Tuesday, November 3, 2009

From Girls in Green to the Great White Way

Posted by Bruce Miller
Those who may wonder why Barksdale and Theatre IV are so pleased to partner with the Girl Scouts (see Curtain Up, Lights Out, Fun’s ON! [Sat Oct 31, 2009] and How We Help … Girl Scouts [Wed June 18, 2008] should consider the case of Toni-Leslie James (pictured to the right).

Who? Toni-Leslie James. Start getting used to hearing that name, even here in little old Richmond. In fact, especially here in Richmond. Toni-Leslie James, you see, is beginning her third year as Director of Costume for Theatre VCU. Simultaneously, she is earning rave reviews as the Costume Designer of Finian’s Rainbow (pictured below), which opened on Broadway last week to some of the most glowing reviews I've read in years.
VCU Communications and Public Relations issued a press release about Ms James last spring that reads as follows: “The seed for (her) illustrious career was planted years ago on a fateful field trip to see Jack and the Bean Stalk with her Girl Scout troop. From that moment, she was hooked.”

So as our historic Empire filled last weekend with a hundred or so young ladies in green, who knows what super-star of the future was in our midst.

If you’d like to catch a videotaped interview with Toni-Leslie James, you can watch her in a 1992 edition of American Theatre Wing Seminar - Working in the Theatre: Design. Before taping this show, she had just won the American Theatre Wing Design Award for the costumes she created for her Broadway debut, Jelly's Last Jam. She was also nominated for a Tony for the same show. http://americantheatrewing.org/wit/detail/design_09_92

Since that auspicious beginning, Ms James has won great acclaim for her costumes for 14 Broadway productions, including both parts of Tony Kushner’s landmark drama, Angels in America (1993), and Michael John LaChiusa’s two Broadway musicals, Marie Christine (1999) and The Wild Party (2000). Ms James has also dressed many of Off-Broadway’s most memorable plays and musicals.

All told, in addition to her Tony nomination, she has earned three Drama Desk nominations and an Obie Award for Sustained Design Excellence last spring.

Ms James lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Australian lighting designer David Higham, and divides her time between NYC and Richmond. After the opening of Finian’s last week, she may once again be the toast of Broadway, but she’s also a Richmond treasure!

And it all started with a Girl Scout field trip to a local children’s theatre.

That’s the kind of story I LOVE to tell.

I hope to see YOU at the theatre, real soon! And when you come, look around. Maybe you’ll be sitting down the row from Richmond’s newest Tony nominee—Toni-Leslie James.

--Bruce Miller

No comments: