Morning Notes

Fairfax County Mass Vaccine Site Adds Evening Hours — The community vaccination center at Tysons Corner will extend its operating hours to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting tomorrow (June 8). The site is scheduled to close on June 26 as Virginia focuses its COVID-19 vaccine campaign on smaller, more mobile clinics instead of large-scale, standing sites. [Tysons Reporter]

Police Pursuit Town Hall Set for Thursday — The Fairfax County Police Department will hold a virtual town hall on Thursday (June 10) to get community input on proposed changes to its policy on vehicle pursuits. The new policy will place more limits on the kinds of situations when officers can engage in a pursuit in response to safety concerns. [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Sterling Regal Movie Theater Sold to Homebuilder — “A team led by Willard Retail has sold the site of the shuttered Regal Countryside multiplex in Sterling for $22 million to Beazer Homes, more than a year after winning approval from the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to redevelop the property as a 166-unit stacked townhome development.” [Washington Business Journal]

Democrats Make Final Primary Push — “Armies of door-knockers are fanning out across Virginia neighborhoods this weekend as Democrats make their final campaign push before selecting nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in primary elections on Tuesday…Democratic voters will select their statewide candidates to go up against a Republican slate that was chosen by convention a month ago, setting the stage for what could be the most expensive Virginia gubernatorial election ever.” [The Washington Post]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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NextStop Theatre Company is coming back to the stage with its first full-scale production since the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to halt public performances last spring.

The Herndon-based professional, nonprofit theater company announced this morning (Tuesday) that it will debut a filmed, online production of the musical romantic comedy “First Date” on April 30.

It will be the theater’s first show since the final weekend of “Ordinary Days” was canceled on March 12, 2020, according to a press release.

“I don’t know that I have ever been so excited to open a show,” NextStop Producing Artistic Director Evan Hoffmann said. “Putting this show together has been a true labor of love! We have been so eager to get back to creating high quality performances for our community and the cast and crew of “First Date” have brought together a mixture of talent, creativity, and passion, like I have rarely seen before.”

While the NextStop Theatre stage has been empty for more than a year now, the company has kept busy with some alternative offerings, including a small, in-person summer education program for theater students and an outdoor concert series.

Staged across September and October, “The Parking Lot Concerts” performances were entirely sold out, according to NextStop.

The company has also made the theater at 269 Sunset Park Drive available to the public to rent for private movie screenings. The NextStop Cinema program is still ongoing, as is the theater’s NextStop Now fundraising initiative.

“First Date” marks the company’s return to theater, but it will not be entirely traditional.

First staged on Broadway with Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez in the lead roles, “First Date” follows two young, single people whose friends and family set them up on a blind date despite their wildly different personalities. Hijinks and romantic sparks ensue.

With Hoffman directing and actors Alex De Bard and Taylor Witt stepping into the lead roles, NextStop has turned “First Date” into a blend of theater and cinema, filming scenes both on stage and on location around downtown Herndon.

“This is truly a film-theatre hybrid,” Hoffman said. “Our team worked diligently to find innovative ways to make this a uniquely theatrical experience. We were able to utilize some of the best tricks that film has to offer, while making sure our audiences feel like they are practically back in theater with the performers.”

The show will stream at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings and at 7 p.m. on Sundays through May 16. Tickets cost $25 and provide one stream per household.

More information about the production, including a full list of the cast and creative team and a link to purchase tickets, can be found on the NextStop Theatre website.

Photo courtesy NextStop Theatre Company

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a lonely time for much of the theater world, as stage productions remain shuttered or confined to audience-free, virtual performances, but for one group of South Lakes High School alumni, the past year unexpectedly rekindled their bond.

A virtual theater company dedicated to giving new and up-and-coming playwrights a platform to have their work read and critiqued, the Walking Shadow Readers Theatre emerged in June 2020 out of what was originally just a casual online reunion of former South Lakes drama students who had scattered across the country in the decade-plus since they graduated.

Now, the company is organizing its first one-act play festival to celebrate its first season and raise enough money to have a second one.

“Our main goal with the fundraiser is to earn enough to start compensating artists, as we are currently an all volunteer [organization],” Walking Shadow board president and casting director Amy Benson said. “We have been providing actors and writers with the gift of a creative space during the pandemic, but want to be able to compensate them for their work.”

Scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on May 28, the One Acts Festival will feature eight short plays by the playwrights who participated in Walking Shadow’s inaugural season, along with interviews with the writers and excerpts from past readings.

The program will be about two-and-a-half hours in length and will be available to stream on YouTube until June 11. General admission tickets are now on sale for $10, but the company encourages people to consider one of the higher-priced options, since all of the proceeds will go toward paying artists and staff and keeping the theater operational.

According to a press release, the company plans to soon become an official nonprofit.

Benson says that Walking Shadow’s origins help distinguish it from other theater organizations since its members include both theater professionals and people who ultimately pursued other career paths.

Benson, for example, teaches at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, but her fellow company members include a media director who works as a security consultant by day, a virtual marketing assistant and stay-at-home mother, and a licensed mental health therapist.

“We have realized this is one of our strengths as a group because we bring diverse experience and knowledge into our playwright feedback sessions,” Benson said.

Because its members live around the country, Walking Shadow will continue to focus on virtual readings and performances even after the pandemic fades into memory, but some in-person performances could be possible in the future, according to the company’s website.

Benson says it has been rewarding to watch Walking Shadow evolve over the past year into a venture that is “creatively fulfilling for us and the other artists who are involved.”

“Theatre is one of the great ways of connecting with other people,” she said. “This has given us and the artists we work with the opportunity to not only reconnect with one another and connect to performers and playwrights across the country, but as a way of staying vital and creative in a time when life has been stagnant.”

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Morning Notes

Hail Spotted During Evening Showers — Hail pelted Reston and Herndon last night when a rainstorm passed through the area around 7:45 p.m. The storm moved through fairly quickly but still made an impression. [Capital Weather Gang/Twitter]

Reston Association Annual Meeting Tonight — Reston Association will hold its annual members’ meeting virtually at 7 p.m. today. Member comments will be followed by an announcement of the results of the 2021 Board of Directors election and an introduction of the new directors. [RA]

Developers Undeterred by Silver Line Delays — The second phase of Metro’s Silver Line will not open until next year, but developers and local economic leaders still have a “positive long-term outlook” for the Reston and Herndon area. In the short term, though, the delays have “added challenges to those under construction and looking to break ground.” [Bisnow]

Fairfax County Joins Solarize Program Again — For the fifth year in a row, Fairfax County is participating in the Solarize Virginia program, which helps reduce costs for homeowners and businesses seeking to adopt solar power technology. This year’s program runs from April 12 through June 30, and for the first time, participants have the option to also install battery storage systems. [Fairfax County Government]

Outdoor “Twelfth Night” Production Coming to Herndon — The Herndon Community Arts Lab, Arts Herndon, and Dark Horse Theatre are putting on performances of Willian Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night or What You Will” on the Arts Herndon Lawn Stage in Old Town this spring. There will be a “pay what you will” preview on April 23, followed by regular performances on April 24 and 25, and May 1 and 2. [Patch]

Local College Student Bombarded by Camel Calls — A college student was baffled by a rash of callers asking to buy a camel he didn’t have until he learned about a Craigslist post advertising a camel for sale in Fairfax County with his phone number. The legality of private camel ownership in the county is unclear. [DCist]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Herndon’s AMC Worldgate 9 will be reopening on Aug. 27 following AMC Theaters’ announcement to reopen more than 100 of its theaters last Thursday.

The movie theater chain announced the plans today, adding that AMC will celebrate its 100th anniversary by selling 15 cent tickets, mimicking prices from the 1920s. This discount will take place on Aug. 20 to locations expected to open by then.

AMC Theaters will open another 300 movie theaters in anticipation of the release of Disney’s “The New Mutants” and Warner Bros. “Tenet” on Sept. 3, according to a statement from AMC. 

Guests will be required to wear facemasks in the theaters at all times except for when eating and drinking. Auditorium capacities will also be reduced to accommodate social distancing, menus will be simplified to reduce lines and there will be fewer touchpoints. 

“We are thrilled to once again open our doors to American moviegoers who are looking for an opportunity to get out of their houses and apartments and escape into the magic of the movies,” said Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Theatres, according to the statement.

Bowtie Cinemas has reopened their Richmond, VA location. However, their Reston Town Center location appears to remain closed. 

Photo by Leonard Cooker/Google Maps

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The Reduced Shakespeare Company is returning to Reston — at a distance. On July 12 at 3 p.m., the company will be holding a remote live-streamed event called “An Afternoon with the Remote Shakespeare Company.” 

The show will consist of the directors, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, who plan to tell stories about Reduced Shakespeare Company, take audience questions, and give behind the scenes footage from the company. The experience will be interactive and is geared towards anyone interested in the company or theater. 

They will also include a scene from Hamlet’s Big Adventure (a prequel), which was supposed to perform on July 12, and has been rescheduled for March 23 and 24, 2021, according to a statement by the company

The RSC has performed at the CenterStage every single year since 1987,” said the Reston Community Center Arts and Events Director Paul Douglas Michnewicz. Tichenor also stated that the community center and RSC have a long relationship, one of the “best relationships in showbiz history.”

One of their performances, The Complete Works of the Reduced Shakespeare Company (abridged), included seven of their nine shows and lasted for two whole weeks. 

“The show must go on… line,” quipped Tichenor in a Youtube video promoting the event. 

The two directors said that “a good, socially distanced time will be had by all.”

Photo via Reduced Shakespeare Company

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A production of “Matilda” is coming to NextStop Theatre in November.

“Matilda” will debut on Thursday (Nov. 14) beginning around 7 p.m. at 269 Sunset Park Drive. Performances will run through Dec. 22.

“Based on the beloved Roald Dahl novel, ‘Matilda’ is the story of an extraordinary little girl who decides to fight back against tyrannical adults,” a press release said.

Tickets typically range from $40 to $55 dollars. Event organizers suggest that people get their tickets in advance because they are expected to sell out.

Image via NextStop

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The Reston Community Center is expanding its online presence as part of its 40th-anniversary celebration.

The RCC created a series of six YouTube videos that cover local history and growth since the community center’s founding in 1979, according to a press release.

The first episode was posted last Thursday, Oct. 17, and featured the Reston Community Players, a community theatre group.

“The short videos were produced and directed by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and Reston resident Rebekah Wingert, principal of Storycatcher Productions,” the press release said.

As an introduction to the mini-series, the center highlighted last spring’s production, Annie. The video takes viewers behind the curtain and shows them how to production was created.

Future episodes will highlight other aspects of outreach programs and various programs sponsored by the center.

New episodes are expected to make their debut every other week.

“By using our YouTube platform, we will share how RCC connects to our partners and patrons in these compelling videos,” RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon said.

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A musical promising the audience a synthesis of comedy and murder is coming to Reston next month.

A local production of the Tony award-winning “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” will open at the Reston Community Center’s CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road) on Oct. 18 and run through Nov 3.

Here’s more about the plot from RCC:

Set in London in 1907, Gentleman’s Guide focuses on the low-born Monty Navarro, who suddenly learns that he’s ninth in line for an earldom in the lofty D’Ysquith family and sets out to speed up the line of succession by using a great deal of charm… and a dash of murder. Can he knock off his unsuspecting relatives without being caught and become the ninth Earl of Highhurst? And what of love? Because murder isn’t the only thing on Monty’s mind.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder retains a classic aesthetic but with humor that is modern and relevant,” Rich Farella, the director of the production, said in a press release.

The production will be put on by the Reston Community Players, a local non-profit theatre group.

Tickets are available online and start at $24 for students and seniors. Showtimes will take place on the weekends and include matinee and evening performances.

Photos courtesy Reston Community Players

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NextStop Theatre Company takes on “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Austen’s literary classic that explores the themes of love, marriage and social status.

The theatre company, which is located in Herndon, promises to present a “spirited new adaptation.” The show runs from October 3 through 27.

The company wrote the following about the show, which is sponsored by Griffin Owens Insurance Group:

The headstrong Elizabeth Bennet faces mounting pressure from her status-conscious mother to secure a suitable marriage. But is marriage suitable for a woman of Elizabeth’s intelligence and independence? Especially when the irritating, aloof, self-involved… tall, vaguely handsome, mildly amusing, and impossibly aristocratic Mr. Darcy keeps popping up at every turn?! Literature’s greatest tale of latent love has never felt so theatrical, or so full of life than it does in this effervescent new adaptation.

Ticket prices range from $35 to $50 and can be purchased online.

Photo via NextStop Theatre Company

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“Beehive: The 60’s Musical” comes to NextStop Theatre Company next month.The production, which is directed by Monique Midgette, takes audiences on a trip down memory lane by celebrating six songstresses that defined a generation.

Shows will take place between August 22 and September 22. The musical stars Rebecca Balinger, Allison Bradbury, Bethel Elias, Kayla Gross, Shayla Lowe and Hilary Morrow.

Tickets are available online. Prices range between $40 and $55, depending on the time and day of the performance. 

Beehive is presented through a special arrangement with Theatrical Rights Worldwide.

NextStop is located at 269 Sunset Park Drive in Herndon. 

Photo via NextStop Theatre Company

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A force behind more than 150 performances at South Lakes High School’s Theatre Arts program is leaving the program. Maria Harris, the program’s theatre arts director, plans to retire after 30 years of coaching students, putting on productions, and watching the program grow over the last three decades.

Harris is now turning toward what she calls her final act: her own acting career and production company, Rising Star Productions, and spending more time with her family and aging parents.

“It’s been a good career, but it’s not over yet,” Harris said. She commutes two hours daily from her home in Loudoun County to SLHS.

After teaching for a few years in Michigan — where she was born — and two other Fairfax County schools, Harris landed a full time job at SLHS. She’s worked as the performing arts chair and taught speech, english, theatre and film — watching the program grow from two shows required per year to an around-the-year program. The job has given her the opportunity to travel with her students — including the prestigious American High School Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland where the school was selected to represent Virginia. Her students have also won two state championships in the Virginia High School League’s film competition.

Over the years, she said she has most enjoyed watching her students grow. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here at SLHS. I love, love, love my kids and I’m going to miss them the most.” Before shows, she assembles her students into a big circle and leads them through breathing exercises, passing a squeeze of good wishes down the chain of linked hands until they reach her.

Ryleigh Line, one of her students, told Reston Now that Harris has helped many students realize their full potential.

“The most important thing that she does for us is support us and she pushes us to be the best we can be by having high expectations and constructive feedback for us after every assignment and production,” Line said. “The South Lakes community will miss Mrs. Harris very much and are forever thankful for her.”

For Harris, who calls herself a “Motown girl,” the arts were ingrained in her lifestyle since she was five. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Wayne State University.

While she was working in the school’s program, she launched Rising Star Productions in Reston in order to fill the lack of “cultural theatre” in the community. For years, she worked with her team to bring African American Theatre to Reston Community Center. She has appeared in films including Broadcast News and Accidental Tourist.  Her stages roles include Addapearle in The Wiz, Bloody Mary in South Pacific, Asaka in Once on This Island, and Myrna Thorn in Ruthless! The Musical.

“I wish my students the very best, whether they take their careers into theater or whatever they endeavor to do.”

Photo via Maria Harris

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The classic story of a young orphan girl in search of her parents in New York City who gets selected to stay at wealthy Daddy Warbucks’ residence is coming to Reston in two weeks.

The Reston Community Player’s production of the Broadway musical “Annie” will conclude the nonprofit theatre group’s 52nd season.

“How can you not love a spunky little girl who, against all odds, keeps hope alive and looks forward to a better tomorrow?” Director Sue Pinkman said in a press release. “Each year, another generation of little girls gets to know this classic character.”

The role of “Annie” will be shared by two actresses. The full cast is the following:

  • Kylee Hope Geraci, Eva Jaber as Annie
  • Doug Marcks as Daddy Warbucks
  • Jennifer Redford as Miss Hannigan
  • Claire Jeffrey as Grace Farrell
  • Joshua Redford as Rooster Hannigan
  • Emily Jennings as Lily St. Regis
  • Richard Durkin as Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Nathan Ramee as Bert Healy
  • Jane Keifer as Molly (orphan)
  • Della McCahill as Tessie (orphan)
  • Elizabeth Cha as Kate (orphan)
  • Madelyn Regan as July (orphan)
  • Elenora Fiel as Duffy (orphan)
  • Eliana Redford as Pepper (orphan)
  • Whimsy as Sandy
  • Ensemble: Marissa Dolcich, Richard Durkin, Andy Gable, Aidan Goggin, Earle S. Greene, Kate Keifer, Kirk Kaneer, Nathan Ramee, Katie Pond, Jennifer Stevens, Sara Watson

Performances will be held at the Reston Community Center’s CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road) at 8 p.m. on April 26-27, May 3-4, May 10-11 and May 17-18. Matinees will be held at 2 p.m on May 5, May 11-12 and May 18.

The production of the family-friendly musical is appropriate for all ages.

Photo courtesy Reston Community Players

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A play about two women’s rivalry for the affections of a mutual lover is coming to Herndon’s NextStop Theatre (269 Sunset Park Drive) next month.

Fallen Angels” dramatizes sexual desire and frustration as two housewives prepare to meet with an “exotic” former lover. The show originally opened in London in 1925 and was considered amusing but scandalous for its depiction of sex and adultery — both subjects that were seen as obscene and disruptive.

Ticketing in advance is recommended, as ticket prices may increase as seating fills. Tickets range from $35 to $50. The show will run Thursday-Sunday from March 14 through April 7. Student and group tickets are available at a discount.

Photo via NextStop Theatre

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The Reston Community Players are set to begin performances for “Times Stands Still” on Friday (March 1).

Donald Margulies’ play first hit the stage in 2009. Ten years later, Adam Konowe, the director of RCP’s production, says that the drama is still relevant. “This is truly a play that could have been ripped from today’s headlines, covering the full range of emotions from love to betrayal, pride to envy and commitment to dissolution.”

What’s the show about? Reston Community Players gave this plot description:

“Time Stands Still” examines the lives of one couple making a living out of documenting the horrors of war. When Sarah, a photojournalist returns from covering the Iraq War after being injured by a roadside bomb, her reporter boyfriend James is swamped by guilt after having left Sarah alone in Iraq. Physically bruised and emotionally beaten, Sarah and James explore whether it is possible for two people who are used to living in dangerous conditions to carve out a normal life.

“It demonstrates that what fulfills us in one sense can be destructive elsewhere,” Konowe said in a press release. “Most importantly, it reinforces that truth — portrayed here through journalism — is worth fighting for and serves society well, even when the news it conveys is difficult to comprehend or appreciate.”

The drama replaced RCP’s previously announced production of “Spring Awakening,” which was canceled “due to unforeseen circumstances,” according to RCP.

The full cast is the following:

  • Jane Steffen as Sarah Goodwin
  • Greg Lang as James Dodd
  • Todd Huse as Richard Ehrlich
  • Alex Sands as Mandy Bloom

Performances will be held at the Reston Community Center’s CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road) at 8 p.m. on March 1-2, March 8-9 and March 15-16. A matinee will be held at 2 p.m. on March 10.

A champagne reception will follow the show on its opening night.

After the March 9 performance, two war correspondents — Susan Katz Keating, a national security correspondent for the American Media Institute, and former Fox News Channel Iraq Correspondent Malini Wilkes — will share their experiences covering overseas conflicts as part of an audience talkback panel.

Photos courtesy of Reston Community Players

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