Behind the Scenes with Elizabeth Salisch

A great production can transport its audience to another world. The actors, set pieces, costumes, lighting, props and sound all fit neatly together to create a captivating and cohesive story. If one element falters, the illusion can be shattered. While it takes the efforts of many designers, actors and artistic staff to create this magical and delicate balance, it is maintained by one of theatre’s greatest assets, the stage manager.

As the linchpin of marrying the technical and artistic aspects of a production, it is the stage manager’s job to troubleshoot any problems that may interrupt the world of the show. A truly excellent stage manager’s work often goes unnoticed, unless you know what to look for. Every taped spike mark on stage, every precisely timed lighting shift and every perfectly orchestrated scene change is thanks to a stage manager. Here at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, our thanks go to Elizabeth Salisch.

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Stage Manager Elizabeth Salisch*. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Elizabeth joined the Greenbrier Valley Theatre family this season and is currently stage managing her third show here, Moon Over Buffalo. She first discovered her love of theatre at the age of five when she saw the Broadway production of The Secret Garden. At 12 she began performing at the YMCA and later chose to study Theatre Arts at the University of Pittsburgh. She got her first taste of stage management as the assistant stage manager for Dancing At Lughnasa in her sophomore year of college. Elizabeth reflected, “Since then I realized that I wanted to be a stage manager because not only does it fit well with my personality it is one of the few positions in theatre that see the process from the very beginning to the very end at the ground level.”

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                                               Stage Manager Elizabeth Salisch* at the table reading of Moon Over Buffalo. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association.

That process begins in the rehearsal hall. Elizabeth works alongside the director and actors tracking the blocking and necessary elements of the production to communicate with the rest of the production team. “During the rehearsal process I take extensive notes so I can answer questions or foresee any problems that may arise. I also create and maintain any paperwork that tracks set, props, costumes, sound, and any other needs of a show,” said Elizabeth.

Her favorite part of her job begins when the show opens. “It is the stage manager who is in charge and maintains the artistic integrity of the show by giving notes to actors and crew… I love when the show is routine and in your bones.”

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                                                  Elizabeth Salisch* preparing for Pippin, the second show in GVT’s 50th season. Photo by Kelsey Pressnall / Courtesy of Greenbrier Valley Theatre. *denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association.

 

While Elizabeth masterfully executes her role as a stage manager, in her words, “things still may happen because it is live theatre after all.” Elizabeth recounts her time stage managing a production of Our Town that went awry one night when a loud party was held just outside the theatre.

“In Act 3 when Emily is doing her big goodbye world speech in the grave yard, the music slowly kept getting louder and louder so that by the time George knelt by her grave My Heart Will Go On was playing in full blast so the audience thought it was part of the show.”

Since Elizabeth began working with GVT, she has found she “like[s] the sense of community [here] and how genuinely nice and caring everyone is.” From The Importance of Being Earnest‘s high brow humor and complicated set changes to Pippin‘s flashy chorus dance numbers, Elizabeth has enjoyed challenging herself to solve the unique puzzles each production presents. Up next at GVT is the fast-paced, quick-witted farce, Moon Over Buffalo, where you’re sure to see Elizabeth’s hard work once again!

Dancing to the Beat of His Own Drum

GVT presents the fantastical Pippin!

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                                                              Donald Laney, choreographer and ensemble member in GVT’s 2017 production of Pippin. (Photo Courtesy / Greenbrier Valley Theatre)  

The young Prince Pippin, Charlemagne’s heir, is guided by a Leading Player and her acting troupe on the quest of a lifetime. As he searches for adventure, tries his hand in battle and finds love, Pippin learns what is truly important. With acrobatic dance numbers and an exhilarating grand finale, this musical comedy is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

 Such a fabulous tale of adventure and discovery requires staging that will excite the imagination. GVT has recruited Choreographer Donald Laney, who specializes in modern dance and has a long creative relationship with GVT, to bring this story to life. Past GVT credits include Jesus Christ Superstar (2016),Cabaret (2012) and the wildly popular Chicago (2015).

 The choreographer’s love of dance started at age four and his career has spanned over 20 years beginning with Theatre West Virginia. He is now Producing Artistic Director at West Virginia Dance Company and has served as the WV Governor’s School for the Arts Dance Instructor since 2005.

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                                                     Donald Laney, choreographer, and Kelsey Pohl in GVT’s 2015 production of Chicago. (Photo Courtesy Valerie Pritt / Greenbrier Valley Theatre)

With this experience under his belt, Laney faces the challenge of dancing a story first created by the legendary Bob Fosse.

 “Being a Bob Fosse show adds more pressure and sometimes difficulties,” Laney said. “Fosse was a choreographer so there are extended dance breaks in his shows and dance is more of a focus to help carry the storyline along.”

 His ability to create dance pieces in a short amount of time, a clear idea of what he wants and a willingness to experiment and improvise guide Laney as he creates those pieces so important to the story.

 “This is a very intellectual and thought provoking script and score. Pippin is searching for his purpose/meaning in life and what would make life important … Each number is set up by the song that reflects where Pippin is in his search for meaning,” the choreographer said.

The musical journey runs May 26 & 27, June 1 – 3 and June 7 – 10 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance on June 3 at 2:30 p.m. and a Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance on May 25 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.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture & History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Greenbrier Valley Theatre presents the epic Pippin. First directed for Broadway by Bob Fosse, this musical comedy will run May 26 & 27, June 1 – 3 and June 7 – 10 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance June 3 at 2:30 p.m.and a Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance May 25 at 7:30 p.m.

 This soaring musical features young prince Pippin and his pursuit of adventure. A mysterious troupe of actors, led by a Leading Player, takes Pippin on a journey through war, regret and love as he searches for something more from life.

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 Will Nash Broyles, who will portray Pippin in GVT’s 2017 production of Pippin. (Photo Courtesy / Greenbrier Valley Theatre)

Will Nash Broyles, who was last seen as Tom Tom in GVT’s 2014 production of Babes in Toyland, stars as the young prince. Broyles, a dedicated actor, feels a deep connection with his character because he has also faced doubt about his future.

 “Even as a teenager, I knew that being on stage was what made me happy. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. But I went to school for engineering and tried to convince myself that I didn’t NEED to perform to be fulfilled,” Broyles said.

 Though his dream persisted, he was convinced to get his degree in Electrical Engineering, spending his senior year focusing on rocket propulsion and robotics. His time in college did not change what he knew in his heart he was meant to do.

 This diversely trained actor began his career at age 10. He portrayed John Darling in a production of Peter Pan at a community theatre in his home town of Anderson, South Carolina. As a professional, Broyles has been seen in classics like Grease, Footloose and The Sound of Music. Now he gets a chance to fulfill a long-held career goal.

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Will Nash Broyles as Tom Tom, Kenny Wade Marshall* as Miss Muffet, and the cast of GVT’s 2014 production of Babes in Toyland. (Photo  Courtesy / Greenbrier Valley Theatre) * denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association

 “Playing this role has been a dream of mine ever since I was in high school,” Broyles said. “There’s a filmed production of Pippin from the ’80s starring William Katt and Ben Vereen. I used to have a copy of it on VHS, and I watched it so many times that the tape stopped working.”

 This Pippin star is having the time of his life working with GVT Artistic Director Cathey Sawyer and Choreographer Donald Laney (Chicago, Beehive!). Broyles hopes that their genius, along with his close relationship with costar and Leading Player Kim Morgan Dean, will create a stunning production for the audience.

 This timeless and inspiring tale runs May 26 & 27, June 1 – 3 and June 7 – 10 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance June 3 at 2:30 p.m. and a Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance May 25 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.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture & History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Behind the Scenes with Josh Robinson

GVT’s 50th anniversary season is well underway with its second show, Pippin! These two weeks of rehearsal and preparation are the real “magic to do” of the production. The director, designers, and actors all must come together to create a cohesive piece of art.

One vital element of any production is the set design. It is often the first thing you notice when you walk into the theatre. The set is the skeleton of the production; it establishes the style and tone and stipulates where your gaze is drawn at any given time.

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                                                  Josh Robinson, Technical Director and Set Designer for Pippin

 

Josh Robinson, Technical Director and Set Designer for Pippin, earned his BFA in Theatrical Design/Production from Montclair State University in NJ. Since his arrival in 2010, he has designed about 35 shows for GVT and was seen onstage last year as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar!

When undertaking the set design for Pippin, Robinson worked with director Cathey Sawyer and fellow designers to create the world of the show. While many designers use drawings to communicate their concepts, Robinson likes to begin his design process with a model.

“In my experience…this allows the director to see exactly what will be on stage in full scale and 3 dimensional. Each set and model is unique in its construction and use of materials,” Robinson said.

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                                           Robinson’s set model from the front of Pippin, 2017

 

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Robinson’s set model from above of  Pippin, 2017

For Pippin, he was given direction to create a “scaffold type set with many levels.” Director Cathey Sawyer wanted “something that was timeless yet with hints of medieval” and “something that maximizes real estate for movement while still giving us levels for interesting visuals.” The show is based strongly around physical comedy and dance so it is imperative that the set offer ample opportunity to climb, jump, and dance across different parts of the stage.

Choreographer Donald Laney is no stranger to the GVT stage. His work has been seen in productions of Beehive!, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr., Chicago, and more.

“I am looking forward to exploring and utilizing as much of the set as I can” and “view the set as a jungle gym or obstacle course,” said Laney.

See for yourself how the world of Pippin is constructed and shaped! Performances run May 26 – June 10 at 7:30 p.m. with a Pay What You Can preview performance on May 25 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee on June 3 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $27 for seniors (60+), and $20 for children/students. For tickets or more information, call GVT’s Box Office at 304-645-3838 or visit www.gvtheatre.org.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture & History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

 

Girls Gone Wilde

GVT proudly presents the Victorian satire The Importance of Being Earnest. This timeless comedy will complete its run this weekend with performances Thursday April 4, Friday April 5 and Saturday April 6 at 7:30 p.m.

In this farce, two bachelors lead double lives as ‘Ernest’, but when they fall in love with charming ladies and their lies are exposed, will they be able to keep their happy ending? In Wilde’s famous comedy, his wit and humor will keep you laughing while he mocks the rules of upper-class Victorian society.

Returning to the GVT stage is Samantha Blain, who was last seen in 2015’s Beehive! Starring alongside Blain is GVT’s own Kim Morgan Dean. Blain will portray Cecily Cardew opposite Dean as Gwendolen Fairfax. The two leading ladies agree that this is a dream production filled with timeless comedy.

“I’ve always wanted to do this show. Cecily was definitely on my short list of dream roles,” said Blain.

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Marshall Taylor Thurman as Algernon Moncrieff and Samantha Blain* as Cecily Cardew in GVT’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo courtesy Valerie Pritt. * denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association

With a strong background in all forms of theatre, from music to puppetry, Blain has been diving into the Victorian lifestyle. She’s had to master everything from the accent to walking in a corset and heels in order to fill the role of Cecily.

Dean, who is a GVT company member, shares Blain’s excitement to be a part of Wilde’s hilarious and popular farce.

“I have studied the show in school, read it many times, seen several productions and I STILL laugh at the jokes in the script. There’s a reason this is considered Wilde’s masterpiece – he’s a timeless wit at the top of his game here,” the actor said.

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Marshall Taylor Thurman as Algernon Moncrieff, Kim Morgan Dean* as Gwedolen Fairfax and Cliff Miller* as John Worthing in GVT’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo courtesy Valerie Pritt. *denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association

Dean was first seen at GVT in 2010 and became a company member in 2014. With the combined experience of these two actors, they are certainly able to attest to the immense amount of talent involved in this show.

“Honestly, this is [a] special group of actors. Everyone is professional, talented, but most importantly everyone has a great sense of humor,” Blain said. “For a piece like this that’s very important. There are a lot of laughs and a lot of support.”

These two actors shine in Wilde’s good-natured romp through Victorian society.

Don’t miss your chance to catch this classic! 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.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture & History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Stitch Witch to Style

Although the Scottish Play historically forebodes bad luck, for Jenna Fawn Brown it was the start of a wonderful new career as the Resident Costume Designer for Greenbrier Valley Theatre. After designing the costumes for Macbeth in September of 2009, she joined the GVT family permanently.

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This costume was worn by King Duncan in the 2009 production of Macbeth. Photo Courtesy of Kelsey Pressnall

“Didn’t know how to sew. Not a stitch.”

Jenna grew up in theatre but fell into costuming. In high school she was not cast in a show and volunteered, albeit with no experience, to be the costume designer instead. Her first costumes may have been held together with Stitch Witchery and glue but soon she learned she had a passion for design and the sewing skills quickly followed. After receiving an undergraduate degree in performance, Jenna worked to earn her master’s degree in Costume Design under the instruction of Colleen Muscha and Bill Black, two of her beloved professors/mentors at Florida State University.

“I always had a passion for regional theatre.”

While Jenna learned a great deal working in university costume shops, her real passion was in regional theatre. When I asked why she said, “To me regional [theatre] is where real art happens because you have to be so creative to do big shows on little budgets. And it really forces you to think more creatively.” Jenna relished the challenge to “be able to go to the Goodwill, see something that you go ‘that’s hideous!’ but know down deep in your soul that it can become something else.” She also found that she wasn’t the only one appreciating the creativity regional artists put into their work.

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Pictured: Jenna Fawn Brown, Photos Courtesy of Kelsey Pressnall

“This area appreciates theatre…people are invested in the arts.”

The Greenbrier Valley area has been molded and shaped around a growing arts scene. This community supports the theatre through their attendance, donations, and participation in the creation of these professional shows. Jenna reflected on this support as her favorite part of working here, saying, “They have made me feel welcome since the day I got here.”

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These costumes were worn by Dracula’s three wives in Dracula: A Rock Opera in 2013. Photo Courtesty of Jenna Fawn Brown

Over the last 7 years at GVT, Jenna has honed her craft and designed and built costumes for 56 shows of varying styles and eras. When asked which show was her favorite to design, she burst out “Dracula,” without a note of hesitation. This production was her first opportunity to “tackle an area of design” she’d always wanted to try: steampunk. She giggled thinking about the show that “didn’t take itself too seriously” and the chance to work, or rather play, with fake teeth and blood.

In her tenure as a costume designer, Jenna says it wasn’t until recently that she really saw herself as an artist. She realized that what she contributes to a production is art and explained…

“I take a flat piece of fabric and I turn it into a 3D sculpture, essentially. That’s a form of art.”

Whether she is sketching out a new design, wiping dirt make-up off of the floor, finding ways to incorporate her signature purple in every show, or rigging a heavy costume with ice packs, Jenna’s work is never dull. She is proud to be a member of the GVT family and concluded her “favorite part is taking care of this place and loving this community.”

Looking forward, Jenna is most eager to design for Pippin this season, as GVT does not often have the opportunity to present dance-heavy productions.

 “I’m so excited by where I get to take this now.”

“I can’t wait…the research I’ve been doing…it’s got my [creative] juices a-flowin’.” You’ll have to wait and see what this season’s shows have in store! In the meantime, visit the Daywood Lobby for a glimpse at past costumes created both by Jenna and her predecessors throughout GVT’s rich 50-year history.

The Goodson Boys

GVT proudly presents local trio The Goodson Boys on Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

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Mike, Willie and Randy Goodson as The Goodson Boys. (Photo Courtesy / The Goodson Boys)

The Goodson Boys are made up of brothers Mike, Randy and Willie Goodson, a family that has deep roots in Greenbrier County. They began their musical careers as children and have been performing in and around Greenbrier County ever since.

“Their 25 plus years performing together show how important music is to their family and what family means to their music,” said Goodson Boys manager Renee Goodson

Although the boys first learned to play gospel and country so many years ago, as time passed they branched out. Their concerts now feature a mix of country, gospel, southern rock and oldies.

Their mix of musical genres, along with their exceptional musical skills, has entertained audiences in many different venues from fairs and festivals to bars.

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Mike, Willie and Randy Goodson as the The Goodson Boys. (Photo Courtesy / The Goodson Boys)

“You won’t want to miss the sound of Randy’s telecaster bending around the melodic foundation of Mike’s bass, while Willie leads the delivery of the smooth, soulful vocals that have become the hallmark of this band,” said their manager.

This local band will be performing Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 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. This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture & History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.