Blog Archives

First African-American Disney animator to hold masterclass at Shenandoah University

Floyd Norman, Disney’s first African-American animator, will speak at Shenandoah University at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, in Halpin-Harrison Hall, Stimpson Auditorium (1460 University Drive, Winchester, VA 22601). This event is free and open to the public; no registration is required.

Norman will share his story about his pioneering work in the world of animation, and this presentation will allow participants to engage in thought dialogue about how they may enter into the field of animation and/or careers related to the arts, entertainment, media management, design, film and animation.

Later that evening, Norman will be on-hand at Alamo Drafthouse Winchester for a 7 p.m. screening of his documentary, “Floyd Norman: An Animated Life,” about his experiences as the first African-American animator at Disney, and his impact upon the animated world. A question and answer session will follow.

The screening is presented as a part of Alamo Drafthouse Winchester’s annual Black History Month series, which benefits the Winchester Branch of the NAACP, and is one of many screenings presented by the Winchester Film Club. Shenandoah University – along with the Winchester Branch of the NAACP and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley – have partnered with Alamo Drafthouse Winchester for this screening.

Hired as the first African-American at Disney in 1956, Norman would later be hand-picked by Walt Disney to join the story team on the “Jungle Book.” After Walt Disney’s death, Norman left Disney to start his own company – Vignette Films, Inc. – to produce black history films for high schools. He and his partners would later work with Hanna Barbera, animate the original “Fat Albert Special,” as well as the titles to “Soul Train.”

Norman returned to Disney in the 1980s to work in their Publishing department. And in 1998, he returned to Disney Animation to work in the story department on “Mulan.” But an invite to the Bay area in the late 1990s became a career highlight. Norman was now working with another emerging great: Pixar and Steve Jobs, on “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters Inc.”

Life as an animator is a nomadic one, but Mr. Norman spent the majority of his career at Disney. He views it as his “home.” Retired by Disney at age 65 in 2000, the documentary focuses on Norman’s difficulty with a retirement he was not ready for. Not one to quit, Mr. Norman chose to occupy an empty cubicle at Disney Publishing for the last 15 years. As he puts it, “[He] just won’t leave.” A term has been coined by Disney employees – “Floydering.” While not on staff, his proximity to other Disney personnel has led him to pick up freelance work. He continues to have an impact on animation as both an artist and mentor. As Mr. Norman says, “[He] [plans] to die at the drawing board.”

For more information about the 2 p.m. event held at Shenandoah University on Feb. 1, contact Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business Assistant Professor of Management Montressa Washington, Ph.D., at

Record attendance at Virginia State Parks in 2016

Virginia State Parks attendance in 2016 hit a record-high 10,022,698 visitors, which was a 12 percent increase over 2015. Virginia State Parks, managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), hosted more than 1 million overnight visitors in cabins and campgrounds in 2016, an increase of nearly 3 percent over 2015.

“Virginia’s state park system is the best in the country, and more Virginians and visitors are taking advantage than ever before,” said Governor McAuliffe. “State Parks are a vital part of communities large and small, attracting visitors to the region and generating substantial tourism revenue that directly benefits our local economies. From opening Natural Bridge State Park to making historic investments in the Virginia Treasures Program, this administration has worked hard to protect and expand opportunities to interact with the countless natural and historic attractions our Commonwealth has to offer. I want to thank the staff at the Department of Conservation and Recreation for their hard work making our state park system a world-class asset for the people of Virginia.”

“When attendance increases, so does the economic impact of the state park system,” said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman. “Visitors spend money in the parks, in local communities and traveling to and from parks. Our 37 state parks have an impact of more than $222 million on Virginia’s economy.”

“Multiple factors contributed to our new attendance record, overall good weather, lower gas prices and the year-long celebration of our 80th anniversary,” said Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver. “Last year, a record-high 548,398 people attended our ranger-led environmental and historic programs, an increase of 23 percent over 2015. So there’s no single cause we can point to as a reason for the increases. It’s obvious that more people find value spending time in a Virginia State Park.”

The addition of Natural Bridge State Park, which is in Rockbridge County, accounted for 45,869 visitors since DCR assumed management on September 24, 2016. The increases also came despite the fact that several parks in the Tidewater and Northern Neck regions were closed for weeks because of hurricanes. The storms negatively affected their visitation, overnight attendance and revenue.

A specific breakdown and attendance summary of each DCR park can be found here.

American Shakespeare Center announces 2017/18 Artistic Year

American Shakespeare Center Artistic Director Jim Warren announced the titles for the ASC 2017/18 Artistic Year at the opening night celebration of The Merchant of Venice on Saturday, January 14.

The 2017/18 Artistic Year runs June 2017 through June 2018 at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton and all over the United States with the 2017/18 Wicked Folly Tour.

The line-up will include 15 productions presented over 12 months in 4 separate repertory seasons, offering the largest number of plays per year by Shakespeare and Early Modern playwrights using Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions of any theatre in the world.

The 2017/18 Artistic Year features seven plays by William Shakespeare:
• Much Ado about Nothing
• Love’s Labour’s Lost
• The Fall of King Henry (Henry VI, Part 3)
• Macbeth
• The Taming of the Shrew
• Hamlet
• The Life and Death of Richard II

Also included are the Tony Award-winning Peter and the Starcatcher, a world-premiere adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility tailored for the Blackfriars and ASC on Tour, a contemporary thriller about Shakespeare’s company Equivocation, the Restoration comedy The Way of the World by William Congreve, and two plays that nod to Hamlet: Antonio’s Revenge by John Marston, and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. The first five of these six non-Shakespeare plays are Blackfriars premieres.

Holiday favorite A Christmas Carol returns to the Blackfriars Playhouse in December for its seventeenth annual production. It is joined in repertory by the family-friendly Every Christmas Carol Ever Told (And Then Some!) in its Blackfriars Playhouse debut.

“Our patrons can see more Shakespeare and Early Modern plays right here in Virginia than anywhere else on the planet,” said ASC Artistic Director Jim Warren. “In the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, we perform every month of the year in true repertory using Shakespeare’s staging conditions that bring out the fun, excitement, and heartbreak in the greatest plays ever written. And when we do modern plays, we also always use Shakespeare’s staging conditions, showing all who see us that going back to the future is the cutting edge of live theatre in the twenty-first century.”

All productions will be presented in the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, VA, “one of the most historically important theatres in the world,” according to British scholar Andrew Gurr. The 2017/18 Wicked Folly Tour will also take three productions (Macbeth, Sense and Sensibility, and The Taming of the Shrew) across the country to performing arts centers and universities.

Believing that Shakespeare’s stagecraft is as important as his wordcraft, the American Shakespeare Center has developed its own modern performance style based on how Shakespeare’s company performed plays at the original Globe and Blackfriars Playhouses in Renaissance London, an approach that the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout calls “first rate theatre.”

Dubbed “shamelessly entertaining” by the Washington Post, ASC style includes having the audience and performers share the same light, seating the audience all around the stage and even on the stage itself, and having actors interact with audience members during the performance.

Subscription packages will be on sale in February and single tickets go on sale on April 15. More information is available online at, from the Blackfriars Playhouse Box Office by phone at 1.877.MUCH.ADO (682-4236), or in person at 10 S. Market Street in downtown Staunton. through June 2015.

True stories of modern-day slavery: Exhibit at Washington and Lee

A new exhibit-installation on modern-day human trafficking, directed by Stephanie Sandberg, will be on display in McCarthy Gallery of Holekamp Hall at the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics at Washington and Lee University beginning Jan. 26.

The show opens with an artist’s talk and reception on Jan. 26 from 5:30-7 p.m. and runs through May 31. The talk, reception and exhibit are free and open to the public.

“Stories in Blue” is based on the real-life stories of six human trafficking survivors from Michigan. Sandberg spent a year interviewing survivors and learning about their experiences, crafting these into a series of films, a photographic installation and a live performance.

This project is a response to the high rate of human trafficking in Michigan, which Sandberg noticed while she lived there. Michigan, as well as Virginia, both rank in the top 10 states where sex trafficking is a major societal problem. “There is much work to do to raise awareness about this problem and the stories need to be addressed as a significant source of knowledge and inspiration for how the change might occur,” said Sandburg.

“Stories in Blue” features original music by Theo Ndwallie II, original photography by Ryan Spencer-Reed, with text and direction by Sandberg, who is an assistant professor of theater at Washington and Lee.

The McCarthy Gallery in Holekamp Hall is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Movie on Augusta County WWII POW camp screening at the Wayne Theatre

german powThe Wayne Theatre is hosting a screening of a documentary about an Augusta County World War II POW camp.

“In This Land: The Camp Lyndhurst Saga/German Prisoners of War in The Old Dominion”, produced by the Waynesboro-based Alpha Vision Films, is based on a book by historian Gregory L. Owen.

Owen and filmmaker James Overton collaborated on the project, which chronicles the history of a POW camp at what is now the popular tourist destination Sherando Lake.

Originally built during the depression to house workers in The Civilian Conservation Corps, at the outbreak of World War II, what became known as Camp Shenandoah was used for Civilian Public Service assignees who served there as officially designated conscientious objectors.

During WWII, it became a prisoner of war camp for nearly 300 German soldiers working in the farms of the Shenandoah Valley.

Owen’s book, “The Longest Patrol,” is a biography of one of the prisoners in the camp, Karl Baumann, who returned after the war and raised his family in Stuarts Draft, roughly 10 miles from where he had been a prisoner during the war.

Baumann’s story is prominently featured in the film.



“In This Land: The Camp Lyndhurst Saga/German Prisoners of War in The Old Dominion” will be screened at the Wayne on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Wayne.

Admission is pay what you will.

Kris Kristofferson, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild Live! coming to The Paramount

The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville will feature two live on-stage performances this May. On Saturday, May 6 at 4:00PM, Jack Hanna brings his three-time Emmy Award-winning television series to the stage of  The Paramount Theater with Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild Live!

In this live show, Jack will share stories and amazing footage from his adventures all around the world from Africa, to the Amazon, to Antarctica and beyond. He will also inspire with his passion and dedication to wildlife conservation. Audiences can expect to see approximately fifteen animals in the live experience, such as a baby cheetah, kangaroo, baby tiger, two-toed sloth, penguin and much more. Recognized around the country as America’s favorite zookeeper, Jack has made countless television appearances on shows such as Good Morning America, Ellen, and The Late Show with David Letterman where he has made over 100 appearances and appeared as one of the featured guests for David Letterman’s final episodes in 2015.

Then, on Friday, May 12 at 8:00PM, The Paramount will present three-time Grammy winner and country music legend Kris Kristofferson. Heralded as an artist’s artist, Kristofferson has recorded 27 albums, including three with pals Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings as part of the Highwaymen.

Kristofferson has spent three decades performing concerts all over the world, in most recent years in a solo acoustic setting, which puts the focus on the songs. Kristofferson has reached living legend status, but that hasn’t changed or hindered his creativity. Among his many awards, Kristofferson is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, winner of the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriter Hall of Fame, and was honored with the American Veteran’s Association’s “Veteran of the Year Award” in 2002.

Tickets to these live events at The Paramount Theater are on sale next week. Tickets can be purchased at The Paramount Theater’s Box Office, by phone at 434.979.1333, or online at

Wanda, Magic Honky Tonk Band headline LIVE @ the WAYNE

The return of Wanda Eaves Taylor and the debut of The Magic Honky Tonk Band will highlight the new LIVE @ the WAYNE on Friday, Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m.

Eaves Taylor, the lead singer of the popular local favorites Wanda and the White Boys, helped headline a sold-out show at the Wayne in its debut season in 2016.

“We were thrilled to have Wanda on the stage last year, and look forward to her return for LIVE @ the WAYNE in January,” said Tracy Straight, the executive director of the Wayne Theatre.

The Magic Honky Tonk Band, Samuel Hayden and Joshua Burtner, play a version of honky tonk that crosses a span of musical styles.

“From surf music to rock, from funk to country western, all with their signature energy and unique style, this band will have you both swaying to a dreamy melody and jumping to your feet, all in the same show,” Straight said.

Eaves Taylor and The Magic Honky Tonk Band will join the house band, The Boogie Kings, at the January show.

Tickets for the show are $15.

More information on the show is online at The Wayne Theatre ticket office is open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tickets can also be ordered by phone at (540) 943-9999.

Writer’s Read at EMU features Mary Baldwin University professor, poet, novelist

“Historical Fiction, Tudor England, Gardening, Herbs and Poetry” reads the tagline on Dr. Sarah Kennedy’s website. Kennedy – poet, novelist, and Mary Baldwin University professor – will appear at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) Feb. 2 as part of the Writers Read series. Kennedy will read from and comment on her work at 6:30 p.m. in Common Grounds.

Kennedy has won the Cleveland State University Press Open Competition, the Elixir Press Prize in Poetry, and grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She teaches creative writing, Renaissance literature and Shakespeare at Mary Baldwin.

Professor Mike Medley, chair of the Language and Literature department, says he was first impressed to discover “a scholar at a neighboring institution who had published so much poetry and fiction.”

“My poems ranged in subject from the painfully personal to the distantly narrative, and as I grew older, those autobiographical tendencies waned,” Kennedy wrote for literary blog “Layered Pages.”
Kennedy’s time in the U.K. studying the lives of eighteenth century women was a pivotal experience in her writing career.

“I was particularly interested in women’s spiritual and domestic lives, and this curiosity led me to read the medieval mystics” she says. “All of these women suffered for their beliefs, and I wanted to know how ordinary women might have coped with the great changes in England as it shifted from being a Roman Catholic to a Protestant country.”

This research inspired her to enter the historical fiction field, and in 2013 she published The Altarpiece (Knox Robinson Publishing), the first in a series about a young nun thrust into a hostile political-religious environment under King Henry VIII’s rule.

“Despite the fact that the novel is set in the 16th century,” says Medley, “some of the themes are very contemporary: violence against women, women’s struggle to exercise the full range of their gifts and the universal questioning of faith in the face of disease, violence, betrayal and death.”

“People have to have stories to make sense of their lives,” said Kennedy in a 2013 interview.  “It’s one of the reasons we crave fiction; we need to shape events in such a way that they conform to our notions of right and wrong, of justice and fairness—and to our notions of the reality of danger and evil.”

Jasmine Guy, Avery Sharpe Trio bring Harlem Renaissance to life

Step into the world of the Harlem Renaissance through words, music, and imagery with “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey,” a production featuring award-winning actress, singer, and dancer Jasmine Guy and the acclaimed Avery Sharpe Trio, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m.

Presented by the Moss Arts Center, the performance will be held in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall.

In 1918, as World War I ended and thousands of African-American soldiers returned home, a mountain of artistic expression was ready to explode. The words and thoughts of Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others became the voice of a new generation. Inspired by the thoughts, songs, and images from this time, and specifically the classic 1923 Toomer novel, “Cane,” the performance weaves these voices into an experience that spans this era and provides a window on a critical point in history.

With a diverse career in television, theatre, and film, Guy spent years on Broadway before landing the role of Whitley Gilbert on “The Cosby Show” spinoff, “A Different World,” which earned her six consecutive NAACP Image Awards. Guy has also appeared in films and mini-series, including Spike Lee’s “School Daze,” Eddie Murphy’s “Harlem Nights,” Alex Hailey’s “Queen,” and Debbie Allen’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”

Currently, she can be seen as history professor Ella Grace in the new BET series, “The Quad,” and in her recurring role as Grams on the CW Network series, “Vampire Diaries.”

Sharpe is a renowned jazz bassist and composer who has worked with many jazz greats, from Dizzy Gillespie to Pat Metheny, and has led his own groups. All of Sharpe’s recordings feature his distinctive original compositions, which draw from the full range of his musical background. His latest recording, “Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman,” features collaborations with various artists, including Onaje Alan Gumbs, Yoron Israel, Craig Handy, Duane Eubanks, and Jeri Brown.

Sharpe teamed with classical cellist and writer Harry Clark to compose the music for “Raisin’ Cane” and will be joined onstage by percussionist Kevin Sharpe and jazz violinist Diane Monroe, who composed music to “The Self Evident Poem” from “Quilting the Black Eyed Pea” by Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Professor of English Nikki Giovanni.

During their visit, Guy will lead an acting workshop for theatre art students in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts, while the Avery Sharpe Trio heads a jazz music workshop for students at Kipps Elementary School in Blacksburg. The artists will also perform an abridged version of “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey” for students in grades five through 12 from Roanoke City and Montgomery, Pulaski, Giles, and Floyd counties.



Tickets for the performance are $20-45 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center’s box office, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to an event.

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library lecture series examines entry into World War I

woodrow wilsonThe Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library’s ongoing commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I continues with the lecture series “America Joins the Fight: The U.S. Enters World War I.”

The topics to be discussed were selected specifically for their particular interest to the general public.  The lecture series opens Sunday, January 22nd at 2:00 p.m. as museum curator, Andrew Phillips discusses America’s attempt to stay neutral amidst the provocations which eventually led to war.

The series continues Monday, February 20th, Presidents Day, at 2:00 p.m. as WWPL CEO, Robin von Seldeneck, examines Wilson’s role in neutrality efforts and the lead up toward American involvement in the war.

On Sunday, March 12th at 2:00 educators, Heather Sutton and Susan Laser explore the uniforms, weapons, and artifacts from their extensive collection as they depict the life of an everyday soldier during World War I as well as the preparations for war on the home front.

The lecture series concludes Thursday evening April 6th and Saturday April 7th with the symposium “America Joins the Fight.”

All four events in the lecture series are free and open to the public and will take place in the Library and Research Center of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library located at 235 East Beverley St. Staunton.

Those interested in receiving more information about the lecture series should contact Bob Robinson at or call (540) 885-0897 ext. 102.