Reader’s Theater/Workshop History

The Reader’s Theater Workshop was organized by Bets Knepley in June 2003. At first, it was part of our monthly general meetings. There were three purposes: 1) to  allow our actors to hone their skills; 2) to give our members  the opportunity to review plays that are being considered for production; and 3) to give those members who are uncertain whether they want to perform an opportunity to do so in a low keymanner.

At the first Reader’s Theater on June 26, 2003, there were several performances. Nan Hepp performed a selection from The Bald Soprano; Dick and Helen Myhre, a selection from The Lion in Winter and another from The Soap Opera; Sandy Mills, a reading from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe; and Sandy and Nan, a reading from The Role of Delia.

After the July 2003 meeting, a short comedy skit by Grace and Ed Baier, titled Gratitude. An old time radio show, The Ghost Walks Again from The Shadow was also performed–complete with sound effect and spooky organ music. The cast included Ed Dufrane, Dave Milbradt, Ellie and Bob Rewald and Tom Sutton. Each played dual characters.

In March 2005, members decided to separate from the monthly meetings and to hold two meetings a month (second and fourth Saturdays at 10am in the Craft Room) In May 2006, the name was shortened to just The Workshop and meetings were decreased to once a month.


Saturday, January 9, Reader’s Theater Workshop–a read through of our May Production Reunion at Mt. Sanguine.

Saturday, April 4Acting Techniques Workshop by Lisa Nanni-Messegee

Lisa Nanni-Messegee, an adjuct theater professor at GMU and NOVA, has visited us several times before and each time we benefited from her enlightened workshops. This Master Class included lecture and discussion, as well as volunteer participation in various acting exercises. A few of the topics discussed were: how to perform comfortably when having to look out at the audience, how to manage overlapping dialogue and how to make dialogue feel more spontaneous. Coffee and breakfast pastries were served before the workshop.


Saturday, January 5 in the Card Room–Using Your Voice WORKSHOP by Lisa Nanni-Messegee.

Coffee, tea and pastries were offered. Lisa works all over the country as a theatre director, actor and teacher. She also worked in Los Angeles primarily as a Television Producer and Voice-Over artist. Currently, Lisa is an Adjunct Faculty member at GMU and Northern Virgini Community College.

The Workshop was a blast! The The twenty-three HHLT members who attended gained knowledge, socialized a bit and were entertained.  Member Lloyd King was soooo creative when he donned the persona of a pregnant Valley-girl!! —And the rest of us, were equally silly and/or creative.

Saturday, February 9Old Time Radio WORKSHOP led by Director Bets Knepley–Twenty-five members attended and all were in stitches by the old time radio scripts. Ted Day brought in a few of the sound effects contraptions that he made—a little door, a gravel box, coconut shells and more. Goldie Grandy, Ina Mayer and Nanette Ross had a great time using them. Our ‘cue” girls, Natalie June and Faye Green, flashed—cards, that is—so we knew when to laugh or applaud.

Saturday, July 12–Read Thru of The Smell of the Kill by Michele Lowe. Led by member Bets Knepley. Seven members attended to read thru this feminist black comedy with an edgy quirky plot and a surprise ending.

Saturday, August 9Directing Workshop by Professor Lisa Nani-Messegee.

Saturday, September 13–Read Thru of The Queen of Bingo by Jeanne Michels and Phyllis Murphy. Led by member Bets Knepley. This play is an exploration of the world of Bingo, sisterhood, weight issues, winning and losing.


JanuaryRead-Thru of The Cemetery Club organized by Director Bets Knepley.

FebruaryHow To Read a Play, presented by member Bets Knepley.

MarchSt. Patrick’s Day Celebration organized by member Bets Knepley with Irish songs, skits and poems performed by members.


MaySearch for the Heritage Hunt IDOL, canceled due to lack of participants

JuneCharacter Analysis, led by Kathryn O’Sullivan, Professor of Drama at NVCC, Manassas Campus. It was a big success, according to the thirty-one attendees, including nine guests. The Falls Run Players from Frederricksburg, came out in force with six of their members attending. It was great to meet and chat with other senior theater members. The only disappointment was our refreshments.

M.J. Brickach stated: “Her advice for us as characters who are cast in a play was both practical and theoretical, beginning with several careful readings of the script itself and how the author describes your character. Then, you should look at what your character says or doesn’t say (yes, silence can be golden on stage); what your character does; what others say about your character; how others react to your character; and finally how your character reacts to others. This is the starting point for ANALYZING your character…”

Dot Schuetze said:  “What a fantastic workshop! Funny, informative, helpful and entertaining. Kathryn O’Sullivan, Professor of Speech and Drama at NVCC, shared in detail how an actor should prepare for an audition, and, ultimately, a part. It is much more complicated that you realize…”

Alan Mager stated:  “Kathryn’s intimate style, lively delivery and sincere interaction with the participants gave the entire workshop a very personal feel to me. She held my interest throughout, repeatedly sparked my imagination and effectively pushed me to think deeply about each of the concepts she presented. From this one session, I came away with more of a sound basis for character analysis and development than I had in all my previous experiences and readings. I learned how to infuse more of myself into my characters while at the same time creating a uniqueness for each character that would generate audience interest…”

July—Reading and Discussion of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters led by member Bets Knepley.

AugustSet Design for the Heritage Hunt Stage presented by member Alan Mager.

September–Where Did I Put My Keys?, which dealt with memory improvement, presented by member Joey Wagner.

October–Read-Thru of our February Production, Love Letters led by Director Bets Knepley.

NovemberReadings of Old Time Radio Shows for our Spring Production led by Director Bets Knepley.



Sunday, May 20, Mini-Director’s Forum by HHLT Members–All past HH Directors were invited to discuss their philosophies, goals and views. Organized by member Bets Knepley.

Saturday, August 5Character Analysis & Development by member Bets Knepley


March 5–This was the first separate meeting the group met. Fourteen members attended and decided to meet twice a month on Saturday mornings at 10am in the Craft Room. Organizer is member Bets Knepley.

May 7Voice Projection by member Alan Mager.

May 21Type Casting: Good or Bad by member Bets Knepley.

SeptemberAccents by member M.J. Brickach.


July WorkshopProcess of Directing by Lucy Holsenbeck

At the July general meeting, Lucy Holsenbeck, from NOVA’s Alexandria Campus Drama Department, spoke to the group on the Process of Directing. Ms Holsenbeck was taken aback by our group; we were not what she “expected.” Confronted by our feisty group, she admonished us, “Don’t be scared or apologetic or tentative about what you do here.” and proceeded with much enthusiasm to encourage us to enjoy the process.

Directors are courageous persons with heart and head to take it ALL on. Step One of the process is selecting a play. Things to be considered are the space available, talent, money.  Step Two, once the play is selected, is text analysis. Read and reread the text to figure out what is going on surface and subsurface. To demonstrate the subtext messages, Ms Holsonbake asked for volunteers. Helen Esposito and Arlene Maroney bravely stepped forward. They were asked to play mother and daughter and communicate with numbers instead of words about a missed curfew. They communicated their intentions and feelings without benefit of verbal cues. Very effective! In the second exercise to demonstrate the use of tone and inflection to communicate feeling, Pat Dews sat in a chair. One by one, four other of our members came in and greeted her using one word, “Hello.” Each one performed it differently and a wide variety of meanings could be taken as to the relationship and how the speaker felt about the person sitting in the chair. Both exercises were used to show that motivation can be shown by nonverbal actions and by tone and inflection. Ms Holsenbeck reminded us to always have motivation for our actions on stage. Step Three of the directing process is the audition. Ms Holsenbeck did not go into detail on this. Step Four is design and collaboration. The director sits down with the team (set design, costumes, music) to get a “unified” vision. We were advised as directors to tear pictures out of magazines and collect images and music that inspire us. Use that imagery when we talk to the team of designers. Stage Five is staging, telling a story from picture to picture. Study composition, great works of art, to help in learning composition. In staging, the actor is the focus not the set. Actors should cross in front of furniture.

In closing, Ms Holsenbeck told us that directors should be patient, as organized as possible. They listen a lot, are supportive and team builders and cheerleaders. She left us with a quote from Stanislavsky, “Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.”

August Workshop–Stage Manager’s Job by Evelyn Rice

At our August meeting, speaker Evelyn Rice, from the Fauquier Community Theater spoke about her experiences as a Stage Manager. The main job for Stage Manager, she stressed, was being a baby sitter and hand holder for the cast and acting as a mediator between the cast and the director. The Stage Manager also handles much of the detail work, such as: maintaining the rehearsal schedule; setting up the stage; keeps the blocking book for the Director; maintains copies of all administrative paperwork for the Director; be responsible for giving running cues to light and sound operators during dress rehearsals and performances. She also stated that every Director is different and it is best to be sure to ascertain at the first staff meeting what the Director expects from the Stage Manager.