Transplant".
Another scene from "The Transplant." Hey, it's my blog!
Patrick Kelly goes over the top (as is his habit).
Christina Koomen, Patrick Kelly and a drunk on the floor.
"People Like Us" was simply hilarious. My buddy Cara Modisett on the right was great, as was the cast uniformally.
"Vision 2020" was about gay marriage in Texas and it brought the house down. Brian O'Sullivan (left), as usual, was outrageous.
And a fuzzy bow to you all.
Overnight Sensations, which played last night at Mill Mountain Theatre was gratifying for those of us who participated on every level, especially that level revealed to us as we walked on to the stage for our 10-minute plays: there was nearly a full house. I've done these presentations in the past when I knew everybody in the audience and was related to most of them.

Not only was the house nearly full, but it was ready to be entertained, laughing riotously throughout and applauding enthusiastically. As I've said over and over the past couple of years, the theater crowd in Roanoke is growing, becoming more sophisticated, getting younger and turning out for some wonderful productions (this one included).

The talent at every level of Overnight Sensations--writers, directors, actors--was impressive. I am especially taken with the writing, knowing a little about the craft myself--and what is accomplished with this production is jaw-dropping. These writers are asked to turn out a complete 10-minute script overnight. They are given a few guides, but the scripts come from between their ears and they fit, in every instance, the casts they are assigned, sometimes gloriously so.

When Mill Mountain Theatre closed because of financial difficulty nearly two years ago, it looked as if theater as we knew it in Roanoke--a good show town--was going to die. Instead, it was reborn through the efforts of people like Todd Ristau (who is responsible for Overnight Sensations), Kenley Smith and Ernie Zulia, among many others.

The talent has been here all along and it is being developed as we watch. The bench is deep at every level and getting better all the time. Take in a play soon and don't wait for another Overnight Sensations. My son, who has rarely been to the theater in Roanoke, was in the crowd last night and he laughed so hard his face hurt. That's a recommendation from a full-blown skeptic.

(Photos by Leah Weiss, Dan Smith, Bonnie Metzgar)

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