Autumn entertainment to scare up fun for valley theatergoers

By Maggie Wolff Peterson

In making her documentary, “Talking Story,” Marie-Rose Phan-Le aimed to combine her experience as a filmmaker with the apprenticeship she undertook to learn the traditional healing methods of her native Vietnam. As she worked, the project grew. It took Phan-Le 11 years to piece together the stories of healers around the world, who gave her information that she terms “gifts.”

“They gave me things personally to carry out into the world,” said Phan-Le, who was educated in the West and lives in Hawaii.

Her film is one of more than 25 that will be screened Sept. 13 through 15 in Winchester as part of Skyline Indie Fest, an independent film festival in its first year.

Organizer Brian Patrick, owner of the independent downtown bookstore, Winchester Book Gallery, said he conceived of the festival because he loves cinema and wanted to give independent filmmakers greater opportunity to have their work seen.

“They want to get more eyeballs on their product,” he said.

The Skyline Indie Fest is one of various theater events around the Northern Shenandoah Valley offering unique entertainment opportunities to enjoy this fall, like film premieres, concerts and children’s stage theater.

Patrick said the film festival offers another element in the growing sophistication of Winchester’s downtown, which in the past few years has undergone a physical makeover, the addition of Shenandoah University housing to historic buildings, increased restaurant traffic and, in May, the opening of Bright Box Theater, a multipurpose arts space in the Bright Center building on the Loudound Street Pedestrian Mall.

Bright Box will be a venue used for the film festival, which will also occupy screens at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema south of Winchester, the Glaize Theater on the campus of Shenandoah University and several other locations. A complete listing of venues, films and times is at

Additionally Bright Box will host the opening of the Shenandoah Conservatory season on Sept. 14 with a party and performance by EDGE Ensemble, a group of conservatory students and faculty committed to making new music. The ensemble, which is new to Shenandoah this year, is “the house band for Shenandoah New Music, which is a contemporary music series,” said ensemble Director David Little.

The piece to be performed, “In C,” is a minimalist piece composed in 1964 to reflect abstract art trends of that time. It has become “a legend in the field of contemporary music,” Little said.

“It’s one of the first pieces in the minimalist tradition,” he said, and allows the entire ensemble of 20 or 25 musicians to play together. Later in the season, the ensemble may perform in smaller groups, and in November at Bright Box, will perform with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts.

The 7 p.m. performance of “In C” at Bright Box is free and will include a happy hour beginning at 6 p.m. that features complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

Music will also figure into special events at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema this fall, with a “Totally ’80s” singalong event on Sept. 26. Billed as the region’s “best dance party,” the event transforms the theater into a dance club with music videos on the screen.

According to Alamo promotional information, “There will never be another form of entertainment greater than the music video, because those three and a half minutes of pop music linked to crazy imagery [are] nothing short of pure perfection, and seeing them on the movie screen with a thumping digital movie theater sound system blasting the music throughout the theater is one of the best experiences you can have in life.”

Attendees receive goodie bags of glow sticks, streamers, balloons and inflatable air guitars, and the Alamo kitchen and bar will be ready to provide refreshments.

Other upcoming events include special showings of the films “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” with live appearances by original cast members on Sept. 28, and “Magic Mike” on Sept. 21, with live entertainment provided by Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa.

Another special cinema event this fall will be the premiere of the thriller “Detached,” by 14-year-old filmmaker Stephen French of Edinburg. The psychological drama involves a young widow and a secluded bed-and-breakfast, where horror develops. It will be shown at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at Woodstock Community Theater, and at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Family Drive-In Theater in Stephens City.

At Strasburg Home Theater, the Stage Coach Theatre Company will present its children’s theater this fall. Billed as a “kinder, gentler” adaptation of the classic story, “Little Red” tells the tale of Miss Riding Hood who, on her way to grandmother’s house, meets some unusual characters. The show is at 2 p.m. Sept. 14 and small snacks and juice boxes are included in the $10 ticket price.

The theater company, based in Loudoun County, produces “all original scripts, all by local playwrights,” said founder Jerri Wiseman. “We’re a traveling troupe.”

Formed in 2011, the company will also stage dinner theater murder mysteries at Strasburg Home Theater on later this fall. “Diamonds to Die For” on Oct. 5 and “Cold Case Reunion” on Nov. 9 both include audience participation and dinner catered by Hi Neighbor Restaurant.

For more information about the Skyline Film Fest, visit The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is located at 818 Kernstown Commons Blvd, Winchester. Call 313-4060 or visit The Bright Box Theatre is located at 15 N. Loudoun St., Wincheter. Call 665-2878 or visit The Strasburg Home Theatre is located at 151 West King St., Strasburg. Call 465-4400 or visit