Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Nuclear Option

I don’t have a lot of pithy things to say about the Firehouse / Carol Piersol train wreck. And I use that phrase purposely. Like a train wreck, the situation seems to have come up suddenly, gone out of control terribly, and people have been hurt needlessly.

Here’s what I know: non-profits are challenging organizations to run. Even in my limited and relatively short experience on the one non-profit (educational) board that I served on, I was gobsmacked by the complexity of issues I faced and the sheer number of decisions that I was forced to make that seemed to have no clear-cut right answers.

Having said that, I can think of at least a dozen different ways to do what the Firehouse Board says it wanted to do and it seems to have picked the very worst way to do it. Given that, you have to wonder how skilled this particular team of people is to lead such an organization. A transition of leadership is inherently fraught with complications and lends itself to awkwardness. But there is a light year's worth of space between ‘awkward’ and ‘train wreck.’

Sure, the Firehouse is more than Carol but Carol is the heart of the organization. And you don’t rip the heart out of anything and expect there will be no repercussions. In a worst case scenario, you rip the heart out of something and it dies. Usually rather abruptly.

This is the leverage that supporters of Carol currently have. The Firehouse is also a business and businesses run on money. To torture the metaphor a bit, to get the point across to the people that matter that the heart has been ripped out of the Firehouse, make sure that the blood supply is restricted. Listings of the people and organizations that give money to the Firehouse are easy enough to obtain.

Those of you who support Carol have power. You have numbers. The story erupted on social media but this is a situation where influence is best applied interpersonally, through emails and texts directly to people who can do something about it, through phone calls, even through visits to homes and offices.

But to borrow a phrase, with power comes responsibility. The Firehouse Board clearly failed at negotiation. Carol’s supporters can and should do better. A vehement and concerted campaign that reaches out to those who fund the Firehouse is a nuclear option. It could cripple or destroy the organization. Wield it if you must but wield it with care.

In the meantime, I join those who wish Carol and Morrie the best. Carol has done amazing things at the Firehouse. Perhaps more relevant than her professional achievements right now, though, is that she has always been (to me, at least) an open, fair, level-headed, creative, enthusiastic, collaborative, and supportive professional. And, even though I don’t know all of the intricacies of what happened and why, it angers and bewilders me that she has not been treated with the courtesy and respect she deserves in this situation.

My understanding is that the Board is meeting again tonight. I hope they understand (or I hope they are helped to understand) the importance of the decisions they make at that meeting.

UPDATE: I believe I was wrong: I hear that the Board met this morning. And I haven't heard what, if anything, was discussed or decided.

Thursday, November 01, 2012


The three of you who regularly visit this slice of cyberspace know that activity here has slowed to a crawl recently. Part of this has been the result the mad busyness that happens around the RTCC awards. But another big part has been the dawning realization for me that it’s time to put my energy elsewhere.

With this blog, I was hoping to provide entrĂ©e into Richmond’s theatrical world to the public at large while also being interesting to insiders within “the community.” I think that would have required either more entertaining and engaging writing by me or the backing of some other media outlet. The latter is unlikely to appear given the current media market and the former is unlikely to materialize given my inability to devote any serious time to this endeavor (or perhaps my lack of greater talent!). Fortunately, there are all sorts of social media out there now that can do this better than I ever could, plus a new player on the scene (Show Biz Radio) that might be able to do some of the things I aspired to.

I also hoped to spur conversation about theater in Richmond and the issues involved. What seems clear to me now is conversation like that is better spurred within the community. It seems like theater insiders prefer to talk to other insiders and that, even though I’ve straddled the inside/outside line for years, most still consider me an outsider looking in. While I frankly think this is insular, I also understand it. Fortunately, my perception is that conversation within the community is at an all-time high, led by people like Adrian Rieder (on Facebook) and the folks at TheatreLAB (with their “experiment.”) This kind of self-analysis is critical, I think, for Richmond theater to reach the potential I have always thought it could achieve.

Rather than limp along sporadically, I’m officially closing up shop here at Dave’s Theater Blog. I’ll probably maintain the show listings and such, just for grins, and won’t delete the site because there are some interesting points of reference within it. But I won’t be adding much of anything new going forward.

I’ve also started the conversation with other RTCC members about how the “Artsies” might morph and change in the future. I appreciate the feedback I’ve received from people who are supporters of the concept of the Artsies and have also provided useful suggestions for improvements. I’d love for the Artsies to transition some day to a community-led event but, until that day comes, we critics will plug along as best we can.

Thanks to those of you who checked in here regularly (or even occasionally) and have participated with your comments. It’s been a fun sidelight to the main attraction: the exciting and ever-changing world of Richmond-area theater. See you at a show sometime!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Talking it out

The morning after the awards, I got on a plane at 7am and headed west, mostly for work and also for a little bit of fun. After a week away, I'm just making it through the mound of stuff both home- and work-related that built up while I was gone.

One of the things I've been catching up on is the multiple conversations that have been going on at the TheatreLAB's experiment discussion board. Have you been there? If not, you should check it out. The kinds of topics that are being posted and discussed are just the kinds of things I've always hoped would be talked about here. I can't wait to see what kinds of things are brought up, argued about, and maybe even decided upon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

And the Artsie goes to...

Here is a list of last night's recipients of the 2012 Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards:

Best Musical
Spring Awakening produced by Virginia Repertory Theatre

Best Direction of a Musical
Chase Kniffen for Spring Awakening

Best Actor in a Leading Role -- Musical
Terence Sullivan for The Rocky Horror Show

Best Actress in a Leading Role -- Musical
Stacey Cabaj for My Fair Lady

Best Actor in a Supporting Role -- Musical
Nick Aliff for The Rocky Horror Show

Best Actress in a Supporting Role -- Musical
Christie Jackson for Spring Awakening

Best Musical Direction
Ben Houghton for My Fair Lady

Best Choreography
Maggie Marlin for The Rocky Horror Show

Best Play
August: Osage County produced by Cadence Theatre & Virginia Repertory Theatre

Best Direction of a Play
Jan Powell for The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actor in a Leading Role -- Play
Ryan Bechard for The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actress in a Leading Role -- Play
Melissa Johnston Price for August: Osage County

The Ernie McClintock Best Ensemble Award
God of Carnage produced by Virginia Repertory Theatre

Best Actor in a Supporting Role -- Play
Matthew Mitchell for Kimberly Akimbo

Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Play
Katie McCall for August: Osage County

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design
Joe Doran for The 39 Steps

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design
Holly Sullivan for The Rocky Horror Show

Outstanding Achievement in Set Design
Phil Hayes for August: Osage County

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design
Paul Deiss for It's a Wonderful Life

Outstanding Achievement in Fight Choreography
Kevin Inouye for The Tragedy of Macbeth

Outstanding Achievement in Stage Magic
Tom Width for Numerous productions

Best Locally-Developed New Show
Brew: Locally Grown Stories from Richmond's Coffee Community produced by Stage B Theatre Company

People's Choice Award
Dessa Rose

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just a Song Before I Go

It’s only 4 days to go before the RTCC awards and dang, things are just popping! Several productions are nearing the ends of their runs, “King John,” “Regrets Only” and “A Bright New Boise” closing down this weekend. At the same time, the second round of Fall productions is gearing up, “The Pillowman” from Cadence and “The Fox on the Fairway” from CAT bowing next weekend. It’s hard to keep up.

Amidst the clamor, a couple of things to accentuate:

If you want to go to the RTCCs, buy your tickets soon! Last time I checked, there were only 6 seats in the orchestra and almost 40 seats had sold in the Grand Tier. You can order online here. Also, I’ve updated the website with listings of what songs are scheduled to be performed and what presenters are scheduled to show up (what actually happens on the night itself is always a little up for grabs!)

If you haven’t yet, try to fit a viewing of “King John” into your schedule. There are so many great productions happening in town right now that I’m afraid this one is getting overlooked (the cast outnumbered the house at the Thursday show I attended). I raved about this show in my review in Style this week as did John Porter and Julinda Lewis in theirs.

Why should you see this show? Three quick and easy reasons:

1) David Janosik gives an incredible performance -- a truly larger than life performance -- and his is only the best of a long list of greats in this production (Ryan Bechard, Jennifer Frank, Thomas Cunningham, etc. etc.);

2) Technical elements that really pop, specifically, a less-is-more set design that seems simple but does everything it needs to do plus a remarkable sound design that has made me think more deeply about the benefits of a good sound design than I have in years;

3) Fighting! I cannot deny that the show occasionally seems long and the plot had me a bit confused at times. But just as your mind might wander, Ryan Bechard fight choreography brings you right back into the action.

Director Jan Powell has done a great bit of work here and even if you have a hard time with Shakespeare, I’d recommend you check it out.

Finally, I will be hitting the road the morning after the awards and my access to the Internet, as well as my free time to access it, may be a little spotty. That means I may be a little out of touch next week, meaning I may not participate as much in the post-RTCC grousing and/or celebrating as I have in previous years. Y’all are welcome to talk about things on this space all you want. Cries of outrage, exclamations of gratitude, and everything in between are welcome. I’ll try to chime in as I can.

Friday, October 05, 2012

RTCC Quick Hits

I’m having trouble believing it’s less than 10 days before the 5th Annual RTCC awards. There is SO much theater going on in town right now and my ability to see much of it is being throttled by RTCC-related time crunches. I have seen 3 shows over 3 weeks so feeling good about that but that’s half the shows I’d like to see. So it goes.

Some tidbits to know about the awards:

 There is a pre-awards reception being held at Popkin Tavern, across the street from the November. It starts at 5pm. Come over early and help us get the party started!

 Buy your tickets if you haven’t. I think the orchestra is just about full. We’re losing the front row because of the “Night Blooms” set so there are fewer seats available down there than usual.

 There is going to be a special something unveiled at the awards – a “product” many folks will be interested in. There has been a bunch of people associated with creating it so word may have leaked out, but still: you’ll want to bring a little extra dough to snap one of these up.

 The awards event is getting some regional coverage. The editors at are expanding their coverage to Richmond and are sending some folks down to catch the show. Y’all behave!

 I finally did some updating to the RTCC website. Nothing there that you don’t know if you read this space but still, it’s a nice reference to have if you need it!

I’m sure there’s more I should say about the awards but gotta get back to work! See you all next Sunday!

Friday, September 28, 2012

In the Weeds

Yeah, that’s where I’m buried right now. Have seen a lot of great theater lately, read a lot of great reviews, and have been talking to folks about some great things that will be happening at the RTCC awards in just 2 (gulp) weeks! One item just came up out of the blue just the other day that I am particularly excited about – because it’s a great idea and I didn’t have to do anything at all to make it happen! Just rest assured: something hot off the presses will be available at the RTCC awards that you will NOT want to miss out on.

Because I don’t have any time to write much right now, I’m posting links to a bunch of reviews below plus a preview of “Night Blooms” at Virginia Rep that sounds very intriguing. My review of “A Bright New Boise” will be out next week.

I should also have a review of “King John” in Style but since it won’t be out for a week and a half, let me give this little teaser: prepare for some length and some historical bits that are relatively confusing (what Shakespeare history is not?). But you should go see this play because of many things: Todd A. Schall-Vess has built out the St. Catherine’s stage into something with impressive depth and height, the sound design is haunting and beautiful, several people give highly-charged scenery-chewing performances, Ryan Bechard stalks the stage and the house in a truly sexy-creepy way that keeps things interesting, and David Janosik delivers a remarkable and thoroughly entertaining portrayal of “the Bastard” that I will return to in my memory for many months, I expect.

So go see it. And if you want to read other peoples’ opinions of this and other shows, here’s where else you can go:

   Style preview of “Night Blooms
   My review of “Hound of the Baskervilles
   TD review of “Regrets Only
   TD review of “King John
   TD review of “A Bright New Boise
   TD review of “The Marvelous Wonderettes
   GayRVA review of “The Marvelous Wonderettes
   GayRVA review of “Hound of the Baskervilles

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

Well damn, there is just too much to talk about for me to really do anything justice. It’s another one of those weeks where I wish I was a full-time journalist (there’s still some of those out there, right?) so I could write it all up. Instead, I’m going to have to do bullet points:

**  There are just a few more hours left in the Amazing Raise. If you support theater anyway, do it now and you could add some nice little bonuses to your favorite company’s bottom line.

** I saw “Always…Patsy Cline” before it closed and wanted to wax poetic about Debra Wagoner’s voice and Terrie Moore’s comic chops. But now that it’s closed, I guess there’s no point in trying to get people out to see it. It was a fun show and a good time.

** I saw “The Hound of the Baskervilles” this past weekend and had a fine time. My review should be in next week’s Style and I’ll supplement that with more thoughts when the review is out.

** Speaking of Style, this week’s fall arts issue has a quick review of all of the pro theaters that have published a season, including Sycamore Rouge that (good news) will be moving to a new venue and AART (uncertain news) which has a slate but no dates.

** I just saw that the cast from “The Marvelous Wondrettes” will be at this month’s GLAP, even more reason than usual to try get out and take part in that monthly party.

** Tonight is the beginning of a pretty overwhelming weekend of openings, one particularly frustrating for a critic. I’d love to see all of the shows opening (“Regrets Only” at RTP, “A Bright New Boise” at Firehouse, and “King John” by Richmond Shakespeare at St. Catherine’s) but have to pick one. After VA Rep’s raises the curtain on their latest next weekend (“Night Blooms” previewed in the T-D and “Young Thomas Jefferson”) things calm down for a couple weeks and maybe I can catch up.

** Fall means the new TV season has started as well. I’ve kept my distance from the ridiculous proliferation of talent & singing shows but I did catch a whiff of the buzz that came from “X Factor”’s new phenom, Carly Rose Sonenclar. She does indeed have an amazing voice (check out the video linked to from this article) but it’s worth noting that she was hardly an unknown quantity. At the ripe old age of 13, she’s already appeared on Broadway a couple of times, even getting a specific mention in the NYTimes for her work in “Wonderland.” Just another endorsement of theater as a breeding ground for stars…

I’m traveling this weekend so may have a chance to do some more writing / blogging. Consider this either a promise or a threat…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why critics don’t matter…and why they do

After the announcement of the RTCC nominations, there is always a flurry of activity for me which also coincides with the madness of “back to school” week. The dust from all that has almost settled so there is this brief lull before the explosion of fall openings, starting with a new round of “Wonderettes” at the Mill and the unleashing of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at the Tavern this weekend.

Into that lull, I’d like to throw an observation from another artistic realm into the mix. The last couple of films I’ve seen at the actual movie theater share an interesting characteristic. A few weeks ago, the family “took me out” for my birthday and we selected “ParaNorman” as a rare “good for the whole family” kind of movie: a horror movie scary enough for teens, smart enough for adults, but animated so easily digested by the youngest in the crowd. This past weekend, I took the boys out to see “Premium Rush,” starring “The Dark Knight Rises”’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a NYC bike courier who inadvertently ends up in a bind with the local cops.

Both movies were much better than I would have expected. And my expectations were pretty high because both movies were almost universally praised by the critics. “ParaNorman” got an 87% positive rating from RottenTomatoes and had people like Bruce Diones from the New Yorker saying, “The film avoids the pandering of many animated features, bringing an acerbic edge and a thrilling intelligence to its story.” In the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips said, “Premium Rush" is great fun — nimble, quick, the thinking person's mindless entertainment” and it has a 76% positive rating.

The one factor that lessened my expectations was that both movies have done relatively dismal business at the box office. After being in theaters a month, “ParaNorman” has brought in $45 million ($65 if you add in foreign receipts) versus a $84 million budget. That is third the amount (or less) earned by the sequels recycled as part of other big animated series that opened this summer (Madagascar #3: $215 million; Ice Age #27?: $158 million). In three weeks, “Premium Rush” has scored less than $17 million. It’s hard to know what exactly to compare “Rush” to but the box office tabulators put in the category of “On the Run” thrillers, a category that includes movies like “The Bourne” franchise, the latest sequel of which has earned nearly 10 times what “Rush” has.

So what gives? People regularly complain that there is nothing original at the movies and what comes out is just regurgitated sequels and mindless action or horror. But then movies like these two come out, the critics rave about them, and hardly anyone goes to see them.

One simple conclusion to draw is that critics don’t matter. Their opinions – whether pro or con – pale in comparison to the marketing juggernauts that are the real determining factors in whether a movie succeeds or fails. The two movies I saw recently didn’t succeed commercially because they weren’t marketed well or they opened at the wrong time. They didn’t find their audience because their audience didn’t even know the movies existed and critical support wasn’t going to change that.

I think this is conclusion is probably valid. I have no idea why a movie like “ParaNorman” is opening at the end of the summer versus pre-Halloween. “Rush” arrived as summer vacations transitioned into the back-to-school frenzy. I might have seen one ad for each movie but, even if there was a “Dark Knight” style blitz going on, I probably would have missed it. Similarly, I wasn’t reading reviews at the end of August. I was trying to finish reading a summer novel and looking over supply lists for school. It’s hard not to think these movies weren’t doomed before they even opened.

But still… even though it opened pretty badly, “ParaNorman” has stuck around for a month, not plummeting quite so quickly as other late summer releases like “Total Recall” or (ugh) “Sparkle.” And, from what I can gather, among the pre-teen and teen boy crowd, “Rush” has a moderately fervent following. In the “ParaNorman” case, I’d conclude that there has to be a fair amount of parents out there like me who were dealing with kids who still wanted to see movies even though school was open. And when they went to see what was out there, they went to see what the critics had to say. And even though the title might not have been familiar, they chose something critics were saying good things about. In the “Rush” case, I expect some sub-17 year olds have had to ask their parents to take them to see the movie and the responsible ones checked the Internet to see if it was good. And reading the raves, they might have decided “Rush” was a good choice.

So critics may not have the power to move audiences toward or away from specific movies in the way they might have been able to in the past. But they still serve an invaluable service: providing insight on the potential return a patron might expect from their $10 investment in an unknown or unfamiliar movie.

This is an important conclusion to draw, in my opinion, because of the extrapolation to theater criticism. I don’t think a rave for a local stage production is going to bring scores of people into the theater or that a pan is going to keep everyone away. But with theater, the proportion of unfamiliar titles is much higher and the dollar investment in a ticket is usually higher. So while the value of arts criticism may be diminished from what it was years ago, it’s not quite worthless yet.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Thank you to the readers who have pointed out typos in the list of RTCC award nominees. Somewhere along the line "Ridge" got left out of "Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas." And the spelling of designer Kate Parthemos reflected the incorrect spelling that was in the program for "Picasso at the Lapin Agile." Thanks again!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How the Sausage is Made

Every year we’ve done the RTCC awards – hard to believe this’ll be the 5th time – I’ve received several questions about how we come up with our selections, both for nominees and then the eventual award recipients. Sometimes these questions are posed out of what seems like genuine curiosity, other times they’re posed more pointedly, usually with the prefix, “How could you not nominate…” Every year, I concede – when I don’t preemptively assert – that the process is not perfect. But every year, I think it gets better.

The nomination process is relatively simple. Each critic submits a list of three recommended nominees in each category. The 5 performances, productions or designers that get the most mentions are our nominees.

Of course, it really isn’t quite that simple. Many times, a critic can’t limit him/herself to only 3 choices; more rarely, a critic only has 1 or 2 choices they consider worthy in a certain category. Also, when the tallies are completed, often there are numerous choices that are tied with an equal number of mentions. I remember one year going into a meeting with 14 possible nominees being considered in one category. In situations like that, debate ensues. Often, a passionate argument by a single critic can swing a decision but most often, it is the consensus among many or all of us that determines the final decision. In some cases, discussion does not convince anyone to change their preferences. We sometimes will defer a decision if we can to allow people to ruminate further but that doesn’t always result in any changes either. This kind of circumstance has resulted in times in the past when we’ve had more than 5 nominees for a category.

There are inherent problems with the process that we’ve done our best to address. One is that not every critic sees every single show. We’ve dealt with this both pro-actively and reactively. Pro-active: if any of us critics sees a show that we think has particularly award-worthy stuff in it, we make a point to communicate that to the others in the circle so we can all do our best to see it. Reactive: we all respect each other’s opinion so that we accept each other’s evaluation of productions we didn’t see, at least to the extent that if someone makes a passionate argument with specific and pertinent information, we give it significant credence.

Also, the number of members in the Circle has grown to the extent that virtually every professional production in town is seen by at least 2 of its members allowing almost every production to be debated over and not just advocated for or against by a single member.

I’ve also heard the assertion that productions that play earlier in the season are at a disadvantage over those that open later. This is something that is said about any awards process: there are reasons why a slew of Broadway shows tend to open in April. We have tried to deal with that to some extent by having a mid-season review meeting (usually around February) where we consider the season so far and make a preliminary list of possible contenders for award nominations. This list is a starting point for the final nomination process ensuring that significant fall shows are not just dim memories come summertime.

Having said all of that, the final process is always bittersweet for me. I love it that many artists in town will get a boost of recognition from being nominated. I’m also a little torn up inside when some show or performance that I particularly enjoyed and maybe even advocated for with my colleagues ends up 6th or 7th or 8th on the list. This year was a rough one for plays in particular where at least a dozen deserving people did not show up among the final nominees. I look at just one play – “August: Osage County” – where 4 performances were nominated but at least 3 others were under consideration. Rest assured that it was not the only play where excellent work did not make it on our nomination list.

I’m sure people are frustrated, saddened or angered by that and I’m sorry for that. But I continue to see the awards as a celebration of ALL of the great work done in town. Whether it is recognized specifically or acknowledged generally, I think incredible things happen on Richmond-area stages and, that in many ways, the work here just keeps getting better. I hope you’ll join me on October 14th to celebrate it all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 RTCC Award Nominees

For Immediate Release

Theater awards to celebrate Children and the Arts
5th annual “Artsies” brings local celebs to the November Theatre on October 14

Richmond, VA – Echoing the theme of this year’s Minds Wide Open celebration, the Fifth Annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle (RTCC) Awards will celebrate “Children and the Arts” with a special performance by students from the School for the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC) and special recognition of SPARC’s founder, Jeri Culter-Voltz. The RTCC event – also known as “the Artsies” – will recognize excellence in locally produced professional theater during the 2011-12 season at a black-tie awards gala to be held at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 14 at the newly refurbished November Theatre downtown.

“Jeri’s legacy lives on in the exceptional talent of these kids,” says David Timberline, a theatre critic for Style Weekly magazine and chair of the “Artsies” gala. “With their appearance, plus the usual exciting performances by Best Musical nominees, it’s clear that this event just gets better and better.” Master of Ceremonies for the event will be WRIC news anchor Juan Conde.

“I’m particularly excited about the wide range of presenters for this year’s gala,” says Timberline. “Everybody from VMFA director Alex Nyerges to Nutzy the Squirrel will present awards.” Timberline’s son, R. Cooper Timberline, a former SPARC student who will be appearing as young Clark Kent in next year’s Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” will also be a presenter.

Two special awards have already been announced in addition to Cutler-Voltz’s recognition as recipient of this year’s Liz Marks Memorial Award for Ongoing Contribution to Richmond Area Theater (Cutler-Voltz died in 1998). Kevin Inouye will receive an award for Outstanding Achievement in Fight Choreography for his work on Richmond Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and director Tom Width from Swift Creek Mill Theatre will be recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Stage Magic for a career of inventive integration of magic into his productions.

Gala attendees will be allowed to vote on a “People’s Choice” award for Best Production of the Year, their votes entering them in a drawing for a prize package including a night at the luxury bed-and-breakfast Maury Place on Monument, dinner at the Franklin Inn, tickets to a show at Richmond Triangle Players, and two sessions at Massages by Kiara.

All proceeds from the awards ceremony will go to the Richmond Theatre Artists Fund established to help those in the Richmond theatre community who fall on hard of times due to illness, injury, or extenuating circumstances. In addition to Timberline, members of the RTCC are Rich Griset (Style Weekly magazine), Susan Haubenstock (Richmond Times-Dispatch), Liz Jewett (, Julinda Lewis (Richmond Times-Dispatch), Matthew Miller ( Times-Dispatch), John Porter (WCVE-FM), and Joan Tupponce (One Woman’s View). Jen Maciulewicz ( has been added as a provisional member.

Formal attire is encouraged for the awards ceremony, which is open to the public. Tickets for the event are $15 and can be purchased from the Virginia Repertory box office by calling 282-2620.

This year’s nominations are listed below.

Best Musical
Dessa Rose, Richmond CenterStage / Firehouse Theatre Project
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!), Richmond Triangle Players
My Fair Lady, Virginia Repertory Theatre
The Rocky Horror Show, Firehouse Theatre Project
Spring Awakening, Virginia Repertory Theatre

Best Direction - Musical
Chase Kniffen, Seussical the Musical (Virginia Repertory Theatre)
Chase Kniffen, Spring Awakening
Bruce Miller, My Fair Lady
Steve Perigard, A Year with Frog and Toad (Virginia Repertory Theatre)
Jase Smith, The Rocky Horror Show

Best Actor - Musical
Oliver Houser, Spring Awakening
Joe Inscoe, My Fair Lady
John Mincks, Spring Awakening
Fernando Rivadeneira, Musical of Musicals
Terence Sullivan, The Rocky Horror Show

Best Actress - Musical
Stacey Cabaj, My Fair Lady
Desiree Roots Centeio, Dessa Rose
Jacquie O'Connor, Musical of Musicals
Ali Thibodeau, Spring Awakening
Debra Wagoner, Always...Patsy Cline (Virginia Repertory Theatre)

Best Supporting Actor - Musical
Nick Aliff, The Rocky Horror Show
Richard Chan, Spring Awakening
Ben Houghton, My Fair Lady
Jason Marks, My Fair Lady
Durron Tyre, Dessa Rose

Best Supporting Actress - Musical
Christie Jackson, Spring Awakening
Lauren Leinhaas-Cook, My Fair Lady
Terri Moore, Always...Patsy Cline
Susan Sanford, Seussical
Susan Sanford, Spring Awakening

Best Musical Direction
Sandy Dacus, Spring Awakening
Paul Deiss, A Year with Frog and Toad
Kim Fox, Musical of Musicals
Leilani Giles, The Rocky Horror Show
Ben Houghton, My Fair Lady

Best Choreography
Starrene Foster, Spring Awakening
Maggie Marlin, The Rocky Horror Show
Leslie Owens-Harrington, My Fair Lady

Best Play
August: Osage County, Cadence Theatre / Virginia Repertory Theatre
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Firehouse Theatre Project
Kimberly Akimbo, Cadence Theatre / Virginia Repertory Theatre
The Liar, Henley Street Theatre
The Tragedy of Macbeth, Richmond Shakespeare

Best Direction – Play
Anna Johnson, Kimberly Akimbo
Steve Perigard, Scorched Earth (Virginia Repertory Theatre)
Jan Powell, Macbeth
Rusty Wilson, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Keri Wormald, August: Osage County

Best Actor – Play
Ryan Bechard, Macbeth
KeiLyn Jones, Yellowman (Henley Street Theatre)
Matthew Mitchell, The Liar
Chris O'Neill, Next Fall (Richmond Triangle Players)
Alan Sader, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Best Actress – Play
Katrinah Carol Lewis, You Don't Know Me (Firehouse Theatre Project)
Melissa Johnston Price, August: Osage County
Laine Satterfield, Cat on Hot Tin Roof
Zoe V. Speas, Macbeth
Irene Ziegler, Kimberly Akimbo

Best Supporting Actor – Play
Richard Koch, Kimberly Akimbo
Andrew Mitakides, Macbeth
Matthew Mitchell, Kimberly Akimbo
Matthew Mitchell, Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music (Virginia Rep)
Adrian Rieder, In the Next Room or the vibrator play (Cadence Theatre / Virginia Rep)

Best Supporting Actress – Play
Lorri Lindberg, Suddenly, Last Summer (Richmond Triangle Players)
Katie McCall, August: Osage County
Carolyn Meade, August: Osage County
Jill Bari Steinberg, Kimberly Akimbo
Jody Smith Strickler, August: Osage County

The Ernie McClintock Best Ensemble Award
God of Carnage, Virginia Repertory Theatre
The Liar, Henley Street Theatre
The Musical of Musicals, Richmond Triangle Players
Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Sycamore Rouge
Stupid Kids, Richmond Triangle Players

Best Locally-Developed New Work
Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, Virginia Repertory Theatre
Brew, Stage B Theatre Company
Joe Jackson's Night & Day, Richmond Triangle Players
Scorched Earth, Virginia Repertory Theatre
Trojans, TheatreLAB

Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design
Maura Lynch Cravey, Blithe Spirit (Swift Creek Mill Theatre)
Sue Griffin, My Fair Lady
Kate Parthemos, Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Terry Snyder, A Year with Frog and Toad
Holly Sullivan, The Rocky Horror Show

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design
Andrew Bonniwell, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Joe Doran & Andrew Bonniwell, Lord of the Flies (Henley Street)
Joe Doran, The 39 Steps (Swift Creek Mill Theatre)
Lynne Hartman, Spring Awakening
Michael Jarrett, Musical of Musicals

Outstanding Achievement in Set Design
Brian Barker, In the Next Room
Brian Barker, Spring Awakening
Phil Hayes, August: Osage County
Terrie Powers, Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music
Mercedes Schaum, A Year with Frog and Toad

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design
Buddy Bishop, Home Fires (Chamberlayne Actors Theatre)
Paul Deiss, The 39 Steps
Paul Deiss, It's A Wonderful Life (Swift Creek Mill Theatre)
James Ricks, Lord of the Flies
Jesse Senechal, Kimberly Akimbo

Outstanding Achievement in Fight Choreography
Kevin Inouye, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Outstanding Achievement in Stage Magic
Tom Width (numerous productions)

Liz Marks Memorial Award for Ongoing Contribution to Richmond Area Theater
Jeri Cutler-Voltz

Thoughts and Prayers for Kathy

According to Facebook, Kathy Halenda, a Richmond favorite who was awarded a Richmond Theatre Critics Circle award last year for her amazing work in "White Christmas," was airlifted to a hospital in North Carolina yesterday. She is suffering from a brain aneurysm but is currently in stable condition (as of yesterday evening). Please keep Kathy in your thoughts and prayers today and in the days coming up. Later today, the nominees for this year's RTCC awards will be posted, something I will do as a celebration of the great theater community here in Richmond of which Kathy is a beloved member.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On

I’ve added a new blog to the roll over there on the right. I just discovered today that now-local fight choreographer Kevin Inouye, who did such amazing things in ‘Macbeth’ earlier this year, has a blog focusing on his specialty. You might check it out if that’s a corner of the theatrical world you are particularly interested in.

I’ve been mulling over Cadence Theatre’s “In the Next Room or the vibrator play” over the past week. One kudo to offer right off the bat is that I like a play that makes you ponder things and “In the Next Room” certainly does that. What I’ve been trying to get at is why I didn’t like the show as much as I think I should have. The production is beautiful: Elizabeth Weiss Hopper’s costumes are lovely (though I do see Mr. Miller’s point made in the T-D review that it’s a bit odd that they don’t change across multiple scenes) and the set by Brian Barker is another marvelous example of Cadence’s ability to squeeze the most out of the small Theatre Gym space. I won’t ruin anything for anybody who hasn’t seen it but there is a pretty spectacular technical surprise in the show that Rusty Wilson’s production pulls off beautifully.

The actors do a uniformly great job, with special mention demanded for Adrian Rieder as Leo who injects an invigorating bluster of energy to the second act and for Laine Satterfield who fully inhabits the mixed up bundle of emotions and impulses that make up Mrs. Daldry. Stephanie Hill and Lauren Leinhaas-Cook are both quietly powerful in their smaller roles, Leinhaas-Cook just downright devastating at the end. I liked both Larry Cook and Maura Burroughs as the couple at the center of the action – Cook resolute and endearingly confused while Burroughs is alternately focused and flighty – though I liked them better in their separate scenes than I did as a couple, one of those indefinable chemistry things perhaps. Andrew Boothby does his usual rock-steady job as the frustrated Mr. Daldry; I’d really wish someone would give him a lead, though; his more flamboyant work in “My Fair Lady” earlier this season provided just a hint of what he can do.

As far as the show goes, I have to admire Sarah Ruhl for going for some depth after a starting point that could have been just a series of vibrator-related jokes. But as charged (ha!) as the ending is between the Givings, it doesn’t quite bring the story home as well as I wish it could have. I didn’t have a clear idea of how the progress made in her relationship with her husband really addressed Mrs. Givings’ feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that are the focus of most of the play. The breakthrough seemed to me to be mostly a sexual one – that’s how it plays out, at least – but if that’s what it is, there are some dots that need to be connected to get to the emotional breakthrough. And given the subverted sexual context of the show, the breakthrough at the end isn’t quite sexual enough in my opinion, at least as far as Mrs. Givings goes. I find myself wondering if I would have left the show more satisfied (ha!) if the show had ended with Mrs. Givings in the throes of orgasm, signaling a different kind of breakthrough for the couple.

That’s a whole lot of intellectualizing about some of the deeper stuff but, perhaps more pointedly, I realize that on some level I had a hard time suspending disbelief as far as the categorical cluelessness about female sexual response dramatized in the play. Maybe that’s the way it was; it wouldn’t be the only historical reality that seems flabbergasting today. But part of the dissonance for me is that, if both men and women were so completely ignorant, it’s actually deeply sad to think of generations of women living under those kind of misperceptions, which particularly in retrospect, takes some of the hilarity out of the very-funny-in-the-moment “therapy sessions” the good doctor (and occasionally his nurse) administer.

Where I admire this show most – and the production as well – is in the secondary relationships. There are two very well-orchestrated and finely-attenuated reveals in the second act, both are bittersweet in their own way but also feel touching and real under Wilson’s direction. Ironically for a play that had great amounts of humor in it, it delighted me most when it made me sad. This may be the show in Cadence’s 2011-12 season that I enjoyed the least but that’s only because the company’s earlier offerings were in most all ways incredible. Regardless of any faults I perceived, “In the Next Room” is a beautifully staged, skillfully acted slice of Victorian life that will definitely make you laugh and, if you’re anything like me, leave you with some niggling little questions that will bounce around your head looking for an answer. Theater that makes you think as well as laugh? Not such a bad thing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Critical Conversations

Last week was a fabulous rarity in my recent history: I saw three different productions in a single week. After “All Fall Down” at the Shop, “Joe Jackson’s Night and Day” at Triangle Players, I dragged a pal to “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play” that Cadence opened on Friday. It’s hard to believe that, in the years before the number of kids in my house doubled from 2 to 4, I actually used to do that kind of thing fairly regularly. Dang, those were the days.

I’ll write up my thoughts on “Next Room” sometime soon (Mr. Miller voices a mixed opinion of the production in the T-D review from Sunday) but I’ve been pretty preoccupied with a couple of fascinating conversations I’ve been having. One is on Facebook about criticism in general and in Richmond specifically thanks to the posting of this article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The other is an exchange I’ve had with Andrew Hamm about JJND that started in this space and continued over on Andrew’s blog.
I really relish these kinds of conversations. So often, criticism is a one-way street. I see a show and offer my opinion – either in print or on this blog – and that’s where the conversation ends. Sure, the occasional hot-button topic – texting! – will generate some back-n-forth but the kinds of issues that local theater professionals deal with every day don’t generate much interest, or at least don’t seem to. Or maybe theater professionals just want to talk to others in the biz about them and don’t really care to share their thoughts here. Understandable but disappointing to me.

So I’ve been eating up thoughts offered by Mr. Hamm, Adrian Rieder and ‘Rick Gray in these convos. And I hope to be able to contribute more myself soon. But others should feel free to join in. The more the merrier, yes?

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Night of Night and Day

It’s not unusual for me to leave a production I’ve enjoyed with a bit of a crush. That’s part of the joy of plays, movies, TV, even dance in my opinion: someone you see grabs your eye and something they do captures your heart. Even though I’m a straight guy, my crushes aren’t always young women: I left “All Fall Down” on Monday with a little crush on Matt Shofner, both times at “Spring Awakening” I was enamored with the couple of Wendla and Melchior as played by Ali Thibodeau and Oliver Houser.

I took in Joe Jackson’s Night and Day at Richmond Triangle Players last night and came away with a new infatuation with Rebecca Muhleman, one of five very talented singers that populate Andrew Hamm’s world premiere brainchild. Whether standing stridently at center stage or bopping around seemingly overcome with love of the music, Ms. Muhleman is an electric presence in this so-called concert musical. Her shock of white blond hair, dramatic eyes, and imposing physicality are complemented by an expressive voice that adds all sorts of nuance to familiar JJ songs like “Dear Mom” and especially “Breaking Us in Two.” Her energy bubbled up and overflowed at different times, making her the engine that powered the action through much of the show.

That’s not to say she was the only shining star on the Triangle Players stage. All of the other singers – Augustin Correro, Keydron Dunn, Anne Carr Regan, Liz Blake White and Mr. Hamm himself – all had moments of star power in this production. I was most entertained by Dunn, particularly in his second act rant, “Cancer.” I was enthralled by White in the pensive “Why,” while also loving her great duets with Correro in “Real Men” and “Glamour and Pain.” Regan steps to the fore in “Love Got Lost,” a strong song that she infuses with passion.

It’s hard to know what exactly to call JJND – I guess concert musical makes sense, though the thread of something like a story here is not even as strong as other pretty loose concert musicals like “The Who’s Tommy” or Green Day’s “American Idiot.” I like the general premise – the “songwriter” played by Hamm seems to be imagining the characters in his songs, mostly people from the streets of New York, each with their specific quirks and vocations – White is a prostitute, Dunn a homeless guy, Correro an art student perhaps with maybe a night-time propensity for cross-dressing. As he writes their songs, he apparently wills them into being and we see their stories play out before us. Particularly with some of Jackson’s more compelling songs – faves like “Chinatown” or “Another World” – it’s easy to imagine the swirl of street life, the bustle of New York and the inherent drama of life there.

A few things hamper the show as conceptualized, in my opinion. One is that most of the characters aren’t give through-lines – Regan plays a NYC tourist but then reappears as a character otherwise undefined. You can kind of develop a full-fledged character for Correro but it’s not inherent in the material and it’s a bit of a drag to have to second-guess what the intention is. The other thing is that there isn’t really enough connective tissue to make the stories all work together. For instance, the songwriter and his relationship with his girlfriend (Muhleman) is encapsulated solely within “Breaking Us in Two,” a great song but not as complete as say Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” in terms of background, conflict and conclusion. I loved the scene but it didn’t make for a complete theatrical trajectory. The finale is ultimately a self-centered one: the songwriter finally gets his one problematic song to work – “Steppin Out” – which makes for a rousing conclusion but again, not quite a dramatically satisfying one in terms of incorporating any of the other stories.

Finally, there seems to be a certain urge toward completism that doesn’t necessarily serve the show. “T.V. Age” is a fine song and I loved the closed circuit broadcast accompaniment (could that coquettish little scamp be Annella Kaine???) but I didn’t see how it fit in this show with these characters. I understand the show spans two of Joe Jackson’s album but it’s somewhat arbitrary from a dramatic standpoint that all of the songs had to be included.

Still, if your expectations are set appropriately – a hot evening of cool songs performed by a kickin’ band – the performance is not lacking for anything. The addition of strings in the form of violin (played by Seamus Guy) and cello (Michael Knowles) is inspired and really raises the musicality to another level. I agree completely with John Porter that the percussion is often overwhelming and could stand to be scaled back, even though I loved the licks Adam Young was pulling on the drums and Jake Allard’s percussion – whether on congas or plastic drum – was energizing.

Probably most of all, Hamm’s perseverance in getting this world premiere up and running, then going the distance in delivering a thoroughly entertaining evening of music, deserves to be roundly applauded. The concept is inspired and the performances he and codirector Stacie Rearden Hall get out of their cast are fabulous. Richmond is lucky to have talented people like Hamm pushing the creative envelope, not to mention giving an old guy like me the chance to relive the joy of discovery of Joe Jackson’s stirring and sophisticated song-craft. Bravo, Andrew!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Speaking of new work…

It’s a truism that one of the great things about theater is that it is largely created right in front of you. Sure, there are costumes and sets and effects and such but the immediacy of all of the elements interacting in real time – no post-production to clean up the rough spots – is a special kind of magic.

That magic moves to a higher level when those interactions are in development, adding the spontaneity of something like improv to the stage alchemy. That’s what you find at an event like the staging of “All Fall Down” by TheatreLAB at the Shop. I took in the performance of this in-development musical last night and had a great time (there is one more showing tonight).

The musical with music and lyrics by Selda Sahin and book by Greg Turner concerns freshman college student, Ben (played by Matt Shofner), who is by most accounts a perfectly normal teen struggling with the transition into adulthood. But when he inexplicably jumps (falls?) from a 6th-story window (and survives), his emotionally-repressed family is thrown into a tizzy with no roadmap for navigating the aftermath.

I had many questions about show itself, about the choices made with the story and the directions of the characters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the show’s talk-back to ask them. I think the basic idea of the show is intriguing but the trajectory of the story didn’t quite work for me. It reminded me of a show called “Normal” that Stage 1 did several years ago now that was about a family dealing with an anorexic teen. In my view, three things are needed in a show like this: Insight, anguish, and catharsis. In its current form, I don’t know that the show fully delivers on any of these. (I’m not meaning to be intentionally vague or overly critical but also don’t know how much critical feedback is appropriate for a show at this stage of development.)

But even in a still-rough form, I think the show offers some really nice songs and the production delivers some excellent performances. I was particularly impressed that Ms. Sahin successfully channels the emotions of some pretty divergent characters, particularly the older folks. I was on the verge of devolving into a puddle of tears during the “We Have a Boy” song, not helped at all by the fact that I was seeing the show with my youngest son. Ben’s confusion and longing are captured in several songs and the “There is no drama in my family” theme was a nice tune and very effective framing device.

Russell Rowland and Kim Jones Clark do great work in somewhat thankless roles as Ben’s parents, an Eisenhower era-type dad and a Donna Reed-like mom who aren’t equipped for emotionally processing what’s going on. They were both more entertaining – if sometimes too broad – as Ben’s college roommate and his girlfriend. Robyn O’Neill had a true crowd-pleasing role as Ben’s gramma, a little curmudgeonly but the most emotionally frank (and therefore, emotionally adept) member of the family. Her scene in the car with Ben near the show’s end was my favorite, funny and clear and honest.

As far as Shofner, well, he’s simply delightful and about a dozen other laudatory adjectives. His voice is unwavering strong and lovely and his performance was compelling and engaging. Part of the fun of the night was watching him perform the role but also at times discover the role while in the midst of it. With his slight frame, big eyes and expressive face, Shofner is one of those actors who compel you to watch him when he’s on stage. It really was a joy to see him work.

With “All Fall Down,” director Deejay Gray has pulled together something intriguing and entertaining in a surprisingly short amount of time. There was a solid crowd at the Shop last night and I’m sure the folks there would love a full house tonight. If you are a theater lover, there are few things as exciting as seeing new work emerge. Head down to Manchester tonight and you can watch this genesis continue.

Which is all a nice lead-in to another little RTCC award tidbit: for this year’s awards (happening exactly 2 months from today!), the Critics Circle has revived the “Best Home-Grown Work” category. With new shows ranging from big-budget, high-profile extravaganzas like “Scorched Earth” to little funky fun shows like “Brew” by Stage B, how could we not recognize all the exciting developments going on in town?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Raffle Package

The RTCC awards will be happening in just over two months (Sunday, Oct. 14 to be exact). Just like last year, we will be doing a raffle-based vote for the People’s Choice award. We may augment the prize package before the night of the event but, at the very least, you will have the chance to win:

 A night’s stay at the lovely luxury bed and breakfast, Maury Place, located on Monument Avenue.

 Dinner at the nearby Franklin Inn.

 Tickets for 4 to Richmond Triangle Players’ production of “Howard Crabtree’s Whoop Dee Doo!” – the RTP Altamont location essentially walking distance from the B&B.

 Gift certificates good for two massages by Massages by Kiara in Carytown.

The idea, if you haven’t picked up on it, is to enjoy a fantastic expense-free night on the town, get a good rubdown to relax you, enjoy a fulfilling meal, take in an entertaining show and then retire to a lovely B&B for a good night’s sleep, capping it off with a great home-made breakfast the next morning. This sounds awesome to me and I’ll be voting a good many times in an attempt to take this prize home!

More fun preview info on the Artsies to come…

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Like millions of people around the globe, I’ve been relatively transfixed by the drama of the Olympics. In addition to the inherent excitement of the competitions, there are the tangential dramas that erupt that turn sporting events into a sort of international theater. I watched the American women’s soccer team beat Canada, and while elated and amazed at the literally last-minute victory after more than 2 hours of play, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for the Canadians who really seemed to get a raw deal. And then the up-and-down drama of Aly Raisman’s balance beam event, barely losing out for the bronze, then the hurried enquiry, the score change and the tie that wasn’t really a tie that resulted in her getting the medal. And this just days after she finished 4th after a similar tie. It makes you a bit breathless.

I’ve been sucked into Olympic fervor largely because I’ve got kids lying around the house who are between camps and spend big chunks of these hot days watching the competitions. As much as I’ve enjoyed getting caught up in their pastime, I was trying to kick them all out of the house yesterday (ok, facilitate their departure) so I could run downtown and catch the last performance of “Trojans.” Alas, they couldn’t get it together before 10 o’clock and I missed the home-grown work that I’ve heard many encouraging things about. Any impromptu critics out there who saw the show willing to weigh in with their thoughts?

The entertainment world was abuzz on Monday with the news of Marvin Hamlisch’s death. What a shame to lose such a talent before he even turned 70. But while the folks at Ghost Light After Party have asked for people to honor Mr. Hamlisch at their next soiree, I hope someone steps up to give at least a quick shout out to a lesser-known talent the theater world also lost on Monday. Mark O’Donnell, best known for co-writing “Hairspray,” died at the age of only 58. I have a particular affection for Mr. O’Donnell because he grew up in Cleveland, just like I did which probably made him uniquely appropriate to tell a tale set in a working-class city like Baltimore. Even though he didn’t write the songs, it would be heartwarming to hear someone belt out “Good Morning Baltimore” in his honor.

I’ve got to start teasing the RTCC awards, so I’ll start with this: though I understand that there are issues with the way it is administered, the People’s Choice award will be back again this year. Which I think is exciting for many reasons, but a big one being that we’ve assembled a prize package to raffle off this year (instead of just one prize), one that I think is pretty cool. More details tomorrow!

Friday, August 03, 2012


In the natural world, seeds planted in the spring time come to fruition for harvest in the fall. In the Richmond theater world, the timing seems shifted a bit: the dog-days of August are when all sorts of intriguing new projects seem to bear fruit.

TheatreLab had the world premiere of their production, “Trojans” earlier this week and it sounds like it’s a perfect pairing with the other production running at the Firehouse right now, “The Rocky Horror Show.” How can you not be intrigued by a show that seems to referring to both ancient Greeks and modern-day contraception? Only two more performances, next Monday and Tuesday.

Even as I write this, the ambitious youngsters at Full Circle Theatre Company are poised to open “From Up Here,” a family drama being given a vital staging by this group of SPARC graduates. FCTC has been very successful at grabbing some good press, with this article in the T-D and a stint on Virginia This Morning. I’ve been hearing about this production for a while and can’t wait to see what has come from all of the hard work that’s gone into it.

And finally, it’s only a week from the opening of “Joe Jackson’s Night and Day,” the world premiere musical montage being developed by Andrew Hamm. In a rare diversion outside his usual all-reviews slate, John Porter recently interviewed the Mr. Hamm and his right-hand woman on the project, Stacie Reardon Hall, for his blog. I’m a long-time fan of Joe Jackson (back to the “Look Sharp!” days) and will be very interested to see how Mr. Hamm has molded Jackson’s songs into a coherent story.

In case you missed it, two of the cast members from “Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music” showed up on Virginia This Morning as well this past week, and Style’s Rich Griset posted a very laudatory review in this week’s Style.

I know I’ve been a little scattergun on ye ole blog lately but that should change soon. I’ve got all sorts of fun things related to the RTCC awards to talk about in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Randy Raucous Ridiculous Rocky

There are few things I like more than being genuinely surprised by a live theater production. So I was particularly happy that the current production of “The Rocky Horror Show” at Firehouse Theatre packs quite a few genuine surprises. As a theatrical experience, the production is a bit of a mess – endearingly so – but it’s an undeniable good time and unlike anything else I’ve seen on stage in a while.

Surprisingly, an overabundance of sexual salaciousness is not one of the evening’s surprises. Oh, there’s plenty to get hot and bothered about but the most overt stuff – specifically, the from-behind ravaging of both Brad and Janet by Dr. Frank – is handled comically and with relative discretion. I guess after seeing masturbation and S&M-tinged sex played out somewhat explicitly a couple of times on the prim and proper November Stage in the past few weeks, some randy breast-grabs and comic humping don’t seem so shocking.

The most striking surprise to me about the production was the ferocious performance by Nick Aliff as Riff-Raff. When the character first came out on stage, I had no idea who the actor was, Aliff has so completely transformed himself. And even when he wasn’t front-n-center, Aliff made Riff-Raff full of tripwire energy, an edgy element of entropy in the midst of the already chaotic Castle.

Among the other “wow” moments offered by the production are some inspired costumes by Holly Sullivan, rousing choreography by Maggie Marlin, and a fabulous star turn by Terence Sullivan as Dr. Frank N. Furter. Sullivan’s costumes consist of some of the most striking and intricate leather and bondage-ware I’ve ever seen; though I’m hardly an expert, the costumes set the mood more effectively than any other production element. The ensemble numbers were some of my favorites because of Marlin’s choreography, energetically performed by director Jase Smith’s young and physically fit cast.

And Sullivan just owned the stage from the moment he made his entrance. His imposing physicality – amped up by 6 inch heels – made his presence overwhelming in all the right ways. There were times I didn’t know what exactly he was going for in terms of his accent, but his body language was as important as the words he was saying. There was no doubt that Dr. Frank dominated this dungeon and he did so in a winning and consistently engaging way.

I had some problems with the production. I had heard about some technical issues during opening night and one of the entrance doors to The Castle fell apart on the night I saw the show. The stage seemed cramped at different times, in stark contrast to the expansive and airy set the Firehouse constructed for their last production, “Dessa Rose.” I don’t think the female characters came across as strongly as I would have expected, even though they were played by some of my favorite actresses in town (Maggie Horan as Columbia, Joy Newsome as Magenta, etc.) Having said that, Aly Wepplo as Janet ravaging Chris Hester’s Rocky during “Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” was definitely a highlight.

But my biggest problem with show has to do with the pretty ridiculous storyline which, while also being the source of a lot of the fun, just seems more thrown together and random than I remembered it. If you didn’t know the key role of Eddie (here played by Matt Beyer) from the movie or previous productions, I don’t know that you’d totally get it here. Maybe I’m just turning into an old fuddy-duddy, but a little bit of narrative cohesion even in a show as envelope-pushing as RHS would be nice. Smith seems to be trying valiantly to add some depth with the addition of new material like Horan’s quiet and sweet “Love you like a Record” but his efforts are largely for naught.

Which isn’t meant to dissuade anyone from seeing this show. The pleasures are many; in addition to what I’ve already listed, Leilani Giles has assembled a great band and their onstage accompaniment of Brad (Nick Shackleford) when he sings “Once in a While” is another highlight. Chris Hester makes a buff and perky Rocky; eye candy that can also sing really good.

Perhaps most of all, the show is a good time. While there is no audience participation allowed, there were plenty of raucous hoots, hollers, and catcalls flowing the night I attended. This is a show that engages the audience and you can’t help be caught up in the fun, whether it’s in hailing the dramatic entrance of Frank or hanging on as he teases you with “antici…..pation.” So throw on some leather and head on down to the Firehouse. Just leave your expectations for sense behind and open up to your affinity for buff bodies in bondage-ware. It’s really not that difficult.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

First Things First

I want to talk about “The Rocky Horror Show,” the fun, sometimes frenetic production I saw at the Firehouse on Saturday (review in the T-D last week). But first, there are a few other items I need to put out there.

First, since this is more of a journalistic thing versus a strictly theater-related thing, you might not have heard that Arts and Culture editor Don Harrison has left the staff of Style Weekly magazine. If you are a theater admin type, you probably know Don and you know that he has always been a supporter of live theater in Richmond. As the number of pages has continued to shrink in print media, Don gave the go-ahead on more stories and reviews that would show-up online only. He has always been open and amenable to the various and sundry theater-related pitches I’ve thrown his way over the years.

Personally, I’ll always be grateful to Don because he was the first Style editor who considered my reviews worthy of submission at the Virginia Press Awards, resulting in a 3rd place in critical writing in 2010 and a 2nd place last year. Professionally, I have ongoing respect for his fervor for holding city officials accountable for the management and development of CenterStage. If you are a city resident, or if you eat in restaurants in the city, you are paying for CenterStage and you should be more concerned with what’s happening with that money (I say that with the acute sense that I should be more concerned). Don can’t do all of the work, though apparently he is among the only people paying attention, as per this $250,000 a year “oops” he uncovered just recently.

If you want to continue to follow the things that Don is interested in, you can tune into his blog for the latest.

A week ago, I was lucky enough to catch “As You Wish: An (un)staged reading of ‘A Princess Bride’” down at Sycamore Rouge, and, if you missed it, well, you missed out on a treat. Putting the classic movie on stage diminished the fun visual moments inherent in the story but put the focus squarely on the fantastic dialogue throughout the script. And even if it was a reading, there were some standout performances, the trio responsible for kidnapping Buttercup being most prominent. Foster Solomon garnered the most laughs with his Fezzik the giant, Walter Schoen was a spot-on Vizzini and Jeff Cole a stalwart Inigo Montoya. An additional shout-out must be given to Stacie Rearden Hall who made the most of her “ancient booer” tirade: “Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence!”

I saw “Spring Awakening” for the second time last Thursday. As many shows as I see in a year, I don’t usually make a point to see a production twice (unless there’s a Timberline directly involved somehow…) But besides indulging my lovely wife in her ongoing SA fanaticism, I was curious to see what the difference might be between the opening night performance and a show later in the run. I think there were differences and though they might have been subtle, they were significant. I think the Sandy Dacus’s band rocked a little bit more; in particular, I heard more percussion on some songs than I remembered hearing on opening night. Also, I think rather than trying to take in the production as a whole, I spent more of the show zeroing in on specific aspects. I spent less time watching the video screen which made it on ongoing pleasure to turn my attention back to it and notice how the images enhanced the production. While transfixed by Ali Thibodeau on opening night, this time around I had trouble taking my eyes off Oliver Houser. Within a sometimes extreme and emotional production, he gave a stunningly naturalistic and honest performance.

Perhaps most of all, the stirring “Purple Summer” at the show’s end grabbed a great deal more than on opening night. I felt the intense emotion of that song like I hadn’t before and it made the whole night a bit more cathartic.

The night I saw the show, the orchestra was nearly full and the overwhelming majority of folks in the audience were older folks (i.e., like me). But unlike opening night, I didn’t notice any major holes in the crowd when I came back for the second act, signifying a lack of major walk-outs during intermission. Maybe it took until the last week of the show, but it seems like people finally understood what they were in for with the show and didn’t turn away shocked or dismayed. So that’s a good thing.

As for that other possibly shocking musical making a splash this summer, stay tuned for my take on the Rocky Horror Show tomorrow. Oh, and, in case you happen to read this, I love getting your arts calendar email blasts but there’s no “Picture” in this show. Just FYI.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy two wonderful entertainment experiences this week: the (un)staged reading of “The Princess Bride” at Sycamore Rouge on Wednesday and a second viewing of “Spring Awakening” on Thursday. This morning, I’m sickened and saddened and just stunned in the aftermath of the Aurora shooting. I try to imagine what it would have been like if a gunman had invaded either of my previous nights’ experiences. But I don’t think there is any way to imagine the terror and confusion unless you were there.

Smarter and more eloquent people than me will pen insightful or stirring responses to this tragedy. Personally, I’m beyond any kind of comprehension right now. I remember my sense of thrill and anticipation at a midnight showing of the last “Harry Potter” movie last year. The thought of that excitement being turned completely on its head is heartbreaking and just despicable.

I’d like to talk about the Princess Bride reading and renew my thoughts on Spring Awakening sometime. But for now, I think some quiet mourning is all I can muster. Be safe everyone.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Of Wives, Brides, and Girls

I think some people aren’t going to like my review of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in this week’s Style because I start out talking about a production that happened many years ago. What relevance, you might wonder, does the old production have to a current audience?

That question rang in my head as I was writing the review and I considered other directions but in the end I thought the comparison was relevant. To me, “Merry Wives” is a great comedy to go a little crazy with. Falstaff is Shakespeare’s great comic gift and, as broad (both physically and dramatically) as he is, I think you can go pretty far toward the absurd around him without risking being just flat-out ridiculous. And even if you err on the side of ridiculous, the opportunity for fun can make the show a winner.

There is much to like about the current “Merry Wives” production, as I hope comes across in the review. The key triangle of Todd Schall-Vess as Falstaff, Melissa Johnston Price as Mistress Page and Cynde Liffick as Mistress Ford all do great work and I loved all of their scenes together. But a key to where the production could have gone lies in the performances of Evan Nasteff and Brooke Turner. Nasteff does everything short of salivate to make Dr. Caius the image of a hyper-egotistic Frechmen. On the other side of the emotional scale, Turner is like a lusty little sprite flittering about her scenes, occasionally singing her lines. The two of them were the flirty/furious yin/yang of the piece and the source of much of my enjoyment with this production.

There are a lot of great comic performers involved in this show – Thomas Cunningham, David Janosik, Stephen Ryan, etc. – and while they are nicely entertaining here, I’ve seen all of them do better work in other shows. It could be a problem of expectations: I guess I was hoping for a more furiously funny production. Still, there are plenty of laughs here and, after hearing mixed things about “Cymbeline,” I was happy that the show seems like a solid return to form for Richmond Shakespeare. I just hope they don’t shy away from pushing the envelope a little further in the future.

I’ll be trekking down to Petersburg for “As You Wish,” the staged reading of “The Princess Bridge” tonight. The show is a pay-what-you-will benefit for Sycamore Rouge and features quite an exceptional cast. It’s inconceivable that people would pass up the chance to see this show! They’re doing it again tomorrow night so you don’t have to.

I also just heard that the Indigo Girls are playing at Maymont next Thursday. This has nothing to do with theater really except that I used to be such an Indigo Girls geek that I bought their take on the music from “Jesus Christ Superstar” way back in the mid 1990s. Funny thing: all the proceeds from the sale of that CD went toward supporting gun control. Wow, those were some idealistic days!

Finally, just to follow up on my “Dark Knight” mention yesterday: apparently commenters on Rotten Tomatoes have gone so far as to make death threats against critics who have published negative reviews about the movie. Really? I can understand passion about art but that’s just crazy. I expect some people won’t love my “Merry Wives” review (and feel free to post any rebuttals or counter-criticism) but the level of crazy here in our little community isn’t as high as in the public at large. Or at least, so I hope.

Monday, July 16, 2012


So possibly the biggest selling movie of the summer – maybe even of all-time when all is said and done – will be opening in a few days. “The Dark Knight” currently sits at #4 in all-time domestic box office. Given the acclaim of that movie, plus the promise that it’s the last of the Christopher Nolan trilogy, there is a chance that “The Dark Knight Rises” will beat out “The Avengers” for the summer’s box office crown. (Of course, without the Heath Ledger effect, I’d say that chance is 60/40 versus guaranteed.)

I mention this because it means that movie theaters are going to be swamped this weekend. Beyond the Batman saga, “Spider-Man” is still selling, the kids have “Ice Age” and “Brave,” big boys have “Ted,” and little girls have “Katy Perry.” The Cineplex is awash in content.

So I’d recommend avoiding the crowds and checking out the parallel cavalcade of live theater in town. Specifically, SPARC is offering two new productions that sound very promising. SPARC’s summer musicals have always been spectacular – I know I’m biased but last year’s “Ragtime” had some truly breath-taking moments in it – and I expect “Chicago” will not disappoint. This summer, the Summer Stock program takes on a new challenge – the slamming-door comedy, “Noises Off.” Just like young energy can make old musicals seem fresh and alive again, youthful vigor can enervate the funny and farcical. There are several veteran actors in town that have slogged through a dozen or so such comedies in their careers; with SPARC, you’ll be seeing many performers discovering this genre for the first time. What they bring to it will be intriguing to watch.

I’m very interested in seeing Firehouse’s “Rocky Horror Show” because of the oft-repeated warnings being issued about the production pushing of the envelope. “Not your parents’ Rocky Horror” definitely peaks my interest since I’m probably one of the parents they’re talking about. With “Spring Awakening” already making patrons blush at VA Rep, I can’t wait to see more unabashed programming heating up this summer.

Both “Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music” and “Merry Wives of Windsor” received good reviews from the T-D in the past few days, Ms. Lewis even using the word “flawless” in reference to “Nice People.” With all of this good – and challenging and different and entertaining – theater around, the playhouses in town are the best places to stay cool this summer, not the movie houses.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Critical Departure

“Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music” opens out at the Tavern tonight. Who wants to take the over/under with me on the number of patrons who are confused because this is not a musical? It sure looks like it’s going to be a fun show though, based on the preview pictures. Who doesn’t love a set dominated by a pick-up truck?

That production is sponsored in part by Altria. As you may have heard, Altria recently sprang for the naming rights to the former Mosque Theatre for $10 million. I’m not sure whatall comes with naming rights but I hope some of that money goes to spiffing up the place. It’s an OK place to see a show I guess, but it also still has a 1960s feel to it in some ways, and I don’t mean in a good way.

One piece of news that may have slipped past some people this week: Susan Haubenstock and her lovely husband are leaving Richmond at the end of the summer, meaning Susie will no longer be writing theater reviews for the Times-Dispatch. Thanks to the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle, I’ve gotten to know Susie a bit and so her departure saddens me personally very much. She is a lovely, generous person who is also clear-headed, intelligent, and charming. Meeting her and finding her so easy and interesting to talk to was one of the main reasons I thought something like the RTCC could even happen. Getting to know her and Mike a little better was one of the best side-benefits for me that came from creating our little group.

But beyond my personal feelings, I am also very sorry her voice will be missing from local theater commentary. Susie’s knowledge of theater springs from an earnest love of the art form and it seems to me that her criticism always starts out from that place. In her 10 years here, she not only saw literally 100s of local productions but traveled regularly to Washington DC and New York to see shows there. Her perspective has been forged by many hours seeing both the best and worst ends of the theatrical spectrum. I always found her criticism to be concise and engaging, not too flowery or effervescent. She has always given the benefit of the doubt to local productions but has not shied away from sharper criticism when warranted. I don’t remember her ever being mean.

Susie and I haven’t always agreed on shows but some of my favorite conversations have been with her, debating the pros and cons of different productions. I have great respect for her insight and more than once I’ve read one of her reviews and thought, ‘she made that point better than I did.’ The declining number of column inches given to critical content in print media has constricted all of us reviewers. Susie always made the most out of the space she was given.

So long, Susie, I will miss you. And everyone else, be prepared for a new (if perhaps not unfamiliar) byline in the T-D’s reviews down the road a piece.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Midnight Blogging

After a week’s vacation (ahhhhh…), I am back in town and trying to organize both my wits and the scattered aspects of my life. I’m not having a whole lot of luck yet so the following is a pretty random collection of theater-related thoughts.

I had planned to attend the performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” this past Saturday but it was canceled because of the excessive heat. While I was disappointed, I’m glad the management made that decision because I don’t expect actors passing out from heat exhaustion would have enhanced the entertainment value of the play at all.

I came back for the Sunday performance, where unfortunately the audience numbered only a couple more than the cast. The skies threatened throughout the evening but they never opened up, making me think it would have been the perfect night for a performance of “The Tempest:” built-in celestial lighting design!

Richmond Shakespeare’s next season was listed on the “Merry Wives” program (spring show = “The Tempest”) and I was particularly excited to see “King John” listed. This is one of those Bard plays that doesn’t get produced very often so I’ll be looking forward to seeing it staged. It also seems to have a couple of particularly meaty roles; who could resist a character called simply “the Bastard?”

Because I can’t seem to leave this subject alone (and it doesn’t seem to be going away), I was intrigued by this Playbill ettiquette item on handling patrons who text during a performance. I also found it interesting that the second question concerns snoring, a more prevalent problem in my experience but one that doesn’t seem to result in the same kind of vehement reaction.

I don’t know whether to be amused or horrified to think of “Magic Mike: The Musical.”

The theater season doesn’t come to a screeching halt in the summer like it used to, but it does taper off a bit. If you are finding holes in your social calendar, you might consider taking in a show at ComedySportz improv. Beyond the regular “Hams” vs “Legends” go-rounds, they have been doing some interesting alternative programming lately. For instance, last Friday there was a Middle School league versus the Major League show (in the interest of full disclosure, I should say there was a Timberline on the Middle School team). The ‘young and cute’ versus ‘old and clever’ dynamic made for some unexpected highlights. As always, you never know what’s going to happen at an improv show.

And just to bring everything Full Circle (and hey, did you hear there’s a new theater company in town called Full Circle?), one of the highlights of “Merry Wives” was the performance of Brooke Turner as Mistress Quickly. Turner has trod the ComedySportz stage on numerous occasions and joins the ranks of other prominent Richmond thespians (Jeff Clevenger, Jennifer Frank, Chris Evans who has since moved to NYC, etc.) who have used improv to keep their talents honed. Pretty nice company to be in!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Apocalypse

Many people (several of whom I work with) view today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act as a sign of the apocalypse.

In the local theater world, many might consider Va Rep’s announcement of “tweet seats” for tonight’s production of “Spring Awakening” a surer sign. The reaction to my posts about allowing texting in theaters last year (first here and then followed up on here and then here) was often very spirited and the word “apocalypse” was specifically used in an article on the subject.

I’ll be very interested to see how the experiment plays out. If I didn’t have the schedules of 5 other family members to juggle, I would be in those seats tonight, tweeting my heart out. To Va Rep I ask humbly: please do this again. Specifically, please do it on Thursday, July 19th, when I’m planning to go see the show for a second time.

But for all of the apocalyptic rhetoric, what would truly be an earth-shattering event IMHO would be the closing of Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg. The end-of-June deadline is quickly approaching for the company to raise the funds they need. They seem to be confident enough to be planning for next season but no one should be complacent. Furthermore, people who love Sycamore Rouge should post a testimonial at the website. I’m hoping to get mine together this weekend…
And speaking of this weekend, it’s the last chance to see Cymbeline at Agecroft. What better way to cool off than some hot theater?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stopping Just Short of Rapturous Adoration

My review of “Spring Awakening” is available on newsstands as we speak and will probably be online momentarily. Also in this week’s Style is Mr. Griset’s rave about “Blithe Spirit.”

First off, I feel like I have to apologize for “ribald” being used in the photo caption. I don’t write the captions and whoever wrote that one had no real sense of the show. Maybe that’s my failing in my review for not making it perfectly clear that the show is not a “saucy romp” in any sense. In fact, I’ve been surprised how often the words “dark” and “disturbing” have come up in my few discussions with people who saw the show and weren’t familiar with it beforehand. (UPDATE: I just noticed that Mr. Houser's name is also misspelled in the caption. Oy. Sorry. Also, here are links to the "Spring Awakening" review and to the "Blithe Spirit" review.)

But to me, this darkness is one of the most powerful aspects of the show. It is not a joyful show, by any means, but it is still a show full of joy, primarily the joy of discovery. The teen years can be intensely painful if for no other reason than you are being introduced to a whole new category of feelings. The genius of a song like “The Bitch of Living” is that it captures both the specific anxieties of sex-discovering boys but also the universal existential angst, e.g., “It’s the bitch of living / Just getting out of bed.” What working class stiff doesn’t feel that on some Monday mornings?

It’s inevitable that as soon as you find out how rapturous love can be that you find out that, just by entering into the world of adult relationships, you have opened the door to a lot of suffering. Of course, “Spring Awakening” piles on the pain by stacking up a wide litany of calamities -- incest, abuse, abortion – in addition to the plain old first-time-falling-in-love circumstances. This is the nature of theater – particularly musical theater – to take this kind of situation to ‘11’ as it were. As I wrote last summer after watching a production of the non-musical version of the same story, it’s also the strength of musical theater in general and this show in particular that the music taps into and amplifies the universal feelings of rebellion and longing and desperation that characterize the teenage years.

I hope my review gives a sense of what I love about this show. What was harder to communicate was the ways the show itself (not this particular production) falls short. Specifically, I think the end is a cop-out and a bit dissonant, something I felt more strongly after seeing the Broadway version than the VA Rep version. You have Melchior who is almost revered because of his atheism (among other things) who is saved by mystical, other-worldly spiritual communication. As I said to my wife, if this was Shakespeare, Melchior would have just killed himself. But that kind of downer punchline at the end of a bleak-ish show would have been pretty relentless. Still, the promise of a “Purple Summer” seems a little wimpy after the intensity of death, loss and heartbreak. Also, the portrayal of the parents is always a bit problematic. The idea is brilliant – being played by the same actors, all the adults come across as nearly interchangeable obstacles to happiness. But as written, the roles vacillate wildly from fairly realistic to cartoonish, getting in the way of that universal adult idea. (The straight play version I saw had all of the adults in masks, which was a great way to enhance this idea.)

Zeroing in more specifically on the VA Rep production, I think Liz Jewett’s review at and mine make a good pair. I think Ms. Jewett and I both saw Chase Kniffen’s steady hand clearly in control at the helm of this production. Mr. Kniffen brings a great sense of stagecraft to the show in smashingly creative ways. I loved the monster projection screen, I liked the swings, I liked Starrene Foster’s choreography apparent in the movements of the players across the stage. As much as I liked the production, I also felt that the whole enterprise could have benefitted from a little more freewheeling fun and/or in-your-face intensity. I’m not sure if the actors were a little tired on opening night or a little reluctant to go bonkers with the older opening night patrons. But the one thing I remember clearly from the Broadway production was the sense of kids physically and emotionally busting free from the restrictive bounds of their lives. There was a lot of that kind of energy visible in the video projections; I wanted to see and hear more of that energy on stage.

I think Ms. Jewett wanted more of that kind of energy from Ms. Thibodeau and Mr. Houser in the lead roles. Personally, I think the two of them play out the dance of their courtship perfectly. In particular, I think the minute of masochism that punctuates their affair happens fairly organically versus when I saw it on Broadway and the violence truly seemed to come out of nowhere. Overall, the cast was exceptional and the ensemble numbers were great. Daniel Cimo and Owen Wingo had a great “attraction of opposites” chemistry. My companion for the evening remarked on Josh Marin several times, while I was impressed with Richard Chan. Both of us were sad not to see and hear more from Allison Gilman and Lucy Dacus stuck over in the onstage seats.

I didn’t have space to comment on Sarah Grady’s costuming in my review because my feelings were a bit mixed. I was told after the show that the ensemble members mixed into the onstage seating were each wearing outfits from a different decade. I wondered whether some of that sensibility figured into the costumes for the rest of the cast because there was such a disparity between pieces like Ilse’s jumpsuit. Wendla’s airy white outfit and Martha’s buttoned-down look. I liked a lot of what I saw but wondered about some other things I saw. As always, Sandy Dacus’s band did a great job, though I wanted more of a rock concert feel to the proceedings, as I alluded to in my review. I expect that may not be a universal feeling and that musical theater goers in general might think the rocking score already pushes things far enough without having someone demolishing the drum kit or lighting a guitar on fire.

One of my favorite movies is “Thelma and Louise” and there is a similar vibe to it as “Spring Awakening.” The leads discover a new world and are free for the first time but that freedom comes at a cost. I’ve felt exhilarated at the end of “T&L” every time I’ve watched it and I feel similarly at the end of “Spring Awakening,” enough so that I’m trying to arrange my schedule to see it again. I was hoping to spend some time in the “tweet seats” during this Thursday’s performance but I couldn’t make that work, unfortunately.

A friend I talked to last weekend remarked on how Theatre IV got complaints about Peter saying “Ass” in “Peter Pan” a few years ago, and now that same company (essentially) is doing “Spring Awakening.” Wiping away mock tears, she said, “I’m so proud of Richmond.” This production does represent a step forward for the Richmond theater world and it’s remarkable in many ways that VA Rep chose this as its first show. Of course, now the challenge falls to the larger community: if we want companies to take the leap and produce hipper, edgier, more challenging work, we have to do our part and urge friends, neighbors, and strangers we meet at Martin’s to go see the show. If lack of audience causes big companies like VA Rep to reconsider shows like “Spring Awakening,” then in my view, Richmond will be like Melchior: “Totally Fucked.”