Get Ready, Second Christmas Film Production Coming to Shenandoah

By: June Wambua

Editors Note: As with everything here at SU, production on the new film is on hold. We will keep you updated. During these hard times we want to give you some things to look forward to after this is all over.

Continue reading “Get Ready, Second Christmas Film Production Coming to Shenandoah”

Santa Girl is Coming to Netflix

By: Joe Fisher

Our movie is goingto Netflix!

Santa Girl is coming to Netflix this winter as a part of the service’s Christmas section.

The film, co-produced by The Studio at Shenandoah with Capital Arts Entertainment, was shot here in Winchester, Virginia in the fall of 2017. The university had over eighty students partake in the making of this film as actors, extras, and crew. The film was released on the 30th of August this year.

Blayne Weaver, the writer and director, had this to say about the news, ”Santa Girl getting picked up by Netflix is such a great thing. As a filmmaker, you work so hard to make a film you’re proud of but then the goal becomes to get it out into the world to find an audience. We make movies so that people will watch them. Netflix acts both as a huge validation of our work and a platform for millions of people to see what we’ve made.”

You can start streaming the film on Netflix as of November 1st.

Brynna Strader: The Artist

By Kiara Hagan

Brynna Strader has grown up in Winchester and watched Shenandoah University evolve to the place we know it to be today. When her mother started working at SU, she began to spend time on the campus and since then has never strayed away. Older than the little girl who used to ride her scooter on SU’s sidewalks, she’s now developed into her own person and is known for her art.

After speaking with Brynna, she said that she creates “Fan Art”. “Recently I’ve been doing Fire Bloom which is a game series by Nintendo”, she said. Brynna doesn’t plan on stopping there, “I want to go into making comics specifically web comics, it’s basically like a graphic novel but it can be in color because it’s digital and that keeps cost down for production. She said this type of art is most interesting to her because “it’s easy to get out to people and various websites support creators like that”. She said that she wants to get published on these websites and eventually earn an income.

In Brynna’s case, art isn’t just a hobby to her, she said that it helped her with her self-identity. “My art changed because of my sexuality. I started drawing things like two men and two women because I realized that I myself am gay”. She says that art was a good outlet to express her sexuality, but also her friends and her community also helped her come to terms with her sexual identity.

Brynna said that she’s a self-taught artist, she learned most things herself or watching videos on YouTube. All the practice that she put into her art is paying off because she now sells her art for commission. I asked her if she could give any advice to a younger Brynna, what would it be? “Practice, practice, practice”, she said.

Spoken like the words of a true artist.

The Vagina Monologues: A Shenandoah Tradition

By Annie Hart

This past weekend, Feb. 15-17, the university via The (Not Just) Women’s Center put on its annual production of the Vagina Monologues to support the Laurel Center.




This year the theme was “Who Would You Harbor”.


The show began with the cast singing a song asking who you would harbor, including a Muslim, an exile, a runaway child, a gay, and many more. Director Sarah Celec asked the audience to hold that question in our heads and really think about what we would do in a situation where someone different from us needed a place to stay.




The show was powerful as it is every year.


This year, however; there were a few changes that I was very excited about.


Outside of the show space, there were large sticky notes on the door asking what your vagina would say or wear. There was a space for you to color in your own beautiful vagina, and even a vagina quiz.


As for changes during the show, there were a few new faces in the cast which made the show that much more exciting for veteran audience members.


Both the old cast members and the new ones were phenomenal.


The Vagina Monologues is one of my favorite things we do at Shenandoah. I already can’t wait to see what the cast does next year.

Frankenreads Podcast

Interview/Recording/Editor: Hunter Blevins

For Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s 200 Anniversary, SU participated in “Frankenreads” with live readings of the novel that started a cult following. English Professor, Dr. Sarah Canfield tells us why.

Eurozone GEL Trip: Part 2

By Benjamin Mangubat

After spending our first two days exploring Brussels we entered into France, with our first stop being Paris. We spent three full days in Paris where we visited many iconic sights like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Day one consisted of a guided tour around the city for our first taste of Paris. We visited the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and enjoyed authentic French cuisine for dinner at a local restaurant. The following day in Paris, we took a bus tour with a city guide and ended with visit to the Louvre.









Like most of our afternoons, we were free to explore the city on our own, and my group decided to embrace our touristic side and visit the Eiffel Tower. We walked about 45 minutes from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower passing through a beautiful park where we sat at an outdoor cafe and had a mid-afternoon snack. Once we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, we decided to go to the top of the tower. Two of the girls wanted to go to the very top. I am afraid of heights and the top of the tower was the last place that I wanted to visit. Lucky for me, the top was closed and the girls had to settle for the second floor. It was still a challenge to go up to the second floor, but I conquered my fear and went up to see the amazing sight that is Paris from above.


Heading back from the tower, we had to navigate through the Paris metro during the rail strike. The regular metro time table was altered and many trains were not running. After getting back to our hotel we changed and went to find some dinner. We walked a few blocks away from our hotel, passing many fancy restaurants and bars, until we found a small little eatery where we could get things like croque-monsieur or a regular burger.     


Our final day in Paris was our one and only free day on the Eurozone trip. The class wanted to see and do many different things, so we split up into our usual groups and were set free to explore. My group decided to start with the Paris catacombs, relying on Google Maps to lead the way, however it lead us to the wrong place. By the time we had discovered our mistake and were headed to the correct place, we got a message from some of the other students letting everyone know that the catacombs were closed due to the rail strike going on in the country. How does a rail strike affect the catacombs? To this day I still don’t know. Our plans changed and decided to go to Versailles. Upon our arrival we discovered the wait to enter the palace was hours long, so we decided to instead visit the gardens of Versailles as there was a shorter line to get in. We spent the rest of the day exploring the gardens of Versailles and the surrounding area.


We ended our day by getting dinner at the same restaurant we ate at the night before and packed up to move on to our next destination, Aix-en-Provence and the south of France.

Be on the lookout for Eurozone Trip: Part 3!


Hollywood Comes to the Valley

By Rachel Levy

Our small city of Winchester is known for the Apple Blossom Festival, Civil War battles, and Shenandoah University. But Blayne Weaver, an accomplished actor, writer and director, wants to help make our little corner of Northern Virginia become known for filmmaking as well.

With the help of Professor Paul DiFranco, Capital Arts Entertainment and Shenandoah University, Weaver is set to begin production later this week on the feature film Santa Girl, a hybrid romantic comedy – Christmas movie set on a college campus.

I recently got the chance to sit down with Weaver to talk about how this project got started and how the students of Shenandoah University will play a roles in the production.

Q: Tell me a bit about this film.

BW: Okay, well I’ll tell you about the inception of it. It’s a company called Capital Arts Entertainment out of Los Angeles that I’ve done writing for before. And they have done many movies working with Paul DiFranco; so Paul moves out here a couple of years ago, buys a home, starts working at Shenandoah and he’s still in connection with the guys who run Capital Arts and they come up with this crazy idea to make a film together at the college. So the company is financing it, the school is providing equipment and students and what not, and it’s this amalgam. They got this script and they brought me on because I’m an independent filmmaking guy, and they asked me if I think I could drop into a college and make this script become a movie and I liked the script a lot so here I am! So now we’re pulling in actors from Los Angeles and we’re pulling actors from the theater department and the acting program and trying to use all of the assets that Shenandoah has to offer to make a really fun christmas movie. Santa Girl.
Q:What’s it like trying to get actors from LA over here with all the Shenandoah students?

BW: It’s really interesting because a lot of the students that are in the film class have had a voice in who we cast. Our star is actress Jennifer Stone who is most known from Wizards of Waverly Place. Which missed my generation, but the students here have really responded to her from the very beginning so it’s super exciting to like watch her reel, and I had no idea who she was but you know I had a 20 year old assistant who’s like ‘oh she’s great, she’s awesome she was always great on that show.’ So I’ve grown to love her work based on the students responding to her. And we got Barry Bostwick who’s most famous from Rocky Horror Picture Show or Spin City. And you know he’s worked in more movies and television than I can probably count, and he’s super excited about coming down to the college. But it was nerve racking because you don’t know how they’re going to respond to being like okay it’s on a college, most of the crew are going to be students most of the talent is going to be you know students, like are you down with that? And luckily we’ve got some really cool people who are excited about the opportunity to actually educate while we’re making a movie.

Q: Being on the college aspect, how has this film different than other sets you’ve been on?

BW: That’s a good question, most ways it’s not different at all. In most independent films you have one, two, maybe four people that really know what they’re doing, and you have a lot of other people who are very green and want to know what they’re doing, they want to learn. So because there is very little money, there is very little incentive for someone to bring in a pro second camera assistant. You know, you need to spend your money on your director, photography, and anyone who wants to help becomes a camera AC so, I’ve worked on lots of independent films where the guy behind the camera knows exactly what he’s doing and the guy right next to him, not so much. You know so it’s not really that different. I think the biggest difference is that normally in the independent film world those guys desperately want to be there, you know they want a career in film at any cost and we’ll see how that works here you know because some of the students in the film class have never really been interested in movies before. I think the shoots going to be totally totally educational, super fun and something they’ll remember forever because every movie is a very distinct special experience.

Q: What positives do you see coming out of this project for the school and for yourself?

BW: For the school, I think they’ve got right now a smaller film department and already were exploding that. Like we’re bringing in equipment that the next group of students are going to be able to use, you know we’re purchasing things specifically for this film that will now be part of the film department. Plus you’re building a crew, there’s freshmen that are working on this movie, who hopefully in four years, be the head guy in whatever department they’re in. You can’t help but learn on a movie set, if you’re at all participating you’re going to learn every single day. I still learn. I always say that the learning curve is a straight up and down line. Like there’s so much to learn everyday. So the school i think is getting multiple benefits, plus it’s just when you make a movie it’s really cool when it’s over and done and you have this experience that you learned and you shared and there it is on TV, or here it is on DVD. And this is going to be one of those movies, it’s a commercial venture you know I believe it will be on TV at some point. I believe it’ll be on the shelves in Walmart and Target and the people who worked on it will be able to say “I did that” you know? For me it’s my first directing gig that I’m hired to do. Normally I’m the motor behind the movie, like I raise the money I write the script you know it’s my passion project. Here it’s a job for hire that i feel like I have the opportunity to really knock it out of the park. And if I can do something like that as a guy being hired then it just opens up my career to all kinds of things. It’s like I’d like to do more television I’d like to do more TV families you know there’s a lot of money to be made in these kind of teen, ABC family, Lifetime, Hallmark, kind of movies. I’m an artist, I want to do a job where I’m getting paid to do it and say great I did a really good job with that now I’m going to make my little weird movie that makes me happy and you know go to the film festivals with that. So if i could balance that, that would be great and I feel like this is a path towards that.

Q: Have you guys encountered any challenges so far?

BW: Oh everyday. That’s the thing about movies you never know what the days going to bring. You could start out planning and know exactly who your cast is going to be and by the end of the day you have to find somebody else. On set it’s like that too you can plan, go to the sets, you can write out shot lists, you can draw pictures of what you want it to look like and you get there and for some reason or other nothing works. The actors are uncomfortable doing it that way it’s not funny and you have to be willing to pivot. Constantly pivoting and meeting challenges.

Q:How has it been so far working with college students?

BW:Great! It’s great! The only down side I would say to working with college students here is that in the beginning they don’t know if they care or not so there’s a feeling kind of of apathy from some students because like I said they just took a film class it’s not like they spent their whole lives trying to be a filmmaker but what’s great is now everybody is getting excited and that’s what I love to see, young people who have never done this before who think it’s cool it’s not daunting it’s exciting. And that’s a thing that really helps with Jennifer Stone being in the film is that she’s the same age as the students so there’s a relativity there that I think is super cool.

Q: Anything else you want to tell us about the project?

A: I’m just super pleased to be here, like it’s Winchester charm, I’ve been in New York for the past 4 years and I just moved back to LA and getting to come here and make a movie with some really talented people and to give young actors and a young crew a chance to prove themselves and learn something, it’s very fulfilling.

Santa Girl will wrap up filming this semester while next semester will be used to do editing and adding special effects.

Review: Cabaret

By Annie Hart

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

This past weekend, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, the Shenandoah Conservatory performed Cabaret at OBT (Ohrstom-Bryant Theatre).

Cabaret is based in Berlin at the start of World War II and centers around Sally Bowles and her life working as a cabaret girl in and out of the Kit Kat Klub, a racy cabaret bar.

The show was a huge hit, with long applauses after each song and a roaring standing ovation at the close of the show followed by tears and embraces between cast mates.

While all of the cast members were phenomenal, three characters really stood out on stage to not only myself, but to those around me.

The Emcee, played by senior musical theatre major Drew Becker, was incredible. His interaction with the audience and the other members of the cast created an environment that felt like we were all at the Kit Kat Klub.

Becker’s portrayal of the movement of the character towards the end of the show was phenomenal. His vocal changes during serious moments extracted audible gasps from the audience, myself included. His final reveal silenced the audience, but only for a few seconds, as they exploded into applause soon after his coat was dropped.

Sally Bowles was portrayed beautifully by senior musical theatre major, Kali Haines. Haines truly captured the essence of Bowles and made her come to life on stage. While Sally is a character full of jokes, Haines brought out a softer side of the character and truly made the audience feel for her.

Fräulein Schneider, played by senior musical theatre major Ashley Knaack, was the highlight of the show. Her vocal performance was flawless and her German accent never wavered, even in the most powerful of moments. Knaack created a real person in her portrayal with mannerisms only one who has truly dug into their character could have created. Knaack was truly a delight on the OBT stage.

Cabaret is a show to remember, and I cannot wait to see what the Conservatory brings us next.




Review: ‘Once On This Island’

The show was an enchanting musical telling of the ancient tale of a young peasant girl fighting for love in a world where everyone she knows is against her.

By Annie Hart, Reporter

Students and staff from the Shenandoah Conservatory performed “Once On This Island” in Glaize Theatre on April 22-23. The show was an enchanting musical telling of the ancient tale of a young peasant girl fighting for love in a world where everyone she knows is against her.

This one-act musical told the story of TiMoune, a poor peasant girl living on an island; Daniel, the boy she loved from the rich side of the island; and their struggles.

TiMoune faced many obstacles, but the ones that stood out the most were the gods. Portrayed by a wide range of Shenandoah talents, the gods were brought to life through the use of colored lighting and added costume pieces.

Papa Ge, the demon of death, wore a hat decorated in bones and slunk in under a red light. Erzulie, Goddess of Love, was warmed with a pink light, wore a flowered headdress, and carried a magic fan. Agwe, the God of Water, basked under a blue light, carried a large staff, and was caped in a fishnet. Finally, Aska, the mother of the earth, danced under a green light and wore a green cape.

Through the use of these added lights and costume pieces, the gods could also portray the company by removing their adornments.

The use of transitions, much like the change from the gods to the company, was vastly important in the transformation of Little TiMoune into the grown up version. A brown cloth was swirled around Little TiMoune to reveal a grown-up TiMoune.

The audience was captivated by this transition and by the performance of Kamryn Burton, senior musical theatre major, as TiMoune.

Burton was a true highlight of the show and gave all who attended a captivating experience with powerful vocals and a true understanding of the character TiMoune.

“‘Once On This Island’ was my first musical ever,” Burton said. “When I was nine years old, I played Little TiMoune at my local university and found myself loving the experience and continued doing theatre. I’ve done the show three times since, playing various characters, but this was my first time playing TiMoune, and it meant the world to me to play this role in my last show here as a student.”

“Once On This Island” was a visually captivating show, using audience interaction in such an intimate space as Glaize Theatre, incorporating culturally-accurate dance moves, and spectacular costuming made the musical one that no one could take their eyes off of.

Acting majors end their Conservatory careers with “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”

“This is a very meaningful way to conclude my career on the Shenandoah stage,” senior acting major Taylor Bloom said, “and I am very grateful for the experience.”

By Sarah Beck, Entertainment Editor

Shenandoah Conservatory opened “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at the Glaize Studio Theatre on Friday, April 7. This comedy about the story of Judas’s damnation takes place in a courtroom placed in purgatory giving it a twist of this classic tale.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to work with a wonderful director and a talented cast on some of the best writing in 21st century drama,” senior acting major Taylor Bloom said.

The stage was lit generously with cool tones of blues and purples until big, bright lights filled the room, which gave the audience a sense of the plot’s intense case. With characters like Sigmund Freud and biblical figures like Mary Magdalene, the original plot from the story of Judas was morphed from these different viewpoints.

“I thoroughly enjoyed playing Satan because he is a necessary part of this story of Jesus and love in the Bible,” said Bloom, who played the role of Satan.

Bloom was dressed from head to toe in a fancy purple dress suit. He was very comical and devilishly handsome, but in his second appearance he was very much like the Satan that most people assume to be: bad.

“I think of Satan and Jesus as two sides of the same coin,” Bloom said, “and I think that in order to properly understand the damnation of Judas and the pure unrelenting love of Jesus, you need a Satan.”

Senior acting major D.J. Gayles played the role of Judge Littlefield, a former ill-tempered Confederate soldier and judge in purgatory. He kept the comedy running through the show as he listened to each witness’s testimony on Judas.

Gayles has been on the stage for his other roles in “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Diviners,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This was both Bloom’s and Gayles’s final show at Shenandoah Conservatory.

“This is a very meaningful way to conclude my career on the Shenandoah stage,” Bloom said, “and I am very grateful for the experience.”