Blog Archives

National Park Service announces Shenandoah Valley history programs

newspaper-headerCedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park and its partners will offer a series of special National Park Service ranger programs and other events this September to highlight various stories related to the history of the Shenandoah Valley.

“These programs will give visitors a chance to explore important events of the Valley,” said Eric Campbell, the park’s chief of interpretation. “We will cover a numerous subjects and offer a wide variety of events, including a series of programs on critical moments of the Battle of Cedar Creek, a tour of the Battle of Third Winchester, a presentation the impact of the Civil War on the local citizens, living history and a special exhibit on the slave trade in Virginia.”

These special presentations include both the popular “History at Sunset” programs and also the new “Battlefield Series” programs.  All of these programs are free and last between 90 minutes to two hours.

* July 26 —September 25:  “To Be Sold” Virginia and the American Slave Trade: A special exhibit from the Library of Virginia examines the impact of the slave trade on African Americans.  For more information call (540) 869-2028.

* September 9 —History at Sunset: Our once beautiful but now desolated Valley”  Post-War Shenandoah Valley, Virginia  (6:00 pm) The aftermath of the Civil War brought many challenges to the residents of the Shenandoah Valley.  In the fall of 1864, the war-torn region had been destroyed by Union General Phil Sheridan’s “Burning,” and in the post-war period, the Valley’s residents not only had to deal with the economic recovery, but also the political changes facing the nation.  Park Ranger Shannon Moeck will discuss how Valley civilians, including former slaves and Confederate veterans, adjusted and adapted to their new environment, and went about rebuilding their lives during this uncertain time.  Meet at Belle Grove Plantation Manor House (336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA)

* September 10Battlefield Series: “A great deal of labor was…expended in building breastworks….” Exploring the Civil War Entrenchments at Cedar Creek  (2:00 pm) Some of the most well preserved original Civil War entrenchments in the Shenandoah Valley are located on the bluffs above Cedar Creek.  Join Park Ranger Jim Horn for a special walking tour that explores their construction and role during the Battle of Cedar Creek.  Preserved by the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation and Belle Grove, these earthworks are the focal point of a newly expanded walking trail. Meet at the Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown).  Visitors will then car-pool to another site.

* September 17Battlefield Series:  Capt. Henry DuPont and the Role of Artillery at the Battle of Cedar Creek(2:00 pm)  Join Park Volunteer Chuck Barker as he examines the role of Capt. Henry DuPont and his 8thCorps batteries during the Battle of Cedar Creek.  DuPont’s actions would later earn him the Medal of Honor.  This car caravan tour will explore areas not normally accessible to the public.  Meet at the Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown).Visitors will then car caravan to various locations on the battlefield.

* September 23 —History at Sunset: “…a perfect slaughterhouse”  The Battle of Third Winchester Tour(5:00 pm)

Join Ranger Eric Campbell has he leads a car caravan tour (visitors follow the ranger’s vehicle) that will cover the battle chronologically.  Meet at the Third Winchester Visitor Center (541 Redbud Road, Winchester, VA).  The tour will consist of both moderate walking and a car-caravan tour to various sites across the battlefield.

* September 24—Smithsonian Museum Day Live!  (10:00 – 4:00) Come to Belle Grove for Smithsonian Magazine’sMuseum Day Live! Belle Grove is partnering with the Smithsonian and thousands of other museums by offering Free Admission. For more information call (540) 869-2028 or see:

* September 23-24—Living History Encampment  Members of the 55th Virginia will encampment and perform firing demonstrations.  Learn about the life of the common soldier.  Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation Headquarters (8437 Valley Pike, Middletown).

* September 30 —History at Sunset:  The Long Gray Trail:  History of the Valley Turnpike (5:00 pm) One of the most critical features in the settlement and economic growth of the Shenandoah Valley was the existence and improvement of the principal road that ran along its length.  Known successively as the Great Warrior Path, the Great Wagon Road, and the Valley Pike, this thoroughfare played a critical role throughout the entire history of the Valley, and of numerous campaigns during the Civil War.  Join Park Ranger Shannon Moeck as she explains the evolution of this road and its impact on history.  Meet at the Belle Grove Plantation Manor House (336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA).  This program will visit several locations around the park, and thus will involve a car caravan system (visitors follow the ranger’s vehicle).

For details and updates, call (540) 869-3051 or see:

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park offers a wide variety of ranger-conducted programs, which tell the park’s many stories related to the rich cultural history of the Shenandoah Valley and the American Civil War.  These programs are offered regularly. Check the park website ( or call (540) 869-3051for a current schedule.

Sunflower field east of Harrisonburg opens for Walk for Hope fundraiser

sunflowers-walk-of-hopeIn 2014, the Frazier family planted a field of sunflowers along well-traveled Route 33. They didn’t quite anticipate the impact of the flowers on passers-by, who stopped cars, gawked, took photos and trespassed to enjoy the unique sight.

Now the Fraziers and their business, Frazier Quarry, are turning that wonder into a fundraiser for Walk for Hope, an event close to their hearts.

The field, located at the junction of Jim Britt Way and Va. 33 east of Harrisonburg, will be open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3, for flower picking and photos. A donation of $5/bundle is suggested to benefit Walk for Hope.

Each spring, Walk for Hope draws area college students and community members together to raise awareness about mental health, depression and suicide among college-age youth. The event was founded and funded by Bibb and Dolly Frazier, who lost their son, Austin, in 2009 after a long battle with bipolar disorder.

Sturdy, close-toed shoes are recommended, as are a set of pruners. Sunflower stalks can be tough, says Mike Frazier, the company’s health, safety, and environmental coordinator. “Pick a few, give one to a loved one, a friend, or a complete stranger. Spread the love because you never know just how much that flower can mean to someone.”

The Fraziers request that vehicles do not stop or park at any other time because of safety on the heavily trafficked road and out of respect for neighbors.


2017 Walk for Hope planned for March 25

The 2017 Walk for Hope will be Saturday, March 25, and is hosted by Eastern Mennonite University. The event is co-sponsored by the Austin Frazier Memorial Fund, Eastern Mennonite University, James Madison University, Bridgewater College and Blue Ridge Community College. Since its founding in 2011, the site of the annual walk has rotated among supporting colleges and universities.

The Austin Frazier Memorial Fund honors Austin, who was a junior at James Madison University when he died in 2009.

In 2010, the Frazier family helped to start an innovative mentoring program at EMU called CoachLink, in which trained adult mentors are paired with students in informal and supportive coaching-style relationships.

Story by Lauren Jefferson

Everything you need to know about nightlife in Harrisonburg

Bartender-300x194When the sun goes down, most people start to head home and settle in for the evening. But for some, when the streetlights turn on, the fun is only just beginning. Harrisonburg might not be an ever-awake metropolis, but this small Shenandoah Valley city holds its own when it comes to after-hours fun. Live music, late night eats, and great drinks are all a part of nightlife in Harrisonburg, VA.


Nightlife in Harrisonburg, VA

Breweries and Bars

Start your evening off with a trip to one any of the excellent breweries in Harrisonburg. Brothers Craft Brewing, Pale Fire Brewing Co., Three Notch’d Brewing, and Wolfe Street Brewing Co. are all located in Harrisonburg. Live music and extended hours are par for the course at their taprooms, as they are all open until at least 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Capital Ale House in Harrisonburg serves over 100 beers on tap, features a rooftop deck, and a menu that will meet anyone’s tastes. Open seven days a week, they stay open until midnight Monday through Friday, and 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays.

Ruby’s Lounge (located in Clementine Cafe) is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 6 p.m. – 2 a.m. Weekly events include Team Trivia and music from DJ Barkley, and more. If you’re looking for a hookah lounge to spend the evening, head to Vibe Bistro & Hookah Lounge. Hungry? Try Billy Jack’sand wash down a plate of Redneck Nachos with a glass of local beer. Or order a house-made doughnut. Or sip on a Moscow Mule. It’s up to you.

Looking for a classier option among Harrisonburg, VA bars? Try Jack’s Hideaway, the only speakeasy in town. Find the tan door behind 92 South Main St, and give it a knock (that’s what the website says!) Once inside, sit down and order an Old Fashioned, a Mint Julep, or a glass of Scotch.



By day, The Artful Dodger is a great place for breakfast and lunch, serving up delicious morning fare, coffee, salads, and more. At night, it’s one of the best places to experience nightlife in Harrisonburg, VA. DJs, drinks, and late-night fun are all routine.

Clementine (home to Ruby’s Lounge and The Patio) caters to the creative crowd, but you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy their brunch, lunch, and dinner menus. Order your meal, and then stick around for live music and fun at Ruby’s!

The Golden Pony brings a lot of great things to nightlife in Harrisonburg, VA, and among those are drinks, food, and live music. Where else can you order breakfast until 4 a.m. on a Friday while watching a band play?


Sleep In After a Late Night Out at By the Side of the Road

When your night on the town draws to a close, head back to your room at By the Side of the Road Inn & Cottages. Located here in Harrisonburg, we offer our guests the kind of hospitality and charm that you’ll only find in Virginia. Our historic inn and cottage suites provide comfort, privacy, and modern amenities. Wake up to a delicious gourmet breakfast, then get out and explore Harrisonburg. Of course, if you had too much fun the night before, you can always head back to your room and enjoy your queen-size bed, fireplace, flat screen TV, and whirlpool tub. Whether you stay in or go out, we’ll be pleased to host you. Download our free Shenandoah Valley vacation guide for more area fun. Contact us today, online or by calling (540) 801-0430, and start planning your stay at By the Side of the Road.

Belle Grove Plantation to host Wine Fest

belle-grove-logoBelle Grove Plantation will host its annual Wine Fest on Saturday, August 27, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now at

The event will feature tastings from North Mountain Vineyard & Winery (Maurertown), Mountain View Vineyard (Strasburg), Quievremont Wine (Washington), Hunt’s Vineyard (Stuarts Draft), Valerie Hill Vineyard & Winery (Stephens City), and Chateau O’Brien (Markham).  Winchester Ciderworks and Old Hill Cider (Timberville) will also participate.  Copper Fox Distillery from Sperryville will attend this year’s festival and provide samples of their products, which include Belle Grove 1797 Whiskey, based on the grains and techniques used at Belle Grove’s 18th century distillery.

Visitors with tasting tickets will receive a souvenir tasting glass and be able to sample from all vineyards and cideries as well as purchase wine or cider by the glass, bottle, or case.  There will be tent where guests may “check” their bags, making it easier for them to move around to all the activities at the event.

Live music will be another feature of the festival.  From 11:30-2:30, country music and honky-tonk singer and Strasburg native, Danni Leigh, will perform.  At 3:00 p.m., Clay Arthur and the Mystic Pistols will take the stage with their eclectic variety of music including favorites from Clarence Clearwater Revival, Jimmy Buffett, George Strait, Violent Femmes, and more.

Throughout the day will be sheepdog handling demonstrations by Mark Soper and Nancy Cox Starkey in the field behind the tasting area.  The U.S. Border Collie Handlers Association’s 2017 National Sheepdog Finals will be held at Belle Grove September 26-October 1, 2017.

Belle Grove’s Wine Fest will also include cooking demonstrations in the big, red barn.  Master Gardener Larry Haun will present “Cooking with Herbs” from 12:00-12:30 and then conduct a tour of the Belle Grove historic herb and flower garden.  At 1:30, Chef Christa Nahhas of La Nourriture Catering will demonstrate “Ciders and Sliders” with savory and sweet treats.  At 3:00, Chef Blair Dolinar of Nibblins’ Gourmet and Kitchen Shop will conduct a demonstration featuring peanut soup. For dessert at 4:00, Chef Tiffany Akers Hockman of Tippy’s Bakery in Strasburg will demonstrate making a wine infused cake.

Food will be available for purchase from area vendors.  Winchester based food truck, Shaffers Barbecue Palace, will bring their popular smoked meats and sides made with family recipes.  Mac Shack Express will be serving up their comfort food mac n’ cheese creations.

Among the artisan vendors at Wine Fest will be Flavor Pourfection Olive Oil, Hackwood Farms pickles, salsa, and condiments, Long Ridge Cigars, Gypsy Catwalk fine clothing, Clyde Jenkins traditional split oak baskets, George Anderton blacksmithing, Mata’s Menagerie fashion accessories, Carolyn G. Findler Art Studio prints and cards, Ruff Ranch Sanctuary, and My Buddy’s Nuts Gourmet Nuts.  The Belle Grove Museum Shop, a site of the Top of Virginia Artisan Trail, also sells unique gifts made by local artists and producers.

Advanced tasting tickets are on sale now for $20 at or in the Belle Grove Museum Shop.  Advanced tickets may also be purchased by cash or check at the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center at 1400 South Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester (open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.) and the Belle Grove Museum Shop (open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m.).  At the gate on the day of the event, tasting tickets may be purchased for $25.  Admission includes a commemorative wine tasting glass, unlimited tastings, access to all vendors, performances, demonstrations, and tours of the historic Manor House and landscape. General admission is $10 for visitors who do not wish to do wine tastings or who are under age 21.

For the latest information, visit,  Pets, large backpacks, and outside food or drink may not be brought onto festival grounds.  Belle Grove Plantation is located off Route 11 at 336 Belle Grove Road just south of Middletown, Virginia 22645 and is conveniently located to I-81 (use exit 302) and I-66.

Belle Grove Plantation is a non-profit historic house museum that is a National Trust for Historic Preservation site and a partner in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.  The Belle Grove Wine Fest is one of the museum’s most successful annual fundraisers that contributes to the preservation and interpretation of its buildings and site.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band coming to The Paramount Theater

paramountThe Paramount Theater will welcome the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on Sunday, October 2 at 8 p.m.

Celebrating their golden anniversary together, the iconic and profoundly influential  Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, often cited as a catalyst for an entire movement in country rock and American Roots music, continues to add to their legendary status. With multi-platinum and gold records, strings of top ten hits such as “Fishin’ In The Dark” and “Mr. Bojangles,” multiple Grammy, IBMA, CMA Awards and nominations, the band’s accolades continue to accumulate.

Their groundbreaking  Will The Circle Be Unbroken album has been inducted into the U.S. Library of Congress as well as the Grammy Hall of Fame.  NGDB’s recording of “Mr. Bojangles” was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 2014 “Fishin’ In the Dark” was certified platinum for digital downloads by the RIAA. Today, NGDB (Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, Bob Carpenter, John McEuen) continue their non-stop touring in their 50th year together.

Tickets are on sale next week and can be purchased at The Paramount Theater’s Box Office, by phone at 434-979-1333, or online at

Shenandoah National Park marks 100th birthday of the National Park Service

ShenandoahLogo_Outlined_Black_VerticalShenandoah National Park extends an invitation to join us in celebrating the 100th birthday of the National Park Service this week.

As a birthday gift to everyone, the entrance fee to Shenandoah and all other national parks is waived from August 25 through August 28.

The National Park Service was born on August 25, 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation that created the National Park Service. Today, there are 412 national parks throughout the country and each one tells an important part of the American story. Some commemorate notable people and achievements, others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders, and all provide a place to have fun and learn. Shenandoah National Park has many special activities planned during this special week to celebrate our milestone 100th birthday. All activities are free.


Thursday, August 25, 2016
8:30 p.m., Big Meadows Amphitheater (mile 51 Skyline Drive)

“An Interview with Stephen Mather” features Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jim Northup portraying Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, near the end of his stellar career in 1929. In this living history interpretive program, Park Ranger Michael Punches will portray a newspaper reporter asking questions about the many challenging issues regarding the formation and development of the National Park Service.


Friday, August 26, 2016
9:00 a.m., Loft Mountain Amphitheater (mile 79.5 Skyline Drive)

Coffee with the Superintendent – Join Superintendent Jim Northup for an informal gathering to chat about Shenandoah National Park.

10:00 a.m., Upper Hawksbill Parking Area (mile 46.7 Skyline Drive)

Centennial Hike: Hike to the Highest Peak – Explore a high-elevation forest on the way to the summit of Shenandoah’s tallest mountain, Hawksbill. 2 hours, moderate 2.1-mile hike


Saturday, August 27, 2016
11:00 a.m., Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51 Skyline Drive)

“Time Travel with Bubba Jones & Family” – Time travel to meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Civilian Conservation Corps boys. Come prepared for a short stroll with Jeff Alt, outdoor recreation expert and award- winning author.

4:00 p.m., Big Meadows Lodge (mile 51 Skyline Drive)

“Walk for Sunshine: Appalachian Trail” – Jeff Alt will present his acclaimed Walk for Sunshine Appalachian Trail program.

4:00 p.m., Big Meadows Amphitheater (mile 51 Skyline Drive)

Centennial Hike: Highest Point at Big Meadows – Take a short walk along the Appalachian Trail to the spectacular view from the Blackrock viewpoint. 1 hour, easy


Sunday, August 28, 2016
10:00 a.m., Pocosin Trailhead (mile 59.5 Skyline Drive)

Centennial Hike: Hike Through History – Travel back in time to learn about some of the Park’s human history and visit the ruins of an Episcopal mission. 2 hours, moderate 1.9-mile hike

Superintendent Jim Northup said “Please join us as we celebrate one of America’s best ideas – our National Park System”.

For more information about these events and other park programs, visit the Shenandoah National Park website at

First full season at Wayne Theatre kicks off

Wayne-window-logoThe opening of an art exhibit, the debut of LIVE @ the WAYNE and a concert with the Chairmen of the Board highlight the Kickoff Weekend of the first full season at the Historic Wayne Theatre/Ross Performing Arts Center.

“This is the big opening weekend for the Wayne Theatre that we’ve been working toward for the past 15 years,” said Tracy Straight, the executive director of the Wayne Theatre, which re-opened in March after a lengthy, multimillion-dollar renovation.

The Kickoff Weekend begins on Thursday, Sept. 8, with the opening of an art exhibit celebrating the cultural legacy of the Wayne Theatre in the 21st century. The exhibit features the work of an array of well-regarded Virginia photographers, including Kevin Blackburn, Deb Booth, Conrad Matiuk, Mark Miller, and Alison Thomas. The art opening and reception will begin at 5 p.m.Admission is free.

On Friday, Sept. 9, at 7:30 p.m., the Wayne Theatre marks the debut of a new monthly variety show, LIVE @ the WAYNE, on Friday, Sept. 9. The debut of LIVE @ the WAYNE will feature Americana music artist Bryan Elijah Smith, who will join host Tracy Straight and house band The Boogie Kings at the 7:30 p.m. show. Admission to LIVE @ the WAYNE is $15.

The Kickoff Weekend finale is Saturday, Sept. 10, at 8 p.m., with Chairmen of the Board, one of soul music’s most consistent hit makers. Tickets for the Chairmen of the Board show are $20/$25.

Other highlights of the 2016 full season include …

  • September 22: Johnny Peers and the Muttville Comix
  • September 23: Big Bill Morganfield
  • October 2: Jill Haley
  • October 14: Scott Miller Country
  • October 15: Wilson Fairchild
  • October 21: Acrobats of Cirque-Tacular and Spooktacular
  • October 28: Who’s Bad – The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience
  • October 29: Standup Comedy with Brett Leake and Tony Deyo
  • November 1: Holiday Decorating Secrets with Celebrity Designer Sam Harris
  • November 10-20: The Secret Garden Musical
  • November 26: Scott Linton Bluegrass
  • December 10: Wilson Fairchild Christmas Show

The Wayne Theatre/Ross Performing Arts Center is located at 521 West Main Street in downtown Waynesboro.

For more information, call (540) 943-9999 or visit

United Nations of Comedy Tour returns to Paramount Theater

paramountThe United Nations of Comedy Tour returns to The Paramount Theater on Saturday, November 12.

This tour features national comedians as seen on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Showtime, HBO, Ellen, Comedy Central, Comic View, TV shows, commercials, movies and other national programs. The United Nations of Comedy has become one of the area’s most highly anticipated comedy shows to visit the Paramount. From audience members bumping their head on the seat in front of them to tears streaming down their face, these things happen from uncontrollable laughter.

The Tour was founded with the premise of promoting diversity through laughter. The tour’s creator places focus on choosing the perfect blend of national comics by selecting an eclectic mix of comic styles. This year’s line up includes an hysterical array of national comedians: Emma Willmann, Funnyman Skiba, Antoine Scott, Alex Carabaño and Jason Andors. It does not get much funnier than that. Buckle your seatbelt and prepare for the ride of a lifetime but you may want to use the restroom first.

Back by popular demand, this will be Funnyman Skiba’s 11th visit to Charlottesville and his sixth visit to the Paramount Theater. He has been named the funniest comic alive and is extremely difficult for comedians to follow. Emma has made the list of being one of the Top 10 comics in New York. She has her own show on Sirius Radio and has appeared on a variety of national television programs. Being the only lesbian comic on the line up, she fits in perfectly to shake it up. She’s been featured on AfterEllen, Comedy Central and others.

Jason Andors is legendary for his real life comedy making fun of himself as a young jewish guy who used to break dance and later, appeared on Showtime at the Apollo, BET Comic View four times, showing how real comedic talent can make anyone laugh. He also appeared on HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central and many other outlets. Representing the latino community, Alex Cabaño has been labeled as one of NY funniest comedians and appeared on CBS, Telemundo, BRIC Tv, etc. Antoine Scott has the ability to win over any crowd. He has appeared on TVOne and Showtime at the Apollo.

Doors to the Theater open at 6:45pm for VIP ticket holders and 7pm for general.  General Admission tickets are $38.25; VIP tickets are $48.25, which include a Meet and Greet Reception with catered food, drinks & a live performance by the Robert Jospé Express, premium seating in the center orchestra section.

Tickets may be purchased at The Paramount Theater, located on the Downtown Mall at 215 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA, online at or may be purchased by phone at 434.979.1333.  For event sponsorship opportunities call 434.825.0650.

The Paramount Theater was chosen as the host venue for its elegant appeal, historical wealth and its extremely convenient location on the the downtown pedestrian mall. This event is sponsored by Cville Weekly, Melody Robbins Photography, The Hyatt Place, Yellow Cab, and the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau.

World premiere of Shakespeare’s Sister at Blackfriars Playhouse

american-shakespeare-centerThe untold story of Judith Shakespeare, a young woman challenged to reconcile her dreams with the social constructs of Elizabethan London, will come to life at the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Relishing its fresh commitment to produce new work using Shakespeare’s staging conditions, the American Shakespeare Center has chosen the new play Shakespeare’s Sister by Emma Whipday to be a part of the upcoming, revamped Actors’ Renaissance Season. The playwright, Emma Whipday of King’s College London, will be joining the ASC actors and director Jim Warren in the rehearsal room.

Judith Shakespeare has one ambition: to be a playwright, just like her famous brother Will. When her debt-ridden father forces her into an engagement, she runs away with the help of dashing actor Ned Alleyn, hoping to join her brother in London. But when Judith arrives in the plague-stricken capital, she finds her brother gone, Ned engaged to another, and her play refused. Judith befriends the women in a local brothel, and together, they decide to stage her play in secret. But Elizabethan London is a dangerous place to perform an unlicensed play.Shakespeare’s Sister is full of ideas and events as relevant to Shakespeare’s London as they are to today’s Virginia: the challenges of making a living, religious extremism, and the conflict between social expectations and individual dreams. “On top of all that drama, this play is darn funny,” says Warren.

The Actors’ Renaissance Season has been a unique theatrical venture in which the ASC dives deeper into Shakespeare’s staging conditions (leaving the lights on, utilizing a troupe of about a dozen actors, incorporating music before and during the show) by also re-creating some of Shakespeare’s rehearsal conditions: the troupe of actors direct themselves with very few group rehearsals, no outside directors, no formal costume designers, and often with just their cue scripts in hand, like scholars believe Shakespeare’s troupe worked. This year the ASC is shaking things up by mounting two Shakespeare plays and one Restoration play in their typical “Ren Season” style while also adding the new play directed by ASC co-founder and Artistic Director Jim Warren and the first professional revival in centuries of The Fair Maid of the Exchange by Shakespeare’s contemporary Thomas Heywood.

“We’ve been doing a Ren Season since 2005,” explains Warren, “and we’ve continued to experiment with the best ways to combine Shakespeare’s rehearsal conditions with many modern conventions like running a show for three months, which Shakespeare didn’t do. Presenting new plays written for Shakespeare’s staging conditions has been a goal of mine since we built the Blackfriars in 2001. So this year we’re taking the Ren Season experiment to new levels by bringing in a new play to explore with its playwright. Even though we’ve been playing in our Ren Season creative laboratory for over ten years, we’re still searching for new ways to shake things up and delight our audiences.”

Playwright Emma Whipday’s academic interest in Shakespeare’s staging conditions has primed her to fit in perfectly at the American Shakespeare Center. She is a teaching fellow at King’s College London and has published academic research on contemporary performance of early modern drama, staging closet drama, and early modern popular culture, as well as directing two productions of early modern plays as part of her research. Whipday borrows the character Judith Shakespeare from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, but re-imagines her story to reveal the “familial, societal, economic, and political pressures that shaped her world. We know that some women did perform in Shakespeare’s England,” Whipday says, “but the details of their performances are, for the most part, lost. Shakespeare’s Sister brings to life the early modern theatrical world that fostered Shakespeare’s talent – and in doing so, it imagines the stories of some of the women lost to history.”

Act fast, because you’ve only got 10 chances to catch this exciting and whimsical new play.  You can guarantee your seat for Shakespeare’s Sister by calling 1.877.Much.Ado (540.682.4236), by logging online to, or by visiting the Blackfriars Playhouse Box Office on 10 South Market Street in Staunton. Ticket prices start at $26.  Residents of Staunton, Waynesboro or Augusta County can take advantage of $18 local rush tickets on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Student, Senior, Military and AAA discounts also are available.

National Park Service announces Shenandoah Valley history programs

ShenandoahLogo_Outlined_Black_VerticalCedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park and its partners will offer a series of special National Park Service ranger programs and other events this August to highlight various stories related to the history of the Shenandoah Valley.

“These programs will give visitors a chance to explore important events of the Valley,” said Eric Campbell, the park’s chief of interpretation. “We will cover a numerous subjects and offer a wide variety of events, including  a Star Gazing Party, special programs for Civil War Weekend, programs on critical moments of the Battle of Cedar Creek and a celebration of the National Park Service’s 100thBirthday.”

These special presentations include both the popular “History at Sunset” programs and also the new “Battlefield Series” programs.  All of these programs are free and last between 90 minutes to two hours.

* August 19-21  Civil War Weekend   A series of special events and programs at historic and Civil War related sites in Frederick, Shenandoah and Clarke counties, including Winchester.  Activities typically include special tours, children’s activities, book signings, living history demonstrations, and more.  For more information and a complete schedule of events see: or or call: (877) 871-1326.

* August 19 —History at Sunset: “Attention – Company!”  Civil War Soldier for an Evening (7:00) Have you ever attended a Civil War “living history” event or re-enactment and wondered about all those strange movements, battle formations and commands?  Or the details of the various steps in loading and firing a rifled-musket?  Join Ranger Jeff Driscoll for a hands-on interactive experience on the basics of Civil War drill.  For adults and kids alike!  Meet at Belle Grove Plantation Manor House (336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA).

* August 20“I will guarantee that my line will stand” Ramseur’s Attack Against Hayes and Kitching(9:00 am)

Join Ranger Jeff Driscoll as he explores the attack of Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur’s Division on the Union line held by Col. (and future President) Rutherford B. Hayes and Col. J. Howard Kitching’s troops.  Meet at the National Park Service Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA).

* August 20National Regiment Living History Encampment and Firing Demonstrations  (10:00–5:00)  Members of the National Regiment will set up an encampment and discuss the life of the common Civil War soldier.  Firing demonstrations at 11:30 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.  Meet at the 8th Vermont Monument.  Parking is located at the Claytor Farm parking area (2262 Claven Lane, Middletown, VA).  The location will be marked by NPS signage.

* August 25—National Park Service Centennial Celebration (9:00–4:30).  Stop by the Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with cake and light refreshments.  Free.

* August 27—Belle Grove Wine Festival (11:00 – 6:00) An annual favorite at Belle Grove that will feature tastings of regional vineyards, music, chef demonstrations, vendors, and more. Fee. For more information call(540) 869-2028.

* August 27Battlefield Series: “Don’t run until the Vermonters do!”  The Vermont Brigade at Cedar Creek  (2:00)One of the most well-known units to fight at Cedar Creek was the Vermont Brigade, which saw action both during the critical morning defensive stand on Cemetery Hill, and also during the Union counterattack in the afternoon.  Join Park Ranger Jeff Driscoll as he explains the role of these soldiers from the Green Mountain State.  Meet at the Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown). Visitors will then car caravan to various locations on the battlefield.

For details and updates, call (540) 869-3051 or see: