Waynesboro (“Where Good Nature Comes Naturally”) occupies somewhat of a nexus location in the Shenandoah Valley—it’s just three miles from the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the southern end of Skyline Drive. The Appalachian Trail is a couple of miles from town (where the Waynesboro YMCA offers free showers to backpackers). Hiking, fly-fishing, cycling and kayaking, especially on the new, four-mile Waynesboro Water Trail are all popular and easily accessible.
But as much fun as the outdoor options are, there is plenty to do inside—especially at the Wayne Theatre. In this city’s growing arts and culture scene, the Wayne is a thriving anchor point—despite a long history of ups and downs.
Built in 1926 as a vaudeville house, the management proclaimed it was the “finest theatre in the Shenandoah Valley.” In 1999, the owners closed the theatre and turned it over to the city of Waynesboro. In 2000, to prevent the demolishing of the Wayne, a group of determined citizens incorporated the Wayne Theatre Alliance as a 501 (c) 3 and launched a renovation of the theatre. On March 1, 2016, the restored Wayne opened to the public with a preview season offering an array of theatre and live performances. Management says the restoration was done “by the community, for the community and ultimately is being given back to the community.”
Today, the Wayne offers a wide-ranging slate of plays, films, dance, and concerts, plus educational workshops, a changing art exhibit, and more. Staff members have worked hard to preserve what they could historically, yet have new infrastructure to operate as performing arts center.
Waynesboro may be a small place, but as Executive Director Tracy Straight told us, “We are big city entertainment. Please come see us. We are an intimate theatre and there is not a bad seat in the house for viewing or comfort. Parking is plentiful, and August and September are very busy,” said Straight.
August 8-11 and 15-18: Roald Dahl’s “Matilda — The Musical.” The Wayne’s productions feature local and regional talent, and “Up to 45 cast are involved in this production, some coming from two hours away,” Straight said. This Tony-award winning production revels in “the anarchy of childhood, the power of imagination and the inspiring story of a girl who dreams of a better life.”
August 20: “We’re partnering with the Augusta County Historical Society to present “Charles Thomson: The Man Who Told the Truth,” said Straight. The 60-minute documentary tells the story of one of America’s forgotten founding fathers, Ulster Scotsman Charles Thomson. Following the documentary, local historian Nancy Sorrells and Dr. Patrick Spero, the Director of the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia, will each give short presentations expanding upon their roles in the documentary and what they know of the Thomson story.
September 6: Kickoff Live at the Wayne with Mr. Jefferson’s Bones, hosted by Tracy Straight with house band, The Boogie Kings.
September 14: Bluegrass/folk artists Robin and Linda Williams (left) have been entertaining audiences for 40+ years. Hear their wide repertoire of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country.
September 20: Delight to hear radio legend Garrison Keillor accompanied by gifted pianist and former “A Prairie Home Companion” music director Richard Dworsky, in “An Evening with Garrison Keillor.”
September 27: Listen to the energetic country music of Little Texas—a band with three Grammy nominations.
Off the Stage and Onto the Gallery
Not many performance theatres have an art exhibit gallery, but the Wayne does. Currently on display, through August 25, is “Boxing: The Sweet Science,” by boxer-collector-historian Bruce Frank. See images of iconic fighters such as Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Rocky Balboa and others.
Also in the Gallery from August 20 to November 24 (with a reception on September 5) is “Gene Provenzo–From Bach to the Beatles and Beyond.” In the exhibit, Provenzo (a former university professor, now fulltime artist) explores different musical traditions – jazz, rap, rock and roll, baroque classical, etc. — through mixed media, sculpture/assemblage and collage.
See a Virtual Tour of the Wayne Theatre here.
Banner photo: Richard Dworsky (l.) and Garrison Keillor