I Called the Covid Hotline

Words and Images Courtesy of Penny Neef.

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be calling the Covid Hotline, the first thing I would have said is, “What’s Covid?” 

Yet, here I am, right in the middle of a Covid spike, co-chair of my neighborhood’s social committee, trying to bring holiday cheer to the 1,500 households that have had it up to their masked eyeballs with Zoom school, Zoom office meetings, staying away from grandma and grandpa, and on and on and on.

Our social committee organizes neighborhood events like outdoor concerts in the park, family movie nights, and big old potluck barbeques. Not this year. We pivoted, like everyone else. We’ve been pretty successful. Early on, we started book and puzzle exchanges in waterproof bins under the gazebo at our neighborhood park. 

We held a socially distant sidewalk chalk art contest in May. Each family unit worked together to create a chalk art masterpiece on a marked piece of sidewalk that was far, far away from the other marked pieces of sidewalk. It was a beautiful spring weekend. We had a great response.

We painted and hid over 80 rocks all around the neighborhood one very hot weekend in the summer. Families were out at 7:00 am, looking for those rocks. There were five rocks that were the “golden ticket” rocks. Those rocks were worth special prizes. Prizes delivered by contactless delivery, the US mail.

A table at their neighborhood halloween walk. Kids in costumes go by and get candy.

Then came Halloween. The neighborhood social media forums were buzzing with worries from parents. Is door to door trick or treating allowed? Is it safe? My kids can’t miss this all-important holiday!! My wonderful co-chair, Fran, and I had already started planning for our very first neighborhood Halloween event. We called it Halloween Hallo-Walk, walk being the key word.

We are very fortunate to have a large, central park in our neighborhood. It is the place we would normally hold concerts, movie nights and potlucks. It has a gazebo, a large deck that looks over a retention pond, paved walkways, lots of grass and even a pedestrian tunnel that goes under a road. We are also very fortunate that the local ABNB Credit Union was willing to co-sponsor an event with us. Originally, it was going to be a concert, but they were willing to pivot with us and cosponsor our Halloween Hallo-Walk.

We transformed the tunnel into Spooky Tunnel. We created a graveyard and two other fall photo opps for socially distant family photos. We asked everyone to come dressed in a costume, wear a mask, and follow a one-way course all over the park, with stops along the way, to pick up tricks and treats, all prepackaged with hand sanitizer and wipes at every stop. We asked that families stay together and stay apart from other families. We expected 200, we got over 700.

Penny and her co-chair lying in a field decorated with fake graves.
Penny and Fran’s Halloween Photo.

Our neighbors respected the rules, kept their distance, and just seemed so happy to be outside with their families, doing something festive together but apart. I don’t think I have ever received as much appreciation in my life. People can be so kind sometimes.

Then came the recent spike in Covid cases and the Governor’s new restrictions. That is Executive Order Sixth Amended Number Sixty-Seven (2020), which you can read right here if you are so inclined.

Our neighborhood holds a holiday event each year called Holly Days. We rent outdoor heaters so that everyone can congregate under the gazebo at the park, make s’mores, drink hot cocoa, sit on Santa’s lap and so on. Congregate, sit on Santa’s lap – so 2019! Fran and I knew it had to be different this year. No lap sitting for sure. 

A child sits on Santa's lap at least year's holiday celebration
Sorry, kiddos, Santa’s in a high-risk population, and we don’t want him potentially infecting the elves. You can talk from a distance this year.

We planned something along the lines of our Halloween Hallo-Walk. Holly Days could easily be transformed into Holly Days Holly Walk. Santa and Mrs. Claus would bring their own sleigh. They would stay right up in it, while families could stop for a photo in front of the sleigh, six feet away. Prepackaged treats and hot cocoa could be set up at stations, far from each other. We planned to transform the Spooky Tunnel into Frozen Wonderland with a borrowed snow machine and lots of fairy lights. We would have the same kind of one-way course. Families would stay together, spaced apart from other families, and keep moving through the course.

I listened to the Governor. I Googled the new guidelines, and I got worried. I heard no groups of more than 25 indoors or outdoors. 

This is the long story of how I came to call the Covid Hotline. By the way, they pick up the phone right away and it is a real, and very helpful person, so don’t be afraid to call the Covid Hotline. Kudos to the Virginia Department of Health. 

I explained our Holly Days Holly Walk plan to the very nice lady. She put me on hold to confer with her supervisor. She was back on the line within two minutes to explain that our event would fall under Section 13a, “Recreational Sports”. You can read about it in the guidelines if you’d like.

Holly Walk falls into the same category as a “race, walk or marathon.” These are allowed outdoors, as long as participants are spaced apart and there are no more than 25 spectators. The nice Covid Hotline lady asked if there would be spectators. There will be none, and we will have volunteers on route to keep families apart and moving along.

Right now, Holly Walk is on. No one knows what December will bring, but in the meantime, Fran and I are moving ahead with the snow machine, the fake snowballs (one to each person and only you touch your snowball), Santa far away in a sleigh, prepackaged treats, and holiday music. We’re hoping it will bring a little bit of joy to our neighbors in these difficult times. We can wave to each other across a (fake) snowy field and know that we’re still all here and hoping for a better 2021. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Protecting the Pitter Patter of P.A.W.S.

Words by Louise Casini Hollis
Photos courtesy of Lori Cawley

Poquoson Animal Welfare Sanctuary (P.A.W.S) has only existed for eight years, but the people behind the organization have been making a huge impact on the lives of kitties in Poquoson for decades. Since the formation of P.A.W.S, its staff has saved 1800 cats through community service, adoption and T.N.R. (Trap, Neuter, Return) and built a volunteer base of over 50 people whose love of animals motivates them. “We all love what we do. We’re very passionate,” boasts Lori Cawley president and co-founder of P.A.W.S. That passion has helped the organization grow and it is what keeps the volunteers working to help and enhance the welfare of the cats of Poquoson.

The word PAWS in a circle with whiskers on the side and 2 cat ears on the top.

Lori Cawley began feeding cats in the community after meeting Shirley Myers through a mutual friend. Shirley, who had been feeding cats in the community for some twenty years, introduced Lori to her dear friend Barbara Holloway. When they met, Ms. Barbara, “had received a cancer diagnosis that she thought [meant] she only had a few years to live,” shared Lori. “She decided with the last few years of her life she wanted to do something good, do something for the community, do something to help the cats. So Ms. Barbara Holloway started taking care of [feral]colonies in Poquoson and rescuing cats on her own, getting them spayed and neutered at her own cost as we all did at that time,” Lori explained.  Knowing that the cats needed continued care, Ms. Barbara would bring the cats to her husband Paul Holloway’s (former director at NASA Langley Research Center) childhood home located in Poquoson. Amazingly, “Ms. Barbara lived 13 years beyond her diagnosis. They only gave her 2-3 years to live,” shared Lori. “Given that purpose, every day she got up and knew those cats were waiting for her and relied on her,” Lori affirmed.

Two women wearing shirts that say "I heart Poquoson Animal Wellness Sanctuary"
Lori Cawley and Shirley Myers

Lori and Shirley, along with Karen Ayer, co-founder and first Vice President of P.A.W.S. all met Barbara through their mission to help the cats of Poquoson. “Ms. Barbara knew that we were all coming together, and that we would help her in any way we could. And I think when Ms. Barbara realized that she didn’t have to take on this burden on her own, that we would be there, Ms. Barbara actually passed away. She passed away knowing that her kitties would be cared for – Karen told her, ‘We’ll help you, we’ll take care of these cats, we’ll do whatever we need to do’,” Lori reminisced. Knowing how important her cats and rescue efforts were to Ms. Barbara, her family worked with the group to donate the house to them so that they could continue to offer a home to the community cats. The idea of P.A.W.S. crystalized after the Holloway family’s gift. Today the house acts as the forever-home to 85 cats that P.A.W.S. cares for who are not up for adoption due to medical or behavioral limitations. “They’ve come from the community and they’ve just had nowhere else to go,” explained Lori, noting, “we’ve got some very, very sweet kitties.” P.A.W.S. also has a number of cats and kittens in their foster program that have been raised by people and are ready for adoption. (We have all the information you need to adopt a kitty from P.A.W.S. at the end of this article!)

The idea for an organization such as P.A.W.S. began brewing when Lori Cawley and Karen Ayer were notified that a colony of feral cats they had been feeding at a marina in Poquoson were being threatened. Feline advocates call cats in this situation “community cats” because, as Lori puts it, “It’s a human problem, it’s a community problem,” because the cats did not ask to be put in such a situation. Lori and Karen sat with the animals several nights gaining their trust so that they could trap them and relocate them to a safer area.  It was during this time they sat together talking, discussing what they could do.  Shortly after the Holloway family donated the house to the group, concrete plans for P.A.W.S. began to come into focus.  Jim Rohrbach, P.A.W.S. second Vice President, who has been rescuing cats all his life, joined the group shortly after, as well as Kelly Holloway, head of fundraising/marketing.

Two women holding a cat who is looking away.
Barbara Holloway and Karen Ayer

One of the key measures P.A.W.S. takes with the community cats is the method T.N.R (Trap, Neuter, Return). “It is proven and I have seen it with our own colonies,” said Lori. “Shirley and I used to see over 30 cats from 4 colonies. She’s now feeding less than 10.” Cats that are cared for do not need to roam to find food. “They stay in their colony. That’s their territory. They’re not roaming the streets getting in trash, because they’re cared for, they’re fed,” observed Lori. “Cared for cats also a leave smaller impact on the environment.”  

The impact that feral cats have on the environment is what led Girl Scout Troop 1416 to P.A.W.S. The Junior Scouts participating in the Bronze Award project to help animals as the focus of their project. In their research, the girls found that in the United States between 1-4 billions songbirds are killed by cats every year and two-thirds of those are by feral cats. “The girls became concerned about both the birds and the cats themselves. They wanted to do something that would impact both,” saysAshley Smith, who co-leads the troop along with Stephanie Adcock. After much research, the girls decided to construct feeding stations and shelters for the cat sanctuary. “When they visited P.A.W.S, they were amazed to see just how many cats have found a haven there and that there are far more who don’t have that resource,” said Ashley, “but as they watched the cats at P.A.W.S explored the feeding stations and shelters theyhad built, the girls felt that they had made a difference in this moment for these animals and that mattered.”  

The project not only alerted the girls to the perils songbirds and feral cats face, but also how they could make a positive impact in their community. Ashley says that as a leader she, “learned that there is no end to the goodness and quality of heart you can find if you look around. We live in a time of great change and upheaval. Some days, it can be hard to see the good. Walking the  grounds at P.A.W.S and seeing so many shelters and feeding stations, built by volunteers and the love and care that goes into rescuing these animals, it reminds me that there is so much good in our community and when we choose to focus on solving problems in our local community, the doom and gloom fades away.”

A brown and white cat emerging from a white cylinder onto a small platform
Sanctuary resident Stanley emerging from a cat shelter.

Community support is what helps P.A.W.S. continue to help these animals day after day.  Unfortunately, with the onslaught of COVID, two of P.A.W.S. biggest fundraisers of the year had to be canceled.  The “TACO CAT IS TACO CAT SPELLED BACKWARDS,” event, which usually happens in March, and P.A.W.S. participation at the Poquoson Seafood Festival in October were canceled this year.  “It costs us about $1100 dollars a month to feed the cats [at the Sanctuary],” explained Lori. They also provide food to people in the community to help care for community cats. “This is why our fund raising is so important. That’s why we’ve really, really have a hard time with not being able to do TACO CAT and not being able to do the Seafood Festival. Those are our big fund raisers.” A handful of local businesses have helped in holding small pop-up fund raisers, yet P.A.W.S. still has many bills to pay.  All kittens who are adopted from P.AW.S. are vaccinated as well as spayed and neutered, which is a big cost for the Sanctuary. Dental work for the community cats is another big expense they face, along with the costs of spaying and neutering, and annual vaccinations. Dental work for the cats can cost as much as $10,000 a year!   

But you can help! P.A.W.S. offers a variety of ways you can contribute. By using Amazon Smile, sending coupons from Purina, or making a monetary donation are just some of the ways you can make an impact to better the lives of these cats. Please visit their donations page here to figure out whichoption is right for you. P.A.W.S. is also in constant need of paper towels and other cleaning supplies, a list of which may be found at the bottom of their website’s donations page. Another way Lori suggests you help animals in the community is to take responsibility for any homeless animals in your area.  “It takes the community to help. It took the community to cause the problem, now we need the community to fix it, to understand it,” explained Lori. 

One man and three women on the steps of a house. Each person holds a cat.
Jim Rohrbach, Shirley Myers, Kelly Holloway, and Ashley Barker

Of course, if you are ready to add some whiskers to your family, P.A.W.S. is here to help you find your purrfect pal.  P.A.W.S. has a network of 8 foster homes that help kitties find homes.  Available cats, along with stories about former rescues enjoying their fur-ever homes may be found on  P.A.W.S. Facebook page.  You may also find P.A.W.S. fosters on  Pet Finder and on Instagram at: paws_va.  If you’re not on social media, you can contact Lori at the number at the end of this story and she will connect you with their foster and adoption coordinators to help you find the perfect companion. “If we don’t have a kitty that we think is the best fit, then we [send people to] Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter to save a cat from euthanasia there or to the S.P.C.A.,” said Lori.  

“We’re a fun group of people, and like I said we’re all there for only one reason and that’s for the cats – to make their lives better and give them a quality of life that they would not have if we were not involved,” said Lori. Because of this dedication, the community, as well as the hundreds of cats they have rescued, are grateful for all their hard work.

Like to help out P.A.W.S? If you would like to volunteer your time or donate to help some feline friends, you may do so in the following ways:

Send a check or Purina coupons to:
P.A.W.S. , P.O. Box 2204, Poquoson, VA, 23662
Visit their donations page
or contact
Lori Cawley, President:  (757) 593-0441

Poetry Corner

There are many different types of writing. Some writers specialize in the art of communicating facts clearly and effectively. Some writers spend years of their lives creating other worlds with nothing but a pen and paper. Others prefer to take the language we all use daily and give it rhythm, movement, and style that is the art of poetry. Our first poet of this series, Shaun Hooker, told us that he always have felt Czeslaw Milosz said it best: “I swear to you there is in me no wizardry of words. I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.”

Shawn Hooker headshot

Born in Lanexa, Virginia in 1983; has worked in the retail industry for twenty years and has used that experience with people in the unique approach to writing about the flawed and down-on-their-luck subjects he creates with empathy in mind.

An Old Man Recounting His Glory Days
Shawn Hooker

I used to hit other men for a living; 
they held in their hands a pebbled leather object, 
oblong and stitched together, 
and they threw it in the direction of other men,
where it was my job
to correct their mistake of trying to catch it. 

When I hit them with my helmet, 
these men would spin like a helicopter
in mid-air before
descending to the ground (this was before
they set rules against using your head
to smash against another’s

to ring his bell, to leave him heaving his insides
and sicking air on a sideline),
and when they came back to,
they would be asked three questions:

What day of the week is it?
What month is it?
What year is it?
And, if they were anything like me—dazed and 
slightly chilled after impact—they’d only
remember it was Sunday,
because it was the only day we ever played.

--Shaun Hooker

The Great Christmas Carol Escape: Interactive Virtual Student Escape Room

Words and Images courtesy of the
Virginia Stage Company.

Virginia Stage Company presents The Great Christmas Carol Escape.  This virtual escape room is a live, interactive learning experience for students, middle school and up.

Each class joins Jacob Marley, played by VSC’s own Ryan Clemens, in rescuing Scrooge from a life of eternal chains in this hour-long gamified performance via Zoom. This fun and interactive virtual event brings the characters of A Christmas Carol to life while reinforcing literary themes and holiday fun! 

Educators can book this live event for their classes November 12 – December 22.  The cost is $150 per session and there is a maximum capacity of 32 students per session.  Length of each session is 50 minutes.  To register a class, click here

“While we may not be able to greet students live in the Wells Theatre this winter, this actor-driven adventure keeps theatre alive, even in virtual spaces like Zoom! I’m excited by the interactive performance that our team has created!” says Patrick Mullins, Director of Public Works.

Cast Includes:
RYAN CLEMENS (Jacob Marley/host) is proud to work with VSC on the main stage and in the Education Department’s touring shows, classes, and workshops. Patrons may remember Ryan from various VSC productions: Mr. Wormwood in Matilda; Trinculo in The Tempest; Lieutenant Brannigan in Guys & Dolls; Vinnie in The Odd Couple; Mortimer in The Fantasticks; Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, Old Joe, Charity Man or Fezziwig in previous years’ versions of A Christmas Carol; or as his famous relative Sam Clemens in his one-man show Meet Mark Twain. Originally from Wyoming, Ryan began his career in a travelling Wild West show. He has worked at theaters around the country, including several seasons locally with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and Tidewater Stage Company, and he regularly performs with Plan B Comedy at Zeiders American Dream Theatre. Ryan holds a BA in Theatre from Western Washington University and an MFA in Acting from Regent University. He also teaches at ODU. (Many thanks and a huge heap of love to his wonderful wife.) www.clemensistwain.com.

Virginia Stage Company is southeastern Virginia’s leading theatre destination, normally serving an audience of over 58,000 annually both at the Wells Theatre and throughout the community. Since the shutdown in March, 2020, the Stage Company has pivoted to online content and has shared over 7,000 hours of free virtual content that has served more than 13,000 participants across the country.  Virginia Stage Company’s mission is to “enrich, educate, and entertain the region by creating and producing theatrical art of the highest quality.”

Facebook: /vastage | Twitter: vastage | Instagram: vastage

###

A Look Back at Virginia Opera’s Stayin’ Alive

Words by Nathan Jacques.
Images courtesy of Virginia Opera.

Rolling with the punches to keep that light at the end of the tunnel burning bright and letting audiences know “this too shall pass,” our Virginia Opera’s Stayin’ Alive Alternate Fall was testament to the timeless passion by which the arts thrive. 

From the debut of our Weekly Wednesday Wind Down concerts on the lawn of Harrison Opera House,  pop-up curbside shows and weekly engagements, to Virtual Showcase concerts and streaming events with maestros, musicians, and principal artists, we provided two jam-packed months of programs for patrons across the Commonwealth and beyond through live and digital means and a little something for everyone.

Taking its final curtain on November 7, Stayin’ Alive gave VO audiences chances to select their own brand of command performance by our Herndon Foundation Artists, provided engaging discussions with our maestros, and indulged and entertained with trivia nights, wine tastings, ghost stories and world-class lectures, all enjoyed from the comfort of one’s couch or the safety of a socially distanced lawn chair.  Thanks to all those who checked in or checked it out along the way, as well as to our amazing artists, stage techs, support staff, and all who helped Stayin’ Alive to inspire as it evolved with us and the times! We certainly had fun, and the smiling faces of our audiences assured us that we were not only, as the Bee Gees put it, “Stayin’ Alive,” but, even thriving a bit too!

Williamsburg Players Presents “Fall Into Broadway – An Outdoor Cabaret”

Words by Frank Connelly.
Images courtesy of the Williamsburg Players.

Williamsburg Players is ready to take the stage again after eight months of inactivity due to the pandemic. “Fall Into Broadway – An Outdoor Cabaret” will be performed Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM with a rain date of Saturday, November 21. All performances will be held on a stage placed on the back-parking lot of the Williamsburg Players theatre.

Jennifer Lent, the director of “Fall Into Broadway”, and Neil Hollands, President of Williamsburg Players, met with me using Zoom to talk about the upcoming show.

Fall into Broadway, An Outdoor Cabaret, Cast Matthew Bradley Ashley Carter Emma Clauberg Marcia Dadds Jessi DiPette Taylor Garram Angela Harrivel Neil Hollands Stephanie Horvath Hanna Hyer Jamie LaFever Katherine Lenahan Sarah Lennahan Jennifer Lent Ross Milam Donna Rendely Peeler Charity Robinson Michelle Ruggieri Amelia Russell Deborah Soderholm Amy Stallings Allison Stover Del Sykes  Director: Jennifer Lent Music Director: Rachel Bradley Band: Rachel Bradley, Jeffrey Sherman, John Trindle, Thomas Ullom

The idea of producing a Cabaret Show first occurred to Neil Hollands. He wanted a show that could meet CDC guidelines and keep everyone safe. The outside parking lot behind the theatre is large and can facilitate safety needs especially if everyone wears a mask and practices social distancing. He believes that everyone is clamoring for safe live performances.

Jennifer Lent expressed that the theatre is doing everything possible to keep cast and crew safe. She gives a lot of credit to Rachel Bradley, musical director, for instituting safety guidelines. They make sure that not everyone is in the same room at the same time. Performers are given individual time slots for each rehearsal. Masks are worn by everyone, especially the staff. The performers can take off their mask while performing. Microphones get mic covers and are labeled for each singer.

A socially distanced rehearsal

Neil also mentioned that they keep a 12-foot gap between the stage and the audience. No one will have the option to remove their mask. The audience can watch from their cars if they feel safer there, or from chairs that they bring themselves. The sound system is capable of allowing everyone to hear the performers. 

All of the auditions were conducted using online submissions. There were very few instances in the process where there was more than one person in a room, when it did happen, they were really spread out. Performers were also given a code of conduct; if someone were to get sick then they must pull themselves out of the show. “Fall Into Broadway” is not a normal performance situation where you struggle through it. Performers were assured that if they were forced to drop out of the show, they would still be included in a future performance. 

Performers were also asked to be cognizant on how much time they were spending around groups or unsafe situations. They were asked to try to minimize those contacts during the rehearsal period. There were a few performers who were not sick, but did encounter others who were exposed to the virus. Williamsburg Players then updated their rehearsal schedule so that those performers were quarantined until the risk subsided. 

Lent wanted it to be known how proud she is of the cast. “We have so much talent that we added a dance routine,” she said, “It should add a lot of fun and energy to the show.” Four dancers were added to the show, fully masked and in front of the stage. They will be performing with Deborah Soderholm’s song “No Business Like Show Business” and at the very end of Hollands’ song “You’ll Be Back”. 

Hollands described their group number as having “a couple of soloists on opposite ends of the stage,” everyone else will surround the audience at a distance and be masked. The song was rehearsed entirely on Zoom, with the biggest challenge being that the platform only allows one person to be singing or speaking at any one time. Imagine rehearsing a musical where everyone has to muted except for one singer. The music director gave everyone tracks for each choral part of the song. “It will be an interesting experience,” Bradley said, “because we haven’t sung it all together.” Their first time singing all in the same space will be a run-thru just before their first show, which will occur in the parking lot where they can create safe conditions. 

two performers wearing masks at rehearsal

Lent talked about the unique challenges of directing a Cabaret show during a pandemic. She said that normally they would meet five nights a week to rehearse. With this show they are meeting two days a week, but not with a full cast- essentially half the cast rehearses each night. There has been very little direct interaction between her and the performers. That is why Zoom and emails have become very important. “When we are in-person then the focus is on the music because it is a Cabaret,” Lent said. When the idea of having a MC came to Lent, she chose Kevin Clauberg to fill that role. Clauberg will introduce each performer comedically. “We are also incorporating some pandemic parody.” Songs such as Marcia Dadds’ “I am Still here”, Lent’s “I am Breaking Down from Falsettos”, and Hollands’ “We’ll Be Back” will have pandemic parodies.

Hollands offered that they tried hard to choose songs that were upbeat, laughable and not depressing. “You can find humor in our everyday life. We think that people will be able to relate, [and are] hopeful as an organization that we can withstand this calamity and be back for our audiences.” The group song is “Seasons of Love” from RENT that has the mantra about how you measure a year. “This is certainly a time when we are trying to figure out how we measure this year. Is it a year when we measure it in the lives lost, connections blocked, or something positive?”

To pick a highlight of the show is very difficult for Lent and Hollands as everyone is so talented. But she did mention that there are two twin sisters who have huge belt voices. 

There is a great mix with performers that Williamburg Players audiences will be familiar with, along with new talent. Charity Robinson is doing the solo in “Seasons of Love”, reprising her performance from RENT. “It is a great diverse cast that is packed tight into a 1 hour and twenty-minute show,” Hollands mentioned.

Lent wants everyone to see “Fall Into Broadway”. She is very excited that live theatre is back with Williamsburg Players. “A show that is live, socially distant, masked, and safe for the audience, is something that I would love to see.”

Hollands had the final word on the state of theatre and “Fall Into Broadway” with this gem. 

 “I think of it as a way for you to experience other lives that you are not going to be able to experience in your regular life. That is probably why so many of us are passionate about acting and singing character parts. The audience can go along with us, and we truly need those experiences now. This is a safe way to do it.”

Williamsburg Players “Fall Into Broadway – An Outdoor Cabaret” .  Performances take place at Williamsburg Players (outdoor parking lot), on Nov 14, rain date Nov 21.   Get more info, prices, and purchase tickets here or by calling 757.229.0431

Williamsburg Area Arts Commission FY 2021-22 Grant Application Forms Now Available

Words and Images courtesy of the City of Williamsburg.

The Williamsburg Area Arts Commission’s grant program is now accepting applications  for FY 2021-22.  

The grant program funds support services for arts and cultural organizations in the  Hampton Roads area. Organizations that are registered as tax-exempt nonprofits are eligible to  apply for operating support.  

New this year, the application process is entirely online. Grant criteria and guidelines  can be found on the WAAC’s website, as well as a link to the online application. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2020.  

The Williamsburg Area Arts Commission serves at the pleasure of local governments of  the City of Williamsburg and James City County. The Arts Commission will review grant  proposals in January, and grant awards are announced in the spring, following the adoption of  local government budgets. Applicants with questions or in need of further information  should contact the Commission at 757-220-6129 or by email to JSkrabala@williamsburgva.gov

Zoo’s Virtual Auction Offers Rare and Exclusive Opportunities

Words and Images courtesy of the Virginia Zoo.

November is here, the holidays are right around the corner, and it’s a puuurfect time to start your shopping with the Virginia Zoo’s Virtual Auction. The Zoo’s first-ever virtual auction contains two dozen works of art and experiences that are unique to the Virginia Zoo.

Virginia Zoo Keeper stands with a rhino flip flop animal, an item available in the Zoo’s Virtual Auction. The auction runs November 9 to 20 and benefits the Zoo’s Emergency Operating Fund.
Virginia Zoo Keeper stands with a rhino flip flop animal, an item available in the Zoo’s Virtual Auction. The auction runs November 9 to 20 and benefits the Zoo’s Emergency Operating Fund.

Exclusive orangutan, gila monster or rhino “skin print” paintings, one-of-a-kind experiences like a sloth photoshoot, behind-the-scenes encounters with exotic birds, private tours and more. The auction is a one-stop-shop for those who have it all. All proceeds from the auction will support the Virginia Zoo Emergency Operating Fund that has enabled to Zoo to continue its outstanding visitor experience, uninterrupted since its reopening in June.

A “Dung Dood” sculpture is made from elephant dung! Just one of the rare and unique artwork items available in the Zoo’s Virtual Auction. Proceeds to benefit the Zoo’s Emergency Operating Fund.
A “Dung Dood” sculpture is made from elephant dung! Just one of the rare and unique artwork items available in the Zoo’s Virtual Auction. Proceeds to benefit the Zoo’s Emergency Operating Fund.

Don’t miss your chance to bid on these incredible gifts and experiences of a lifetime!

  • Animal skin prints, paintings and footprints
  • Behind-the-scenes tours
  • Wellness Campus Tour & Vet Meet and Greet
  • Crocodile Training Experience
  • Backyard Makeover by the Zoo Horticulture Team
  • Rhino Hornbill Experience
  • And MORE!

The auction begins November 9 at 9 am and concludes November 20 at 8 pm. Visit bidpal.net/virginiazoovirtualauction  to begin your bidding.

Virginia Zoo auction offers exciting behind-the-scenes tours and opportunities like a sloth photoshoot. Bid on them at bidpal.net/virginiazoovirtualauction.
Virginia Zoo auction offers exciting behind-the-scenes tours and opportunities like a sloth photoshoot. Bid on them at bidpal.net/virginiazoovirtualauction.

About the Virginia Zoo 

The Virginia Zoo, located in Norfolk, Virginia, is home to more than 700 exceptional animals representing over 100 fascinating species. Founded in 1901 and residing on 53 beautifully landscaped acres, the Virginia Zoo has demonstrated a commitment to saving and protecting the world’s wildlife by inspiring a passion for nature and taking conservation action at home and around the world. The Virginia Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is recognized as a global leader in education, recreation, science, wildlife conservation, and animal care and welfare. For more than a century, the Zoo has connected adults, families and school children with the natural world and its wildlife. To learn more, visit www.virginiazoo.org

WinterFest Heralds New Tradition for Hampton Roads

Battleship Wisconsin Decks Transformed for Six-Week Holiday Experience

Words and Images courtesy of Nauticus

Norfolk, Va.— More than 250,000 holiday lights, a 25-foot-tall Christmas tree, and a team of custom-designed animatronic elves are just some of the highlights of WinterFest on the Wisconsin, a massive new experience aboard the historic battleship in downtown Norfolk.  Produced by Nauticus and presented by GEICO Military, the holiday spectacle will launch on November 21 and conclude on New Year’s Eve.  Out of an abundance of caution due to COVID-19, Nauticus’ Dickens’ Christmas Townehas been canceled for 2020.  Instead, the Battleship Wisconsin’s outside decks will be transformed for a safe, family-focused experience.        

“Perhaps most notably, the Battleship Wisconsinis a symbol of this country’s resilience and resolve,” said Nauticus executive director, Stephen E. Kirkland.  “That makes it the perfect venue upon which to celebrate the season after a tremendously challenging year.”

Winterfest on the Wisconsinwill feature an enormous holiday light trail along the decks of the battleship with special tree lighting ceremonies each night. An elaborate projection system will cast holiday imagery across the entirety of the ship’s hull, and each Saturday evening Santa Claus will arrive by boat at the conclusion of a lighted sailboat parade.  Winterfest on the Wisconsinwas conceived as a way to celebrate the Hampton Roads community and also pay tribute to the men and women who continue to keep our country safe – even through a global pandemic.         

“GEICO Military is proud to partner with Nauticus and present Winterfest on the Wisconsinin celebration of our military and veteran communities,” said Brian Schlicht, representing GEICO’s Military Assistance Team.  “Our collective goal is to bring some joy and create some lasting family memories.”   

For more information regardingWinterfest on the Wisconsin, visit www.nauticus.org.  The experience is brought to the community by the Nauticus Foundation, a nonprofit 501©3 developed to support the mission and activities of Nauticus. Nauticus’ mission is to benefit the community through education, impactful experiences and by sharing access to maritime resources. 

###

Meet the Genius Behind the Space Race in the Little Theatre of Norfolk production of Red Moon Rising in the East by Dwayne Yancey

Words and Images courtesy of the
Little Theatre of Norfolk.

The Halloween night “Blue Moon” full moon turns a different color in November in the Little Theatre of Norfolk video-on-demand production of Red Moon Rising in the East by Roanoke playwright Dwayne Yancey. This one act, one-man play introduces us to the father of the space race, who is an unknown by most Americans.

Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, played by actor Brian Cebrian, was the engineering mastermind behind many of the world’s space firsts. He launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and the first dog, man and woman into space. Soyuz spacecraft today use a design that’s a direct descendent of his R-7 rocket design. 

Brian Cebrian on stage next to a model of Sputnik

While Cebrian has been active with Little Theatre of Norfolk since 2013, this is his first opportunity to perform a one-man play. “It’s intimidating at first when you first see that script and it has page after page of text, and you realize it’s all you with no one else to bail you out,” said Cebrian. “On top of the large block of text, I also had to learn a Russian accent. That wasn’t in my acting tool box previously.”

Director Bill Armstrong can relate. He has played Korolev in four separate runs over the years. “I have known Dwayne since shortly after I first read his original two act version of the play. I was the script reader for original plays being sent to the 40th Street Stage here in Norfolk. Two pages in, I was reading it with a Russian accent. Through emails and phone calls, we explored the viability of performing the play here in Norfolk. I ended up premiering the play at 40th Street Stage,” said Armstrong. “I also performed the play in Roanoke where I got to finally meet Dwayne in person.”

Much like Korolev and the vast unknown of space, Armstrong was dealing with a bit of the unknown himself. While the production was fully staged— complete with a set, props, costumes, lights, and sound, it had to be filmed and edited for the virtual offering. “We are sailing uncharted waters during these uncertain times. The volunteers at LTN are an amazing group of people with a diverse talent set, who were able to jump in and assist on any aspect of the production. This will be the theatre’s ‘dress rehearsal’ for a new way to entertain our audiences. It is my hope that our streaming performance can help keep revenue coming into the theatre,” explained Armstrong. 

In a typical season, subscriptions and ticket sales contribute about 70% of the theatre’s annual revenue. The COVID-19 pandemic closure forced Little Theatre of Norfolk to scrap the lineup originally planned for their 94th season. The theatre’s virtual offerings have been free to date, with donations welcomed. Red Moon Rising in the East will be the first ticketed show. Tickets are on sale now at ltnonline.org for the November 6 – 15 run. The cost is $20, plus a $2.67 fee per ticket to rent the video-on-demand performance for 48 hours.

About Little Theatre of Norfolk
Little Theatre of Norfolk is a volunteer led, non-profit community theatre, continually operating since 1926. It is located at 801 Claremont Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Norfolk. Information about upcoming performances, auditions, workshops, and volunteer opportunities can be found at www.ltnonline.org.

###