Wednesday, September 30, 2009


OK, people out there who don't like critics, I get it. You don't like critics, don't think we serve a purpose, wish there were no such thing. It's not worth arguing anymore. I'll trot out my old analogy: arguing over the value of critics in the artistic process with you all is like fighting over whether God is a man or woman to an athiest. You don't believe and never will. That's fine.

I'll offer another analogy: critics are like state-run lotteries. Some people think they're just plain fun, some think they are a vital but unfortunate aspect of the process, still others think they are evil and should be banned. Many don't even give them a second thought. The thing is: critics have been around as long as there has been theater and I expect they'll be around as long as there is any kind of performing arts, television, movies, virtual 3D interactive experiences, etc.

Before state-run lotteries, there were (and still are) illegal numbers games. If I wasn't published in Style, I would still write my opinions on this blog and some people would still be interested in them (even if it was just my wife and children). People have always been interested in opinions expressed in a literate (or even semi-literate) way, which is why newspaper have always had editorial pages.

So the bottom line to me is that, whether you like it or not, critics are here. If you don't like it, for God's sake, please stop reading my blog and wasting my time. My opinion is not worth anything to you, so why do you waste your time reading it?

Beyond that, I'm bored with this discussion and I expect others -- who come to this space to read about theater, not about critics -- are bored as well. So comment away if you like -- on someone else's blog. But this particular topic is closed as far as I'm concerned.

More notices, more posts

For those who are interested in what a critic might have to say, Mary Burruss has a review of "Boleros for the Disenchanted" in this week's Style and John Porter has made his opinion of "Souvenir" available on his blog. Of course, there are some people who are still holding their breath, squeezing their eyes tight, and hoping critics will just go away, like a commenter on Bruce's post related to Julinda Lewis on the Barksdale Blog.

I like the assertion the commenter makes that he/she just doesn't see the PURPOSE of critics. The funny thing is that publications still seem to see the purpose for them because they continue to pay us for our opinion. Another funny thing is that, while some people apparently don't value critics at all, others chastise the Times-Dispatch for not caring enough about the arts to hire a full-time, "qualified" critic. But, for the critic-haters, the best service the T-D (and Style and WCVE...) could do would be to fire all of their critics (or maybe kill them, as per Bruce's commenter) and just make more room for ad space. Heck, why not make the whole paper ads? I'd certainly pay for that paper! (not)

I also like the commenter's assertion that word-of-mouth is the "only truly accurate opinion." Hmmm... I sense a whiff of oxymoron around that one. There's the strictly definitional contradiction. But also, if I based my theater-going on word-of-mouth only, I'd see 10% of the shows I see. I've heard people -- often theater people -- rail against shows because of aspects of a production I didn't care about or didn't notice. I've heard others dismiss shows because they have the word "fuck" in them or because they involve unsavory things like, well, goat-fucking. You see, everyone's a critic. Some are just paid.

Monday, September 28, 2009

“Well, I guess that’s it”

So this past Saturday night was almost indescribable in its cumulative weirdness. But try to describe it I will. I apologize if I impugn any individuals I don’t mean to impugn in the course of relating this story; I really will try to describe only what transpired. But I’m sure some editorial commentary will slip in reflecting my bewilderment about certain specific circumstances. Restraint may end up being a vain hope before I am done.

I had made reservations for 6:30pm at the Hanover Tavern and Pub. My wife and I had promised to take my mom out to a show for nearly 9 months running and finally the stars aligned to make it happen. But when those stars align, sometimes it can be dangerous.

If you remember, it was kind of a sloppy, rainy night Saturday. We live south of the river, my mom lives in the west end and the Tavern is up near Ashland. As so often happens in Richmond, the weather intimidated some drivers so completely that they insisted on driving 10 miles per hour below the speed limit along lengthy two-lane rural roads. The cumulative effect of this over the course of our travels resulted in us arriving 10 minutes late for our reservation.

When we informed the maitre’d, she exclaimed, “Wow, you all are pushin’ it!” She handed us off to a hostess who in turn exclaimed incredulously, “You all are here for theater?!?!” She took us up to our table and instructed us, “Be SURE and tell your server you are here for theater.” Apparently, arriving only 80 minutes before the show was the cause for considerable distress among the waitstaff. I should say that I know that their intentions were good and their concern was in a way admirable. But the effect of their alarm was to make us feel in a way chastised and a bit defensive.

The very nice waitress took our drink order and then disappeared for 10 minutes. When she came back, she looked at the menus we had been dutifully studying and told us they were the wrong ones. She gave us the “theater” menus and then disappeared for another 10 minutes. When we finally ordered, taking note of the rampant anxiety about the time, we said that we are happy to take our dessert during intermission. I should note that, at this time, still being only barely past 7pm, we aren’t really worried. But still, better safe than sorry, right?

Repeatedly during the ensuing 30 minutes, we catch snippets of the waitstaff at the wait-station immediately behind us in conversation, saying “I don’t think they are going to make it.” “It’s going to be really close with them.” Etc. Etc. We are served our salads around 7:10 and our entrees by 7:20ish (“we don’t mean to rush you”) and the food is fantastic. We have a second glass of wine. All seems to be going well until we see our waitress suddenly rushing past us and then down the stairs in a near-panic. We look back at the wait-station and our hostess is coughing and gagging and generally in a bad way. We ask “are you OK?” She shakes her head “No.” We are confused and consider whether we should call 911. The waitress returns saying, “She’s gone.” The hostess is having an asthma attack and the waitress was trying to find the maitre-d to borrow an inhaler from her. The maitre-d has left for the night. The hostess puts her head in a freezer for several minutes. We hold tight, cell phones at the ready as she slowly recovers, which she does. Whew!

We finish our entrees and have coffee and it’s 7:45pm. The waitress is delightful. We’ve shared this tense situation and I think we all feel closer. The waitress says, “we could bring you your dessert now if you want.” No, we’ll stick with the original plan.

We settle up and head down to the theater. We’re in the center of the house, about 4 rows up, nice seats. After a few minutes, the lights start to go down. The recorded curtain speech. The buzz of conversation starts to fade. Except right over my right shoulder, one couple continues to talk…and loudly. “WELL, I DON’T KNOW. IT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE FUNNY.” “I GUESS WE’LL SEE.” “WE CAN ALWAYS LEAVE IF WE DON’T LIKE IT.”

The play starts. Jonathan Spivey plays and sings with cheerful confidence. He starts his narration. The couple behind us has been quiet for maybe 5 minutes before they begin to comment. “HER NAME IS FLORENCE. I THINK THIS IS AFTER SHE’S DIED.” My wife and I both turn and give the couple “the look.” They are quiet for another stretch. We meet Florence / Debra. Eventually, she sings. “OH, THAT’S BAD. THAT’S REALLY BAD.” “HOW CAN SHE NOT KNOW SHE’S SO BAD?” Again, the look. The crowd is looser now because of the laughter, and it apparently doesn’t register. “SHE WOULD HAVE TO RENT A HALL FOR PEOPLE TO COME HEAR THAT.” “DO YOU THINK SHE’S GOING TO GET BETTER?” Finally, my wife leans back and assertively Shushes them.

We then get a nice little chunk of commentary-free action before, about 30 minutes into the show, a door at the very front of the house-right section – that is, in view of everybody else in the audience – opens and three people in wheelchairs slowly roll into the house. They creep forward slowly and I – and I expect a few dozen other people in the house – try mightily to maintain our focus on the action on the stage. There doesn’t seem to be anyone attending them. Then, the woman in the first wheelchair rolls that one inch too many and – as we all look on in horror – the front wheels of her chair slip over a small step and she is thrown forward out of the chair with the chair toppling over on top of her.

A gasp goes through the crowd. No one in the house-right section seems to know what’s going on. Finally, a man in the front of the center section walks across the stage to get to the woman. At this point, Debra – the unbelievably composed and consummate professional that she is – says, “I think we need to hold.” Chase comes out from backstage. No one seems to be attending these people. Chase and the center section guy are able to get the woman back in her chair. It’s still not clear if anyone came with the people in the wheelchairs to assist them. After a couple of minutes – that must have seemed like an eternity to Jonathan and Debra – the people in wheelchairs seem to be situated. Debra asks whether everyone is ok. There is no answer. Debra asks whether it is ok for the show to continue. There is no answer. Finally, my wife – and perhaps some others from the audience – yell out to Debra that everything seems to be OK. Demonstrating her skill and composure again, Debra says to Jonathan something to the effect of “let’s take it from bar 22 then shall we?” and they bravely and flawlessly pick back up again.

Well, as if this was not interesting enough already, in addition to the three people in wheelchairs, there is another man with the crowd of latecomers who seems to have some neurological disorder. A few minutes after the action starts up again, he starts making small noises and little gestures. He appears to be cold and at one point puts a shirt or jacket over his head. Later, he’ll get up from his seat and move to another empty seat at the end of his row. I’m aware of this because his actions are accompanied by noises and, with each one, I watch the heads of the people in the four rows in front of me all turn toward the house-right section.

Let me interject that there have been shows at the Empire I have gone to where differently-abled patrons and antsy children have been in attendance. In a big theater and amidst the sounds of a big musical, small distractions can be tuned out. In the intimacy of the Tavern’s theater, they are unavoidable.

The lights come up for the end of Act I and the woman sitting next to Holly says cheerfully, “Well, I guess that’s it!”

At intermission, we retire to the Pub for our desserts (incidentally – and this kind of feels like piling on but, in the interest of completeness, my mom’s dessert ends up not being what she ordered). Crème brule and Pecan Pie -- truly delicious and I would highly recommend them. A woman that is sitting two rows behind us thanks my wife for “shushing” the loud-talkers in the row between us. We see Joe Pabst and express our support and admiration for Debra. We hear later that, at some point during intermission, Chase falls down a flight of stairs, which is why he is limping when we see him at the end of the show.

We return to our seats for the second act and the loud talkers are at it. “WELL, I JUST DON’T SEE WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO DO WITH IT NOW.” “IT SEEMS LIKE SHE’S GOING TO KEEP SINGING THAT WAY; I THINK THAT’S GOING TO BE THE WHOLE JOKE.” We give them “the look” as the lights go down and that seems to settle them down.

The second act proceeds without significant incident except for the repeated grunts, peeps, and exclamations from house-right. There is a woman not in a wheelchair with them. The noise-maker moves next to her and starts poking her. Quiet moments on stage are interrupted by high-pitched “woo”s from house right. I focus as intently as I can on Debra and Jonathan.

The show progresses with much hilarity and appreciation from the audience. The concert at Carnegie Hall wows the crowd. Things move deliberately toward the moving, magnificent final scene. Debra comes out and begins to sing. Only about 3 bars into the song and already a tear is flowing down my wife’s cheek. The crowd is rapt – even our friends in house-right. And at about this point, the sound of about 10 hard candy wrappers all being removed at once starts to rise from the woman sitting next to my wife. She has a Styrofoam container in a plastic bag with (apparently) her leftovers from dinner. At this point – at the epic pinnacle of the entire show – she decides to check to make sure her food has not somehow escaped the container. She shuffles it back and forth in her lap, loudly and persistently. My blood pressure begins to rise to dangerous levels. After about a solid minute of this wretched, interminable noise, my wife grabs the woman’s arm, prepared to chastise her. The woman is apparently shocked by this sudden contact and freezes. Debra finishes her song. It is a beautiful moment – a transcendent moment – and all I am hearing is a horrid echo of a squeaky Styrofoam container.

Our standing ovation is immediate and fervent, if for no other reason to dispel some of the built up frustration of the entire night. We leave the theater and we walk off into the dreary night, with curses on our lips for the ungracious, the inept, the ignorant and the inconsiderate. I think many thoughts that I will be ashamed of later.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cavalcade of coverage

In the past couple of days, John Porter’s review of “Irma Vep” hit his website; Celia Wren went in-depth on Henley Street’s new Artistic Director, James Ricks; and Julinda Lewis talked about “Souvenir.” Who says there’s no theater coverage in this town? In comparison, a perusal of the Washington Post’s Sunday Style&Arts section doesn’t have a single story about theater (though it does have a full-page story on two Rockville men getting married leading off the wedding announcements, something we probably won’t see here for a while).

My lovely wife, my lovely mother and I had the most infuriating, surreal, and so-ridiculous-it-became-hilarious nights I've ever had at the theater last night, amidst which was Barksdale’s quite fine production of “Souvenir.” I’ll weigh in on the show (and the night) soon but many kudos go out to Debra Wagoner and Jonathan Spivey who held it together admirably during a night full of … um, well, challenges would be putting it mildly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watch the Racks

Fall is an exciting time of year for so many reasons. One that might not be on your radar is that its when Richmond magazine announces the Theresa Pollak Prizes for Excellence in the Arts. I've got a little insider info on this one and I can tell you theater fans that you might want to check out the list, for at least one honoree in particular. If you ask me, it's one of their most inspired choices to date and it makes me smile every time I think about it. The announcement will be in the October issue which I think hits the racks next week.

Speaking of the Pollak prizes, previous winner Debra Wagoner opens in "Souvenir" out at the Tavern tonight. You might want to check it out to see just why the Divine Ms. W is such a prize!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Enchanted by "the Disenchanted"

I was lucky enough to be driving when John Porter's review of "Boleros" was broadcast yesterday. But I'm very happy that John has started posting his reviews on his blog so you don't have to be tuned in to hear them. It's not the same without his mellifluous voice speaking the words but you'll just have to use your imagination for that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Boys and Man

Mary Burruss's review of "Boy's Life" showed up on the Style site this afternoon. It's nice to see Maggie Marlin's performance spotlighted.

Also, you may have heard that Henley Street has pushed it's opening of "Shining City" back a week. If you have heard the reason, you know that it's fairly miraculous that the production is happening at all. The show's star, Joe Inscoe, had a mild heart attack this past weekend. Whereas you might think that would necessitate some serious re-working in the production, apparently Joe was telling the docs to hurry up and get him out of the hospital because he had a show to open next weekend.

As Jacquie O'Connor put it: "I would say Joe is the definition of 'The show must go on." I'll say!

Here's hoping for Joe's quick and robust recovery and for a fabulous run of "Shining City!"

Presenting the Presenters

First things first: John Porter has weighed in on Firehouse’s “Boy’s Life.” Check it out.

I only caught a little bit of the Emmys on Sunday but enough to peak my appetite for seeing beautiful people dressed up pretty. Neil Patrick Harris is a lot of fun as well as being a dashing man.

At this particular moment, I’m in the lounge of a car dealership watching Aaron Gilchrist on NBC 12 and he is one dashing man as well. And while he may not be willing to show off his singing voice like NPH, he is also a good sport and I am reminded that we are lucky to have him as Master of Ceremonies of the RTCC awards.

When we announced the nominees for the awards, we noted that two of the award presenters were going to be Mayor Dwight Jones and best-selling author David Robbins. Since then, several other great award presenters have agreed to join us for the evening.

I’ve already mentioned that Sabrina Squire is going to be a very special guest star, drawing the winner of two tickets to “Avenue Q.” Among the other people you’ll see on stage are:

Dr. Aaron Anderson, professor of Voice and Movement at Theatre VCU.

Jeanne Boisineau, renowned Hollywood casting director and local actress.

Melissa Chase, afternoon drive host for Q94 and disc spinner for XM Radio Channel 21.

David Fisk, executive director of the Richmond Symphony.

Virgil Hazelett, Henrico County Manager and recently named #1 on Style’s Power List.

Harry Kollatz, local author, senior writer for Richmond Magazine, and cofounder of the Firehouse Theater.

Keith Martin, Managing Director of the Richmond Ballet.

Rita McClenney , director of the Virginia Film Office.

And that’s just the people we’ve invited who are not active members of the theater community. I’m just as excited to have many of the RTCC winners from last year back on stage to present awards this year. Among them are: Audra Honaker, Jason Marks, Jenn Meharg, Stephen Ryan, Debra Wagoner, and Irene Zeigler.

And finally, two beautiful women who were also on stage last year will be featured on stage again this year: the stunning and multi-talented Dawn Westbrook-Boyd will present the Best Acting Ensemble award and the delightfully entertaining and lovely Jill Bari Steinberg will be co-presenting with the Mayor, hopefully keeping him on message.

What a lineup, ay? Have you got your tickets yet?

Monday, September 21, 2009


Wow, it seems like forever since there has been two shows opening on a weekend! But “Boleros” stormed the stage at the Barksdale on Friday, followed by the stormy “Irma Vep” on Saturday. I missed them both thanks to an over-stressed lower back but Ms. Haubenstock at the T-D made them both. So you have her take on “Vep” in today’s edition to compliment the review of “Boleros” that ran over the weekend. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting Hep to "Vep"

Tonight is the first preview for “The Mystery of Irma Vep” down at Swift Creek Mill. In contrast to their season opener last year – the substantially casted “Sideshow” – “Vep” is a two-hander that will star a couple Mill faves, David Janeski and John Hagadorn. I’m a little nervous about the possible “Big Tuna”-esque nature of the show – a genre many people love but that I’m not an unconditional fan of – but I think Mssrs. Janeski and Hagadorn are both accomplished enough to make it interesting at least, and quite possibly delightful at most.

In looking over the rest of the Mill’s season, I’m a little surprised not to see any big cast musical of the “Sideshow” or even the “Altar Boyz” variety. As you can tell from the numerous RTCC award nominations, “Altar Boyz” was a definite fave among us critics last season. Personally, I brought nearly my entire clan to the show and they all had a fabulous time.

Musicals have a long and storied history at the Mill and some of my favorite locally-produced musicals of all time have been bigger Mill shows (both of the “Joseph / Dreamcoat” productions they’ve done in relatively recent history, the original “Smoke on the Mountain” of course…) So I have to admit a sense of disappointment that the musicals on their slate this season are a variety show and a two-hander (“Pete ‘n Keely”).

Still, with Stage 1’s demise, the number of musicals in general is going to be reduced this season, so beggars can’t really be choosers. And a dearth of the big cast variety will just heighten my anticipation for “Sound of Music” in the Spring.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CenterStage and Sabrina in the Sun

Just a warning: I’m going to be pretty relentless with chatter about the RTCC awards, for two main reasons. One is that there is a lot to say – news about presenters, analysis of nominees, alerts about media appearances, etc. The other is that, according to the ticket masters (not to be confused with TicketMaster) at the Empire, there are still plenty of people who have not bought tickets yet.

Here’s a nice tidbit: as part of the awards this year, we will be raffling off two tickets to the traveling production of “Avenue Q” that will be playing at the glorious Carpenter Theatre in November.

And as a special guest on hand to select the winner we will have the stunning and articulate Sabrina Squire! It will truly be a night of stars.

On the newsstands this week, Style has a nice summary of the CenterStage opening written by Ed Slipek. But that’s not all: Richard Foster goes in-depth with his look at Tony Cosby’s production of “Raisin in the Sun” and Mary Burruss explores rare territory for Style, checking out Artist’s Gang’s production of “Trial of the Catonsville 9” at the Modlin Center.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I made it (barely) to the CenterStage open house on Sunday and, like most everyone else I've talked to, was enchanted by what I saw. The Carpenter Theatre is truly gorgeous but the other funky spaces are what particularly tickle my interest. The Gottwald Theatre and Rhythm Hall are the kind of flexible but beautifully designed venues that can be used for a myriad of interesting and exciting productions. While the Carpenter dazzles the senses -- and I can't wait to see a performance there -- the other spaces spark the imagination, IMHO.

I have a couple CenterStage magnets prominently stuck on my fridge now. The key to the whole enterprise, of course, is now that we have these beautiful spaces in Richmond, can the productions that are put up there draw audiences reliably, regularly, and sufficiently. We have the magnet; will the people feel the force of the attraction? I really hope so.

Speaking of attraction, "Boy's Life" is attracting accolades from everyone I've talked to, and that sentiment is reflected in Ms. Haubenstock's glowing review in Saturday's T-D. Seems like this is another Firehouse season opener that is full of magnetism!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Up Up and Away!

After several weeks of anticipation, theater in Richmond finally kicks off tonight with the opening of “Boy’s Life,” continuing on Saturday with the monster grand opening down at CenterStage. A huge swath of the theater pros in town are involved in one way or another – have you seen the group from SPARC doing scenes from “Les Mis?” Wow!

It’s hard for me not to feel some pangs of regret about not jumping on tickets earlier but I take some solace in knowing that I’m not alone. After a Facebook posting where I mentioned that I wouldn’t be spending this month’s school supply budget on the $85+ tickets, I heard from numerous other theater folks who won’t be at the grand opening. We’ll be wandering around during the tours on Sunday though.

As any true theater geek knows, last night was the premiere of “Glee” on TV. I have to say that this is the only TV show that has been on my wife’s radar since before I can remember. If nothing else, the success of this show will be a gauge of how big the theater geek audience is across the country.

Speaking of TV, another graduate of “American Idol” showed up on stage again, with Diana De Garmo debuting in “Toxic Avenger: the Musical” off-Broadway. So far, the reviews I’ve read, both in Entertainment Weekly and Theatre Mania, have been positive. I have to say that a show that has a song called ''Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore” probably would have grabbed my attention even without Ms. De Garmo attached. (Still doesn’t top “Avenue Q” for provocative song titles though; I still smile at “The Internet is for Porn” years after the shock value has worn off.)

One final TV item: reading that “Lost” is casting for a teenager, maybe to play young Sawyer, I couldn’t help but think of Brian Walter who was in "Henry V" this summer. Maybe a bit too old, maybe not rough enough around the edges to be Sawyer but still, seems like a good fit to me. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Weekly strength

This week's Style is another keeper, with the Fall Arts preview being front and center. You can skim my theater season preview or delve into Ms. Burruss's profile of the Conciliation Project or explicate our new editor's interview with John Bryan of CultureWorks. These, plus other dance and visual arts pieces, make for diverting and often entertaining reading.

I shouldn't short-change our town's daily, however, which had a great preview of this Saturday's CenterStage opening in the paper this past Sunday, plus a mention of a little ole awards show that's happening later in October. It is in print so it must actually be happening! Or maybe we have to wait until it gets mentioned on TV?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Last Year

Someone sent me a question asking where someone could find a listing of the winners of last year's RTCC awards. If you are interested, they can be found on the site. FYI!

Friday, September 04, 2009

A Life in Theater

The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards gala is in 6 weeks. Have you bought your tickets yet? Next week, I’ll have a couple exciting announcements to make regarding the event: we’ve lined up a few more award presenters that should pique your interest and there’s a special bonus gift that every attendee will have a shot at winning. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, shows are due to start opening any day now. In recent years, Swift Creek Mill has been the first company out of the starting block, premiering its fall show in late August. This year, it’ll be the Firehouse, with “Boy’s Life” hitting the stage next Thursday.

I saw this show in New York many years ago, and frankly came away not particularly excited about it. However, the Richmond production has many reasons arguing for serious consideration (many of which allow me to pimp the awards show even more…)

Among the stars are Landon Nagel and Maggie Marlin, two RTCC award nominees for their starring turns in Barksdale’s “Children of a Lesser God” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” respectively. Mr. Nagel was also a stitch during the 1st RTCC awards gala with his hilarious duet with Jason Marks from “Guys and Dolls.” I’ve only seen Ms. Marlin in musicals – she was an exceptional Velma in VCU’s “Chicago” – so I’ll be curious to see her in a straight role.

Joe Carlson, a 2008 RTCC nominee, put in a fervent performance as Laertes in “Hamlet” this past spring and summer for Richmond Shakespeare, one that fostered some fervent advocacy among the RTCC members this year. Mr. Carlson’s intensity makes nearly everything he does worth watching. Also featured will be Alison Haracznak who has highlighted productions by Henley Street, Sycamore Rouge and most recently for the Night Light Collective. She is another actor who is never boring on stage.

The fearless leader of these talented folks and the rest of the cast will be Morrie Piersol, who directed the winner of Best Play at last year’s Artsies, “The Late Henry Moss.” Mr. Piersol seems to be particularly talented at getting exceptional performances from his cast, “Henry Moss” picking up two acting awards as well. Firehouse’s fall offering tends to be a particular favorite among us RTCCers, with “Eurydice” being one of the most nominated shows from last season.

And lastly, but certainly not leastly, the sound design of “Boy’s Life” is being provided by Bryan Harris, a nominee for his work on “Eurydice.” I can still hear the crystal clear sound of drops echoing through the theater during key moments of that production, an essential aural element in the show.

It all adds up to what looks like a winning starter to the 2009-10 season. Break a leg, “Boy’s!”

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Perhaps we could talk about theater

Wow, guess all the drama doesn’t just happen on stage, huh?

Anyway, I’ve just started subscribing to the Washington Post and have noticed quite a bit of hype about the 8th annual Page-to-Stage festival at the Kennedy Center, which is happening this weekend. Now THIS sounds like a great idea! What hole have I been living in that I hadn’t heard about this before?

Sure, as others have said, a peer-led awards recognition type thing for Richmond theater would be awesome. The challenges to creating something like that are daunting, however. I’ve corresponded with people who have set up recognition vehicles in Washington and Chicago and, to make it work, you have to have a LOT of people who are HIGHLY motivated to do it. Certainly not impossible, but daunting.

But really, the whole point is to generate interest, right? Turn mildly interested citizens into ticket-buying audience members, right? And something like this Page-to-Stage thing would be just the ticket. It essentially means taking something like the CenterStage grand opening / open house and doing it every year (oh, and not charging admission for it; oh, and inviting performers outside the resident companies; and probably some other things too…)

To me, if anyone wants to generate more interest in Richmond theater and if anyone at CenterStage is reading and wants ideas for making their new venue beloved and popular, they might do well to have a conversation with the folks behind “Page-to-Stage.” Just a thought.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Official Notice

Commenting on my recent "failure to communicate" post, Anonymous complains that nominees for the RTCC awards have not received "any official sort of notice." S/he goes on to say: "Talk about a failure to communicate - don't assume everyone reads your blog. Take the time to at least contact the producers and ask them to send the messages...they have these odd pieces of paper handed out to every company member of a production...called a "Contact Sheet." I'm sure you've seen one before.

Wouldn't it be embarrassing to have someone win who wasn't there because they didn't know they had been nominated???"

Embarrassing? Hmmm. Maybe. Mostly, it would be unfortunate and I would be disappointed. But to me it would be more unfortunate if some individual who DOES read this blog didn't point out to a nominee that they were nominated if they happen to be in touch with them, perhaps by saying "hey congrats on your nomination!"

Anyway, more to the point and just so you know: members of RTCC were in contact with producers and artistic directors from each theater company months before the nominees were announced. An email with the nominee press release went to representatives of each theater company. And just for good measure, last night I sent out messages via Facebook to everyone I could think of asking them to contact those who I don't have direct contact with.

Last year, with the help of people at many different theater companies, I tracked down emails, phone numbers and sometimes home addresses for every single nominee. I sent messages, called and sent invitations. And even then, there were people who I never heard from. There are nearly 100 nominees for this event -- I will not be spending the hours it takes to make sure that every single person who is nominated has been personally contacted.

I am hopeful that the theater companies the RTCC has been in contact with care about the awards at least enough to contact nominees who were working on their productions to let them know they've been nominated. If someone does not get notified, that's unfortunate and I'm sorry. But frankly we're doing what we can and we're dependent on you all for the rest. Thanks for your help.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Others who write

It's back to school week for my kids, a decidedly mixed bag: more madness but at least it's regularly scheduled madness? Anyway, it's also back to school time for an old friend, director and former theater company AD, Rick St. Peter, who is chronicling his pursuit of a Ph. D. – and his reading of 125-odd plays – in a new blog. Definitely worth checking out.

Also, my critical co-conspirator, John Porter, has a blog going as well. His latest post talks about the RTCC awards, an event that he is a vital part of this year. I’ll be doing some more blogging about the awards as well, as soon as I re-teach myself how to make school lunches in less than 30 minutes.