Friday, May 30, 2008


Leave it to an outa-towner to alert me to a modest tempest brewing right in my own backyard (Thanks, Rick!) To recap: apparently, a letter to the editor was written to the T-D by a Mr. Miller complaining about Barksdale’s “Little Dog Laughed” – I don’t really care enough to look it up. But in response to THAT letter, two others were written (readable here). One is a great one from Brian Vaughan – nicely stated Mr. Vaughan! The other, written by a Sandra Randell who I guess is the wife of CAT Board Member Mike Randell, suggests CAT as a family-friendly alternative.

Rick asks if this was “hideously tacky.” I wouldn’t go that far. I would say it was opportunistic, something that I’ve seen in many situations, including on this blog. You see a chance to promote something you are interested or involved in and you take it (“Go see the Capitol Schlepps at Or Ami tomorrow night!”) People draw the line between opportunistic and tacky in different places. But one thing I think such a letter does is open the door for folks to think CAT is taking advantage of another theater’s risk-taking and misfortune for their own benefit. Which doesn’t really reflect well on CAT.

I also think the letter was pretty badly timed, given that “Veronica’s Room” – a show that, according to Ms. Berlin posting in this space, is CAT’s first ‘adult advisory’ show – was their next offering. “As an alternative to gay sex and nudity, we offer murder and incest!” Hmmm…

I absolutely agree with Rick that Bruce’s post about it was very well constructed, showing a little bit of ire but ending on a magnanimous note. He refers to Susan H’s review in the T-D, which makes clever use of the LDL controversy in commenting on "Veronica's Room." And I agree with Bruce that it seems very easy for some people to vent their disgust and very nearly impossible for them to express their compassion or even to attempt understanding. This is sad at least and despicable at most.

The biggest irony here might be that reaction to Barksdale’s “edgy” show might have thrown some attention toward CAT’s most “edgy” show to date. If it all results in more contemporary, risk-taking theater in Richmond, bring on the controversy!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I stopped in at my local Ukrop’s last night and they hadn’t yet received this week’s Style (boo! hiss!) so I picked up the latest Urge instead. I was pleasantly surprised – as I was with their first issue – to see a couple of stories on theater, including a preview on “Guys and Dolls” and a nice overview of local cabaret penned by Billy Christopher Maupin. Good work, BC!

Before I totally submit to my urge to create a big groundswell of support for another production of “King Island Christmas” (yeah – because that’s the kind of power I yield! HA!), I went back and looked up my review of the show 8 years ago. In my memory, it just had great music and as Steve says it was a kick to see two Millers and two Whiteways on stage and there were great performances by Fernando Rivadeniera and Jerold Solomon. I kinda forgot that there were some story issues. But hey, even Peter Pan has some significant plot problems (um, the crocodile just appears on cue?) and it’s still a perennial fave!

This is also a good opportunity to point out that Jerold seems to be doing well, appearing on Broadway currently in the smashing revival of “South Pacific.” He even lists “King Island Christmas” in his bio!

Upcoming, part 1

I’ve started compiling my big list of shows in Richmond for next season (it’s in a tabbed and sorted spreadsheet because, yes, I am that much of a geek). Every year that I do this I’m always impressed. I’ve already got 31 shows listed, which includes the seasons I’ve seen announced from the professional theaters in town plus Theatre VCU. That total doesn’t include the planned productions from local stalwarts like AART, CAT, and the Barksdale (Willow Lawn) and only “Hamlet” noted for Richmond Shakespeare.

What I usually tell my out-of-towner friends is that, on average, one professional show opens per week here in Richmond (my spreadsheet for 2007-2008 has 59 shows opening, starting with "Urinetown" at the Mill last September, continuing until "Little Shop of Horrors" wraps up at Dogwood Dell middle of this August). I’m not sure whether that’s on par with other markets our size or not but it seems pretty impressive to me. Sure, we all want more theater (and especially more and more theater-goers) but while we continue to hope for expansion, I think it’s worth recognizing the width and breadth of what we do have.

Some comments on the schedules announced so far:

-- 2009 will see back-to-back productions of “Altar Boyz” – one at RTP and one at the Mill. This sets up a very nice “compare and contrast” possibility for local theater-goers and critics alike.

-- Two holiday-oriented sequels to other shows: “A Tuna Christmas” (Mill) and “Sanders Family Christmas” (Barksdale at the Tavern). Call me a cynic – this does not thrill me.

-- Favorite upcoming title: “Four Queens in Hawaiian Shirts” at RTP.

-- Several shows I have high hopes for and am awaiting with anticipation: “Side Show” at the Mill, “Richard III” at Henley Street, and “Rabbit Hole” at the Firehouse.

-- Interest most piqued: “Inspecting Carol” at Sycamore Rouge. Fascinating concept – does it work on stage?

-- Most intriguing season as a whole: Henley Street. Shakespeare, Stoppard, Shepard. Perhaps for the 2009-2010 season they’ll focus on playwrights whose names begin with ‘T’?

-- Will Theatre IV ever do “King Island Christmas” again?

I’ll have to do a part 2 on upcoming schedules once the rest have been announced. Would anyone else like to chime in with their thoughts?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

While we’re laying on the hype

As per my latest piece in Style, the Richmond Improv Festival starts tomorrow night. Don’t miss your chance to laugh yourself silly.

And amidst the hype for the RIF and for CAT’s “Veronica’s Room,” let me just squeeze in a plug for the upcoming performance of the Capitol Schlepps, the satirical musical group with a religious bent, that will be appearing at Congregation Or Ami on Saturday (more details here). Not only are the Schlepps led by long-time Richmond actress/teacher Deb Clinton but they’ve picked up a new member this year: my lovely wife. Yes, I am surrounded by performers on all sides. It can get scary.

Ms. H at the T-D came out in favor of “A Dash of Rosemary” which I enjoyed on Sunday. More thoughts on that later on but in the meantime I have to say that I was happy to see a pretty decent house at the Mill for a Sunday evening, somewhere close to 2/3 full. And Cathy Motley-Fitch – sublime!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Note to Self

What a glorious long weekend, ay? The weather could hardly have been better and we were busy like little bees at our house – working in the yard, cleaning out the shed – interspersed with more relaxing pastimes like a splendid canoe excursion on the river. If only it could stay between the mid-70s and the mid-80s throughout the summer...

It looks to me like May might be a prime time for going to NYC to see shows. Based on Playbill’s reported grosses, houses were pretty low for the first couple weeks of this month, with only “Jersey Boys” and “Wicked” playing to capacity. It looks like plenty of tickets were available for well-reviewed shows like “Gypsy” and “August: Osage County.” I also wonder if these numbers hold news of an eminent demise for a couple of shows barely selling more than 50% capacity, the high-profile “November” and the raved-about “Passing Strange.”

We’re in a mini-flurry of shows opening here in Richmond so I’ll have to update my listings to the left soon. To judge from the comments on this blog, CAT's "Veronica’s Room" has peaked the interest of quite a few people. Also, with Theatre IV’s announcement last week, most of the local companies have announced their seasons for 2008-2009. I’ll have to weigh-in with some opinions about that soon. In the meantime, look for a preview on the Richmond Improv Festival in this week’s Style.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stage Fright

Work has been a pain for me this past week and it occurred to me this morning that what I’ve been feeling every morning is very much like a combination of stage fright and performance anxiety (are they different? not sure). I’ve been hosting a new-to-the-company out-of-town bigwig, am engaged in a new project with him and so have felt “on-stage” much of the last week. Every day I’ve felt I’ve had to prove I’m up to snuff and/or when not able to prove it outright, at least act like it. It’s tiring. Don’t you folks who do this for a living get exhausted?

But today, the weight of the world has lifted, my coworker has gone back to California, and the deck is cleared for a nice long holiday weekend. I kicked it off last night attending “The Two Svengalis” at Triangle Players and I’ll be taking in “A Touch of Rosemary” this weekend at the Mill. Ms. H at the T-D has weighed in on “Svengalis” already but I expect there weren’t enough nights in the week for her to make it out to “Rosemary,” given that she had to take in “Putnam County Spelling Bee” on Tuesday.

I have been able to escape at least briefly into the world of theater during the week, listening to podcasts at the gym. This past week, this allowed me to catch up a couple of Richmond expatriots who were both featured on recent podcasts at One was Chris Harcum whose “American Badass” was at the FRIGID festival back in February and also Clay McLeod Chapman, who read one of his pieces on a recent podcast. There is success possible for Richmonders who leave home!

Speaking of which, I was saddened to hear that Angela Shipley is in the planning stages for a move up to NYC. That, plus Gray Crenshaw’s recent graduation from high school, means that New York City will be gaining two more beautiful, talented performers from Richmond in the near future. It just hardly seems fair. At least both of them will be in town a couple more months and we’ll be able to catch Angie in the “Sex Education” show at Studio X on June 28th. It’s small consolation, though.

I hope folks will also make some room in the weekend after this one for the Richmond Improv Festival at ComedySportz. Eight shows over 3 days – surely you can make it to one of them.

Finally, I hear another beautiful and talented local actress (who better NOT be leaving for NYC anytime soon!) will be turning the big 4-0 soon. Happy day, JB, and rest assured moving into our neighborhood (where the average age is about 72) should keep you feeling young and spry for at least another decade!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Sync

I'll be honest: I think I kind of over-wrote this latest review in Style. But dammit if Chekhov doesn't inspire one to do so. His work is so rich and hearty, full of psychological insight, fraught with deeply felt emotion, and of course chock full of great language. I kind of couldn't lay off the adjectives.

But probably the most succinct thing I could say about the performance of "The Seagull" that I saw was that, with only one exception, the ensemble seemed very much in sync. No one actor's performance really blew me away but, as I said in the review, the whole crew worked together exceptionally well to bring the rhythms and interactions of the play to life. There were many small, intimate moments in the play where the actors clearly supported each other, worked in tandem to create crystalline pictures of sweet and agonizing love. Irina changing Konstantin's dressings, Trigorin and Nina exploring the level of their attraction, Dr. Dorn trying to understand Masha, the heartbreaking last scene between Nina and Konstantin. Done right, "The Seagull" is definitely a play that can make you feel the pain of the human condition and I left that performance a little sore.

A couple of specific notes: it's great to see just how comfortable Frank Creasy is on stage. In this show, he gives one of those performances that don't come across as acting at all. Very natural, very well done. Though Stephen Ryan is easily overlooked in his smaller role here, he is perfect as the poor neglected teacher. Though the character is pathetic, Ryan doesn't overplay it and he's just annoying enough that you feel for him but also don't hold him blameless for his position either. And Kerry McGee -- sigh -- my 28th or so crush of the year. Frankly, when I saw her in "Spanish Tragedy," I thought she was a little too petulant and contemporary for her role. But she is a great brooding, broken, and beautiful Masha. With Ryan and McGee as inspirations, I think we could have gotten Chekhov to do a sequel to "The Seagull" called something like "Masha and Medvedenko at Home." I'd pay to see that.

One final shout out to Fred Kaufman -- a definite delight on stage, always thoroughly invested in what's going on, even when he's portraying someone asleep! His performance made some of the play's early expositional dialogue actually enjoyable instead of just palatable.

All in all, a good effort for Henley Street. I'm not yet giddy with anticipation for "Richard III" -- mostly because there's plenty of good theater that's going to be happening in Richmond before the fall -- but I expect around August I will be.


OK, I don't usually trouble both of you faithful readers for much but I could use a favor. Does anyone know or could anyone recommend a good person who gives voice lessons for children? We have a friend who is looking to get their 10 year-old granddaughter working with someone in Richmond. Please post here or email me your recommendations. Thanks a bunch.

Listening in on other conversations

It's been a bit slow in blogger-world. I've been crazy-busy and now am dealing with the crushing post-closing depression (that's for the support, y'all). Barksdale Buzz has been quiet except for the recent announcement of their commercial's Emmy nomination -- congrats B'dale crew! My review of "Seagull" should show up in Style this week and I'll post some supplemental musings then. But if, in the meantime, you are jonesing for some theater-talk online, here's a list of some other non-local blogs where there's usually some conversation going on. FYI.

Broadway World

Backstage Blogs


The Wicked Stage

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thanks, Ya'll

A week or so ago Dave gave notice of my leaving this blog as "a partner in crime" of sorts. As usual, when there is something I really do not want to do (often a "goodbye"), I procrastinated posting one last time.

Let it be said that I completely agree with Dave about my "leaving" the blog and commend him for his reasons. This blog should reflect the spirit of its origination-a fun way to discuss the issues of, commend the people of and express opinions about Richmond Theatre without outside restrictions of any sort. I am all about freedom of expression. It is my wish for Dave to be as unencumbered with his views as he wishes, when he wishes and how he wishes. I "get" that my presence on this blog can cause confusion as to the relationship of the blog and the magazine that Dave and I both write for- so I am happy to step aside in the name of simplification. Dave has never edited anything I had to say on this blog but I am sure has sometimes caught some flack for my comments regardless of his feelings on the topic. To his credit, he has always been encouraging and supportive even in the midst of firestorms.

When Dave first invited me to join him in posting on this blog I felt very honored by his notice and flattered that he thought I might add something. I have learned so much about the theatre community here by reading the posts and responses. Though I am pretty lame about being "in" on current discussions I have obliged you and at least learned how to use the spell check (as suggested in my first post, I think). When I started, I also said that I would do what I could to support Richmond theatre. That still stands. It is my sincere hope that by contributing to this blog that my commitment to that mission has been confirmed. That even though you, gentle reader, might not have agreed with me, that you have at least been inspired to start conversations.

Leaving the blog comes at a good time. My husband is off building scenery for Holland America Cruise Line for a few months and I am acting as a single parent thus suffering from parental overload and exhaustion. The Gluten Free Cookbook I am co-writing with Personal Chef, Michele Humlan of The Good Eats Company, is demanding my focus as we shop for a literary agent. It is also time again to apply for the Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program. I will be traveling a little this summer- so my time is even more limited than usual and I would not be much of a contributor anyway. But I promise to check in on the chats and add my two cents from time to time.

Being a part of this blog has been oodles of fun! Thank you Richmond theatre community for all of your criticisms, thoughts, suggestions, compliments and support. Thank you Dave for having me as part of your blog (for the record- I have always considered this "Dave's blog"). Maybe, when I get my technical act together, I will create my own blog but it won't be any time soon- unless of course I have something to say....

Keep chatting everyone. You can't make enough noise about theatre in this town!

Mary B.

Emotional Owie

There was a somber mood around our house last night and this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced the post-closing depression but I think this will be the dominant emotion for the next few days at least. With two children involved in “Peter Pan” and a rehearsal and performance schedule that at times seemed to go on forever, we were all more wrapped up in the swirl of theater life than I realized.

The ability to move on from the relationships, the excitement, the camaraderie of a show is another one of those unappreciated skills that people in theater must develop. Maybe it’s easier when you are younger but now that I’m older and more soft-hearted, even experiencing it second-hand is rough. Do they teach classes on “Coping when the Show Closes” in theater school?

Friday, May 16, 2008

More Idol thoughts

Work's been kicking my butt this week so haven't had much time to post. But felt I had to pass along this little tidbit: the news that Taylor Hicks is going to be showing up in "Grease." Not to be mean-spirited or anything but I couldn't imagine a piece of theater-related news interesting me less: a performer I don't really care for showing up in a production I'm not really interested in. And yet, the Internets are abuzz with the news! Personally, I'll be more intrigued by whether Syesha Mercado (the recently voted out #3 of this season) ends up in a show sometime soon. Should they start calling Broadway "Idol East?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


This week's Style has Mary B's full review of "Peter Pan." I believe this review marks the first time I have been mentioned within a theater review. If only my daughter's work running the spotlight had received a nod, it would have been three Timberlines in one review -- yikes!

Also, while pandering on Pan, I recently picked up Urge magazine. I'm a little behind the curve since it's been out for a month or so. But it has a nice little piece on "Pan" and a picture of the unsung marketing wiz, Judi Crenshaw. I'm not quite sure what to make of Urge after one issue. I like the color and the layout and much of the content. Its "we're not Style" statement in the editor's note is a good effort at product differentation but I'm still totally clear on how distinct it is different from other mags. But I am happy that they acknowledge theater in Richmond, something some other local mags barely do.

One final link: check out Richmond Shakespeare's blog for Grant Mudge's well-written review of AART's "Waiting to be Invited." It's always interesting to see what directors look for in other productions. Grant also links to the recent discussion about AART in this space -- thanks for your welcome contributions to the conversation, Grant!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Some preliminary analysis

So the total number of Tony nominations are spread out among 26 different productions. Of those, 14 shows received 4 nominations or more, split evenly between straight plays and musicals. "In the Heights" got the most nominations with 13 (the whole list is below).

Maybe it's a false impression, but this seems to be a more compact field of nominated productions than in the past. And maybe I'm totally off base, but even though I haven't seen a single one of these productions (yikes!), I feel like I could do a pretty good job predicting some winners. Some of my thoughts:

-- The most interesting race to me is the "Gypsy" -- "South Pacific" musical revival showdown. I think it'll be close but that "South Pacific" will win. I've read raves about both but the fact that this is SP's first revival will play in its favor.

-- It's hard for me to imagine any show beating "August: Osage County" for best play, though I may be rooting for "The Seafarer." I tried hard to get my best old drinking buddy to go on a wild jaunt to NYC to see that show before it closed but we couldn't swing it. I really wish we had been successful.

-- It's pretty interesting how many "Hollywood" actors are nominated (Martha Plimpton, Laurence Fishburne, S. Epatha Merkerson, Laurie Metcalf, Patrick Stewart, etc.) but even more interesting to me the big names that were not nominated, like Laura Linney for "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," Kevin Kline for "Cyrano" and Nathan Lane for "November."

Anyone with more informed opinions of the nominees, please chime in!

Straight Plays
August: Osage County: 7 noms
The 39 Steps: 6 noms
Boeing-Boeing (revival): 6 noms
Macbeth (revival): 6 noms
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (revival): 5 noms
Rock 'n' Roll: 4 noms
The Seafarer: 4 noms

In The Heights: 13 noms
South Pacific (revival): 11 noms
Sunday in the Park with George (revival): 9 noms
Passing Strange: 7 noms
Gypsy (revival): 7 noms
Cry-Baby: 4 noms
Xanadu: 4 noms

And the nominees are...

Here's a link to the full list. Discussion to follow...

Glory Days

As I sit waiting eagerly for the email that will announce the Tony Award nominees this morning, I’ve been thinking about “Glory Days.” We T-lines spent part of Mother’s Day with a couple from Northern Virginia who are really theater-o-philes. They have season subscriptions to three different companies up there and go to NYC three or four times a year.

These folks informed me of the ignoble fate of the Virginia-born musical that closed recently after one performance. Apparently, two pretty negative reviews (including the one in the New York Times) plus low advance sales sealed the fate of this production. Now, speculation is whether the show will even be a possible Tony-award contender in a season where the buzz has been around straight plays not new musicals.

The interesting perspective of these theater-going pals who had seen the Signature production when it played in Chantilly had much more to do with business than art. They thought it was a good show but they thought the producers saw a small-cast show with minimal technical requirements, thought they could open it on Broadway, get at least some acclaim and then mount road shows fairly quickly that could then rake in the dough. It’s a pretty cynical view but, given the ignominious speed with which the show was shuttered, it sure smacks of truth to me.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Both my wife and I were approached this past weekend by different people talking about how great Cooper's performance was in "Peter Pan," particularly since he was only 4 years old. We certainly appreciate the flattery on his behalf but, as it says in his program bio, he will be finishing up First Grade in a few weeks and, as precocious as the little bugger is, he's not THAT precocious. The boy's 7 years old or, in the exacting spirit of a kid that age, 7 and three quarters. His next eldest costar -- Connor Wilkerson, youngest of the Lost Boys -- recently turned 9. So if you happen to catch any of the closing weekend performances coming up, be sure and wish him a belated Happy Birthday!

Mrs. Haubenstock and I were among the 12 or 13 or so folks catching "The Seagull" at Henley Street on Saturday. You can read her very positive impressions here; mine will still be a few days in coming. There is much I could say about the production but I'll keep it to my favorite part right now: Kerry McGee as Masha. Dark, brooding, depressed, a bit heartless, and suffering desperately from unrequited love -- Ms. McGee does them all well. And looks smashing in black. More later!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Inter Action

I took some time today to separate out the blog links from my other "There's No People Like Show People" links over to the left there. They are in a new section called "Inter-Act (blogs)." I found myself regularly scrolling through the big list to get to the blogs I like best so thought it was finally time to split them all out. I've also added theater company blogs that I know about -- and some that I didn't until I started to do some searching (for instance, did you know Swift Creek Mill has a blog?) I hope this helps everyone keep in touch with their online favorites!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A solo show

Several months ago, I asked Mary B if she would join me as a fellow instigator of conversation about Richmond theater on this blog. She was willing and daring enough to come on board and has since added a great deal to the conversation, spurring some of the most interesting -- not to mention most heated -- exchanges that have ever occurred on these virtual pages.

Even though I have enjoyed the energy and perspective Mary brought to the table, our team-up has led to some complications and misperceptions. Since we are the two Style Weekly theater reviewers, this space has the appearance of being Style's official online theater outlet, though that is not the case. Some people have asked me if I endorse, sanction, or edit what Mary writes, and I expect she has received similar questions about what I write. Some people still refer to this as "David Timberline's blog," though in some people's minds it is "Style's theater blog" and others know it as "Dave's and Mary's blog." Though not a huge deal, these and other kinds of complications were enough to diminish the fun involved in this whole venture for me.

So, as part of trying to simplify my life, I've talked to Mary about returning this blog to a solo show and, as she was many months ago, she was willing and gracious in her response. I believe she will be posting at least one more time with some thoughts of her own on this whole experiment, but after that and going forward, this will go back to being "David Timberline's blog," pure and simple.  I will miss Mary's posts but hope she will be willing to chime in with her perspectives when she has the time and inclination. You may have agreed or disagreed with some of the things Mary has said, but there is no denying her abiding interest, love, and support of local theater.

As for the new readers who Mary brought to the site, I hope you'll stay around, read and participate going forward as well. I can't promise things won't return to the "annoying love fest" of the pre-Mary times on this blog, but I'll continue to do what I can to keep things lively. Thanks for everything, Mary!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What can happen if all of your friends do musical theater

Well, I'm back from a few days of relaxation, rejuvenation, and Anniversary-related celebration. Many thanks to Mary for keeping the ball rolling here in my absence. She's also been busy keeping Style theater coverage current with an interview with the always fascinating Bruce Miller and a review of the tasty Firehouse Theatre Cabaret.

I'm warming up a couple of posts but don't have much time right now. So, in the meantime, here's a link to a video a good old friend sent to my wife that shows the potential dangers (and joys) of having many good friends who do musical theater. It seemed appropriate as part of my own personal marriage-focus of the past week. Enjoy!

Interview With Local Theatre Hero and Nice Guy, Bruce Miller

One of the best things about writing for the Arts and Culture Department at STYLE is getting to meet and chat with the people who cultivate the Arts Scene in Richmond. Lately I have been chatting a lot with Bruce Miller, Artistic Director for Theatre IV and Barksdale Theatre arguably the biggest things happening in Richmond Theatre these days. I feel as though I have learned not only a great deal about both theatre companies but also about Bruce, himself.

Bruce Miller is, really, one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He is caring, concerned, and smart. He radiates a contageous happy warmth that shows his love for his work and fellow man. Bruce is also brave. For a person of his kind disposition, he has a tough job. He wants everybody to be as happy and understanding as he is but it is not possible. It is a testament to his great character that he unapologetically backs every one of his artistic choices regardless of flack he gets. And there is always flack. People who want more edgy theatre in Richmond often chide him for his choices of "safe" work like "Mame" or "The Odd Couple". People who prefer tamer theatrical fare complain about the edgier stuff like "The Little Dog Laughed". But Bruce is an artist. He uses his position as an Artistic Director to demonstrate his passion for all types of theatre and its power to entertain, mirror society and articulate social concerns.

The most recent issue Bruce has articulated through the use of live theatre is his belief that two people who wish to be married should be able to regardless of their sexual oreintation or gender. In reaction to the most recent marriage amendment laws in Virginia (among the most consevative anywhere which state marriage can only happen between a man and a woman), Bruce chose to add "The Little Dog Laughed" by Douglas Carter Beane to the Barksdale Season. "It is a sweet, funny play", Bruce said of "Little Dog" in a conversation last week. "I chose it because it handles the topic with humor and wit...I don't like to hit people over the head with something really heavy to make a point." According to a letter Bruce composed to send to Season Subscribers who opted out of the play and to people who left at inermission or before (which is posted in its entirety on the Barksdale blog) subscribers were given lots of information about the play in the form of a letter and other means before the show opened. This "warning" system is part of the vast consideration Bruce has for his audiences. He understands that the show is not for everyone but defends his choice well.

More on Bruce to come over the course of the week. You can access Bruce's letter about "Little Dog" at - go to blog and scroll down.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

One more detail about Liz Marks Benefit

It is Preview night not Opening night for "The Seagull". As you regular readers are well aware, details are not my forte.

Correction for Liz Marks Benefit

Please note the ticket price for Henley Street Opening night May 8th is $10.00 not $20.00 that I quoted in an earlier blog.

Coming soon. A long version of my interview with Bruce Miller.

Chat soon.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Seagul Opening Night to Benefit Liz Marks

In the spirit of community outreach, Henley Street Theatre Company is designating funds from its May 8th opening performance of "The Seagull" to help Liz Marks with her mounting medical bills. Liz, as most of you know, has served the Richmond theatre community for years as a fabulous actress, singer, agent etc. She is undergoing treatments for cancer and the theatre community has come together in various ways to help.

Please help to make this event successful. If you can make it - wonderful! If you can make it and bring friends- even better! If you can't make it, please tell other people about it.

8:00 pm, Pine Camp Arts Center, Tickets are $20.00. I am sure donations will be accepted also. Go to for more information.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wild Weekend

So, Dave is going out of town? Guess I'll have a good time while he is away and do some blogging especially since he was such a wall flower this weekend and I am still reeling from all the arts, culture and cheap wine that goes with such events.

The week itself was great! I had the great privilege of interviewing Bruce Miller (Artistic Director of Both Barksdale and Theatre IV) last week- more to come on that on Tuesday when the article comes out in STYLE. Bruce is wonderful! So articulate and full of stories. He got me all geared up for First Fridays Art Walk which was totally fabulous last Friday night hugely due to the perfect weather and the fact that I had two friends who had openings - artists, Will Turner and Karen Kean. The sidewalks of Downtown Richmond were theater unto themselves with the variety of people, street performers, traveling bands, and scads of people. It was so energizing!

Saturday found me and my daughter Elinor at the Empire for "Peter Pan" which you will hear more about in STYLE. I will say that I due to space concerns I was not able to put my thoughts about young R. Cooper Timberline into the review for print but he is truly adorable. He has matured as a actor since December. I mean, let's be real here,just about any kid could have played Randy in "A Christmas Story". Randy is not really a challenge for a little kid. The lines are simple and mostly he just has to follow Ralphie or hide under the sink. But Michael Darling is on stage a lot and has to do a considerable amount of dancing, singing and line delivery. Cooper held his own out there - really. For someone who is what, four years old ?, he demonstrates considerable concentration and focus. During the course of three acts I saw him break character slightly only once. The rest of the time he was seriously "on" and I don't mean in that obnoxious way kid actors sometimes get. He did a great job.

So a play in the afternoon. Rush home. Make lasagna for Elinor and sitter. Put on strapless cocktail dress and a dash of much needed make-up and it was off to stunning Agecroft Hall for Richmond Shakespeare's Bard Bash. RS Artistic Director/Marketer Grant Mudge has the foresight to give press passes to members of the press for their big annual fundraiser. Pretty smart. I got to hang with two TD reporters and schmooze with WCVE weekday afternoon DJ, Bobbie Barahas (please know that I am a fan). The food was fantastic and everyone looked marvelous. Dawn Westbrook (local director/actor) looked especially wonderful in a chiffony floral print cocktail dress with oh-so-sexy blue pumps to match and perfectly matching floral dangle earrings. Andrew Hamm sang (does he ever not find a way to fit that in?) some original and some period works associated with Shakespeare plays. Cynde Liffick was very sexy in a form fitting black lace over skin colored number. She shared about the RS outreach programs. But the highlight of the evening was Grant Mudge's presentation of the premier of RS's new promotional DVD which set this part time Marketing director into swoons - or was it Grant himself? Difficult to tell.

Following the fun at Agecroft I dashed off like Cinderella leaving the ball for Comedysportz to see long form Improv troup Cousin Scheckie. I ran into Roy Proctor and Jackie Jones who were lovely companions and laughed heartily as Cousin Scheckie kept us laughing. I recommend checking them out next time you get the chance.

Today Elinor and I wend to the Amani Peace Concert at Grace Baptist Church. It was a cultural experience I will not soon forget. Nigerian drummer, Nana Frimpong, The American Youth Harp Ensemble, The RMS Honors Choir and the Richmond Symphony Choir. The concert raised money to send Nigerian children to school.

OK- I am missing "Masterpiece Theater" - gotta go.

Chat soon.
Mary Burruss

No Small Roles

We’ve been awash in Kentucky Derby fever here the past couple of days because of a family connection to Big Brown (and no, in case you’re wondering, I am not related by blood to the Derby winner; my brother-in-law – one of the most humble people I know who is also among the most talented in his field – originally found and bought Big Brown on behalf of the current owner). If you follow the news you know that the race ended up being almost a classic triumph / tragedy story. Big Brown pulled out a dramatic win with a thrilling home stretch run (especially thrilling for those of us with money involved) but the valiant second place filly Eight Belles broke both ankles and had to be immediately euthanized. Almost before we could start jumping up and down in victory, we were bowing our heads in sadness. With all the time, money, love, hope, and dreams that are poured into these horses, you had to feel the enormity of the loss of the filly’s owners.

I was not able to make it the ‘O.T.’ though my lovely wife and daughter did and they report that it was an excellent production with many sterling performances (among the few more awkward ones). I thought with the pop-cultury slant on the title it was going to be an updated, perhaps somewhat satiric take on “Our Town,” but by the sound of it, they played it pretty straight.

Instead of at the theater, I was at home being domestic, including watching “Juno” while folding laundry (hot time on a Saturday night!) I was ready to be put off by the too-cleverness of it all, but sure enough, I got drawn in. Ellen Page was great but the performances that really did it for me were those of Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Particularly Garner – her role had all the makings of a simple cliché: the controlling, over-invested power wife. But Garner made her character so human and at times heartbreaking. For my money, hers was the real breakout performance of that movie.

I’ve also been hearing quite a bit of buzz about Steve Martin’s work in “Baby Mama.” I’ve always thought Martin was a genius – I was one of those people who paid what was then an enormous sum to see his “King Tut” concert tour back in the late 70s. Apparently (and correct me if I’m wrong), Steve virtually steals the movie during his brief time on screen.

Which is just another testament to the power of a good actor even in a smaller role. I waxed (semi-)poetic about Laine Satterfield in “The Little Dog Laughed” a while back and sung praises about Ali Thibodeau in “Pan.” I believe Jason Marks is among the best aspects of the Mill’s “Mattress” and I think forward toward “Guys and Dolls” and wonder who it will be further down the cast list who will grab my attention. Theater mirrors life in so many ways. While some times the minor player is key to the success of a production, some times it’s the unsung hero who makes all the difference, like my brother-in-law who set in motion Big Brown’s trajectory toward his Derby win.

I’ll be out of town for a few days so things might be a little quiet around here. But I’ll be back in time for “The Seagull” opening at Henley Street where I’ll be trying to wipe my memory clean of the Justin Dray / Erin Thomas production of so many years ago – at least for the duration of the performance.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

This weekend

After last weekend’s openings, things are relatively quiet this weekend. Cousin Sheckie will be doing a couple of shows at ComedySportz providing a good opportunity for people who have never seen a long-form improv piece (people like me!)

If it’s rainy like last weekend (and our pals at are calling for rain on Sunday), it might be an opportunity to curl up with a good book. Some options that have caught my attention lately are Germaine Greer’s “Shakespeare’s Wife” which has been getting good reviews and may be intriguing to you Bard-o-philes. Those who prefer the contemporary musicals may like the Complete Book and Lyrics for "Rent" that were just published last month. It may be “all Pan, all the time” for the T-line clan but I’m also intrigued by Henley Street’s children's production, “The O.T.” that’ll be playing this weekend. Great concept and I know some of the kids in the production and they’re good. Might have to sneak that one in between fly calls…