Opera House showcases music, dance and storytelling
From bluegrass to gypsy jazz, the second half of the Pocahontas County Opera House Performance Series offers something for everyone. The Pocahontas County Opera House Foundation presentsﾠsix performances between March and June, featuring the contemporary dance of Attack Theatre, the bluegrass stylings of Jim and Valerie Gabehart, driving old-time music by Juanita Fireball and The Continental Drifters, the gypsy jazz performance art of Caravan of Thieves, story-telling and music by Doug Elliott and the sweet harmonies of The Honey Dewdrops.
7:30 p.m. March 16
Under the artistic direction of Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza, Attack Theatre has been making personal, accessible and collaborative dance-based performances with "ninja-like intensity" (Pittsburgh Tribune Review) for 15 years. They combine modern dance, original live music, multimedia and interdisciplinary art forms to present work in traditional and nontraditional spaces both nationally and internationally.
They have collaborated with major regional theaters (Quantum Theatre), NYC Broadway productions (Squonk), museums (Carnegie Museum of Art, Andy Warhol Museum, Frick Art Museum, Mattress Factory), symphonies (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra), operas (Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh, Spoleto USA) and international dance companies (Japan's Nibroll Collective, Belgium's Compagnie Matteo Moles), thereby presenting nearly 100 original works in theatrical and site specific settings. While maintaining a loyal audience in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they have toured nationally in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, D.C., Texas, Washington, New York and Massachusetts; and internationally, throughout France, Monaco, Germany, Switzerland, Indonesia, Turkey and Japan.
Jim and Valerie Gabehart
7:30 p.m. March 24
When Jim and Valerie met and discovered their mutual interest in bluegrass music, a lifetime partnership was formed. Jim and Valerie married in 1981, while both were sophomores at Marshall University, and they started playing as a gospel bluegrass group in 1982. Together with her solid rhythm guitar playing, Valerie's voice quickly became the most recognizable part of the couple's sound. In an early review, Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine called Valerie a "gutsy, dynamic singer."
Jim developed a reputation for his banjo playing by competing in contests throughout West Virginia and surrounding states, winning or placing at the top in more than 30 contests, including consecutive wins at the West Virginia State Open Banjo Championship in Elkins and winning first or second place 12 times at contests in Charleston and at Clifftop sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Culture & History.
The Gabeharts are joined on stage by Brandon Shuping (mandolin) and John "Buckwheat" Green (bass). The group's latest recording, "It's My Turn," was released in 2010, features a mix of well-loved bluegrass standards, as well as some of Jim and Valerie's original music.
Juanita Fireball and The Continental Drifters
7:30 p.m. April 14
Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters debuted at the Pocahontas Opera House in 2008, although they have been making music together, in one form or another, for 25 years. They play the Appalachian string band tunes that they learned years ago from old-timers in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, and sing songs about animals, outlaws, fruit and love, with a few gospel numbers for balance. The high energy of their hard-driving music will have you dancing in the aisles. The band consists of Mike Burns and Jay Lockman on twin fiddles, Mary Sue Burns on clawhammer banjo, John Sparks and Terry Richardson on guitar and Wayne Walton on bass. Come prepared to have a good time.
Caravan of Thieves
7:30 p.m. April 28
This Caravan of Thieves is a ragtag crew of self-described "Gypsy-swinging, serenading, firebreathing circus freaks."
For the past three years, Caravan of Thieves has roamed the North American continent recruiting a family of avid thrill seekers at their high-energy shows. Driving gypsy jazz rhythms, acoustic guitars, upright bass and violin lay the foundation for mesmerizing vocal harmonies and fantastic stories. It's theatrical and humorous. It's musical and intense. It entertains, dazzles and defies classification while welcoming the spectator to join the band throughout the performance in momentary fits of claps, snaps and sing-alongs. If Django Reinhardt, the cast of Stomp and the Beatles all had a party at Tim Burton's house, Caravan of Thieves is the band they would hire.
In the spring of 2008, vocal harmonizing, acoustic guitar spanking husband and wife songwriting duo Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni extended their family to include fiery violinist Ben Dean and double-bass madman Brian Anderson completing their colorful vision. Since then, the four of them ran away from home and never looked back.
7:30 p.m. May 4
Doug Elliott has performed and presented programs at festivals, museums, botanical gardens, nature centers and schools from Canada to the Caribbean. He has been a featured storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He has lectured and performed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and conducted workshops for the Smithsonian Institution. He has led ranger training sessions for the National Park Service and guided people in the wilderness from down-east Maine to the Florida Everglades.
Elliott was named harmonica champion at Fiddler's Grove Festival in Union Grove, North Carolina. He is the author of four books, many articles in regional and national magazines and has recorded a number of award-winning albums of stories and songs. Elliott has traveled from the Canadian North to the Central American jungles studying plant and animal life and seeking out the traditional wisdom of people with intimate connections to the natural world. And he still looks under rocks. These days he uncovers more than just a few strange critters; he brings to light the human connection to this vibrant world of which we are a part.
The Honey Dewdrops
7:30 p.m. June 9
Husband-and-wife folk duo Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish began their careers as songwriters after their appearance and first-place win on a 2008 talent show broadcast of NPR's "A Prairie Home Companion." The Dewdrops have since released two critically acclaimed albums, "If the Sun Will Shine" (2009) and "These Old Roots" (2010).
Performing on stage, The Honey Dewdrops' "sweet kind of melancholy" echoes traditional American folk styles while reflecting the more modern sounds of country and rock. When it comes to composing, the duo strives for "relevant, meaningful songs." Their tunes and words are efficient and simple, drawing inspiration from the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia they call home. Surrounded by this richness of old-time blues and bluegrass, the Dewdrops entwine tight harmony singing with thoughtful instrumentation and craft songs that are simple and fine-tuned. Theirs are new songs from the southern mountains that ring with originality.
In addition to its regular Performance Series events, the Opera House Foundation is excited to partner with Pocahontas County Free Libraries and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation to present two special events.
Pam Lund and students
7 p.m. March 9
Admission by donation
Local music teacher Pam Lund and her students present a concert to benefit the McClintic Public Library. Lund has offered lessons at the library for many years. As a thank-you to the award-winning library, she and her students are giving back with this special fundraiser concert. Admission will be by donation. The evening is also an opportunity for the eager young musicians to show off their musical talents as they looking forward to playing together on the Opera House stage.
2 p.m. April 29
The Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, Inc., in conjunction with Playwright Courtney Smith, presents the play "Welcome Home." This drama will transport the audience to the time when Pearl Buck, Oscar Hammerstein and James Michener created the Welcome House Adoption Program for mixed race children. Through the play we will see these three characters grapple with the tough choices of the day and the realization that all children should be treated equally without regard to race or country of origin.
Before the play, Janet Mintzer, CEO of Pearl S. Buck International, will speak to the audience about the Welcome House Adoption Program and how it has benefited countless children and families through its long and successful history.
The cast includes Stephanie Bachman, Larry Davis, Danny Boone, and Jim Norris. Each cast member brings years of experience to the stage. They all have performed in the Greenbrier Valley Theater as well as other theaters in the region.
Proceeds from the play will benefit the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation's Museum Reinvestment Campaign which is raising funds for structural repairs to the property.
The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Avenue in Marlinton. Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645. Advance tickets to Performance Series events may be purchased at the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton, or online at pocahontasoperahouse.org.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Financial support is also provided by Pocahontas County Drama, Fairs and Festivals, Pendleton Community Bank, Glades Building Supply, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Brightside Acres, and the Law Office of Roger D. Forman.
Attack Theatre appears with grant support from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by The Heinz Endowments; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and The Pew Charitable Trusts; and administered by Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.