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!