Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Theatre IV Accomplishments - 2009-10

Posted by Bruce Miller
As the end of the year approaches, it's always good to look back and see what we all accomplished. Nonprofit theatres rely on contributed funds, and we have to earn those contributions every year.

Today I'm listing highlights from the 2009-2010 Theatre IV Season, which ends on June 30 (tomorrow). Tomorrow I'll post a similar listing for Barksdale.

During the fiscal year that will end on June 30, 2010, Theatre IV served a total audience of 581,950 children, parents and teachers.

We produced and presented 129 performances of six plays and musicals on our mainstage Family Playhouse Season in our historic Empire Theatre: The Ugly Duckling, A Christmas Carol, The Song of Mulan, Jack and the Beanstalk, Buffalo Soldier, and The Sound of Music.

These six mainstage productions received excellent reviews from the critics and audiences (and yes, there were a couple times we got burrussed). They were well attended by 42,140 children, parents and teachers.

In partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, we produced and presented 175 touring performances of Hugs and Kisses, Virginia’s principal child sexual abuse prevention program.

The 2009-2010 tour was seen by 56,270 children in 127 schools spread out over every region of the state. One hundred and eleven children, slightly less than 2% of the total audience, were referred to the Virginia Department of Social Services based on post-performance disclosures. An additional 661 children came forward following the performance to ask pertinent questions.

In other touring, we produced and presented 16 additional instructional programs, including Ben Franklin and His Kite, The Boy Who Cried “Wolf!”, Buffalo Soldier, A Christmas Carol, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, "I Have a Dream" – The Life and Times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Jungle Book, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, Patchwork – The Little House Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Shoemaker and the Elves, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sojourner Truth, The True Story of Pocahontas, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and The Velveteen Rabbit.

We performed these programs live before 187,950 Virginia students in 537 Virginia schools. These same touring shows were performed live before an additional 277,350 students who saw the touring shows in 394 performances in 28 states.

In partnership with CenterStage, the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Richmond Public Schools, Chesterfield Public Schools, and Henrico Public Schools, we launched the FIELD Project (Family Involvement in Early Literacy Development), addressing the reading deficits faced by economically disadvantaged students in Central Virginia’s pre-school programs. We serve as the administrator and controller of this landmark arts-in-education program.

As a part of our partnership with Richmond Public Schools in the Kennedy Center’s national arts-in-education program, Performing Arts Centers and Schools, we produced and presented three continuing education workshops with a total of 46 teachers. The three workshops were: “Beyond The Wiz—The Multi-Faceted History of African American Theatre,” “What It Takes to Produce a Musical,” and “Using The Sound of Music to Teach the Holocaust” (co-produced with the Holocaust Museum).

Through our Tickets for Kids program, we made free tickets available to 2,345 economically disadvantaged children in Greater Richmond. Our 2009-2010 partners included 64 local nonprofits including Art 180, Association for the Support of Children with Cancer, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Hospital, Dominion School for Autism, Flagler Home at St. Joseph’s Villa, Friends Association for Children, Garfield Childs Memorial Fund, Hospital Hospitality House, International Hospital for Children, Massey Cancer Center Children’s Ward, Richmond Area Association for Retarded Children, Ronald McDonald House, Sacred Heart Center, Salvation Army, STEP, United Methodist Family Services, Very Special Arts Virginia, Virginia Home for Boys, William Byrd Community House, and Whitcomb Court Community Center.

With our holiday mascot, Snow Bear, we provided free-of-charge entertainment for the annual Christmas Party at the Children’s Hospital. Snow Bear also participated in numerous community events during the holiday season.

With St. Andrew’s School, we assisted in our fourth year of after-school instruction for economically disadvantaged fourth and fifth graders. This year SPARC took the lead, and we were happy to partner with them.

With Barksdale, we implemented our annual Stage Explorers Summer Day Camp, serving 117 children over a six-week period.

We staged the 13th Annual Fairy Tale Ball, Richmond’s only family gala, entertaining 703 children, parents and grandparents while raising funds for our outreach programs.

We participated as full partners in the Acts of Faith Festival and Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts.

At the request of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, our artistic director, Bruce Miller, facilitated the annual meeting of Virginia’s major arts organizations, held during the Art Works for Virginia conference.

Working in partnership with the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, we managed Virginia’s statewide Poetry Out Loud national recitation contest. Virginia’s winner was among the top nine finalists nationally.

With Commonwealth Girl Scouts, we hosted four theatre overnights and/or learning days in the historic Empire, providing workshops and performances necessary for 208 girls to earn their theatre badges.

With CenterStage, we participated in and loaned sound equipment for the Grand Opening. We also offered leadership, master classes, workshops and performances for Lights Up - CenterStage’s Open House for Young Artists.

At the request of Henley Street Theatre and Actors’ Equity Association, we served as paymaster whenever union actors accepted contracts at Richmond's smaller theatres. This was our 9th year volunteering our services in this manner.

Our staff volunteered their time for 14 career days; we provided 356 free tickets to charity auctions throughout Greater Richmond.

We owned, operated and maintained the historic Empire Theatre on behalf of the greater community, sharing the facility, often free of charge, with eight other nonprofit groups.

We achieved all of this while maintaining a balanced annual operating budget of $3,167,403 (Theatre IV only, pre-audit) in a very challenging year.

None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of our exemplary staff, and without your support. Many, many thanks.

--Bruce Miller

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Plays for Decoration Day

Posted by Bruce Miller
My grandfather, Edward Miller, died near his home in Inwood, WV, when he was in his 90s. I believe it was 1967, the same year that the U. S. Congress created Memorial Day.

From 1865 until 1967, the holiday we now know as Memorial Day was called Decoration Day by a large percentage of the population. It took place on May 30. Congress changed the name and the date in 1967 in an effort to beef up a holiday that was falling into disuse. The new date became the last Monday in May, ensuring that it would be part of a three-day weekend and the symbolic start of summer. What better way to beef up a holiday than that?

My grandfather would not have cottoned to the change. Decoration Day was important to him. You may remember from previous posts that he was a Mennonite minister, originally from Springs, PA. Unique among his peers (most Mennonites during that time were strict pacifists), my granddad had given his blessing for his sons and sons-in-law to enlist during WWII. That decision earned him some stiff ridicule, but he believed in the rightness of the decision until the day he died.

My uncle, Will Pettus, died while serving as a doctor during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which, after Pearl Harbor, morphed more or less into WWII. His story is an unusual and honorable one. You can find some of it at http://www.cgu.edu/pages/3282.asp.

Will was married to my father's sister, my Aunt Maude, who is still living. My Uncle Will was and is a family hero. He died in China in 1945, five years before I was born. He is buried in Changsha in a small graveyard connected to Xiangya Hospital. The picture below and to the left is of my Uncle Will and Aunt Maude, and my cousins Anne and Sally.

Every Decoration Day, my granddad longed to tend the grave of my Uncle Will. That, to him, is what Decoration Day was all about--tending (decorating) the graves of family members who had fallen during wartime. Since my granddad was never able to make it to China, he religiously marked May 30 by tending the graves of other veterans who may not have been in his family but were in his proximity.

During a visit to Inwood when I was ten or twelve, he took us with him to the graveyard. We all worked hard, pulling weeds, mowing grass, raking leaves, etc. That evening, my granddad read to our assembled family from a book of war stories. I don't remember what book it was. I only remember it brought a tear to his eye. I have always suspected that war means even more to someone who is a converted pacifist.

This Decoration Day, in memory of my late grandfather, Uncle Will and WWII veteran dad, I assembled a list of ten plays that I think my granddad would have found appropriate to read aloud to his family that night in Inwood, WV. Each has a Richmond connection. I mention one today. I'll talk about others in the days that follow.

Journey's End by R. C. Sherriff was written in 1928. It is set in an officers' dugout at Saint-Quentin, France in 1918, near the end of WWI, and concerns a small group of British infantrymen. After catching the attention and patronage of George Bernard Shaw, Journey's End was staged in London in a production starring a very young Laurence Olivier. It eventually became a major hit, and ran in the West End for two years.

Phil and I saw a revival of Journey's End on one of the trips we led to London. After we came home, Roy Proctor called to ask if I saw any London productions that I would recommend. He was trying to decide what theatre tickets to buy for an upcoming visit. I recommended Journey's End. He saw it. loved it, and returned to Richmond to direct it a season or two later at Dogwood Dell.

The London production I saw eventually transferred to Broadway, where it won the 2007 Tony Award for Best Revival. This classic British drama is a very sober, respectful and sad depiction of the horrors of war. It would make an outstanding Decoration Day tribute to our fallen forefathers.

The Sound of Music is not exactly a military play, but it certainly takes place during wartime. As I write this series about "war plays," I look forward to revisiting The Sound of Music this week. I hope to see you there!

--Bruce Miller