Catch the Buzz on Reefer Madness Before It's Too Late

by Garney Johnson

The smoke will clear after this weekend's final three performances of Reefer Madness, The Musical from Hampton Roads' newest performing arts company Double Dog Theatre.  Originally a 1930's propaganda exploitation film, Reefer Madness was turned into a 1998 stage musical satire by Dan Studney and telvision writer-producer Kevin Murphy (not to be confused with Mystery Science Theater 3000's Kevin Murphy who has recorded commentary on the original film for RiffTrax) before the film version of the musical premiered on Showtime in 2005.  And for the past three weekends, Double Dog Theatre has been entertaining crowds with its high energy production at The Little Theatre of Norfolk.

In January Norfolk residents Brendan and Tara Hoyle officially formed Double Dog Theatre, a small and versatile company passionate about creating enjoyable theatre that has personal, societal, and universal significance.  Brendan Hoyle has spent the last ten years working in the Hampton Rods theater community, directing productions at The Little Theatre of Norfolk (where he also served as the Artistic Director), Generic Theater, Regent University, and Norfolk Collegiate where he is currently the director of the Hackney Theater.  He also served as both the Director of CULTIVATE and the Director of Community Engagement at Virginia Stage Company.

"I wanted there to be a small theater that was doing really good work, that was really artist driven," Brendan Hoyle said recently over lunch at The Ten Top in Ghent, where one of several large posters advertising their production of Reefer Madness hangs in the window.  He attributes the name Double Dog to French poet Antonin Artaud's 1938 essay collection Le Théâtre et son Double (The Theatre and its Double).  "I like the way Double Dog sounds, and [Tara & I] have two dogs. I wanted something anthropomorphic that you could attach a greater feeling to with personality, and it's definitely catchy."

In addition to the posters and humorous flyers advertising Reefer Madness, many local businesses offered cross-promotions including signature drinks at Tortilla West and Fairgrounds Coffee.  A marketing promotional drive to sell tickets even included a raffle of prizes consisting of gift certificates to several local businesses.

The cast of Reefer Madness consists of 14 local actors, including Christopher Kypros who will again be performing original compositions to accompany silent films at Naro Expanded Cinema later this month.  The band consists of five local musicians led by music director Cathy Francis, who has collaborated with Brendan Hoyle before on Generic Theater productions of Urinetown and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.  Virginia Beach native and JMU graduate Cara Goodwin has infused the production with spirited choreography that drives the young ensemble across the stage during the many musical numbers.

"I like for audiences to be surprised, and this is a good show for that," Brendan Hoyle adds. "I want them to feel like they haven't seen anything like this before."

Reefer Madness plays at 8pm on Friday and Saturday at The Little Theatre of Norfolk, with a final performance at 2:30pm on Sunday, August 10.  For tickets and info visit doubledogtheatre.com or call The Little Theatre of Norfolk box office at 757-627-8551.