Monday, July 2, 2007

Barksdale Vets Provide Fireworks in Idaho

Most of you know about Company of Fools, the regional theatre in Hailey, Idaho founded a dozen or so years ago by former Richmonder Denise Simone, current Richmonder Rusty Wilson (he was “former” during his Hailey years but now he’s back), and Denise’s old college buddy, Bruce Willis. Yes, that Bruce Willis.

Willis provided the initial funding, but Denise, Rusty and several Richmond pals provided the blood, sweat and tears. And believe me, its all about the b, s and t.

Then, about eight years ago, Barksdale’s former Artistic Director, John Glenn, moved to Hailey with his partner, R. L. Rowsey, who had been serving as Associate Artistic Director at TheatreVirginia. John and R. L. became part of the four-person leadership in Hailey. And when Rusty moved back to Richmond a couple years ago to become theatre director at St. Christopher’s School, Denise, John and R. L. settled into a Muriel, Pete and Nancy lifestyle that has continued to advance the Company of Fools to new heights.

This summer, two more Barksdale All-Stars are joining the team to launch the Fools’ first Summer Fools Festival—three shows running in rep during five weeks in July and August. Debra Wagoner (she of the amazing voice – and wife of Odd Couple director Joe Pabst) and Aly Wepplo (who recently stole hearts as the signing sister in Smoke on the Mountain – yes, that is signing, not singing – right after marrying grown-up Patrick at the end of Mame) are starring with John Glenn in The Spitfire Grill, a feel-good musical that Music Director R. L. Rowsey describes as “Appalachian Broadway.”

Many of you may have caught the wonderful Richmond premiere of this new musical a few years back at Swift Creek Mill.

As much as we miss Debra and Aly in Richmond this summer, we’re thrilled to see them join other beloved Richmond theatre alum at Company of Fools. Not since the founding of the Renaissance Theatre in Bon Air and the Wedgewood Dinner Theatre in Toano (both in the late 50s and early 60s) have so many former Barksdale artists gone off to start and then nurture another theatre in another place.

We always wish the Company of Fools well, and we send special good thoughts their way this summer as Debra and Aly prepare to open during the Fourth of July celebrations in The Spitfire Grill. We love the fact that Barksdale artists are continuing to spread artistic sparks nationwide. We look forward to welcoming Debra and Aly back home later this summer. Until then, break a leg one and all!

--Bruce Miller


Anonymous in Idaho said...

Don't you think you're being a little pretentious referring to the Company of Fools as "Barksdale Northwest." Most of us here have never had anything to do with Barksdale Theatre, and our company is not affiliated with yours in any way.

Bruce Miller said...

To the Author of the Previous Comment,

I owe you an apology. No, I didn't think I was being pretentious when I referred to Company of Fools as "Barksdale Northwest." But it appears that you do. That's what matters. Please accept my apology.

My thought process--to the extent that there was a thought process--was this.

Barksdale Theatre is not a company that I founded. I lay no claim to its greatness. I currently have the privilege of serving as Artistic Director of Barksdale Theatre, as did John Glenn before me. I also had the pleasure of acting at Barksdale Theatre, as did Denise Simone and R. L. Rowsey after me.

I think it's correct for me to say that Denise, John, R. L. and I all point to our Barksdale experiences with pride--although I'm certainly not trying to speak on their behalves.

When I used the term "Barksdale Northwest," I did so on the Barksdale Theatre blog. Blogs are meant to be personal, casual, conversational. At least that's the way they seem to me. Blogs reflect opinion, not fact.

I respect your opinion that Company of Fools "is not affiliated with (Barksdale Theatre) in any way." I understand what you mean, and I don't disagree with your perspective. But neither do I share it.

My opinion is that Company of Fools is affiliated with Barksdale Theatre and that Barksdale Theatre is affiliated with Company of Fools. I think Company of Fools is a great theatre, and I'm proud to claim the affiliation.

When I say affiliation, I'm not intending to say that one company can control the other in any way, or that one company can take credit for the other. I'm intending to say that the leadership of Barksdale Theatre and the leadership of Company of Fools comes from one circle of friends. Has this circle had its ups and downs? Of course. Nonetheless, I feel confident in saying that we like and respect each other. We have been influenced by each other. We continue to rely on each others' opinions as we chart the courses of our individual companies.

I could write a pretty major essay about all the things I've learned from John, Denise and R. L., and I'm proud to be affiliated with them.

The older I get, and I'm getting pretty old, the more I realize the debt I owe to the colleagues with whom I have had the privilege to work over the years. I have unending gratitude for the theatre artists who have mentored me, both directly and indirectly. I treasure the vast majority of the affiliations I've had with my co-workers, and when I site those affiliations, I do so with affection and respect.

Calling Company of Fools "Barksdale Northwest" in the Barksdale blog is my way showing that affection and respect. I'm sorry if it didn't come off that way. To me, the name Barksdale is pure gold. I do not bestow it on any company lightly. To me, it's a mark of honor.

All this is personal. It's not corporate or official. Blogs are personal.

It is undeniable that a lot of theatre artists with Barksdale ties have made and are continuing to make Company of Fools the success that it undoubtedly is. I'm proud that Barksdale has made this contribution to American theatre. Barksdale does not deserve credit for Company of Fools' successes. But Barksdale does deserve credit for being a training ground that has helped to nurture and encourage the careers of Company of Fools leadership.

At least that's my opinion.

As I say in the blog, I salute Company of Fools and wish all of you in Idaho nothing but continued success.

Jill Quentin (N.C.) said...

"When I used the term 'Barksdale Northwest,' I did so on the Barksdale Theatre blog. Blogs are meant to be personal, casual, conversational. At least that's the way they seem to me. Blogs reflect opinion, not fact."

Well said. I thought when I read your post that you were expressing friendship and a history with the people you do know out there, not taking credit for another company's work!

Debra Wagoner said...

Well, as one of the people that you mentioned in this blog I just want to say that it was clear to me that your intentions were nothing but good and positive when you wrote the entry regarding Company Of Fools. To be fair here, I will only speak for myself---but I'm not upset to see something nice written about the work I'm doing. Hope this doesn't start another storm of controversy...but I couldn't resist puttin' in my two-cents worth!

Anonymous said...

It is true, blogs are meant to be personal. However, your blog is on the official website to your theatre company. The rules change a little when the blog is on a business website.

Bruce Miller said...

When you're right, you're right. This blog is on the official website of Barksdale Theatre. I stand corrected.

john glenn said...

just wanted to let anyone who cares know that denise, rl and john loved reading bruce's initial blog regarding our company - it gave us a big smile. we also feel the kinship and the intent of the larger theatre family and its tremendous value. i'm sorry if this upset anyone - we loved reading it.

Anonymous said...

It's so great that Debra and Aly are in a show together! They are both such fantastic performers in such a different ways. I only with I could be there to see that!

Bruce Miller said...

Well, I thought about this a lot last night, and I decided to edit the phrase "Barksdale Northwest" out of the blog entry. Bottom line, these guys are my friends, and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone on their team.

The blog used to read "As much as we miss Debra and Aly in Richmond this summer, we’re thrilled to see them join other beloved Richmond theatre alum at "Barksdale Northwest." I've now changed the offending phrase to read "Company of Fools."

I thank John (and Denise and RL) for their gracious comment. Honestly.

But I've also learned something here. I realized late last night that I'd never call Company of Fools "Theatre IV Northwest." Because that would seem pretentious to me. Because it would seem like I was claiming some sort of credit for myself. (and Phil)

But no alarm bells at all went off in my head when I wrote the words "Barksdale Northwest." I think because writing that felt like I was claiming some sort of credit for an institution that is much much larger than me or any individual. An institution that includes John, Denise, RL, Debra and Aly (and many others with Company of Fools ties) just as much as it includes me.

But to others, I'm sure, this distinction may make no sense, or it simply may not matter.

Also, when I write the Barksdale blog I do so thinking that I'm writing for a readership of people who already have a connection--a good connection--with Barksdale theatre, and therefore like hearing positive things about the company.

But, of course, through Google or whatever, all kinds of people wind up on the Barksdale blog, and I need to realize that the readership is as diverse as the world.

I'm writing too much. I trust that everyone will believe me when I repeat my sincere apologies to anyone who was offended by the term "Barksdale Northwest." I don't mind making mistakes, but I don't want anyone to think that I wrote about Company of Fools with anything in my heart other than good will.


Anonymous in Virginia said...

I know you'll have to have the last word, but seriously, how is you calling The Company of Fools "Barkdale Northwest" any different from Firehouse calling BArksdale "Firehouse Willow Lawn", or Swift Creek calling Theater IV "Swift Creek for Kids". Lots of Firehouse actors work at BArksdale, including your Associate Artistic Director, Steve Perigard. And didn't you and PHil Whiteway both work at the Mill before you started Theater IV? How would you like it if these other theaters made up new names for your theater and said it was their way of showing "affection and respect."