Friday, September 3, 2010

Little Bits (Bytes?) of Barksdale History

Posted by Bruce Miller
Our two nonprofit theatres are currently engaged in a branding study that will help us determine the future paths of Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV. Two MAJOR thank yous go out to Kelly O'Keefe, Managing Director of the VCU Brandcenter, who is donating his leadership of the study pro bono, and The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia, providers of the grant that funds the research component of the study.

As a part of this strategic exercise, we've been engaging randomly selected audience members in focus groups to learn their opinions about our two stage companies. It's been fascinating to learn what John and Jane Q Theatre-Lover do and don't know about Central Virginia's oldest (Barksdale) and largest (Theatre IV) professional theatres.

It is becoming clear that our illustrious histories are fading, for many if not most, into virtual obscurity, so I've begun to recount the legacies that serve as our foundation by posting a brief new snippet from our theatrical scrapbooks as my "status" on Facebook each Monday morning. I don't know who or how many people actually see these tidbits, so, from time to time, I'll post them here as well.

Here's the story thus far, including the date that each item was posted:

Aug 12, 2010
B'dale / TIV History (Part 1) - Barksdale Theatre was founded in Virginia's historic Hanover Tavern by six NYC actors in August 1953. We're 57 years old! And I think (hope) the founders would be proud. Maybe even a little amazed. I feel the presence of Pete, Muriel and Nancy (pictured below) every day. A blessing.
Aug 13, 2010
B'dale / TIV History (Part 2) - Barksdale Theatre was Central VA's first professional performing arts organization of the modern era. Founded in Aug 1953, Barksdale came 2 years before the Virginia Museum Theatre (TheatreVirginia), 4 years before the Richmond Symphony and the Richmond Ballet, 12 years before Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 21 years before the Virginia Opera, and 22 years before Theatre IV.

Aug 16, 2010
B'dale / TIV History (Part 3) - Before they'd heard of Hanover Tavern, the founders of Barksdale brought their dream from NYC to Richmond VA on Feb 4, '53. Tom Carlin and his partner Stewart Falconer, Pete Kilgore and his wife Perky, their 2 children Kate and Beau, Muriel McAuley, Pat Sharp, and a dog named Rags moved into the home of Aline Miles (Falconer's mom). They lived there rent-free for 6 months as they searched for a home for their new theatre.

Aug 23, 2010
B'dale / TIV History (Part 4) - During a 4-month search, the Barksdale founders found Hanover Tavern. On May 26, '53, they signed a contract to purchase the Tavern and its 4+ acres for $25,000 (that's $202,199 in today's dollars), with $5,000 down. $2,500 was paid on signing. Pete Kilgore cashed in his veteran's life insurance to close the gap on that first $2,500.

Aug 30, 2010
B'dale / TIV History (Part 5) - After paying down the first $2,500, the Barksdale founders had 2 months to come up with the second required down-payment of $2,500 (that's $20,220 in today's dollars). Co-founder Muriel McAuley wrote: "In July we saved over $1,000 by not eating, not smoking and not drinking two fifths of Italian Swiss Colony on Sat nights."

Sept 6, 2010
B'dale / TIV History (Part 6) - Borrowing from each of their families, and pawning everything they had, the Barksdale founders finally came up with the final $2,500 down-payment by the deadline date of Aug 1, '53. The last $10 was in change. Penniless, they moved into their new home. Monthly mortgage = $250 (that's $2,022 in today's dollars), plus interest at 5%.

--Bruce Miller

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