Most of you know about Company of Fools, the regional theatre in Hailey, Idaho founded a dozen or so years ago by former Richmonder Denise Simone, current Richmonder Rusty Wilson (he was “former” during his Hailey years but now he’s back), and Denise’s old college buddy, Bruce Willis. Yes, that Bruce Willis.
Willis provided the initial funding, but Denise, Rusty and several Richmond pals provided the blood, sweat and tears. And believe me, its all about the b, s and t.
Then, about eight years ago, Barksdale’s former Artistic Director, John Glenn, moved to Hailey with his partner, R. L. Rowsey, who had been serving as Associate Artistic Director at TheatreVirginia. John and R. L. became part of the four-person leadership in Hailey. And when Rusty moved back to Richmond a couple years ago to become theatre director at St. Christopher’s School, Denise, John and R. L. settled into a Muriel, Pete and Nancy lifestyle that has continued to advance the Company of Fools to new heights.
This summer, two more Barksdale All-Stars are joining the team to launch the Fools’ first Summer Fools Festival—three shows running in rep during five weeks in July and August. Debra Wagoner (she of the amazing voice – and wife of Odd Couple director Joe Pabst) and Aly Wepplo (who recently stole hearts as the signing sister in Smoke on the Mountain – yes, that is signing, not singing – right after marrying grown-up Patrick at the end of Mame) are starring with John Glenn in The Spitfire Grill, a feel-good musical that Music Director R. L. Rowsey describes as “Appalachian Broadway.”
Many of you may have caught the wonderful Richmond premiere of this new musical a few years back at Swift Creek Mill.
As much as we miss Debra and Aly in Richmond this summer, we’re thrilled to see them join other beloved Richmond theatre alum at Company of Fools. Not since the founding of the Renaissance Theatre in Bon Air and the Wedgewood Dinner Theatre in Toano (both in the late 50s and early 60s) have so many former Barksdale artists gone off to start and then nurture another theatre in another place.
We always wish the Company of Fools well, and we send special good thoughts their way this summer as Debra and Aly prepare to open during the Fourth of July celebrations in The Spitfire Grill. We love the fact that Barksdale artists are continuing to spread artistic sparks nationwide. We look forward to welcoming Debra and Aly back home later this summer. Until then, break a leg one and all!