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Upcoming play will be the finale for longtime Charles City theater directors

Upcoming play will be the finale for longtime Charles City theater directors
Co-Directors Janiece Bergland and Larry Michehl intend for the upcoming production of “Shenandoah” to be their final collaboration together. Press photo by Travis Fischer
By Travis Fischer,

The curtain will rise for the final shows this month for long-time directors and performers Janiece Bergland and Larry Michehl.

For decades now the pair have collaborated to produce theatrical performances is Charles City, working both on stage or behind the curtain on more plays than they can remember.

“We work good together,” said Bergland.

“We have a similar work ethic in how we get things done,” said Michehl.

The duo have been cohorts since the late ’80s, when Michehl came to Charles City to teach high school vocal music. Bergland, also a school vocal instructor, quickly brought him in to co-direct school musicals.

Since then the pair have worked together on dozens of school plays, church performances and productions from the Stony Point Players, bringing Broadway classics like “1776” and “King Arthur” to Charles City.

Known for running a tight ship with high expectations, Bergland and Michehl have watched hundreds of performers learn and grow under their direction, sometimes across generations as the children of their former students also take to the stage.

“That’s the fun thing about community theater,” said Bergland.

And while the plays they produce or perform in are often timeless classics, not everything is the same as it was when they began.

Modern technology, particularly social media, has become a well-regarded tool for coordinating practice schedules and making sure performers stay on the same page. Meanwhile, cultural shifts have necessitated some adjustments as some popular plays of yesteryear haven’t always aged well.

“In ’75 there were things you would put in a script that you wouldn’t put in a script now,” said Michehl.

Though both have since retired from teaching, they have remained active in the Charles City performing arts scene. However, as time begins to take its toll, Bergland and Michehl have decided it is time to take their final bows.

The Stony Point Players’ upcoming production of “Shenandoah” will be their last hurrah as directors and performers – allegedly. While this is not the first time that Michehl and Bergland have said they are retiring from the stage, the pair are adamant that this time they really mean it.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher,” said Michehl. “I’m sure I’ll be involved doing something, but I think my time on stage is done.”

“Shenandoah” will debut at the Charles Theatre on Friday, June 28, with additional performances Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, June 29-30.

“We hope people come out and enjoy it with us,” said Michehl.

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