Last summer, I went to my first professional theater production right here in Appomattox. My mother told me we were going to watch a show out in the woods to which I replied, “I beg your pardon?” Never again would such skepticism pass my lips after Wolfbane’s proverbial curtain fell on “Spamalot”. Now, the idea of a Wolfbane production holds nothing but excitement and anticipation for me. But they are not the only thriving theater company in the heart of Virginia.
In July 2016, the Historic Masonic Theater in Clifton Forge re-opened to the public. Originally built in 1905 as an opera hall and Masonic Lodge, it has endured through a variety of owners and uses. It has hosted the likes of Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, Gene Autry and Tex Ritter. It closed temporarily in 1987 and re-opened in 1990 under the direction of Appalfolks and became the home of the Virginia Opry. In 2003, they donated it to the town and by 2009 the newly formed Preservation Foundation has raised $6.3 million for the theater’s restoration. A state of the art amphitheater and adjoining park were built and opened in 2012. Both the theater and the park continue to host performers from all walks of music.
One of the most well-known theaters worldwide resides just an hour and a half north of Appomattox in Staunton. The American Shakespeare Center puts its focus on recreating the environment in which William Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed. His famous Blackfriar’s Playhouse has been re-created, a duplicate of the original stage with minimal sets and lighting. The history of this modern playhouse goes back to 1988 when the troupe first performed “Richard III”. After performing exclusively on the road for eleven years, construction began in Staunton in 1999 and the Playhouse opened in 2001. Today, the Center hosts more than 200 scholars every year from around the world wanting to learn more about the art of putting on a Renaissance-style play.
Now I get to tell you all about Wolfbane Productions, a Broadway-style theater right here in Appomattox! Why Appomattox? Well, one of the directors Dustin Williams grew up here and he wanted to bring his love of theater home and make it more approachable to the people in his hometown….lucky for us! They got started in 2008 with the production of “Bat Boy: the Musical” and then performed “Jekyll & Hyde” in 2009. They soon realized they had a unique brand of theater that was appreciated by a different type of audience.
Wolfbane continued to build their seasons with adaptations of Shakespeare classics and modern cult hits like “Spamalot” and “Evil Dead”. Every production seeks to build a relationship between the community and the story being told. Their hope is to engage guests with their unconventional style and cultivate a love of theater through educational programs. They are eager to provide opportunities for high school and college students to learn more about the industry by offering lectures with their directors on specific topics from vocal techniques and exercises to set design and the business aspect of theater.
This season’s first main-stage production will take place at the McLean House as part of a collaboration with the Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park: a Civil War adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet” every weekend in June. Tickets can be added on to any room reservation made for those nights. To learn more about other productions and events happening in town and nearby, visit our events page.