Business SPOTLIGHT – “A Star is Born”
StageCoach Theatre Company
By: Robin Cunningham (Reston Limousine)
The first thing to know about the StageCoach Theatre Company is that their name has meaning; scratch that, make it meanings.
When I asked co-owner Jerri Wiseman about the name, she assured me it was selected intentionally and with much thought. First is ‘Stage’ – which has obvious significance for a theatre company, as it is the primary platform for their services. Then you have ‘Coach.’ In this case, ‘Coach’ refers to the teaching and mentoring they offer to their students. And, when you put Stage and Coach together, you get StageCoach, a mobile way to “take the show on the road.” So, there you have it…one word with three significant and essential meanings.
StageCoach Theatre Company was founded in 2011, about two years after Jerri and Terry Smith first met. In 2009 Jerri moved back to VA after living overseas (where she belonged to a local, non-profit theatre group) and knew that an excellent way to meet people and do something she loved would be to join a theatre group. So Jerri auditioned for and got a role in a murder mystery. Then, about two years in, she realized she wanted to produce more, and Terry realized he wanted to write more. So as the saying goes, “a star was born,” and the StageCoach Theatre Company opened its doors.
StageCoach began as a traveling troupe of performers doing murder mysteries at local wineries and restaurants, and they continue to do so. However, StageCoach has grown and blossomed into so much more. In addition to offering summer camps for teens and pre-teens, after-school classes, theatre workshops, and private coaching sessions are available.
As if teaching and coaching the stars of tomorrow isn’t enough, they also have a myriad of events and shows scheduled throughout the year. StageCoach has magic shows up their sleeves, Drag Cabaret performances to appeal to all the senses, and interactive ghost story mysteries perfect for this time of year.
While owning a theater can have its challenges (yes, we’re talking to you, Covid), it also has its shining moments. One particular shining example is a high school student who came to StageCoach a few years ago as a meek and mild, not quite booming with confidence or self-assuredness, young actor. However, this teenager embraced all that StageCoach had to offer and teach, and throughout the last couple of years, has blossomed into a confident and incredibly talented actor. He currently performs on stage along with professional actors in Nightfall with Edgar Allen Poe. Imagine knowing the impact you had on a person can change their future trajectory – that’s what StageCoach Theatre Company is all about.
But don’t think that Covid left them unaffected…one nice thing about dinner theatre and murder mysteries is the closeness and quaintness these shows provide. Both were taboo during Covid. Closing their doors wasn’t an option, and as they say, the show must go on, but how and where? Oatlands Historic Home and Gardens came to the rescue!
Talk about a win-win. Oatlands had the space for the performers and guests to spread out and on-site catering by Pure Perfection for the dinner part of the ‘dinner’ theatre. It’s a match made in heaven that continues today, showing that not everything that came from Covid is terrible.
Jerri says that surviving Covid was one of their most significant accomplishments. While other businesses were closing their doors, StageCoach survived the pandemic. Jerri and Terry, along with their new business partner April Bridgeman, knew for sure that the support of the community/friends/fans made it possible for them to stay in business. Knowing that others had their backs encouraged them to keep their doors open and look for new ways to deliver their products and experience. As Jerri said, “We knew we couldn’t do it alone. It takes a village, sponsors, acting and directing troupes, and venues to help run a theatre. There are many challenges; the key is knowing who to call.”
For anyone interested, it is worth noting that StageCoach brings the show to you (remember why they picked the name StageCoach?). So if you have guests looking for live entertainment, team building, or maybe some creative workshops, Jerri and the crew are happy to oblige and bring it to you. Or, if you are looking for something offsite, don’t forget the dinner theatre at Oatlands, and live performances at the theater in Ashburn are always an option.
So, there you have it. StageCoach is much more than a theatre company – it is a community where you can perform, learn, and shine like the stars.