Member WEBLetter, May 2020

Creativity in a Changing World

Remember the time when you could go out for a nice meal before catching that compelling theater production you wanted to see?  For us, that day ended March 13 when we realized the world had changed.  We cancelled our production of Picnic and then a couple of weeks later, Enchanted April. That was a few short weeks ago, but it feels like so much longer.  COVID-19, Coronavirus, pandemic, social distancing (this was updated to “physical distancing” by CDC) and Zoom have become common words used almost daily, rarely heard or shared by most prior to 2020.

However, creativity and goodness will not be thwarted!  There is so much to share in the following update (so read on, McDuff!), but first a little update on our response to COVID-19.

On March 30, we announced that we have established a COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund and will apply all donations given to us to two community organizations in Falls Church and Fairfax serving those negatively impacted by this dreadful crisis. More information can be found here.  I am pleased to share that we have already received tickets donated back to the Players by over 120 patrons and an additional $1,000 in donations, totaling $8,000 (and more, as more is raised).

We are so thankful to be in a position to support our community at this time, and we thank many of you who have already donated to the cause.  If you would still like to donate to the Fund, go to the donation site.

Wishing you all (and yours) health and safety!

David P. Whitehead
WEBLetter Editor

Providence PopUp goes virtual!

In a time of “physical distancing” and the shuttering of live theater, Providence Players of Fairfax wants to continue, in a small way, to offer quality, affordable, entertainment experiences to current and new audiences, while at the same time furthering our core values of participation and learning through creative expression. If you have seen one of Providence Players’ PopUp performances at the Italian Café, you are familiar with the PopUp mission of providing our members opportunities to expand artistically while broadening our audience, membership, and repertoire.

It is with that mission in mind that we are testing a new PopUp format: a short, online performance our community can enjoy from the comfort and safety of home. You can see an example here.

Enjoy this first one and let us know what you think at

Be sure to follow Providence Players on social media and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

And just like our in-person performances, we encourage you to make a night of it with dinner AND a show! The Italian Café is still serving delicious takeout for you and your friends and family to enjoy.

Providence Players will always work to provide an artistic outlet to help sustain and develop our community of member artists, no matter what challenges we face. We look forward to creating with you once again.

Michael Donahue in Bobby Gould in Hell.

Board Member Spotlight:  Michael Donahue, Board Member, Director & Actor

Michael Donahue has been a member of Providence Players since 2009. He became a member of the Board of Directors in 2012. As an active member, Michael has performed in and directed several productions, most recently “August: Osage County.” He is a WATCH-nominated fight choreographer and has provided fight choreography for several productions.  

Michael working with Beth Gilles-Whitehead as the director of August: Osage County.

“I could say, like most people’s love story with theater, I have been performing since I could walk.  In 1965, my family was living in Saigon, Vietnam.  I was 5 years old and was tri-lingual, speaking Vietnamese, French and English.  My father would take me out to shops as his interpreter and he loves to tell the story how he wanted me to ask a shop owner if he had rope.  With a twinkle in my eye and in my most perfect five-year-old English I asked, “My dad wants to know if you have rope.” I could say that was when I fell in love with performing but that would not be true.  I could say that when I was in fifth grade in Bangkok, Thailand, I played Sneezy in a 5th grade touring version of Snow White (to other elementary schools).  My Sneezy sneezes were the hit of the production and of course I upstaged my fellow performers.  Even that was not the turning point for my love of theater.

The Making of “The Burn,” starring Michael Donahue

I was a senior in high school, varsity fullback and mediocre student (needing an easy A in drama class) when I was blackmailed into playing Tom in Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie.  The production sold out and it was then that I decided theater was my calling.  Now, regarding the blackmail I mentioned:  I had a drama teacher that wanted me to play Tom, but I refused.  One day, she pulled out every fake sick note that I had written and fanned herself with them, and the REST IS HISTORY!!

“The Burn,” starring Michael Donahue

Prior to making my way back to the DC area, I served as Associate Artistic Director and Fight Director for HIIT Productions in the Pocono Mountains.  During my performances with HIIT, I performed a live full body burn 22 times. (For you brave sorts, click here to see the burning.  Yikes!)  My journey from being on fire to making a home with Providence Players was a 20-year adventure as a professional fight director, actor and director.

I was “discovered” by Providence Players member Beth Gilles-Whitehead while I was performing for a small professional classical theater company in Manassas, Virginia. Beth cast me in her production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. I fell in love with the passion and professionalism of the company members and I absolutely loved the theater at the James Lee Community Center.

Michael with Brittany Marinakos as director of House of Blue Leaves.

I hold a BFA in performing arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and an MFA in directing from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis). I went to MSU because there was an innovative director of theater on the faculty, Luigi Salerni.  In his productions, Salerni incorporated every artistic discipline; that is an aesthetic I still value as an actor, director and theatergoer.

My desire is for the audience to experience story telling that is both raw and magical. I want audiences to come to one of my productions expecting and getting a unique story-telling experience.  To achieve that magic, I rely on (and love) the collaboration with other artists who help me form a production from beginning to end. I get the most satisfaction pushing the envelope with a like-minded group of people who also want to tell a compelling story on stage both emotionally and aesthetically.

Michael directs August: Osage County.

Finally, Providence Players is a family of talented and incredibly dedicated people.  So, I share this with all the members of my Providence Players family.  Every shared experience between us is an act of love – as it should be. As a matter of fact, I met the love of my life at Providence.  You might know her as Jayne Victor. Ain’t theater (and love) grand?”

Save the Date:  Providence (Virtual) Happy Hour

Providence Happy Hour is going virtual!  Please join us for Happy Hour, May 12th at 6:30pm.  So, put it on your calendar!  Grab a pen and paper with your cocktail because we are going to play some trivia!  RSVP to for the Zoom call-in info.

Chip’s Quarantine Quiz

Want some light-hearted fun and connection? Want a little something to turn that negative, cooped up feeling, into a moment of smiles? Well, the Providence Players is pleased to announce Chip’s Quarantine Quiz. Long-time member and company photographer Chip Gertzog will crack open the vault of Providence Players pictures (some have called it “the Fort Knox of Photographs”), select some oldies but goodies, newer but less common views of productions and perhaps a mysterious image or two and our Social Media Maven, Jaclyn Robertson will share some each week on the Players’ social media channels with some quiz questions to tease and test your knowledge of the Players. No prizes, just a little fun to stay connected and remember and/or learn a bit about your favorite community theater company! Look for the first CQQ shortly. You can guarantee connecting with this offering by liking and following the Providence Facebook Page, joining the Providence Players Facebook Group and following the Providence Players on Instagram

Creativity in Captivity

Rather than share our typical “blast from the past” photo, we thought we’d extend a request.  We have established a special webpage with photos of members being “creative in captivity.”  Let’s be honest, the current pandemic has us all in captivity.  Some of us are finding unique and clever ways to remain creative.  We want to see it!  Please send your photo with a brief caption to  and we will post it!  Here are just a few examples to spur your “creative juices.”

Member Updates

  • Welcome back renewing members:  Rob & Paige Smith Lee (and family), Rosemary Hartman, Robey & David Manno (and family), Donna Naybor, David Rawlings, Bob & Deb Smith (and family) and Renate Wallenberg.
  • And welcome new members:  Tracy Lewis (and family).  Welcome to Providence Players!
  • If you renewed your membership or joined in April of last year (e.g., the cast of Leaving Iowa), you did not receive a renewal notice. We decided to wait until May, giving everyone an extra month to focus on more important priorities. If you wish to renew, you can click here, or wait for your notice which will come out later this month.

(Have an update you would like to share with your fellow members?  Please send an email to with the subject line “Member Update” and we will include it!)
(In a show with another company?  Join our Facebook Group page.  Share the news!)
Click here to see a list of previous WEBLetters.
Editor:  David P. Whitehead (send a message to David)