Arts & Extras: Community theater finds new home in Roanoke church
KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times
Star City Playhouse founders Marlow and Karon Ferguson are reviving their theater in Metropolitan Community Church.
Courtesy Taubman Museum of Art
Harold Little. United States, 1940-2011. “Halloween, Roanoke Street, Fincastle,” 1988. Etching on paper.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Given the number of arts and cultural groups that have shut down this year - Studio Roanoke, Theater at Lime Kiln, Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, Shadowbox Cinema, Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre - it's a breath of fresh air to hear that a theater once thought defunct is coming back
Marlow and Karon Ferguson purchased a building on Williamson Road to found Star City Playhouse in 2007. Yet by August 2010, the building had been purchased by the bank at auction to avoid foreclosure. Since May 2011, the theater company has been homeless .
Come Monday, Star City Playhouse and its five trailer-loads of costumes and props will start moving into Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge at 806 Jamison Ave. S.E.
The theater will make use of a community room in the church's basement that holds 100 people and has a small stage. Star City Playhouse will man the box office and then donate a portion of the proceeds to the church, said the Rev. Joe Cobb , Metropolitan Community Church pastor.
Marlow Ferguson, 75, enthuses about the ample parking and storage space. "It's amazing how many rooms this building has."
He said he hopes to produce the first play in the new location in February.
The church is continually exploring possibilities for how to use its 30,000 square feet of space, Cobb said. The church is located in the former Belmont United Methodist Church, a building that takes up most of a city block. "We're trying to make the historic building more accessible to more people."
Metropolitan Community Church first experimented with outreach through art in a 2011 collaboration with the Roanoke Marginal Arts Festival, in which artists set up installations in various rooms. Roanoke artist Ralph Eaton's "Chairway to Heaven," in which wooden chairs were stacked, cable-tied and clamped together to resemble a church cathedral, remains on display as a permanent exhibit, Cobb said.
The church has allowed other artists to keep displays there. "On each floor we have a dedicated space that's gallery space," Cobb said.
In June, Floyd County's Locust Street Players performed a play at the church, which Cobb said gave church officials a feel for how a small community theater might fare.
Five months ago, members of the congregation who knew that Ferguson was looking for storage space for props and costumes - at present being stored by the Fergusons' generous Preston Park neighbors - put Cobb in touch with them.
At first, Ferguson was reluctant, as the largest props would need to be carried up two flights of stairs to their new resting place. But once Cobb offered the stage to him to use for the theater, he decided the labor would be worth it.
Ferguson said he intends to revive the program that Star City Playhouse had of bringing performances to veterans centers and nursing homes .
The theater will experiment with a schedule consisting of a Friday evening show and Saturday and Sunday matinees, he said.
Cobb said he looks forward to bringing community theater to the Belmont neighborhood in southeast Roanoke and expanding interest in art "on this side of [Interstate] 581."
Ferguson said he could use volunteers to help with the move on Monday. Anyone interested can call 366-1446 or contact Star City Playhouse through their Facebook page.
"Preferably teenagers who can carry heavy things and recover from it," Marlow quipped.
There are two more weeks left to see the exhibition of paintings by the late Fincastle artist Harold Little at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke.
Longtime friend Dorsey Taylor, who runs LinDor Arts gallery in downtown Roanoke, helped organize the show.
Little died in 2011 at age 70. In the 1960s, he and his wife, Harriet, lived in Florence, Italy.
Once they returned, he became known for his detailed etchings of Virginia landscapes and cityscapes, inspired by the etchings and lithographs of American-born artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler . Little made prints on an Italian etching press he owned. He later produced oil paintings in a style that evoked pointillism.
Also a musician, television performer and teacher at various points in his career, Little left behind a 35-year body of work, including personal paintings that were surreal and symbolic. The Taubman's exhibition provides samples from all phases of his life.
The show closes Dec. 29. Admission is free. For more information, call 342-5760 or visit taubmanmuseum.org/main/exhibitions/harold-little.
Coinciding with this month's final SunTrust Dickens of a Christmas , the Taubman Museum of Art will host holiday events from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.
The schedule includes free gospel performances in the atrium by Salem Presbyterian Church Choir and Preacher's Kids. Taubman members can treat themselves to the view from the museum's third-floor balcony, where snacks and drinks will be available.
For more information, call 342-5760 or visit taubmanmuseum.org.
Grandin Theatre grant
The Grandin Theatre has been awarded a $95,000 grant from the Roanoke Women's Foundation, which is a component fund of the Foundation for Roanoke Valley.
The grant will combine with $75,000 in funds the nonprofit movie theater already has raised to help with a $275,000 conversion to digital projection equipment, said Grandin Executive Director Kathy Chittum. The conversion is necessary because the film industry intends to completely convert to digital in 2013 and stop using 35 mm film.
On my blog, Roanoke movie blogger Dusty Wallace asked whether the Grandin intends to keep its 35 mm projection system. Chittum said that, space permitting, the theater will do so, as there are many movies the theater might want to screen that have not yet been converted to digital.
On the Arts blog
Can a Twitter campaign actually land Roanoke County-born actress Jen Lilley on "Dancing with the Stars"? Read more at blogs.roanoke.com/arts.
Weather JournalStarting to look a lot like summer