Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Planning the Future of Richmond Theatre

Posted by Bruce Miller
I would like to post a question.

What do we as a community—artists, audiences and residents at-large—want Richmond theatre to look like in ten or fifteen years? Where do we see Richmond theatre connecting and contributing both locally and nationally?

For the sake of this exercise, don’t try to answer the question for anyone other than yourself. You don’t have to provide the full answer, only your own. Try not to be excessively practical to the extent that you fail to dream. Try to resist being shamelessly extravagant and wind up with dreams that have no chance of ever coming true.

Don’t worry about the current recession or a swine flu pandemic shutting down all places of public assembly.

Imagine a supportive and growing audience (that’s what we have), a vibrant talent pool (ditto), a conservative giving community (alas, ditto again), and declining media coverage (it doesn’t take much to imagine that, does it?). Build on these strengths; find creative ways to fix these problems.

How many theatre companies should there be, how big should they be, what types of plays should they be producing, how much should they charge, how should they promote their offerings?

You can comment anonymously or take credit for your wisdom and creative thinking. You can comment once and then comment again if something new occurs to you. You can focus on the big picture, or talk at length about that one aspect of Richmond’s theatre world that really blows up your skirt or gets your knickers in a twist.

Be kind—we won’t publish anything that is unduly negative toward anyone or any entity. But it’s OK to be constructive and critical. Cast a knowing eye.

Your vision, opinions, ideas and constructive criticisms will inform the ongoing strategic planning process at Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV. But you need not limit your discussion to Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV. In fact, you don’t have to talk about us at all, if you’d rather not.

This is your chance to have an impact and change the world.

I hope we’ll get lots of comments.

See you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller


Dave T said...

THIS IS NOT DAVE TIMBERLINE, IT'S HOLLY! I can't figure out how to work Google so I get my own screen name. Hate that. ANYWAY:

Wow, what an awesome and wide-open topic! I am in a period of life where it is impossible to go to as much theater as I would like, so my contributions to this conversation may be a little out of touch. (?) But anyway, here's a few random thoughts:

1) I loved loved loved the Theatre Gym when it was up and running. I'm sure I should know why it isn't used as a performance space anymore, but I don't. But I thought it was just a fantastic venue for more experimental or challenging work - a great place for young directors to have a chance to "play" and for audiences and actors to meet each other in an intimate performance space.
I would love to see the Theater Gym be revived, and one great possibility (in my mind, anyway) would be to make it a part of First Fridays. That FF crowd is young, open-minded and willing to be challenged - and if productions were timed well (and kept on the short side), it would be possible to see a show and still have an evening to spend on Broad St. I'd love to see small-scale (i.e. simple to produce), character-driven, compelling dramas - all the better if they relate to current events or hot topics. Maybe they could be followed by a speaker/panel discussion sometimes -other times, you just take in your drama and go out into the night still thinking it all over. Or what about a one-act play festival? Or a series of monologues on a common theme? Or an improv workshop? Or a "guerilla" production that works its way down Broad St. and into the theater? I'd also love to see some creative thinking about mixing art and live performance.

2) How about more contact between the theater community and local high schools? More field trips, more guest speakers at schools, maybe some apprentice type situations with costuming and set building...

3) How about more packages that include restaurant and theater? Maybe a couple of hot local chefs would get on board with the idea of a special theatregoers menu... there could be a set number of choices - and wouldn't it be cool if they were somehow themed to a particular production? might be fun for the chefs that way... anyway, it would be great food geared to getting patrons out the door in time for curtain. Local theaters would help sell the menu to patrons, resulting in more business for both. Hey, a girl can dream.

4) I like our mix of big and small theaters, with everything from Shakespeare to family-friendly musicals to crazy scientology pageants to musicals about anorexia and everything in between! We have so many offerings, and I hope it stays that way. I'd love to see more collaboration between theaters, though I have to admit I have no ideas on how to bring that about. Maybe more events in which 3 or 4 theaters all present short pieces on a similar theme? Or more things like the Acts of Faith festival? Whatever. It could be fun, both for theaters and for audiences.

5) I think we need to network more with other cities and their theater scenes, stay up to date on local actors who have left for other cities (i.e., what is Ariel Osborne doing? I know she's at Juilliard, but I want specifics! And what does Duke have going on right now? And did you know that Bud Weber is about to graduate from Boston College and will take part in a showcase on Broadway?) and also learn about the cities that new actors here are coming from. Richmond has a problem with being too insular sometimes - it's not as true in the theater community as it is within other groups, but I still think we could do better.

Oh boy. Gotta go pass out. I hope these ideas aren't dumb when I read them tomorrow. And i hope people a lot smarter contribute too, bc this is a great topic. : )

Holly T.

jhh said...


First time responder. Thanks for posing the question- I think it is the most essential question theatre artists should be asking themselves right now.

As for me,I would like to see Richmond retain its artists by establishing resident companies, providing artists with a consistent livable wage and focusing on educating/ developing some of these resident artists into Teaching Artists that work continuously in area schools, alongside educators to connect art to the core curriculum and SOLs.

I would like to see Richmond become an artistic home to more new playwrights so that our works reflect local voices as well as national and international and Richmond moves to the forefront of keeping theatre alive and growing.

And lastly, I would like to see an arts exchange between Richmond and other cities (in the US and abroad) focused on more than simply presenting; creating a dialogue between communities, a second home for artists from other communities, and using the exchange as a home to professional development for our resident companies, arts administrators, and teaching artists.

Thanks so much for the opportunity. I'm excited to read other responses.