ARARAT, Va. — The Cherry Orchard Theatre summer season is in full bloom with three different plays scheduled for the next three weekends.
Now in its 17th year, the natural amphitheater located on the grounds of Levering Orchard continues to provide a unique theater experience.
Frank Levering, orchard owner and theater founder, calls it “environmental theater,” that can’t help but involve the weather, ambient noises – and the occasional critter – that are a part of life in the Virginia foothills where the orchard is located.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We always have adventures and misadventures.”
The orchard has been in the Levering family for 108 years.
Levering, a Mount Airy High School graduate, worked as a screenwriter in Los Angeles for years, where he co-wrote the film “Parasite,” which starred Demi Moore.
His parents grew ill and Levering returned home in 1986, taking over the orchard and continuing to author books.
His grandparents’ house burned down in 1996. Scheduled to be torn down in 1999, Levering decided to write a play about his grandparents that would actually be performed at the ruins of the house.
It was a way to honor the home, and the stories it contained; a funeral of sorts.
Performances over three weekends drew 1,200 people, Levering said.
“That caught me by surprise,” he said.
“We’ve been doing theater there ever sense,” he said. “It’s been a magical experience for 17 summers.”
Levering said one of the benefits of the Cherry Orchard Theatre is the creative freedom to work with new playwrights or edgier plays that might not fly in community theater.
“We try to find plays that fit the location,” and whenever possible, “that reflect the culture of this area,” Levering said.
The plays scheduled for the remainder of the season are no exception.
• “In Other Words,” written by Beverly Johnston, of Winston-Salem, premiered Friday at the theater and continues throughout the weekend. It is based on the “spectacular personal story,” of the playwright, a coal miner’s daughter who grew up in rural Appalachia, Levering said. “It’s poetic, authentic and anything but sentimental.”
• “The Woods,” by David Mamet, is scheduled for Aug. 26, 27 and 28. The two-character love story unfolds over an isolated romantic weekend. “The dark shadows about each of their lives emerge,” Levering said. “It’s a very intense play.”
• “The Face,” written by Levering, is scheduled for Sept. 2, 3, 4 and 5. It’s an eerie adaptation of an Irish short story where a young boy falls in love with a face seen just below the surface of a lake. The Labor Day weekend performances include stage readings beginning at 5 p.m. Renowned playwright Beth Henley will be present at the Sept. 5 reading and performance.
Performances begin at 7 p.m. each night, rain or shine. Those in attendance are welcome to bring lawn chairs, and anything they want to eat or drink.
For more information visit LeveringOrchard.com.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.