Frog and Toad in YOUR Back Yard!

“Mom, I’m BORED,” are the words you won’t have to hear this summer!

Parkway Playhouse Frog and ToadReading is Alive, a new theatre outreach program created through Parkway Playhouse, kicks off in Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey Counties in June. The family friendly musical, A Year with Frog and Toad will tour local venues, parks, and libraries bringing the cultural experience of theatre to children and families throughout the mountains.

Collaborating with AMY Regional Library, PATH’s Sizzlin’ Summer Series, and Penland School of Crafts, Reading is Alive offers an entertaining and educational experience for the entire family. Along with the live musical, children will have a chance to create a one-of- a-kind craft with a Penland teaching artist, sign up for the summer reading program through the library, and receive a free book.

The ultimate goal of the program is to encourage summer reading while connecting literacy and the arts and giving children of our rural community the cultural experience of live theatre. The dates and locations of each performance are as follows:

June 3rd : The Orchard at Altapass, Spruce Pine @ 11:30am

June 10th : Lower Street Downtown Park, Spruce Pine @ 10am

June 17th : Bakersville Creek Walk, Rhododendron Festival, 11am

June 24th : Burnsville Town Square, 10am

July 10th : Yancey Library @11am

July 12th : Avery County Library @11am

July 13th : Spruce Pine Library @11am

Parkway Playhouse is grateful to The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and The Yancey Fund for making this outreach program a reality.

Look for our bookmarks at the libraries or in the lobby of the theatre! All the performance dates are on the back.

Chelsea Wilson Thayer, Director of Education and Outreach at Parkway Playhouse, created this program in hopes of serving the families that call these beautiful mountains home. For more information regarding “Reading is Alive” and how you/your business can be a part of supporting future programming please contact

For more information about Parkway Playhouse, performances, volunteer opportunities, classes, auditions, and more please visit our website.

Spotlight on Alesa Bryant by her children!

alesa 1We started this series of Actor Spotlights with some of the actors’ moms writing about their actor-children… so we thought it was fitting to end with Alesa’s children reflecting on her life in theatre. (In regards to the themes in On Golden Pond, it also seemed apt.)

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Alesa, who plays Ethel Thayer (no we don’t have a lisp), listened to hours of  language/dialect tapes to prepare for role , but did not (for the record) watch the film.

PP: What was the first role you remember you mother playing and what was your reaction?

Aden: My favorite of her roles, not the first I remember, is Miss Watson in Big River, she had to sing in one the songs in the beginning. I loved it, and it is one of my fondest memories.

PP: What was the time/role you felt proudest of your mother?

Emery:  I’ve always been proud of my Mom. I was proud of her when she was a director, when she was a teacher and now I’m proud of her as a performer. I’ve never been more proud to call “Mrs. BL” my Mama than when she directed plays that challenged young adults, and the town of Burnsville, to appreciate the art of theater on a totally different level. Specific examples include The Laramie Project and His Eyes Are Bland– a compilation of borrowed and adapted monologues that depicted the agonizing beauty of human nature. I remember her changing the lives of students by introducing them to theater and pushing them to attain a sense of empathy by not just pretending to be their characters, but by truly becoming those characters and learning from them. My mother helped young adults find their way through adolescence by exposing them to the world of theater. Now, it’s finally her turn to be on stage. I couldn’t be more proud!

alesa 2Sidney:  I think the most proud that I have been of mom is when I hear people talking (after the show or at intermission) about how good she is in her role.  I think that it means a lot more to hear people compliment her when those people don’t know her outside of her role–and it happens all the time! I am also very proud of everything that mom has done in the capacity of a director when she was teaching theatre at the high school level.  She won multiple awards and made Mountain Heritage one of the premier high school drama programs in the state. She is truly great at everything that she does! Love you mom!

To show your love of Alesa’s work, make plans and get tickets in advance — online or by calling 828.682.4285.

Actor Spotlight: Michael Lilly

Norman smallPP: Your portrayal of Norman Thayer has been drawing praise from critics, colleagues, and audiences alike. The Mountain Xpress called your performance “exceptional work.” Do you agree this is some of your finer work?

Michael: I do believe this is the best acting I have done. I have been working primarily as a director but every now and then a role comes along that you just sense might be really right for you. Parkway has given me the chance to get back on stage and Jeff Messer instilled in me a confidence that I never thought I could have again.

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From left to right: Michael Lilly, Steve Elderbrock, Turner Weinmeister, director Jeff Messer, and Alesa Bryant

After my heart surgery I threw myself into getting into shape physically. I lost nearly seventy pounds and have tried to eat healthier. I didn’t want to do anything stressful so I basically stopped doing theatre for about a year. But not doing theatre is impossible for me. Even in Los Angeles I worked very stressful TV and film jobs to make enough money to do theatre. I just wish that I could make more money (who doesn’t) at it.

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Norman and Chelsea (played by Jen Russ) become friends.

Norman is a huge role. He is on nearly sixty eight pages of a seventy five page play. But I can honestly say that I have never had more fun acting. A great amount of that comes from who I am working with. Alesa is a rock out there. We have each other’s back.


I have had the very good fortune to work with some exceptional actors as a director and dialogue coach: Frank Langella, Roy Scheider, Ben Vereen and James Marsden to name just a few. On a film called The Men’s Club, Langella said, “you just say the lines and move through the space”, and that stuck with me.

PP: Do you have a favorite retort from among the many in the play?
Michael:  My favorite Norman quip is replying to Ethel’s question, “why is it so dark?”, with the line, “because the sun went down.” It’s also cool to tell Turner (Billy Ray Jr.) “we are practically twins.”
PP: After so many roles, are there any you have yet to play that you’d like to?
Michael: Even though I am probably too old I would love to play Hoss in Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime. I saw the original production back in the early 70’s and will never forget the way I felt leaving the theatre. Exhilaration!!
Be sure to catch Michael at his finest! There are only two more showings of On Golden Pond: Friday at 7:30 and Saturday at 7:30. Make plans and get tickets in advance — online or by calling 828.682.4285.

Actor Spotlight: Turner Weinmeister

The youngest actor in On Golden Pond, Turner Weinmeister is already garnering accolades for his performances. At the Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta this past January he was recognized as an All-Star for his role as James in James & the Giant Peach, Jr. and The Mountain Xpress gives his portrayal of Billy Ray a “nice job!”

photo by Chelsea Wilson Thayer

PP:  What has been different about your role in this play–compared to others you’ve been in?

Turner: In this production, what’s different than all my other shows, is there is a very small cast…which, in my perspective, is easier to work with. I also like the shift in mood.  In all my other plays, I play light-hearted characters. In this play, I’m more bratty and mean.

PP: When you’re not acting, what else to you do?

Turner: Other than plays, I play a lot of soccer, run track for East Yancey Middle School, snowboard and surf, play piano and flute, hike, travel to exotic and popular landmarks,  and make straight A’s.


PP:  Rumor has it one of your favorite scenes is the one where you get to “cuss”…

Turner:  I do enjoy the scene between me and Norman because it’s a lot of fun to see the relationship between an 80-year-old and a bratty 13-year-old. I know this is strange coming from a kid like me, but it’s strangely nice to cuss.  I think it’s because it’s fun to let loose and be a little inappropriate at times and this role does that for me.


Turner (and the rest of the cast) have three performances this coming weekend, but only two the weekend after that.  Make plans and get tickets in advance!




Actor Spotlight by Steve Elderbrock’s Mom

Because On Golden Pond opens Mother’s Day weekend, we continue the actor profiles in which a few of the actors’ mothers shine a spotlight on their children’s acting careers.  Virginia Elderbrock gives us a sneak peak at Steve’s life-long love of the stage.

“The first play I really remember that Steve was in was Damn Yankees  his sophomore year at Findlay High school in Findlay, Ohio, but I know he had been in lots of plays before that.”

“When he was about six we took him to see the his first musical at Findlay High School.  It was Fiddler on the Roof, and for days after he saw it he was doing all the dances on the coffee table in our family room.  From that time onward his greatest desire was to star in one of the Findlay High School musicals.”


“His sophomore year (Findlay was a 3-years high school in those days), he auditioned for the part of Applegate (the devil) in Damn Yankees, and was thrilled when he got it! I remember that I picked him up after school the day the cast was posted, and he came literally “floating” out of the building.  We went to all of the performances and his singing and dancing brought down the house at each one. That is probably the role I have most enjoyed seeing him play because I knew how long he had waited for that moment.”

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Steve as Nathan Detroit in Guys & Dolls his senior year of high school.

Steve continues to challenge himself as an actor: On Golden Pond marks the first time he has played two roles in a single play.  And if you’d also like to play two roles (as an audience member and a party-goer) make plans to attend our Opening Night Performance… which is always followed by the Opening Night Party!  Click here to purchase tickets.

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Actor Spotlight by Jen Russ’s Mom

In light of the opening of On Golden Pond coinciding with Mother’s Day weekend, we thought it’d be fun to have a few of the actors’ moms shine a spotlight on their acting careers, so we interviewed the moms!

We start out with actress Jen Russ, who has graced the stage in a number of Parkway Playhouse performances over the years… and who now has joined the Board. (And threw a great Gala party this past weekend, too!) Her mother, Gail West, is the epitome of the Proud Stage Mom… for good reason.

photo by Stephen M Craddock

PP:  Do you remember the first play Jen was in?

Gail: The first play Jen was in was The Wizard of Oz.  She was the most adorable 4 year-old Wicked Witch.  Her Grandmother made her costume and it took Jen one day to memorize her lines…..she was a natural!!  I never had to encourage her to be on stage, she was very comfortable and not a bit nervous.  Definite standing ovations!!

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Jen as the Wicked Witch (age 4)

PP:  Are you surprised Jen is performing in theatres all over Western North Carolina?

Gail: I am not surprised at all.  Jen has always enjoyed all kinds of music, singing, piano, and French Horn and never minded playing in front of an audience.  When she decided to take some acting lessons as an adult, I knew she would be a success.

PP:  What is one of your favorite memories of Jen?

Gail: One of my favorite memories of Jen was when she was in High School and I was attending a  Chorus Concert.  All of a sudden she was on stage singing a solo, The Boy From New York City, with 4 back-up singers.  It was a huge surprise for me and the audience loved it.  I couldn’t have been more proud of her!!

Every live performance brings a surprise, so we hope you join us at Parkway Playhouse to see what special moment you get to be a part of.  Come see Jen on stage in On Golden Pond. Click here to purchase tickets.

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Stop. Collaborate and Listen…

She might not top Barthomew Cubbins, but Angie Hotlzclaw wears a number of hats in the theatre community… and she’s trying on a few more!

You may know her as the drama teacher at Mountain Heritage High School, which, by the way, happens to be opening their Spring performance of Arsenic and Old Lace this evening! Break Legs!

Arsenic Poster
Mountain Heritage High School presents Arsenic and Old Lace Friday and Saturday May 5-6 at 7 P.M. and Sunday May 7 at 3 P.M. in the high school auditorium.  Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $7 for students.

The production features Lily Rountree and Ciara Laws as Abby and Martha Brewster; Tyler Clark* and Caitlin Housley as Mortimer & Elaine; with Gavin Henry* and Aneka Happer* as Jonathan & Dr. Einstein.  (Poster design by Gavin Henry and Paloma Soto*)

Note the cross-over between the two programs… the students with an * have also appeared on the Parkway Playhouse stage (as have many more not mentioned in the press release).

Angie Holtzclaw herself has now donned a few Parkway Playhouse hats. We are so pleased she has joined the Board this year and will also be directing and teaching in newly structured Parkway Playhouse Junior education programs.  “It is exciting to live in a community where theatres collaborate and support each other,” she says.

The show she’s directing this summer is the 2-week long production camp of…

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Get your registrations in soon!

Additionally, the fall, she’ll be teaching a playwriting class for high school students.  Read more about it HERE.

So, if you’re looking for something to do on this rainy, cold weekend, check out the drama department’s production at Mountain Heritage. If you happen to catch the show on Friday or Sunday… we also know of another fun event on Saturday.

Coming up at Parkway Playhouse: