Susan Haubenstock’s review of The Fiddler’s House was in Sunday’s T-D. Worth a read if you haven’t read it yet. My thoughts on the production will wait until my review is published but I will say that I concur with many of Ms. Haubenstock’s observations.
One of the intriguing things about Fiddler’s House is that is was written by – and the Chamberlayne Actors Theatre production is directed by – Richmonder Sheryle Criswell. Criswell’s play is the first in a whole season of Richmond premieres that CAT will be producing this year. That’s certainly a bold choice by the ever-intriguing company and it opens the door to a topic that I’ve wondered about for some time now.
Over the years, people have talked to me – or challenged me – with questions along the lines of “what would it take for Richmond to be a major theater town?” Some people have argued that we need to promote local playwrights like Ms. Criswell because only when we have home-grown talent doing significant new work will Richmond become a location of note in the theater world. Others have said that, regardless of the playwright’s home town, theaters in Richmond need to be doing more world premieres. This is certainly worthy of attention given the substantial amount of press directed towards Virginia Stage’s recent opening of SCKBSTD and work that the Signature in NoVA has done in the past that has eventually made it to the Great White Way (specifically Glory Days.)
I’m always intrigued by those who assert that only when Richmond gets better theater critics will Richmond theater garner world-class status. While I definitely think there are arguments to be made about the role of critics in the development and growth of a theater scene, I think that particular one puts the cart before the horse. Then there are those that tell me that, even with several fantastic collegiate theater programs in the area and one of the largest touring companies in the country located here (i.e., Theatre IV), Richmond is simply not big enough to foster a theater scene that could ever become significant on a national level and everyone should just focus on doing the best theater that can be done given the fiscal, demographic and institutional constraints inherent in producing theater in Richmond.
As always, I’m interested in what others – particularly others who are involved in local theater in a more day-to-day, livelihood-depends-on-it kind of way – think about this question. Or if they even think it’s a question worth asking. What do you think?