I realized I never provided a direct link to MaryB’s “report card” on theater in town. I will be honest in saying that the demographic comparison to Baltimore – which I questioned deep in the comments of this post -- still sticks in my craw a bit. Starting with it being much closer to DC than Richmond (check Google maps – Baltimore is 40 miles from DC, Richmond 100, or 2 ½ times further), Baltimore just doesn’t compare to Richmond in many ways. I spent some of my childhood years in suburban Baltimore and I used to have a job that put me in Baltimore 1 week a month for a year and it is simply a way different place than Richmond. The metro area population really doesn’t compare, particularly when you consider population density. There’s a reason Baltimore can support major league baseball and football franchises while Richmond can’t even support a triple-A baseball club. I expect there are about a dozen metrics you could look at where Baltimore is 3 or 4 times larger than Richmond, beyond number of professional and community theater companies.
However, having had my little demographic rant, I will say that I agree wholeheartedly with Mary’s basic premise – there’s not a whole lot of growth or dynamism in the local theater scene. The fact that Theatre IV’s Little Theater has been dark for something like 6 months is only one of the many bell-weathers I would point to as proof.
I am not – and I don’t think Mary was – pointing fingers at the local theater community. God knows that the folks Barksdale and RTP and CAT and Firehouse and RichShakes and everywhere are doing everything they can think to do to grow their programs. I think the problem is larger and more systematic. One of many key issues is the antagonism between the city and the counties in central Virginia – most of the money is in the counties and they won’t invest in growing the downtown scene.
I agree with Andrew in thinking it doesn’t do much good to bemoan Richmond’s scene in comparison to other city’s. We have what we have. But I totally disagree that the way things are is somehow acceptable. As I said in my piece, my fear is that good people will leave (have already started to leave) and not as many good people will come here if things don’t change. Richmond has so many of the components that could make it a really dynamic top-notch theater town. I think it’s a shame that the powers that be – money people, government people, arts people – can’t seem to get it together to make it happen.
I think about Baltimore with its thriving Harbor, Cincinnati with the popular river-side development, even Cleveland – my true hometown – has done wonders with an area that used to be a dirty mess (the Flats) and made it into a bustling scene. Maybe we’re heading that way with Toad’s Place and the National and more riverside happenings downtown. But at least where theater is concerned, it’s like Richmond is rewriting Beckett’s play as “Waiting for CenterStage.” Will it get here? What do we do in the meantime? When it gets here, will it be enough? I guess we’ll see.