A Memorable Night at Overnight Sensations

Stephen Glassbrenner takes a belt of liquor during his “debate”
Mary Jean Levin and me dancing the night away.

There was a moment last night when Mill Mountain Theatre sounded like it was holding a championship basketball game. The crowd all but exploded during a play–written by Ben Williams–featuring a Trump-like character debating a Clinton-like character and the Trumpster was rebuked. The place just went UP!

It was the highlight in an evening of many highlights, where the writing, directing and acting of a mish-mash of local amateur and professional theater people put on six plays (about 10 minutes each), completing the entire process (writing, producing) in 24 hours.

The political play in question, directed by Lauren Brooke Ellis, starred Stephen Glassbrunner–a solid actor who rarely has had a part as meaty as this, regardless of the length of the play–was “Different Definitions of a Problem.” It featured a gubernatorial debate between Stephen and his straight-laced, conventional opponent, played by Erin Quin Purcell. It was easy from the outset to tell where the audience’s sympathies lay.

Gene Marrano and Bonny Branch played the Trump-like supporters (dumb as egg shells) and Emma Sala, fresh off her triumph at

Zombie Natalie Faunce stole this show.

Hollins in “Chicago,” was the Hillary-type supporter. It was an amazing condensation of our nation’s problem.

I will note that for the third time (in nine plays for each of us), Mary Jean Levin and I wound up married in our play, “Lighthouse Lovers.” I fear we’re becoming typecast, but MJ really did a number, helping me become more competent on the stage.

A couple of incidental highlights were Natalie Faunce’s change from elegant lawyer to zombie and Brittany Flowers’ debut as a hotel clerk. Natalie, who

Dwayne Yancey’s musical “Denmark Barbershop …” was the best play.

with Brittany is a co-host of WSLS-TV’s “Daytime Blue Ridge,” made a quick change back stage and was simply astonishing as the zombie. Brittany expressed doubts about her competence as an actor, but she was a highlight.

There were many notable moments and accomplishments, not the least of which was Dwayne Yancey’s fall-down funny “The Denmark County Barbershop Quartet Presents …,” wherein an oddball quartet gets by singing about disasters. This is, I think, the first musical I’ve seen in the 11 Overnight Sensations and the crew (Reilly Lincavicks, Michael Mansfield, Erica Musyt, J.P. Powell, Chris Shepard and Ally Thomas) carried if off beautifully. I thought it was the best of all the plays last night.

This was truly a special “Overnight Sensations” (not only because my grandgirl Madeline was there). The laughs and overall responses were deep and genuine. On the way out, the chattering about the plays (“Oh, no, I liked the “Zombie Hearts” best …) was constant and brisk.

That’s what it’s all about because for some of those in attendance, this was an introduction to live theater. And I’m not sure it gets much more entertaining.

(Note: Most of these photos were taken by my friend, Susan.)

Actors apply makeup in the Green Room.
My buddy Bayla Sussman (who owns Bailey’s Best Chocolate) played a cop. That’s her in the center.
That’s me in the middle … Thank you very much.

By admin

Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. On Advisory Board of New River Voice.

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