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Evening of Clay opens November 12

The 2010-11 Berea College Theatre season continues with An Evening of Clay by Clay McLeod Chapman, opening at 8 p.m. on November 12 with additional performances on November 13 and November 17-20 in the McGaw Theatre in the Jelkyl Drama Center.

An Evening of Clay features the touching and poignant one-act play Volume of Smoke based on the 1811 theatre fire in Richmond, Virginia, as well as four “mono-stories” that feature themes of misfortune, honor, sacrifice, and valor.

On the evening of December 26, 1811, more than 600 patrons had gathered at the Richmond Theatre to watch a performance of The Bleeding Nun when the fire broke out. Of those 600, 70 were killed. A church was erected on the charred grounds, and all theatre and public performances were banned in Richmond for eight years. Volume of Smoke was created based on interviews of survivors that were written shortly after the fire, as well as researched public commentary and media surrounding the tragedy. The American Standard stated about the fire, “No tongue can tell, no pen describe the woeful catastrophe. No person who was not there can form any idea of the unexampled scene of human distress.”

The Richmond Virginia fire of 1811 bears an eerie resemblance to the fire that destroyed The Tab on campus in 1973. Dramaturg Traci Sission has been researching the parallel events. “Volume of Smoke is both haunting and beautiful, but what is most powerful about the piece is the personal connection that we at the theatre have to the devastating story of the fire in Richmond. We were fortunate to not have lost anyone in the Tab fire of 1973, but we had to grieve the loss of such a special place that many held very dear.”

Clay McLeod Chapman is a prolific author and playwright whose work has been produced and published extensively. One of his most recent creations is the extravagant Pumpkin Pie Show which continues to perform in New York and has toured extensively internationally. Currently, he teaches writing at the Actors Studio MFA program at Pace University. Clay wrote the book for SCKBSTD a new musical with music written by Grammy award winner Bruce Hornsby. SCKBSTD will make its world premiere in January 2011 at the Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk before its hopeful move to Broadway. More information on Clay can be found at

Mr. Chapman will be visiting Berea College on opening weekend to help the Theatre Laboratory open the production. A reception in his honor will be held following the opening night performance November 12. Please call Deborah Martin to secure your reservation for the production and reception at 859 985 3419. “Clay Chapman has a rare, undeniable talent that resonates long after you have left the theater. Trust me, after witnessing this production you will never be the same,” states director Adanma Barton.

Tickets for An Evening of Clay are on sale now. Call the Berea College Theatre box office at (859) 985-3300 Monday through Friday, from 1-5pm and one hour prior to all performances. Tickets range in price from $5 to $10. Admission for Berea College students has been pre-paid as part of their student fees, but a valid ID is needed to receive a ticket.

Note: An Evening of Clay contains some adult language and situations and may not be suitable for young children.

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