By Joe Johnson
Ensemble Stage, a 99-seat professional theatre that has presented over 80 productions with over 300 performances at the Hahn Auditorium in Banner elk, will be showing three separate productions during their fall 2019 show season.
Beginning the season’s production schedule is Sleeping Indoors, a comedy romp following a family who takes in a homeless man with exceptional hidden talent, with showings from September 13 through September 23. Next up on the Ensemble Stage schedule is War of the Worlds on October 25 and 26, based on the classic tale created by H.G. Wells in 1897 and famously broadcasted over radio airwaves in 1938 and narrated by Orson Welles. Finally, the fall season at Ensemble Stage will culminate with the fast-paced holiday musical production that has become a local tradition entitled A Banner Elk Christmas 2 supplying holiday joy to the High Country on December 6, 8, 20, 21, and 22.
Sleeping Indoors is a comedy that provides a smooth transition into the fall season after Ensemble Stage’s final summer production, The Redeemer, which was an intensely emotional drama. Sleeping Indoors is a story about a family: a husband, a wife, and the husband’s sister. The wife’s character is the kind of person who enjoys rescuing beings in need such as stray cats and brings them home to care for them. Per her husband’s suggestion, the wife brings home a homeless man during Christmastime and the family discovers the man has a hidden talent for writing brilliant works of art, which he uses to chronicle in his journal. “The story is about the husband, his wife, and his sister trying to convince the homeless man to come out of anonymity, which he is perfectly happy living in, to become a superstar author,” said Gary Smith, Artistic Director of Ensemble Stage, “It’s got some very funny moments in it and some very nice, tug on the heart strings moments as well. It’s a nice all-around comedy and it will leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling.”
Ensemble Stage’s productions of Sleeping Indoors will include four professional actors portraying the four titular characters in the play; Josh Yoder, who is not only a professional actor, but an acting teacher at Lees-McRae college, Mark Woodard, who has been in over a half dozen shows at Ensemble Stage and is described as a fan-favorite “chameleon” of an actor, Sharon Penney, who has worked in numerous film productions in areas such as Wilmington, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and finally, Jennifer Smith, who is a professional theatre actor with over 20 years’ experience from Jackson, Mississippi.
Smith also warned potential attendees that there are a few adult themes contained within Sleeping Indoors and encourages parents to call Ensemble Stage in order to discuss the production and decide if it would be appropriate for their child to attend. However, Smith personally believes it is probably appropriate for most children above the age of 12 to attend for the simple reason that attendees under 12 may be bored by the play. It is ultimately up to parents to decide if Sleeping Indoors is appropriate for their child.
War of the Worlds is the next production that will be shown at Ensemble Stage this fall season, based on the creation by H.G. Wells from the late 19th century and made immensely popular via Orson Welles’ narration of the story broadcasted over the radio in 1938 that famously caused some listeners to mistake the narration as a true news broadcast of an extraterrestrial invasion. The Ensemble stage production switches Welles’ script up by changing the original locations of Martian attacks, such as New York and New Jersey, into local areas of the High Country such as Newland and Banner Elk. The only differences between Ensemble Stage’s script and the original Orson Welles script are the locations; everything else follows the original script. The audience can expect to be exhilarated while watching Ensemble Stage’s production of War of the Worlds due in part to the extensive stage mechanics used to simulate the experience of Martian attacks and battles with the U.S. government. “All of the sound effects are done just like they were done in the 1930s on a soundstage. We have wind machines that people crank, we have three or four fun little gizmos that are activated and manipulated live on stage for the Martian ship, Martian walkers, planes bombing the Martians; all of that is done live on stage and it’s a lot of fun,” said Smith, “People really enjoy that show. We used to do only one performance of War of the Worlds, but it got to where we had so many people who wanted to come back to see the show we decided to do two performances. We do have quite a few people who will buy tickets to both performances; they will watch it on the first night to watch all of the sound effects being done live and they’ll come back the second night just to close their eyes and listen to it just like the listeners of the 1938 radio broadcast.”
Finally, Ensemble Stage’s 2019 fall season will culminate with their annual holiday musical called A Banner Elk Christmas 2, which has become a tradition in Banner Elk that draws in visitors from both outside of the High Country and inside the local community. A Banner Elk Christmas 2 will follow the same format that is always followed during Ensemble Stage’s Christmas shows, except the list of songs in the production is switched up each year. The show is exceptionally fast-paced and includes partial songs as well as full songs that are choreographed, drawing influence from the Christmas shows that were popular on American television in the 1960s and 1970s. “We follow the format of the old Andy Williams and Bing Crosby Christmas shows that were on TV back in the 60s and 70s. There will be lots of singing, lots of dancing, lots of costume changes with women in pretty dresses, ball gowns, guys in tuxedos, and every song is choreographed to have its own story in the performance,” said Smith, “There is a lot of scenery changing and its very fast-paced; we have some new cast members and with that comes a different take on songs depending on their range, how many altos, or how many sopranos we have singing. It’s always different regarding the music itself and the choreography itself; it all changes, but the format is the same. We haven’t come up with our song list for this year’s performance, but last year we did all or part of over 40 holiday songs in the course of about an hour and five minutes.”
Tickets for Sleeping Indoors are $22 plus tax for Seniors/Military and $24 plus tax for adults. Please call the box office to discuss the play’s themes if you would like to purchase tickets for children. Tickets for War of the Worlds are $16 plus tax for Adults/Seniors and $10 plus tax for kids 16 years old and under. Tickets for A Banner Elk Christmas 2 are $22 plus tax for Adults/Seniors and $12 plus tax for kids 16 and under.
To purchase tickets for any of these fall productions at Ensemble Stage, visit http://www.ensemblestage.com/Box-Officefallwinter.htmlor call the Ensemble Stage box office at (828)-414-1844.