Home is where the heart is

New W.Va. community theater troupe begins life without a home stage

New W.Va. community theater troupe begins life without a home stage

February 10, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Diana Jurand is trying to sneak some dinner quietly out of the kitchen refrigerator without disturbing King Henry II, aka dad.

Just around the corner Joe Jurand and other actors are rehearsing in the Jurands' Shepherdstown-area living room for Full Circle Theater Company's production of "The Lion in Winter."

Their stage stretches from the sofa to the fireplace and from the kitchen to the piano with the piano bench serving as the king's bed.

This is life for a new theater company, a homeless theater company that is this month staging its second production. Full Circle's production will be staged in a different venue from its first production, because the company has no permanent home for performances or rehearsals, said co-founders Robin DePietro-Jurand and Laura Richards Bakin.


The Jurands seem to be accustomed to their home becoming rehearsal space. Joe Jurand, a psychiatrist, barely has any furniture left in his office's waiting room, as the theater company has borrowed much of it; and 17-year-old daughter Diana is missing her bedroom nightstand among other things.

"She's afraid we're not going to give it back," DePietro-Jurand said.

DePietro-Jurand is a former Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) board member and recently completed a director's workshop at Yale University's School of Drama. Bakin has taught theater and was an assistant business manager at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Together, they were involved in a production of "Agnes of God" at Old Opera House in Charles Town in June 2006.

After "Agnes," the pair was sitting in a bakery discussing the void of community theater in the Shepherdstown area, and they decided to start their own community theater group.

Shepherd University has a few productions every year and the CATF features new plays for a month in the summer, but there is no actual community theater in the immediate Shepherdstown area, they said. Community theater groups perform at Old Opera House in Charles Town and the Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg. But as the Eastern Panhandle has grown, there has been more competition for roles and a bigger potential audience. So DePietro-Jurand and Bakin don't think adding a new community theater group will detract from the existing ones in the region.

They also are hoping to offer edgier, more emotionally challenging fare, Bakin said. The success of "Agnes of God" proved there was an audience for such pieces, Joe Jurand said.

Full Circle's first production was "All in the Timing," a collection of comical short plays by David Ives that was staged at Trinity Episcopal Church.

Beginning Feb. 23 at Shepherd's Reynolds Hall, Full Circle will present James Goldman's "The Lion in Winter" about family dysfunction and betrayal as King Henry II and his family plot against each other for control of the throne.

At some point this spring, Full Circle plans to present "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," but organizers don't have a date yet because they do not yet know when Reynolds Hall will be available. Their biggest hope is that someone will assist them with rehearsal and performance space - perhaps a roomyw barn.

The inability to schedule a full season in advance prevents season ticket sales, but turnout was good at "All in the Timing." Two of the four shows sold out and the other two crowds were respectably large, DePietro-Jurand and Bakin said.

They'll try not to schedule performances to conflict with other local theater productions.

Steven Brewer, manager and artistic director for Old Opera House, said often when a new theater company comes into an area, it tends to stir up interest in community theater in general - a benefit for all local community theater.

While the Old Opera House's main season is usually comprised of performances that would appeal to a broad audience, the theater also holds shows that aren't part of their main season - shows like "Agnes of God," that are a little more avant-garde or cutting edge, Brewer said.

These performances, like those of Full Circle Theater, focus more on the acting performances and less on the frills such as costumes and sets, Brewer said.

For Full Circle's first season, organizers are presenting more mainstream plays to build an audience and raise awareness about the theater company, said DePietro-Jurand. Some of the plays they want to present include Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of "The Turn of the Screw," Ronald Harwood's "The Dresser" and Don DeLillo's "Love-Lies-Bleeding."

They are in discussions with a local playwright to do a staged reading of her play about people held captive by South American guerillas.

Full Circle organizers also are reaching out to parts of the community that haven't traditionally participated in community theater, such as the Hispanic and black communities. DePietro-Jurand said Full Circle eventually wants to offer a summer drama camp for youths.

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