Improvisation in Captivity!
What do you do when you want to wish everyone Happy Holidays but you aren’t really supposed to leave your house?! You get creative, and I know the most creative group around – the Providence Players of Fairfax!Going into the colder months, it became clear we weren’t going to be able to host our annual winter party. As a small token of our affection for our donors, members and subscribers, we decided to create a virtual greeting card. But how to do it?
After receiving a tip (thanks, Tina), I reached out to member Sara Bennett, who is witty, creative and has a beautiful voice. Sara jumped right on the idea of taking some holiday classics and changing the words to fit the different shows we had done this year. She got her creative juices flowing, and we periodically touched base over a month’s time as she created, rewrote, completely rejected and rewrote again.
Now we had the music. Next was the video. We knew we wanted the board members to do something, but what? Over the course of an evening, I met each board member over Zoom and recorded them in their holiday finery, doing whatever inspired them. I really had given no parameters and I was thrilled with what they came up with – tangled lights, packages to wrap, snowflakes falling, ornaments to put on trees and some even kissing Santa! At the end of that evening, we all reconvened in one large Zoom to wish you all a Happy New Year. From ugly sweaters to tuxes and sparkly tops, all in one night of recording!
The raw materials (songs and video) were handed over to Chip Gertzog, our irreplaceable tech whiz. He had all the footage from the Zoom shows we had done this past year, along with the Laundry & Bourbon and Lone Star images, so he married the songs with that footage and the result was the almost 8-minute greeting card we sent you. (Although if you ask my sister, she says it’s not a “card” if it’s 8 minutes long!)
We hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed making it. It takes a village, and I wouldn’t live in any other one!
President, Providence Players of Fairfax
Board Member Spotlight: Kevin Harnisch, Founding Member, Producer, Actor & Board Member
Kevin Harnisch was among the original incorporators of the company. He retired from long careers in government and international business consulting and currently serves as the Chairman of the Community Representation Committee. This committee is committed to expanding our support for social and economic justice in our performing community. He and his wife, Sarah, have three grown children, two of whom reside in the area.
“Elementary school parents performing in a school play? ‘Hmm, that sounds like fun!’ The next thing I knew I was jumping off the stage and running through the audience as I portrayed Donald in our first production, You Can’t Take It With You. I was fortunate to be part of a group of creative parents wishing to support our kids’ PTA. No one could foresee that our first walk on the boards would lead to the innovative, regionally recognized, award winning community theater that we have become today.
Our company’s theatrical path followed our children’s education trail to Frost Middle School and, fortunately, a bigger (and higher) stage. Unfortunately, high enough that when my new character role required me to jump off the stage and run through the audience, I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon; but the show went on (with me in a boot). Our middle school theatrics provided me the opportunity to strengthen friendships, including with our neighbor Supervisor Connolly. Through the years, Gerry and I have shared several cop roles on stage, and off stage have shared a commitment to expanding access to the performing arts.
It was also at Frost, while making animated background small talk onstage with fellow Board Member Janet Bartelmay, that I learned we grew up in adjacent Ohio towns.
After we moved to the James Lee Center, I was fortunate to act in a few more productions before my non-acting career demanded more frequent, unplanned travel which prevented me from being able to commit to production schedules as an actor. But like so many contributors, I was still happy to produce plays, provide tech support, build sets, work the box office, and take tickets.
The Providence Players is indeed a group of dedicated member artists and volunteers who have contributed in so many ways to ensure our success and to serve our diverse community. And, I’m lucky to call many of them friends.”
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” Kurt Vonnegut
Who could have envisioned that in December 2012 with the holiday production, Best Christmas Pageant Ever (the first time we did it), that we would spark a partnership that would raise thousands of dollars and serve hundreds of young people and their families affected with blood cancers and life-altering illness? Our collaboration with The Young Hearts has endured for nearly a decade. Though we have had to be creative during this time of the pandemic, the partnership continues. (Read more below).
Since 2012, Young Hearts has partnered with us to co-produce the holiday show. Over that time, the collaboration has generated over $60,000 in support of The Young Hearts Foundation’s important mission:
“The Young Hearts Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of young people affected by life-altering illness. Through raising funds for medical research, providing support for families affected, and raising awareness, The Young Hearts Foundation strives to encourage a community of volunteers to better the lives of young people.”
This year due to COVID-19, we were not in a position to produce a holiday production, but instead organized a scavenger hunt fundraiser that continued our efforts together to serve the young people in our community. The Providence Players board and its volunteers are humbled and appreciative of the partnership with The Young Hearts and look forward to working together in the future
How about challenging our members to a Providence Players and Young Hearts-themed scavenger hunt, with proceeds going to the Young Hearts Foundation?
But we are in a pandemic! No worries!
A super-creative group of Young Hearts and Providence Players members came up with a plan that included: a master list of theater-, Players- and Young Hearts-themed items; scavenger hunt teams comprised of families or members of the same “bubble”; and a behind the scenes Technical Support team so the hunters could clock in each find by emailing the judges a picture.
At the stroke of 1:00 on January 9th, 19 teams, including folks from North Carolina and Virginia Beach were off and running! Tick tock, tick tock … They had 90 minutes – which also meant the Technical Support team had to process pictures coming in from all the teams during those 90 minutes. Harrowing for all concerned – and a monumental amount of fun.
Items on the list included: a canned ham (Best Christmas Pageant Ever), a kite (Frog and Toad), a pocket watch (Gift of the Magi), a door knocker (A Christmas Carol), as well as other items such as popcorn, a ticket stub, a spotlight, and a wig. Creative points could also be garnered by recreating (with costumes and props) a scene from a famous movie or play. Options included: The Phantom Tollbooth, The Lion King, West Side Story, Les Miserables, Hamilton, The Sound of Music, Hello Dolly!, and A Chorus Line.
Needless to say, the pictures were a riot, and it appears that “a good time was had by all” given comments like: ”That was a blast,” “I had so much fun,” “I would do that again” and “I’m going to steal this idea!”
Later that day, the Providence Players hosted a special (virtual) Happy New Year’s Happy Hour to review the day’s activities and announce the winners. A huge shout out and thanks went to Prince and Mike McLaughlin, and their team of Young Hearts participants, for their yeomen’s effort on this project. David Whitehead introduced Dalia Palchik, Providence District Supervisor, who participated with her brother and niece. It was nice to hear her kind words about the event – and that she really misses our shows! We also heard from Elizabeth Stone, a cancer survivor, who spoke about her journey, the fine work of the Young Hearts, and her own history with Providence Players.
The happy hour was also filled with cat and dog pictures, tales of being in hot pursuit of canned hams, exit signs and the not-so-surprising stories of the crazy items theater folks have just lying around the house. Then it was time for the big announcements: 1st Place went to … drum roll … The Princess Protein Powder Puff team – having gotten 40 items. 2nd Place went to the Hardwick Life team (who took their name from “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie). Kudos for the Most Creative efforts went to the Finding Nemo team from VA Beach. Best of all, in 90 minutes $1,100.00 was raised for the Young Hearts Foundation!!
It was a perfect evening to share stories, laugh with friends, celebrate a great cause and toast to the New Year! As for the scavenger hunt, it was deemed a great success. Who knows? We may try this again in the future. Keep a lookout…
A Providence Players core value is to provide support to local high school students who have been involved in theater arts and would benefit from financial assistance to pursue their theater interest after graduation. We will again be offering scholarships to college-bound students as a way of nurturing future theater artists and contributing to the arts community in our region. We believe in the power of authentic inclusion, advocacy, and empowerment of students and their families. Thus, up to three $1,500 scholarships will be awarded to graduating seniors with a demonstrated commitment to theater arts and who have been accepted to a U.S. accredited college or university or conservatory program.
Eligible graduating seniors must (1) reside within the school boundaries of Annandale, Fairfax, Falls Church, George Mason, Justice, Marshall, Bishop O’Connell, Trinity Meadow View, Woodson or Yorktown high schools OR (2) have been a member of PPF for at least one year. It is not required that applicants commit to a theater arts major in college, only that they plan on continuing their involvement and contribution to theater arts in the future.
Call: To All Creatives!
Providence Players is looking for its next Pop-Up production, and we want to hear from YOU. The Pop-Up program is an opportunity for you to get creative and challenge yourself. You can pitch to do a short virtual show or film, plan something outdoors, direct a radio play, or something completely different and new! If you’ve ever wanted to direct for Providence Players, this is the perfect way to get your foot in the door and show us what you’ve got!
Applying is EASY. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “PopUp Pitch” with a copy of the script (if applicable) and a brief paragraph (<200 words) summarizing your pitch. Someone will be in touch to work with you. Find all the details you need here at and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
Save the Dates: Providence Happy Hour & Play Reading Event
Play Reading Night (Virtual) – The next Play Reading event will take place on Tuesday, February 9th at 7 p.m. Our last virtual reading evening of One Act plays was great fun and this time we will read a mystery! Make sure you save the date and remember, only members can attend! So, if you need to, make sure you renew or join – and then RSVP to get the Zoom log-in information.
Providence (Virtual) Happy Hour – Please join us for the next Happy Hour on Tuesday March 9th, 2021 at 6:30pm. Put it on your calendar! We encourage you to prepare your own beverage, grab your favorite electronic device, and join Andra, Roxanne and Amanda as they host a theatrical gabfest filled with fun and games. Make sure you save the date and remember, only members can attend! So, if you need to, make sure you renew or join – and then RSVP to get the Zoom log-in information
Blast from Past: Moon Over Buffalo
A Standing Ovation: Beth Harrison – Tina Thronson writes a tribute to one of our most active members who will be moving from the area soon. Tina shares Beth’s incredible contribution to Providence Players over the years. Read the entire article.
- Congratulations to Director, Julie Janson, and the entire production team for Dominion Stage’s production of Until the Flood, by Dael Orlandersmith. Other Providence Players members involved include: Chip Gertzog, Chris Crockett, Michael Bagwell and Clark Chesser; and past members, Lindsey June and Amy Griffin.
- Welcome back renewing members: Don Beatty, Angela Cannon, Christopher Crockett and Julie Janson, Sandra DeRocha, Jennifer and Valerie Dure (and Family), Craig Geoffrion, Christine Getek, Ward Kay, Noor Krajah, Daniel Lavanga, Lori and Gunner Moskowitz (and Family) and Steven Rosenthal.
- New members: Welcome to Providence Players! Bob and Dorothy Salak and Fianna Litvok.
- If your membership is lapsed and you wish to renew, you can click here.