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Local Theater With Local Talent - A Local Treat

Area live theater companies offer a varied 2008/2009 season

For lovers of live theater there's no need to make the journey to New York City or to pay New York prices or even venture into DC to enjoy a good play or musical. That can be accomplished right here on the Virginia side of the Potomac.

Two local thespian enterprises -- Port City Playhouse and Aldersgate Church Community Theater -- are offering a wide range of stage productions for the 2008-2009 season that has something for every audience's taste and preference. And, ticket prices don't require liquidating the family bank account.

This will be the 31st season for Alexandria's Port City Playhouse which performs at the Nannie Lee Recreation Center, 1108 Jefferson St. They are offering four outstanding productions to give audiences an exciting theater experience.

"We feel our season's lineup of plays will offer our audiences an especially good year of theater. Our goal is to present a season of challenging plays which meets the needs of a diverse audience. We select plays that are either premieres, or have not been produced in the area in five years," said Playhouse producers in their season announcement.

Kicking off this season's playbill Friday, October 31, is "An American Daughter" by Wendy Wasserstein and directed by Barra Khan. Set in Washington, DC, it focuses on the struggles of Dr. Lyssa Dent Hughes, a 40 something health care professional and daughter of a U.S. Senator, who is seeking a cabinet post. This comedy-drama encompasses all the Washington ingredients -- scandal, politics and personal ambition.

Khan, a self described "actor's director," fills the bill as an actor, producer, and choreographer. Her resume includes extensive experience at DC's National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts.

In addition to opening night, the play will be performed Friday and Saturday nights of Nov. 1, 7, 8, 14, and 15, plus Tuesday Nov. 11. Curtain time for all Port City Playhouse shows is 8 p.m.

The season's second offering, "Veronica's Room," opens Friday, Jan. 23, 2009. That is followed by performances on Jan. 24, 30, 31, and Feb. 6 and 7. Written by Ira Levin and directed by Roy Hammond it leads the audience into a intellectual dualism of mind over matter. Or is it the other way around?

By intertwining fantasy and reality, the prime character, Susan, becomes caught up in the life of the long dead Veronica Brabissant to whom she bears a striking resemblance. Upon visiting the Brabissant mansion in Ireland she finds her self locked in Veronica's room wearing Veronica's clothes. Or is she actually Veronica pretending to be Susan in a room that is as important to the plot as the characters.

Opening Friday March 27, Port City audiences will experience "Doubt, A Parable" by John Patrick Shanley and directed by Frank Pasqualino. Performances are also scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights of March 28, April 3, 4, 10, and 11 plus Tuesday, April 14.

Set in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1964, the play centers on the conflict between Sister Aloysius, a traditional, no nonsense nun who presides over a Catholic school, and a younger, more laid back parish priest, Father Flynn. The controversy focuses on what the sister considers Father Flynn's inappropriate behavior toward one of the school's new students.

Finally, comes "The Curious Savage." The warm-hearted tale of Mrs. Ethel Savage, a wealthy and energetic widow who wants to dispose of much of the family wealth. It open on Friday, May 29, with weekend performances on May 30, and June 5,6,12 and 13 as well as on Tuesday June 9.

In order to plug this financial leak in the family coffers, Ethel's greedy stepchildren have her committed to a sanitarium where she meets an array of endearing and entertaining characters. It is the spinning of this tale by John Patrick coupled with the direction of J. Arthur Rodgers that gives "The Curious Savage" its poignancy.

Ticket prices for Port City Playhouse performances are $16 general admission; $14 seniors, 60 and over, and juniors, 18 and under; and $12 for groups of 10 or more. Seating is unreserved with cash and checks accepted at the door. Credit card are only accepted for online purchases which can be made by visiting their ticket Web site at <a href=http://www.PortCityInfo@aol.com>www.PortCityInfo@aol.com</a>.

Subscriptions for the 2008/2009 season are also now on sale. A regular subscription is $45 with senior and junior subscriptions priced at $35. They offer four shows for the price of three, according to Port City Playhouse. Reservations and additional information, including membership data, can be made by calling 703-838-2880 or visiting the Web site.

Founded in 1977, Port City Playhouse has regularly won awards from area theater organizations for the artistic and technical excellence of its productions. They celebrated their 25th Anniversary in September 2002.

<b>ALDERSGATE CHURCH COMMUNITY THEATER (ACCT)</b> performs in Fellowship Hall of Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 1301 Collingwood Road, located at the intersection of Fort Hunt and Collingwood roads. They are offering three shows for the 2008/2009 season plus a children's show in January 2009.

Formed in 1990 as a fund raiser for the church, ACCT is now a separate entity. The church, as a sponsor, supplies the venue, according to Shirley Bolsted, an ACCT founder and chair of the group's Producers' Council. "We enjoyed performing so much we just kept it going," she said.

"Over the years we have earned enough money to buy lighting and curtains for the stage and pay for all the other costs that go into our productions," Bolstad said. The costs for the shows average $8,000 to $10,000 for musicals and $5,000 to $6,000 for plays, according to Bolstad.

"This year we are in the process of purchasing new padded chairs for the audience. They won't have to sit on the hard metal chairs anymore," said Bailey Center, ACCT secretary/treasurer and member of the Producers Council.

Center also serves as Chairman of the Washington Area Theater Community Honors (WATCH). That organization judges non-professional community theater productions throughout the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area and presents awards at the end of each season.

"WATCH is like a local version of the Academy Awards. ACCT has been nominated for awards several times although we've never actually won an award -- yet," Bolsted said.

Each ACCT production consists of performances over three weekends not including the January 2009 children's presentation of Walt Disney's "Aladdin,Jr.," a family presentation."By producing this show we hope to encourage young people who have an interest in theater to follow the arts," said Center.

The season opens Oct. 17 with "Dearly Beloved" by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones. Set somewhere in a hardscrabble section of the southern U.S., it tells the story of a not so pleasant father named Bud Turpin and the impressions he left on friends and relatives throughout his "not so God fearing life."

This comedy highlights Bud's extended family's myriad responses to his passing. His wife, Raynelle, describes her recently departed spouse as "mean and surly," when asked by the preacher who is to give the eulogy.

In February, ACCT will present the 1957 classic legal drama "Twelve Angry Men" written by Reginald Rose. To be directed by Roland Branford Gomez, it deals with the conflicts 12 male jurors face in the jury room while attempting to decide the fate of a youth accused of killing his father. It not only explores the concepts of guilt or innocence of the defendant but also the inner human conflicts of each juror.

On June 26 its back to the lighter side with "The Fantastics" which is scheduled to run through July 11. The story of two fathers who attempt to keep their son and daughter from falling in love, it will be directed by Drew and Mim Vander Linden. Jeff Taylor, former director of the U.S.Navy Jazz Band, The Commodores, will serve as music director for this small cast musical.

ACCT prices ranges are: Musicals- $18 regular admission and $15 for students and seniors; Plays - $15 regular admission and $12 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at www.presaleticketing up to 5 p.m. the day of each performance. Reservations can also be made by calling 703-660-2611.

Additional information is available at the ACCT Web site <a href=http://www.ACCTonline.org>www.ACCTonline.org</a>.

"We get a lot of walk-ins that just come to the box office the night of the performance. We usually get 50 to 70 people attending our plays and about 100 plus to the musicals," Bolstad said.

"The other big advantage we have is the parking. The church has a large parking lot which makes it very convenient for those coming to our shows. Our ministers are very supportive of our efforts," she said.

All those who participate in ACCT productions are volunteers -- from the actors, to stage hands, to makeup and ushers. "The only people who receive any pay are the directors, the musical director and the choreographer," Bolstad said.