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 www.barksdalerichmond.org - go to blog and scroll down.