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


Sandy Jeakins said...

I go to the theater to be swept from my humdrum life into someone else's story. I hope for the theatrical arms of the performers to reach out ad pull me fully in. Last night that happened from just about 60 seconds in throughout the entire performance. I "judge" a performance by how long I am emotionally connected to it beyond the time of the performance. It's much like a meal, for me. Ragtime will be with me for many days. Those of us who were there last night might have noticed that the entire audience was on it's feet almost before the last note ended. And the applause throughout the evening rocked most of Glen Allen, I'm sure. VERY, VERY well done, and congratulations!

debra said...

Thank you Bruce. It was one of the most unforgettable theatrical experiences of my life. It was such a treat to sing with such amazing orchestral accompaniment. I was wishing at the end of the evening that we could perform it just one more time. But then that would take away from the whole "once in a lifetime" feeling that was last night.

And, the choral ensemble for the most part, was not aware that we had a Little Coalhouse coming out at the end. They were wrecked. More than one person said that they were crying and thinking "how am I going to sing??!!" Desiree's son was so gracious and calm and incredibly SWEET. It was the PERFECT ending to the evening.
Thank you for being there and for all your kind words.

Chris Withers said...

As a member of the ensemble, I was blown away at the talent. Here I am, a 20 year old junior in college, sitting on the same stage as the most talented people in my home town. Most of them I've been watching on stage for years, and now... I get to share it with them, even if I didn't really get to meet all of them.

Like Debra said, I don't think any of us had any idea Desiree's son was going to come on stage as Little Coalhouse at the end... and 90% of us lost it then and there. I am so proud to say I was apart of this brilliant piece of theater, and I hope I can be where the principals are in a few years.

Bruce Miller said...

To the anonymous commenter who wrote about living "in a non-compete world" ...

Thank you for your kind words. I decided to reject your comment. You wisely chose not to name the arts organization that employs you. But when people read your comment, they're going to try to guess which organization that may be, and I don't want this blog to initiate that guessing game.

We don't have any full time 9 to 5 jobs available now. In fact, with the tightening economy, we've just laid off several fine people. Our box office frequently is looking for part time employees.

I'll tell you what I tell people who work here who reach the point where their job is no longer fulfilling. You owe it to yourself and your employer to leave if you no longer enjoy the job. Don't allow fear to make you feel trapped. That just makes things worse. You're never trapped. If you no longer like where you're working, then go look for something else. You'll find it.

Thanks for writing. I appreciated your comment. I wish you all the best.