Thursday, August 28, 2008


I’m a little late on this one, too: here’s a link to the Style story on Barksdale’s sign language interpretation program. That, plus Barksdale’s focus on women in theater and their flagrant tolerance of alternate lifestyles, makes them pretty much as progressive as a theater could be, right? Well, at least in Richmond.

My favorite part of the article is the news that it’s going to take two interpreters to handle Scottie in “This Wonderful Life.” He’s always been a handful – I just didn’t realize he was four handfuls!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I don't suck as much as I thought I did

I was afraid it was too late to mention Andrew Bonniwell and his pals (collectively known as the Night Light Collective), and their experiment in 'alternate location' theater with "The House of Yes." But it turns out that their production (being staged in a house, as seems fitting) runs tomorrow and Friday so I didn't screw up totally. Mr. Bonniwell has told me that space is very limited and I don't have direct contact info so if you are interested, you'll need to contact Andrew or someone who knows Andrew. The cast is largely made up of some very lovely Henley Street vets like Suzanne Ankrum and Kerry McGee and the under-utilized Alison Haracznak (from Sycamore Rouge's "Streetcar.")

I wish I could say "Yes" to "Yes" but school starts for me tomorrow -- yay! I seem to be the only person in my house actually looking forward to school starting...

Hair, There, and Everywhere

Christine Schneider and Matt Polson are two young local actors who have built impressive resumes over the last couple of years and who are heading out in the next few days to try their luck in the Big Apple. I wish them both the best of luck – to me, Matt will always be Gaston and Christine of course will always be Wendy. The way theater works around here, perhaps we will see them again down the road a piece.

In honor of their departure, here are a bunch of theatrical tidbits about stuff that isn’t happening (or didn’t happen) in Richmond:

For folks looking for a little more love thrown in the direction of sound designers, the latest American Theatre Wing podcast is an interview with Tony-award winning sound designer Tony Meola. It makes for some interesting listening.

In the movie theaters, Hamlet 2 just opened last weekend. Anyone seen it? Reviews have been mixed. Also, there’s a new book out called “Furious Improvisation” that’s getting a fair amount of press. It’s all about a national experiment in the 1930s to create a national theater company. Imagine such a thing today… In casting news, the recently little-seen former child star Haley Joel Osment is joining the cast of the revival of Mamet's "American Buffalo" that is opening around Halloween. I'm not a huge fan of the play but it's definitely got some intriguing folks in it now.

Finally, NPR had a great story about the current Public Theatre production of “Hair” that is prompting people to stand in line for hours and hours for free tickets. There’s a lesson in there somewhere – perhaps something about making a production as much an “event” as just a show. It’s something that’s probably impossible to manufacture artificially but it’s also the kind of thing that brings swarms back into the theater.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I had heard some second-hand murmurs about Jack Parrish around the time “Henry IV, Part 2” opened and it turns out that they were true. Jack has been battling lung cancer and is reportedly back in Richmond from Kentucky for treatment. My source has termed him a “lung cancer survivor” and the email that you may have seen that originated with Bridget Gethins says he is doing well. By any account, he could do with kind thoughts and prayers. I fervently hope he is on the road to remission and that he emerges robust and healthy.

Here’s an email address for Jack if you want to send him your best wishes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It’s the little things

I want to write more about “Shirley Valentine” – a great performance by Jill Bari loved by three generations of my family – but it’s only 9:30 and I’ve already got 12 hours of work to do today. Gotta love Monday.

But I wanted to mention one thing in praise of director Amy Berlin. I’m always impressed when the intermission music supports the production in distinct ways. Sometimes this is more overt, even a little clumsy; sometimes this aspect of a production seems to be given no thought at all. Ms. Berlin’s selections of songs like “Constant Craving” by k.d. Lang and “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman were relatively subtle reinforcements of “Shirley’s” thematic arc. It helped from my perspective that these are two of my fave artists of all time (placing my tastes pretty squarely in the 80s…)

These songs also came on right after one of my favorite moments of the show, when Shirley looks at the clock and says, “20 past 2,” and Jill Bari gives a look that is part forlorn and part embarrassed as the lights go down. Very nice.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reflections, part 2

I keep trying to organize my thoughts about this past theater season but keep getting distracted by looking forward to the coming season. Today’s distraction came in the form of listening to an old and awesome podcast interview with Paula Vogel (from 2004) where she mentions one of her students, Sarah Ruhl. A quick Google search brought up a couple stories about the Vogel / Ruhl connection that have played on NPR, one that refers to “Eurydice,” soon to be opening at the Firehouse, and the other that talks about “The Clean House,” which will be the Barksdale’s first production of the fall. And so the anticipation builds…

Another problem with my memories of this past season are that two off-stage aspects of the season probably had the most impact on me. The most significant is the introduction and immersion of my son into the theater scene with his roles in two Theatre IV shows. His journey has reawakened aspects of the wonder and appreciation I have had for theater since I was in high school. It’s not always an easy life for the budding thespian, and there were a few nights of tantrums and tears. But the quality of the people he’s met and the adventure he’s experienced through those two productions have edified him in ways that no other activities could and brought out truly amazing aspects of his personality. I am incredibly appreciative of those who have been kind (and when necessary, firm) with him as he’s navigated this path. As an aside, we are currently dealing with another aspect of the theatrical journey – the rejection – and it’s been educational in many ways too…but that’s another story.

The other aspect of this past season that has affected me significantly is the further establishment of another voice reporting on theater for Style, Mary Burruss. I haven’t always agreed with what Mary has to say but I am very thankful that our editor has given her room to say it. Only with the two of us working this beat for Style would as many reviews and theater-related stories get published. For those who think this number is still too small, I can assure you it would be even smaller if I were still the only one doing them. Mary’s a fine writer besides, though the way she wears her crushes for certain male actors on her sleeve is a bit shameful (wink wink!)

Two reflections about what happened onstage last season that I’d like to throw out are:

1. “Spinning Into Butter” reminded me that theater is in many ways (in my opinion) one of the most effective ways to consider hot-button issues like race. As Paula Vogel says in her podcast interview, theater is not just entertainment, it’s a conversation with the audience. I think people who saw “Spinning” – particularly as expertly rendered at the Firehouse – came away thinking about the issue in new ways and possibly with a little more hope that it could be dealt with by thoughtful individuals in a better, more constructive way.

2. The success of both “Reefer Madness” and “Guys and Dolls” points to an encouraging robustness in the theater scene in Richmond and more generally. That two extremely different musicals could find their respective audiences and thrive in the current economic environment is remarkable and a testament to the talented producers and directors behind both productions.

If I can hold off distractions, I may be able to reflect more in the coming week. But first, tonight it’s off to “Shirley Valentine.” Yay!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I don’t know how long it’s been out but, in my attempts to recognize the coverage of theater in other media outlets besides the one that I write for (catch Style’s cover story on Trani’s legacy this week – Style’s still the best place for this kind of thoughtful analysis of local issues), here’s a link to the piece on Stage 1 in Richmond magazine in its September issue, complete with a dashing picture of young Mr. Kniffen.

I believe the stars have aligned to allow me to catch “Shirley Valentine” during its closing weekend – another “better late than never” kind of situation. Why don’t you take a break from the Olympics and go out and see it as well?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Like more than a billion other folks, I’ve been getting regular doses of Olympic hyperbole and I've found it near impossible to avoid getting swept up in the compelling competitions. Michael Phelps’s 1/100th of a second win in butterfly for his 7th gold may have been the most exciting swim event I’ve ever seen (rivaling seeing my 7 year-old complete his first 25-meter freestyle length – and in less the 2 minutes!) And Shawn Johnson has the most infectious smile ever, coupled with thighs that look as thick and strong as tree trunks, and I was thrilled when she won the beam yesterday. And the pain and frustration of Lolo Johnson’s hurdles loss was palpable. The Olympics are theater writ large with drama and tragedy on a grand scale.

One thing I wondered: did the “princess of the pole vault,” Yelena Isinbayeva, remind anyone else of Jennie Meharg?

And another intriguing local connection that you might notice on your TVs these days: was that expatriate Justin Dray visible in the currently-running ESPN Monday night football commercial?

PS: I have to apologize to regular commenters -- I just found a backlog of comments that had been "unmoderated" going back to August 14th. Blogger usually notifies me of comments but for some reason those had been sitting unnoticed. Sorry!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Catching up and Thinking Back

I’ve finally gotten around to crawling through last week’s copies of the paper in search of relevant theater news and came across Celia Wren’s preview of “Richard III” at Henley Street. I have little doubt this will be a great production but what is most impressive right now is how quickly, urgently and effectively Henley Street has spread the word about this production. Casting Mr. Wichmann early on and starting the buzz many months ago has certainly proven a winning strategy.

I also got the recent news about Triangle Players planned move to new digs (details of which can be found both at RTP’s website and at the Barksdale Blog). This is great news for RTP and for lovers of edgy and interesting theater in Richmond. Over the years, RTP has done miraculous things on their tiny little stage at Fielden’s. While Fielden’s is not without its charms, a bigger and better venue can only help RPT upgrade the quality of its productions and the size of its audience. My only complaint is that I wish I had confirmation of this news a few weeks ago so I could have included it in the piece I did for Style about new theater company expansion. Oh well – good news is good regardless of when it hits the newsstands.

As we gear up for the upcoming Fall season, I’ve been looking back at the previous season, both as part of preparing for the RTCC awards and just out of idle curiosity. Starting with “Urinetown” last September and ending with “There Goes the Bride” a couple of weeks ago (Swift Creek Mill bookends as it were), I attended 20 local productions last season (which may move up to 21 if I can squeeze a trip out to Hanover Tavern in this weekend).

When you add in that I saw 3 shows in NYC, 1 in Greenville, SC, and 2 additional non-professional local shows, I took in a total of 26 productions this past season, or a show every other week. That’s pretty good, but it’s about half as many as I used to back around the year 2000 when I saw more than 50 shows a year or an average of a show a week. I expect it also pales in comparison to the number Susan H makes it to a year.

But I think (hope) that 26 shows is still enough to give me a moderately informed perspective on what’s going on in theater. And if I had to sum up this past year in a phrase I’d have to go with “successful, judicious risk-taking.” From the potentially off-putting name of “Urinetown” to the male nudity and edgy humor of “Little Dog Laughed,” from the drug and sex paraphernalia on display in “Mr. Marmalade” to the uncomfortable subject matter explored in RTP’s “The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues,” racial dynamics dominated “Spinning Into Butter” and “Waiting to Be Invited,” and some silly asses inexplicably got het up about the language in “Peter Pan,” of all things.

What I think all of these productions indicate (well, all except “Pan”) is that taking risks energizes actors, directors and companies, and can result in productions that not only make critics happy but can also draw crowds. (And to be fair to “Pan,” that flying stuff certainly had its risks…)

More reflections on the past season to come…

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mill Folks and More

I’ve been out of town on vacation for the past week and am only slowly gaining back my ability to string more than two words together in any coherent way. It may take a while to get back into the blogging swing so please bear with me.

While I was gone, I received a few emails from people who are nominated for RTCC awards for shows at Swift Creek Mill. What became apparent very quickly after the nominations were announced was that it was going to be difficult to get in touch with nominees to provide details about the awards. I’ve been working with and through contacts I have at the various theater companies, asking them to get in touch with the actors and artists associated with their productions. Thank you to everyone who has emailed or called me with your information.

If you are listed as one of the nominees and you haven’t been contacted by someone from a theater company or directly by me, please email me at Thanks!

In the coming days, I promise that the blog won’t be all about the RTCC awards. There’s certainly plenty of other stuff to talk about with a great season of theater wrapping up and another amazing season warming up in the wings.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Expatriate Games

Over at Richmond Marquee, Lisa Kotula regularly scoops me and just about everyone else in town with her casting news. I think it was there that I first read that expatriates Duke Lafoon and Emily Skinner would be appearing together in "Ace" at the Signature in a few weeks (some additional cast details available in this Playbill piece). The Marquee might have been the first place I had an inkling of who the conjoined twins were going to be in "Side Show." I hope Angie and Robyn are friendly with each other or else it's going to be a rough few months for them. They are each among the most delightful people I know -- but connected at the waist can't be easy no matter how delightful your twin is.

This past week, another talented local actor made the transition to expatriate status. Most notable recently with his prominent roles in "Visiting Mr. Green," "The Little Dog Laughed" and "Guys and Dolls," John Kenneth DeBoer wrote a nice good-bye note at his blog. Good luck in all your future endeavors, JKD!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Spacing Out

Wow, the response to this awards thing has been pretty amazing. The feedback I have been getting has been just phenomenal – supportive and excited and appreciative. It’s been great and thanks to everyone out there expressing their encouragement for this new little venture.

The biggest grumble I’ve been hearing – and the biggest regret I’m feeling at this point – is the “invitation-only” aspect of the awards event. I am really sorry about this. I wish there were going to be space for the entire theater community – heck, for all of Richmond – at this event. However, when our little group of critics set down this road, we had not much time and even less money to devote to the venture. The logistical and financial overhead of renting a big venue and managing a big event there would have been prohibitive for us to even consider. Our ability to even hold an event at all is largely the result of the Firehouse being generous with their facility and their logistical support.

The Firehouse holds 125 people. We have 64 nominees, 5 critics, and 3 major sponsors. Assuming each brings a significant other, we’re at 144 people. Yikes! However, because some nominees are likely to bring another nominee as their date, some people will come solo, and some people won’t be able to come at all, I think we’ll all make it in. But just barely…

So I do have to apologize to people who want to come and won’t be able to this year. Assuming the event comes off pretty well, next year it’d be great to have it somewhere that could hold a bigger crowd. This year, my thanks go out to the folks at the Firehouse who are helping to make it happen – I hope we don’t bust a seam on Oct. 19th!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

...and promptly crashes...

Just verified with the Firehouse (thanks for the heads-up, Lisa!) that the 7guild production of "Blackbird" has been cancelled. Well, that's one off my "to-do" list...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Blackbird" takes flight

There is a piece I wrote in Style Weekly's online edition that talks about SPARC's new building, the Stage 1 company, and the production of "Blackbird" that's going to be at the Firehouse this weekend. A slightly edited version of this piece will be in print next week but you can check it out now. "Blackbird" should be a cool show -- I heard a podcast interview with Jeff Daniels (who starred in the show in NYC) about it and it certainly sounds intense. With that and "Little Shop" at the Dell, it's mid-August and I'm STILL missing shows! When is a boy supposed to catch up?

Q & A

Just a quick thanks to all of the people who have been so positive in their response to the announcement of the Critics Circle Awards. On behalf of the other RTCC members, I can say the support is appreciated. At least one commenter zeroed in on the word “celebrate” and that is indeed what we hope these awards will be about: celebrating the hard work done by everyone in the community (whether nominated or not) and gathering to celebrate the awesomeness of some of the theater that was created in this past year. I hope and expect Oct. 19th to be a pretty fabulous party!

Here are some quick responses to a few of the questions / concerns that have been posed:

“What constitutes the "Richmond area" -- it appears that Petersburg is included -- what about Fredericksburg?”

For this, we used membership in the Richmond Alliance of Professional Theatres as a guide. Members include Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg, Swift Creek Mill in Colonial Heights and Barksdale at Hanover Tavern in Hanover.

“Is there some sort of commitment from the critics association that a majority of members will see [a show that falls into the universe of consideration]?”

One of the most significant challenges we found as we approached the process of starting these awards was the fact that none of us had seen all of the productions that could be considered for recognition. However, as we have researched other critics associations, we have found that this is a common problem (and, apparently, a problem for major awards shows like the Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, etc.) and we are looking to them for guidance on how to deal with it. Some form of scoring system that takes into account the number of shows an individual critic has seen is often employed. Some associations spell out their elaborate systems, some state the processes more vaguely, for instance, that winners are arrived at "by consensus.”

Obviously, as this is our first year, we will have to figure out what works best for us. It is unlikely that a majority of critics (all of us who are freelance writers) will ever see all or even most of the shows that open in the Richmond-area, mostly because of the vigor of the local scene. This year’s “universe of consideration” included 14 musicals, 40 plays and 8 productions we have categorized as interactive. That’s at least 62 productions to see in a year – seeing all of them would be a Herculean effort even for a full-time critic. However, I know that the establishment of these awards has raised my commitment to see more shows and, while I can’t speak for any other critic, I believe it has had the same effect on my compatriots.

“I beg of all of you not to fall into the trap of last seen, first awarded.”

I understand this concern but am happy to see that one of the most nominated productions this year is “Urinetown,” which opened almost a year ago. Going forward, I believe all of us critics will be watching shows with an eye toward which performances and productions are worthy of consideration at the end of the theater year.

“What about a special award for Outstanding Achievement by a Youth Actor?”

This is a good idea. We’ll keep it in mind for next year.

“With any awards some will feel there are omissions…” “I didn't see any Chamberlayne nominations.”

One of the most tortuous aspects of coming up with nominations for these awards was knocking productions or performances off the list. In some of the categories, as many as nine different nominees were offered for consideration. Productions and performances from all companies were considered but the final nominees reflect our determination of the best of the best. As with any situation of this kind – whether it be in sports or academics or the arts – recognizing some nominees as exceptional (in our collective opinion) is not meant to demean any other performance or production as unworthy or substandard.

More info to come!

Apparently, there are other awards...

Ah, what interesting timing: as the announcement goes out yesterday about our Theatre Critics Awards, the Governor's office is putting out an announcement about the 2008 Governor's Awards for the Arts. I made a sideways reference to this pending announcement a couple of weeks ago (the news I was asked quite nicely to remove from the site). Now the word is out officially and big fat congratulations are in order for Theatre IV and its founders Bruce Miller and Phil Whiteway.

Beyond being so successful, these are two of the nicest guys in the arts that it has ever been my pleasure to know. Up-and-comers in all areas of the arts would do well to learn from these guys who, in my experience, never blather on about the significance of their work, how cutting edge or revolutionary it is, they simply DO the work. And in getting it done, Bruce and Phil have built an awesome organization in Theatre IV / Barksdale. Way to go, gentlemen, and here's to many more decades of success.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Big News (or the longest post ever...)

For immediate release

Local critics band together to recognize excellence in Richmond theater
Announce first annual awards show to be held October 19th

Richmond, VA - Theater critics representing several of central Virginia's major media outlets have created a new organization called the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle (RTCC) with the primary purpose of promoting and recognizing excellence in professional theater produced in the Richmond area. The group will do so via an annual awards gala, the first of which will be held on Sunday, October 19th at the Firehouse Theatre. Nominations for the First Annual RTCC Awards are listed below.

"For too long, the amazing depth and breadth of talent in the local theater scene has gone uncelebrated," asserts one of RTCC's co-founders, David Timberline. "We hope our awards will bring attention to the exceptional quality of the work being done by theater professionals in Richmond."

RTCC has made nominations in eighteen categories and will also present a special award in recognition of extraordinary ongoing contributions to the Richmond-area theater scene. This award is being named in honor of actress, producer, and casting director, Liz Marks, who recently succumbed after a battle with cancer and Ms. Marks will be the award's first recipient.

Winners in each of the categories will be announced at a black-tie gala awards ceremony that will feature performances from the nominated musical productions. The ceremony is being cosponsored by two companies that represent both the strength of Richmond's history and the vitality of the city's future: the C.F. Sauer Company and Y.Y Salon & Products.

A minimal admission will be charged to the invitation-only event. All proceeds from the awards ceremony will go to support the Richmond Theatre Artists Fund, a fund established by the Richmond Alliance of Professional Theatres to help those in the Richmond theatre community who fall on the hardest of times due to illness, injury or extenuating circumstances.

"Beyond just indicating which performances and productions we thought were most noteworthy during this past theater season, we hope these awards will showcase the richness and variety of Richmond theater," adds Susan Haubenstock, an RTCC co-founder and a theater critic for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It'll be a celebration of all local theater, not just a few favorites."

Members of the RTCC include Mary Burruss (Style Weekly magazine), Susan Haubenstock (Richmond Times-Dispatch), Julinda Lewis (Richmond Times-Dispatch), David Timberline (Style Weekly magazine), and Joan Tupponce (

Nominations for the First Annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards
for the 2007-2008 theater season

Best Musical
Guys & Dolls, Barksdale
Peter Pan, Theatre IV
Reefer Madness, Firehouse Theatre Project
Urinetown, Swift Creek Mill

Best Direction - Musical
Patti D'Beck, Guys & Dolls (Barksdale)
Steve Perigard, Peter Pan (Theatre IV)
Jase Smith, Reefer Madness (Firehouse Theatre Project)
Tom Width, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)

Best Actor - Musical
Brett Ambler, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)
Ford Flanagan, Peter Pan (Theatre IV)
Scott Wichmann, Guys & Dolls (Barksdale)

Best Actress - Musical
Rachel Abrams, Guys & Dolls (Barksdale)
Audra Honaker, Once Upon A Mattress (Swift Creek Mill)
Nancy McMahon, The Two Svengalis (Richmond Triangle Players)
Angela Shipley, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Musical
Chris Hester, Reefer Madness (Firehouse Theatre Project)
Richard Koch, Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter (Theatre IV)
Jason Marks, Guys & Dolls (Barksdale)
Scott Melton, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)
Robert Throckmorton, Peter Pan (Theatre IV )

Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Musical
Audra Honaker, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)
Debra Wagoner, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)
Joy Williams, Once Upon A Mattress (Swift Creek Mill)
Joy Newsome, Reefer Madness (Firehouse Theatre Project)

Best Musical Direction
Sandy Dacus, Guys and Dolls (Barksdale)
Paul Deiss, Plaid Tidings (Swift Creek Mill)
Paul Deiss, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)
Leilani Mork, Reefer Madness (Firehouse Theatre Project)

Best Choreography
Brandon Becker, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)
Patti D'Beck, Guys & Dolls (Barksdale)
Leslie Owens-Harrington, Peter Pan (Theatre IV)

Best Play
As You Like It (indoor), Richmond Shakespeare
Doubt: A Parable, Barksdale
The Late Henry Moss, Firehouse Theatre Project
The Little Dog Laughed, Barksdale
Spinning Into Butter, Firehouse Theatre Project

Best Direction - Play
Andrew Hamm, As You Like It (indoor) (Richmond Shakespeare)
Bruce Miller, The Little Dog Laughed (Barksdale)
Morrie Piersol, The Late Henry Moss (Firehouse Theatre Project)
James Ricks, Richard II (Richmond Shakespeare)
Keri Wormald, Doubt: A Parable (Barksdale)

Best Actor - Play
Andy Boothby, Mr. Marmalade (Firehouse Theatre Project)
Frank Creasy, The Spanish Tragedy (Henley Street Theatre Company)
Justin Dray, The Late Henry Moss (Firehouse Theatre Project)
J. Ron Fleming, A Lesson Before Dying (African American Rep. Theatre)
Duke Lafoon, Doubt: A Parable (Barksdale)

Best Actress - Play
Terry Menefee Gau, A Streetcar Named Desire (Sycamore Rouge)
Margarette Joyner, From the Mississippi Delta (African American Rep. Theatre)
Katie McCall, Spinning Into Butter (Firehouse Theatre Project)
Susan Sanford, The Little Dog Laughed (Barksdale)
Irene Zeigler, Doubt: A Parable (Barksdale)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Play
David Bridgewater, Henry IV, Part 2 (Richmond Shakespeare)
Joseph Anthony Carlson, Henry IV, Part 2 (Richmond Shakespeare)
Toney Cobb, Charcoal Street (African American Rep. Theatre)
Dean Knight, The Seagull (Henley Street Theatre Company)
Stephen Ryan, Richard II (Richmond Shakespeare)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Play
Liz Blake, Measure for Measure (Richmond Shakespeare)
Katherine Louis, The Member of the Wedding (Barksdale)
Jennie Meharg, The Late Henry Moss (Firehouse Theatre Project)
Laine Satterfield, The Little Dog Laughed (Barksdale)

Notable Interactive Production
Murder at the Class Reunion, Mystery Dinner Theatre
Richmond Improv Festival, ComedySportz
Stories of Egypt, Carpenter Science Theatre

Outstanding Achievement, Lighting Design
Joe Doran, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)
Lynne Hartman, The Little Dog Laughed (Barksdale)
Lynne Hartman, The Member of the Wedding (Barksdale)
Matthew Landwehr, A Christmas Story (Theatre IV)

Outstanding Achievement, Costume Design
Rebecca Cairns, As You Like It (indoor) (Richmond Shakespeare)
Sue Griffin, Peter Pan (Theatre IV)
Liz Hopper, The Member of the Wedding (Barksdale)
Chris Mueller, The Seagull (Henley Street Theatre Company)
Maura Lynch Cravey, Urinetown (Swift Creek Mill)

Outstanding Achievement, Set Design
Brian Barker, The Member of the Wedding (Barksdale)
Brian Kalin, The Little Dog Laughed (Barksdale)
Ron Keller, Guys and Dolls (Barksdale)
Greig Leach, Peter Pan (Theatre IV)
Mercedes Schaum, A Christmas Story (Theatre IV)

Liz Marks Memorial Award for Ongoing Contribution to Richmond Area Theater
Award to: Liz Marks

Firehouse Flash

Another place to look for news or to spout off on local theater has arrived! Here's a link to the new Firehouse Flash blog, all bright fire engine red graphics and primed for some purple prose. Welcome to the blog-o-sphere, FTP!

Monday, August 04, 2008


While lying in bed last night, trying in vain to fall asleep (iced mocha at 10pm = bad idea), I started thinking about “There Goes the Bride.” All the T-line women and I took in the latest Ray Cooney farce staged by Swift Creek Mill on Friday and we all had a fine time. Richard Koch (as Timothy) is a brilliant comic actor and, paired with the constantly moving and Betty Boop-ishly entertaining Audra Honaker (as Polly), howls of laughter arose from an appreciative crowd. I always love watching Vicki McLeod on stage – she is one of the most assured, unflappable actresses around and she was perfect in her role as the relative calm in the middle of the storm. It was also great to watch Brandon Becker (as Bill Shorter) work his somewhat subsidiary role with great skill, starting the show as a responsibility-avoiding gadabout and ending as almost a hero of sorts.

But as 2am loomed, I was wondering why it is that I don’t generally like farce. One aspect of my reaction I delineated right away: a problem for me sometimes is that some people LOVE farce so much and their squeals and shouts of laughter contrast mightily with my appreciative chuckles so much that I end up feeling like there must be something I’m missing. But I think the bigger problem is that the nature of farce is to push circumstances beyond any realistic boundaries and when things get “out there,” I start losing interest. For instance, everyone trying to cope with Timothy’s hallucinations is one thing but when the excuses they make about it compound to an absurd level (the confusion about whether Polly is a bird or a kitten or a person, trying to pass Bill off as the father of the bride, etc.), it all starts to seem a bit silly.

I get it that this is the point of farce – it’s all silly good fun. But I think it ends up being a little thankless for actors. Christine Schneider is adorable in the play and does a good job in the play’s first scene. But in much of the rest of the play she is largely reduced to leaving the room in tears. John Hagadorn is in fine form and is extremely funny as the befuddled grandfather of the bride. But I found his slapsticky later scenes just OK. Also, it seems most farces have an upright or logical character who gets thrown into the midst of the mayhem; seeing them reduced from sensible to senseless becomes part of the fun. In “Bride” this is Joy Williams as Mrs. Babcock and while Joy always makes the most of her characters, here she is mostly reactive and as written I don’t think some of her character’s reactions make sense. Of course, this also is the point – if someone came in and just said, ‘come on people, snap out of it,’ well, what would the fun in that be?

Perhaps I live in my head too much and need to just loosen up a bit. Maybe I need to let my wife drive me to farces so I can have two or three drinks beforehand to get in the proper mood. Don’t get me wrong – I still had a great time. A badly done farce can be downright tortuous but luckily, Tom Width is among the best directors I know at making farce work. Seeing Richard and Audra work their parts was alone worth the price of admission. But I think I only had half the fun of many of the people around me, a curiosity that filled my caffeine-boosted brain well into the wee hours this morning.

Victory is theirs!

Scott Wichmann and Mark Persinger won the Sport Radio walk-on-week challenge and will be working the drive time slot on 910AM today from 3pm to 6:45pm! Big congrats to Scott and Mark! For more details, check out Scott's blog and then tune in this afternoon for more entertaining chatter from the Bleacher Creatures.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Two Moderate Disappointments

In addition to the current voting percentages not being shown on the Sports Radio Walk-on-Week site, I just noticed this bit of weasel-ese on the site: "The final results will factor in to picking the winner, who will be invited to fill in for Wes McElroy in August!" "WILL FACTOR IN"?!!? Hmmmm.... Sounds like 910AM has gone a little American Idol on us; our votes counted for something, but for how much, perhaps we'll never know...

Also, finally slipped out to see "The Dark Knight" last night. Perhaps my expectations were too high but...I wasn't over-the-top impressed. Didn't have as much fun as "Iron Man." The combat -- like in all of these movies these days -- is filmed so you can't tell what's going on. Thought the many plot implausibilities were annoying. Thought Batman's gravelly rasp was a bit ridiculous.

On the plus side, loved most of the supporting cast including Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and of course the supreme effort of Heath Ledger -- truly awesome. Thought the ferry stand-off was generally well-done. My favorite scene was the Joker walking out of the hospital with his faulty detonator.

So -- great movie but not as transcendent as the huge box office would have you believe, in my humble opinion. Of course, I'm not a film critic...

Summer Valentine

I still haven’t managed to get out to Hanover Tavern to see “Shirley Valentine” (sorry, JB!) I also realized recently that while I often link to Susan H’s reviews in the T-D (and mine and Mary B’s in Style, of course), I don’t always note reviews in other media outlets. So, in an effort to address both of those deficiencies, here’s a link to the review of “Shirley,” a nicely glowing review from Joan Tupponce.

Luckily, there aren’t going to be any cast substitutions in “SV.” Not so the case in “There Goes the Bride,” so I’m going to hustle out to the Mill and see it tonight. As Greta Dollitz would say, “Won’t you join me?”