Dedicated to new, exciting, and innovative theatrical works of the highest quality, we provide a space where writers, performers, and an audience can come together in a spirit of community and collaboration to expand our understanding of what is possible in the theatre. We also offer educational programs and support for artist development for Southwestern Virginia. By working in concert with other arts organizations, we will strive to make Roanoke a nationally recognized ignition point for new play development.
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30 Campbell Ave., SW

Roanoke VA 24011


Check us out on Blue Ridge PBS' "On the Road"

July 6, 2011

ROANOKE, VA – Ben R. Williams has been hired as the new general manager of Studio Roanoke, a black-box theatre that specializes in the development and production of new dramatic works.

Williams, a 2007 graduate of Roanoke College, has been the Director of Guerrilla Programming at Studio Roanoke since May, 2010, planning and hosting both Guerrilla Playhouse and Guerrilla Cinema.  His first play, Ant Farm (directed by Todd Ristau), debuted at Studio Roanoke in May, 2009.  His most recent play, Man With Wings (directed by Kenley Smith), will open there on August 10.

He assumed his new position with the theatre on July 1.

“I’m incredibly excited to be a part of the Studio Roanoke staff,” Williams said. “Studio Roanoke has been a major part of my life for several years now, and I’m looking forward to taking a more hands-on role with the theatre."

A native of Basset, VA, Williams began attending Roanoke’s No Shame Theater in 2006, where he was a regular writer and performer for more than four years.  A collection of his No Shame pieces, Hard Times for Ugly Men, was published in 2008with a revised and expanded edition following in 2009.

“I’ve known Ben since his No Shame days,” said Kenley Smith, Studio Roanoke’s artistic director.  “He’s an amazing writer, and I’m delighted that I’ll be working with him to bring Man With Wings to life.  Coming on as a full-time employee, Ben will give us a tremendous boost as we head into the new season.”

Williams has also been a regular contestant in The International 3-Day Novel Contest.  His first novel, Big Nasty Heartbreaker, was a short-listed entry for 2007, putting it in the top 20 out of nearly 500 submitted novels.  3x3, a collection of Williams’ first three 3-Day Novels, was published in 2010.

Williams has performed live readings of his work at both Studio Roanoke and The Bazaar, a performance venue/record store/consignment shop in Roanoke.

He is also the front man and lead singer for Death Newman, a hard-rock Randy Newman tribute band.


December 31, 2010

Studio Roanoke is expanding its "Sunday at the Studio" programming in 2011 to include two new recurring events -- the Workshop Reading Series and Guerrilla Cinema.

Under the guidance of Associate Artistic Director Don LaPlant, the Workshop Series will succeed the previous Lunchbox program as a showcase for new and developing plays in a simple, seated-reading format.  The series will begin on January 23 with an 8 p.m. reading of Ed Falco's Possum Dreams and will alternate fourth Sundays with Guerrilla Cinema.

"The move to Sunday-night reading slots opens up some interesting programming possibilities," said Artistic Director Kenley Smith.  "We can now consider full-length plays, and we can give our audiences a first look at shows scheduled for upcoming seasons."  Possum Dreams, for example, will receive a full production at Studio Roanoke in 2011-12.  With its simple format, the Workshop Series also can give voice to quality scripts that would be difficult to produce fully in the theatre's intimate, black-box space.

Using Studio Roanoke's new, HD-capable projection system, Guerrilla Cinema will feature original work by area filmmakers and multimedia artists.  Guerrilla Cinema, like the Workshop Series, will be offered on the fourth Sunday of alternating months; its debut will be February 27.  Ben R. Williams, who has hosted Guerrilla Playhouse since its inception last May, also will oversee the new program.  "Guerrilla Cinema and Guerrilla Playhouse share the same goal," Williams said.  "We'll offer the audience daring and original programming the likes of which they have never seen before."  

Guerrilla Playhouse, with its trademark mix of live theatre and original music, will continue on the second Sunday of each month.  The next show is January 9 at 8 p.m.

Literary Lounge and Acoustic Lounge, which round out "Sunday at the Studio" programming, continue on the first and third Sunday of each month, respectively.

July 20, 2010

ROANOKE, VA – Gamut, a local theatre group known for its productions of cutting-edge 20th-and-21st-century plays, will have a new home this fall at the K.W. “Pete” Smith Theatre.

Gamut, which stands for “Gypsies And Misfits Unknown Theatre,” will produce four plays in the space between October, 2010, and October, 2011.  The group is subleasing the facility from Studio Roanoke, a not-for-profit theatre company that specializes in the development of new works.  Studio Roanoke has been the building’s primary tenant since it opened in 2009.

“It’s really a bonanza for theatre lovers in the region,” said Kenley Smith, Studio Roanoke’s artistic director.  “Gamut seems like a perfect fit for this space, and I feel that their mission is wholly compatible with ours.  Together, we’ll bring in a dozen plays over the next year that have never been seen before in Roanoke.”

Miriam Frazier, artistic director of Gamut, agreed.  “The collaboration between Studio Roanoke and Gamut makes sense ideologically as well as economically,” she said.  “Many arts organizations have been weakened by the current economic climate, but both Gamut and Studio Roanoke will become stronger by sharing space, resources, artistic talent and audience.  Between the two groups, the Roanoke community will now have twice the innovative theatre under one roof.  And the theatre-arts community will have a great model for cooperation and nurturing co-existence.”

Although Studio Roanoke will provide ticketing and front-of-house services, the Gamut productions will be mounted independently of Studio Roanoke’s own eight-play season.

Gamut’s kickoff production in the new space will be a three-night-only fund raising event from September 30 through October 2 that features Sam Shepard’s one-act play, “Action.”  Gamut’s full season for 2011 will be announced, and the event will be catered by Martin’s Downtown Bar & Grill.

Gamut’s recent shows include “Criminal Minds,” by Robin Swicord; “Vintage Durang,” a collection of short pieces by Christopher Durang; “Reckless,” by Craig Lucas, and an evening of four plays by Harold Pinter, all at the Jefferson Center. 

Studio Roanoke’s first production, Sandy Dietrick’s “The Biology Lesson and Other Experiments,” opened in April, 2009.  The company has put up 11 full productions, as well as several load-in shows and recurring programs like “Acoustic Lounge” and “Guerrilla Playhouse.”  The 2010-11 season kicks off on August 11 with “Up From the Lunar Surface,” a new play by Nicole B. Adkins.

For more information, call Studio Roanoke at 540-343-3054 or Gamut at 540-521-6049.

July 8, 2010

ROANOKE, VA – Dr. Don LaPlant has been named Associate Artistic Director of Studio Roanoke, a black-box theatre that specializes in the development and production of new works.

LaPlant comes to Studio Roanoke with more than 20 years of theatre experience.  A veteran playwright, director, teacher and theatre administrator, he has worked in venues ranging from regional and summer stock theatres to academic, children’s, and community theatre groups. 

“As a playwright and director I’m energized by developing new, untested scripts, so this kind of theatre company is exciting to me,” LaPlant said.  “There’s a certain risk inherent in working on edgy, raw material and I find that kind of energy is really invigorating, both for me and for audiences.  There’s a certain electricity in the room when you’re watching a brand new play that just isn’t there when you’re seeing your fifth production of a time-tested old chestnut.”

For Artistic Director Kenley Smith, who succeeded Todd Ristau in May, LaPlant’s arrival is a decided boon.  “To have someone of Don’s experience and ability on staff is absolutely wonderful,” Smith said.  “We’re a small theatre with enormous ambitions, and Don will be an immediate help as we begin our new season.”

LaPlant will manage Studio Roanoke’s monthly Lunchbox series, which showcases staged readings of developing, one-act scripts.  His first show will feature one of his own plays, “Family Programming,” at 12:15 p.m. on July 14.  As with all Lunchbox programs, admission is free.  LaPlant also will oversee the theatre’s literary department, reading and evaluating scripts for potential full productions as well as Lunchbox readings, and will develop new community outreach programs and partnerships.

Calling upon his extensive teaching experience, which includes stints at California State University and Emory & Henry College, LaPlant will develop and teach theatre classes at Studio Roanoke.  “I want to bring my educational background and qualifications to the Studio to enhance the other programs they’ve already got in place,” he said.  “Roanoke Children’s Theatre and Mill Mountain Conservatory do a great job with acting classes for kids, and I’m looking forward to adding a few other educational theatre opportunities to the people of the area, specifically classes in playwriting and classes for teens and adults.”  Descriptions of these new classes are available on the theatre’s web site at 

“There aren’t many theatres committed to new work like Studio Roanoke is, and most of the ones I know of are in much larger cities,” LaPlant said.  “I think it’s a testament to the cultural strength and sophistication of Roanoke that this kind of theatre can thrive here while providing something different from what you’d expect to see in cities this size across America.”  He looks forward to his new position at Roanoke’s newest theatre:  “I’ve been a fan of Studio Roanoke since I first learned about their mission, back when the theatre was still in the planning stages.  I’m really impressed with the energy and commitment Kenley brings to the work.  The meetings and conversations we’ve had so far convince me our styles really complement each other well.  I think we’re going to be able to work really well together, both creatively and administratively.”

 As a playwright, LaPlant has had productions and staged readings of eight of his plays, including two commissions that were produced in state-wide tours, the multi-prize-winning play Two Body Problems, which was published in Southern Theatre magazine in 2007, and Appalachian Reality, which received a mini-production at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, in 2008.  As a director, he has directed over 40 productions including new works, classics, contemporary plays, solo performances and children’s plays.  In 2008 he was awarded a Meritorious Achievement citation for Excellence in Direction by the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival.  As a teacher, he has worked with theatre students ranging in age from four to eighty-two, but has focused for the past ten years on teaching traditional college-aged students. LaPlant holds Theatre degrees from Ithaca College (BA), the University of Nebraska at Omaha (MA), and the University of Oregon (PhD).  He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

May 15, 2010

ROANOKE, VA — Kenley Smith has been named acting Artistic Director of Studio Roanoke.

Mr. Smith replaces Todd Ristau, Director of the Graduate Program in Playwriting at Hollins University, who announced this week he is stepping down as Artistic Director.

Mr. Smith, who resigned his position as Studio Roanoke Board President to become acting Artistic Director, said he looks forward to working with Mr. Ristau during the upcoming 2010-2011 season. “Although I'm personally saddened by Todd's departure, I'll be excited to collaborate with him in new capacities this coming year.

“Studio Roanoke will continue at full strength. As I move from the board to this new role, I'm pleased to oversee the new season of plays that Todd assembled for us. I am dedicated, as is Todd, to bringing to the region new works of the highest quality, and that dedication will ensure a continuing partnership.”

Kristen Moses has been named interim Board President.

An accomplished playwright, actor, and director, Mr. Ristau helped launch Studio Roanoke and was instrumental in the theatre’s successful first year-and-a-half of operation. During his tenure, he oversaw a full slate of programming, including a full season of plays, poetry and acoustic lounges, free lunchtime readings and performances every Friday night of No Shame Theatre. In addition to his duties at Studio Roanoke, he also taught full-time at Hollins University and part-time at Washington & Lee.

Mr. Ristau will direct two plays at Studio Roanoke for the 2010-11 season, and his own play, “Living Between the Lines,” will be produced there in September.

The current Studio Roanoke season concludes with “Devil Sedan,” by Kenley Smith, which opens on June 22. “Up From the Lunar Surface,” by Nikki Adkins, kicks off the 2010-11 season in August.

For more information, please contact Kenley Smith at 540.343.3054.

To download high resolution images from any of our shows, visit the archive page for that play and then simply click on the image you desire. Contact us via email or by phone for complete photo credits.

What others are saying

Dwayne Yancey discusses '57 Hours in the House of Culture' on 101.5 FM (May 11, 2012)

Local playwright offers up his fifth full length piece at Studio Roanoke
by Heather Brush for (April 24, 2012)

Strong performances notwithstanding, 'Monkey Wrench' a head-scratcher
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times (April 14, 2012)

'Nobody Gets Paid' is a noteworthy play
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times (March 10, 2012)

'Alabaster McGill' at Studio Roanoke Is Hilarious
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (Feb. 10, 2012)

'Emancipation' provides provocative entertainment
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times (Feb. 3, 2012)

'Kip Knutzen':  Who Cares What It's About?  It's Good
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (Dec. 7, 2011)

Quirky Crimes & Confessions:  dark, well-cast
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times (Dec. 3, 2011)

'Zombie Boyfriend' is full of brains, liveliness
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times (Sept. 24, 2011)

'Man With Wings' Soars at Studio Roanoke
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times (August 17, 2011)

The String Continues at Studio Roanoke Under New Staff
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (August 12, 2011)

'Frogger' an arcade of dark, funny twists
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times (June 18, 2011)

'Frogger" Is the Whole Package at Studio Roanoke
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (June 16, 2011) 

'This Is My Office' Studio Roanoke Winner
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (May 18, 2011) 

'Office' offers inventive, deeply personal theater
by Nona Nelson for The Roanoke Times  (May 14, 2011) 

Cast, director make "Booth" worth a try
by Jeff DeBell for The Roanoke Times
(March 26, 2011) 

"Booth" a perfect fit for Studio Roanoke
By Mike allen for The Roanoke Times
(March 20, 2011) 

Review:  "The New Testament"
By Jeff DeBell for The Roanoke Times (February 12, 2011)

Literary Lounge Packs the House at Studio Roanoke
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (November 7, 2010) 

Another Triumph at Studio Roanoke
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (October 28, 2010) 

Painting the Stations
Arts & Extras w/ Mike Allen (October 17, 2010) 

It's "Action" for Gamut
By Mike Allen for The Roanoke Times (September 26, 2010)

Studio Roanoke's "Living Between the Lines" Resumes Tomorrow
Arts & Extras w/ Mike Allen (September 21, 2010) 

"Feedback Loop":  Once More to the Edge at Studio Roanoke fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (July 10, 2010) 

Kenley Smith's "Devil Sedan" is superb fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (June 25, 2010) 

Todd Ristau talks about the importance of his Hitler play
fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (April 11,2010) 

Kenley Smitih's new play fulfills the hope fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (August 25, 2009) 

Theater opens season with tale of girl, runaway slave
By Mike Allen for The Roanoke Times (August 16, 2009)  

Studio Roanoke gets warm reception
by Kevin Kittredge for the Roanoke Times (May 3, 2009) 

Focus on the new: Studio Roanoke, the city's newest playhouse, will open quietly April 3 by Kevin Kittredge for the Roanoke Times (March 20, 2009)  

Inexplicable Dumbshow 134:
A podcast interview with Artistic Director Todd Ristau from SETC in Birmingham (March 9, 2009)

Studio Roanoke: New music space available downtown
Cut N' Scratch (February 27, 2009)

'The Biology Lesson' at Studio Roanoke fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (February 17, 2009) 

Impresario vows to create a 'theater without compromise' by Kevin Kittredge for the Roanoke Times (February 24, 2008) 

An Exciting New Theater Near Completion fromtheeditr, a blog by Dan Smith (December 11, 2008)


All content © Studio Roanoke, 2009