Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Opportunity for Dialogue (More RVA Mag, Part 1)

Sorry Ms. Robin Arthur, but like it or not, blogs are where it’s at! (There’s more to that story but it’ll have to wait for some other day.) Why do I say this? Because only in a blog-filled world could I have gone on a low-grade rant about RVA Mag (and theater coverage in general) just a few days ago and then today get a considerate and interesting response from Mr. Anthony Harris, publisher of said mag. His response provides several opportunities for dialogue, I believe. So let’s get to it:

First off, thanks so much for your comment, Mr. Harris. It was a nice and unexpected surprise. You raise many good points and I’ll try to address what I can.

You ask, “Is there a theater scene in Richmond?” Oh my, yes. In fact, for a city the size of our town, there is a pretty remarkable theater scene. There are more than a dozen professional theater companies in Richmond and its environs and that doesn’t take into account the several dozen community, parochial, and scholastic programs in town. An average of one professional show opens every week here. Literally hundreds of people make their living producing, writing for, or acting in theater in Richmond. We have one of the largest children-oriented theater companies in the country with Theatre IV, one of the most respected GLBT-oriented theaters in the country with Triangle Players, and a theater festival (“Acts of Faith”) that has received national press coverage. But perhaps the best answer to your question springs from a source very close to you -- your own alma mater. VCU has a burgeoning theater scene led by a nationally-known fight director, David Leong, which has companions in programs at U of R, Randolf Macon, and Virginia Union.

I could go on and on about the theater scene here but trust me, its pretty fervent. Enough so that a magazine focused solely on Richmond Theater (Richmond Marquee) has sprung up to cover it. And maybe it’s just the circles you run in versus the ones I do but – between Theatre IV’s children’s shows, focused theater groups like Bifocals, seasonably popular offerings like Richmond Shakespeare’s summer shows, and educational programs like SPARC – I know a lot more people (regular people, not just theater people) who experience theater on a much more frequent basis than visual art. And as far as theater people go, I can’t go to Ukrop’s without running into a person (if not multiple people) I know from the theater world. They’re everywhere!

Gotta get to bed but as soon as I get a chance I’ll post my response to your question: does [theater] still have a place in the modern world except for the high minded elite? I have to say that the question is a little mind-boggling to me particularly if we are considering comparisons between theater and visual art (and given the “huh?” response I hear from so many people when they try to appreciate contemporary visual art). But I’ll try to keep my emotion in check when I respond.

Thanks again for your response, Tony, and please check back if you want to read more. And anyone else in “the scene” who wants to pipe up, please do!

6 comments:

pnlkotula said...

Dave, you're much kinder than I. Had he bothered to look at all the links on the left hand side of your profile, he would have answered his own question about the existence of the theatre scene.

Le Synge Bleu said...

in addressing the question does theatre have a place in modern society except for the high minded elite...ask the throngs of high school and college kids flocking to see Spring Awakening, or the huge amount of theatre newbies who discovered a whole new extremely relevant world of live theatre when they went to see The Color Purple...none of whom would consider themselves high minded elite, and many of whom will now be coming back to the theatre to gain an experience one can only get at the theatre and nowhere else. i consider comments like that to be slightly ignorant, really, and generally spoken by those who do not venture out to the theatre to see exactly how immediate and relevant it really is.

Clem Martini said...

Over a dozen PROFESSIONAL theatres in Richmond? HUNDREDS of people make their LIVING off working in the theatre?
You're talking about Richmond, VIRGINIA, right?

Dave T said...

Uh, yeah Clem, Richmond, VA. A list of the pro theaters in town (those that pay their actors, directors, etc.) would AT LEAST include:
Theatre IV
Barksdale
Swift Creek Mill
Firehouse Theatre Project
Richmond Shakespeare Theatre
Richmond Triangle Players
Chamberlayne Actors Theatre
African American Repertory Theatre (formerly Living Word)
Carpenter Science Theatre (in the Science Museum)
HATTheatre
Yellow House
Henley Street Theatre
Arteka Theatrical Productions
Mystery Dinner Theatre

In case you have trouble counting, Clem, that's 14. Theatre IV's children's touring operation is the largest of its kind in the country and TIV / Barksdale ALONE probably employs 100 people. This is news to you, Mr. Martini?

Clem Martini said...

WOW!

Andrew Hamm said...

This is an unfortunately excellent example of perception becoming reality. Because the RVA staff don't have personal experience with the local theatre scene, and because it is increasingly under-represented by the local media, the perception that it is "declining" becomes "real."

The reverse is true with new offerings at Swift Creek Mill, Richmond Shakes going into their third season of year-round offerings, Henley Street opening this fall, etc. etc. etc.