By Jessica Isaacs
Summer weather is cooling back down in the High Country, but Blowing Rock’s own professional theater company is just heating up.
Ensemble Stage offers a variety of performances for locals and visitors to enjoy throughout the summer, and its next show opens this weekend. Here’s a look at the performances you can enjoy this month at Ensemble:
KILLING TIME — July 11-14, 17-19
Ensemble opens its latest show, Killing Time, on Saturday. In this Richard Stockwell play, the chance meeting of a man and a woman turns into a twisted tale that’s anything but innocent.
Ensemble Stage Artistic Director Gary Smith said he’s excited to share this suspense thriller with local audiences.
“It’s a real cat and mouse kind of game. It keeps the audience guessing as to who’s manipulating things,” Smith said. “It’s very character driven and things aren’t always what they seem to be in the sense of who these characters are, what their intentions are and what each one is presenting to the other.
“It’s always fun to do these shows. By intermission, you might think you have all of the answers, but in the end you learn that you were completely wrong. That makes for an enjoyable night of theater, I think.”
In addition to the many hardworking folks behind the scenes, Killing Time features professional actors Laura Hodos and Mark Colbenson on the stage.
“Mark is a professional actor out of St. Petersburg who came up here in April to audition for us and he did a great job,” Smith said. “He’s got a great look for the character he’s playing and a great résumé for an actor. It’s his first time up here in Blowing Rock and I’m sure, like everyone else who comes here, he will want to come back.”
Hodos, who hails from Orlando, also starred in Ensemble’s first show of the season, The Love List, a playful comedy that ran from June 20-28 in Blowing Rock.
Hodos has written several cabarets and will perform her latest one-woman show, Julie and Mary and Ethel and Babs, for one night only at Ensemble on Sunday.
JULIE AND MARY AND ETHEL AND BABS! — July 12
This one-of-a-kind show pays musical tribute to four icons of Broadway, the stage and the screen: Julie Andrews, Mary Martin, Ethel Mermen and Barbra Streisand.
“She’s done shows all over the world. She’s performed in Japan and has traveled up and down the east coast doing musical theater and her cabaret shows,” Smith said. “She’s got one of those voices that’s just so rich and vibrant and has so much expression. When she sings it seems effortless on her part — as an old director of mine would say, ‘She sings like butter.’”
In addition to her powerful singing voice, Smith said Hodos packs a lot of personality on and off the stage.
“She’s great at creating and developing layers and characters, which comes into play in Killing Time,” Smith said. “She’s also just one of those people you like to be around — always smiling, always telling jokes, always keeping things light. Audiences love Laura and I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
AND A CHILD SHALL LEAD — July 24-26
Later this month, Ensemble will premiere a powerful performance of Michael Slade’s And a Child Shall Lead, which tells the story of eight children confined in the Terezin Concentration Camp during World War II.
“There are no adults in this cast, just the eight kids. We’ve been rehearsing it for three-and-a-half months and it’s going to be very powerful show,” Smith said. “It’s not what you’d expect from kids in theater.
“They are playing real people, not fictitious characters, and most of them died at that camp. The kids are doing a wonderful job of understanding the characters, respecting the script and honoring the people they’re playing.”
And a Child Shall Lead opens on July 24.
Click here to visit Ensemble Stage online for tickets and show times.
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