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January 2011
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Ash Lawn Opera
Bent Theater Company
4C Players

Live Arts
New Lyric
Old Michie
American Shakespeare


Regal Downtown
Regal Seminole 4
Vinegar Hill

Fork Union

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If I were a snooty and ill-informed big-city transplant, what might I expect from Charlottesville’s theater scene?  A touring production of Love Letters, perhaps, starring Jill St. John and Robert Wagner; some earnest Chekhov productions from the University’s Department of Drama; and the occasional community theater event, featuring a cast straight out of Christopher Guest’s mockumentary Waiting for Guffman.
    But on closer inspection, one finds the Guffman comparison is a lot of guff!   
    The local scene is enlivened in summer by operas at Ash Lawn-Highland, productions at UVA's Helms and Culbreth theatres, and the second cycle of the yearly offerings at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton. Four County Players in Barboursville can be counted on for a wonderful summer experience under the stars in the Ruins, and then for fun productions in their playhouse during the year.
    Live Arts never fails to amaze with the variety and quality of their productions on two stages, just as Offstage presents eclectic shows in bars all over town in the annual "Barhoppers" series. Piedmont Virginia Community College not only hosts New Lyric Theater Gilbert and Sullivan productions, but the school's theater department can also be counted on to bring in fascinating shows.
The Old Michie Theater and Ash Lawn both offer delicacies for kiddies, including marionette and puppet shows as well as magic, juggling, and other imaginative fare. The Bent Theater troupe makes it up as they go along, but the shows are no less stimulating for all that-- some might say they're even more fun than people reciting memorized lines!
    Add into the mix productions at local schools like Tandem, Miller, CHS, and the Albemarle Players (from the high school of the same name, they were invited to the huge Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland last year), and it's clear that, while we’re a little off Off-Broadway, a little bit south of Soho, the play’s the thing here.   

Live Theater and Dance
American Shakespeare Center. Watch the best of the bard and more in the Shenandoah Valley's re-creation of the original Blackfriars Playhouse. In addition to the current series of plays (Wild Oats, The Taming of the Shrew, Othello), the 2010-2011 schedule will also include Henry IV, Part 2 and The Fair Maid of the West in the fall and A Christmas Carol, Macbeth, and Measure for Measure around the holidays. 10 S. Market St., Staunton. $10-40. 540-885-5588

Ash Lawn Opera Festival. This long-running Opera Festival performs opera and musical theater in English in the historic Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall. Performances run from the first of July to mid-August, and generally include two major works, a music at twilight series, and pre-concert lectures. 2010 schedule: Don Giovanni and Brigadoon. $10-35. 293-4500

Charlottesville Salsa Club. All are welcome at the club's weekly boogie night: Sundays at Club R2, behind Rapture on the Downtown Mall. Enjoy traditional and contemporary Latin tunes and be prepared to dance with different people. A basic lesson starts the night at 8pm. Last dance around midnight. $5-10. 293-9326

Four County Players. This nonprofit volunteer community theater is the oldest continuously operating community theater in Central Virginia. 4CP produces several shows throughout the year and holds a Summer Theater Camp. The troupe is currently performing Alice in Wonderland through August 15. Winter and Spring productions include The Best Christmas Pagent Ever, Annie, and The Importance of Being Earnest. All shows take place in the Barboursville Community Center, 5256 Governor Barbour St. $5-15. 540-832-5355

Live Arts.  This community theater group formed in 1990 offers a range of theater experiences in its new custom-built, architecturally distinguished arts complex off the Mall on Water Street. Since 1990, Live Arts has presented over 200 shows ranging from new interpretations of classics to avant garde performance art. A professional staff works with volunteers to produce a full main-stage season, extensive educational programs, and smaller experimental works. The 2010-2011 season includes The Dishwasher, The Giver, and The Memory of Water, among many others. 123 E. Water St. 977-4177

New Lyric Theatre. Since its premiere in 2000, the New Lyric Theatre Company, composed of volunteer actors, directors, musicians, singers, and technicians, has produced Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Dickinson Performing Arts Center at Piedmont Virginia Community College. $15-17. 977-7478

Old Michie Theatre. This theater and drama school seeks to inspire students with the joys of live theater and puppetry arts. The Theatre offers a wide variety of classes throughout the year for children ages 5-17, as well as a series of Saturday morning puppet plays and dramatic productions. $1 to $8. Class fees vary. 221 E. Water St. 977-3690

Paramount Theater. Between Second and Third streets on the Downtown Mall, this 1931 movie theater has been remade into a first-rate venue for concerts, plays, films, opera, and more. Check their calendar frequently for up-to-date listings of all their offerings. $19-$100. 979-1922

Piedmont Virginia Community College. PVCC mounts main-stage and chamber theater productions during the year, as well as a children's theater series. Dance, theater, music, and free movies are just some of the highlights of their ambitious production calendar. 501 College Drive. 961-5376

Play On! A nonprofit community theater that opened its doors in 2006 at the Ix Center.  Play On! offers comedies, dramas, musicals, and revues.  Their 2010-2011 season includes a variety of shows, beginning with Yankee Tavern and including Cinderella and Kiss Me Kate, and Tennessee William's Summer & Smoke. Tickets range from$10-$17. Box office 872-0184.

UVA Drama Department. Besides offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in performance and theater design, the UVA Drama Department mounts four main-stage productions each academic year and several additional smaller productions, often student-directed. UVA's theaters include the 600-seat Culbreth, with its proscenium stage, and the flexible Helms Theatre with 160-200 seats. The Heritage Theater Festival runs in June, July, and August. This 2010-2011 season will include The Glass Menagerie, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Evita. 109 Culbreth Road. 924-3376

Bent Theater Improv. The Bent Theater presents live improv comedy shows at R2 behind Rapture restaurant from time to time on the Downtown Mall and offers classes and stages their own version of productions (such as Harry Potter and Twilight).

Dinner theater?
Charlottesville doesn't have a permanent one. The closest one, seating 450 people, is the
Riverside, about an hour away in Fredericksburg. $37-58 includes dinner and the show, which typically runs 2-2.5 hours.This year's lineup includes Chicago, A Wonderful Life, and Hairspray. Reservations required. 540-370-4300

Outdoor theater
Besides Shakespeare in Barboursville and Ash Lawn's summer opera, there is outdoor theater over in Lexington. It's a 60-minute drive to the
Theater at Lime Kiln, a place that, while it fell on hard times, has made a comeback with offerings like festivals, concerts, and Shakespeare plays. Tickets range from $8-20. 540-463-7088




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