Saturday, February 27, 2010

First "Crumble" Review... today's Times-Dispatch. Great cast in this one, sounds like quirky good fun.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Virginia Senate press release

"The Democratic-led Senate of Virginia today passed a two year budget that will help protect jobs and critical services in the Commonwealth. The Senate budget minimizes cuts in public education, higher education, public safety and health care services while investing in economic development initiatives that will create jobs and promote economic growth in the Commonwealth..."

"...The Senate preserved funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts, a group that had been targeted for elimination by the House of Delegates."

So far, so good...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tribute and Action

I've been late to the game in posting about this but there's a fabulous tribute that has been organized for this Friday in honor of Robert Watkins and deVeaux Riddick. Details are in this nice long Times-Dispatch story from this past weekend.

Also, Ms. Lewis reviewed "Othello." I didn't understand the "played Saturday night" references; is this show double-cast? Hmmm... Mary Burruss's review of RTP's "Facing East" is in this week's Style. Thinking I may ask my Mormon sister-in-law to check that show out with me...

I have struggled with a desire to say something about the Chris Dovi affair at Style but have decided I should just keep my fool mouth shut. It's a journalism issue, not a theater one so not one you probably want to read about. Should you want to, though, there's a recap in DC's City Paper.

Much more important to you who may be reading this: the Virginians for the Arts Rally is Thursday. Be there!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Real money

Check out the Bruce Miller's latest post at the Barksdale blog about the VCA situation. The line that hits me the hardest: "The elimination of state funding to the Virginia Commission for the Arts will cost Theatre IV and Barksdale Theatre an additional loss of $190,000 per year." You think arts in Virginia are in dire straits now? Our legislators are doing their best to make it worse.

More on the budget and VCA

I just got a note from Jacquie O'Connor from Henley Street and will reprint verbatim. If you don't think state funding for the arts has any real effect, you're wrong and if this budget goes through, we'll all feel the pain.

From Jacquie:
"I just spoke to Trish Poupore who heads the Virginians for the Arts. She told me that it is important to state in your calls or faxes that right now Virginia is at one of the lowest levels of support of any of the surrounding states. We understand the need for cutbacks, but the VCA was already cut by 30% over the last two years - certainly a fair share of the burden of the deficit. If this agency is eliminated we will be the first state in the US to have no state agency for the arts (not something that a city that just built CenterStage should be proud of!)

I encourage all of you to write and fax in your letter or call within the next two days (she also said that there is no time for a mailed letter and e-mails will be ignored.) The debate will take place on the floor this Weds, so anything sent after the end of this week will have no impact. She also asked that we send letters to the editor of the RTD within the next 2 days.

To find your representatives and more information:"


I’ve got too much to talk about to squeeze it all into one post so some things will have to wait until tomorrow. First off, new reviews: Ms. Lewis’s review of Sycamore Rouge’s “Jar the Floor” in the Times-Dispatch and John Porter’s review of Barksdale’s “First Baptist of Ivy Gap.”

Second, the latest budget from your state legislature includes provisions for drastically cutting state support of the arts, eliminating the VA Commission for the Arts by the end of FY12. If you are care about the arts in Virginia, you might want to contact your legislator and get after him/her with some of these talking points about state funding.

In news that is related only in my mind, I recently ran into Trish Poupore who used to be my neighbor at our last house on northside. I didn’t realize that she was the Executive Director of Virginians for the Arts – a great advocacy group that I now have even greater respect for knowing that she’s running the joint.

Finally, I was recently turned on to Ken Davenport’s blog. Mr. Davenport is a producer in New York, currently at work at a revival of “Godspell” (YAY!), and an interesting writer. If you want some insight into the inner-workings of New York professional theater, check it out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Single and Searching

This weekend, I’m essentially functioning as a single parent, which leads to several unique opportunities as well as challenges. Opportunity-wise, there are fewer schedules that I have to coordinate. I was thinking I might take advantage of that and sneak off to a show. I will most likely have a 6 year old in tow, however, and the challenge is that all of the shows opening these days are so grown-up. I’d love to see “Grapes of Wrath,” and I will before it closes, but John Porter's review and its reminder of the 3 hour running time (even before considering some of the subject matter) makes it decidedly not a kid’s show.

Surprisingly, “Othello” is a possibility just because with Shakespeare sometimes the language just flows over a younger child and they just take in the pageantry of a show. RTP’s “Facing East” and the Mill’s “Pete n Keely” are surprisingly similar in this one way: I fear that most of the best stuff (whether searing and emotional, or goofy and comical) would go right over a 6 year old’s head. If I was single and childless for the weekend, I would consider “First Baptist of Ivy Gap” out at Hanover Tavern because I’m partial to shows featuring beautiful and talented actresses. However, while I’m sure there are important lessons imparted by this show, I don’t think my son is ready to receive them.

So I’m thinking my best option might be Sycamore Rouge’s “Jar the Floor,” which certainly sounds grown-up but also accessible for a younger person (if the reviews I’ve read that categorize it loosely as a bit like an African-American “Golden Girls” are any indication). But even as I mull over the options, I am reminded how lucky I am to live in a city where I have so many choices.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Them Already Damned People

I haven’t seen “The Grapes of Wrath” yet but I’m working my way through the book. I know the Henry Fonda movie version is different from the book and I expect the play adaptation is as well. But about 2/3 through the book, the Joads have arrived at a government camp and young Rose of Sharon is accosted by a local holier-than-thou evangelical woman. There’s a great little throw-away piece of dialogue that I found amusing. The woman explains that the people of the camp have a dance every Saturday night. The woman finds this sinful:

“You let me warn you now. Every Sat’dy night when that there strang band starts up and should be a-playin’ hymnody, they’re a reelin’ – yes, sir, a-reelin’. I seen ‘em. Won’t go near, myself, nor I don’ let my kin go near.” She paused for emphasis and then said, in a hoarse whisper, ”They do more. They give a stage play.” She backed away and cocked her head to see how Rose of Sharon would take such a revelation.

“Actors?” the girl said in awe.

“No, sir!” the woman exploded. “Not actors, not them already damned people. Our own kinda folks. Our own people. An’ they was little children didn’ know no better in it, an’ they was pertendin’ to be stuff they wasn’t. The devil was jus’ a-struttin’ through this here camp”


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Facing Mondo

Mr. Porter had posted his assessment of RTP's "Facing East." I drove by the new Altamont venue after lunch at Joy Garden earlier this week. It looks great and I'm looking forward to seeing a show there. Still no posting at the RTD of the review of "Ivy Gap." So it goes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

“Brilliance” = Hypocrisy

I’m an unabashed liberal when it comes to social issues. I could go into a long diatribe about my personal whys and wherefores but it’d probably bore you. I’m just saying it up front because, if it’s a problem for you, I would suggest you stop reading.

I’m currently all het up because of a recent political maneuver in the Virginia General Assembly. As detailed in this summary, the House recently acted to divert funding from a proposed pro-choice license plate away from Planned Parenthood. Look, I don’t really care if there is a pro-choice license plate. But some people care enough about at least the appearance of fairness in government and these people acted to create an alternative to the already-out-there “Choose Life” license plate. I’m cynical enough to feel convinced there is actually very little fairness in government but I’m willing to play along.

While I frankly don’t care enough to lobby for something trivial like a license plate, I do get steamed when politicians, in what “pro-life advocates are hailing as a brilliant legislative move,” target this effort in a specific and prejudicial way. This is not brilliance, it’s simple hypocrisy. It’s Virginia politicians saying that they want to change the rules that apply to everyone else because they don’t like this one group and its perceived agenda. I’m sure there was plenty of high-fiving among douche bag legislators when they came up with this plan. Personally, I’d like to see them banished to a specific level in hell.

The Virginia Senate passed the original bill where the funds generated by the license plate will go where they were originally targetted. If you care at all about this, you’ll encourage your legislator to support the Senate version when this bill is reconciled.

Perhaps most ridiculous to me is that this is what our politicians are wasting our tax dollars on. I’d love to see such legislative “brilliance” put to use in lowering our taxes while maintaining our infrastructure, or into innovative ways to improve social services, or into moving Virginia up from its rank as 31st in the country in state support for the arts. That would be the sign of a forward-looking, solution-oriented legislature of the kind that would truly be serving the interests of Virginians. This license-plate manuever is classic hypocritical, spiteful, and tricky politics at its worst. The only “brilliant” thing about it is that those who engineered it will probably end up being praised for ingenuity instead of vilified for their lack of principles.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Au Revoir, Aaron

I got a quick note from Aaron Gilchrist of NBC12 mentioning that he was taking a job in Washington. Richmond’s loss is definitely Washington’s gain. Aaron was more than just a host for the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards this year, he was a classy and committed partner in making the event come off well. The famous Forrest Gump phrase about a box of chocolates definitely applies to any “celebrity” you sign up to headline an event. I expect there are some who just show up, stand where they are told, and stick to the script. Aaron truly embraced the RTCC awards, attending last year even when he wasn’t hosting, and bringing many original and inspired touches to the proceedings this year. Perhaps more important than anything else, he was an exceptionally good sport, smart, enthusiastic, not pompous in the least, a joy to work with and approaching everything with a good sense of humor. It also didn’t hurt that was exceedingly easy on the eyes!

I don’t often get an opportunity to tune into the Noon news but, every time I was able to, I was impressed by Aaron’s on-air skills. Next week will be Aaron’s last at NBC12. Please tune in to check out his last days and join me in wishing him well in his future endeavors!

PS: I just realized that I pulled Henley's "A Servant of Two Masters" from the "Now Showing" listing even though it still has a show this Friday. Sorry about that! Also in scheduling news, Richmond Shakespeare usually does staged readings every second Tuesday. However, because of the weather weirdness (I expect), their take on "The Merchant of Venice" starring the lovely and amazing Foleys, will take the stage next Wednesday (Feb. 24). FYI!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Up in the Air

The recent weather events seemed to throw many plans / projects into a whirlwind of reschedulings, cancellations and catch-ups. That’s certainly been the case here at my blog. If we don’t get dumped on again today, perhaps some semblance of normalcy can return.

Several shows have managed to open and a few reviews have hit the papers. Susan Haubenstock raved about RTP’s “Facing East;” the new facility plus an opportunity to see the lovely and talented Melissa Johnston Price has put this show on my “must see” list. (BTW: my lovely wife says that Vera Farmiga, who is so incredible in the movie "Up in the Air," reminds her of Ms. Price; what do you think?) I’ll also have to get out to the Barksdale / VCU co-pro of “Grapes of Wrath” which Ms. Haubenstock was not as enamored of. But I’m reading the book for school so seeing the story in 3D is imperative. It also may act as a little bit of a Cliffs Note situation for me: I’m having a heck of a time slogging through the text.

The Times-Dispatch had a little bit of a weird placeholder for a review of “First Baptist of Ivy Gap.” I’m not sure if a review actually appeared in the paper – maybe it got lost in the snow?

I made it to the last performance of “Song of Mulan,” where there was an absolute crush of humanity at the box office before the show started. Many kudos to the Theatre IV box office staff for handling the mess of reschedulings and changes and various special circumstances, all while their credit card system seemed to have crashed. Much patience and professionalism was demonstrated.

I’ll have some thoughts on “Mulan” and “Grapes” in the days ahead. In the meantime, I’ve also added a few more “Otherwise Occupied” links. Feel free to send me more if you like. I can’t promise an overwhelming response but every little bit helps, right?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Pete ‘n’ Keely ‘n’ Susie

Somewhere amidst the past snowy few days, Susan Haubenstock’s review of “Pete ‘n’ Keely” appeared in the Times-Dispatch. I’m glad other critics are managing to get to these shows. Personally, since Henley’s “Servant” it’s been a no-go for me. Hopefully that will change in the coming weeks. (Also, if you want to see some fun pictures from "P-n-K," you might check out Robyn O'Neill's website that has several entries referring to the show.)

To follow up on the below, the checks are in the mail, abetted by a little Super Bowl-related windfall. Also, if you look to the left there, I’ve started to build a list of theater peeps I know who offer not-strictly-theater related services and who have a website that I can link to. I’ll continue to add to the list as I find / hear of others. Also note that I’ve linked to the RVAT website’s “Services” page where people who don’t have a full-fledged website (and even those that do) can list themselves. Finally, I’ve included a link to the “Richmond Theatre Loop” Ning network. I was a little confused by a previous experience with Ning but I know many people use it with much success.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Two Half-formed Ideas

I’ve heard / read statements from three different local theater companies about the serious impact the snow is having on their finances. Here’s a wacky idea that I’m going to follow through on come Monday morning: I’m going to send a check that would cover one admission to companies whose shows I might have gone to these two past weekends but didn’t because of the snow. And I would encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. Pick your favorite company, or even a few, and send them a check for one admission (or, if you can, two or 10 admissions). It won’t completely make up for lost attendance from these past weekends but every little bit will help.

Also, it occurred to me recently that many of the talented theater folks in town have prodigious and varied talents off the stage and many offer services that other theater people might want to make use of. Jimmy Hicks is an accomplished massage therapist. Jen Meharg and Vicki McLeod are personal trainers. Michael Hawke is a real estate agent. My wife tells me Lauren Leinhaas-Cook does catering. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Wouldn’t you prefer to support one of your fellow thespians as you go about your business?

But where can you go if, for instance, you are looking for a personal trainer and you’d like to see if a fellow theater person offers those services? Is there some secret underground listing? Nowhere I know of. That’s kind of a shame. I might suggest that people could talk to Lisa Kotula about listing themselves in the Richmond Marquee. Or, if people are interested, I was thinking of adding a new section on the left side there to post links to folks’ professional listings if they have them. I have to think up a snazzy / silly name for it but, once I do, I’ll be moving the link to Robyn O’Neill’s Photography web page into it forthwith, at least, and any other links I can come up with. Any other ideas for increasing commerce between those of the theatrically-inclined?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Golda's Balcony

Historical theater is something very near and dear to my heart. I was spurred to read Mark Twain as a kid thanks to a TV broadcast of Hal Holbrook's seminal, long-running show dramatizing the life and wit of Mr. Clemens. One of my favorite local productions was Swift Creek Mill's production of "Diary of Anne Frank" starring my lovely wife and Paul Deiss. I spent a semester studying 19th century theater, finding out how vital it was to the building of American culture and how instrumental it was in spurring the Civil War (via stage adaptations of Uncle Tom's Cabin). Scott Wichmann's astounding work in "I Am My Own Wife" remains one of most riveting performances I've ever seen.

Starting tonight, the JCC will be running a production of 'Golda's Balcony' starring one of Richmond's finest actresses, Jackie Jones in the story of Israel's Golda Meir. The weather might get in the way this weekend but you should try to find a chance to see it. Beyond what will undoubtedly be a bravura performance by Ms. Jones, it's a great opportunity to take in some fascinating history in an easy-to-digest and entertaining format. History lives via this kind of theater and theater lives by making this kind of history vital and relevant.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Pete 'n' Keely

Sometimes I'll go for months without hearing the mellifluous voice of John Porter on the radio. It seems I've heard every single one of his reviews so far this year, including his not-so-favorable take on the Mill's "Pete 'n' Keely" that was broadcast last night. I don't know what that portends for the year ahead, but I'm not complainin'.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Oh, and I almost forgot, "The Song of Mulan" squeezed in their opening night before the blizzard and Susan Haubenstock had a review in Sunday's paper. FYI!


While helping to prepare a moderately epic meal on Sunday – the snow enabling the whole Tline clan to gather and eat at the same time for the first time in what seemed like eons – I had an unfortunate cheese grater accident that ripped a fairly sizable chunk out of the tip of my right index finger. The resultant bandages are making typing quickly a bit of a challenge – resulting in numerous ‘n’s turning into ‘m’s – so I apologize for any typos that may follow.

Luckily, I had already spent many hours out in the glorious snow by that point, my favorite time being wandering through the still significant blizzard early Saturday afternoon. I hope you enjoyed the weather as well.

Before the deluge of white began, two-thirds of the clan had managed to make it out to “A Servant of Two Masters” on Friday. Maybe it was because it had been more than a month since I’d seen a show or maybe it was because the house was packed with an overflow crowd of theater lovers who managed to be enthusiastic without being obnoxious but, whatever the reason, I left the show with an irrational urge to heap praise on the production and all involved. As I tend to refrain from such gushing torrents of positivity (I think they revoke your critics card if you do that too often), I’m going to narrow my praise to three specific people.

Of course, I have to mention Richard Koch who showed extreme dexterity and a depth of silliness in his portrayal of the titular servant. Mr. Koch has done an amazing job playing one of the Marx Brothers before but, to me, this role was kind of like all three of them rolled into one. Koch was adroit at projecting the sarcastic wit, the scatological and slapstick humor, some rapid-fire wordplay and even the kernel of dignity and pride that the role required. Just as with last season’s “Richard III,” this was a production that shined the spotlight distinctly on one of Richmond’s finest talents and Richard was more than up to the challenge.

I was delightfully surprised by the performance of Christina Billew, who brought an extravagant physicality to her role as Clarice, the young betrothed maiden whose life becomes a torrent of conflicting emotions. Her kewpie-doll good looks – enhanced by fabulous make-up – served her character well but it was her commitment to the extremes of the situations that enlivened all of her scenes. I don’t know how long Christina has been in and around Richmond – for quite a time I think – but I saw her in a completely new light on Friday. I hope to see her on stage again soon.

Finally, director James Ricks does a fantastic job of shaping the frantic and frivolous into a sharp and coherent whole. The action moved at a brisk pace that enhanced the fun and there were several moments – even in the midst of Richard’s most manic machinations – where a steady hand could be sensed guiding the proceedings. I think Mr. Ricks has always done fine work but this show – added to the good stuff I heard about “Shining City” – made me add him to the short list of directors whose next production I will look for with heightened anticipation.

Of course, there were many other highlights in this production – the hilarious and sumptuous Lyddall Bugg, the bravado of Matt Hackman, the flamboyant costumes by Rebecca Cairns, etc. etc. – but I want to keep the fever of my enthusiasm at a low boil. If you haven’t seen this production, you owe it to yourself to go and be thoroughly entertained.