In 1949, the merchants of Roanoke decided to hype the holiday season with a giant star. Made from 2,000 feet of neon tubing, the star sits atop a mountain - visible for sixty miles from the air, and this summer it has a new claim to fame - standing at the center of a theater festival.
Ernie Zulia is the artistic director of Hollins University’s theater and is the man behind a show about Roanoke’s star. He traces the idea to ancient Greece.
“They would create these great masterpieces of theatre and then organize these festivals of theatre on top of the highest point of the city, which was the acropolis. So it seemed like a fabulous idea to gather as a community and ascend our acropolis to sit together and experience live theatre.”
Dubbed Starcropolis, the festival will feature a poetry slam, music, dance and more than a dozen plays or star stories like this one:
“’You see that one over there? The bright one?’ ‘Over there?’ ‘That’s not a star, doofus, it’s a jet! Look again.’ ‘What, that one?’ ‘That’s Sirius.’ ‘Looks like a happy star to me!’ “S - I - R - I - U - S! It’s the name of the star!’”
Katherine Fralin is co-director of the event. She believes the star unifies and inspires the entire city.
“I found myself going up to the star and overhearing conversations that were really powerful and really interesting, and it pretty much happened every time I went up there. So, it seemed to me that not only was it fun to bear witness to that, but to have a place that were set at the star that really captured some of these monumental moments that are happening beneath of our star and overlooking our city.”
And she hopes Starcropolis will spark a new appreciation for Roanoke and its heritage.
“I also think people who come will see their mountain a little differently. I think they’ll get a sense of just how special it is that we have this mountain in our heart and in the center of the city.”
Starcropolis is Sunday, September 4th under the bright lights of the Roanoke Star.