Cherry Orchard Theatre
CHERRY ORCHARD THEATRE 2023 – CELEBRATING 25 Seasons
Outdoor theatre is a tradition in our part of the world. Over the years North Carolina has boasted more outdoor theatre productions than any state in the country, ranging from famous ones like “The Lost Colony” and “Unto These Hills” to lesser known productions that are often of good quality.
Though we are in Virginia, we are only eight miles distant from this “mother” state of outdoor theatre. Inspired by the tradition in North Carolina — and by the 55-mile view of mountains and valleys from our cherry orchard outdoor ampitheatre site — since 1999 we have been offering a wide variety of theater experiences at The Cherry Orchard Theatre. Here we have performed dozens of plays, had numerous concerts and storytelling gatherings, and played host to some of the leading theatrical and musical talent in our region. Over the years many thousands of people have come, bearing lawn chairs and perhaps a picnic supper and a bottle of wine — no restrictions there! — to watch performances and to enjoy the coolness of the Blue Ridge Mountain evening and the spectacular view behind the stage.
Showtime is at 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. And please note — ALL SUNDAY EVENING SHOWS WILL BE PERFORMED AT THE ORCHARD PACKHOUSE, making it easier for physically challenged patrons to be seated. Rain or shine, the show must go on — if it’s raining we move to our packhouse, a friendly confine for theatre that smells like the peaches we are selling there during theater season! Tickets are $10 and purchased at the door — reservations are accepted but not required, there is plenty of elbow room. Bring lawn chairs, food, and something to drink — then sit back on the cool grass, and enjoy the show!
2023 marks our 25th season at Cherry Orchard Theatre, and we are celebrating this milestone with eight weekends — count ’em, eight weekends! — at our spectacularly beautiful Cherry Orchard Theatre stage. Check the website in July and August for updates. But for now, our 2023 season features eight weekends at our Cherry Orchard Theatre stage. All shows start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. No reservations required. For more info, call 276-755-3593 or 276-755-2224. We look forward to seeing you!
Summer 2023 Schedule
JULY 28, 29, 30 — AN EVENING OF STORYTELLING, MUSIC, AND POETRY
Over 25 seasons at Cherry Orchard Theatre, we’ve often combined local storytelling and poetry with live music, always a winning combination. This year, once again, we offer poetry by Karen Johnson, Rose Spencer, Millie Hiatt and others, along with storytelling by Terri Ingalls, Millie Hiatt, Frank George and more. This year also we expect musicians Stu Shenk, Jennifer Brown, Deane Kern and others to perform. If you are a poet, storyteller, or musician, we invite you as well to take our stage and tell your stories, read your poems, and play your music. Please join us for what is always a magical evening under the stars.
AUGUST 4, 5, 6 — CELEBRATION OF 25 SEASONS AT CHERRY ORCHARD THEATRE
In 1999, Cherry Orchard Theatre was born with renowned actress Barbara Bates Smith performing in our debut play, “The Emerald Ghost,” a play that shook the mountain by drawing an astonishing 1200 theater-goers over three weekends. This is the weekend we look back — we remember and reflect. On what has happened here, doing theater for 25 summers on the side of a mountain, in the middle of a working cherry orchard, an orchard recently named one of the “Best Fifteen Cherry Orchards in America” by Tasting Table magazine. From scores of original plays by regional and national playwrights to Chekhov’s masterpiece, “The Cherry Orchard;” from Frank’s play “The Distance Between Us,” born here and later performed by Holly Hunter and Amy Madigan, to consummate one-person shows like “Flights of Imagination” by Terri Ingalls, recalling Terri’s days as a flight attendant for Piedmont Airlines. An incubator — a performance space — a “field of dreams” — what has Cherry Orchard meant to the hundreds of people who’ve performed here and the thousands who’ve come for shows? Regionally, Cherry Orchard led directly to what is arguably the most culturally significant theater experience in southwest Virginia in the last fifty years — the four seasons of “Thunder in the Hills,”(soon to be a fifth) performed at the courthouse in Hillsville, Virginia where five people were shot dead in the courtroom in 1912. That play and its sister plays — now seen by many thousands — could never have happened without the lessons learned not only about theater — but about community-building –at Cherry Orchard Theatre.
Not only a time for reflection, this weekend will feature live performances by actors, musicians, and storytellers, and a special tribute from Frank to his partner of twelve years, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley, author of “Crimes of the Heart” and many other plays. We’ll be looking for you!
AUGUST 11, 12, 13 — TWO PLAYS: THE DEAD SPEAK and THE VIEW FROM CLARA’S PORCH
In 1915, Edgar Lee Masters published “Spoon River Anthology,” a collection of poems in the form of dramatic monologues spoken by the dead in a fictional Illinois cemetery. The poems are unsparingly frank revelations of the inner lives of small-town Americans, and no other book of poems in American history ever made a more immediate impact. Taken collectively, the poems form a chorus of American voices unlike anything in our literature.
Inspired by Masters’ book, and passionate about the history of where he lives, Frank Levering has undertaken a much more modest project, still in progress, as a kind of homage: a collection of poems spoken by the dead in one Appalachian place — Carroll County, Virginia. From cemeteries across Carroll County, the dead speak — people who once lived here, unvarnished, many of their secrets and emotional truths buried with them. A wealth of local actors — very much alive! (or are they?) — perform the poems.
The evening also features a short play, in the form of a dramatic monologue, also written by Frank and performed by Cherry Orchard mainstay Terri Ingalls. Inspired by Frank’s grandmother, Clara Levering, who lived most of her life at the orchard, “The View From Clara’s Porch” is a story of what might have been — of the road not taken. Always a joy to be with at the theater, Terri Ingalls is an actress and storyteller known to thousands across our region.
This weekend we will also be celebrating the birthday of Frank’s beloved cousin, Louise Lindsey, here all the way from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Happy Birthday, Lou!
AUGUST 18, 19, 20 — AN EVENING WITH THE BROWNS — and RAW TOADS, A Play
Take another sip of wine for what promises to be one enchanted evening with Mark and Jennifer Brown, the husband and wife team who dazzled in Cherry Orchard’s February 2023 production of the play “Kalamazoo” at The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Combining storytelling with songs that sparkle in Jennifer’s vocals, Mark and Jennifer aim not only to entertain but also to teach us a thing or two about our local history. We welcome these brave souls in their first appearance on our stage!
Also this evening we present a short play, “Raw Toads,” a comedy by Frederick Bailey, a Monty Python-esque, outlandish tale of a waiter and a diner alone in a restaurant that has no menu and that serves only one dish — raw toads. Bailey, a Los Angeles playwright and screenwriter with many plays and films to his credit, apparently took leave of his senses when writing this comedy so funny and ridiculous you’ll belly-laugh your way right out of your clothes! Our performers are Patrick Butler, clearly not in his right mind this time around the playpen, and Terri Ingalls, apparently still thinking she’s serving cocktails in the middle of severe turbulence on Piedmont Flight 499. Don’t miss this one!
AUGUST 25, 26, 27 — AN EVENING WITH ACTOR ROBERT DOBSON
A Surry County, N.C. native, Robert Dobson now lives in Los Angeles, where for the past number of years he has been a working actor — that rare and brave soul! — not only in LA theater but in what we collectively refer to as Hollywood — the high-profile world of film and television based in LA, a place of glamour, heartache, intense competition — of real life drama beneath the tinsel. What challenges does Hollywood pose for a product of small-town North Carolina? What does it take for a local high school and college sports star and successful law enforcement officer — not only to survive but also to work — to land roles and get paid as an actor — in the most competitive arena in America for any actor? In this engaging one-man show, written and performed by Robert Dobson and directed by Terri Ingalls, Robert tells us his story in a speaking voice uncannily like that of one of his icons, actor James Earl Jones. This inspiring story of a middle-aged African-American following his lifelong dream — leaving the security of steady work and “following his bliss” — is a great story for any young person with his or her own dreams. And — for that matter — anyone of any age, still dreaming of who they’d like to be. Come hear and meet Robert Dobson, a hometown guy making us all proud!
SEPTEMBER 1, 2, 3 — H5, A Play
For the past two seasons, actor, director, playwright and drama prof David Beach teamed at Cherry Orchard with actor, director, and all-purpose Renaissance man Patrick Butler on two plays — “Red,” the acclaimed play about painter Mark Rothko, and David’s play “Mothers and Terrorists,” a piercing remembrance of a mother and son’s troubled relationship in a time of anger and grief — 9/11. Now David is back with the play “H5,” adapted and performed by Shenandoah Thompson and directed by David Beach. For anyone steeped in theater history and tradition, this is heady stuff — and cause for celebration! In this new play about England’s King Henry the Fifth, adapted from Shakespeare’s Henriad, we see Henry, in David’s words, “as a 21st Century leader, examining the price of honor, the toll of war, and the cost of life.” Timely as today’s headlines, “H5 reveals that, while celebrity may transcend time and place, it never justifies itself through retribution.” Please join us for a latter-day theatrical reflection on Shakespearean themes and universal truths.
SEPTEMBER 8, 9, 10 — THE WITCHES’ BREW: TALES OF APPALACHIAN WITCHES
“When shall we three meet again/On thunder, lightning, or in rain? Thus begins Shakespeare’s Macbeth, three witches who we know are having no picnic in the park when they go on to warn us: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair/Hover through fog and filthy air.”
Then Shakespeare’s witches exit. But enter, on our stage (and kicking off Halloween season), four witches — or rather, four local women who will reveal (or not reveal) the witches in our midst, along with local traditions like the ‘granny witch” that have inspired stories for generations. It’s an evening with two distinct shows, unified by the subject of witches, each show with its own “tales,” each with a pair of storytellers. Emily Morgan and Cassandra Johnson are one pair; Rose Spencer and Amanda Broomstraw (name withheld to protect the innocent) are another. Together the four women have much to teach us, taking us to a realm that few of us have imagined, and to a place in the hills and hollows of this corner of Appalachia where the power and freedom of women may come in unexpected forms. Make room, this weekend, for true stories of witchery and wisdom — for the pleasure of learning from four women who have put the time, energy, research — and love — into these two shows. And for any witches — or aspiring witches — who would enjoy this experience, broom-parking is available near the stage. We’ll see you here!
SEPTEMBER 15, 16, 17 — ALL WE KNOW OF HEAVEN, A Play
“Parting is all we know of heaven,” wrote poet Emily Dickenson, “and all we need of hell.” Taking its title from a Dickenson poem, as did the theater’s first play in 1999, “The Emerald Ghost,” Frank Levering’s new play takes us to New England in 1991, at the time of the Gulf War, where Warren and Mary, married for 49 years at their farm in New Hampshire, confront the darkest truths in their marriage on the eve of Mary’s departure to visit her lifelong friend from childhood, soon to move into the memory care unit of a Boston-area retirement home. Inspired by five dramatic narrative poems by another great New England poet — Robert Frost — “Home Burial;” “Death of the Hired Man;” “The Fear;” “After Apple Picking;” and “An Old Man’s Winter Night,” “All We Know of Heaven” is a play that asks essential questions about human love and intimacy amid the darkness of tragedy, grave risk, and buried grief. The play celebrates 25 seasons of stripped-down, intimate theater at Cherry Orchard, and marks the return pairing of Terri Ingalls and Patrick Butler, stars of the 2021 production of “Tales of the Waterless Sea,” later performed in Los Angeles. Welcome home, Terri and Patrick!
Admission is only ten dollars. Bring a lawn chair and anything you would like to eat or drink.
For more information –starting in July-, and any questions you may have, please call 276-755-3593. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can call the packhouse number — 276-755-3593 — and speak with Frank Levering.You can also often speak with Frank at 276-755-4722 (cell phone reception permitting), or email him at email@example.com.
We’ll see you on the mountain!
— Frank Levering
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE SHOWS, STARTING IN JULY, CALL 276-755-3593.