One Busy Guerilla: Take a trip to ‘Heathen Valley’
By A. Richardson
Deep inside the belly of the Soapbox Laundro Lounge
lies a secret lair. Few have seen it before, but that’s
about to change.
Richard Davis, creator of Wilmington’s Guerilla
Theater, has been working diligently to put together a
black box-style theater in the Soapbox basement. It will
eventually be open to other companies to rent, but
Davis will get the first go this weekend with a
production of “Heathen Valley.”
“Heathen Valley,” written by North Carolinian Romulus Linney, is a tale set in the 1850s, about an orphan boy named Billy who travels
with an Episcopal Bishop to a poverty-stricken town in the Appalachian mountains. The Bishop is appalled by the town’s immoral and
untamed people and strives to bring God into their lives. Told in flashback, Billy recalls memories from the small village that he
struggled to win over and transform.
When asked what persuaded the company to choose this particular play, Davis says that they’re always looking for productions that
push the envelope. He, however, adds, “Shocking isn’t shocking if it’s expected.” Perhaps this play, which is described as “a little slice
of Americana,” will surprise for its portrayal of American depravity (brothers and sisters marrying, anyone?)
This show should also be remarkable for its simplicity. Davis says
that, other than four small platforms there is no set, no props, and
no sound effects or music. He adds, “This is a character-driven
piece that depends on the actor’s ability to tell a story and make it
seem real to the audience.”
The cast is led by Carl Kennedy as William Starns, and Mark Perry
as Bishop Aimes. Lending support are fellow actors Nick White,
Susan Auten, Sara Eckerd and Tony Puczylowski.
This theater company seems to enjoy a challenge. “Heathen
Valley” is the second in an ambitious “Seven Plays in Seven
Months” program. What started with the well-received “Art,” also
performed at The Soapbox, will continue in July with local
playwright Justin Cioppa’s “Catastropolis.” In August, they’ll do
“Henry V,” which coincides with their third annual “Shakespeare in
the Pub” program. After that, it’s “Extremities” in September,
“Frankenstein” in October and “Miss Julie” in November. Whew!
And I thought I was busy.
Guerilla Theater isn’t stopping there, however. On June 28th, the
group will produce a stand-up comedy show, starring Basile, of
HBO and Comedy Central fame. All the proceeds from the show
will go to establishing the “Shakespeare in the Classroom”
program, which brings the bard’s work into eighth-grade
classrooms. Many of Guerilla Theater’s productions give their
profits to charitable programs.
In the past they’ve given money to the families of fallen or injured
soldiers. “Extremities” will benefit a domestic violence shelter.
Guerilla Theater usually picks intriguing plays and casts talented
actors, which is good enough reason to see “Heathen Valley.” For
those of you who need more persuasion: beer will be nearby.
To see this show and check out the new Soapbox theater, come
out on June 8-11 & 15-17. Showtimes are 8pm. June 11 hosts a
3pm matinee and a pay-what-you-can-performance ($5
minimum). Tickets are $10 for general admission, and $8 for
students, senior citizens and theater people.
2006 Best Actor: Carl Kennedy
Kris Asher of Encore Magazine