Monday, August 31, 2009

August 30, 2009

Posted by Bruce Miller


Richness or significance, especially in evoking an association or strong emotion.

Intensification and prolongation of sound, produced by sympathetic vibration.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. It was the last show of Fully Committed and a packed house once again leapt to its feet in appreciation of and wonder at Scott Wichmann’s talent.

It was also Scott’s 36th birthday. Twenty-six of his family members were there, along with over a hundred friends from Richmond’s theatre community. Love, friendship and respect were palpable.

Immediately after curtain call, Scotty made a heartfelt speech about how special this all was. “I moved here ten years ago,” he said. “I had no intention of staying. I also had no idea of the community I was joining—a community that immediately embraced me and has supported and sustained me. A community like family, that even introduced me to my beautiful wife. This is an amazing birthday because all of you are here.”

After the show, we celebrated with Scotty and each other during a picnic in the Tavern’s back yard. As you all know, yesterday was also Scotty’s last day before joining the Naval Reserve. He checks into a hotel room this evening and hops on a bus tomorrow morning for basic training.

I arrived at yesterday’s festivities leading a van filled with young actors who had just travelled from their homes in New York to connect with the Richmond theatre community for the first time. They are amazing actors, and all of them are Latino. They came here on faith to perform in our upcoming production of Boleros for the Disenchanted.

Our six Boleros actors have to be wondering … What is this Richmond theatre community like? Did I make the right choice to leave my home in New York to come here?

The minute I saw the Tavern, as I was driving up, my heart and head filled with … what? Fifty-six years ago this month, six actors from New York came to Richmond, saw the derelict tavern for the first time, and made the decision to pool every penny they had in the world, buy it, and devote their lives to saving this building and building this theatre.

Before the Richmond Symphony or the Richmond Ballet, before the Virginia Museum Theatre, these New York émigrés founded Central Virginia’s first professional performing arts organization. As they wove their passions and perspectives and talents and intelligences into the very fabric of our community, they changed it forever.

They heard about the Jim Crow laws that made it illegal to admit black audience members into their new theatre. When the county sheriff came to tell them, they offered themselves up for arrest, saying that there was no way in hell they were going to welcome some of their new neighbors into their theatre and home while excluding others. They broke the back of those insane laws by becoming the first Virginians to simply stand up for what was right.

No arrests were made.

How proud Pete, Nancy and Muriel would be, I thought, to know that Barksdale is about to launch Richmond’s first Hispanic Theatre Project. How pleased they would be to welcome these six new New York actors into the home they loved. How thrilled they would be to witness Scotty’s amazing performance, to meet his family, to see the Richmond theatre community gather here again to honor the great spirits that live in this place, in Scotty’s talent and in his heart as he ventures off to join the Naval Reserve.

I saw Phil when I arrived, and shared these thoughts with him.

As he was packing up after the wonderful day and getting ready to drive home to Ashland, Phil's heart and head also filled with a sense of ... connection. He turned the steering wheel of his car, and for the first time in four years, he visited Pete and Nancy’s burial site, located just a few minutes from the theatre. He had thoughts to share.

When he arrived, he looked down at their markers and discovered something that neither of us had remembered. Yesterday was also Pete Kilgore’s birthday. And Nancy’s birthday is Sept. 18, opening night of Boleros for the Disenchanted.

Standing in the dusk in the churchyard, Phil called me on his cell so that I would know.


A subatomic particle lasting too short a time to be observed directly.

I hope to see you at the theatre.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Harriett Traylor said...