Friday, November 30, 2007

Deck the Halls with Bows so Jolly

Posted by Bruce Miller

The talented cast and crew of Theatre IV's new production of A Christmas Story took their first curtain call tonight, and then gathered in the historic Empire lobby for that merry ritual known as Meet and Greet. The Opening Night cast party was put on hold for a half hour or so until all playbills were signed and every jolly juvenile was sent on his or her way home with a smile and an autograph. Meet and Greet is so rewarding for cast and audience members alike at each Theatre IV production, I often wonder why we never try it for adult audience shows at Barksdale.

A Christmas Story was our third mainstage opening in as many weeks. If I were to put on my MARKETING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS hat, I'd tell you that the evening was an unqualified success. And in many ways it was. The audience LOVED the show, awarding it a million laughs and an enthusiastic ovation. The cast did an outstanding job.

But if I were to put on my LET'S PEEK BEHIND THE SCENES FOR THE TRUTH hat, I'd have to say that we encountered a few glitches this evening, more in my opinion than we encountered at this morning's final dress rehearsal. But such is the joy of live theatre. When you mount three major mainstage productions and four national tours in 15 days, glitches are gonna happen. Having been down this road more than a few times before, we know that now is the time to iron out some of the technical kinks that tripped us up in a few places tonight. I'm confident that every aspect of this big show will soon be in sync with every other aspect, creating the holiday heartwarmer that this production is destined to be.

Gracing the cast party were our Ralphie and Ralph (the same character as a boy and a man), played with wonderful humor and charm by Eric Pastore and Tony Foley (pictured to the left). Tony is well remembered as the young lawyer husband in Barefoot in the Park, and the innkeeper husband in Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.

When not rubbing shoulders with his adult self, Eric Pastore decided to hang with his compadres Michael Thibodeau and Eric Evans, who play Ralphie's best pals Flick and Schwartz. These three multi-talented young men (pictured to the right) are all Barksdale veterans, having appeared in leading roles in Mame, The Member of the Wedding, and Mame, respectively (yes, the role of Young Patrick in Mame was triple-cast).

And let us not forget the fourth hooligan who contributes so much to this production. Chandler Hurd, a sixth grader at Byrd Middle School, plays the hooliganiest of all--Scut Farkas, bully to the stars. Chandler was taken ill during our opening weekend, but as one would expect from such a young trooper, he's been there for every rehearsal and performance, twisting arms and laughing villainously. In fact, the only thing he's missed was the Opening Night Party! We missed him, too.

Gordon Bass and Julie Fulcher (pictured to the left) do a terrific job playing Ralphie's dad and mom, known affectionately by grown-up Ralph as "Mother" and "The Old Man." It's Gordon who wins the leg lamp as a "major prize," and Julie who keeps trying to disconnect it so that the neighbors won't see. And in case you're starting to wonder if the cast party for A Christmas Story was a slumber party, remember that Meet and Greet is conducted in costume.

The three other stage wunderkind's who are knocking everyone's socks off are R. Cooper Timberline as baby brother Randy, Lillie Izo as brainiac Helen, and Lyla Rossi as Ester Jane, the young girl whose heart Ralphie has won. They are pictured to the right in front of the sign recognizing our wonderful sponsors for this production: Dominion, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, The Supply Room, STYLE Weekly and Radio Disney.

This is Lyla's second show with Theatre IV, having appeared in The Wizard of Oz as a Munchkin last spring. But this is the first time she's been part of a mother/daughter act. Lila's mom, Theatre IV All Star AnnaMarie Rossi, shares the role of Miss Shields, the teacher, with another Theatre IV All Star, Jackie Jones.

Chase Kniffen, our talented young director, goes cheek to cheek with STYLE critic Mary Burress at the post performance cast party. And our hard working stage manager, Ariel Osborne, and house manager, Catherine Dudley, survey the joyous goings on from the historic marble and forged iron staircase that leads to the balcony. Terrie Powers (Swingtime's exemplary set designer) and Virginia actors extraordinaire--Jill Bari Steinberg, Robert Throckmorton and Robyn O'Neill--discuss the latest theatre news in the background.

As the party wore on, one little bro had to call it a night in the comforting arms of his dad, Dave Timberline, henceforward known as "Cooper's old man."

So, before you get too tired, make your plans to join us for A Christmas Story at the historic Empire Theatre. It's 2 1/4 hours of holiday delight for young and old.

--Bruce Miller

Heaving Hedgehogs in Hanover

Posted by Bruce Miller

After a 12 noon meeting in Ashland on Wednesday, Phil and I decided to drop in on our Swingtime Canteen company at Hanover Tavern before their 2 pm matinee. Our gorgeous ladies were in their costumes and our dashing men were stepping up to their piano, bass and drums in an effort to begin the show, when word came down from Michelle (of the restaurant that bears her name) that she had just been called by a bus group of 45 South Carolinians. They were traveling up 95 and would be about 25 minutes late for the performance. Could we hold?

Three groups comprised most of the sold out house that day. The Henrico Rec and Parks group and the Red Hat Ladies were already sitting patiently in their seats. And right smack dab in the middle of all of them were 45 empty seats for the gentle folk from Charleston.

Situations similar to this happen from time to time, and Phil and I frequently are called upon to do our “dog and pony show.” I’ve never been sure which one of us is the dog and which the pony. Perhaps we’re both donies. Or pogs. But our goal is to keep the on-time audience members happy until the “held up in traffic” audience (usually arriving by the busload) actually shows up.

When it’s a children’s theatre audience, and Christmas, I haul out my audience participation versions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Snow Bear Boogie, etc. We put our right paw in and our left paw out, and we parents jangle our car keys to Jingle Bells until the errant playgoers finally make it into their seats. At Easter-time I’ve been known to resort to Little Rabbit Foo Foo.

With an audience of spirited senior citizens, it’s not quite that easy. Making antlers with our hands every time we get to the word “reindeer” doesn’t seem to float their boats. So Phil and I took to the stage and announced that we’d be happy to answer questions about the history (fascinating, actually) of Barksdale Theatre and Hanover Tavern.

After breezing through my less than encyclopedic (but fairly accurate) knowledge of Patrick Henry and Hanover real estate circa 1776, the questions started getting tougher. “Who is the Montgomery Room named after?” (The Montgomery Room is the dining room in which the group had just eaten lunch, and I don’t have a clue how it earned that moniker.) “Did Thomas Jefferson really visit Hanover Tavern and which room did he stay in?”

I felt myself missing Nancy Kilgore.

Nancy, God bless her soul, knew all the answers. And when she didn’t, she was an unrivaled expert at making them up. She was at her most dazzling when the “real” answer was either fleeting or unknown. Watching Nancy lead groups through the Tavern and/or other historic Hanover properties was like watching Maggie Smith captivate the tourists visiting an historic British manor house in Lettice and Lovage.

In that wonderful play by Peter Shaffer, the character of Lettice, hilariously played on Broadway and in London’s West End by Dame Maggie, repeats the same historical narrative to a different group of tourists four times, and each time her docent declamation becomes more fantastical and compelling. In the final iteration, she has the tourists spellbound with a tale of British gentry vaulting down the grand staircase holding aloft platters brimming with baked hedgehogs.

I must admit I resorted to a bit of hedge-hogwash myself when I described the fiddle contest that Henry and Jefferson are alleged to have had "just on the other side of that door" during the Christmas season of 1759. We know from his journal that TJ visited the neighboring estate of Nathan Dandridge that year on his way to William and Mary. Who’s to say that the fiddling legend is untrue?

Of course, the Hanover Tavern in which Patrick Henry worked and played actually burned to the ground sometime in or just prior to the 1780s, and the one we know and love today (at least the northern section in which the theatre is located) was not rebuilt until 1791. But that’s not the way that Nancy Kilgore told it. And if I have the choice of being true to history or true to the memory of Nancy’s wildly enthusiastic embrace of the Tavern’s spirit, I’ll pick the latter any day of the week.

After all, as Nancy once said, “Once you’re sitting in those seats, darling, you’re not in a museum, you’re in a THEATRE!!” Here here.

--Bruce Miller
Images (from the top): Hanover Tavern, Swingtime logo, Rudolph in Claymation, the new Thomas Jefferson gold piece, Nancy Kilgore in Stop the World, Maggie Smith in Lettice and Lovage, Patrick Henry.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Real Transylvania Mania

Posted by Bruce Miller

Very quickly (it's past my bedtime), I attended TheatreVCU's production of Dracula this evening, written by Steven Dietz, directed by Barry Bell, and produced by David Leong. It was an exciting, impressive and creepy ride.

I especially appreciated the five leading men: Brandon Crowder as Dracula, Joe Carlson as Renfield, Joseph Sultani as Seward, Landon Nagel as Van Helsing, and Andrew Donnelly as Harker. All five inhabited their characters with distinct personalities and histrionic expertise, creating some heart-pounding suspense.
Of the five, Landon Nagel is the Barksdale vet, having played the minister and other roles in The Full Monty a couple summers ago.

Ron Keller's set, Toni-Leslie James's costumes, Mike Mauren's lights, and especially Thomas Vecchione's sound were all chill inducing. Ron Keller is another Barksdale and Theatre IV vet, having designed The Laramie Project and supervised the designs of countless other shows at Willow Lawn, including our upcoming productions of Doubt and The Little Dog Laughed.
The two leading ladies, Jaci Camden and Marie Weigle, spent most of the show as young lovelies, but became more interesting after becoming "unclean." Barry Bell staged it all with style, classical titillation, and a fun sense of the unexpected.

More than half the seats were empty this evening, which is a terrible shame. Students can attend for only $7 (adults are something like $18). This evening was further proof that even when exciting theatre is presented super-cheap in their own backyard, it's really difficult to convince the majority of university students to come to the theatre.

The last two performances will be tomorrow evening (Friday) at 7:30, and, if you want to be really creepy, Saturday evening at MMIIDDNNIIGGHHTT - AHH HHAA HHAA!! (That's me using my deep Transylvania voice with lots of reverb.)

Anyway, for an eerie good time, you won't go wrong with this new edition of Dracula. The VCU theatre department is full of talent. And you can't beat the price.

--Bruce Miller

In Memoriam: Curtis Morrisette

Posted by Bruce Miller
We were saddened to learn yesterday of the recent passing of actor and theatre enthusiast Curtis Morrisette, who died on Saturday, Nov 17, after a spirited battle with lung cancer. Curtis last appeared on the Barksdale stage as the crusty old stage door manager, Pops Bailey, in The 1940's Radio Hour.

The two photos that begin and end this post are from the Yellow House film, Hitiro the Peasant, in which Curtis appeared. Thanks to Stephanie Kelley and Justin Dray for use of the photos.

The bio Curtis wrote for the playbill of The 1940's Radio Hour read as follows:

CURTIS MORRISETTE (Pops Bailey) is pleased once again to be on the stage of Barksdale Theatre. This is his third production with Barksdale. It has been his distinct privilege to work with Barksdale, Firehouse, CAT, HTC, RPAC, Jazz Actors, as well as the VCU Writers, Directors and Actors groups over the past several years. He gives grateful and heartfelt thanks to the present and past directors, stage managers, casts and crews with whom he has had the pleasure to work. ‘They are, and have been, my mentors. If I display any talent in my craft, it is because of their willing and unforgettable help.’”

In addition to his work as an actor, Curtis was a faithful Barksdale usher and friend.

Since 1940's Radio Hour, Curtis appeared as Vincentio with Susan Sanford as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at Richmond Shakespeare Theatre. Susan was Curtis’s director in The 1940's Radio Hour, and both actors are pictured together in the Shrew photo to the left. The photo was taken by Eric Dobbs. Andrew Hamm, who worked with Curtis on Shrew, has written a thoughtful remembrance of Curtis on his blog,

Curtis was subsequently scheduled to appear in Flowers for Algernon at the Mill, but had to leave the show when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and required by his doctor to undergo immediate treatment.

As many times as I talked with Curtis, I have to admit we never discussed his family. Sadly, no one thus far knows if Curtis had any family members with whom he'd been in touch. That being the case, his final arrangements are being tended to by the Veterans Administration Hospital and the manager of the Berkshire Apartments downtown, where Curtis lived. Jil Wilson-Robinson, Vice President of the Virginia Actors Forum, is working with the apartment manager. If anyone knows anything about Curtis’s family, please contact Jil at Or you can call the apartment manager directly at 804-644-7861.

Jil and others are also planning a memorial service for Curtis. More word on that will be coming.

Curtis seems to be best remembered for his good natured feistiness, his comical way of inventing a line when he had trouble remembering the one that was written, and his frequent visits to Lift, the coffee shop down the street from the Empire. In every instance, he was a positive force in our community and lots of fun. There’s not a minute with Curtis that we don’t remember with a smile, and not a jot of this vital, clever, generous man that we won’t miss.

With respect and affection, Barksdale's upcoming production of Doubt will be dedicated to Curtis's memory.

--Bruce Miller

"A Christmas Story" Opens Tomorrow

Posted by Billy Christopher Maupin

Tomorrow night at Barksdale Theatre's "sister theatre," Theatre IV, A Christmas Story opens. Not the movie, of course, but a stage adaptation of the movie. And it took a heckuva lot of people to get it to the stage. The author billing credit is required by the publisher to read:

A Christmas Story
Adapted by Philip Grecian. Based on the motion picture A Christmas Story
© 1983 Turner Entertainment Co., Distributed by Warner Bros.,
Written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark;
Also based on the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.

Now that's a mouthful. But all those writing credits make me think of all the people who are involved in getting the show onstage after the script is written. There's a talented team of people on this one.

A Christmas Story is directed by Chase Kniffen, with scenic design by Mercedes Schaum, lighting design by Matthew Landwehr, costume design by Sarah Grady, stage management by Ariel C. Osborne, and a whole slew of electricians, sound technicians, scene painters, costumers, and more.

And it's A Christmas Story onstage! I can hardly wait to see it! Especially because of the great cast: Tony Foley, Julie Fulcher, Gordon Bass, Eric Pastore, Jacqueline Jones/AnnaMarie Rossi, R. Cooper Timberline, Eric Evans, Michael Thibodeau, Lillie Izo, Lyla Rossi, and Chandler Hurd.

It's the holiday classic, live and on-stage! To order tickets, call the box office at 344-8040 or visit the
Theatre IV website at I hope to see you at the show!

(Photos by Jay Paul. From top to bottom: Eric Pastore; Julie Fulcher and Gordon Bass; Michael Thibodeau, Eric Pastore, R. Cooper Timberline, and Eric Evans; Tony Foley)

--Billy Christopher Maupin

Monday, November 26, 2007

Moving Forward from our 200th Blog Post

Posted by Phil Whiteway

Now that we’ve passed our 200th blog post—this is #201—our staff leadership is debating “tone.”

Does the Barksdale blog have design and content that reflects the “professional” standards to which we aspire as we create our work on stage? Does our blog seem “business-like” and/or “serious,” encouraging major contributors, Richmond business leaders, and out-of-town cyber-visitors to understand that Barksdale Theatre is a cornerstone institution that takes its art and management seriously?

You can visit Stage Banter, the excellent Arena Stage blog, for an example of what we mean by “professional,” “business-like” and “serious.”

Does our blog have a “folksy,” “personal,” “we’re all part of the Richmond theatre family” feel that reflects Barksdale’s family-oriented past and the personalities of many, if not all, of our current staff leaders, including me? We’re well aware that the Richmond theatre scene is considerably smaller than the D. C. theatre scene, and that Barksdale Theatre is considerably smaller than Arena Stage. But the commitment to artistic and managerial excellence is the same. Does our blog reflect this?

Here’s another way to look at it.

If you didn’t know Barksdale Theatre, and you read the blog as it is now, would you perceive that Barksdale and Theatre IV, working cooperatively, form Richmond’s largest performing arts institution? Do we seem like a leadership organization that strives to meet national standards? Does the blog reflect a maturity, artistic sensibility, intelligence and dedication that Richmond theatre artists can be proud of when actors, directors, and designers from other parts of the country check us out?

Does our blog make it appear that Richmond’s leading professional theatre is a relaxed, welcoming, community-based organization or a serious professional theatre? In many ways we strive to be both. Which impression do we want to make?

Our staff leadership knows who we are and what Barksdale Theatre stands for. When I say "we," I mean the "big tent" we of the entire Barksdale family. Our staff leadership is proud of who we are. Does our blog reflect who we are?

These are important questions, not just for Barksdale, but for our theatre community. There are no wrong answers. Please give it some thought and let us know your opinions. Feel free to speak both favorably and to offer constructive criticism.

An average of 78 people read our blog each day. I’m hoping for 20, 30 or 50 comments. So this means I'm hoping to hear from you. Thanks.

--Phil Whiteway

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Moonlight and Magnolias" Makes Many Merry

Posted by John Steils

The first review is in for Moonlight and Magnolias. Under the headline Having a Ball with ‘Gone With the Wind’, it appeared in this morning’s Times-Dispatch. The beautifully written kudos are penned by Celia Wren.

“An amiably romping production!” Wren exclaims. “Hutchinson’s comedy takes a behind-the-scenes look at the frantic 1939 creation of the screenplay for Gone With the Wind.”

David Bridgewater and Scott Wichmann are praised as “theatrical powerhouses.” Admiration is awarded to Joe Pabst’s “comic poise”. Director Steve Perigard’s “witty sight gags (sound gags, too)” and Brian Barker’s “handsome set, with its peach-colored walls and sleek art deco furniture” also earn Wren’s approbation.

Even the seldom appreciated, at least in print, props department received a nod. “In an ongoing joke,” Wren writes approvingly, “Selznick’s office becomes increasingly messy—so a special nod must go to this production’s properties mistress, Lynn West, for coping with the piquant slovenliness.”

“A key asset of director Steve Perigard’s staging is Wichmann, whose dry interpretation of Hecht ballasts the show’s farcical elements. Bridgewater takes a far hammier approach to Fleming: In one particularly droll sequence, he minces, his head in a kerchief, imitating Scarlett O’Hara’s maid. At another point, he does a mean Clark Gable imitation.”

Having a Ball with ‘Gone with the Wind’ seems to us to sum up everything perfectly. We’re delighted that the critics and audiences seem to be having such a wonderful time. We hope you’ll call for YOUR tickets soon!

--John Steils

(Photo credits: Our Moonlight and Magnolias poster by Robert Meganck. David O. Selznick [producer] with Vivien Leigh after she won her Oscar for GWTW. Ben Hecht [screenwriter]. Victor Fleming [director].)

Jacqueline Jones Teaches Us Many Things in Her Responses to "The Questionnaire"

Posted by Billy Christopher Maupin

Theatre IV’s production of A Christmas Story opens this Friday at the beautiful, historic Empire Theatre. One of Richmond’s favorite ladies is featured as Miss Shields (well, at some performances, but I’ll let her explain that later). Jacqueline Jones, known to most as Jackie, you may remember from Deathtrap, Over the River and Through the Woods, or Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern, or from Into the Woods at Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn, or perhaps even more likely, as Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle at Theatre IV (the first show I saw at the Empire Theatre). Jackie has taken on the Pivot/Lipton questionnaire and shared some fantastic stories!

1. What is your favorite word?


I like saying it different ways and in different voices and with different meanings. Have a whole conversation using only onomatopoeia. It's a good word. Honk.

I also like to say kiwi – and banana. Those are fun to say in different voices, too.

Mmeep, Mmeep.

2. What is your least favorite word?

Any word that is whined.

3. What turns you on [creatively, spiritually or emotionally]?

Cool crisp fresh air – autumn is my favorite season, spring is a close second. Unless it is spring. Then autumn is a close second.

Singing in tight harmonies when they are right – it takes me a long time to learn them, so when I finally get them, I feel pretty and enjoy a sense of accomplishment – pulling weeds does that for me too, but it's not as fun.

My mother and my best friend Walker always suggested that I'd better hone my acting skills 'cause I'd never make it as a singer. When I was in college (Boston University, SFA '78), I took Voice for Theatre Students from a BU School of Music opera teacher. She carried her dog, Chloe, to every class (hmmm, I cannot remember the teacher's name, but I'll never forget the dog's). The dog, a tiny little thing the teacher carried under her arm, was there to show us how to breathe. I am really good at panting. My jury song (that's just too fancy a word for what we did, but what else shall I call it?) was "Will You Remember (Sweetheart)?" Maybe you've heard a Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy recording of it. After I finished singing, our teacher turned to my fellow students and proudly proclaimed, "Now class, didn't we turn this sow's ear into a silk purse!" Hmmm.

I usually refer to myself as a character singer.

(Jackie and Walker pictured together to the right)

4. What turns you off?

Dishonesty. Betray my trust and your name is mud.

I almost included "Rudeness," too. But I console myself that if not for the varied people and behaviors in the world, character actors would be out of a job.

5. What sound or noise do you love?


Shhhh of the overhead fan as it cools me to sleep while I am under a heavy quilt.

Train whistle – we live just close enough to the tracks, but not too close.

My children's *happy* voices: their laughter and humming and storytelling. My kids are "all grown up" now. Their happy voices still make me reel. (Jackie's son Madison pictured at left)

The garage door late at night: everyone's home and I can sleep soundly.

6. What sound or noise do you hate?

The bass vibrating my car from someone else's vehicle … even after they've driven a block away.

Our dog whining.

7. What is your favorite curse word? (have it at it. I obviously won't post it for real, but in some approved somewhat censored fashion) (Note: Jackie did her own censoring)

My favorites are not ones I actually use; in fact people tend to apologize when they curse around me. Maybe I make them feel guilty.

I did not grow up in a cursing home.

(Jackie's mother, Bea, pictured to the right; Bea is on the left in the picture with her mother, Jackie's Oma, on the right)

Our kitchen was divided into two parts by a bar which housed the stovetop. One day when I was about 13, I was on one side of the divider at our table. My mother was on the opposite side where she was hidden by the open refrigerator door. She did not know I was present.

Suddenly there was a crash followed by "S#!+!"


Brief silence before her nonchalant, "Yes?"

I'd never heard my mother curse before and rarely since.

My college pal Bruce MacVittie (his birthday was October 14 – I always remember it because he told me no one ever remembered his birthday – part friendship, part challenge) is from Rhode Island. Oh boy, did he cuss! Those words just rolled off freely like I'd never heard (really never heard) before. Bruce wanted to teach me how to sling 'em too. We practiced. I learned to say "A$$H@!*" with a terrific New England accent just like his and one time I even tried it on for real. He glowed.

The German equivalent of "A$$H@!*" was my Oma's favorite and she taught it and all the other German curse words to her coworkers in the shoe department at Thalhimers where she and my Opa were tops. Oh the stories! I don't really like the word in German or English, but just the way Bruce MacVittie said it. Aside from that one time, I don't use it at all, but the "Sugar Honey Ice Tea" cuss has slipped from my lips on rare occasions.

One more cursing story. This one took place in 1982 on a Theatre IV tour of the musical The Golden Goose by Ford Flannagan; see him in Theatre IV's upcoming Peter Pan!

The cast included my current tag team Teacher in A Christmas Story. AnnaMarie Rossi and I share the role of Miss Shields in Theatre IV's upcoming holiday offering at the historic Empire Theatre (I do the weekday student matinees; she does weekend matinees and we split the evenings). In The Golden Goose, AnnaMarie played The Princess Who Could Not Smile. I portrayed Goldie, the Golden Goose, and at the time I was even still Jackie Goldberg. Hmmm, I wonder if Ford did that on purpose. Ford? We traveled with The Queen, The Guard, The Jester and Simpleton. All six actors but Goldie and Simpleton played multiple roles.

Ford, who wrote the book and lyrics and directed our show, was once quoted as saying, "the play is based on the Grimm stories about Simpleton and the Golden Goose. It has nothing to do with the goose that laid the golden egg.''

The publicity material said "The story takes place in a gloom-filled kingdom, the result of a spell cast by an evil Jester. The Queen holds a contest to find someone to break the spell, which can be done by making the melancholy Princess laugh. Simpleton, the hero of the tale, is aided by the title character."

The Queen was also our company manager on that tour. She was the liaison between Theatre IV and our venue contact person (usually a school "prince – i – pal" – ha-ha); she made big decisions on tour, a Queen Mother if you will. Coincidently, she is the person instrumental in my diligence in always wearing a seatbelt, even before it was a state law.

One of our Princes had major potty mouth. MAJOR. Our Queen on the other hand may as well have been called the Virgin Queen, my own dumb joke, because that title has little to do with the fact that she did not did not did not like cussing ... or overuse of the word hate. The Queen's disapproval of cursing fueled Mr. Potty Prince even more.

One day, his word du jour was … well … it was ... "f*%#wad." I'd never even heard that word. Have you? After hearing it all morning, our Queen went into a royal tizzy (she never raised her voice, even on this occasion) and decreed that the cursing must stop. It did. For a while. Until ... Later that day.

In our production of The Golden Goose, in an effort to make The Princess Who Could Not Smile happy again, the Queen throws a ball during which three Princes made cameo appearances to dance with The Princess Who Could Not Smile. Afterwards, she sings a lovely solo about when the good ol' days were so ... good, and how sad she is now. (Ford writes lyrics better than I do. He wrote Theatre IV's Little Red Hen, too. I was the title character in its premier in 1981. My sister Laura still asks me to twang the title song to her on the phone.) (Promo shot of The Little Red Hen at right, with Jackie at bottom left, AnnaMarie Rossi at left and Ford center, also pictured are Debbie Gale Taylor, seen as Joan's mother in Barksdale Theatre's production of The Lark last season, and Richard Travis)

Anyway, this particular show, the third dance partner, our very own Potty Prince, entered and twirled The Princess Who Could Not Smile as usual till the point at which he faced upstage (away from the audience). As The Princess Who Could Not Smile faced downstage, her face in full view of the audience, Potty Prince opened his mouth to reveal to her a tiny note neatly placed on his tongue, a tiny note with the word " f*%#wad " on it.

The Girl Who Could Not Smile must not smile now or the curse would be broken and the play would be over! So. She cried. And she cried and she cried. And she cried through her song and ran off stage "in tears." And her Queen mother did not know why the Princess was crying so hard since the Queen's throne was positioned where she could not see what had transpired. As you can imagine, this fairytale had no happy ending except that it is a good one to tell when someone asks about curse words.

I still hum that song sometimes.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I like to type. I edit a few newsletters, publicity and scripts on a volunteer basis. Sumpeen like dat, maybe? But just edit. Not write from scratch. That thing about writers sweating blood – not for me.

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler -

I am so thankful my Dad insisted I take typing. Nowadays with computers, keyboarding is a given for youngsters. But when I was growing up, typing was a high school elective. I didn't know then that nerve damage would eventually make writing difficult for me. But typing – piece o'cake.

While I attended BU, I picked up some secretarial classes at Fisher Jr. College, Evening Division. I took Stenoscript, a new (at that time) kind of shorthand that I never used again. I don't think anyone has ever used it. I still have the book. Oh! It holds two long-forgotten letters of recommendations from my teachers. In my typing class was a guy who wrote pornography for a living. His editor told him that if he didn't type better, he would lose his job. He didn't "look like" a pornographer.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

Proofreading. Makes me nervous. I MIGHT MISS SOMETHIINNG. Math makes me nervous, too.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

You finally made it; the children will be fine.

(Jackie's daughter, Jasmine, pictured to the left.)

Be sure to check out Jackie and the rest of the cast of A Christmas Story at Theatre IV at the historic Empire Theatre November 30 - December 23. For tickets, call the box office at 344-8040.

You can also check out Jackie online at

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Harris-Jones Scores at First NYC Audition

Posted by Bruce Miller

I received a Happy Thanksgiving email from Robin Harris-Jones, late of Richmond now of NYC, reporting some great news. After practically just arriving in the Big Apple, Robin has been cast in a leading role at her first audition. No huge surprise there. Here in River City, Robin was definitely a young woman whose star was on the rise.

The photo shows Robin as an Ozian, in case you're wondering.

“Good news on my end,” Robin writes. “I got a theatre job! Off my first audition! I'll be headed down to Ft. Myers, FL in a couple weeks to play Cathy in The Last Five Years for Synergy Productions of SW Florida. Unless something goes terribly awry, I'm supposed to leave NY around Dec 3 with a run, I believe, Dec 17 thru Jan 27 at the Foulds Theatre.

The artistic director, Andrew Kurtz, is a busy bee - artistic director of 2 orchestras in Florida, an opera company in Philly, and a little music theatre company to boot!I can't wait to get back to work … and have a role I've wanted to play for a long time on my resume!!!!”
That's Maestro Kurtz's photo to the right--obviously a man who knows an amazing voice when he hears one.
Robin sends her best wishes to one and all for a happy holiday season.

--Bruce Miller

Reviewers Hail Boogie Woogie Blockbuster

Posted by John Steils

The first two reviews are in for Swingtime Canteen and we couldn’t be happier.

On, Joan Tupponce raves ...


Set in an Air Force concert in 1944 London, the musical revue includes more than 30 sentimental hits made famous by everyone from The Andrews Sisters to The Benny Goodman Band.
The five actresses – Jan Guarino, Vilma Gil, Katrinah Carol Lewis, Debra Wagoner and Audra Honaker – are as adept at belting out a high-powered tune as they are at easing into a nostalgic ballad.

A Hoot! Right-on-the-Money! An Absolute Delight!

A finger snappin’, hands clappin’, toe tappin’ musical!
A Swingin’ Good Time!!


--Joan Tupponce,

At the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Susan Haubenstock adds her appreciation …

“Swingtime Hums with Music!
It’s London, 1944, and five American lovelies are putting on a USO concert to boost Air Force morale.

Swingtime Canteen brings back some great songs from the Big Band era, along with some lesser-known gems. It’s heart is the GREAT MUSIC.

Cute! Fresh Faced! Entertaining!

Don’t get much better than this!”

--Susan Haubenstock, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Tickets are going fast, so if you or yours would like to join us over the holidays for this boogie-woogie blockbuster, call the Barksdale Box Office today at 282-2620. You’ll be glad you did.

--John Steils

Moonlight Makes Movie Memory Magic

Posted by Bruce Miller

I just returned from the Opening Night of Moonlight and Magnolias, and I’m psyched at the prospect of having a second holiday hit on our hands. While Swingtime Canteen continues to leave ‘em cheering in its second week at Hanover Tavern, Moonlight and Magnolias is rocking the house with laughter at Willow Lawn.

In the photos that follow, Jennings Whiteway and Michael Hawke prepare a sumptuous Magnolia-themed buffet for the Opening festivities.

Brian Barker, our extremely talented set designer, celebrates the evening’s success with his lovely wife.

Joy Williams, who is a laugh riot as the all-sacrificing Hollywood secretary Miss Poppenguhl, lets her hair down (or at least takes off her wig) to join in the party. And Wendy Vandergrift, our intrepid stage manager, puts her feet up on the on-stage desk for a much needed post performance break.

Former Theatre IV board member Charlotte McCutcheon enjoys the cranberry brie with managing director Phil Whiteway.

Bruce Rennie, the best theatre tech director in Virginia history, finally gets a moment to relax before launching into tech for A Christmas Story, which opens next week at the Empire.

Neil and Sara Belle November can’t stop smiling at the raucous comedy. Co-star Joe Pabst accepts the compliments of our volunteer coordinator Jean Hartley.

Our ever faithful light console operator, Linwood Guyton, shares credit for a job well done with our exceptional light designer, Lynne Hartman.

Co-star Dave Bridgewater enjoys discussing the play with Daren Kelly, who just returned to town after an acting gig with Yale Rep. Our fascinating Gone with the Wind lobby display can be seen in the background.

Keri Wormald (director of our upcoming Doubt) and Steve Perigard (director of Moonlight), discuss the evening’s success with acclaimed actor and director Robert Throckmorton.

And last but not least, longtime supporter Beth Sinnenburg enjoys raising a glass with our third hilarious co-star, Scott Wichmann.

For a great evening’s entertainment, come to Moonlight and Magnolias to see a hilarious new comedy about the making of the classic movie, Gone with the Wind. It’s a wonderful way to add a full share of laughter to your holiday activities.

See you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller