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One week until the greatest show on earth comes to Chesapeake

We’re one week away from opening night for Shakespeare in the Grove, featuring “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Called a community treasure, Shakespeare in the Grove presented by Tidewater Community College and the Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission is in its 23rd year.

Join us for free, outdoor public performances from June 26-30, starting at 8 p.m., weather permitting on the “Grove” stage on the Chesapeake Campus, 1428 Cedar Road.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes conversation with the director and some of the actors.

Taylor Durham as Helena with Nick Nauert as Demetrius.
Taylor Durham as Helena with Nick Nauert as Demetrius.

A word from director Trey Clarkson:

“Shakespeare in the Grove is a Chesapeake tradition and the largest production on the Southside. I’m always excited to bring together talented actors from all over the 757 to put on a show in our own backyard. I have been with the ‘Grove’ since the very first show. As we enter the 23rd season we return to ‘Midsummer’ with a big-top circus design. On the heels of the film ‘The Greatest Showman’ and the release of ‘Dumbo,’ as well as the death of Barnum and Bailey in 2017,  the nostalgia of the circus is the perfect setting for the magic and mayhem of this Shakespeare comedy.”

Why should people come to Shakespeare in the Grove?

 “It’s fun! It’s free! And it’s a great way to get family, friends and everyone outside, under the stars, for outdoor theater. It really is the greatest show in Chesapeake.” –  Chris Bernhardt, playing Theresa Snout and Wall

How do you make Shakespeare understandable for today’s audience? 

Logan Bennett playing Bottom.

 “Mostly, you just have to communicate with people. The language can seem dense at first, but once your ear gets used to it, you can easily understand what’s happening on stage. We also do so much physically, that we could almost do it in mime and you’d still catch on to the show. The quality of the play is what makes this timeless classic still relevant today.” – Logan Bennett, playing Nick Bottom and Pyramus

What about millennials?

 “Shakespeare really is for everyone. Especially when you look at the universal themes presented, including love and chasing your dreams.” – Sylvie Green, playing Patty Quince

This year’s theme is the circus – why does it work?

“Adapting Shakespeare to different time periods and themes is a common practice, but it’s difficult to do well. Somehow, every year we figure out how to make it work. ‘Midsummer’ seems to fit the circus theme so well with all of the crazy characters, the magical things that happen, with the character changes and people running away to join the circus, it all just makes sense, and you’d think it was the original.”  – Patrick Rostock, playing Francis Flute and Thisbe

Zoe Thompson (ensemble), with Sylvie Green as Quince, Bennett as Bottom, Patrick Rostock at Flute, Chris Bernhardt as Egeus and Tristan Hicks as Starveling and Olivia Madrid (ensemble).

How difficult is it to learn lines? 

 “It depends on person to person how difficult it is to learn lines. But with this show, it’s a lot of poetry, so it flows really nicely, and I think it’s really easy to remember your part.” – Noëlle Peterson, playing Hermia

On being the tallest man  

 “This has been the most difficult role I’ve ever played. I’ve had to learn unique skills, like walking on stilts, and it’s been a big learning curve acting while being 10 feet tall! – Tristan Hicks, playing the Tallest Man and Moonshine

Challenges of outdoor theater?

 “The hardest part is definitely projecting your voice over a very long distance, especially when it’s really humid! And sound interruptions and the weather, of course!” – Andreas Zollos, playing Lysander

What makes Shakespeare in the Grove special?  

Cast members accept a donation from Terri Anderson (left) with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

 “This is a really high-quality show. The director and actors and technicians are hard working and good at what they do. We can get away with a pretty short rehearsal schedule because we’re all dedicated and give our all in every rehearsal and performance.” – Sylvie Green

“The professionalism, as far as community theater goes, is top notch. This is the only place I’ve been that they hold you to a professional standard. Every TCC show I’ve been a part of, people are really pushing their limits to put on the best show possible.” – Logan Bennett

Enjoy “Othello” under the stars at TCC’s Shakespeare in the Grove

Mistrust, violence and intrigue highlight the classic tale of “Othello,” on stage at Tidewater Community College’s 22nd Shakespeare in the Grove.

Free, outdoor public performances will be held June 20-24, starting at 8 p.m., weather permitting.

A sneak peek of "Othello" at Food Trucks on the Square on June 6.
A sneak peek of “Othello” on June 6.

This is the third production at the new outdoor “grove” platform, located behind the Pass Building on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus, 1428 Cedar Road. A cast and crew of more than 20 student and veteran actors and 15 technicians will bring the Bard’s tragedy to life.

TCC’s version of the play is set at the end of the Civil War and Othello, the captain of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, has secretly married Desdemona, the daughter of a prominent senator. When the senator learns the truth, he promptly disowns her.

TCC and the Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission sponsor Shakespeare in the Grove. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and a picnic dinner. Insect repellent is also recommended.

For more information, contact Matthew Gorris at or 757-822-5219.

TCC presents “An Evening of Lit Art,” April 4-7

If you love a zany story told on stage, then Tidewater Community College’s “An Evening of Lit Art” is for you!

The presentation is a collaboration of the college’s Creative Writing Club, Literary Festival and Theatre Arts department. Students will present their original poems, stories and other writings and perform in Hilliard Booth’s one-act play, “The Red Lamp.” TCC Professor Matthew Gorris will direct the production.

Performances will be held April 4-7 at 7:30 p.m., in the Black Box Theatre in the Academic Building on the Chesapeake Campus, 1428 Cedar Road.

“The Red Lamp” revolves around a hungry tramp who breaks into a house and recognizes a lamp that supposedly brings good luck when lit. A son befriends the tramp, who leaves when the boy’s aunt returns. The boy agrees to light the lamp after his aunt leaves the house as a signal for the tramp to return. A daughter also agrees to use the same signal to let her lover know her aunt, who disapproves of the match, has left the house. The aunt also lights the lamp to signal a neighbor to prepare tea. Ensuing complications are fast, furious and unexpected.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and military-related patrons. Payment is by cash or checks at the door. The box office opens 45 minutes prior to show time.

Tickets can also be purchased with a credit card at the business office in the Pass Building on the Chesapeake Campus Monday and Tuesday between 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For more information, call 757-822-5219 or email

Also, mark your calendars for TCC’s Shakespeare in the Grove’s presentation of “Othello,” on June 20-24 at 8 p.m., weather permitting.

Discover your inner scientist as TCC celebrates Women’s History Month

Tidewater Community College celebrates Women’s History Month with a keynote speech by a nationally recognized scientist, a women’s empowerment symposium and a luncheon geared toward female students returning to college.

All events are free and open to the public.

Ainissa G. Ramirez, who aims to awaken the inner scientist in everyone, will deliver an address on March 27 at 12:30 p.m. at the Virginia Beach Campus Student Center in room K-320.

A scientist herself, Ramirez co-authored “Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game,” which tackles topics that include why woodpeckers don’t get concussions to how improved helmets actually make the game more dangerous.

Ramirez graduated from Yale University and earned her doctorate at Stanford University.

TCC Women’s History Month Events
An assortment of free, public activities throughout March will be held at each of TCC’s campuses. Events are subject to change and are on a first-come-first-served basis.

Chesapeake Campus

Returning Women’s Luncheon

March 22, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Chesapeake Campus Student Center

Representatives from student support services and TCC’s Women’s Center will be on hand for networking.  Regina Brayboy, executive director of Healthy Suffolk, will present the keynote address. RSVP at

Norfolk Campus

Why Does She Matter?

March 15, Noon – 2 p.m.

Norfolk Campus Student Center, 5th Floor

LaJuan Hines-Rome, founder and director of She’ Matters GIRLS, Inc., a Norfolk based nonprofit that connects females ages 6 to 22 with mentors, will speak.

Documentary Day – “Hidden Figures”

March 21, Noon – 2 p.m.

Norfolk Campus Student Center, Women’s Center (3rd Floor)

Learn about women’s contributions to NASA during a showing of “Hidden Figures.”

Portsmouth Campus

Vision Board Workshop

March 12, Noon – 1 p.m.

Portsmouth Campus Student Center, room E-126

Create and design your own vision board and explore techniques for successful goal setting.

Her Story Pop-up

March 13, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Portsmouth Campus, lobby of Building A

Challenge your knowledge of women’s contributions to culture and advancement and win prizes.

Women’s Empowerment Symposium

March 23, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Portsmouth Campus Student Center

Following the national theme of Women’s History Month, “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” the symposium will include plenary sessions, a keynote luncheon and a girl power exhibition fair. Reserve your seat at

Women’s Empowerment Pledge

March 28, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Portsmouth Campus Student Center, Commons

Support women in their lives and pledge to be an agent of change on campus.

Virginia Beach Campus

Film – “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”

March 12, 10 a.m.

Virginia Beach Student Center, Movie Lounge

Filmmaker Mary Dore chronicles the events of the feminist movement from 1966 to 1971.

Voter Registration Drive

March 15, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Virginia Beach Campus Student Center Café

Register to vote in honor of the 19th Amendment.

Visual Arts Center

Her Story Pop-up

March 21, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Challenge your knowledge of women’s contributions to culture and advancement and win prizes.

See and hear the sounds of TCC’s Literary Festival from April 2-5

Celebrated performer Charlotte Blake Alston, internationally renowned for her oral storytelling ability that enhances traditional and contemporary stories from African and African-American cultural traditions, will be the keynote speaker for Tidewater Community College’s 17th annual Literary Festival that runs from April 2-5.

The master storyteller, narrator and librettist will deliver her animated presentation at 12:30 p.m., on April 2 at the Virginia Beach Student Center, room K-320.

“Discovering Identity” is the theme for the annual literary festival. All events are free and open to the public.

Philadelphia’s Alston often combines the sounds of traditional instruments, such as the djembe, mbira, shekere or the 21-stringed kora, with her own melodic voice to engage her audience. She has appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institution, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Storytelling Festival and the National Black Storytelling Festival.

Others reading at the festival are:

Eric Hause

April 3 at 12:30 p.m., Norfolk Campus Student Center, 5th Floor

Norfolk’s own Hause has been an LGBTQ advocate since 1989. He has been involved with Hampton Roads Pride, Hampton Roads Business Outreach, the LGBT Life Center and Outer Banks Pridefest. He and husband Andrew Roberts publish and Outlife757 magazine, Coastal Virginia’s LGBTQ media, as well as the Coastal Virginia Gay Wedding Showcase.

Kevin So

April 4 at 12:30 p.m., Chesapeake Campus Academic Building, Black Box Theatre

Dubbed the Chinese-American Bruce Springsteen, the singer has produced 13 independently released CDs, including “Leaving the Lights On,” which confronts identity, relationships, history, family and racism. So launched his career in the early ’90s when he appeared on Fox TV’s “Big Break.”

Drew Anderson

April 5 at 12:30 p.m., Portsmouth Campus Student Center, Multipurpose Room 128

The New Orleans-bred and Washington, D.C.-based hip-hop artist, slam poet, producer, screenwriter and veteran middle and high school teacher connects with audiences thanks to his knack for satire. Anderson published his first collection of poetry in 2001, “Droopy: Dat Boy’s A Fool,” through his company Broke Baller Enterprises.

TCC faculty members and students will also read from their original works on the following dates and times:

April 3

Chesapeake Campus Student Center, room 4311 – 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Norfolk Campus Student Center, 5th floor – 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Portsmouth Campus Student Center – 12:30-1:30 p.m.

April 4

Virginia Beach Campus Student Center – 12:30-1:30 p.m.

For more information, call TCC’s Information Center at 757-822-1122. For maps and directions, visit

Remembering former TCC board chair and longtime faculty member LaVonne Ellis

LaVonne Parker Ellis, the former chair of the Tidewater Community College Board, died last week at the age of 76.

Appointed to the college board in June 2004, Ms. Ellis served two four-year terms and held various leadership positions at TCC. In addition to being chair from 2011-12, she was vice chair and a member of the Advocacy & Advancement Committee and the Resource Development Committee. Ms. Ellis retired from the faculty of TCC in 2001 after 27 years of teaching.

In 2012, she was appointed to the State Board of Community Colleges and served a four-year term.

President Kolovani with LaVonne Ellis

“LaVonne will be missed by everyone in the TCC community,” said President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani. “She was chair of our college board when I was hired and among the first to welcome me here. Her longtime support of TCC has been instrumental in its growth. My sincere condolences to her family.”

Ms. Ellis played a critical role in advising and guiding TCC through a period of unprecedented enrollment growth, program expansion and community outreach. The college established the LaVonne P. Ellis Scholarship, given annually to a Chesapeake high school graduate, in her honor.

In recognition of her exemplary service, Ms. Ellis was awarded an honorary resolution from TCC on June 26, 2012.

“LaVonne Ellis was among the cohort of teaching faculty who helped build Tidewater Community College from the ground up,” said Deborah M. DiCroce, TCC president emerita. “She believed in education as the greater equalizer — and understood the power of community colleges to democratize American higher education for the greater public good. LaVonne also understood the critical role that community colleges have long played as the first line of defense to ensuring a well-trained, competitive workforce.  In her retirement, she went on to chair TCC’s local board and serve on the State Board for Community Colleges. By any measure, TCC is a better place for her service.”

The resolution lauded Ms. Ellis for her considerable business and community expertise in relation to the advancement of TCC in matters of curriculum, personnel and finances.

“LaVonne Ellis was a true supporter and friend of Virginia’s Community Colleges. She served our mission throughout her life as a career instructor, local and statewide board member and later as a noted philanthropist. Ms. Ellis forever saw the best in our students and encouraged our best in service to them. She will be sorely missed,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.

Ms. Ellis taught administrative support technology courses at TCC from 1974 until 1996. She chaired the Student Development Committee and held multiple leadership and club advisory positions on the Chesapeake and Virginia Beach campuses.

John D. Padgett, a member of the college board, noted, “LaVonne Ellis was committed to making a difference. She understood the role education plays in improving lives and communities. LaVonne will be missed.”

Prior to joining the faculty at TCC, Ms. Ellis, a native of Chesapeake, taught at Norcom, Cradock and Wilson high schools in Portsmouth.

Ms. Ellis earned her master’s in educational administration & supervision from Old Dominion University in 1970. She attained her bachelor’s in business education from Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, in 1964.

Funeral services for Ms. Ellis will be held at 1 p.m. on Feb. 17 at First Baptist Church, 418 E. Bute St., in Norfolk.