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Going to the dogs
SoVaNow.com / July 24, 2014It’s always the same: After a hard day’s work I trudge home only to walk in and find our two lazy and worthless beagles lounging on the sofa, having slept away the morning and afternoon, and the question practically asks itself — What am I doing wrong here?
Ah, the dog days of summer. There’s nothing like ‘em. Let’s see if there’s a bone or two lying around we can gnaw on:
I probably should have devoted some space before now to write about The Prizery’s Summer Theatre season — waiting until after the shows are over doesn’t exactly juice the returns at the box office — but with the sets demolished and lights turned down, the moment seems right to hail the incredible accomplishment that this creative venture has come to represent. Who would have thunk little ol’ South Boston could support professional summer stock theater? The young professionals who ply their trade at The Prizery may be entry-level performers in the stage world, but the level of talent on display locally is wow-inducing. Both shows this season — “Hairspray!” and “Les Miserables” — were terrific, and if you missed them, all I can say as a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan is that there’s always next year.
Just a note about “Les Miserables”: Prior to catching the show, I felt pretty much like the only person in the world who seemed to know nothing about the story, other than that it had something to do with the French Revolution. Indeed, it’s an affecting tale of faith, love and redemption amid suffering, but even with the virtue of great storytelling I’m not sure the play would have worked especially well on the local stage if not for riveting performances by Jacob Waid as Jean Valjean and Fergie Philippe-Auguste as Javert, his lifelong nemesis and pursuer. (Only a small step from the leads were the fabulous Thenardier and Madame Thenardier, played by visiting professional Elliott Smith and South Boston’s own exceptionally talented Allison Streeter.)
With the summer season now over, Waid has departed South Boston to audition on Broadway, while for Philippe-Auguste it’s back to school — he’s a rising underclassman at Elon University, and still only 18 (according to his Facebook profile). Eighteen! Acting’s a tough way to make a living, but if anyone’s got a chance, you’ve got to think it might be some of these kids.
Of course, credit goes where credit is due, in the person of Prizery maestro and Summer Theatre visionary Chris Jones. Southside’s finest summertime cultural experience is entirely the product of Jones’ charm and persistence, his wheedling and wheeling, hard work and sheer force of will. It’s also a testament to his savvy in recognizing that an audience exists for entertainment beyond what you’ll find at the multiplex and “Transformers 4.” Michael Bay, eat your heart out.
On a remotely related subject, we’re not quite a year removed from the Board of Supervisors’ atrocious decision to turn down a VDOT grant to lengthen the Tobacco Heritage Trail, which extends from behind The Prizery to Berry Hill Resort on the old railroad bed alongside the Dan River. After I wrote about the Board’s action last fall, County Administrator Jim Halasz put in a phone call to report that Halifax County would seek alternative funding for the project, which would be a cheaper way to build new trail since no one would have to deal VDOT’s expensive construction standards. So what’s happened since then? Not much that I can tell.
In the meantime, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties are celebrating a 17-mile extension of the Tobacco Heritage Trail between the towns of La Crosse and Lawrenceville, and work has begun on an all-new (albeit only one mile) stretch in Boydton. To the north in Farmville, the High Bridge hiking-and-biking trail (which is actually a very elongated state park) is packing in the visitors to town. Oh, for the all the good things in the world that could be, but aren’t. Would it possible to prod the local powers-that-be into making good on their pledge to make something happen with South Boston’s piece of the Heritage Trail?
Let’s hope so.
On a brighter note, the supervisors and county administration deserve plaudits for their work to see the Courthouse Project through. Construction is under way on a new sheriff’s office next to Halifax Tire (at the old school board building, subsequently converted over for use by county administration and planning) with a new wing of the building extending out toward the Blue Ridge Regional jail. Amid the moaning about the overall poor condition of Halifax’s historic courthouse, the crumminess of the sheriff’s office has been often overlooked, but boy: What a lousy home for such an important department.
In fairness, you can say pretty much the same for most of the offices and functions that reside inside the courthouse facility including, of course, the courtrooms themselves. I was stuck in Circuit Court earlier this year covering a three-day trial and the men’s bathroom was out of order the entire time. The building as a whole is a problem: water-damaged, cramped, dirty. We should be glad the supervisors have gotten around to fixing what should be a gem in the heart of the county seat.
Of course, you’ll hear grumbling now and then about how Halifax County is spending too much on the Courthouse project, how the supervisors were backed into a corner by judges who demanded improvements, and how the county shouldn’t be compelled by the court system to spend millions on the facility. The truth is exactly opposite: the judges (including Joel Cunningham, presiding judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit) have done Halifax a favor by insisting that the Courthouse be fixed. The work is timely — interest rates are low, and the county has more leverage than usual with building contractors who are begging for work — and the need was dire, as a cursory look inside the building (and out) will attest. So thank you, your honors!
Segueing to a different courtroom, it’s hard to believe, but true: The public corruption trial of Bob and Maureen McDonnell kicks off at the federal building in Richmond next Monday. Woo wee! What fun. If you’re into mortal embarrassments, that is. Generally I prefer to limit this sort of entertainment to episodes of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” where it’s just some hapless schmoe taking a kick to the groin, but if this is what the state of Virginia has in store for the next few weeks, one might as well enjoy the sensation.
Reading through the pretrial coverage in the state press, I’ve been struck by the information that both sides seem to be hiding from view: The McDonnells alone have been granted 30 blank subpoenas to call witnesses whose identities are, for now, being kept a secret. On the other end, prosecutors apparently intend to call to the stand members of the McDonnell family; now there should be some interesting testimony. Regrettably for my standing prediction that this will turn into Virginia’s version of the O.J. Simpson case, the temperature surrounding the McDonnells’ trial has been low, but it’s still early.
Could a summer heat wave be headed our way?