Posted by Bruce Miller
With Thursday's preview and Friday's opening night performances of Kimberly Akimbo, our fabled Theatre Gym series will rise again like a phoenix from the ashes. Kimberly Akimbo is produced by Cadence Theatre Company in partnership with Barksdale's Theatre Gym. Directed by Anna Senechal Johnson, this quirky comedy by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire stars four of Richmond's favorite actors: Irene Ziegler, Debra Wagoner, Richard Koch, and Jill Bari Steinberg, joined by recent Theatre VCU grad Matt Mitchell.
Theatre Gym began in 1991 as an indie initiative of Theatre IV. Through our Theatre Gym program, independent theatre artists were given the opportunity to produce edgy work of their own choosing for adult audiences. Theatre IV provided free-of-charge use of the Little Theatre, box office services, and access to our set, costume and prop inventories. One hundred percent of ticket revenues went to the independent producer, and artists were paid a percentage of those revenues rather than a set fee.
Outstanding Theatre Gym productions included My Children! My Africa! by Athol Fugard, The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh, Jails, Hospitals and Hip Hop by Danny Hoch, Oleanna by David Mamet, How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel, The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien (pictured with Jill Bari Steinberg to left), Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks, Italian American Reconciliation by John Patrick Shanley, Heathen Valley by Romulus Linney, Life Under Water by Richard Greenberg, Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan, Keely and Du and Jack and Jill by Jane Martin, Rules of the Lake by Irene Ziegler, Boom Town by Jeff Daniels, SubUrbia by Eric Bogosian, Jesus Hopped the A Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Dead Monkey by Nick Darke, Abundance by Beth Henley, and Raised in Captivity by Nicky Silver, and many others.
One of our 1990s Theatre Gym productions was A Devil Inside, an early work by then novice playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Anna Senechal in her pre-Johnson years. Anna was and is friends with Lindsay-Abaire's wife, Chris, and Theatre IV's Theatre Gym was one of the first companies in the nation to produce his work. Twenty years later, Lindsay-Abaire would win the Pulitzer for Rabbit Hole. Now, once again, Anna Senechal Johnson (pictured to the right with Cadence's cast of Fool for Love) will be directing another of his plays, Kimberly Akimbo, in partnership with Theatre Gym.
There are two major changes in Theatre Gym now vs Theatre Gym then.
1) It used to be that the initiative was named Theatre Gym, but the performance facility was named the Little Theatre. Now, both the initiative and the facility are named Theatre Gym.
2) It used to be that each Theatre Gym production was co-produced by a different independent producer. In 2011-12, and we hope beyond, all Theatre Gym productions will be produced by Cadence Theatre Company in partnership with Barksdale's Theatre Gym.
Barksdale still provides the performance venue, box office services, and access to set/costume/prop inventories free of charge. We also provide limited PR and lots of producing advice. All ticket revenues are still used to pay the artists involved with the production.
Theatre Gym has been on hiatus for the last several years, initially because of interior damage caused by a leaking roof, and then because we were just too busy with other projects to add anything else to our plates. By partnering full-time with Cadence Theatre, we hope to be able to keep the program going without over-burdening our already ridiculous workloads.
If you would like to be a part of history re-making itself, please join us for Kimberly Akimbo, opening this Friday evening. It's going to be a great show, and herald the long-awaited return of an important and innovative Richmond theatre initiative.