Monday, June 25, 2007

Red Hot Coffee and Cole

The intrepid Barksdale Bifocals Theatre Project crowd held their June lunch meeting last Friday, and the program focused on "Video Memories of Red Hot and Cole." Original Cole company members Phil Whiteway and Bruce Miller shared fond and hilarious memories of this legendary production with a rapt audience of about 40 theatre lovers, including Lyde Longaker (costume designer for the original Cole) and Helen Levinson (homeowner of the site where much of the original script was written).

Perhaps the most fun was had watching video clips of the Tenth Anniversary revival of Red Hot and Cole that was presented in partnership by Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV in 1987 at the historic Empire Theatre, fourteen years before the two nonprofit theatres entered into the current strategic collaboration that we all now enjoy. It was this major revival that lured representatives of Music Theatre International down to Richmond, and that encouraged them to include Red Hot and Cole in their catalogue, enabling theatres all around the world to produce this wonderful musical in the intervening years.

A final film clip included a short segment of very dimly lit and wavering footage from the 1978 extension of the original production at Hanover Tavern. Sadly, this already decaying recording (now transferred onto a permanent DVD) is practically all that remains of the films taken of the original production. All of Barksdale Theatre’s video and audio documentation disappeared sometime prior to July 2001.

Bruce put out a plea to one and all asking anyone who had copies of video or audio archival tapes of Barksdale productions prior to that date to please donate them to the Barksdale Theatre archives at the Library of Virginia. He added that the theatre staff would be very happy to facilitate such a donation, giving the theatre opportunity to make a copy to keep in the “in-house” archives for future programs such as this one.

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