Words by Penny Neef Photo courtesy of the Virginia Arts Festival
There are so many feelings churning around my head. You too? I am grateful for the health of my loved ones and the basic necessities of life. I am happy that cell towers and WiFi are working. I am optimistic that most people will step up to the plate and do the right thing. I am hopeful that our leaders will lead.
I’ve got those “other” feelings churning around up there too, but I’m trying to push them right out of my head and wash them right out of my hair by concentrating on the items in paragraph one. Let’s all stick to paragraph one.
Many events and performances have been cancelled or postponed. Most venues for the arts have closed down. In fact, SevenVenues, Norfolk’s public assembly buildings including Chrysler Hall, Scope Arena and the Attucks Theatre have all temporarily shut the doors. It made me realize what a vibrant arts community we have. If you lived in Supai, Arizona, your choices would be limited. The 208 residents of Supai have to make their own entertainment and art. That’s going to be our new normal for a while.
This is the time of year I look forward to Virginia Arts Festival. Each spring, there are hundreds of performances by artists from around the world in venues both big and small. At the same time, VAF hosts educational outreach opportunities throughout Hampton Roads for students of all ages. Rob Cross and his amazing team of people at VAF spend the entire year curating the events and performers. Bus-loads of people come from outside our area for the Virginia International Tattoo, one of the premier events of VAF. This year, let’s hope that we will be able to emerge from our social isolation to enjoy some of the scheduled performances for later this spring.
Virginia Arts Festival is working hard to postpone and reschedule events that were scheduled for March, April and May. Some have been rescheduled for next year’s VAF, some rescheduled for this fall, and some have had to be cancelled. Here is a partial list of postponements and cancellations. For a complete list, go to their message.
North Shore Point Downtown James Mc Murtry – POSTPONED to September 18 in VAF Outdoor Courtyard Originally scheduled for March 26
Attucks Jazz Club Stephanie Nakasian, vocalist – POSTPONED to October 3 Attucks Theatre Originally scheduled for April 4
Sing-a-long to Sound of Music – POSTPONED – date to be announced Chrysler Hall Originally scheduled for April 25
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – POSTPONED – date to be announced Sandler Center for Performing Arts Originally scheduled for April 29
Virginia International Tattoo – CANCELED Scope Arena Originally scheduled for April 30 – May 3
Norfolk NATO Festival – CANCELED Downtown Norfolk Originally scheduled for April 30 – May 2
The Virginia Arts Festival is offering several options for ticket exchanges and refunds. Click here for all the details.
In the meantime, let’s hunker down, take care of ourselves and our loved ones. If you can, reach out and help your neighbors in need. Enjoy the many options of performing and visual arts online. Try and make your own art. Find that guitar that’s been stowed in the closet. Pull out those paintbrushes or just pick up a pencil. Art soothes the soul. We could all use a little soothing about now.
On the normally loud, boisterous evening of St. Patty’s Day, a small group of service industry veterans stood huddled around the fire pit at local restaurant and bar, Torch Bistro, in the Chelsea district. They wore Chucks and Vans, each sporting the T-shirt of their respective employer, clutched PBR tallboys, and talked quietly while Dropkick Murphys played in the background.
Any other year, this would be a huge tip night for them. But this year, they’re out of work.
As coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has swept across the nation, restaurants have been faced with tremendously difficult decisions. Close or not close? Limit service to take-out/delivery options only? Major consequences hung in the balance…the health and safety of employees and patrons vs. the annihilation of already slim profit margins and their employees’ livelihoods.
Ultimately, most restaurants have closed their dining rooms or closed altogether, and hundreds of service industry workers have been put out of work. Although national and state legislation is being passed at record pace to ensure these affected individuals won’t be evicted or face utility shut-off, these individuals still need to eat and have a basic standard of living for themselves and their families. Since traditional fundraisers are typically held live, that’s simply not an option.
We are, however, living in the new digital age. Bartenders and servers can now accept ‘tips’ via cash apps and PayPal, ensuring they can continue putting food on their tables and maintain their households. A brilliant and currently anonymous employee at the Center for Ethics and Policy in Pittsburgh created a simple Google form for the Pittsburgh Virtual Tip Jar. This individual had the foresight to include simple instructions for replicating the model in any city, which we’ve done for Hampton Roads.
Our Hampton Roads Virtual Tip Jar is now live, and the list of bartenders and servers is growing by the minute. You can find your favorite drink slinger or burger server on the list and send them some financial assistance directly via Venmo or Paypal. While local and national nonprofits are working as fast as possible to set up specific funds and application and distribution processes, those endeavors take time and our service industry friends need cash now.
Below are two links: the first is the direct link to the Hampton Roads Tip Jar. The second is a document with a list of resources, including some national funds and projects, for restaurant employees who have found themselves suddenly under or unemployed.
Many restaurants in Hampton Roads are still offering take-out and delivery options that may keep these businesses afloat through the coming days and weeks, but the vast majority of bartenders and servers find themselves with no income, effective immediately. Please consider looking up your favorite server, or finding a friend on the list, and sending them some direct assistance.
Hampton Roads is a diverse, vibrant, and generally close-knit community, especially those in the service industry. In times like these, all we truly have is each other…and just try to figure out 20% the value of a friendship or a neighbor’s financial stability. Tip now!
Words by BA Ciccolella Album Art by Harry Slater Photos by Jeremy Bates
One of the many events cancelled due to the latest state of emergency was Court Street Company’s single release party, which had been originally set for this Friday, March 20th at the Taphouse Grill in Norfolk. Luckily for everyone stuck at home these days, although the party has been cancelled, the single release has not!
I got a sneak peak at Court Street Company’s new single. I’m not going to try to fake my way through anything that might seem like an official review- I’m a theatrical designer and technician by trade, and when I worked for the local Symphony, the musicians used to kindly shake their heads when I got excited about how “I know that one from Looney Tunes!” (I was upfront with the band about my lack of skills in this area, and yet still were cool with sending me a preview of their new single, which makes them pretty awesome people.)
The band was kind enough to send me a write up about the single itself. Here we are- direct from Court Street Company’s mouths:
“Modern Age” is the lead single from Court Street Company’s upcoming full-length album. The track is bright, upbeat and anthemic. The song blends huge driving guitars with waves of vocal harmonies and big danceable drums in an almost Killer’s-like fashion. It marks an evolution in the band’s songwriting and sound yet remains true to Court Street Company’s sonic identity of alternative rock meets harmony-centric power pop.
That all sounds right to me, and what I can tell you additionally is that I loved it! It’s catchy, it made me smile during a very stress filled week, and I think it will be a great tune for everyone to dance along to in their living rooms on Friday while social distancing. Then once all this is over, we can find their next gig, and hear it live- together!
So everyone send a HUGE congratulations to Court Street Company this Friday (but do so from at least 6′ away, or maybe hit them up on their Facebook). We will be updating this article with the link to their single once it is released- so remember to check back!
Court Street Company also sent me a bio for anyone less familiar with them:
Serving up harmony drenched rock n’ roll since 2017, Court Street Company formed amid southeastern Virginia’s indie music renaissance and quickly earned the moniker of “Portsmouth’s Rock Band”. Within a year of forming, the quartet released 2 singles, “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Fall Away”, propelling the band from playing coffeehouses to headlining Norfolk’s The NorVa (Rolling Stone Magazine’s Best Venue) twice. In the spring of 2019, they released “Olde Towne”, a 5 song EP named after the historic district of Portsmouth that the band calls home. “Olde Towne” would go on to be nominated as VEER Magazine’s EP of the Year, with its closing track “Indigo” garnering a Song of the Year nomination. 2019 would also see Court Street Company sharing the stage with national acts, most notably heartland rockers Bodeans, power pop legends The Producers, and dream pop pioneers The Ocean Blue. The band returned to the studio at the end of the year to record their debut full-length album.
There’s always something special about attending an opening night performance. I recently had the privilege and pleasure to attend the opening for The Legend of Georgia McBride directed by Bruce Warren at the Wells Theatre. The night was electric, and I walked away loving the performance more than I expected.
The lobby was full of people when we walked in. Cupcakes and champagne had been set out for patrons to enjoy before the show. There were so many vibrant colors and conversations filling the night. You couldn’t help but notice the beautiful queens who had come to see themselves on the stage. Their makeup was flawless, dresses full of sparkle, and an indescribable vibe that spread through the theatre.
I was immediately drawn to this production when I saw it announced during the last season. There was something different, and I couldn’t wait to experience it. I had no clue what to expect. I soon learned that my excitement was well-justified. The Legend of Georgia McBride is the story of a man, Casey, played by Max Falls, who learns to have pride in following his dream. He is a professional Elvis Impersonator who is unexpectedly fired after learning his family is about to multiply. Circumstances change and he must do something he never imagined doing to provide for his wife and family. He discovers that all roads aren’t the same and while some may seem like they’re turning away from the final destination, they are really just helping you learn to love yourself and become the best version of you. No journey is complete without someone to share a little tough love. Miss Tracy Mills, a well-versed drag queen, is brought to life by the phenomenal actor Steve Pacek. She is the epitome of “the glass is half full” and “you make your own destiny”. Together they follow their dreams and find their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
My first view of the stage raised the gooseflesh on my arms. The simplicity of a stand-up mic all alone on the platform in what looked like a dive bar… textured floors, gaudy glowing neon signs, a dingy table for two, and a working set of stage lights to highlight the bar stage… immediately caught my eye. David L. Arsenault’s scenic design was impressive throughout the performance. The nuance and detail was superb. The seamless transition from night club to apartment to backstage was splendid and each had the same painstaking detail. I hadn’t seen anything like it before and thoroughly enjoyed the technical aspect of the set. I itched to go on stage after the performance just to soak it all in!
The house lights dimmed and we were transported by Sinan Refik Zafar’s sound design. His talent and editing abilities really shone through the lip-sync performances. So many cuts and choices, it was truly impressive.
The intimate ensemble of five performers were well cast and breathed so much life and personality into these fascinating characters. Pacek created a Miss Tracy that in my mind will never be duplicated or improved. She was soft and strong at the same time. Her presence was mesmerizing. I was particularly impressed later in the show when we see Pacek out of drag and completely make-up free in an emotional scene with Falls. Shortly after he was back on stage in full makeup and flawless- the transformation was magical! Pacek’s solid performance leaves you wanting more.
Falls brings a wholesome refinement to a naïve Casey. I admire how he has embraced this character and made it his own. His talent shines through not only his acting, but his singing and dancing as well.
Samaria Nixon-Fleming’s performance as Jo, Casey’s wife, was sincere. You could feel her frustration as she struggled with her husband who hasn’t quite collected his adulting card. Her love for him was obvious and appeared genuine.
Club owner Eddie was played by Bill Rogers with gusto. I enjoyed watching his growth from failing bar owner to all-in ally embracing the changes and prosperity that build his confidence.
Brandon Curry rounded out the cast as Rexy/Jason. He bounced effortlessly between married, straight landlord Jason and over the top queen Rexy. Her moment of truth with Casey absolutely struck a chord. There were two queens in the audience sitting near me and to watch their emotional response to everything was humbling.
I think we as the average theatre goer don’t realize just how impactful it is to see yourself on the stage under the lights. I saw the impact for the ENTIRE audience and it was moving.
Lighting designer Akin Ritchie created such stunning images throughout the performance. I loved each of Miss Tracy’s lip-sync scenes. There were a variety of brilliant tableaus throughout the entire production. I enjoyed RASPBERRIES the most!
Have I mentioned the costumes?! Oh girl!!! Miss Tracy’s wardrobe was TO. DIE. FOR. Bryce Turgeon’s vision and execution was more than words can ever describe. There were distinct color schemes for each character that carried seamlessly from beginning to end. The feathers, the sparkles, the lace… impeccable! His impressive resume doesn’t give enough credit for what I saw on that stage! The details not only in the dresses, but the matching handbags and hats; the costume reveals beneath other costumes… astonishing!
The “Costume Pit Crew” was a fun addition to the show and made the transitions fun to watch. It was a smart move to incorporate them onto the stage and into the scenes. Steven Perfidia Kirkham’s wig design was a true complement to the incredible lines and color presented through the costumes on stage.
This show is a MUST SEE for EVERYONE! It maintains a balance between campy, serious, emotional and fun through the acting of Pacek, Falls, and the entire cast.
Tickets are limited, especially now with the modified schedule. The Virginia Stage Company has announced that out of an abundance of caution, and due to concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), they have decided to cancel the final week of performances for The Legend of Georgia McBride, March 18-22. The production will officially close with the 7:30pm performance on Sunday, March 15. For these final weekend performances (March 13-15), VSC will limit the amount of seats available to keep the gathering under 300 people.
To see more about their decision and plan of action, please contact the theatre directly through their website. Please don’t let this precaution deter you from taking the opportunity to see this magnificent show. If you are healthy and looking to do something fun, I strongly encourage you to take a chance and enjoy The Legend of Georgia McBride.
UPDATE: VSC has cancelled all remaining performances. They will close the show with their matinee 3-14-20.
The Legend of Georgia McBride plays at the Virginia Stage Company through March 15, 2020.
A Piece of My Heart, written by Shirley Lauro, tells the story of six women who found themselves thrust into the middle of the chaos of the controversial Vietnam War. Although bonded and united by their common duty to care for a multitude of war casualties, each woman faced their own internal battles alone.
Director Kelly Gilliam and Assistant Director Kathryn Finney, taking the helm of the Little Theatre of Norfolk’s production of this compelling piece, have essentially crafted a work of art. The Little Theatre of Norfolk’s production of A Piece of My Heart is easilyone of the best presentations personally experienced to date at this venue.
Although this story was based on the Vietnam War, many of the issues presented in the piece are applicable to today’s men and women of the armed forces- particularly the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. The women portrayed in the story must rapidly adjust to their harsh, unpredictable surroundings in order to save American lives during the conflict- clearly foreshadowing their post-war adjustments back into civilian society- which was also harsh for those who returned from Vietnam.
A Piece of My Heart requires a cast of actors that is able to portray a wide range of characters and also reach extraordinary levels of emotional intensity. Director Gilliam has assembled a dream-team of actors for this production. The cast consists of Peyton Henderson, Corenn Holmes, Louise Casini Hollis, Moriah Joy, Samantha Santee, Sami Topping, and Peter Scheible. Every actor selected for this production was cast superbly for each role(s).
Witnessing each actor embody and transition into a different character was astounding to say the least. The cast tasked with said transitions demonstrates the impressive level of talent present in this production. As the show progresses, each character wrestles with the impact of the war on their lives physically and mentally both during the war and years after the conflict.
The show’s pacing reflects that of what one would expect a warzone would have. One moment peace- in the next moment, total chaos. Lauro’s writing, combined with the skill of this cast and crew, gives a terrifying (and effective) glimpse into the madness of what these American heroes witnessed.
The collaboration between set designer Terry Flint, lighting designer B. Butterbaugh, sound designer Charles Owrey, costumer Kathy Hinson, and props master Robin Martineau complements and accentuates the journey the actors share with the audience. The set for A Piece of My Heart is simplistic, yet effective. Impressive also was the fact that every item on stage served a purpose which kept the scenes uncluttered with no distractions.
Without delving too deep into spoiler territory, a handful of scenes often transitioned from serene to intense situations within a matter of seconds. These moments emphasized the powerful lighting and sound design of this production.
The entire cast, crew, and production team have done a superb job in telling the story of six women who found camaraderie within chaos and reminding us that for some, wars don’t always end on a battlefield.
This particular production, part of the the Norfolk Theatre Festival, is nothing short of a master class in theatrical genius.
UPDATE: Out of an abundance of caution, and due to concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), LTN has decided to cancel the final two weekends of performances, and ticket sales have been suspended for the rest of this weekend.
A Piece of My Heart runs through March 15th at the Little Theatre of Norfolk.
Thank you for your interest in our Hampton Roads community. Spotlight News is a new organization determined to pick up where AltDaily and the Antonym left off. Spotlight is founded by BA Ciccolella and Frank Connelly, with help from the rest of the old AltDaily theatre reviewing staff, especially Chris Bernhardt, Ali Pantas, and Jimmy Dragas.
Wondering how you can help support us right now? Well, step one is getting out the word to the world that we are here! Please follow us on Facebook, invite your friends to do so, and share our site and our social posts far and wide!
Interested in getting involved? Though we will be starting out covering mainly the performing arts scene in Hampton Roads (as that is what we all have expertise in), we have every intention of expanding into any and all aspects of our community. If you are a writer who would like to join our mission of furthering Hampton Roads community journalism, check out our Facebook page and send us a message!
At the moment, we are a completely volunteer organization, though we would love to raise enough funds to be able to cover operating expenses, and possibly even expand on to paying our writers and editors in more than just “exposure”. If you are a granting entity or just a person with some spare cash on hand who would like to talk more about our mission, again, hit us up on our Facebook page!