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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

September 16, 2014

A Tribute to Laura Hewitt

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:53 am

(Photo courtesy of Wade Spees/The Post and Courier)


Charleston Stage lost one of its dearest friends on Monday.

Laura Hewitt gave so very much to our community over the years. She served on many of Charleston’s leading non-profit boards, chairing fundraiser after fundraiser and cheering on those in the non-profit and arts worlds of the Lowcountry. She inspired a generation of artistic and social service organizations and made us all want to do our best. Because of her efforts, Laura made a difference in literally thousands of lives, both young and old, throughout our community.

Laura served as one of Charleston Stage’s first gala and auction chairs, growing this annual event into one of Charleston’s premiere fundraisers and providing the funding to enrich and expand Charleston Stage’s education programs. Laura served as vice-president and president of the Board of Trustees for multiple terms. As president, she oversaw the creation of Charleston Stage’s Resident Professional Acting Company, which has brought over 60 full-time professional actors to the Dock Street stage to perform—actors who have also provided numerous enriching and imaginative workshops in area schools.

Laura and her husband, Bill, have sponsored a Charleston Stage MainStage production each season for almost 20 years, including last season’s Gershwin at Folly. Laura was especially supportive of original works and always encouraged us to produce “something new”.

Laura was the epitome of one who gave her time, talent and treasure to her community. I remember at her very first board meeting she raised her hand and offered to sponsor an upcoming production of My Fair Lady. But her real gift was sharing her no-nonsense, straightforward and wise counsel with us. Without her leadership and guidance over so many years, Charleston Stage would be a shadow of what it is today.

More than anything, it was Laura’s never failing enthusiasm—not just for what we were producing but more importantly what we might produce next—that continued to inspire us. Her enthusiasm, time and time again, challenged us and made us a better organization. In many ways, it was her contagious energy that helped to set the stage for Charleston Stage’s remarkable growth during her many years of support and patronage.

Charleston and Charleston Stage have lost a treasured friend. I have no doubt, however, that for Charleston Stage and for the many other organizations with whom Laura worked, her enthusiasm lives on and will continue to inspire us for many years to come.

Thank you, Laura. We will miss you.

Julian Wiles
Charleston Stage
Founder and Producing Artistic Director





September 11, 2014

Adopt a Star

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:52 am


Our adorable furry stars of “You Can’t Take It With You” are looking for a quieter life off the stage.

Feline Freedom Coalition focuses on the adoption of socialized feral cats and kittens through PetSmart’s Adoption Outreach Program and you can help.

Charleston Stage audience members have adopted other furry stars from past productions such as Bruiser, the “Legally Blonde” Chihuahua, Gwyneth, the rabbit from “The Secret Garden” and even the rat from “Dracula”.

Help us continue these great partnerships and give these sweeties a new home or help us find one.  If you are interested or know someone who is, please contact Marybeth Clark at

Adoption fee is $75/kitten

Adoption ‘package’ includes: spay/neuter, rabies, distemper, microchip, de-worming, flea treatment and combo test. Feline Freedom Coalition tries to get kittens fixed at 12 weeks (if healthy) so that they can get the rabies shot at the same time. In certain situations, the Coalition may approve a ‘pre-adoption’ and let the adopting family essentially foster kittens until they’re old enough to get fixed. These kittens have already received their first round of de-worming and initial flea treatment and the Coalitions’ estimate is that the kittens are around 8 weeks.

For more information about Feline Freedom Coalition visit their website at

Feline Freedom Coalition
P.O. Box 874, Ravenel, SC 29470
(843) 737-6170




April 4, 2014

Rhapsody at Folly: George Gershwin’s 1934 Folly Beach Vacation

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 3:17 pm


Gershwin at Folly Beach, 1934. Photo courtesy of The George Gershwin Family, The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts, and the DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund.

Charleston author DuBose Heyward’s Porgy was published in 1925, and its simple tale of a handicapped black peddler and the woman he loved became a bestseller. Given a copy by lyricist Emily Paley, Gershwin returned late to his apartment from a party and stayed up all night reading it. Immediately he thought it would be the perfect vehicle to create the first truly American opera. He began correspondence with Heyward, but because Gershwin was not ready to begin work on the opera immediately, the project was put aside. Heyward’s wife Dorothy, however, who had studied playwrighting, secretly began a non-musical adaptation. Later, she shared her progress with DuBose and the two of them finished adapting the novel as a stage play. This version of Porgy’s story was produced to great acclaim on Broadway by the Theatre Guild in 1927. Heyward himself coached the actors on Gullah accents, traditional Lowcountry spirituals were incorporated into the play, and the renowned Jenkins Orphanage Band was brought from Charleston to take part in the production.


Featured: Dorothy and DuBose Heyward. Photo courtesy of The George Gershwin Family, The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts, and the DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund.


The success of the play enhanced Gershwin’s interest, and in 1933 he and Heyward agreed to begin work on a full-scale opera version of Porgy. Before they could get to work, however, Gershwin, much to Heyward’s dismay, signed on to produce an NBC Radio Show entitled, Music by Gershwin which was sponsored by Fin-a-mint Laxative. Gershwin asked Heyward to be patient, explaining he needed the funds generated by the radio show to pay for the time he needed to write the opera. Though much of Gershwin and Heyward’s collaboration was done via mail with Heyward in Charleston and Gershwin in New York, Heyward insisted that Gershwin visit Charleston to absorb first hand the rich Gullah culture of the Lowcountry. Gershwin and Heyward met in Charleston to begin work on the opera during Christmas 1933, but this was only a brief visit. At Heyward’s urging, Gershwin agreed to return the following summer for a working vacation on Folly Island, where he intended to soak up the atmosphere he would need to compose Porgy and Bess.


A photo of George Gershwin and his cousin, artist Henry Botkin on Folly Beach, 1934. Photo courtesy of The George Gershwin Family, The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts, and the DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund.


In mid-June 1934, Gershwin arrived by train in Charleston with his cousin, the painter, Henry Botkin. Though not a character in the play, we have artist Henry Botkin to thank for the watercolor sketch of the front beach cottage that was rented for his time on Folly. Gershwin and his cousin were met at the station by Paul Mueller, Gershwin’s black valet who had driven Gershwin’s Buick down from New York to Charleston. (For the first time, Mueller is a character in the newest version of Gershwin at Folly.)


A sketch of Gershwin’s front beach cottage at Folly Beach as sketched by his cousin Henry Botkin. Photo courtesy of The George Gershwin Family, The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts, and the DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund.


With Paul at the wheel, Gershwin traveled by car and ferry (there was no bridge) to primitive Folly Island. They even had to bring their own drinking water for there was no fresh water on Folly at the time. DuBose and Dorothy Heyward arrived home from Hollywood the next day. Heyward had been out west working on the screenplay for Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. The Heywards stayed across the street in their beach house which they had dubbed “Follywood” since it had been purchased with Heyward’s tinsel-town royalties. This cottage, now restored, still stands on Folly. Sadly, Gershwin’s cottage washed away in the hurricane of 1938.

Getting wind of the legendary George Gershwin’s arrival on Folly Beach, enterprising young Post and Courier reporter Frank Gilbreth, Jr. (whom many Charlestonians will remember as long-time columnist Ashley Cooper and who 14 years later would co-write the bestseller, Cheaper by the Dozen) showed up to interview Gershwin at his Folly Beach cottage. On June 19, 1934, under the News and Courier, the headline “Gershwin Prince of Jazz Pounds Out Rhythm at Folly-composer here to write opera of Porgy-Finds Beach ‘Back to Nature Place’.” Gilbreth reported:

Ragtime rang out loud and clear along the deserted shore at the west end of Folly Beach and mingled with the half hearted swish of small breakers . . . seated at the piano Mr. Gershwin was playing jazz as it had never been played at Folly before . . . in the kitchen two servants tapped the floor and swayed side to side. This reporter was punching the top of the piano with his fist. It was impossible to stand still.

Two weeks later, on June 29th, 1934, Gilbreth returned to find that Gershwin had “gone native.” This time Gilbreth’s headline read: “Gershwin Gone Native, Finds It ‘Shame to Work at Folly’-Wears Only Torn Pants While Writing the Opera Porgy” and his report read:

Bare . . . above the waist, an inch of hair bristling from his face and a pair of tattered kickers furnishing a sole connecting link with civilization, George Gershwin, composer of jazz, has gone native. . . . ‘You know, [Gershwin remarked], it’s so pleasant here it’s really a shame to work.’

Gershwin himself wrote his friend Emily Paley that:

This place is different from any place I’ve seen or lived in before . . . it’s been hard for me to work here as the wild waves, playing the role of the siren, beckon me every time I get stuck which is often and I, like a weak sailor, turn to them causing many hours to be knocked into a thousand useless bits.

To his mother Gershwin wrote:

The place down here looks like a battered old South Sea Island.  Yesterday was the first hot day (95 degrees) and it brought out the flies and gnats and mosquitoes . . . there is nothing to do but scratch.

But neither the mosquitos nor the heat prevented Gershwin from exploring the rich Gullah culture about him. Heyward made arrangements for Gershwin to visit Macedonia Church, a Black church on nearby James Island. There for the first time, Gershwin would hear first hand the moving traditional spirituals of the South Carolina Lowcounty. At one of these meetings Gershwin was introduced to Lowcountry “shouting”, the traditional handclapping, foot-stomping and swaying movements that were an integral part of African-American worship. Of this visit Heyward reported that:

James Island with its large population of primitive Gullah Negroes . . . furnished us with an inexhaustible source of folk material. [For George] it was more like a homecoming than an exploration. I shall never forget the night when at a Negro meeting on a remote sea island, George started “shouting” with the [congregation]. Eventually to their huge delight he stole the show. . . . I think he is probably the old only white man in America that could do that.


Watercolor sketch by George Gershwin, himself, of his studio on Folly Beach. Note the piano on the right on which he and DuBose Heyward began work on Porgy and Bess. The piano is now at the Charleston Museum. Image courtesy of Marc George Gershwin.


Back at his cottage, Gershwin and Heyward continued their work on the opera but Gershwin’s visit was soon the talk of the town and before he knew it, he had agreed to become a judge for the 1934 Miss Folly Beach Contest. Gershwin also managed to find time to attend parties in Charleston where his piano playing was often the life of the party. Somehow amidst the beauty pageant, the late night parties and the lazy lure of the surf, Gershwin and Heyward did manage to make significant progress on Porgy and Bess. Gershwin, who usually created the music first, with his brother Ira adding the words later, worked the other way around with Heyward. A poet, Heyward proved to be a natural lyricist creating “Summertime” and many other splendid songs. Back in New York, Ira added his hand to the final versions of many of the lyrics and the lyrics to some songs himself including “I Got Plenty of Nothin’,” “Oh I Can’t Sit Down”.

Despite the fact that George and DuBose spent their summer on a sea island where the “livin’ is easy”, by the end of that lazy summer on Folly Beach, the immortal Porgy and Bess was well underway. The next year, in the fall of 1935, Porgy and Bess, An American Folk Opera, an American masterpiece, premiered in New York City.






March 27, 2014

The Magical Art of Jonathan Green Transforms Sets and Costumes for New “Gershwin at Folly”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 1:18 pm

Jonathan Green

“When Director Marybeth Clark and I began working on this newest version of Gershwin at Folly, we wanted a way to graphically illustrate that Gershwin’s coming to Folly Beach was like coming to another world-a truly magical and exotic world,” explains playwright, Julian Wiles.  “Gershwin himself, in a letter to his mother said arriving on Folly was as if he had ‘landed on a battered South Sea Island.’  Folly was indeed fairly primitive in those days, there was no bridge and you had to bring your own fresh water with you.  What better way to illustrate Gershwin’s discovery of the exotic and still wild South Carolina Lowcountry than through the art of renowned Gullah artist Jonathan Green.  Jonathan had painted the stunning Grand Show Curtain for our return to the Dock Street in 2010 so it seemed a natural fit to ask him to become involved in this project.  Jonathan quickly and enthusiastically agreed.”

“What drew me to this project was the cultural inclusion of Julian’s script as it tells the amazing story of Gershwin discovering and embracing the rich Gullah Culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry,” notes Jonathan Green.  “I was impressed at how the play shows how the lives of the people of the Lowcountry have been intertwined for generations-their music, their culture, their way of life.  I was excited to be able to use my talents to add a visual reflection of the life and times of the people of the Lowcountry during Gershwin’s historic visit.  Just as Gershwin used his musical talents to celebrate and immortalize the rich and vibrant culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry, I set out to capture the color and light and vibrancy of the Gullah world of 1934.  Through my paintings and sketches I put that world up on stage-joining Julian and his cast in celebrating this special moment in Lowcountry cultural history.”  Jonathan began by reading the script, but he didn’t just read it-he made elaborate pencil sketches in the margins, soon filling the pages with delightful drawings from cover to cover-more than 50 of them.  Next, Jonathan painted five small paintings to illustrate key scenes in the play.  He made colorful and fanciful renditions of Gershwin’s cottage on Folly, dancers at the Indigo Club, a juke joint, a gospel filled church, a beautiful beach, a marsh landscape and more.


Featured above left: Sketches drawn by Jonathan Green on the pages of the "Gershwin at Folly" script. Featured above right: Jonathan Green’s imaginative take on George Gershwin’s Folly Beach Cottage.


Next, it fell to Charleston Stage’s Resident Scenic Designer Ken Barnett to translate Jonathan’s work into actual scenery.  “The first thing we did,” explained Barnett, “was to make things three-dimensional.  Our main set, which we call ‘Jonathan Green-Land’ features clouds (drawn from Jonathan’s paintings) floating in the air, and cut out palmetto trees that appear from left and right.  Upstage there are sand dunes and a beautiful multicolored ocean-cape that finishes out this 3-D rendering of Jonathan’s work.  Some scenic elements such as Gershwin’s beach cottage came directly from his painting, others we adapted from the pencil drawings Jonathan did in the margins of the script.  Like the Gershwin family, who allowed Julian to draw on any and all of Gershwin’s music, Jonathan generously allowed us to use elements from his other paintings as well.  For instance, there’s a wonderful oak tree that we are using from Jonathan’s painting called ‘Tales’ (1998).”


Jonathan Green's painting called ‘Tales’ (1998).


Charleston Stage Resident Costumer Barbara Young was charged with adapting characters from Jonathan’s artwork into costumes that actors could actually wear.  “With such a wealth of color and patterns in Jonathan’s art,” said Young, “Jonathan gave us many possibilities to work with.  We sought out fabrics that reflected the bold patterns of his characters, copied those wonderful hats he creates and more.  Like Ken, we drew both from Jonathan’s paintings and from the delightful character sketches he created in the margins of the script.  It’s been fun.”

Combining art and music and Folly Beach is nothing new.  When Gershwin himself arrived on Folly Beach he arrived with his artist cousin, Henry Botkin, who painted a number of canvases during his stay.  Botkin had studied in Paris and had helped Gershwin build an impressive personal art collection which included works by Gauguin, Kandinsky and Chagall.  Thanks to Botkin, we have a watercolor sketch of the cottage Gershwin stayed in that summer.  Gershwin, himself, was an accomplished painter and while on Folly created a watercolor sketch of his Folly Beach studio.  This watercolor shows his iron bed, a single light bulb hanging overhead and the piano Gershwin rented to begin his work on Porgy and Bess.


(Photo Courtesy of Marc George Gershwin)


Across the street from Gershwin’s cottage was the cottage owned by his hosts, Dorothy and DuBose Heyward.  The Heywards had purchased their beach house with funds DuBose had earned writing screenplays in Hollywood, so they dubbed their beach house “Follywood”.  This house still stands and has been lovingly restored by Myles and Kathy Glick.

“I think Gershwin would be pleased that we’ve combined the art of the Lowcountry in telling the story of his Folly Beach sojourn,” says playwright Wiles.  “Gershwin himself embraced a wide range of artistic and musical styles and his compositions certainly reflect this, ranging from classical to jazz to the indigenous spirituals and music of the Gullah culture he discovered on nearby James Island.  Gershwin at Folly, using the vibrant colors and whimsy of Jonathan Green’s art, celebrates Gershwin’s merging of art and cultures-the creative whirlwind that gave us, and the world, Porgy and Bess.”






February 3, 2014

An Inside Look at “Next To Normal”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 2:47 pm


From left to right: Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Jacob Dickey as Gabriel Goodman, Professional Guest Actor Annie Freres as Diana Goodman and New York Professional Equity Guest Actor Sean Hayden as Dan Goodman.

Sometimes I think the very best plays, movies, books and stories are the hardest to describe to someone.  “What’s it about?” friends ask, and we try to tell them and we’re at a loss.  “You just have to see it,” we say.  Next to Normal is one of those shows.  It doesn’t fit any mold.   It’s a musical, but not a bubbly tap- dancing musical.  It has romance, but it’s not a romantic comedy.  It has its mysteries, but it’s not a mystery.  It has rock music, but it’s not a rock concert.  You just have to see it.

The writers of Next to Normal, composer Tom Kitt and playwright and lyricist Brian Yorkey, said they set out to write a musical about a woman undergoing ECT—electroconvulsive therapy.  In fact the show’s original title was actually “Feeling Electric”—but soon, as Kitt and Yorkey tell it, they realized that Next to Normal was not about a single event or even a specific illness.  It was not a show about a disease, it was a show about people—an ordinary, but challenged family and the struggles they face every day.  All families have their struggles, which is why Next to Normal has struck chords with so many.  The one note drama of Feeling Electric, evolved into Next to Normal, a full symphony of emotions as it follows one family’s hopes, dreams, laughter, tears, frustrations and anger.  Along the way, one of the most original and imaginative musicals ever came into being—a unique show that proved that musicals don’t have to be light and fluffy but can take on serious themes.  Audiences were moved, the critics raved, and Next to Normal won the Pulitzer Prize, an accolade rarely bestowed on musicals.

We are honored to be able to bring this special show to the Lowcountry for the first time—and to do so with an amazing, all professional cast including our two guest actors Annie Freres and Sean Hayden.  They are joined by members of Charleston Stage’s Resident Professional Acting Company, Jacob Dickey, Aaron Hancock and Jesse Siak, as well as outstanding Charleston actress Celeste Riddle.  The show also marks the Dock Street debut of the College of Charleston’s Charlie Calvert, our guest scenic artist who designed the show’s spectacular set.  Add in a Tony nominated rock score, a live band led by Charleston Stage’s Resident Music Director, Sam Henderson, and we have a not to be missed evening in the theatre.

Putting this show together has been a moving experience for all of us and we look forward to sharing the remarkable musical with you.  When the performance is over, you will probably find it difficult to explain to your friends just what this stunning and moving show is all about.  So just tell them, “You have to see it for yourself.”

Julian Wiles, the Director of Next to Normal, is Charleston Stage’s Founder and Producing Artistic Director.

From left to right: Professional Guest Actor Annie Freres as Diana Goodman, Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Jacob Dickey as Gabriel Goodman and New York Professional Equity Guest Actor Sean Hayden as Dan Goodman.





December 5, 2013

Meet Broadway Veteran Joel Robertson, Starring as Oliver Warbucks in “Annie”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:44 pm

Broadway Veteran Joel Robertson, Starring as Oliver Warbucks in "Annie"

Joel Robertson was featured in the Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde as the Bishop of Basingstoke directed by Robin Phillips and the movie starring David Hasselhoff, directed by Gerry Zaks. He was in the original production of Parade, directed by Hal Prince, at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center and received standing ovations for nine years in Les Miserables, six years in the original cast of Cats, both directed by Trevor Nunn, and played Fyedka in the Broadway and National Touring production of Fiddler on the Roof at the NY State Theatre, starring Herschel Bernardi, directed by Jerome Robbins. He has been seen on All My Children as Mort Greenway, and thrilled audiences as Santa Claus in Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular in Chicago. Some of his favorite roles are Max in Sunset Boulevard at the Gateway Playhouse, Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof, at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and Sir Francis Beekman in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, at the Finger Lakes Music Theater Festival. Mr. Robertson also performs in many benefits throughout the year and has been featured in Lincoln Center’s Meet the Artist series. With his wife and Co-founder he created ATC Studios, a New Jersey Non-Profit Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts in 1990, ( and continues to bring vision and quality to those programs, launching the careers of hundreds who dare to dream.


Featured Center: Broadway Veteran Joel Robertson as Oliver Warbucks.


From Left to Right: Broadway Veteran Joel Robertson as Oliver Warbucks and Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Katrin Murdock as Grace Farrell.


Featured: Charleston's Own Madelyn Anderson as Annie and Broadway Veteran Joel Robertson as Oliver Warbucks.




November 1, 2013

Scenic Design for “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 8:26 am

Q: How did you prepare for designing Sherlock Holmes? Were there any challenges or things you faced in creating the designs?
A:  I spent time researching old Victorian drawings, films set in the Victorian era and photos of Victorian architecture. The challenge of designing Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure was finding an interesting and practical solution to all the locations in the show. We needed the scenery to be eye-catching, yet move quickly and seamlessly.

I think we found a great solution and I hope our audiences have enjoyed it.

Q: What has been inspiring your designs? Is there a particular era you are designing Sherlock Holmes in?
A: We ended up setting our show in the Victorian era with a steam-punk edge thrown in. All of our scenic pieces are very detailed interiors in the shape of puzzle pieces. Color and texture play a large part in both the costume and scenic design.

Q: How has the Production team been collaborating to produce Sherlock Holmes? Do the costume elements tie into the set elements?
A: I think that our Production team worked very well together creating this show. It was really a thrill to see the costumes, lights, scenic pieces and sound design all come together when the actors took the stage! I hope everyone comes out to see our show if they haven’t seen it yet for the final weekend of performances! Cheers!


The Gasworks

The Home of Godfrey Norton

221 B Baker's Street

October 30, 2013

Meet Michael David Wilson, playing Godfrey Norton in “Sherlock Holmes”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:39 am

Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for theatre and the arts?
A: I am a Charleston native; born and raised. When I was a child, my father didn’t believe in video games and electric scooters so much as he did in books and what he coined as pedal power. So, I found myself having to rely on my mind to fuel my entertainment. It developed my imagination and subsequently I was very good at playing pretend. When I was 8 and found out there was an actual job for pretenders called acting, I became bent on turning my love of stories into a life long career.

Q: Where did you study theatre?
A: I took a class while I was attending James Island Charter but there were hardly any acting opportunities available. A little nudge came from my mom, and I auditioned for the Charleston School of the Arts my sophomore year. I was admitted and spent the last two years of my high school career studying theatre everyday.

Q: Where have you worked previously? What are some of your favorite roles?
A: My professional theatre experience is limited to Charleston Stage at the moment, however, I have performed in numerous productions with schools and youth group drama troupes. Over the past year I have been co-developing films to be shot in Charleston prior to my departure for the big city. To answer the latter, I’d have to say Hamlet and Robert Renfield top the list right now. They were the biggest challenges I’ve had to face so far. I learned a lot from the countless hours I spent pouring myself into the work.
Q: How did you prepare for playing your roles in Sherlock Holmes? Were there any challenges or things that you were excited about with taking on these characters?
A: I went ahead and re-familiarized myself with the world by reading the story our play is based off of and watching various Sherlock productions. From the beginning, Julian told us he wanted to take these well known characters and stories and make them our own. It was easier for me, Im sure, than other certain cast members since Godfrey is only briefly described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Steven Dietz, the playwright, took Godfrey elaborated and put his own very clever twist on him. That being said, he is an almost entirely original character with this clearly fleshing him out. As far as the challenges, I had to find a way to properly channel a man who is at a very different point in his life than I am in mine. I’m still a young man. I’ve been taught it’s important to play every character with truth, so I had to identify what likened me to this character early on so I could develop him to the best of my ability.

Q: What do you look forward to each performance playing your roles in Sherlock Holmes? What are you most excited audiences will take away from this production?
A: Im looking forward to sharing the stage with a group of very talented people. I hope we are able to give the audience an escape from their everyday 2013 routines and bring (most of) them back to a world that has excited and captivated since its inception.

Q: Please share with us your thoughts and experience with working with Charleston Stage at the Historic Dock Street Theatre.
A: I feel blessed to have been able to have my professional stage debut and continually perform at the Dock Street. It is an extremely beautiful venue. I thank Charleston Stage for that and for the opportunities it has given me as I have learned much and gained many new friends from its shows.

From left to right: Charleston Veteran Actors Patrick Arnheim as Father, Michael David Wilson as Godfrey Norton and Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Katrin Murdock as Irene Adler.

Charleston Veteran Actor Michael David Wilson as Godfrey Norton.

Charleston Veteran Actor Michael David Wilson as James Larabee and Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Katrin Murdock as Irene Adler.

October 28, 2013

Meet George Dippold, playing the King of Bohemia in “Sherlock Holmes”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 8:57 am

Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for theatre and the arts?
A: In Harrisonburg, VA, where I was born and raised until I was 3, my grandma played piano and sang with me, and pulled me in a wagon (because even then I had grown too big for her to carry…) to the local library where we’d listen to different story times and watch puppet shows. When we moved to downtown Richmond, VA, my mother began taking my siblings and I to as many different plays as possible. Some of the earliest memories I have are of seeing Theatre IV shows, watching the juggler/magician, Jonathan Austin, perform at local libraries, and attending an Earth Day show about recycling at Firehouse Theatre Project where we happened to receive our own private performance! Once we moved from downtown Richmond to the suburbs, the large “costume closet” wardrobe that my mother had filled with old costumes and clothing came with us, fueling our many long afternoons of my siblings and I producing plays with our neighborhood friends in our backyard treehouse. And listening to my father croon bravely along to songs with or without the radio, and create or read the liveliest and silliest of bedtime stories always encouraged my siblings and I too.

Q: Where did you study theatre?
A: I went to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, where I was born and where my grandma has lived for around 50 years or so now. I started out as a double major in Media Arts & Design and Theatre, hoping to pursue filmmaking and acting equally, but quickly realized just how focused on theatre I wanted to become.

Q: Where have you worked previously? What are some of your favorite roles?
A:  I have worked a couple of summers with Empty Chair Theatre, a small troupe based out of Arlington, VA, comprised of many students and recent graduates from across the country and following in the footsteps of the innovative traditionalist methods of Staunton, VA’s American Shakespeare Center. Other than that, I’ve worked with some smaller companies around the Harrisonburg and Richmond areas, but this is my first foray into working with a larger professional theatre. Some favorite roles have included Santiago in Anna in the Tropics, Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Matt in Red Light Winter, Ralph Clark in Our Country’s Good, Orpheus/Cyex in Metamorphoses and Richard in Richard II.

Q: How did you prepare for playing the King of Bohemia in Sherlock Holmes?
A: With the King of Bohemia, one of the first things I did was to research the specifics of an Austrian/German accent as I learned my lines to make sure they were one in the same. He is a character with a lot of room for extremes–being at once a lion strutting around and then the next second a cowering mouse. Throughout the rehearsal process I’ve continued exploring how the range in his personality work with each beat of the play and continued to play with how they manifest physically and vocally. It’s been a lot of fun finding different kingly statuesque poses. The thing that’s simultaneously the most challenging and exciting part about the character is continually finding the King’s emotional core with his scandalous past and grounding it in a resonant, stripped-down way which can then serve as a basis for all of the hysterics and farce that ensue. This might be the first time I’ve played a character written with such rich contrast in the extremes of his personality, and trying to make those tangible for myself and others is great fun.

Q: What do you look forward to each performance playing the King of Bohemia in Sherlock Holmes? What are you most excited audiences will take away from this production?
A: I’m so happy to be able to play alongside the characters of Holmes, Watson and Irene, and am ecstatic to continually find new manifestations for the extreme highs and lows we reach together throughout the play, and find all the variations in the joy and sorrow within each little eye brow raise and pithy comment that flies between us all. Since the audience is essentially solving the case along with Holmes and Watson, we’re all real jazzed to finally have an audience to share, discover and adventure with–I believe having an audience with us to be surprised, scared and snoopy alongside us each night will bring a unique sort of partnership to this show. I am most happy for everyone to feel they’ve truly journeyed alongside the great detective from London to the Swiss Alps and back after watching this show!

Q: Please share with us your thoughts and experience so far on being a Resident Actor with Charleston Stage.
A: It’s been so wonderful to work so intensely and at such an adventurous pace on so many different projects at once. And I know it will continue to change and grow and challenge all of us through the rest of the season. This has been such an amazing opportunity to meet and work with so many talented, fun and unique people, and to see how a company can be truly successful with that team working towards such an effective and worthwhile mission. Even in this short time, it feels amazing to witness the aftermath of the teaching outreach and productions that Charleston Stage does with the Resident Acting Company, and to truly feel part of something bigger than oneself–it is a humbling and invigorating sensation that I will strive for in the rest of my career–a balance between service and creation.


Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor George Dippold as The King of Bohemia.

Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor George Dippold as The King of Bohemia.

Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actors George Dippold as The King of Bohemia and Jesse Siak as Dr. Watson.

October 25, 2013

Meet Aaron Hancock, playing Professor Moriarty in “Sherlock Holmes”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:00 am

Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for theatre and the arts?
A: I grew up in the small town of Vicksburg, MS, right by the Mississippi River.  As a matter of fact, I had horrible stage fright as a child and I did not like to sing or speak in front of people. I tried many different activities:  soccer, ballet, karate.  However my social anxiety kept me from sticking with them for very long. My little brother, his best friend, and I would play epic games outdoors when we were younger and assume different roles of our favorite video game and television cartoon characters. I had two older siblings who were extremely talented in the theater arts, and thanks to good ole sibling rivalry, I made up my mind in high school to get over my fears and try to be “just as good, if not better.” I participated in musicals and show choir in high school and began to overcome my fears.

Q: Where did you study theatre?
A: I studied vocal performance and later mental health counseling at Mississippi College. I participated in musicals and opera scenes while I was there.

Q: Where have you worked previously? What are some of your favorite roles?
A: Before Charleston Stage, I had a couple of gigs with Newstage Theatre and Mississippi Opera in Jackson, MS. The summer before my senior year of college I spent a summer in Falmouth, MA, with the College Light Opera Company and spent eleven weeks performing 9 different shows. There is hardly a role I did not enjoy, but some of my all-time favorites are Tony (West Side Story), Bud Frump (How to Succeed), and Will Parker (Oklahoma!).

Q: How did you prepare for playing Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes? Were there any challenges or things that you were excited about with taking on this character?
A: Aside from studying the content of the script and finding Moriarty’s voice and accent, I researched a little of the history and appearances of Moriarty in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. I’ve watched a few of the different interpretations of his character including the modern retelling of the stories of Sherlock Holmes on BBC. The character is very enigmatic and open to interpretation, which makes for an exciting and challenging process.

Q: What do you look forward to each performance playing “Professor Moriarty” in Sherlock Holmes? What are you most excited audiences will take away from this production?
A: How could I not look forward to playing a sinister, evil villain each night? I’m thrilled to share the stage with talented actors whom I can call friends and perform with amazing sets and costumes. I can only hope the audience walks away happily having been entertained by the retelling of a timeless story.

Q: Please share with us your thoughts and experience so far on being a Resident Actor with Charleston Stage.
A: I can fill much more than a paragraph with my thoughts and experiences so far, but I’ll just say I’m endlessly grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love for a bit longer. I love the beauty of this city. The Dock Street Theatre is gorgeous and performing in it is a privilege. Teaching children, building their confidence, and sharing the arts with them are even more important and so very fulfilling. The staff of Charleston Stage is so fun to work with and that makes all the difference.  Lastly, I’m lucky to be able to share this experience with the other six RAs and form lasting friendships with them. I’d definitely recommend it to any young actor out there.


Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Aaron Hancock as Professor Moriarty.

Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Aaron Hancock as Professor Moriarty and Charleston Veteran Actor Patrick Arnheim as Sid Prince.

Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actors Katrin Murdock as Irene Adler and Aaron Hancock as Professor Moriarty

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