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March 20, 2019

Faces of Fauquier: Her work challenges audiences

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“That’s what struck me about Fauquier. There are happy people here and a good quality of life,” Natasha Parnian said. “Family values. To me the sense of community.”
We (theatre groups) are not competing against each other. We are competing against Netflix. No matter how hard the screen tries, it cannot duplicate the thrill of live theatre.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
She strives to deliver intimate and innovative theatre experiences to Fauquier audiences.

Natasha Parnian, the managing director and founder of Dark Horse Theatre Co. LLC, re-launched her business last year in Fauquier with performances of “Craving for Travel.”

“A lot of theatre groups jump on really popular shows,” Ms. Parnian said. “We are not that kind of group. We want to challenge our audience to see something different, unique. We try to do a lot of regional premieres.”

Performances include three to four main productions a year as well as a “Wild West” improv group one to two times a month.

Rehearsals and most performances take place at Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains.

She hopes to show Fauquier citizens they can see “high-quality and challenging theatre in their own backyard.”

Other shows take place on the Fauquier Community Theatre stage at Vint Hill and at ArtSpace in Herndon.

Not associated with the community theatre, Dark Horse differs by providing “more of an experiential, audience-inclusive experience. You are never 10 feet from the action in our shows. That gives it a visceral experience,” Ms. Parnian said.

She started Dark Horse in 2009 with performances in Washington, D.C. But, when the market got saturated with small theatre groups, she decided to step back and focus on hosting workshops.

Ms. Parnian moved to Fauquier with her husband in 2013 and took time off from theatre work to start a family. Last year, she restarted Dark Horse.

The professional theatre group gets funded through private sponsors, and actors perform each main show 12 to 16 times.

Ms. Parnian soon will launch a children’s theatre event, “Stories, Soup and Songs,” at Grace Church every other week.

“Seeing the audience watch our work and taking something home with them” rank among her rewards, Ms. Parnian said. “I always want to create some kind of action for our audience be it ‘I want to hug my mom’, or ‘I want to learn more about the environment’.”

• Age

• Home
Near Bealeton

• Work
Managing artistic director and founder, Dark Horse Theatre Co., 2009-present; veterinary technician in Herndon, 2011-18; actress at various plays in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., 2006-09.

• Why do you do the job?
I’ve always had this directorial mindset since I was a kid. My mom ran an in-home daycare. I was directing children in plays all the time. I was seven or eight. It’s been a part of me.

As an adult, why I do this is because this is such a historical art form, and there’s no replacing the experience of live theatre. It is a once-in-a-lifetime moment that cannot be exactly duplicated. It’s like a living, breathing thing and there is something very communal about it.

We (theatre groups) are not competing against each other. We are competing against Netflix. No matter how hard the screen tries, it cannot duplicate the thrill of live theatre.

• Family
Husband, Andrew Farms, and two children, three dogs, two potbelly pigs and 12 chickens.

• Education
Carolina Actors Studio Theatre, apprenticeship, 2005-06; University of North Carolina, Charlotte, N.C., 2005-06; South Lakes High School, Reston, 2004.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Since 2013.

• Why do you live here?
I grew up in Reston. My husband and I knew we wanted to spread out a bit. We looked at Front Royal, Winchester and Warrenton. I think we went to the Outback Steakhouse here. It was a Friday night, and I had never seen so many happy people at an Outback.

Even people who I think must be having a horrible day are still genuinely happy people. That’s what struck me about Fauquier. There are happy people here and a good quality of life. Family values. To me the sense of community.

• How do you describe this county?
There’s a sign in Café Torino (in Warrenton) that says work hard and be nice. That’s so what Fauquier County is to me.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I was hoping there would be a movie theatre where the old Sears stood. Have more things to do. I want my money to go into Fauquier County for entertainment. There are some things to do and we definitely participate in those, but more things for young families.

I would really like a movie theater and more performance venues. For the kind of theatre we do, we put the audience on three or four sides of us in a more intimate setting. There aren’t a whole lot of performance intended spaces that exist for that.

• What do you do for fun?
My husband and I are both foodies. We love trying restaurants in Fauquier. I like to take my kids interesting places like museums. I like to garden, running our farm, sitting in my hammock and reading plays.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
The Warrenton-Fauquier Airport near Midland. I take my kids there all the time. We watch the planes come and go, watch them do tricks and eat popcorn.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I hope it’s the same, but change is inevitable. I see it being bigger with more Fairfax transplants, like me. I hope it doesn’t lose its identity, culture and the people who show respect. I see it growing.

• Favorite TV show?

• Favorite movie?
“Cinderella Man.”

• Favorite book?
“Rich: The life of Richard Burton” by Melvyn Bragg.

• Favorite vacation spot?
The Bahamas.

• Favorite food?
Thai cuisine.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
From my mentor, Michael Simmons. He came to directing by way of the film director Sidney Lumet and they would play this game called Sidney says: If you can say it in 10 words, say it in five. If you can say it in five words, say it in three. If you can say it in three words, say it in one.

It’s the idea of distilling your thoughts to make them as tight as they can be. I try to do that.

• Who’s your hero and why?
It’s a tie between my mom, Cheryl, and dad, Pirooz Parnian. My mom raised three kids on her own and being a parent I see how hard that was. She instilled in her kids this sense of explosive creativity. What I took from her is necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes you have to create out of nothing and

My dad is my hero because he came to America in the ’70s with no money in his pocket from Iran. He didn’t speak the language, went to college and got his master’s and created a career path for himself and became successful. He’s such a hard working individual. He constantly has his nose to the grindstone.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
Build a performing arts center in the county. Repay a huge debt of gratitude to Grace Church in The Plains. They have given us such a leg up by rehearsing and performing here. Buy my parents houses. I have six siblings, so I would probably give everyone a bit of money. Pay off all their student loans and mine. Buy my husband a Ford Bronco.

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at, Don Del Rosso at or Editor Lou Emerson at

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Tony Bentley · March 20, 2019 at 3:47 pm
Welcome Natasha!
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