Posted by Bruce Miller
Yesterday's Lights Up! program at CenterStage (the performance component will be repeated today) went off with hardly a hitch. I'm proud to have recruited my good friend Sabrina Squire to be our Mistress of Ceremonies. We've known each other since her early days in radio (and my less early days at Theatre IV). She did an amazing job, providing more than enough candlepower to help the celebration of young talent live up to its name.
Like her colleague Aaron Gilchrist, who served so ably at the Richmond Theatre Critics Awards, Sabrina Squire is one of the few local "celebrities" whose presence actually makes an event seem more special. She brings great beauty, elegance, intelligence and class to every event she hosts. She did a terrific job this weekend and I'm very grateful that she said "yes."
Sabrina was skillfully assisted by Bo Wilson, who wrote an inspired and inspiring script that hit all the right notes throughout the evening. Again, I'm proud to have recruited Bo. His contribution to the success of the event should make the theatre community proud.
Both Bo and Sabrina worked as volunteers, as did the vast majority if not all of the young performers. I think I'm speaking truthfully when I say that, with the exception of a couple musicians who accompanied singers and dancers from the Virginia Opera and the Latin Ballet of Virginia, all the performers were 21 or younger--many were a lot younger. In terms of talent, expertise and poise, they were in many ways equal to adult professionals.
As I mentioned a few days ago, I think we all should give special credit to two individuals who have been working tirelessly for months to pull all this off--without receiving a penny in compensation. Aimee Halbruner, Director of Education and Community Engagement with the Richmond Symphony worked longer and harder to make this event possible than anyone I know, and she received no recognition from the stage last night. (I hope the recognition part changed at today's matinee.)
Coming in a very close second is Brett Bonda, who directs the Minds in Motion program for the Richmond Ballet. Brett has also been working skillfully and tirelessly for months. Thankfully, he was recognized from the stage last night, along with several of his co-workers at the Ballet.
Janet Krogman, Chuck Metzgar, the tech crew, several key arts educators from Hanover, Henrico and Richmond, and many others from CenterStage also contributed exemplary efforts to make this weekend a success. Central Virginia should be proud and appreciative of one and all.
And let's not forget the good people at Genworth for funding the program, and Sue FitzHugh for raising the funds.
I was well pleased with Theatre IV's and Barksdale's several contributions to the weekend. The Richmond Boys Choir never fails to amaze and inspire, and last night's performance was no exception. The RBC was conceived of, founded by, funded and operated by Theatre IV for the first three years of its existence. From the outset, we all hoped and planned for the RBC to become independent in year four, and that's what happened. Making a successful transition to independence is itself a major achievement, and all of us on the theatre side should be proud of that also.
The RBC was included in this weekend's program because we at Theatre IV chose to share our allotted ten minutes of performance time with two of our partners--the RBC and the Latin Ballet. Only resident companies received time allotments on stage in this weekend's performances. I'm proud that Theatre IV chose to showcase not only our talented young performers, but also our partnerships with two colleague nonprofits that add significant diversity and depth to Richmond's performing arts community.
Like the Boy's Choir, the Latin Ballet also brought their traditional exuberance to last night's program.
Theatre IV and Barksdale presented several workshops and programs yesterday afternoon, all of them seemed to be very well received. Christopher Hudert, our puppet master for several Theatre IV productions, led Phil, Chase and me in our Puppetry on Parade workshop. Twenty five children had a hands-on experience with over 30 of our hand puppets, marionettes, rod puppets and specialty puppets. It was very informative, thanks to Christopher, and a lot of fun.
Sue Griffin, Marcia Hailey, Lynn West and a fourth member of our costume shop wowed the crowds with their creative Let's Make a Hat! workshop. All afternoon, you could see kids running around crowned as princesses, wizards, jesters and Egyptians. More proof that our amazingly talented costume department is second to none.
Slade Billew (Theatre IV / Barksdale) and Chris Blake (Richmond Shakespeare) team-taught a stage combat workshop. From all reports they had the kids wrapped around their fingers. Leslie Owens-Harrington did a wonderful job on a 75-minute master class in theatre dance, with a respectable and admiring audience in the Carpenter Theatre watching her every move.
I was also particularly proud of our production of I Have a Dream - The Life and Times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The show is written for grades 3 and up, but it held the attention of nearly everyone in the Gottwald Playhouse audience, from toddlers to senior citizens. I was proud of the cast.
In the mainstage performance, our cast of Oh the Thinks You Can Think from Seussical the Musical was terrific. We couldn't have asked for a more talented and hardworking group of teenagers. Their costumes looked terrific, as did Chase's stage direction.
It was an honor to share the stage, also, with African American Repertory Theatre, City Dance, Richmond Ballet, Richmond Shakespeare, Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra, SPARC and Virginia Opera.
If all this sound like I'm bragging, I am. One thing I continue to re-learn at these community-wide events is that several of my respected arts administration colleagues are far more skilled than I at promoting the vital contributions made by their organizations. Some are true masters, promoting their nonprofits endlessly at every turn, and receiving for their nonprofits contributions far exceeding what we receive at Barksdale and Theatre IV. They're doing it right; I'm not as skilled.
I know our case statement is just as impressive as theirs, if not more so. For one thing, through Hugs and Kisses, our theatres literally save children's lives everyday. The failure comes in my (and Phil's) tendency to keep quiet about so much that Barksdale and Theatre IV do. I'm trying my best to turn that situation around. I need to start being a braggart for Barksdale.
Along with many others, Theatre IV and Barksdale worked long and hard to make this weekend's programs a success. If you were able to make it, I hope you had a grand time.