Thursday, September 27, 2007

Meet Our Touring Actors - Part II

Posted by Bruce Miller
Theatre IV is the Children's Theatre of Virginia. Since our founding in 1975, we have toured national caliber educational programs to Virginia's public and private schools. It's a major part of our mission as a nonprofit organization.

It's also a major component of our business model. The total of the combined annual budgets of Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV is approximately $5 million. Of that amount, approximately $1.4 million is generated by touring operations.

The same performances that we tour to Virginia schools for a significantly discounted fee (averaging about $1.40 per student) sell in the national market for approximately $3,000 per day. We regularly tour throughout Virginia, 32 other states on the eastern half of the U. S., and the District of Columbia.

Yesterday and today I'm introducing you to the talented professional actors who work full time for our touring company and make all of this possible. I've tried to subdivide a picture that was taken at our annual Tourmite Party; I apologize for the photos looking a bit like puzzle pieces pulled from a larger image. That's exactly what they are.

In the first photo (seen above and to the left), we have Faith Boles at the top, with her chin half obscured by the curly head of Mike Bash. Mike's left arm is around the shoulder of Michael Ruff (wearing the baseball cap), and just below Mike Bash's curly head is Garrett Weeda, with his right arm raised in, I think, some sort of hip hop gesture. The two smiling faces below Garrett and Michael are Jennifer Zubernick and Jonathan Niotis. Stephanie Hill is the lovely face at the bottom of the puzzle piece.
Faith Boles, Michael Ruff and Garrett Weeda are all in the cast of The True Story of Pocahontas. Mike Bash and Stephanie Hill are in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Jonathan Niotis and Jennifer Zubernick will be touring with Jack and the Beanstalk. Garrett, Jennifer and Stephanie are returning to Theatre IV for a second year; Faith, Jonathan, Michael and Mike are joining us for their first season.

Faith Boles was hired in our Memphis auditions. She graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA, and came to us after acting gigs with the Lake Dillon Theatre in Colorado. We cast Mike Bash out of our Boston auditions. Mike hails from Red Bank, NJ, and graduated from Emerson College in Boston. His previous acting work was with Zeropoint Productions and the Longwood Players, both of Boston.

Michael Ruff is another one of our Memphis hires. He is a native of Oklahoma, and graduated from Southeastern Oklahoma State. His last acting contract before moving to Richmond was with the Off Square Theatre in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (pictured to the left). Nice work if you can get it. Garrett Weeda is a Madison grad, and spent the summer with the Park Playhouse in Albany, NY.

Jennifer Zubernick graduated from Wilkes University in PA, and lists the Shea Theatre in New York among her previous credits. Jonathan Niotis was cast out of our Atlanta auditions. He graduated from the University of Miami and recently performed with the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre in that same city. Stephanie Hill spent the summer in between her two Theatre IV tours working for The Lost Colony. She is a VCU grad, and appeared on Theatre IV's mainstage in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Our next group of actors, pictured to the right, includes (left to right) Renee Monico, Liz Ballard and Jon Perez. Now before you think that any of our actors are truly bizarre (they may be; I don't know them that well yet), I remind you that this group photo was taken at a party with a Western / Hawaiian / pirate theme (it's a bit of an inside joke), and our intrepid trespians outfitted themselves in their best Yee-haw, Ahoy and/or Aloha-inducing garb. Renee and Liz are new to us this year, and they both will be appearing in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Jon is returning for his second touring season, and he's in the cast of Jack and the Beanstalk.

We cast Renee out of our Boston auditions. She graduated from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, and came to Richmond after a contract with New England's prestigious (and beautiful) Goodspeed Opera House, pictured to the left. Liz was cast in Atlanta, and graduated from Catawba College. She's a native of Culpepper, VA. Jon was cast in our Charlotte auditions. He graduated from Southern Illinois University, and previously toured with the California Theatre Company.

Our final group of touring actors includes (left to right) Ronnie Brown, Meghan Kelleher, Brian Tarter, Nicole Wakefield and Darrick Penny. Ronnie and Meghan are in the cast of Jack and the Beanstalk; Brian and Nicole perform in The True Story of Pocahontas. Derrick is in The Song of Mulan. Nicole is returning for her second touring season with Theatre IV; the other four are new to our company this year.

Ronnie Brown graduated from Penn State, and recently worked on the HBO Miniseries, John Adams (pictured to the left with biographer David McCullough). Last spring and this summer, he was employed on the running crews of Theatre IV's The Wizard of Oz and Barksdale's Into the Woods. Meghan Kelleher was hired in Atlanta. She graduated from Emory and Henry, and performed previously in the company at Mill Mountain Theatre. Brian Tarter (our tallest actor at 6' 4" or more), graduated from Ashland University in Ohio, and performed previously at the Huron Playhouse.

Nicole Wakefield (partially obscured in the photo) was cast out of Memphis, but appeared as a child in Theatre IV's productions of Babes in Toyland and The Music Man. Other local theatre credits include roles at Swift Creek Mill Theatre and the West End Assembly of God. Last but not least, Darrick Penny was cast out of our Atlanta auditions. He graduated from Elon with a BFA in Musical Theatre and a minor in Spanish.

We wish all of our fine actors a most successful first semester, and thank them for their talent and hard work.

--Bruce Miller

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