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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flying Muskrat Theatre run by former Falls Church HS students

Ben Peter and Caity Brown in "Gruesome Playground Injuries." [Photo by Rich Stanage and Meg Christensen]
When drama students at Falls Church High School hit a snag with school authorities three years ago and a one-act play festival was cancelled, they arranged to stage the show at the theater in the James Lee Community Center on Annandale Road.

That’s how the Flying Muskrat Theatre Company started, and it’s still going strong, with about half a dozen of the original FCHS students still involved, says one of the founders, Brennan Jones. 

The theater group put on three performances of the play “Gruesome Playground Injuries” earlier this month, and it was so successful, they’ve added three more shows: Aug. 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on Aug. 2. (Tickets can be purchased online for $15, with discounts for students, seniors, and the military).

The Flying Muskrat Theatre also sponsors a student playwright contest and will hold a night of staged readings of the five winning one-act plays on Aug. 8. Entries were submitted from students of all ages from Canada and Mexico, as well as the United States. The winners were selected by a panel of professionals.

“Gruesome Playground Injuries” is a two-character play by Rajiv Joseph, who’s best known for “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” Jones, the director, calls it a “very funny play about how people don’t remember things chronologically and about why people hurt themselves.” The stars, Ben Peter and Caity Brown, were cast following a call for auditions.

Most Flying Muskrat’s productions have been in the summer—this is their seventh show—since some of the company’s personnel are in college during the school year. Jones, a student at George Mason University, took a semester off to work as an actor and plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to study stage management.

The other former FCHS students involved with the Flying Muskrat Theatre include costume designer Ava Hockenberry, who is studying costume design at VCU; board member Melanie Reuter, who helps with publicity and directs some shows and is studying musical theater at Temple University; Jimmy Miller; and Bill Miller.

When the students started the theater company, they got some financial help from their parents, but they’ve paid them back with revenue from the shows. “We’re trying to learn how to become a legitimate business,” Jones says. The James Lee Community Center provides free rehearsal space in exchange for help with its summer camp for kids.

Jones likes to select plays that are both funny and thought provoking. “If you have a message to get across, you can do that better if you can get them to laugh,” he says. “We try to do things the community isn’t used to seeing.”

The Flying Muskrat Theatre will do another play-writing competition and might put on a full-length play next year, Jones says. But after that, the future is uncertain. Some of the company’s members are trying to get internships at professional theaters, so the fate of the Muskrat “depends on what happens with their professional careers.”

1 comment:

  1. I remember Brennan while at Falls Church. He was phenomenal!