Professional D.C. Theatre Company Relocates to ‘Green at Vint Hill’

Cameron Clarke takes notes, while Director Natasha Parnian listens to the the playwright's inspiration for her characters.

Managing Artistic Director Natasha Parnian is excited to bring “Washington D.C. caliber theatre to here” to Northern Virginia.

“We’re proud to be Warrenton’s first professional theater,” Parnian said.

Parnian moved her Dark Horse Theatre Company from Adams Morgan to “the Green at Vint Hill” located north of Warrenton and south of Gainesville.

In Adams Morgan, people would pay $20 for the show and another $20 for parking. Now, she’s excited to be able to bring the professional theatre experience outside of the Beltway and closer to where many people call home. She expects that many people in Warrenton and western Prince William County are interested in seeing quality small professional theatre productions without the commute.

“There’s a lot more room for theatre out here,” she said, noting that there are community theatre companies in Northern Virginia, but it is not the crowded theatre space that D.C. is. That, she believes, gives Dark Horse a chance to shine, and draw in people from the surrounding areas, even as far out as Fairfax County.

Being that Dark Horse Theatre Company has always been about creating “raw” theatre, Parnian sees it as different from other Northern Virginia companies.

(L-R) Cast members Anne Kight Lloyd, Arianne Warner and Cameron Clarke laugh during a table reading.

“It’s a new vein of theatre” for Warrenton, she said. “I don’ t consider us in competition with other theatre groups out here. We all are offering a different thing.”

Rather, she believes all local theatre is mainly competing with television, Netflix and whatever popular form of entertainment keeps people at home.

“We have to make live theatre relevant, and sexy and important enough to leave their houses Friday or Saturday night to see a show,” she said.

Parnian believes that small professional theatre can thrive outside of a major city, and cites her company’s first audition as proof. If anything, Parnian said she had too much talent to choose from, making it very difficult to decide on a cast. To make her casting decisions, she replicated the rehearsal process, learning who was best at taking directions and making adjustments.

Usually she ends up hiring professional actors, but sometimes she said people are just naturally talented. She expects all of her actors to come to rehearsals ready to do some serious work. It is not just memorizing lines and stage directions, but it is about creating characters that have depth, which resonates with the audience.

“We hold ourselves to very high standards of production,” she said.

Cast attends several table readings before even stepping foot on stage (L-R) Kight Lloyd, Warner, Clarke, Parnian, Playwright Jennifer Jones and Actor Ivan Zizek.

She wants the plays to convey meaning, not only entertain, and she wants her actors to seem real to the audience. When directing, Parnian said she asks herself and her cast these questions: “How is this going to move the audience? What will this evoke?”

She does not want people to just have a nice time, but “we want them telling their friends” about it.

Parnian said that even though actors practice and prepare for months, the magic has to happen every night on stage.

“We hope to create such a stunning reality out of respect for our audience who have chosen to suspend their disbelief.” She explains how difficult that is to do. “You have one shot. You can’t redo it. You can’t cut. Details can involve the audience, or can take them out of a show,” she said.

For her first production, Parnian chose to produce a contemporary drama set in Northern Virginia. It has a very small cast, but Parnian wanted to begin with something her audience could relate to. She likes to do a lot of table reading and character work shopping before they even set foot on stage.

Last week, during a table reading, the cast sat down with the Northern Virginia playwright Jennifer S. Jones, who wrote “Sunday’s Child.” Jones explained her concept behind her script, while answering some of the actors’ question.

(L-R) Director Natasha Parnian listens as Playwright Jennifer Jones explains the idea she had for the family while writing "Sunday's Child."

Parnian hoped that would help the actors feel more secure with the script. She also hopes to hold a Q&A session with the playwrights after at least one of the performances, which is one reason she likes working with local playwrights, the other being to support the local theatre scene.

While she hopes to take the company in different directions in the future, producing comedies and multi-media productions ,and she does not plan to change the kinds of plays she produces and directs, simply because she has moved out of the district.

Some have already told her that she is going to have to be a little more conservative, but Parnian said “I don’t plan on changing anything” because she still strives to challenge her audience.

Dark Horse Theatre Company’s first play, “Sunday’s Child,” by Jennifer S. Jones premieres on May 23. The cast includes Cameron Clarke, Anne Kight Lloyd, Arianne Warner and Ivan Zizek.

Tickets can be purchased on line or over the phone. Visit Dark Horse Theatre Company’s ticket page for more information. Readers can visit their website for more information.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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