Saturday, September 10, 2011

Of Marquees and Misperceptions

Posted by Bruce Miller
I love coming home at the top of every month to find my hot-off-the-press edition of Richmond Marquee waiting for me in my mailbox. It reminds me what a great theatre town Richmond is. Is there a comparable monthly newsletter about what's going on among Richmond's diverse dance companies? How about Central Virginia's symphony and orchestra scene, or our opera troupes? I don't think so.

Richmond is a THEATRE town, with a remarkable wealth of talent and audience interest for a city our size. Thank God for that. We should all be glad that Lisa Kotula (actress, theatre administrator, and Publisher / Managing Editor of the Richmond Marquee) continues to commit her energies and resources to the creation of a monthly newsletter that celebrates and promotes the great things happening on ALL of Greater Richmond's many stages.

The September edition includes coverage of 18 different local theatres: AART, Barksdale, Cadence, CAT, Firehouse, HATTheatre, Henley, Henrico, Huguenot Community Players, I Am She Productions, K Dance, Mystery Dinner Playhouse, Richmond Shakespeare, Richmond Triangle, Saint John's Players, Swift Creek Mill, Sycamore Rouge, and Theatre IV. And there was Road Trip info from other Virginia theatres as far afield as Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Riverside Dinner Theatre in Fredericksburg, and Signature Theatre in Alexandria.

The newsletter costs only $2 per month, and you can purchase subscriptions in three, six or twelve month packages. Lisa needs all our support. You can contact her and/or subscribe online at I hope you'll consider doing so.

One of the things I learned in this month's issue of the Richmond Marquee is that Tom Width at Swift Creek Mill Theatre makes life easier for veteran actors than I do at Barksdale. In the article announcing auditions for It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, playing throughout the holidays at the Mill beginning Nov 17, the following paragraph appears.

"Any questions may be directed to Tom Width at If your work is well-known to Mr. Width, please email for alternate audition information (callback-only auditions are possible.)"

We at Barksdale, Cadence and Theatre IV are not being as generous with our longstanding friends. Instead of having individual auditions for each of the 16 mainstage productions we produce each season, we are beginning this fall to have open calls three times a year: September (Oct 1 in 2011), January and May. We ask every Richmond-based actor, age 18 and up, who is interested in working with us to attend at least one of these auditions each year.

We have already heard, of course, from actors who have conflicting plans on Oct 1, and we will make every effort to include them in callbacks when we believe their talents are well suited to the needs of a show. However, we are also asking these same actors to plan now to attend the open calls in either January or May (exact dates to be determined and announced soon).

It's not that we fail to see that our veteran performers have earned special treatment. In fact, we believe they have. However, we are also aware that there is a misperception out there that Barksdale is a closed shop, privately casting only the same favorite actors over and over again. We know this misperception is not true. In any given year, more than 1/3 of the actors we cast are new to us. But we fear that the perception may keep talented actors whom we do not know, or don't yet know well enough, from attending an open call. Therefore we have a commitment to make every effort to treat all actors exactly the same. If our veteran actors can work with us to address this commitment, we will greatly appreciate it.

As Greater Richmond's resident professional theatre, we hope that all of the talented actors in our metro area will audition for us at least once a year. As we all know, casting happens in callbacks, not open calls. But having open calls, and creating a culture that demonstrates equal respect for all actors--those with whom we are familiar and those with whom we are not--is, we believe, the best way to identify the very best actor for every role.

Ultimately, that is our job. We greatly appreciate everyone's understanding and cooperation.

--Bruce Miller

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