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…

1 comment:

Steven Koehler said...

Nothing against funny man Ford F., he will always be Peter Pan to me, but let's face it casting a man past the 1/2 century mark as the boy who won't grow up is pretty risk taking. Actually the real risk would have been 12 years ago with Theatre IV's first foray into Neverland.

Of course anyone who has ever visited Ford in hid office, will know that there really isn't anyone better suited to play a little boy who refuses to grow up.