Friday, October 24, 2008


I’m sitting here waiting for the Times-Dispatch website’s search function to return anything in my search for “The Nerd” – it’s been 5 minutes – so I’m thinking that Mrs. H hasn’t reviewed it yet. As far as I can tell, it opened on Wednesday at Chamberlayne Actors Theatre.

In the meantime, I’ll try to write something coherent about Sycamore Rouge’s “Read.y for Right” which I’ve been hoping to do for the past couple of days. I apologize for the delay. A lot of talented and well-meaning people obviously put a lot of effort in putting the show together. The cast is strong, particularly the leads. The singing is awesome and the large projections that set each scene are impressive.

But I left the show feeling like I’d been back to my high school history class. I’m taking graduate school history classes now and the difference between them and the ones I endured 20 years ago is stark. What I’ve discovered, to my delight, is that history is messy and it’s populated with people who were not always pure of character, even when they did good, even incredible things. The most interesting history is like the most compelling theater, full of contradictions and complexity, nuance and discovery.

While “Read.y” may accurately depict the speeches and the statements to the press that were given during the Petersburg library protest, it doesn’t bring the event to life. As I mentioned in my review, I thought the most interesting moments were the brief interludes when there was doubt or indecision or actions that resembled how most people interact in confusing, highly tense situations in real life. But these moments were pretty overwhelmed by the proclamations and the speechifying.

And the dot notation in the title still confuses me. If it is meant to emphasize “read” because it’s partially set in a library, then it makes the first word both a verb and an adjective, which is confusing intellectually, and then it also makes it unclear whether the first syllable should be spoken with a long “e” or a short “e,” which is confusing phonetically. It also somehow seems incomplete – were the protesters “Ready for their Rights?” Or were they “Reading for Rights?” Somehow, it feels like a plural needs to be in there. Maybe I’m over-thinking it but you know people form an impression about a show based on many factors, and the first thing you hear about a show is usually its title. As the old adage goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression and personally, with “Read.y for Right,” my first impression was confused.

Virginia’s theater scene is going to give us all an interesting compare-and-contrast opportunity soon: Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk will be producing “Line in the Sand,” a new play about so-called “massive resistance” and Norfolk school desegregation at the end of February. It might be worth a ride down the road to see what they do with history.

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