The 2012 Season What Does it mean? by Andrew Gall

A few weeks ago, I was working on our website with Britt Kaufmann (who did a fantastic job- you can see it by clicking here) and she asked me if there was anything that tied together our current season.   I didn’t have an answer. 

You see, in the theatre world, there has been this notion that seasons of plays and musicals are tied together by a common theme.  This is a notion that I have always struggled with. It seems to me, especially in this day and age, theatre-goers could care less about the theme of a season.  Most of the time people want to know if the play is funny or not, or if they recognize the title, if the story sounds interesting,  or if a certain performer will be in it, and things like that.  In other words they want to know how the play will connect to them viscerally.   In the past whenever I have asked been asked this question about the Parkway Playhouse seasons, I have always come up with something that is meaningful but always abstract.  

So what does this season at the Parkway Playhouse mean? 

Well, it means if you like theatre, you should perhaps consider a season pass.  You can get those by clicking here.

But in terms of a theme, I think you will find that what connects these plays together is our audience, our performers, and our collective sense of community.  Many of these plays are new- Mama Won’t Fly, Outlander, Between the Tackles– some are quite familiar- Huck Finn and Jim in Big River; Scrooge and Marley return for A Christmas Carol.  Perhaps the biggest surprises are the stories that are not new but are being told in a new way – 9 to 5 and Romeo & Juliet.  It is a diverse season, and while a thematic through line doesn’t bind them up in a way that is neatly marketable, the  plays tell the stories of people like us. They are   ordinary people on special days: a road trip from hell with your high-maintenance mom, and your ditzy soon-to-be-sister-in-law  in the silly misadventure Mama Won’t Fly; the connections forged between man, mountains, traditions, and the land in Gary Carden’s eloquent Outlander; three women who take the initiative (and some well-earned revenge) to make their corner of the world a better in Dolly Parton and Patricia Resnick’s ebullient musical adaptation of the film 9 To 5;  the paths of the backsliding Huckleberry Finn and  a runaway slave intersect in Big River  to tell a story of triumphant underdogs, courage, and friendship; the passionate whirlwind that grips Romeo and Juliet on an ill-fated journey in a noir-ish re-telling set in the era of Facebook and text messages; the deep bond of three men whose friendships have transcended wives,  girlfriends, jobs, and is celebrated and renewed each football season  with hilarious rituals and deeply felt affection; and finally we end with an invitation to reflect and reinvent as we follow Ebeneezer Scrooge through one of the most powerful stories of personal reinvention in  A Christmas Carol. 

It is my hope that you, who are reading this, will find a way to engage in the telling and reliving of these stories.  Whether it is through buying a ticket, volunteering, or auditioning and performing in them. 

So while I was not able to come up with something that tied everything together in a tag line  about the shows.  I did suggest that our tagline of LOCALLY GROWN NORTH CAROLINA THEATRE.   You can read what that means by clicking here

Of course, if you are reading this, you might already know these things about our theatre or the shows we are doing.  It is my hope then that you will invite someone else to visit our website and read this blog ,and most importantly join us….

Our season kicks off with the Parkway Playhouse Jr. troupe’s production of Alice in Wonderland on April 20/21 and then a week later the North Carolina premiere of Mama Won’t Fly  arrives. 

See you at the theatre- SOON!


The 2012 Junior Theatre Festival- A Parent’s Perspective

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time chaperoning a group of individuals who are clearly going to be the future energy at the Parkway Playhouse; our students from the Parkway Playhouse Jr. program.

A group of thirteen students, their parents (now my friends) and our Playhouse Jr. instructors went to Atlanta to participate in the National Junior Theater Festival, an annual event produced by iTheatrics and the Theater of the Stars, that this year brought together sixty-five junior theater groups and schools from nineteen states. Each group was there to celebrate outstanding student musical theatre productions. Attending the event itself was a sensory explosion to my (aging) ears and eyes but coupled with the enthusiasm and exuberance of our students and what they were about to undertake, made this a not-to-miss event for any theater parent.

Parkway Playhouse Junior Students watching their performances in the “Green Pod” at the 2012 Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta

Our traveling Jr. thespians (one of the smaller groups to attend) was placed with seven other groups in the “green pod” where they performed Bugsy Malone Jr. in front of two professional theater trained adjudicators and a room full of theirs peers, family and friend supporters. I was so pleased when our students completed their performance and received their comments from the judges.  From a parental viewpoint, my heart was filled with joy as you could tell that each of these students was proud of accomplishing something that just twenty minutes earlier they may not have thought they could do.  This excellence was echoed in the responses that the judges gave to our group including the selection of Lily Bartleson and Jonathan Hutchins as 2012 All-Stars and Taylor Hutchison and Lauren Zitney being called back for the Musical Theater International Choreography DVD auditions which may take them to New York to be taught by Broadway choreographers! They’ll find out sometime in the spring if they’ve made the final cuts.

And that’s not all! On the final day of the Festival, the Parkway Playhouse Jr. program was presented with an award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting for their performance.

Our award from the 2012 Junior Theatre Festival

This award was given to only a select few of all the programs represented at the festival and indicated that our group was the best in the acting category from our pod.  As a community, we should all be proud of them, the program and their future with the Playhouse! Congratulations to one and all!

But more important than the awards this group won was something that I experienced and did not expect. At almost every corner or hallway where we encountered a member of a “green pod” troupe, a compliment was paid on each other’s presentation from the first morning. And it wasn’t just a “good job” or “great play” but “I really enjoyed the way your hands moved during that first number” or “you really were able to explore that character.” Peer accolades; those comments that as adults we rarely hear from each other but value as the highest of compliments. And these kids meant every word. For the rest of the weekend, a sense of pride and accomplishment was present in each of our students. Deep inside, I think these young adults appreciated these commendations more than any hardware they could display on a shelf.

And as a parent, isn’t that self-esteem ultimately what we want for our children?

The Cast: (in front) Collin Eten, Lauren Zitney, Hana Stella, Education Coordinator Mary Katherine Smith-Gall, Tanner Townsend, Olivia Hughes (back row) Caroline Huges, Lilly Bartleson, Emily Sigmon, Jonathan Hutchins, Taylor Hutchenson, Hanna Barilovits, Lexi Cranorm, and Music Director Andrea Bailey

Gregory Stella, Theater Parent and Supporter of the Arts [and Arts Jr.]

Atlanta Or Bust

We are just a day away from leaving Burnsville and making the short trek to Atlanta, GA with 13 students, a handful of parents, music Director Andrea Bailey, and me, Mary Katherine Smith-Gall the Parkway Playhouse’s  Education Coordinator.    When we get to Atlanta we will have three days of rehearsing, performing, attending workshops with leading industry professionals, attending performances, and then coming back to Burnsville on Monday.  The reason for our trip?  THE 2012 NATIONAL JUNIOR THEATRE FESTIVAL!!!!! 
The cast for Parkway Playhouse Jr’s 2011 National Junior Theatre Festival entry: Bugsy Malone

 Since September of 2011, a group of students have given up their Saturdays to rehearse for this event.  We took our production of Bugsy Malone- which is a satirical look at the noir-ish gangster stories of the 30’s/40’s- and not only did 2 performances right before Christmas at Mountain Heritage High School, but then cut the show down to a 15 minute “showcase” this past week.  It is this 15 minute piece that we will be taking to the National Junior Theatre Festival. 

This week our students worked heavily with Andrea Bailey (who just finished playing Mary in our recent production of Beautiful Star) who re-worked all of the songs and vocals until these kids sounded amazing.  I worked out the choreography and I have to say this cast has made it their own.  On Wednesday, Andrew Gall, the Producing Artistic Director, worked extensively with the cast as well and tweaked all of the comedic bits, timing, and character choices.  As Andrew finished rehearsal last night, the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm was palpable.  I am sure the nerves will set in as the next time we will be together as an ensemble will be right before we perform on Saturday morning. 

Tomorrow everyone hits the road.  We are all looking forward to our performance, the workshops, seeing other productions and the work of other students.  So thanks to the parents, the Parkway Playhouse Board,  and especially to Bruce Chuvala and Ami Pisano who makes what we do seem so easy.  Send us positive vibes and we will be attempting to send some “live” updates through this blog over the weekend!—Mary Katherine


Dolly Parton at the Parkway Playhouse!?

You read that right and you are hearing it here first! 

Dolly Parton will be making her Parkway Playhouse debut in 2012 as the theatre will be adding the Broadway musical  9 to 5 to the Parkway Playhouse Season line up.  (It will replace the previously announced production of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN). 

9 TO 5 The MUSICAL  is of course based on  the classic film comedy that featured Dolly Parton in her film debut and includes a whole score of new songs from Dolly, as well as the famous classic title song.   It is set in 1979 and follows the adventures of three secretaries (that’s what they were called back then) as they take out a hilarious (and justifiable) bit of revenge on their lying, hypocritical, sexist, egotistical, boss Mr. Hart.  Filled with lots of sass, laughs, and great music this is definitely a musical to “whoop it up” about. 

Additionally the wildly successful Asheville based playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten will have their newest comedy MAMA WON’T FLY  added to the Parkway Playhouse 2012 season!   

 An outrageously hilarious race against the clock begins when Savannah Sprunt Fairchild Honeycutt agrees to get her feisty mother all the way from Alabama to California in time for her brother’s wedding. Savannah’s problem: Mama won’t fly.

With only four days to make it to the ceremony, this determined daughter has no choice but to drive across country with her equally willful mother, Norleen Sprunt, in Mama’s vintage sedan. As Savannah steels herself for this hastily conceived road trip, another extraordinary complication arises: the bubbly, over-eager bride-to-be arrives unannounced. Hayley Quinn, delighted to finally meet her future in-laws, is convinced traveling together to her wedding is the perfect way to bond.

Look for more information and annoucements (including Auditions times)   about the 2012 Season at the Parkway Playhouse season.

(Theatre tickets make GREAT gifts and you can get them for the theatre lover in your life by calling  (828-682-4285) or emailing the theatre ( now.

Beautiful Star is a beautiful play

What happens when you combine traditional mountain music with English mystery cycle plays (as in plays about the Bible stemming from the pre-renaissance) and set it in an Appalachian Church?  

The result is Preston Lane and Laurellyn Dossett’s buoyant nativity play Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity.  Which was a HUGE success and played to capacity crowds in Greensboro NC for three seasons straight at Triad Stage-where  Preston Lane is the Artistic Director.    

 The play is about a group of parishioners in a fictitious mountain church who are putting on a nativity and we see the characters in the play assume a whole bunch of characters from the play that they are doing.   It is warm-hearted and fun.  In an interview I read/watched/ encountered somewhere, Preston Lane said something about wanting to evoke the church that everyone would want to go to and they kind of  Nativity pageant that would be done at this church would be simply but somehow different….. Well he more than accomplished this- all of his characters are expert story tellers and they bring an interesting perspective to a story that is so familiar and yet gets lost in the contemporary materialistic din of ‘Christmas shopping’; and with Laurellyn Dossett’s songs it is easy to get lost in the play’s atmosphere of joy. 

We obviously could not perform this show in the Playhouse- as has been the case with all the theatre’s holiday offerings-as the theatre has no heat source.  I thought it would be cool to actually perform the piece IN a church like the one described in the play.  I didn’t have to go far.  A.J. Moore, who started working at the Playhouse last Christmas, is the Pastor at Bald Creek Methodist Church, on the West side of Burnsville.  The church is nestled at the foot of a ridge of mountains and is right off the main drag.  It was perfect.  The cast will begin doing some rehearsals there after Thanksgiving.

The cast!  We have a great cast.  All of them are WNC natives, with most coming right from the hills and hollers of Burnsville.  The production is directed by the estimable team of Amanda Pisano and Steven Grindstaff.  

We have some pictures from rehearsal here and I hope you will make time to come on out for one of the performances with your family.  The show runs December 8,9, and 10 at 7:30pm at the Bald Creek Methodist Church, which is located at 29 Bald Creek School Road in Burnsville.   You can get tickets online by going to our website or by calling the theatre at 828-682-4285.  Tickets for this show are $10-$15 and there is a discount for groups. 

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So what goes on after the curtain comes down?

The short answer…. lots.

Many people are unaware of just how much work actually goes on at the theatre when there is not a performance getting ready to go on- or some people think that the Parkway Playhouse only does things in the summer.  This is simply not true. In fact some of the most critical work at the Parkway Playhouse takes place when there ISN’T a show being performed and it takes a year of planning for productions to go from idea to opening.

We are RIGHT NOW between shows at the Parkway Playhouse, and here is what we are working on:

1. Building Upgrades and Fire Code Compliance

The Parkway Playhouse facility is OLD.  It is also charming, unique, full of character, and there truly is nothing else like it.   Over the years the theatre has spent thousands of dollars and even more in volunteer man-hours keeping the building in the condition that it is currently in.  (We are long overdue for some renovation!)   But we have to keep working on it.  Last year we fixed the roof, redecorated the bathrooms, sprayed for bugs, built a Memorial Garden, and CLEANED!  Our current Board President, Alice Hutchins, is the queen of volunteer workdays and they are fun and the work done makes a huge difference almost immediately.

This past year, we had a building inspection and we had some upgrades to make.  The most noticeable change  is our front door now has upgraded handles and panic hardware.  We are also working on our stage floor…. and, yes,.. more CLEANING!

2. The Show Goes On!

You may not be aware of it but we will open 3 more shows this before the 2011 is out.  The Parkway Playhouse Jr. program is working on two musicals that will both be performed by the up and coming performers in our performing arts training program for students between the age of 5-18!   The first show is A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD and it will run on November 11 and 12 at Mountain Heritage High School and tickets will be available at the door.  This musical is based on the children’s book and if you want to know what it means to embrace life, then come and watch some young drama students sing and dance their hearts out retelling this story of an amazing  friendship.

Bugsy Malone is based on the cult 1970’s film that featured Scott Baio (that’s right… Cha-Chi, Charles, reality TV) and Jody Foster in a world of hoodlums, thugs, and heavys who sort out their differences by “splurging” their rivals with guns shooting whipped cream.   It is funny, witty, charming, and about to go on the road.  That’s right- BUGSY MALONE will be included in the 2012 National Junior Theatre Festival, which is held in Atlanta, Georgia in January of 2012.   You can support the participating Parkway Playhouse Jr. students who are performing in this musical by coming to our December 15 performance at Mountain Heritage HS.  Then it is off to Atlanta.

The third show we are working on is our Holiday production and the last show of our 2011 Season.  BEAUTIFUL STAR: AN APPALACHIAN  NATIVITY.  This production combines the nativity story with traditional mountain music and story telling.   It was created by North Carolinians Preston Lane and Laurellyn Dossett.  It is a play within a  play- which is to say that the characters in the play are in fact getting ready to perform a play.  It is wonderful.  It features a great local cast including Parkway Playhouse staple performers Roberta Whiteside and Rob Storrs and is directed by the equally fabulous team of Ami Pisano and Steve Grindstaff.  Since the show takes place in a church we decided to do it in a church.  We were lucky enough to have the Bald Creek Methodist Church welcome us and they are hosting this production which will run December 8, 9, and 10.

3. Fundraising

This activity could be called a lot of different things.  But fundraising is a big deal for any non-profit organization.   The Parkway Playhouse operates on a budget of about $200k each year.  Sure we sell tickets, but given that the average ticket price is just a little over $15 we would have to sell twice as many tickets or raise the prices which would make the theatre inaccessible to some. We don’t want that, so it is through the generosity of our growing family of donors that we are able to make theatre affordable to almost anyone in our community.

Fortunately supporting the Parkway Playhouse is easy to do and the average annual gift to the Parkway Playhouse is about $100. Some donate more, some donate less.  The fact is that if 25% of the people who attended a play in 2011  donated $25 the theatre would be financially secure.     We are looking to meet our 2011 fundraising goal of raising $9000 more before the end of the year.  (If we exceeded that goal we would be ok with that too….).     We are also looking to make fundraising easier for people to take part in.  For people who might like to support the theatre but may not feel comfortable making a lump sum donation can now do an installment pledge through our secure website.    People can also make their full donation by using our website as well.   If you can make a donation and help us reach our goal we hope you will- there is a link at the bottom of this post and that you will consider sharing it with other theatre-lovers.

4. Finally….

The website needs revamping, grants to be written, press releases to go out, mailings to be posted, tickets to be sold,  events to be planned, and productions to be designed, scheduled, cast, and then rehearsed.  Our first show of 2012 opens on May 4, 2012.  That is 191 days from now…. or 27 weeks or 4600 hours….no matter how you look at it the time will fly and it will be showtime again.


If you would like to make a donation to the Parkway Playhouse’s 2011 Fundraising campaign, click here to make a secure one-time or recurring donation:

If you would like to get involved at the Parkway Playhouse as a volunteer, backstage technician, box office assistant, office assistant, groundskeeper, usher/performance host, performer, or building specialist call us at 828-682-4285 or send us an email to

If you would like to buy tickets to  A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD (KIDS), BUGSY MALONE JR., or BEAUTIFUL STAR: AN APPALACHIAN NATIVITY please call us at 828-682-4285 or send us an email at

Season #66- or the 2012 Mainstage Season

2011 has been a great year for the theatre in so many ways.  The theatre was the 2011 Recipient of the 2011 George A. Parides Award by the North Carolina Theatre Conference, our 2011 production of ROBIN HOOD: THE LEGEND OF SHERWOOD got top honors in the locally written production category along with 2010’s THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY; the theatre had its longest season ever with great productions going from May through October and we are getting ready to start rehearsals for our holiday production very soon.

Not bad….

….and we have a great new season to announce.  In many ways it is a signature Parkway Playhouse season with big musicals, a classic of the world stage, an entertaining look at a critical person from our region’s history, and the return of a holiday favorite.  There are new plays from local writers (6 NC Playwrights will have their work performed at the Parkway Playhouse in 2012)- the Parkway Playhouse has made a unique committment and indeed some of our most exciting productions have come from the imaginative minds of people right in our backyard.

There are also some special events that we cannot announce yet because we are still working on them.

We don’t have audition information or season ticket information up here or on the website YET…. but it will get there.  In the meantime,  I get to enjoy sharing with you one of the most exciting times we have at the theatre…. which is getting telling you about where we are going next.   Please share this blog and post comments.  (It is always more exciting to write when you know people are reading….. unless of course you have nothing nice to say, then please do spare us…)

Here it is SEASON #66/The 2012 Parkway Playhouse Mainstage Season (dates/titles are subject to change but hopefully not)

OUTLANDER (World Premiere from an NC Playwright)
By Gary Carden
May 4-12

Set in the heart of Appalachia, this world premiere play chronicles the work of Horace Kephart: librarian, academic, author, outdoorsman, and founder of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Using storytelling, humor, and music, this play captures the essence of one of North Carolina’s most fascinating “adopted” sons.

By Duke Ernsberger and Vrigina Cate  (Both NC Playwrights)
May 26- June 9
It’s 1970 and Elvis Presley is missing. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, needs his star for an extremely important live performance. (You see, he owes a certain mobster a bit of money). Oh, and the show is in 24 hours. When the search for the real Elvis proves fruitless, he looks for the next best thing – an Elvis impersonator. But where can he find one that he can pass off as the real Elvis? And what has the real Elvis been up to anyway? This riotously funny story will have you wanting more and keep you guessing until the end!

By Roger Hauptman and Roger Williams
Based on the Novel By Mark Twain
June 23- July 7

Twain’s timeless classic sweeps us down the mighty Mississippi as the irrepressible Huck Finn helps his friend Jim, a slave, escape to freedom at the mouth of the Ohio River. Their adventures along the way are hilarious, suspenseful and heartwarming, bringing to life your favorite characters from the novel-the Widow Douglas and her stern sister, Miss Watson; the uproarious King and Duke, who may or may not be as harmless as they seem; Huck’s partner in crime, Tom Sawyer, and their rowdy gang of pals; Huck’s drunken father, the sinister Pap Finn; the lovely Mary Jane Wilkes and her trusting family. Propelled by an award-winning score from Roger Miller, the king of country music, this jaunty journey provides a brilliantly theatrical celebration of pure Americana.  

By Herbert Fields, Dorothy Fields, and Irving Berlin
July 21- August 4

Annie Oakley is the best shot around, and she manages to support her little brother and sisters by selling the game she hunts. When she’s discovered by Col. Buffalo Bill, he persuades this novel sharpshooter to join his Wild West Show. It only takes one glance for her to fall head over heels for dashing shooting ace Frank Butler, who headlines the show. She soon eclipses Butler as the main attraction which, while good for business, is bad for romance. Butler hightails it off to join a rival show, his bruised male ego leading the way, but is ultimately pitted against Annie in a final shoot-out. The rousing, sure-fire finale hits the mark every time in a testament to the power of female ingenuity.

By William Shakespeare
August 17-25
Bounding between festive celebrations and bloody duels to the death, battles of wit and soaring romanticism, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the world’s greatest and most enduring love story. From their first shy glances to their last heartbreaking kiss, the star-crossed teenagers choose each other in spite of their feuding families’ ancient grudge, as their love races towards a final confrontation with fate.

EVERY SEASON (World Premiere from 2 NC Playwrights)
By Britt Kauffman and Stephanie Stark Poling
September 8-22

Set against the backdrop of their perennially dismal football team’s surprisingly successful season, three long-time friends reluctantly acknowledge the importance of their man-love for each other despite widely divergent lives.

Adapted by Andrew Gall (An NC Playwright as well)  from the Novella by Charles Dickens
December 2012
Mountain Heritage High School

This family holiday classic combines the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his timely redemption by three ghostly visitors with some of the most beloved holiday music.  Watch for tickets to go on sale in the fall of 2012.