Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meet the Cast of Driving Miss Daisy: Jim Bynum – “Hoke”

By Joseph Pabst (Director of Driving Miss Daisy)

(Note: Driving Miss Daisy runs through November 2, 2008 at the Barksdale at Hanover Tavern. Over the last several weeks, we have highlighted the other two members of the cast – Garet Chester and Joy Williams.)

If you attend a performance of Driving Miss Daisy, you may find yourself wondering, “Why does the guy playing Hoke seem so familiar to me?” Depending on your familiarity with & experience in the Richmond area, the answer may be, “From TV.” Jim Bynum was one of the regular spokespersons (spokespeople?) for “The” Grocery Store, when it was still in business. Along with K Strong, another Richmond theatre favorite, Jim came into everyone’s living room on a regular basis (via television, that is) to let Richmonders know about the specials on “The” Grocery Store’s shelves. For a time, Jim & K were firmly seated in Richmond’s pop culture, although Jim concedes, “K is prettier, of course, and was the real star of the ads!”

But Jim is no stranger to live theatre by any means. He has enjoyed a rewarding on-stage career playing many diverse and challenging roles. He’s played senior citizens (Do Lord Remember Me, Driving Miss Daisy), the mentally challenged (The Boys Next Door), the physically challenged (Shadow Box), the psychologically challenged (Fences), and even the musically challenged (Mayor Shinn in The Music Man).

The most exciting roles of his career have come about as the result of “blind casting”, casting without regard to race or physical type. These highlights include Mayor Shinn in The Music Man, King Duncan in Macbeth, and Troy in Fences. “Troy is listed because the role called for a much larger man,” says Jim. “As a rotund citizen, I need to restate that. Fences called for a much TALLER actor. The director felt that my loud mouth would make up for loss in size.”

This production marks Jim’s second opportunity to play Hoke. He first chauffeured Miss Daisy around in a production staged by the Swift Creek Mill Theatre (or Playhouse, as it was known then) in 1991, playing opposite Betty Ann Grove as Daisy, and Joe Inscoe as Boolie. So what brought him back to the role this time? “I was drawn to Driving Miss Daisy because I love everything about the show. Actually, I would have missed the audition had Alice Shreiner not called to inform me. Thanks, Alice!”

Jim has a lot of admiration for the character he plays on stage. “Hoke is a survivor, and so am I. He is a proud man who quietly circumvents cultural and educational barriers to establish unlikely, life-long friendships.” Jim is also taken with Hoke’s loyalty and perseverance. “I would love to have those characteristics!”

Life off stage is very busy for Jim. Or “as Hoke would say, ‘… a mess.’” He has a strong background in education, even having served as the spokesperson for Richmond City Schools. “That was an exciting job, except the times when unpopular decisions caused some to want to shoot the messenger – and not with a camera!” Now, on any given day, he can be found teaching in a university classroom, conducting a workshop for educators in another city, editing dissertations, or delivering food to those who can’t get around. The work and service he provides through the Rotary Club of Richmond is enjoyable and very rewarding. His greatest joy is interacting with his grandchildren, Justin and Jayla. He’s also kept busy “loudly saying ‘yes’ to whatever my wife tells me to do around the house, around the car, around the neighborhood. (That’s what Hoke and I really have in common!)”

While Jim’s character spends most of his life driving as a career, Jim has spent most of his adult life traveling for the fun of it. He’s been to every state in the Union, and even visited five continents. “That’s right! Plans are in the works for Antarctica!”

It’s a good bet he won’t be driving to get there…

--Joe Pabst

Monday, October 27, 2008

Half Price Halloween

Treat yourself to an evening at
Hanover Tavern for only $19.

"A Godsend!
Three FINE actors
A touching, excellent ride!"
--Susan Haubenstock, Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Derives its humor and tenderness from life.
A trio of actors that bring a special synergy to the stage
It’s charming, nostalgic and just plain fun."
--Joan Tupponce,

Driving Miss Daisy is on stage at Hanover Tavern through Nov.2. Tickets are normally $38. This half priced offer is for October 31 only. It is not retroactive and may not be combined with other offers. Discount valid while seats are still available.

You may also take advantage of this discount by calling our box office at
(804) 282-2620

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mill and Firehouse Win Top RTCC Awards

Posted by Bruce Miller
Urinetown at Swift Creek Mill Theatre swept the first Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards last night at the Firehouse, receiving the most nominations of any production (11) and the most awards (5):

Best Musical
Best Direction (Musical) – Tom Width,
Best Choreographer – Brandon Becker,
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Musical) – Debra Wagoner, and
Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design – Joe Doran.

The Late Henry Moss, produced by Firehouse Theatre Project, conquered the competition in the play categories, receiving:

Best Play,
Best Actor (Play) – Justin Dray, and
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Play) – Jennie Meharg.

All told, Swift Creek Mill Theatre garnered six RTCCAs, as did Barksdale in the very even-handed awards event. Firehouse Theatre Project earned three awards, Richmond Shakespeare captured two, and ComedySportz won one. Enjoying good company in the “no wins” camp were African American Repertory Theatre, Carpenter Science Theatre, Chamberlayne Actors Theatre, Henley Street Theatre, Mystery Dinner Theatre, Richmond Triangle Players, Sycamore Rouge, and Theatre IV.

Other awards recipients included:

Stephen Ryan – Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Play) – Richard II (Richmond Shakespeare),
Sandy Dacus – Best Musical Direction – Guys and Dolls (Barksdale),
Jason Marks – Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Musical) – Guys and Dolls (Barksdale),
Rebecca Cairns – Outstanding Achievement, Costume Design – As You Like It [indoor] (Richmond Shakespeare),
Ron Keller – Outstanding Achievement, Set Design – Guys and Dolls (Barksdale),
Audra Honaker – Best Actress in a Leading Role (Musical) – Once Upon a Mattress (Swift Creek Mill Theatre),
Scott Wichmann – Best Actor in a Leading Role (Musical) – Guys and Dolls (Barksdale),
Bruce Miller – Best Direction (Play) – The Little Dog Laughed (Barksdale), and
Irene Ziegler – Best Actress in a Leading Role (Play) –Doubt (Barksdale).

The fact that major artists (and exceptional productions) like Katherine Louis, Laine Satterfield, David Bridgewater, Patti D’Beck, Leslie Owens Harrington, Paul Deiss, Joy Williams, Richard Koch, Robert Throckmorton, Sue Griffin, Liz Hopper, Lynne Hartman, Rachel Abrams, Ford Flannagan, Steve Perigard, Morrie Piersol, Keri Wormald, Margarette Joyner, Katie McCall, Susan Sanford, Duke Lafoon, Doubt, and Guys and Dolls failed to win in their appointed categories is a testament to the depth of talent in the Richmond Theatre Community.

As she herself mentioned during her hosting duties, Jill Bari Steinberg wasn’t even nominated.

A special award recognizing an Ongoing Contribution to Richmond Area Theatre was named in honor of Liz Marks, and presented to her daughter and brother. The festivities were fast moving and fun, and helped call attention to many, many achievements in Richmond’s 2007-08 theatrical season. Next year the awards ceremony will be at the Empire, which will allow for far greater attendance. Mark Sunday evening, Oct 18, 2009 on your calendars now. They’ll be plenty of tickets, and all proceeds will go once again to support the Richmond Theatre Artists Fund, an outstanding cause.

Congratulations and three cheers to all the winners and nominees. Congratulations also to the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle and the Firehouse for making the first iteration of this new annual event such a soaring success.

--Bruce Miller

Sign Interpreted Performance this Sunday at Willow Lawn

This season, we are launching a program to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation for one performance per title in our Signature Season, with some expert guidance from Sign Master Carol-lee Aquiline. Two interpreters will sign all of the dialogue during each selected performance. The online reservation system has been tailored to provide convenient ticket purchasing. Please click a show title for ticket information. We're hoping that many people will take advantage of the interpreted performances!

Our first ASL Interpreted performance in the 08-09 Signature Season is this Sunday, October 26th at 2 PM at Willow Lawn.

The Clean House

The Clean House has gotten rave reviews!

Free-Spirited, Romantic Comedy"
Richmond Times Dispatch

Amusing, Moving and a Little Bit Magical"
Style Weekly

"A Delight!
Funny and Poignant"
WCVE - Public Radio

ASL Interpreted Performances this season:

The Clean House
This Sunday
, October 26, 2008 at 2 PM

This Wonderful Life
, December 28, 2008 at 2 PM

Children of a Lesser God
, March 8, 2009 at 2 PM

, May 17, 2009 at 2 PM

Thoroughly Modern Millie
(at The Empire Theatre) Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 2 PM

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Been to the City for a Show with No Name

Posted by Bruce Miller
I don’t know why I’m waxing at such length about our Columbus Day Weekend excursion to the Big Apple. I hope it’s not boring.

The trip itself wasn’t boring at all. We flew out of Richmond on JetBlue on Saturday morning, departing RIC at 10:05 am and disembarking at JFK at 11:18. JetBlue is the Official Airline of Barksdale / Theatre IV. This, however, was a family trip and so my family paid for the tickets in full. They were a good deal at $59 each, one way, before taxes and fees.

To get from the airport to mid-town, we took the AirTrain to Jamaica Station, and then the E train subway into Manhattan. It’s about a 45-minute commute between the jet and Broadway; it’s comfortable; it costs less than $4.50 per person if you buy the right MetroCards.

Even though we were staying at the Milford, we left the subway at 53rd and 7th. I much prefer walking down Broadway and through Times Square to get to the Milford (45th and 8th) rather than walking up 8th from the 42nd St Port Authority subway stop.

Honoring the request of our late friend, we all shouted “Martha Newell” as our feet hit Broadway for the first time this trip.

On the way to the Milford, we stopped to eat lunch at Café Edison on 47th Street between Broadway and 8th—good, cheap, fast and very NYC. From Café Edison, Terrie and Curt schlepped the bags to the Milford while Hannah and I went to the TKTS Booth for half-price matinee tickets. Hannah and I are theatre junkies who enjoy seeing two shows in a day. Terrie and Curt like to relax and walk around the city in the afternoon and only see one show a day. Different strokes.

One of the shows Hannah and I most wanted to see was [title of show]. No, I didn’t forget to fill in the title; that is the title. Our friend and fellow theatre junkie, Lizzie Holland, had been raving about this small new musical since she saw it last summer. She and her parents think it would be a perfect show for Barksdale, and since it was closing this weekend, [title of show] was next to South Pacific on the top of our “must see” list.

As we ventured toward the end of the 45-minute TKTS line, we passed a half-price ticket promoter calling out the name of [title of show]. We told her we were interested, and she gave us a flyer that allowed us to purchase half-price tickets at the box office rather than waiting in the TKTS line for three quarters of an hour. [title of show] was playing at the Lyceum on 45th between Broadway and 6th, so we walked to the theatre in about 5 minutes. Using the flyer at the box office, we not only bagged half-price tickets, we also avoided the $4 per ticket service charge that one incurs at the TKTS Booth. And we were able to put it on my credit card—something that until this week was verboten on the TKTS line.

By avoiding the wait in line, we wound up with an hour to kill, so we rejoined Terrie and Curt at the Milford. I’ve stayed at the Milford a hundred times, and always found it satisfactory. It’s the cheapest of the decent hotels in the theatre district, or the most decent of the cheap hotels. And it has lots of rooms, so when the Edison (my favorite affordable hotel) books up early, which it always seems to do, I often can still find a room at the Milford.

This time, even booking more than two months in advance and using on-line rates, the Milford cost $309 before taxes for Saturday night and $279 before taxes for Sunday. That seems really expensive to me, but it’s the best rate I could find. And the only way to get that rate was to reserve for three nights and then call back and cancel one of the three. When I tried to book for two nights, the computer indicated that the Milford was sold out.

There was a street market on 8th Avenue last Saturday, so Hannah and I checked out a few of the booths before heading back to the Lyceum for our 3 o’clock curtain. She bought her second pashmina—a real deal at only $5.

We absolutely LOVED [title of show]. With music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and a book by Hunter Bell, [title of show] documents its own creation, telling the story of two Broadway theatre junkies who attempt over a three-week period to create a new script and score to enter into the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Bowen and Bell, who not only wrote but also play themselves in the show, determined to write an original musical rather than adapt a play or movie into a musical. They discovered almost immediately that their conversations about what to write were more interesting than the ideas they were coming up with for an original show. And so the idea to document the creation of the creation of the show itself became clearer (or as the show states, "a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical"). After the show was accepted into the festival, Bell and Bowen expanded the script based on their writing experiences with friends Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, who also play themselves in the Broadway production.

[title of show] is a classic post-modern work-in-progress, with updates reflecting the circumstances the cast and the show have experienced added to the show as it progressed from Off-Off-Broadway to Off-Broadway to Broadway. Now that it will be moving on to regional productions, it will be interesting to see if the rewriting continues.

Since I love the show, I’m asking myself the following questions:
1. Will it work as well with actors other than the original creators playing themselves?
2. Does it include too much Broadway insider information and perspective to appeal to a Richmond subscription audience?
3. Will the original creators trust the work to a small regional theatre, and if so, when?

After I answer these questions to my satisfaction, I’ll decide whether or not to pursue a Barksdale production. Right now, I can only say that the show was GREAT on Broadway. It spoke to me. I’d love to be involved in some way with a future production.

More coming soon about the other shows we saw. Till then, see you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller

Photo note: In the show photos from [title of show], Hunter Bell (author of the book, actor playing the character "Hunter") is in the green shirt; Jeff Bowen (composer and lyricist, actor playing the character "Jeff") is in the navy or purple polo shirt, with a rolled up long-sleeved t-shirt underneath; Heidi Blickenstaff (actress playing "Heidi") has the long blond hair; Susan Blackwell (actress playing "Susan") has the pulled back dark hair.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Buying B'way Tics from a Sidewalk Stranger

Posted by Bruce Miller
Last weekend, my family took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday and went to New York City. Hannah’s school was closed all day Monday; Curt was out for half a day. This post is my second installment about our NYC trip (see Our Journey to “South Pacific” below). Today I’ll continue with my personal tale of buying great seats to a sold-out hit from a guy I’d never met.

Like a magician, I’m tempted to say “don’t try this at home.” I can’t vouch for the practice I’m about to describe, nor can I promise that should you try to replicate the procedure you won’t get burned.

Nonetheless, on two occasions I’ve nervously purchased Broadway tickets valued at more that $100 each from guys shouting out show titles on the sidewalk adjacent to the TKTS line. On both occasions, I’ve obtained great seats to a sold-out hit for nothing more than the standard ticket price.

As I mentioned before, Hannah and I really wanted to see South Pacific at Lincoln Center. But tickets for the Columbus Day weekend had been sold out for months. Regular price tickets to South Pacific are $115 to $120. I could have bought Premium Seats in advance from the box office for $300 each, or other good seats from a broker for $225 each. There was no way I could handle that expenditure. So I decided to arrive in NYC empty handed and try my luck.

There are two ways to get good seats at the regular price at the last minute for a sold-out Broadway hit. Neither one is a sure thing.

1 – You can go directly to the box office several hours prior to curtain on the day you want to see the show and ask if and when unsold Premium or House Seats will be released. Often the box office associate will tell you exactly when to return and offer a guess as to your chances for success. Frequently two to ten great seats are released 90 minutes or so before curtain. Armed with this box office advice, you can return at the time suggested and hope you’re close enough to the head of the line to make it to the box office window in time to buy great seats at the regular ticket price.

The Premium Seats that may or may not be released are among the best seats in the house. They are the seats the producer has been trying to sell for $300 each to people who have the means to buy great seats at the last minute without worrying how much they cost. The House Seats that may or may not be released are also among the best seats in the house. They are the seats set aside for purchase by the cast and crew, playwrights, directors, designers, producers etc of the show. If you’re in the cast, and your Great Aunt Harriet comes to town and asks for tickets at the last minute, you as a cast member can purchase House Seats for her, if any House Seats are still available. Once in a while, some House Seats are unspoken for on the day of the show, and they are released for sale to the general public at the last minute.

2 – The second way to buy last minute, hard-to-get tickets is to buy them from one of the broker’s representatives who are sent out to the sidewalks before every performance. They usually ply their trade somewhere near the line of folks waiting to buy half-price tickets at the TKTS Booth. I’ve heard the horror stories about people who bought tickets on the sidewalk only to learn when they showed up at the theatre that the tickets were counterfeit or stolen. When you buy tickets on the sidewalk, it’s definitely buyer beware. Just because I haven’t been burned yet doesn’t mean I won’t be burned next time.

Having issued that warning, here’s what I’ve done. I’ve walked up and down and all around the TKTS Booth area, listening for someone hawking tickets to the show I wanted to see. Several years ago with The Lion King, and last weekend with South Pacific, I heard a man shouting the show title I wanted. I approached the hawker and asked what he had.

In both instances, the man produced a stack of tickets that appeared to be absolutely real and he let me look at them closely. I'm wary if someone is selling only two or four tickets to one show, as they might be stolen. I like it when the street vendor has several tickets for several different hits.

The tickets were marked for group sale and, in the case of South Pacific, the price printed on the ticket was the discount price of $75. I asked how much he was charging for the tickets. He quoted $115, which I knew to be the regular box office price. (The earlier you purchase your tickets from a sidewalk vendor, the greater the mark-up. As you approach curtain time, the mark-up decrease, but so do the available tickets.)

I told the seller that I was interested in buying two tickets, and asked how I could be assured that he was for real. Both times I've made these street transactions, without hesitation or complaint, the sidewalk sellers have given me the name of the broker they worked for, showed me their driver’s license with photo, name and address, and matching credit cards with the same name. They both reminded me that they were standing out in the open shouting loudly, obviously not worried about being noticed and/or questioned by the cops. They both seemed legitimate to me, and completely above board.

After engaging in this back-and-forth, I decided in both instances to purchase the tickets with cash. Checks and credit cards were not an option, but both broker’s reps would have accepted Traveler’s Checks. Several years ago, I purchased four great seats to The Lion King for something like $100 each. This time I purchased two great seats to South Pacific. In both instances, it worked out fine.

If you buy tickets in this way, here’s what you’re buying. When the major ticket brokers sense that a show is going to be a sold-out hit, they purchase tens of thousands of the best seats at group rates months in advance. They then resell those tickets to the public directly or through hotel concierges and travel agents, usually with a considerable mark-up over the regular price and a huge mark-up over the reduced group rate. More than a third of the people who see a sold-out hit buy their tickets directly or indirectly through a broker.

On the day of the show, brokers frequently have a handful of great tickets still available. They give these tickets to their sidewalk salesmen, who go down to the TKTS line and start shouting out the names of the shows they have. Usually the salesmen will have a small number of good seats to several shows. Usually the tickets will be marked with a discounted group rate. Usually they will sell the tickets to you at the regular ticket price. Usually they aren’t offended if you ask them to reassure you as to their legitimacy.

If you’re a gambler and want to see a show badly enough, it may be worth a try. I don’t recommend sidewalk sales of theatre tickets, but for those who want to know, this has been my experience. I haven’t done it often, but the two times I have, I haven’t been scammed.

And remember, of course, most shows aren't sold-out hits. Most shows will allow you to buy regular price tickets from the box office even at the last minute. Often you can buy half-price tickets from or at the tkts booth. The current sold-out hits for which last minute tickets are difficult include only Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, South Pacific, and Wicked.

Coming tomorrow: our backstage tour with Jerold Solomon, and meeting our should-have-been President outside Kelli O’Hara’s dressing room

--Bruce Miller

It's True, the New TKTS Booth is Open

Posted by Bruce Miller
The Theatre Development Fund guy who spoke to me last weekend was right on all counts. The newly designed TKTS Booth opened yesterday in Times Square. You can find the NY Times article about this long awaited step forward at

Best of all, the TKTS Booth will now be accepting credit cards for the first time, meaning you no longer have to wait in line for an hour on an NYC sidewalk with hundreds of strangers pressing in from all directions, trying to safeguard the $300 you just withdrew from the ATM.

See you in line!

--Bruce Miller

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mayoral Candidates Weigh in on the Arts

Posted by Bruce Miller
Phil Whiteway, Tony Foley, Jeanie Rule, Janine Serresseque, Brad Tuggle and I (all staff members at Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV) attended Tuesday night’s second Mayoral Forum, hosted at the Virginia Historical Society by Style Weekly and the League of Women Voters. Jason Roop, Editor of Style, did a great job as Moderator. Brandon Reynolds from Style, Sandra Jones from WTVR-TV Channel 6, and Michael Paul Williams from the Richmond T-D ably assisted as panelists, asking their own questions of the candidates and vetting questions from the audience.

The theme of the debate was Education and the Cultural Landscape, so lots of arts and culture professionals turned out. The five candidates (Paul Goldman, Robert J. Grey Jr., Dwight C. Jones, William J. “Bill” Pantele, and Lawrence E. Williams Sr.) all presented themselves well. But none of them seemed to have a real handle on the arts and cultural issues facing our city.

In an effort towards full disclosure, I mention that Robert Grey is a former Board member of Theatre IV, and he noted this credential during the debate. I appreciated the mention.

There was no mention from any candidate, however, of the large arts funding disparity that exists between Richmond and Norfolk, where the mayor has been a true champion of arts and cultural organizations, with significant success. There was talk from the candidates about Richmond being the cultural capital of the region, but it sounded more like well intentioned but uninformed cheer leading than anything else.

Most objective observers believe that Norfolk eclipsed Richmond as the “cultural capital” several years ago, and now functions as the arts flagship of Virginia. The five major things that will help Richmond catch up and re-establish its preeminence would be:
* a committed and vocal mayor,
* a committed and vocal business leader,
* an appropriately functioning Arts Council,
* an effective cultural plan (progress may be on the way on these last two fronts), and
* about an extra million per year in local public funding.

No candidate seemed to be aware of these issues. But then again, the panelists also seemed somewhat uninformed, and failed to ask the candidates to address any of the above.

There was only one real gaffe that I noticed, and it occurred when Jason Roop asked each candidate to name an arts event that had taken place in Richmond during the last five years that had particularly impressed him. Roop exempted last weekend’s Folk Festival, since that event had been so prominently featured in recent media coverage.

A couple candidates talked about First Fridays without mentioning any specific arts component. It was as if they’d heard about or perhaps experienced First Fridays as a festival designed to draw crowds to Broad Street, but they hadn’t actually connected with the art. A couple candidates mentioned public art in general, without discussing any specific work beyond "the fish project." Basically, all five candidates seemed a little stumped, unable to recall and describe a single performance or arts experience that had truly captured their imagination.

The gaffe occurred when Dwight Jones said, “The theatre at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts makes it onto my calendar every year.” He was referring, of course, to TheatreVirginia. As you know, TheatreVirginia went out-of-business mid-season in 2002, drawing significant media coverage. However, Jones otherwise presented himself well.

Another regrettable comment—the word “regrettable” obviously reflects my subjective perspective—was when Robert Grey said that we all needed to be proud of “our major organizations—the Symphony, the Opera, the Ballet, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.”

I certainly agree with that sentiment, but I regret that the word "theatre" was not included. Working in a permanent alliance with Theatre IV, Barksdale is somewhat larger in terms of annual budget, and significantly larger in terms of annual ticket sales, than either the Richmond Symphony, the Richmond presence of the Virginia Opera, or the Richmond Ballet. And yet, as is so often the case, no theatre was mentioned among the “major organizations.”

Again, otherwise, Grey presented himself well. He spoke of having appeared in a production of Women of Manhattan at the Firehouse, and mentioned his Board service not only at Theatre IV but also at the Richmond Ballet.

Clearly, those of us who care about theatre need to keep working hard to inform our mayoral candidates and all other community leaders that our art form is indeed a vital part of the mix. Barksdale/Theatre IV has an annual operating budget of $5.2 million, and enjoys annual Richmond attendance of over 82,000. Also, we tour extensively to schools throughout Virginia and 32 other states. Until everyone understands the impact that Barksdale/Theatre IV has on our community, the historical funding gap that continues to exist between Barksdale/Theatre IV and Richmond’s other major arts organizations will continue unchanged and unchallenged.

If you are a Richmond resident, be sure to vote in the upcoming mayoral elections. The candidates are good and capable men. I hope and believe that our next mayor will offer a step forward for our city.

--Bruce Miller

(Photos: The candidates pictured are: [top to bottom] Robert Grey, Dwight Jones, Bill Pantele, Lawrence Williams, and Paul Goldman.)

Our Journey to "South Pacific"

Posted by Bruce Miller
As I mentioned earlier, Terrie, Hannah, Curt and I ventured to NYC for Columbus Day Weekend. I love New York, and not just cause the slogan tells me so. My mother is an NYC native, and I’ve spent my entire life visiting the homeland at least once or twice a year, often more. I’ve always felt comfortable there, and it’s important to Terrie and me that Hannah and Curt feel comfortable there too.

So we don’t really need a reason to visit the Big Apple. New York is New York, with all that that entails. For us, that’s reason enough. But if we had needed additional motivation, seeing the smash hit revival of South Pacific would have been it.

The Tony Award-winning, Lincoln Center production stars the luminous Kelli O’Hara and features Richmond’s own super-talent, Jerold Solomon. Ever since seeing Light in the Piazza, Kelli O’Hara has been Hannah’s favorite leading lady under 40. I greatly admire her as well. (I have to include the “under 40” caveat out of respect for Kristin Chenoweth, Victoria Clark and Bernadette Peters, who also head Hannah’s short list of beloved musical theatre actresses.)

When we saw Piazza (also at Lincoln Center), Hannah LOVED the show, and wanted to meet the cast at the stage door following curtain call. (I loved being able to use Hannah as my excuse for wanting to do the same thing.) For reasons I don’t know, there’s usually a much smaller crowd at the stage door at Lincoln Center than at the stage doors of other Broadway musicals. So, when Victoria Clark and Kelli O’Hara exited, there was no mob, and both of them were very gracious in talking with Hannah and me. They made a terrific impression.

When Hannah saw Kelli O’Hara in South Pacific on the Tony Awards, that Rodgers and Hammerstein classic immediately became her #1 choice of shows to see. (She’s never quite forgiven me for seeing Pajama Game, which also starred Ms O’Hara, on a business trip without her.)

And then there’s Jerold. Hannah was very fortunate to have played the Oomiak in King Island Christmas years ago at Theatre IV, under Steve Perigard’s wonderful direction. Hannah won the role fair and square, and did a terrific job. Among her costars in that production was Jerold Solomon, who played Ooloranna, the Inuit leader who conceives of the plan to carry the oomiak (a walrus-skin boat) over the mountain that divides one half of King Island from the other, rescuing the island’s priest who had been stranded in an ice-bound ship offshore.

Every week, show after show, Jerold, Jake Mosser and the other men of King Island hoisted Hannah up high and carried her all around the stage. When you’re a little girl, and it’s your first starring role in a show, and a handsome and able 22-year old man is carrying you around stage for 90 minutes, it’s got to make an impression. Suffice it to say that Jerold will always hold a special place in Hannah’s heart.

Our only problem was this. We decided to take this trip sometime in August, and by the time the decision had been made, South Pacific was already sold out for the entire month of October. You can always go through a broker to buy tickets in advance to sold-out shows, but it winds up costing an extra $35 to $150 or more per ticket. And that's money we don't have. So I decided to take a chance, and try to buy a last minute ticket from a broker on the street. This is a risky venture, to be sure, but the two times I’ve tried it, it’s worked.

Coming tomorrow – Buying Last Minute Tickets from the Stranger on the Sidewalk … and LOVING South Pacific!

--Bruce Miller

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

TKTS Booth Set to Re-Open This Week

Posted by Bruce Miller
My family made it up to NYC last weekend for a fall visit to Broadway. Hannah and I saw In the Heights, South Pacific, [title of show] and The Marvelous Wonderettes. Curt and Terrie joined us for In the Heights, and saw Spring Awakening on their own. More on all that later.

While in the Big Apple, I visited the old TKTS Booth—the real one in Duffy Square that’s been closed for renovations for what seems like forever. A model of the re-design is pictured above.

Work on the remodeling seemed to be nearing completion, so I snapped these clandestine pictures, foisting my cheap trinket of a camera through rips in the black plastic and gaps in the chain link fence that has been installed to keep the new booth under wraps. I felt like Maxwell Smart, and kept waiting for my shoe phone to ring.

I asked the guys working the substitute booth located behind the Marriott Marquis when the newly remodeled old booth would reopen. The guy who seemed to know the most said, and I quote, “We’re supposed to open it for credit card sales”—yes, my friends, credit card sales—“on Tuesday and Wednesday”—that would be Oct 14 and 15—“and then transfer all operations back over there on Thursday.”

Maybe he was crazy or misinformed, but from what he said the real TKTS Booth may be re-opening tomorrow, and may begin accepting credit cards for the first time.

I don’t know how many half-price Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets I’ve purchased at the Times Square TKTS Booth since it first opened in 1973, housed in an old construction trailer. It’s certainly been in the hundreds. Some quick calculations indicate that I’ve probably saved about $14,800 and spent about 300 hours waiting in line.

I’ve loved every minute of it—well, almost every minute. And I seriously prefer the old booth in the open air of Duffy Square to the substitute booth crowded into that crossover space that's carved beneath the Marriott between 46th and 45th. I’m genuinely excited that the old booth will be re-opening soon.

It’s going to take me a while to get used to the new look. It’s very red, and looks like a huge bleacher plopped on top of the tkts booth, which appears now to be more of a lean-to than a booth. The bleacher faces downtown, and those sitting on it will have a great view of the back of the large stone cross behind the statue of Father Duffy, the beloved priest of Times Square.

I don't remember what the back of that cross looks like, and I don’t care. On my next trip up, I’ll stand in line with bells on.

Till then, I hope to see you at a theatre in Richmond!

--Bruce Miller

Friday, October 10, 2008

Snow White Takes Up Powerlifting

Posted by Bruce Miller
As I was making breakfast for Curt at 6:10 am this morning, Terrie walked into the kitchen after having picked up the paper at the end of our driveway. “Donna Deekens is going to be on Wife Swap,” she informed me. I dropped the spatula.

I’d never seen the TV show with this provocative name, but I’d heard of it. In my imaginings it conjured up images of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

For those not old enough to remember this quadrupley-ampersanded title, B&C&T&A was an iconic late 60s film (which I loved, by the way) about wife swapping, swinging, open marriage, free love, quad, polyamory, partnertausch … the morals of some of what we considered in the late 60s may have been pathetic, but the vocabulary was expansive.

Anyway, until this morning, I’d never expected to hear the words “Donna Deekens” and “wife swap” in the same sentence.

Donna Deekens is a longstanding friend of mine. She, Phil and Donna Whiteway, and I were theatre majors together at the University of Richmond. Donna Deekens (Donna Strother in those bygone days of yore) played Bianca in Kiss Me Kate during her freshman year (my sophomore), and I was one of her Tom, Dick or Harry suitors.

After graduation, Donna spent 20 years playing the Snow Queen during the Saturday afternoon Santa Teas at the Miller & Rhoads Tea Room in downtown Richmond. It was all about singing White Christmas and wearing long white gloves. Phil and I spent those same 20 years producing the rest of the entertainment for the Santa Teas.

(I also hosted the weekly Santa Breakfasts for 20 years at Thalhimers in The Richmond Room. I’m still stopped on the street every now and then and asked if I’m not Snow Bear’s Friend.)

Anyway, good times.

But despite the hint of naughtiness that prompted her casting as Bianca, Donna Deekens has always been the flesh and blood incarnation of Snow White. “Donna Deekens” … “driven snow.” That works for me. “Donna Deekens” … “wife swap.” Not so much.

Quoting from this morning’s Times-Dispatch, here’s a more accurate description of Donna’s Wife Swap-ing experience:

“A Midlothian woman switched families for a week, and tonight, America gets to watch. Donna Deekens, who runs a tea party business, traded places with a tattooed female powerlifter from New York for an episode of ABC’s Wife Swap. The hourlong show airs tonight at 8, locally on WRIC-Channel 8.

‘Contrast is what they’re looking for,’ Deekens said of the show’s producers, ‘and they got it with this one.’ She described the experience as ‘a wild ride … quite an adventure.’

It was an adventure she did not seek. The show’s producers contacted Deekens, having found her Web site——and apparently felt they could build a show around someone who runs a company called Teapots, Treats & Traditions. Deekens puts on tea parties, primarily for children, and along with cups of tea and dainty sandwiches serves helpings of manners, etiquette and social graces.

She and her husband, Bill, a mortgage banker, had not seen
Wife Swap until they were invited to apply to participate. ‘It was something kind of scary, and something kind of exciting,’ said Deekens, the mother of two sons. ‘We look at it as trying something completely different. I always think it’s a good thing to learn from other people.’

In this cast, the other people were the McCaslins from Tribes Hill, N.Y., who live in an old elementary school and one-time mental hospital they’ve converted into a powerlifting gym. Their business is called Iron Asylum Gym.

Sandi McCaslin, who can lift more that 300 pounds and has a tattoo on her leg that reads, “Whatever It Takes,” spent more than a week in the Deekens’ suburban Midlothian home setting up tea parties. Meantime, Donna Deekens was in New York, learning all about the gym business and trying to persuade the McCaslins’ two powerlifting daughters to become more feminine.”

Hmmm. All I can say is, time to fire up the TiVo! This is one reality show I don’t want to miss.

As for my friend Donna Deekens, I think she’s great and I can’t wait to see her take this on. Donna is a talented actress and singer, by the way, and a great mom. I’m sure a fun (and wholesome) time will be had by all.

After this night of TV, I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller
(Note: All photos feature Donna and come from her tea party website.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Appearance of Theatres Fails to Pass Muster

Posted by Bruce Miller
I received the following unsigned letter in my office this morning. It’s worth sharing.

“Oct 2, 2008

Dear Mr. Miller:

I write to you without including my name in the interest of simplicity, and hope that I do not offend.

I have found much to love and enjoy in the numerous Barksdale productions that I have seen over the past few years. My first was The Full Monty; the most recent was Guys and Dolls. Doubt was, for me, the most powerful.

When attending Barksdale productions, I feel you should know what a big impression the atmospherics of the Willow Lawn and Empire venues have made on me, and I do not mean in a positive sense.

The Willow Lawn lobby cries out for re-modeling. It puts one in mind of a neglected moose lodge. Its current appearance is jarring and does not do justice to, or reflect, the level of excellence on stage. This is not an expensive proposition and could be solved with some cans of paint and a few trips to Ikea. It needs light colors, modern lighting and sleek, updated furniture. You have talent on your technical staff who would no doubt do a fabulous job of re-modeling.

The Empire Theater is obviously a treasure and beloved by Richmond. I remain mystified, however, by the abject and, frankly, embarrassing appearance of the outside presentation of the theater. It looks abandoned and neglected. The marquee must be lit up! The front of the Empire Theater needs to be lit up to look alive and welcoming! Right now, it looks like it is closed and waiting for demolition. The presentation window boxes which face the street are not lit and do not feature the posters of the show that is currently playing. I cannot understand this. It’s as though what is going on inside the theater is beside the point based on what the outside of the theater is telling the public. One of the presentation windows has broken glass. This makes a very bad impression of neglect.

I realize that keeping a theater in running order is very expensive. The solutions to the above problems, however, do not require huge investments of money.

Best of everything and keep up the otherwise very good work.”

I agree with much of what is included in this letter, and appreciate receiving it. I’ll respond in a subsequent blog posting. Please feel free to offer your opinions.

Hope to see you at our rundown theatres!

--Bruce Miller

Meet the Cast of Driving Miss Daisy: Joy Williams – “Daisy”

By Joseph Pabst (Director of Driving Miss Daisy)

Driving Miss Daisy has been extended through November 2 at Barksdale at Hanover Tavern. This is the second in a series in which we shine the spotlight on each of the three members of the cast. Part 1 is available here.)

If you were to see Joy Williams on the street or in the grocery store, you would hardly confuse her for a 72-year-old woman. She is a tall, strong vibrant woman with a friendly smile, infectious laugh and a full head of blond hair. And she runs marathons – literally!

Still, Joy transforms herself into the elderly role of “Daisy Werthan” for each performance of Driving Miss Daisy. She starts the play at an astonishingly convincing 72 years old, and then continues to age over the course of an hour or so until she reaches 97. Because of the time constraints and fluidity of the play, this can only be partially accomplished with wigs, clothes and make-up. The real transformation is in Joy’s acting, her body, her voice. Before stepping on stage, Joy is well aware of the age she must portray, and fully inhabits the character at that age.

Joy is no stranger to Richmond stages, performing steadily at Barksdale at Hanover Tavern, Barksdale at Willow Lawn, Theatre IV and the Swift Creek Mill Theatre since she moved back here 18 years ago. Some of her personal favorite roles include: Bella in Lost in Yonkers, Charlotte Hay in Moon Over Buffalo, Edith Banks in Barefoot in the Park (welcoming Barksdale audiences back to the Hanover Tavern in 2006, after 10 years), and now, of course, Daisy Werthan. She is also a resident actor in the Swift Creek Mill’s youth theatre season. Younger audiences may know her (if they don’t recognize her) as Drifty the Snowman, a character created and written by Paul Deiss.

With two boys (Cory, 12; and Sean, 9), the Williams’ house has become the hub for neighborhood kids – always busy, loud and a little crazy. Joy is very active at Sean’s school, serving on the PTA Board, helping out in class, taking charge of the after school enrichment program and talent show. “I’d like to help out at Cory’s school,” Joy says, “but he won’t let me anywhere near his school!” Joy also has the good fortune to be the stepmom to two wonderful young men: Arle, almost 24, and Michael, nearly 21. “They came into my life when they were 7 and 4 … hard to believe.” Now they are both in college, and she and her husband, Eric, try to see them as much as they can. Besides taking care of all her boys (Eric included!), Joy gets a real kick out of gardening as well. “Roses are my favorite flower. Over the years, I’ve planted over 100 rose bushes in the garden and around the yard.” And in the midst of it all, she and her wonderful husband “try to eke out moments to be together!”

Joy shares a great sense of humor with her character. And like Daisy, she is very strong willed and independent. As Daisy says, “I was brought up to do for myself.” That “do-it-yourself” philosophy is part of Joy’s personal mantra as well. But while both the actress and the character are mothers, Joy is far more demonstrative of her affections than Daisy. “I’m a very touchy-feely, huggy person. The sun rises and sets with my kids. I make sure they know it, too.” Joy has a very close relationship with her mother as well, which is also very demonstrative. Daisy’s relationship with her son Boolie is more reserved, though they know how to push each other’s buttons and do so often. (Joy gets a real kick out of playing those scenes with Garet Chester.) “My kids know my buttons also, but I’m forever hugging them, kissing them… they have to ask me to stop!”

The parent/child dynamic in Driving Miss Daisy really speaks to Joy. “It’s a show that everyone can relate to on some level, whether you’re in the position of watching a parent age and faced with those challenges, or you’re the one aging and having to come to terms with giving up some of your independence.” Then there’s the unlikely friendship that develops between Daisy & Hoke. “I love the way their relationship remains throughout their entire lives. I love the humanity and the realness in the play. I love their friendship. And it’s a gift to be able to play this role with Jim Bynum.”

Oh, and about those marathons: She’s run 3 full and 5 half marathons. “I like the personal glory of running the full marathons, but it takes an amazing amount of time to train for them. And right now, I don’t have the time to devote to the extensive training.” She’ll be running her 6th half marathon in November. So marathoners beware: You may be outrun by “little ol’ Daisy”!

Tickets to Driving Miss Daisy are available online. Many performances have sold out, so please reserve early to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Music

Posted by Bruce Miller
It’s been a busy few evenings. On Saturday, the Miller family of four made it out to Eurydice at the Firehouse. All of us at Barksdale are honored to be partnering with Carol Piersol and the Firehouse Theatre Project on the Sarah Ruhl Festival. Eurydice is a greatly acclaimed component of this effort. We enjoyed it very much.

On Sunday, Terrie, Curt and I attended the kick-off concert of Stretchin’ at Barksdale—another terrific evening of entertainment. On Monday, I had a great time at Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a slightly staged reading directed by the talented Jase Smith and featuring half the cast of The Clean House and half the cast of Eurydice. Tonight, Phil and I joined the throng of celebrants at the One Night Only Concert Event—Ragtime, The Musical, presented as a fundraiser by Chase Kniffen, Peggy Thibodeau and Stage 1 Theatre Co.

I've irked some folks in the past when, on this blog, I've pointed out the Barksdale and Theatre IV connections of various theatre artists working at other stage companies. I've been accused of adopting an inappropriately paternal attitude when I say I'm proud of theatre artists, in a familial way, when they're working for someone else or for themselves. I'll probably irk someone again now. I'm sorry.

There were two things that moved me deeply tonight at Ragtime.

1. When Desiree Roots Centeio’s wide-eyed young son toddled onstage during the stirring conclusion, portraying Coalhouse and Sarah’s surviving son, while all 55 members of the cast joined in a rousing reprise of Wheels of a Dream, I was swept away by the overpowering realization that Barack Obama was at that very moment concluding his second debate, taking him one step closer to becoming President of the United States. The Wheels of a Dream indeed. I thought it was very moving.

2. When I looked up onto the stage, and into the audience, and throughout the lobby, and across to the various backstage tech positions, and saw face after familiar face, with the great majority of faces coming from the ranks of people I’ve worked with time and time again, all turning out to support Chase and Peggy and Richmond theatre itself, I was intensely proud of our theatre community in general and the Barksdale and Theatre IV family in particular.

I don't know why, but I’ve always had a strong sense of being a small part of a far greater whole. When I began my career at the feet of my teachers Bernard Schutte, Marian Waymack and Jack Welsh, and my more senior colleagues Buddy and Betty Callahan, Pete and Nancy Kilgore, and Muriel McAuley, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn from them and work to earn their friendship and respect. I hope my playbill bios over the decades have reflected this. Now I find myself on the other end, having the opportunity to learn from younger colleagues who are charting new paths and working together to achieve great things.

Actors, directors, designers, musicians, stage managers, technicians, house managers, contributors, subscribers and staff members with strong Barksdale and Theatre IV connections turned out in droves tonight to support Stage 1. These same artists and enthusiasts proudly support and work with many other nonprofit theatres in town as well. I think this spirit of cooperation and support for the Richmond theatre community in toto is something relatively new. It has not always been like that, and in some quarters, it's not like that today. It was great to see.

My friends did a beautiful job this evening, and they should be thrilled. It was especially gratifying to see Jerold Solomon take time off from his Broadway gig in South Pacific to return to Richmond for this benefit concert. He and Desi brought down the house more than once, ably assisted by Katrinah Lewis. Jan Guarino's "wheeee's" accompanied by that unforgetable Haynes smile were a hoot and a half. The incomparable Debra Wagoner amped up the power grid and stopped the show on Back to Before. The remarkable Eric Pastore showed once again how much old timers like Chase Kniffen have to look forward to from the next generation. And Tom McGranahan was younger than springtime as a feisty and lovable codger of a grandfather.

Richard Koch, Michael Hawke, Chris Stewart, James Opher, Lillie Izo, Brett Ambler, Joe Thibodeau, Mark Persinger and Robyn O'Neill ably added to the momentous achievement. And music director Sherri Matthews and her 17-member band of renown gave Richmonders a rare sense of a true Broadway sound.

The evening was a tribute to Richmond theatre in general, and testament to the talent, commitment and can-do leadership that Chase and Peggy are bringing to their new venture. I can’t wait to see each of the shows in Stage 1’s great new season.

I hope to see you at the theatre—be it one of ours or someone else’s.

--Bruce Miller

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Stretchin' at Barksdale - Great Way to Relax

Posted by Bruce Miller
One of Barksdale’s terrific but lesser known programs is Stretchin’ at Barksdale, a homegrown, organic, Sunday night concert series produced and hosted by B J Kocen, one of Greater Richmond’s most enthusiastic music impresarios. The kickoff concert of the 08-09 Stretchin’ Season—our third—took place Sunday evening before a crowd of about 40 music lovers, all assembled at tables spread out in front of the lobby stage in our comfortable Willow Lawn “living room”—that’s “lobby” for those of you who resist the urge to be homey.
There are about five great things to be enjoyed at a Stretchin’ concert. The first, of course, is the music. Each month, B J (or Beej to those who know and abbreviate him) assembles a stellar roster of talented singers and instrumentalists from both near and far. Past Stretchin’ All-Stars have included Paul Curreri, Slash Coleman, Harry Gore, Susan Greenbaum, David Janeski, Browning Porter, Devon Sproule, Brad Tuggle, Sheryl Warner and the Southside Homewreckers, and, of course, Beej himself. This Sunday’s lineup, pictured above, included (left to right) George Garrett on cajon, Jackie Frost on rhythm guitar, Beej on rhythm guitar, Brad Tucker on bass, and Jim Wark on lead guitar. Jackie, Beej and Brad were the principal vocalists.

A second crowd-pleasin’ aspect of the Stretchin’ experience is the price. Most Sunday evening concerts (almost always 6 pm to 8 pm) carry a cover of only $5 with no drink minimum. You won’t find a better bargain than that.

A third attribute of the series is the venue. Turns out Barksdale’s living room is about the perfect place to hear authentic music up close and personal. The acoustics and sound system are great and you never sit more that 15 or 20 feet away from the performers. Seating is cabaret style, at tables, so you can purchase a Blue Moon (or the beverage of your choice) and perhaps a snack from the Barksdale bar and then have a place to set it down. And, of course, the living room is smoke-free.

Then there’s the spontaneity. All the performers are there for the love of the music; they split the meager box office and whatever tips the appreciative crowd cares to toss into the on-stage bucket. So there’s not a lot of rehearsing. It’s mainly great musicians jamming together, often for the first time, giving the whole evening an improvisational, jazzy feel, except the tunes trend a lot more to Van Morrison and Eric Clapton than Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk. Requests are often shouted up from the audience to the stage, and when they know ‘em, they play ‘em.

Last but certainly not least, there’s B J Kocen, about as charming an emcee as you’ll ever want to meet. He establishes a laid back, comfortable tone while liberally sharing his true passion for this music that he loves. You can’t help but go wherever the music is taking you when Beej is driving the cab.

You won’t see any ads in the paper for our Stretchin’ evenings—with these prices, who can afford ads? But you can sign up for the Stretchin’ email list by writing B. J. at Or you can sign up for the Barksdale email newsletter and receive reminders from us as well. No reservations are required. Just show up at the door with your fiver and a pal or two in hand, and then sit back for a relaxing evening of good music with good friends.

You’ll be glad you did. Hope to see you at the theatre!

(Note: Many thanks to Scott Elmquist, Photo Editor at STYLE, for the great pic of Sunday's concert; Brad Tuggle who serves as staff liaison for the Stretchin' series; and the Glave Kocen Gallery for letting B J share his artistic energy with the performing arts as well as the visual [B J co-owns and co-runs the place with his beautiful wife Jennifer Glave].)

--Bruce Miller

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Reading of Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl

Posted by Billy Christopher Maupin

"You know what's funny? I never had a cell phone. I didn't want to always be there, you know."

photoWhat would you do in response to an incessantly ringing cell phone as you were trying to enjoy your lobster bisque in a near-empty cafe? Jean, who lies at the center of Sarah Ruhl's most recently published (and my personal favorite) play, Dead Man's Cell Phone, answers it. As it turns out, the owner of the phone, Gordon, is dead. But Jean continues to answer Gordon's phone and finds herself meeting his family, falling in love with his brother -which results in a room full of floating stationery in "classic" Sarah Ruhl style-, meeting his mistress...AND his wife, and becoming involved in organ trafficking.

Charles Isherwood writes in the New York Times:

"A beguiling comedy ... a hallucinatory poetic fantasy that blends the mundane and the metaphysical, the blunt and the obscure, the patently bizarre and the bizarrely moving. As Dead Man's Cell Phone takes surprising twists and leaps, the lament for the supposed coziness of pre-digital culture takes on layers of nuance and contradiction. Characters in Ruhl's plays negotiate the no man's land between the every­day and the mystical, talking like goofs one minute and philosophers the next. And her characters' quirkiness is in keeping, too, with the play's doleful central theme, that each human being is a book full of surprises even to intimates, and that one is destined to be left unfinished. Ruhl's affec­tion for the unexpected phrase, the kooky observation, the unlikely juxtaposition, is essential to her central belief that the smallest and most trivial things in life can be charged with meaning. She writes surrealist fantasies that happen to be populated by eccentrically real people, comedies in which the surface illogic of dreams is made meaningful­ -made truthful- by the deeper logic of human feeling."

On Monday, October 6, on the Barksdale Theatre Lobby Stage at photo8PM, Barksdale and The Firehouse Theatre Project will co-produce a reading of Ms. Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone featuring cast members from our production of The Clean House (see Rave Reviews below) and Firehouse's production of Eurydice. This continues as part of the Sarah Ruhl Festival. (Don't forget that audience members who see both Eurydice and The Clean House receive a discount on tickets!)

The reading will feature Laine Satterfield - currently appearing as the title character in Eurydice - as Jean (played in the New York production by Mary Louise Parker, Tony Award winner for her performance in Proof by David Auburn, also the star of the hit Showtime series, Weeds), Andy Boothby - Big Stone in Eurydice - as Gordon, the "Dead Man" of the title, Robin Arthur - Ana and A Woman in The Clean House - as Mrs. Gottlieb, Lauren Leinhaas-Cook - Loud Stone in Eurydice - as Gordon's widow, Hermia, John Moon - Charles and A Man in The Clean House- narrating, Bianca Bryan - Matilde in The Clean House - as The Other Woman, and Chris Hester - Orpheus in Eurydice - as Dwight. The reading will be staged by Jase Smith from The Firehouse Theatre Project.

Both Bruce Miller and Carol Piersol (Artistic Director of The Firehouse Theatre Project) will speak prior to the reading. A cash bar will be available in the lobby beginning at 7PM and will also be available at intermission. There is no admission charge and seating is general admission.

Don't miss out on this exciting collaboration!

Three More Rave Reviews

Posted by Bruce Miller
We received three more rave reviews this week, drawing crowds of laughing, loving theatregoers.

Weighing in on The Clean House, Dave Timberline provided the following quotes:

A Smart Story ~ an Air of Enchantment
Amusing, Moving and a Little Bit Magical
Exceptional Performances ~ Sweet, Supportive Chemistry
Refreshing and Inspiring!”

--David Timberline, STYLE

Adding their kudos to the glowing review written earlier for Driving Miss Daisy by Susie Haubenstock of the R T-D, Joan Tupponce and John Porter contributed the following:

Depth and Feeling ~ A Joy to Watch
As comfortable as a plump easy chair
Derives its humor and tenderness from life
Just Plain Fun!”

--Joan Tupponce,

A Great Script ~ A Good Cast
The chemistry between Williams and Bynum is especially strong
An old sweet song, fresh in our hearts
A Great Evening!”

--John Porter, WCVE-FM

Daisy is joining Barefoot in the Park and Smoke on the Mountain as our biggest Hanover hits since reopening the theatre almost three years ago. Joy Williams, Jim Bynum and Garet Chester continue to earn standing ovations at every performance.

The Clean House is proving to be a real crowd pleaser at Barksdale Theatre Willow Lawn, adding immeasurably to the success of the Sara Ruhl Festival, coproduced by Barksdale Theatre and the Firehouse Theatre Project. Audiences are loving discovering a joyous new play by a dazzling new playwright.

If you still haven't seen Driving Miss Daisy or The Clean House, why not make your plans today. They are both wonderful shows that I know you'll enjoy. $15 rush tickets are available for all seats that remain unsold three hours before curtain. Call the box office for more information - 282-2620. We're extremely proud of this outstanding pair of heartwarming hits.

See you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller