ARARAT, Va. — Life adds its resemblance to art in the upcoming Cherry Orchard Theatre production “A Dangerous Woman,” featuring local actors Rose Warshana and Thelma Jean Pack.
The two performers are rekindling past relationships with theater just as characters “Carrie” and “Lorene” in the play try rekindling an old friendship.
Pack was born and raised in Patrick County in Ararat, Virginia, on a parcel of land that was once part of the Jeb Stuart birthplace.
Warshana is a Carroll County, Virginia, native and Carroll County High School graduate. Her return to the theater — and art in general — began with her blog, “My Pizza Perfect Life” at WordPress.
“I’ve been involved in theater since high school. Last year I made myself a list of things I wanted to do for myself. One thing was to get back into theater,” said Warshana. “Another thing I promised myself is that I would start writing every day. In it I just write about life, kids, business and those horrible feelings we have as women, if you know what I mean,” joked Warshana.
She said earlier this year she was in the community theater production of “Smoke On The Mountain.” Shelby Inscore Puckett told her the Cherry Orchard Theatre might be interested in her talent.
“I said, ‘Sure whenever. Let me know.’ She had Frank (Levering) to come by after and see me.”
She stayed in touch with Levering, who later said he had a play in the works about two women trying to reconcile a friendship. He wanted her in one of the roles, and she said yes.
Warshana predicted the play will keep its audiences on edge the whole time. It was a departure from previous characters she has played.
“It’s intense, really intense. It’s not anything I’d ever seen myself doing. Not this particular part. It’s a lot of work and a lot of love. My character’s name is Carrie. She is a little louder than I am in every way. A little more over the top, but it’s theater. Frank wrote in a lot of parallels so it would be easier to play. She is similar to me in many ways. It’s the same with Thelma’s character and her personality. The differences are there as well.”
Warshana said the “theater in the round” setting makes her “a little bit nervous.” Another challenge will be the material, which includes subjects not normally discussed in a crowd.
“Another nice thing about this play is it is based in Appalachia. … I can completely relax with the voice. It’s written in our dialect,” said Warshana. “I think we address some issues for women, both women and men and people in hard times. I think most people will be able to identify with the characters in this play in some form.”
Pack traces her time in theater back a number of years as well. Her start on the stage began 30 years ago in Mount Airy when friend Helen Haymore encouraged her to audition for a part in “The Sound Of Music.”
“I loved the movie so I went to the audition,” said Pack. “I wanted to play Maria but I got a part as a singing nun. I loved it. I was hooked.”
She is also an alumni of the 2012 production of “Thunder in the Hills” playing Alverta Allen Edwards. Work kept her from subsequent stage appearance. Her knowledge gained working in local mills dovetailed with Levering’s interest in a character with that background.
“My character Lorene is a person who worked in the mills years ago. She started in a mill, got knowledge and experience and became a trainer and then overtraining. Carrie was one of those she supervised. Things happened between them, and we are trying to revive the friendship after 10 to 15 years,” said Pack.
She said Levering, who knew about her acting and history in the mills, called her with the offer after Shelby Inscore Puckett suggested her as a natural for the play. Levering said the raw, natural talent of both actors drew him to seeking their help in bringing the production alive. He said conversations with Pack about mill work intrigued him.
“I actually interviewed her (Pack) about her time in the mills. Thousands of workers in this area had this experience,” said Levering. “Mount Airy lost some 10,000 jobs in the textile business. People had to scramble to find a new job. It had an impact on the entire area. It seemed to me there was a story there.”
He said the journey of two women trying to heal a friendship covers some dark territory, including families in trouble and suicide, but he is hopeful the work’s humorous touches light that path for the audience.
“To me it’s the kind of play which reflects the belief it’s a good thing to face different things head on. This operates on a really important, profound level,” Levering said. “My sister Betsy says she goes to plays to have her life changed in some small or large way. That is her hope. The benefits of a comedy aside, this is what you take away from serious theater. It’s an art form. These two women with their life experiences and willingness to grow as actors, that attitude is what we all have to do to be good. I think I’ve enjoyed directing this more than any play we’ve done at the theater in 10 years.”
He said the show plans a “talk back” segment following the one-hour play. Levering said he especially enjoys the opportunity to do plays that are local stories, which are bolstered even more by the theater’s natural amphitheatre with cherry trees on virtually all sides and a more than 50-mile view of surrounding ridges and hollows.
“You can use this space to really tell a story and we’ve done that for a long time here. The actors really enjoy working in this space. This one I’m excited about. These two beautiful women are up to it. They’re starting to get butterflies which is a good thing,” Levering said.
The play’s subject matter should be considered PG-13 and older (no sexual content and mild profanity).
A Dangerous Woman is scheduled Sept. 1, 2 and 3 at the Cherry Orchard Theatre. Curtain time is set for 7 p.m.; tickets are $10 per person with no reservations. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and refreshments. People may obtain more information by calling 276-755-3539. The theater is located at 163 Levering Lane in Ararat, Virginia.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.