A Leading Lady

Emmy Award-winning composer Arnold Margolin and Weslie Brown present their hilarious world premiere musical Cinderellish. Elizabeth Summers’ dreams have finally come true. She’s going to write a Broadway musical. There’s only one problem: everyone thinks she’s Elizabeth Somers. Can Elizabeth keep the story going long enough to realize her dreams?


Melissa Robinette* as Elizabeth Summers in Cinderellish at GVT. 

Melissa Robinette makes her GVT debut as Elizabeth Summers. Robinette, whose credits include Off Broadway’s The Marvelous Wonderettes and Grease (Riverside), is excited to be a part of a production with such a positive message for young women.

Like her character, Robinette grew up with fairy tales and never had faith in being rescued by someone, so when she got the opportunity to work on this musical she was very excited. A young woman who made her own dreams come true, she shares her character’s desire to do the same.

“It’s relatable. We all have dreams and you get distracted along the way, but if you want it bad enough you’ll find a way,” Robinette said.


Jeremy Abram and Melissa Robinette* in GVT’s production of Cinderellish. 

Robinette’s dream has always been show business and being a part of this world premiere is a great opportunity. The show itself is carefree and fun, written for pure entertainment and the set design reflects that. Along with the set, the intimate theatre makes it easy for the cast to break the fourth wall and interact with the audience, one of the most enjoyable parts of the production for Robinette.

This updated classic runs August 3-6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $27 for seniors and $20 for children/students. For tickets or more information, call GVT’s Box Office at 304-645-3838 or visit www.gvtheatre.org

*denotes members of Actors’ Equity Association.

GVTeen Puts Training to Work


Stuart Margolin* and Ryan Vaughan rehearsing for On Golden Pond  by Ernest Thompson.


Two-time Emmy Award winner Stuart Margolin, together with his former Rockford Files co-star Gretchen Corbett, returns to GVT’s stage to star in Ernest Thompson’s On Golden Pond. For 48 years Ethel and Norman Thayer have spent their summers quietly at their lake house on Golden Pond. However, this year their estranged daughter shakes things up when she leaves her fiancé’s teen-aged son Billy with them. Through the course of their summer, the Thayers, their daughter and Billy are able to let go of the past and form new relationships.

This production has offered an outstanding opportunity for one of GVT’s most exceptional young actors. Ryan Vaughan, a GVTeen, has joined the cast to play the teenager Billy, alongside the talented professional cast.

“When I was first told about their interest in me for the part, I instantly fell in love with this play. I read my character overviews and watched the movie from 1982 six times,” Vaughan said.

The eighth grader’s stage experience started when he was five years old. He played Blowfish in GVT’s student production Go Fish, and he has been a part of GVT’s Education Program ever since. Past shows include Oliver! and several productions of A Christmas Carol.

While he has been acting for many years, working alongside a professional cast for the first time could seem intimidating. However, over the past weeks, the young actor has come to see his cast mates as friends, not TV stars.


Stuart Margolin* and Ryan Vaughan rehearsing for On Golden Pond by Ernest Thompson.


“This show has been a roller coaster since the first day that we started rehearsals. Our cast has developed so many inside jokes that we feel like family,” Vaughan said.

His own family has also been supportive and helpful, working with Vaughan since his earliest production up to now. Vaughan’s mother is continuously amazed by her son and all the commitment he puts into his work. She’s his biggest fan and is constantly amazed at how he brings each character to life.

Playing Pac-Man during rehearsal and listening to Janis Joplin to bring Billy, a teenager from the 80s, to life is the most fun he’s had building a character. He’s having a good time preparing, but the story is what really drew Vaughan to the play.

“To cut to the chase, the real reason I chose to be a part of this was to tell the story of love and reconciled relationships. There is a Norman inside of us somewhere. We can all relate to this show,” Vaughan said.

With opening night right around the corner Vaughan is looking forward to performing, but preview night is his favorite. He’s always felt that the first performance is always the most exciting.

Tickets are $30 for general admission, $27 for seniors and $20 for children/students. For tickets or more information, call GVT’s Box Office at 304-645-3838 or visit www.gvtheatre.org.


*denotes members of Actors’ Equity Association.

Revolutionary Rock Opera Remains Relevant

This weekend concludes GVT’s electrifying rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Performances of the blockbuster musical are June 2-4 at 7:30 p.m.


Christin Byrdsong as Jesus of Nazareth and Josh Robinson as Judas Iscariot. 

Rice and Lloyd Webber use ‘70s-style rock music to tell the story of Jesus’ path to his destiny. Judas Iscariot’s version of the last days of Jesus’ life on earth resonates with all the power and heart of the Gospels.


This rock opera revolutionized musical theatre with its 1971 Broadway opening. The first number in a new genre, the production spawned musical masterpieces such as Evita, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.


“It’s a piece of history… It was the original rock opera. It has validity, culturally and artistically,” Music Director Kermit Medsker said.


Kim Morgan Dean* as Mary Magdalene, Christin Byrdsong as Jesus of Nazareth and ensemble.

Medsker, who portrays King Herod, is GVT’s Music Director and feels it’s the music and not the story that makes this show timeless. Moving and catchy rock lyrics, from the beautiful Gethsemane and humorous Herod’s Song keep it from being just another Passion play.

By using the ‘70s rock genre instead of a more traditional musical theatre style, Rice and Lloyd Webber were able to initiate a movement among the youth of the time. The young revolutionaries could relate to Jesus of Nazareth and his quest to upset the status quo and change his world for the better.

“At a time when America’s youth were protesting Vietnam, capital punishment and social injustices, the play affirmed their efforts by reminding us that all great human rights movements echo the radical agenda of Christ,” Director Cathey Sawyer said.


Christin Byrdsong as Jesus of Nazareth, Kim Morgan Dean* as Mary Magdalene, Jacob Thompson* as Simon Zealotes and ensemble.

Rice and Lloyd Webber’s version of Jesus of Nazareth’s revolution may be surprising, but it is also why the opera is so moving. Kenneth Derby, who was last seen at GVT as Don Quixote in the 2014 production of Man of La Mancha, plays Pontius Pilate. He feels that this different perspective asks important questions about faith and destiny.



DJ Brinson as Priest, Morgan Bartholick as Annas, Anthony Hollock* as Caiaphas and Kenneth Derby* as Pontius Pilate. 

“For me, this point of view opens further interesting questions such as why was Jesus’
death predetermined for this particular year. If Judas’ actions are outside of his control, can he be held culpable?” Derby said.


These are the very questions that have made this compelling and controversial rock opera one of history’s most important pieces of theatre.

Producing such an important musical was a challenge well worth the work. With two and a half weeks of rehearsal, GVT actors, musicians and technicians came together to put on a show whose significant message still moves audiences, even after 40 years.

Rice and Lloyd Webber’s rock opera runs June 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $27 for seniors and $20 for children/students. For tickets or more information, call GVT’s Box Office at 304-645-3838 or visit www.gvtheatre.org.

*denotes members of Actors’ Equity Association.

Comedy and Calamity


Kaufman and Hart’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit shares the story of the Sycamores, a large and peculiar family, with one very normal daughter Alice. When Alice invites her fiancé and his conservative parents to dinner with these eccentric individuals their meeting goes off with a bang. With all the gags and hijinks in store, you’ll be laughing from beginning to end.



Corbin Williams and Melissa Weisbach.

appearance, status, partaking in ‘fashionable’ interests, etc. These things don’t interest the Sycamores, not one bit,” said Melissa Weisbach, making her debut at GVT as Alice Sycamore.

While Alice struggles with her own family, Tony has similar problems with his. Tony desperately wants to escape and live the carefree lifestyle the Sycamores enjoy.

“I think that Tony may have been born into the wrong family. Unfortunately he’s been stuck under his father’s thumb for so long that he doesn’t quite see how fun and exciting life can be until he meets Alice,” said Corbin Williams, also debuting at GVT as Tony Kirby. “She really helps bring out the best in him and I think that he feels more comfortable with her than he does with his parents.”

Tony Kirby and Alice Sycamore are perfect for each other; each has something the other


Stephanie Bachman, Melissa Weisbach,  Corbin Williams, Alan Ball* and Joe Candelora*. * denotes members of Actors’ Equity Association. 

needs. They are willing to do whatever it takes to lead a happy life, just like the Sycamores.

“I don’t think Kaufman and Hart expect us to only do the things that make us happy, but I do think they want us to consider the possibility. In doing so, hopefully we find that delicate balance between work and play and find inspiration in pursuing something just for the fun of it,” said Williams.

This offbeat Broadway love story runs April 8 & 9, 14-16 and 21-23 at 7:30 p.m. with a Pay-What-You-Can Preview performance April 7 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee performance April 23 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $27 for seniors and $20 for children/students. For tickets or more information, call GVT’s Box Office at 304-645-3838 or visit www.gvtheatre.org.


“Under the Sea” at GVT


Mary Claire Ickes at Ariel in GVT’s Youth Education Program’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.

This winter, local Middle and High Schoolers began working on Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. Many of the young actors taking the stage next week are  also heavily involved in other extra curricular activities. They have dedicated any spare free time and weekends to bring the fan favorite to life.


“I am always amazed at the talent of the kids in the Greenbrier Valley. It’s very impressive to see their commitment,” Courtney Susman, Education Director said.

Starring 17-year-old seniors Jules Kessler as Prince Eric and Mary Claire Ickes as Ariel, this production showcases outstanding young talent.


Mary Claire Ickes and Jules Kessler in GVT Youth Education production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.

Many of the actors grew up with Disney so it’s not hard to understand their dedication. Ickes began acting at age five as Marta in GVT’s High School production of The Sound of Music. She is a member of Greenbrier East High School Choir and participates in Young Life with her church. Though her schedule may be busy, Ickes has made The Little Mermaid Jr. her main priority and is excited to bring this particular Disney favorite to life.

“It’s cool to create a world of water on stage, to master swimming on stage,” Ickes said.
Like Ickes, Kessler is also heavily involved in extracurricular activities. He is a member of the GEHS marching band and choir and Trillium Performing Youth. Kessler explained that though his schedule is hectic, he enjoys his time at GVT.

“GVT for me is something that I can just have fun with. It’s fresh,” Kessler said.


Sarah Stacey and Mary Claire Ickes in GVT Youth Education Program’s production of  Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. 

Many cast members share classes and participate in the same after school activities, and Kessler knows that if he has any doubts he can turn to them for support.


“They’re all really talented. I look to them for encouragement and inspiration,” Kessler said.

Also featured in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.: Charleigh Carter, Georgia Foster, Sarah Fullen, Sophia Gum, Corey Jones, Shaylen Lafferty, Kaelin Maro, Jacob Masters, Emily McClung, Sarah Miller, Sydnee Miller, Emarya Montgomery, Cedar Moore, Jade Napier, Jordan Reed, Khalil Samuels, Neely Seams, Sarah Stacy, Olivia Voltaggio, Ashton Webb and Jed White.

Kessler, Ickes and the whole cast, led by Susman, turn GVT’s stage into an underwater kingdom featuring all of the beloved characters and songs of the animated classic.

“If anyone grew up with this they will smile for the whole show,” Susman said.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. is perfect for children and parents alike, with a running time of 1 hour and 20 minutes. The “Under the Sea” adventure runs March 18 – 26 at 7:00 p.m. with a Pay-What-You-Can preview performance March 17 at 7:00 p.m. and a matinee performance March 20 at 2:00 p.m., tickets are $15 for general admission, $13 for seniors and $11 for children/students. For tickets or more information, call GVT’s Box Office at 304-645-3838 or visit www.gvtheatre.org.

Meet the Playwrights


This year for the New Voices Play Festival GVT reached out to find out more about the playwrights. We asked them some questions and here are their answers!


Adam Szudrich

Slow Dating – An elderly woman spends the night with a charming stranger and realizes the heartbreaking decision she must make.

Q – In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good 10-minute play?

A – I like when a play grabs me straight away – an interesting character, situation, an unusual problem. I’ve found the best way to engage an audience is to start big, take them on a ride and end in an unexpected but satisfying manner.

Q – What are some techniques you’ve perfected for yourself over the course of your career?

A – I think as a writer you never perfect anything. My approach is trying not to be too terrible and work my way up from there. The most important technique I’ve perfected is self-discipline – sitting in the chair, writing every day – even when it isn’t flowing, because every bad word makes me a better writer.

My niece is just getting into writing and she recently asked me “how do you write a good story?” I said write 10 terrible ones first. I then explained how writing 10 good stories would lead to a great one.

Q – Which of your plays is your favorite? Which of your screenplays is your favorite?

A – I wrote a play called Spiderman that was really well received in festivals around Australia, across Asia, New Zealand and Dubai. It’s about two romantic male spiders who dream of finding true love in a world where women just want men for sex and for lunch. I think audiences really connected with it because it reversed gender stereotypes and shone a light on sexism, patriarchy and leaving the toilet seat up.

I have just written a short animation called Red Balloons. It’s about a young girl who sees a lone red balloon flying past her house every morning at the same time. Following one leads her to a magical place and back to where they are coming from. I’m on the lookout for a talented animator to bring it to life.

Adam Szudrich is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright whose work has been seen throughout Asia, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.



Danny Boone

Forever – A quirky comedy with a new twist on life everlasting.

Q – What made you want to participate in New Voices this year?

A – Actually I just happened to see the news article in our local paper regarding New Voices and said “Why not”. I have been playing with playwriting for the past three years as a challenge to myself. This past summer I came up with an idea for a short play that I thought was unique, saw the news article and gave GVT a copy. When chosen, it was “Wow, what a wonderful surprise.”

Q – Are you working on anything exciting right now?

A – I am always working in my head. So far, nothing new on paper. It will come when it will come. I do not force it, I just get a couple of characters together in my mind, let them have a talk and write down what they say.

Q – What suggestions do you have for new/beginning writers?

A – Try to find something familiar and make your audience see it in a new or unique way. Write what you know, then it will be true. And always: Revise, Revise, Revise.

Danny Boone is a Greenbrier County native who has been involved with GVT for over 40 years, most recently as Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.



Steven Korbar

In Her Golden Years – The story of a mother finally confiding in her daughter.

I Saw What You Said – An examination of what happens when social media interferes with life.

Q – The plot in I Saw What You Said is something most people can relate to, have you ever been confronted in that type of situation?

A – Yes. I had met someone I found to be completely charming and amiable in person- and then this individual “friended” me on Facebook and immediately began posting political rants that were, to me, utterly abhorrent. I was so disappointed in the difference between the live person and the cyber version, and so confused as to how to handle the situation- that it eventually let me to write I Saw What You Said.

Q – What do you want audiences to take away from In Her Golden Years?

A – I generally shy away from saying what others should take away from my work, but in the case of In Her Golden Years I think, at the very least, audiences might recognize the idea that we really never can completely know our own parents; no matter how sure we are that we do.

Q –D you think live performance theatre is important in our culture? What suggestions do you have for someone just starting out in the theatre world?

A – To me live performance has never been more important than it is right now. At this point in our history, where technology and social media has the effect of dissociating us from each other, I believe the act of watching live human beings talking, communicating with each other and an audience, is as vital as it’s ever been.

If I had to give advice to someone starting out in theatre now, it would be to try to keep some small part of your work only for yourself, separate from any meter of success or failure, praise or rejection. I think it’s extremely important to appreciate the pure joy of creating, because it may very well be the one thing in your career that never fails you.

Q – Have you ever performed in any of your plays?

A – Yes, I began as an actor and only started writing after being told many times that I was “hard to cast type”. I have performed in many of my own works, but over time, even I’ve found myself ‘hard to cast’ and now most of my plays have no part for me.

Q – How is writing a 10-minute play different from writing a full length play?

A – The difference between 10-minute pieces and full length play is, to me, simply getting to the point. You need to kick off your plot from the very top of the play and make sure to always maintain forward motion.

Korbar is a well-known playwright whose work has been produced throughout the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Les Epstein

Ira’s Fantastical Night Ride Up New York 9 – One man’s battle with dementia, while his wife watches helplessly from the sidelines.
Q – When did you write your first play and what was it about?
A – My first play was called Huntington’s Railroad, a one-act piece about the sit down strike at the automobile plant during the height of the American depression. It was produced as part of a campus wide study of the American depression at my alma-mater, Otterbein College, in 1983.
Q – What was your inspiration for this play?
A – Ira’s Fantastical Night Ride Up New York 9 was inspired by my father, a brilliant man who was struck down by Alzheimer’s disease. The play is one of four plays planned to track the disease and its impact on a spouse.
Q – How do you hope the audience will respond to the play?
A – I hope the audience will not pity Ira but cheer him on towards his dream to reach his beloved mountains. Like my own father the struggle to reach dreams should never end; likewise, I hope the audience chooses to support Holly at her crankiest moments. Her life has been robbed as well.
Les Epstein’s long career in theatre includes writing, directing, acting, singing and teaching at different theatres all over the country.


William H. Sikorski

Canon 983 – The story of a priest forced to make an impossible decision.

Q – Did you study playwriting or creative writing when you were younger? Who are some of your favorite writers?
A – I have no formal training in writing or theatre. On a whim, I wrote my first play four years ago in response to a call for submissions by a local community theatre for its annual 10-minute play festival. Mine didn’t make the cut. I figured, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” so I went to the auditions for that play festival to see if I could get cast in one of the winning plays. I was, and that was my first acting experience. I used the opportunity to understand the theatre process (how the actors and directors translate a script into a performance) and what makes a winning play. That helped, as my plays were selected in each of the following years. (I also discovered that I enjoyed acting and have been in several shows since then).
Q – Did you know when you were writing this play how it would end?
A – I never know what the ending will be when I start writing. I usually don’t even know what the play is about. I start writing something, anything, and along the way if some idea emerges that seems interesting, I scrap all of the rest and build around the idea, which often leads to another better idea, so I end up scrapping and re-starting again.
Q – How would you describe your writing style?
A – Grow and prune, grow and prune. I write more than I need, go through the painful task of cutting out dialogue, plot elements, or even characters that I’ve grown to love (to get it down to target length). Then, I add to it again (building up and strengthening what’s left), pare it back down to size, keeping the best, and repeat until it doesn’t materially change anymore. Although I hate to cut out things that I worked so hard on, I must admit that it’s always better for having done so.
William H. Sikorski is a lab manager for 3M, and, in his (limited) free time, enjoys writing short plays.





Eric Fritzius

Playing Cards by Twilight’s Shine – A fresh look at West Virginia’s battle with substance abuse.


Q – You do a lot of work with the theatre, what do you enjoy most about your time spent here?

A – I have really enjoyed getting to work with the variety of actors and technicians at GVT. I took acting and other theatre-arts classes in college, but I count my experience at GVT as my primary training. I always feel like I’m a theatre journeyman anyway, so working with people who are professionals and so much better than me has helped me improve.

Q – Your play could be read as somewhat of a cautionary tale, was that intentional?

A – If my play is a cautionary tale at all, it’s probably one about the destructive nature of hopelessness. It might not seem like it on the surface, but one of the major reasons these drugs take hold in small town America is often due to poverty. People in hopeless or depressing situations often either seek escape from that through substance abuse, or by the tremendous amount of money that can be made in selling those substances. Unless the sellers leave the area, they’re going to be selling to their communities, gaining new customers, continuing the cycle of destruction that might have been originally spawned by a miner being laid off. Granted, you’d have to squint pretty hard to see all that in my play, but that’s the idea behind it. The fantasy world of Eldridge exists in a bubble, seemingly protected against hopelessness.

Q – How are writing plays different from writing short stories? How are they similar?

A – Writing short plays, such as the ones in this festival, can be similar to writing short stories. Both have a limited amount of space in which to tell a story or convey an experience. But one of the major ways that plays differ from prose is in the ability to get into the heads of the characters. In plays this has to be addressed in terms of dialogue and performance alone—sometimes suggested by the playwright, but often intuited by the actor in the role. Prose writers use dialogue and description as well, but they have the ability to directly tell the reader things about the characters and situations, or even depict everything from a single character’s perspective, which is trickier to do in drama.

Eric Fritzius is a Greenbrier County native who has a long history with GVT. He has written and performed in many plays over the years, most recently in The Tragedy of Hamlet, and A Christmas Carol.




Connie Schindewolf

Housekeeping – In the not-too-distant future of this comedy, houses can be programmed and the “help” comes with different settings.

Q – How did you learn about the New Voices Play Festival and what made you want to be a part of it.

A – I was in the New Voices Play Festival two years ago with a play called The Drive-In. I’m in a Yahoo group called the Playwright Binge and that’s how I saw the original call for scripts. I had not had a production in West Virginia before so it was appealing. Once I get in a festival I like to submit to it again thinking my style of writing must appeal to the readers.

Q – What made you want to write this play?

A – This is the fourth play I have written about technology gone wild, and I would like to have them published in a script for an evening’s entertainment. I am not a technology person (still have a dumb phone) and the whole thing tends to scare me a little. I guess “scare” isn’t the right word, more like “intimidate”.

Q – What was the greatest challenge you had completing this play?

A – I have a line of Spanish and a line of French and I didn’t trust the internet to make a translation for me so my college-aged daughter had to find two people to translate. Also, it also took me a while to come up with the ending. I wanted the wife to come off as intelligent and with the upper hand.

Connie Schindewolf is a veteran playwright who has won multiple awards over her 25-year career.

Calling All Community Actors!

GVT will host auditions for the 8th annual New Voices Play Festival Dec. 21 from 5-8 p.m. GVT encourages all members of the community who are interested in acting to audition regardless of experience. If you are unavailable to audition at the set time, please contact GVT’s Education Department No prepared audition materials are necessary. You will be asked to read from a script. Rehearsal schedules are flexible. The 8th Annual New Voices Play Festival will run Feb. 4-6, 2016 at 7 p.m.


Dr. Larry Davis and Lisa Coburn as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in Property Rights by Theodore D. Kemper.

For more information about auditions or the New Voices Play Festival, GVT’s Education Department at teachingartist@gvtheatre.org or 304-645-3838 ext. 111.