Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shining Actors

Posted by Bruce Miller

I saw Shining City tonight. I loved the way Henley Street (or whomever) has upgraded the space. I love the new risers and raked seating. I didn’t see True West last season (I heard it was great). But I’ve seen many other shows at Pine Camp. Shining City was by far the most satisfactorily produced play I’ve seen there. Sets, lights, sound and overall ambiance seemed indeed to have been kicked up a notch.

I loved James Ricks’s pre-show speech—very casual, friendly, confident, charming and short. Those speeches are tough and few people do them well. James's speech was great.

I can’t say enough about the talents of Joe Inscoe. He’s world class—as good as anyone you’ll see anywhere. What an amazing actor. He’s a Broadway star right here in Richmond. I’m being completely serious.

If I ever go to see a therapist, I hope he’s just like Larry Cook. Larry's was a very comforting presence. I thought he was great.

Same thing for Jacob Pennington, except different profession.

I think Lyddall Bugg is a talented actress, and I’m sorry I didn’t become more familiar with her work when she toured in Huck and Tom and the Mighty Mississippi for Theatre IV.

Bo Wilson is one of the smartest guys in Richmond theatre and an astute director. I need to ask him to direct something at B'dale someday.

Henley Street is growing impressively. New artistic director James Ricks has hit the ground running. I applaud his talent, vision and ambition.

--Bruce Miller

PS Some anonymous commenters tell me I see plays at Virginia theatres other than Barksdale for terrible reasons. They say I'm trying to be like a plantation master proving that all the other theatres are beneath Barksdale and needy of my largesse. They say I write about the things I like at other theatres mostly to damn through omission those things I don't like. They say I want to make the other theatres look and feel small.

God help me if that is how this is coming off. None of that is my intention.

I go to other theatres to be supportive of other theatres. I think it's important for me to be supportive, and I take that responsibility seriously. I write about other theatres also to be supportive--of the theatres themselves and the artists who work there. If any artistic or managing director would prefer that I not come to their theatre and/or not write about their theatre on this blog, just let me know. You all know how to reach me. Thanks.

Some commenters still think I hate the Richmond critics; they believe I viewed the recent Artsie awards with derision and contempt. I don't and I didn't. If I come off that way, chalk it up to my being a horrible writer who can't make his opinions clear. I'm nothing but respectful of the critics, and actually quite fond of the several of them I know. I LOVED the Artsies. I've said it, I've written it, and I mean it.

Last but not least, when I recently wrote nice things about some Richmond theatre artists who didn't win Artsies, some commenters suggested I must really have it in for Joe Doran, Ron Keller, Audra Honaker, Ali Thibodeau, Marta Reiner and Jeff Cole (the Jeff part came from a response I wrote to a 'Rick Gray comment). You can believe me or not, but the truth is I actually care a lot about Joe, Ron, Audra, Ali, Marta and Jeff. I'm actually pretty crazy about them. I admire their talents. They are my friends.

That's all for now. Thanks.

--Bruce Miller


Jacquie O. said...


Thank you so much for your kind words about Henley and the support that you give to all the theatres in Richmond. This is a hard year for all of us - wonderful shows, but low attendance. I feel so blessed to live in a place where the theatre family is so supportive. It is the thing I hold on to on those days when you just don’t want to get out of bed. So thank you Bruce and thank you FAMILY.

Andrew Hamm said...

I really recommend refusing to publish or even read web content from people unwilling to sign their names to their words. In the end, only bad comes of anonymous posting.

Dave T said...

I feel for you, Bryce! No good deed goes unpunished, it seems! For what it's worth, I have never interpreted anything you've posted as being other than enthusiastically supportive and thoughtful about Richmond theater and the many people that make it spin. I love your blog even though I hardly ever comment. To me, simply the fact that you pour so much time into thinking/writing about the theater scene here speaks volumes about your personal interest and emotional investment in it all. I appreciate you so much for that, and I think it sets a great tone for the whole thing. THANK YOU!
Holly (posting as Dave because I don't know any better)

Sue said...

Hi Bruce,
Regarding your PS....there are folks out there who if you said "What a beautiful day" (and it is - 75 and sunny!) would find something in that statement to argue about just because it was you who said it.....

Frank Creasy said...

It's an sad commentary on our culture when so many people read diabolical intentions in someone's actions. I guess with so much self-serving behavior, sarcasm, and cynicsm today, it's hard for many to simply accept someone as being genuinely kind, generous, or appreciative of others. Perhaps that acceptance is doubly difficult to achieve when someone praises their competitors.

I'm glad you write about what you love in the theatre Bruce, and I've seen Grant Mudge do the same, and of course Dave Timberline is wont to write at greater length about shows he's reviewed on his blog or about shows he's seen but NOT reviewed. So it's perhaps not common in theatre everywhere, but hopefully in Richmond, Virginia we come from a more genteel perspective. Personally, I'd like to see more of that, and more of folks simply assuming innocence and accepting folks' words and deeds at face value without implying negative motives unless given ample evidence to the contrary. Life is short and sweet, so why not emphasize the "sweet"? That's just my two cents.

And I did see SHINING CITY, and yes, I'd go see Joe Inscoe act if he was performing in a wooden shack. I know I'll not only be entertained, but also pick up some acting tips along the way.

Have a good day, everyone. (No evil motives behind my simple wish!) ;>)

Joescoe said...

Well Bruce, I'm at a total loss to adequately express my gratitude for your extravagantly kind words regarding the work of my colleagues and me in Henley Street's latest endeavor. With such encouragement I may some day yet lose the sense that I'm a bit of a fraud, only pretending to be an actor. Thank you for the nudge in that direction, friend.

My initial, cockier response to "a Broadway star right here in Richmond" was "Well Broadway doesn't seem to have gotten the memo. How 'bout alerting them to my existence." Then, as I caught up on your other recent blog posts I thought:

Is it really possible for anyone in this biz, professional or amateur, to find greater satisfaction on New York's stages than in Richmond's singularly rich theater community? Sure, the Great White Way offers the more dazzling rewards of Fame and Fortune, and it's truly gratifying to have seen some of Richmond's fine talent move on to achieve those elusive goals on Broadway. But they've also had to deal with Gotham's unimaginably exhausting, outrageously competitive, back-biting, politics-trumps-talent game of "Making It." I feel for them.

On the other hand, more than a few well-qualified Richmond talents have placed their professional bids on the New York game only to recognize that the emotional and ethical prices can be exorbitant (not to mention the cost of mere survival), and that the chances of wide artistic recognition are about as good as those of a lottery win. While I stand in awe at the sacrifices of time and toil often required to reach those less than happy conclusions, I offer a standing ovation for the rational maturity required to face them head on and to seek out a more positive venue. When those insights have led to Richmond homecomings, we have all benefitted.

In this city, by blessed contrast, an offering of talent, a willingness to contribute, and a passion for the work are the only requirements for reaping not only personal satisfaction from the sharing, but heartfelt acceptance into a vibrant, loving, supportive family. Within that family, Fame and Fortune seem to fade as the worthiest of life's goals. There's so much to be said for swimming in smaller, less congested ponds.

Even cursory skims of your theater blog and Dave's (especially over the past few weeks) reveal a vivid, ever-evolving portrait of our blessed family—its siblings celebrating each others' successes, mourning their too frequent, too tragic losses, supporting each others' needs, and lovingly, mutually encouraging growth and success, even among ostensible competitors. That both blogs regularly express conflicts of thought I take as a sign of healthy, honest communication—inter-familial nudges toward shared excellence.

So... far too many words (and I could go on; maybe I should start my own blog—nah) to say how proud I am to be a brother in Richmond's theater family. The tradeoff for a moment on Broadway would be too dear. And hell, in Barksdale/Theatre IV's Phil, we have our own dazzling Great Whiteway! Eat your heart out, NY... I Heart Richmond!

Dave T said...

I'm a dork! Not only can I not figure out how to post as myself and not my husband, but I changed your name to that of my daughter. Sorry! I (obviously) meant to write "Bruce" in my comment. :)
- Holly

I love all the comments - and Joescoe, I couldn't be more excited that Cooper will get to work with you soon!!!!!