Friday, March 28, 2008

If you are anywhere near the Roanoke Valley, you must not miss a visit to the historic downtown city of Roanoke and to
One of Western Virginia's Best Kept Secrets: Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, Virginia
During the month of April, this truly excellen regional Theatre will be presenting two interesting pieces of musical theatre adaptations of two classic pieces for children. One of them, a new post-modern classic; the other a very old classic. On the Trinkle Main Stage, from April 1st through 6th, 2008, with tickets at $15-$10, you can see a musical adaptation of John Scieszka and Lane Smith's Caldecott Honor Book, The Stinky Cheese Man (and Other Fairly Stupid Tales). The adaptation is by Kent Stephens, with music by Gary Rue. This book is filled with deconstructed fairy tales. The Stinky Cheese Man is a perversion, of course, of the Gingerbread Boy. The Ugly Duckling who grows up to be a really ugly Duck, is a perversion of Danish authorHans Christian Anderson's tale, and so on. The book, with its postmodern book design and funky typography is a favorite of both mine and of my children, and if Mill Mountain brings half of the irreverant fun of the book to the stage, it should be a great success.
For more information and ticket reservations, visit:
From April 16th through the 27th, 2008, the Trinkle Main Stage will feature another much more ancient classic that has been embraced by children for centuries: Tales From the Arabian Nights, adapted by Michael Bigelow Dixon and Jan Cole. A show that promises not only the well-loved tale of Scheherazade and her 1001 never quite-finished tales to stave off the death sentence of her Sultan, but song and exotic dance. Tickets are $15-$10, and for more information, you may visit:
To really enjoy the theatrical experience, take the day to enjoy Roanoke first. The theatre is located in the heart, the downtown, of historic Roanoke, where one of the longest running historic farmers markets thrives daily, and becomes especially lively on weekends, adding a festive air to the downtown. A variety of shops, restaurants and multiple museums, make the heart of the city a destination; and hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains are right next to the city; after the theatre, one can walk over the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to the Grand Dame Hotel Roanoke for dessert and then drive up to the neon star that overlooks the city from Mill Mountain, also the location of a small zoo and an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Charlottesville, Virginia's Festival of the Book rings Spring into the Shenandoah Valley March 26th through 30th. This annual book festival has become a staple in my yearly calendar of must-make journeys. Most years a group of fellow writers will all carpool to the event and spend Saturday trecking around Charlottesville (although many events are on the Pedestrian Mall). This year promises to be no acception. Running through Sunday, the festival covers a wide variety of book genres, including various panels and speakers from the publishing industry, as well as storytellers and educators of all sorts (this year, magician educator Rob Westcott makes an appearance). The book fair in the Omni Hotel on the downtown pedestrian mall is always a favorite, and while most events are free, there are some ticketed keynote events and luncheons.
Favorite events on my list this year? Well, Nancy Ruth Patterson's appearance Friday morning (author of A Christmas Cup , The Winner's Walk, as well as her fifth book published by FSG, Ellie Ever: Princess of Pantent Leather Shoes). Patterson was recognized by Virginia High School Hall of Fame as "one of the most sought-after writing teachers in the country." My admiration for her work began when my son played an Amish boy in a theatrical adaptation of The Christmas Cup produced by the Mill Mountain Theatre in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia a few Decembers ago. Her attending the first night opening allowed my son to get her signature in a copy of her book.
Another interesting speaker: professional storyteller Barbara Spilman Lawson is making an appearance, known for her work up and down the Atlantic Coast. Also making an appearance, award-winning non-fiction YA writer Catherine Reef, author of a biography of one of my favorite poets, titled e. e. cummings: a poet's life, as well as several other biographies for young readers.
My interest in this particular festival is, of course, those events that fall under the category of children's literature. If this is your area of interest as well, you may find a list of "family" speakers, many of them writers, illustrators, or storytellers of children's narratives, at For an introduction to participants from the publishing field, visit
Naturally, one of the pleasures of being in Charlottesville is the occasional stroll through the community or campus of University of Virginia. Since this festival is located on the Pedestrian Mall, there is a wealth of shops, restaurants, coffee shops and theatres to fill in your occasional break time in an enjoyable manner, not to mention the street musicians and the beauty of a spring day in an historic community in the Shenandoah Valley at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For information about what to do and where to stay, as well as images of the city and University of Virginia campus, visit Must sees are Jefferson's home, Monticello, historic Michie Tavern, and the lawn at University of Virginia, not to mention a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway with its incredible views.