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For Natasha Parnian, managing partner of the Fauquier County-based Dark Horse Theatre Company, a love of the stage first took root back at South Lakes High School in Reston. 

“Some friends of mine were auditioning for a school production and I decided to join them,” said Parnian, now 32 and a resident of Bealeton. 

Soon after, her teacher, Maria L. Harris (still a teacher at South Lakes H.S.) hired her to be the music director of her summer camp until she graduated. 

“I was so proud to have my first paying theatre job. After graduation, I continued to go back and visit with her and do in-class workshops with her students. I still do,” Parnian said. “I was entertaining becoming a drama teacher in the school system for a while, and I actually did my student teaching with her. She’s a wonderful mentor and friend to me.” 

Fast forward 15 years later and Parnian, a University of North Carolina graduate, is now deeply involved with theater arts here in Fauquier County.

Her efforts and those of her colleagues from all around Northern Virginia can be seen up close and personal on Saturday, Dec. 29, when a division of Dark Horse called “The Calamity Improv Group” performs at The Theatre on the Green at Vint Hill. 

Parnian describes the upcoming performance as “good, clean fun.”

It’s “the Wild West of improv shows. The challenge of an improv show is that everything is made up on the spot based on audience suggestions and circumstances,” she said. “The Calamity has a style that's never stale. It’s a mad dash of improv games, audience participation and thrills.” 

Performances by the county’s only improv group are done in partnership with the Fauquier County Parks & Recreation Department. Calamity also will appear at The Theater on the Green at Vint Hill on Feb. 16, March 30, April 5 and May 25. 

The Dark Horse Theatre Company was founded in 2009. It’s a Northern Virginia-area collective of performers, directors, designers, writers, visual artists and other specialists. According to Parnian, they’ve “come together out of a mutual desire and compulsion to develop theatrical work through the collaboration and exploration of varied mediums.

“We believe that theatre at its best is a transformative experience for both audience members and performers,” she added. “Our mission is to provide bold, imaginative theatre in an accessible way.” 

‘Craving for Travel’ opens Jan. 4

The other arm of Dark Horse is preparing for an upcoming play, a comedy called, “Craving for Travel.” It opens at Grace Church in The Plains on Friday, Jan. 4, and will be performed on Friday and Saturday nights through Jan. 19. 

“The play is about two competing travel agents who are also former spouses,” Parnian said. “I was immediately drawn to the conflict there. This is a day in their life. They’re dealing with requests, unreasonable and not, from their clients.”

 The actors play 30 additional characters in the 80-minute show, all with no set changes, no costume changes, no leaving the stage, she said.

The group is preparing a “three-quarters thrust stage” for the show. The audience will be seated around three of its four sides. No seat will be more than 10 feet away the action, she said. 

Parnian said she’s particularly grateful to be in residence at Grace Episcopal, where the Rev. Weston Matthews and the entire church “are huge proponents for the arts. They also have the Shakespeare Opera Theatre in residence there. It’s such a beautiful space to rehearse and perform.” 

In keeping with Dark Horse’s goal to keep performances accessible, tickets are $20 or less. Their goal is to eventually build a 50- to 100-seat black box theatre/flex space in Warrenton, she said.

“We want to create intimate performances that eliminate the emotional distance between actor and audience member. We’re seeking sponsors, corporate and otherwise, to make this dream a reality.” 

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