Hometown favorites to play Lime Kiln

Many Rockbridge-area performers consider Theater at Lime Kiln their home. On Saturday, June 27, and Sunday, June 28, Lime Kiln hosts two events featuring artists who can make that claim.
James Leva and Purgatory Mountain perform Old Time and original music in The Bowl on Saturday, and Lexington native, award-winning author and actor Peter Neofotis performs his one-man show, Concord, Virginia, on Sunday.

James Leva and Purgatory Mountain combine deep roots in traditional Appalachian music with inspired original material and captivating grooves from several continents. The band’s songs, instrumental virtuosity and vocal harmonies are accompanied by traditional percussive dance, hambone and fiddlesticks.

Al Tharp, on banjo and bass, and James (fiddle, guitar) have played together since the 1970s with bands such as Plank Road, the Free Will Savages, Ace Weems and the Fat Meat Boys.  Al is a 15-year veteran of the Cajun band Beausoleil, with whom he won several Grammies and played at the SuperBowl.  Danny Knicely, a phenomenal young mandolin/guitar player, has toured with Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, Mark Schatz (of Nickel Creek) and was a founding member, along with Larry Keel and Will Lee, of Magraw Gap.

Dancer/percussionist, Matthew Olwell, is a remarkable young dancer. His dancing adds an exciting visual component to the concert, drawing from Appalachian, Celtic and African traditions. Matty performed for 15 years with Footworks,and has performed with Tim O’Brien’s “The Crossing” and in the London production of River Dance.

James Leva has played festivals all over North America and Europe, including Merle Fest, Telluride, Rocky Grass, Strawberry, Rhythm & Roots, Philadelphia Folk Festival, The Carter Fold, the Birchmere, as well as radio shows like Mountain Stage. He has recorded and/or performed with John Doyle, Tim O’Brien, David Greely and Sam Broussard (Mamou Playboys), David Grier, Cheick Hamal Diabate, Mike Seeger, Mark Schatz and many others. His recordings of all original material with Carol Elizabeth Jones, on the Rounder label, won wide critical praise, including rave reviews in the Washington Post (“Timeless, poetic and affecting songs…”) and Boston Herald.

Tim O’Brien says of James’ songwriting:  “James knows and respects the deep roots of country music.  His original songs reflect and magnify those sounds, offering the listener an essential modern perspective.” 

The band performed at last year’s Paris Blues Festival in France, has played at Merle Fest and these musicians have performed at most major festivals throughout North America and Europe. Purgatory Mountain’s performance on the PBS TV series “Song of the Mountains” will be broadcast nationally this summer

Peter Neofotis’s Concord, Virginia, combines the tradition of oral storytelling with an evening of short stories. The play tells of individuals living in a small town in Virginia, tracing their history from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1970s, when modernity begins to encroach on their way of life.

Neofotis’s literary career began at Columbia University where he had a double major in creative writing and environmental biology. While in college he wrote what he calls a “thinly veiled memoir,” of which his professor cruelly remarked, ” ‘You may think your life is interesting, but no one else does.’ ”

After this disappointment he abandoned writing altogether. But the death of someone close to him, a former high school teacher, spurred him to write a short story called “The Abandoned Church,” which he set in a fictional Virginia town. Over the next few years he used his knowledge of his Lexington hometown to create a fictional world with a host of characters including “murderers, equestrians, army veterans, European refugees, slanderers, fools, sages, patricides, and the occasional law-abiding citizen.”

Neofotis originally tried to publish his volume of short stories by submitting them to literary agents. He was repeatedly rejected. Finally, through the advice of a friend, he submitted his stories to the Cornelia Street Café in March 2006, where they were accepted into an evening called “Over the Transom,” in which unpublished writers have the chance to read their works. Neofotis memorized his story for maximum dramatic impact. The result was more a performance than a reading. The curator at the Cornelia Street Café was so impressed with his work that he asked him to come back for more shows.

The cast of characters in Concord, Virginia, is pulled straight from Neofotis’s background growing up in Lexington, and the stories span a wide variety of subject matter. He uses real life details to root the stories in reality, but also admits that part of the fun of stories is that they take place in an “alternate universe.

Though Neofotis never planned on being an actor, several years ago his ability to tap into his emotions earned him a small part with one speaking line in the 2003 film “Gods and Generals,” with Jeff Daniels and Robert Duvall. “They were doing tryouts for a movie, and my friend said we should tryout. So I did my audition and I cried on cue, and I got the part,” Neofotis recalls. “They paid me a substantial amount of money to do it… and I got to die on Jeff Daniels.”

He also uses his scientific background to root the stories in nature. By day he works as a research associate at the NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Washington D.C., where he studies climate change. In 2007 he was a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore. “I really think the science has been helpful because it gives me an outside perspective,” he says. “There’s a part in (his story) ‘The Ghost’ where there’s a walk through the forest and I don’t know if I would’ve been able to write that had I not had that background.”

Neofotis’ stories, which are being released this summer under the title Concord, Virginia, earned him the Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner gold medal, awarded by a literary association founded in honor of William Faulkner that helps young writers connect with publishers and agents. The book will be on sale at Theater at Lime Kiln on the night of the performance and at The Bookery at 107 West Nelson Street.

The gates open at 6:30 p.m., and performances commence at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the season and ticket pricing, go to www.theateratlimekiln.com. For tickets call the Lime Kiln office at 540.463.7088.



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