Around Town: The Cardboard Sea returns to live indoor shows with ‘The Cleaning Ladies’

LADIES’ NIGHT: The cast of The Cleaning Ladies includes Laura Tratnik, left, and Kirstin Daniel. Photo courtesy of The Cardboard Sea

More than a few times over the last two years, Todd Weakley wondered whether The Cardboard Sea would survive.

After COVID restrictions shut down live performances in 2020, the Asheville theater company produced some short plays in the front yards of audience members’ homes. Later, it pivoted to making digital offerings. “We had fun learning, but those weren’t theater,” says Weakley, who co-founded the troupe in 2014. “They weren’t what we were truly interested in.”

The Cardboard Sea was set to return with the original play The Cleaning Ladies at the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival in January. But with COVID cases increasing at that time, the festival was postponed; the company couldn’t make the rescheduled March dates work.

Now, finally, The Cleaning Ladies will make its world premiere at The BeBe Theatre Thursdays-Saturdays, Sept. 1-10, at 7:30 p.m. The play was written by Cardboard Sea co-founder Jeff Donnelly and will be directed by Weakley.

The play tells the story of Marie Antoinette and Medusa, both diverted on their way to hell by an unknown benefactor. Now living in a Days Inn in central Florida, the two are called upon to return the favor to their mysterious helper. If the pair can work together and survive their mission, their spirits will be freed.

“The play is about unlikely friends getting unstuck,” Weakley says. “Jeff uses old tropes from 1980s TV and film, and populates them with mythical and historical women. The show is fast-paced. It’s filled with humor. But it also has a sharp eye for critiquing both our understanding of these women and our comfort with Hollywood and serial TV.”

The cast includes Stevie Alverson, Laura Tratnik, Kirstin Daniel and Olivia Stuller.

An original cast member, notes Weakley, had to be replaced after testing positive for COVID.

“We are all trying to take it in stride, but certainly the world of live performance is different than it once was,” he notes. “On one level, these things frustrate the creative process. On another, they highlight the flexibility and adaptability of the human need to gather together and share experiences live.”

The shows are presented in association with The Sublime Theater. All seats are $15 in advance or $20 cash only at the door. Seating is limited, and all attendees must wear face masks.

The BeBe Theater is at 20 Commerce St. For more information or to buy tickets, go to

Shake your booty

Ole Shakey’s is new again.

The venerable Asheville dive bar, which closed during COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, will reopen at a new location, 38 N. French Broad Ave., Suite 300, on Tuesday, Sept. 6. The 10 p.m. grand opening celebration will be a Booty Tuesday event featuring music from DJ Lil Meow Meow and a drag show hosted by Priscilla Chambers.

“Booty Tuesdays were one of our most popular events at the old spot,” says Morgan Hickory, who became a co-owner of Ole Shakey’s in 2015. “It’s just a really fun queer dance party that we try to keep as a really safe space and make sure everybody feels welcome and comfortable.”

Hickory will run the establishment along with veteran bartenders Cole Steinman and Mitchell Keen. The new location will have a similar vibe to the one Hickory and former business partner Charlie Hodge established at 790 Riverside Drive, she says.

“We just brought a lot more of a younger local crowd into the existing local Asheville crowd and just sort of  melded those communities together, which was really fun thing about that space,” she says.

The new Ole Shakey’s will partner with Papa Nick’s, which will serve personal pan pizzas. And in addition to alcoholic beverages, the bar will sell craft sodas from Bad Art Beverage Co.

Right now, Hickory plans to have the bar open from 2 p.m.-2 a.m. daily but may expand hours later if business warrants it.

For more information, go to

Best of both worlds

Since launching in 2017, the Flatiron Writers Room’s stated mission has been to provide a brick-and-mortar hub for the Asheville writing community. The pandemic made that impossible, and the group quickly pivoted to an online model that opened its classes and workshops to students from places as far away as France and Turkey.

Enrollment in FWR classes increased more than 37% from 2020 t0 2021 due to online access.

Now, the organization is combining the two models by offering hybrid workshops that will allow locals to attend in person, while national and international writers continue to participate virtually. The first hybrid event, Publicity for Small Press Authors, with Gold Leaf Literary’s Lauren Harr, will take place Thursday, Sept. 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at a place to be determined.

To present the hybrid offerings, FWR will use a new 360-degree teleconferencing system acquired through a fundraising campaign conducted in June.

“Virtual participants are projected onto a screen at the front of the classroom and will be able to observe and participate with the in-person participants and instructor as if they were in the room,” the group says in a press release. “The instructor will be able to teach just as they would with any in-person class, without the worry of having to run a Zoom room or focus on their own computer screen.”

In addition to hybrid events, FWR also will offer in-person-only and Zoom workshops this fall.

For a full list of workshops or to register, go to

Nice gesture

The Center for Connection + Collaboration is offering a series of Saturday workshops,  Archetypal Gesture Work for Artists, through Saturday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

The Archetypal Gesture method, originally developed as a movement theater technique by Russian American actor/director Michael Chekhov, has been adapted by Noreen Sullivan to be inclusive for all artists and creatives seeking to expand their craft. Sullivan will teach the workshops.

“The idea behind it is that the body remembers everything, and by repeating a motion in a specific way with a specific intent, the person experiences a change,” she says. “Interestingly, neuroscience has proved this to be true, even though when the technique was created, there were no advanced brain scans. When your body signals the brain that something is happening, there is a miraculous change.”

A writer, director and painter, Sullivan says she often uses gesture work when she is stuck creatively. “The deeper idea is that we all have the same feelings and similar experiences; we have all pushed someone away, felt a yearning or been in grief. The 10 gestures are based on those common experiences.”

The cost of each class ranges from $10-$40.

For more information about the workshops, go to To find out event locations, contact the center through its website,

March madness

The HART Theatre in Waynesville will present Little Women: The Musical Fridays-Sundays in September, with the last show taking place Sunday, Sept. 25. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday performances start at 2 p.m.

Based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, the play follows the lives of the March sisters, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth during the years of the Civil War. Directed by Kristen Hedberg with music direction from Anne Rhymer, the cast includes Candice Dickinson, Clara Ray Burrus, Savanna Shaw, Chelcy Frost and Kathleen Watson.

Tickets range from $14-$36.

The HART Theatre is at 250 Pigeon St., Waynesville. For more information to to buy tickets, go to

O Captain! My Captain!

The Captain’s Bookshelf, long a mainstay of downtown Asheville, closed its store at 31 Page Ave. in 2021 but continued to operate as an online business. Now, due to the June death of co-owner Chan Gordon, the business is shutting down entirely.

“Though this is a difficult decision, it had to be made,” Miegan Gordon, Chan’s wife and co-owner of The Captain’s Bookshelf wrote in the store’s August newsletter. “After all, it was Chan’s experience and knowledge that kept The Captain’s Bookshelf sailing.”

The Gordons opened The Captain’s Bookshelf at 61 Haywood St. in 1976. The store was known for its numerous signed books, first editions and leather bindings, as well as a large  collection of secondhand material.

With additional reporting by Flora Konz


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.