Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why "Becky's New Car" Made It onto our Tavern Season

Posted by Bruce Miller
With millions of plays out there, each one yearning for production, how and why do I pick the plays that wind up on one of our Barksdale and Theatre IV seasons? That is our #2 FAQ. #1 is, "Why did you guys name it Theatre IV?"

Beginning with Why "Lend Me a Tenor" Made It onto our Signature Season (9/08/2011), I'm starting a new blog series to address that #2 question. Each post in the series will be tagged with the label "Why," so if you ever want to go back and read previous posts in the same series, you'll be able to do so by clicking on the "Why" label that will follow each article.

Barksdale's mission is to produce in Central Virginia national caliber productions of the GREAT comedies, dramas and musicals--past, present and future. In other words, we seek to produce plays that have significance and import, plays that leave a lasting impact on the field.

If the assessed "greatness" is in the arena of literature or art, we tend to present the play in our Signature Season at Willow Lawn and the historic Empire. If the assessed "greatness" is in the arena of entertainment or popularity, we tend to schedule the play at Hanover Tavern.

Re-reading, them sounds like fightin' words--and I'm in no way seeking a dispute. Yes, I think Becky's seeks and achieves "greatness" as literature and art. I also know for a fact that it clearly has achieved already "greatness" as popular entertainment. It is one of the most frequently produced new American plays created between 2000 and 2009. Securing 24 regional productions in three short years is a feat of which most playwrights could only dream.

Only time will tell whether Becky's New Car will earn its place as one of the artistically great American comedies of the aught decade of the 21st Century. I think it might.

There is another rationale that led to our selection of Becky's New Car.

Our goal at Barksdale Theatre is to establish in Central Virginia a major, nonprofit, professional theatre of national standing. Three years ago, during strategic planning sessions, our Board of Trustees asked various stakeholders what new initiatives were needed to grow the national reputation of our company. Our audience, our artists, our funders and our colleague organizations suggested that there were four things Barksdale should do to participate more fully in the American professional theatre community, thereby enhancing Richmond's profile among the nation's great theatre cities.

1. We should create on a regular basis world premieres of new comedies, dramas and musicals that originate here and then earn productions at other professional theatres around the country.

2. We should further support new work by being an early producer of new plays created at other regional theatres, relying less on plays that have already been successful on and off Broadway.

3. We should recruit theatre artists of national standing to come to Richmond to work side-by-side with our outstanding local professionals.

4. We should mount national caliber productions here and then seek to transfer the best of those productions to New York or other major national markets.

Following in the footsteps of our productions of Boleros for the Disenchanted by Jose Rivera (2009-2010) and Legacy of Light by Karen Zacarias (2010-2011), Becky's New Car by Steven Dietz (2011-12) is our third effort to fulfill the second objective noted above. In the coming months, we will address the first objective with our world premieres of Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas and Scorched Earth.

This is an exciting time for Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV. We're taking seriously our goal of increasing the national impact and prominence of our theatre. We're choosing not to rest comfortably on the status quo. If we (and that "we" involves a LOT of people) are able to create a theatre of national prominence here in Central Virginia, I believe it will benefit greatly every theatre, theatre artist, and theatre lover in town.

I hope you'll buy tickets to both of our current comedies: Lend Me a Tenor at Willow Lawn and Becky's New Car at Hanover Tavern. They are fun and exciting shows. We need and are working hard to earn your support.

--Bruce Miller

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