For a day in September, theater performances will return to the top of Mill Mountain.

Starcropolis will present a series of short plays that incorporate the Mill Mountain Star, to be performed under a tent near Roanoke’s 66-year-old landmark.

The brainchild of Hollins University theater department director Ernie Zulia and Roanoke arts supporter Katherine Walker, Starcropolis takes place Sept. 4. Tickets are on sale starting Monday. Seating will be limited to 500.

Zulia playfully posits that Mill Mountain is to Roanoke what the Acropolis was to Athens in ancient Greece. On that rocky outcrop above the city, the Athenians constructed temples and outdoor theaters considered today to be masterpieces of art and architecture.

The most famous structure of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, a temple to the goddess Athena. Zulia suggests that the Mill Mountain Star is Roanoke’s Parthenon.

Commemorating the relationship with a theater performance makes sense by that logic, as the Acropolis is believed to be the birthplace of Greek tragedies, and Mill Mountain was, naturally, the birthplace of Mill Mountain Theatre, founded in 1964 inside a vacant inn.

Hollins has teamed with Roanoke officials, Mill Mountain Theatre and Roanoke Public Libraries to organize Starcropolis. Starting in 2015, the library’s Virginia Room has been collecting “Star Stories,” accounts people have shared of their visits to the Star and memorable events that took place there.

Some of those memories are being translated to the stage for Starcropolis, with original plays also part of the mix. Contributing playwrights include Robert Fulghum, author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”; Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of “A Woman of Independent Means”; Beth Macy, author of “Factory Man”; New York Times best-selling author Lee Smith; award-winning North Carolina writer Jill McCorkle; and Botetourt County playwright (and Roanoke Times editorial page editor) Dwayne Yancey.

There will be more to see than the show atop the mountain. Attendees will park in the downtown Roanoke garage by Elmwood Park and see skits on a mini-stage before taking the Starline Trolley to the mountaintop. There will be further performances on the trolley and along the Star Trail. In addition to the main show, two additional stages at the Star will feature high school and community theater players.

Tickets are $15 or $30 with food included. To order, call 342-5730 or visit

The Virginia Room continues to collect Star Stories. Call 632-2203, email or visit for more information.

Mike Allen writes the Arts & Extras column for The Roanoke Times. The beat he covers includes visual art, classical music, opera, theater, dance, literature, museums and other arts and cultural nonprofits, and things even more eclectic.

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