Celebrating a Beloved Roanoke Landmark, Starcropolis Brings Live Theatre Back to Mill Mountain

Starcropolis

Hollins University, the City of Roanoke, Mill Mountain Theatre, and Roanoke Public Libraries are joining forces this Labor Day Weekend to present the first-ever Starcropolis, an evening of live theatre beneath the Roanoke Star.

The event kicks off during the late afternoon of Sunday, September 4, and continues past nightfall. Tickets are $15 and will be available for purchase online later this summer.

Starcropolis is inspired by the citizens of ancient Greece, who would gather for theatre festivals at the acropolis, the highest point in any city, “to be entertained, to be inspired, to feel connected,” says Ernie Zulia, artistic director and chair of the Hollins theatre department. “The glorious backdrop for the show was the spectacular view. It offered a breathtaking perspective on the place they called ‘home.’”

Mill Mountain is “our acropolis,” adds Zulia, and “our wacky and wonderful neon Parthenon” is the Roanoke Star.

Starcropolis’ main-stage event will feature a series of short plays created specifically for the festival. Scripts and stories will be written by playwrights from the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, along with some of the region’s best-known writers. Local actors and guest performers from around the country “will weave a rich theatrical tapestry especially for Roanoke,” Zulia says.

In conjunction with the event, Roanoke Public Libraries has launched “Star Stories,” nicknamed “Starry Corps.” Library staff and volunteers are gathering, recording, and archiving stories, funny moments, and deeply human events, planned or unplanned, that have occurred at the Star.

“These ‘Star Stories’ – our stories – will provide inspiration for the playwrights, storytellers, and writers for Starcropolis,” Zulia explains. “They will also be available through the library for the interest and delight of the public.”

People can share a Star Story by calling (540) 632-2203, emailing virginiaroom@gmail.com, or visiting http://roanokeva.gov/1246/Virginia-Room.

Starcropolis attendees, dubbed “Starcatchers,” will park at the city garage across from Elmwood Park and catch the Starline Trolley to ride to the top of Mill Mountain. While waiting, they will be treated to storytelling and music at a mini star stage. After boarding the trolley, Starcatchers will be entertained by actors during their ride up the mountain. When they arrive at the Adventure Center on Mill Mountain, Starcatchers will walk along the Star Trail to the Roanoke Star. The walk will be a performance unto itself, featuring Starbursts – mini performances staged by actors, singers, storytellers, and circus performers along the way.

The main-stage event will begin at sundown on a temporary stage under a huge tent that will seat every Starcatcher who arrives at the top.  During the two hours leading up to the main-stage event, community theatres and high schools from the Roanoke area will be invited to perform short Star Stories on two smaller satellite stages.

Other elements of the festival include:

  • Starry Starry Shakespeare, featuring a collection of characters, scenes, and sonnets from the world’s greatest playwright.
  • Star Slam, where young slam poets will shake up the festival with original poetry.
  • Starry-okee, featuring karaoke versions of songs with “star” in them.
  • Star History Stop, where a local historian will share interesting and colorful information and stories about the Star, including how it came to be and how it grew to its height of fame.

“In this fast-paced world where we are all trapped in front of one kind of electronic screen or other, the live theatre event is more valuable than ever,” Zulia says. “It brings us together in one place at the same time to share a laugh, shed a tear, and experience the power of great stories – our stories.

“Along with a huge dose of fun, it is our hope that Starcropolis will illuminate, galvanize, and inspire our community in a way that only live theatre can.”

Zulia, Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill, and event co-organizer Katherine Fralin Walker talk about the genesis of Starcropolis in this video.