Monday, October 10, 2011

Learn More About "Lend Me" Over Coffee and Danish

Posted by Bruce Miller
Our first regularly scheduled Coffee & Conversations event is tomorrow, Tuesday, October 11, in the Barksdale Willow Lawn lobby. I hope you'll join us for this fun and informative program. Doors will open at 9 a.m., and the continental breakfast buffet will be set up by 9:10. The program will begin at 9:30 a.m. and last one hour.

Tomorrow's program will be Behind the Scenes of Lend Me a Tenor. Jill Bari Steinberg will moderate a panel comprised of three members from the Lend Me a Tenor cast: Nick Ciavarella, Frank Creasy, and Susan Sanford.

Nick (pictured to right) plays Max, the young, eager beaver assistant to the general manager of the Cleveland Opera. Nick himself is a dashing, NYC-based newcomer to Richmond theatre. He earned his Equity card with this production. Acting and other theatrical pursuits are his only job. His perspective will be a little different from the local professionals we all know well and love.

Frank (pictured below and to left) plays Saunders, the general manager, father of the beautiful young woman whom Nick's character would like to wed. Frank himself has been working in Richmond theatre for the last 30 years, and is one of our most respected and reliable character actors. He is not a member of Actors Equity. Frank is married, owns a home here, and is employed full-time by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Susan (pictured below and to right) plays Maria, the passionate Italian wife of the world renowned operatic tenor of the title. Susan herself is, in terms of her life's commitments, somewhere between Nick and Frank. She's one of the finest comic actresses you'll find anywhere. She is married to another theatre artist, Foster Solomon, and they are the proud parents of two sons. She earned her Actors Equity card a few years ago, I think, in either a Barksdale or Theatre IV production. She is Richmond-based. She tries, and mostly succeeds, to earn her living exclusively with work in the theatre. As she'll tell you, it ain't easy.

One of the defining features of professional theatre in Central Virginia is that we're sort of betwixt and between. Ever since the collapse of TheatreVirginia, we haven't had a LORT theatre that uses full-time professional theatre artists almost exclusively. In my opinion, and I think I can be trusted on this one, Richmond doesn't have a LORT theatre today because Richmond cannot support a LORT theatre under current realities. When you add up the resources available in terms of contributions and ticket sales, and divide those resources among ten professionally-striving theatres, there simply is not enough money to elevate any one theatre to LORT status. If you want a #1 reason why TheatreVirginia went belly up, in my opinion, that's it.

So at Barksdale and Theatre IV you'll see a mix of AEA artists and non-union theatre professionals who earn their living working 9 to 5 somewhere else. Out of town professionals who come here to work are frequently stunned that we rehearse only in the evenings. Personally, I LOVE the mix, and think it's a strong part of what makes our theatre community so rich. The majority of theatre artists you'll meet in a Richmond theatre are REALLY invested in our community.

One of the reasons we have programs like Coffee & Conversations is so that we can talk about the unique aspects of Richmond theatre, and the impact these realities will have on the future of our artists, audiences and institutions. Everyone I know who comes to Coffee & Conversations has a REALLY good time. I hope you'll join us for this and subsequent programs, so that you can see what really goes on behind the scenes. We hope to see you there, sometime before 9:30 a.m. I know you'll be glad you came.

--Bruce Miller

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