Actor Spotlight: Stud Muffin

That’s right, the black kitten who started his career at the Yancey Humane Society, then became the darling of You Can’t Take it With You, has found his furever home!  Fellow cast member Rose Ray has graciously offered her home to be the kitten’s new domain and given him his newest stage name: Stud Muffin.  (After all, all the world’s a stage… especially when you’re a cat.)a-kitten

You’ll be delighted to know there are plenty of future stars just waiting for you at the Humane Society. Check out some of these beauties!


Find these fine felines at The Yancey Humane Society.

962 Cane River School Rd, Burnsville, North Carolina 28714
12-5 Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri and  12-4 Sat.

YHS located in beautiful Yancey County, NC. They are a non-profit shelter working hard to find homes for our county’s stray and relinquished dogs and cats.

Phone: (828) 682-9510 or email.

Parkway Playhouse wants to thank the Yancey Humane Society for working with us on this show and for all the good work they do in our community!  Be sure to friend them on facebook to see the latest stars they’re grooming for your living room stage.
We’ll see you at GET THE HOOK (teen improv comedy troupe) Friday & Saturday (Sept. 15 & 16) at 7:30 for a barrel full of laughs…
… and the next weekend is the opening of The Great Catsby…. we mean The Great Gatsby.

Artist Spotlight: G-Man Derek Freeman


I’ve wanted to audition at Parkway for some time. For years as a vocal coach, I’ve been preparing kids for auditions. This year, I decided it was time for the teacher to become the performer. This is my first time on their stage!

To me the word “production” has a different meaning. It’s not the staging, or the performance, or even the play. A production is a chance to make my daughters proud as they watch Daddy on stage! Plus, I love creating an art form for others to enjoy.

I’ve been a party guest in The High Country Youth Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Recently I played Jack Barnes, a Pan Am executive, and Dr. Wanamaker in Mitchell Community Theatre’s production of Catch Me If You Can.

And although I’m quite busy with full time work at Buck stove, have had my own piano/vocal studio for over five years, love crafting, reading, and composing instrumental piano pieces (30 so far), my first and foremost job is daddy to the two most beautiful girls in the world: Zoe Allen, 18, and Georgia Freeman, 5. 10684127_1544295345800131_783882163_a

I was asked about favorites in You Can’t Take It With You; it has given me so many favorite moments—but my antics with Rose’s character, Gay Wellington tops the list. And Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff’s line, “Life is kind of beautiful if you let it come to you.” What an awesome way to look at life! I want a mindset like that when I “grow up”.

You Can’t Take It With You is a comedy, yet deeply profound. You’ll leave the theatre changed, perhaps seeing life a bit differently. And being directed by the playwright’s son, Chris Hart, makes it worth seeing more than once.



Samantha Lebrocq as Olga Katrina


I didn’t audition for the show initially—I was already slated to costume Little Shop, Grease, and You Can’t Take it With You. I was thrilled when former artistic director Andrew Gall asked. You Can’t Take It With You was the first show I directed in Pittsburgh, my home town. I was nervous about sending in my video audition since I understood they were looking for an older actress. But so happy to accept.

I’m an actress in Asheville. Some of my favorite roles include Viola in Twelfth Night, Ophelia in Hamlet, Marianne in Tartuffe, Demetrius in Titus Andronicus, and Grumio in Taming of the Shrew with the Montford Park Players; Masha in The Seagull, and Ophelia in Fall of a Sparrow with Mountain Arts Theater; Evelyn Thomas in The Shape of Things with Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective; and Kristine Ulrich in A Chorus Line with Asheville Community Theater. I also play Jade in the hit comedy series Transplanting which is about to begin its second season.

When not acting, I work in a resale shop so most days I’m at the store buying clothes for our inventory. I fill my days off as a pin-up model with photo shoots and rehearsals.

I’ve loved playing the clown in this production. Chris let me have a lot of fun in rehearsal but reined me back in during tech week. In Act III, I would make my entrance and do my best to crack up everyone on stage. Chris explained that “everyone” was in the middle of a pivotal emotional moment, and I was interrupting. So while I get to come in and have my fun, the other actors are in a very serious and tumultuous place. Playing with the balance of comedy during that entrance was very satisfying.

I’ve always said the Sycamore’s are just like my real life family in Pittsburgh. On a typical day, my brother works with music producers in our basement; my mother outlines a new book or documentary she’ll never write or make; my father pretends to be a cowboy through a paved prairie all while my baby brother tries to perfect his gnocchi recipe. They have always been genuinely themselves and full of life and love just like the Sycamores. It’s the reason to see this play. Family. Loving life, loving yourself, and loving the people who will always be there.


Steve Elderbrock Alias Mr. Kirby

I discovered George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart by way of the Marx Brothers. In 6th grade I stumbled across a book in my hometown library about the Marx Brothers and their movies. I began checking them out of our local library (on VHS tape in those days). My favorite of their films were originally written as Broadway shows for them by a man named George S. Kaufman—a man with an evocative wit and work that piqued my young interest.  I began to explore. This led me to the Algonquin Round Table and a whole cast of additional characters, including Moss Hart, whose unparalleled memoir, “Act One” grew like a vine on an old building in my heart. I fell in love with the whole crew— Groucho, Harpo, Chico, (even Zeppo), George S., Moss, Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, FPA—and they have indelibly impacted my sense of humor…for better or for worse.

photo credit Rob Storrs

Jump ahead almost 40 years, and here I am cast in a play written by Kaufman and Hart, directed by Chris Hart, the son of Moss Hart (and Kitty Carlisle, who starred with the Marx Brothers in one of their best films, A Night at the Opera) and starring an actor (Patrick Cronin) whose first wife Beatrice was George S. Kaufman’s granddaughter. Which means that being part of this production is about as close as I will ever get to experiencing the Algonquin Round Table for myself. Which means it is pretty close to heaven, as well. (“Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Parkway Playhouse.”)

A Parkway Playhouse Memory – Summer 1979


We have Parkway Playhouse to thank for 26 years of marriage and a 37-year relationship. It was June 1979, and Parkway Playhouse was embarking on its 33rd season. At that time Parkway was operated by UNCG’s theatre department as a rigorous venue for its drama majors. Luckily for us, a few spots were open to outside students and we—Barb coming from Pittsburgh, PA, and me from Greensboro, NC—made the cut. That summer five productions were cast on a single day and rehearsals often ran simultaneously and long into the night. Each new show opened a few days after the previous one closed. It was non-stop work rehearsing, building sets, sewing costumes—often until 1am. The actors did everything, including box office shifts. But we were both 20, full of youthful energy, and falling in love. I was cast in the season’s first show, You Can’t Take It With You opposite a Parkway Playhouse institution, Mr. W.C. “Mutt” Burton (who had just finished his work on the Peter Sellers/Shirley MacLaine film, Being There at Biltmore House). We had only 10 days of intensive rehearsal to get the show ready for opening. We even had to drive into South Carolina just to buy legal firecrackers to use in the play. This show and the four that followed made for a memorable summer. We didn’t want to leave Parkway Playhouse that August, but luckily for us the theatre gods smiled down on us because 11 years later we married. We still act and direct in our local community theatre. But it is our memories of Parkway Playhouse and the summer of 1979 that hold a very special place in our hearts.

Jon and Barb Young, Reidsville NC


From Top:
-A scene from Parkway Playhouse’s 1979 production of “You Can’t Take It With You” with star W.C. “Mutt” Burton and Jon Young, seated right as IRS Agent Henderson.
-Jon and Barb Young during a recent visit to the site where they met 37 years ago.
-Parkway Playhouse’s 1979 production of “Guys and Dolls” with Jon Young (4th from left, rear) and Barb (Meisel) Young (3rd from right).

Chelsea Thayer as Essie Carmichael


I saw my first play at Parkway Playhouse sometime in the late 80’s, Annie Get Your Gun. My grandparents brought me because they thought I might enjoy a musical. Boy, were they right! That was it for me. I was hopelessly devoted to theatre. My first paid acting role was with Parkway in 2001 in Godspell. It was that moment I realized I really could be paid for acting…and I never wanted to do anything else. Having recently moved my family back to the mountains after 12 years away, I knew it was only a matter of time before Parkway Playhouse came back into my life. Even so, auditioning this year was a tough decision for me as a mother of three young kiddos. I have taken the last 8 years off from acting professionally to focus on my lead role of “Mommy.” With the support of my amazing husband, Bryan and my family, I decided the time had come to return to the stage. I have missed acting but I didn’t realized how much until rehearsals began for You Can’t Take it with You. It was like waking up a vital part of me that had been resting, waiting, but not gone. Never gone. Theatre has remained my passion even though my audience has changed and now consists of three small humans. Three small humans who, I should add, are not always appreciative of my dialect work, opera training, and melodramatic re-enactments at the breakfast table. Children are the toughest critics, folks.

Long-time patrons at Parkway Playhouse may remember me as “Peggy” in Godspell, “Elaine” in Arsenic and Old Lace, and Mary Anne/Mary Lou in Exact Center of the Universe.
In addition to returning to the stage at Parkway I have recently returned as the Director of Education for Parkway Playhouse Junior. Since school has just begun, my days consist of chauffeuring children to and fro, working at the playhouse, and reading lots of plays. Songs and choreography moves come to me at odd moments so if you see me doing a jazz square on the dairy aisle at Ingles just know I am working and have not lost my mind…yet.

I could not have chosen a better show to back my return to the stage. The cast is professional in their demeanor, and impressive in their interpretations of the characters. My favorite moments have been watching others find moments and bits with their character. Exercising my acting muscles after a long time has been exciting. I’ve had many “Aha!” moments and of course, the greatest realization, I can still do this. The high-caliber of this show is due, in large part, to the high standards of our director, Chris Hart. He is an actor’s dream to work with. Attentive to detail, true to the heart of the story, and always finding ways to pull the very best from his actors. A rare combination.

Come and see for yourself. I could offer audiences promises of laughter (which there will be), perhaps some tears (I know I’ve shed a few), or a guarantee of a good time (that is a given.) But instead I will say this, You Can’t Take it with You is one of the greatest American plays, and you should know why. I can’t think of a better reason to make a reservation today…we will be waiting.

Whitney Bates as Alice Sycamore

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“You Can’t Take it With You” resonates, I think, with many theatre students and performers like me because of its message. It takes the philosophy of working hard and earning money to get what you want out of life, and the idea of simply following the life you want to lead and finding happiness through the path you choose to follow, and pits those two beliefs against each other in a hilarious clash of two families. Many people who have chosen theatre as their career path have met with some incredulity or frowns from their peers, and especially their families, but choose to follow their passion regardless.
Thankfully for me, my parents have been supportive of my artistic career, so in that sense I have been very lucky. But like Alice Sycamore, I understand that there is much pressure from the world around me to find a secure career like business management or nursing. Even so, a day in my life as a student at ETSU is hectic and filled with dance, music, work, rehearsals, monologues, and whatever happens to be thrown into the mix—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like Grandpa Vanderhof mentions in the show, there will always be people who want to work long days at the office or spend time at Wall Street. Personally, my calling is to spend long nights at the theatre and time in the dance studio. At the end of the day, this play is about people from all walks of life being able to find the commonalities that tie us all together and to enjoy what makes us different. I think that’s a beautiful message to present here at Parkway and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

I love to perform in any capacity!